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Ian Bone (1956-) - Sidelights

australian review bystander television

Ian Bone has written a wide variety of books for many age groups of young readers, ranging from picture books to young adult novels. He started out as a director When Susan Bennett returns home after getting kicked out of boarding school, the teen learns an important lesson about self-determination from her overweight older brother when he decides to become a positive force in the world. (Cover illustration by Jeanne M. Lee.) and producer for Australian television, where he worked on such television series as Play School, Couch Potato, and Finders Keepers. More recently, Bone has been writing scripts for the Australian television program Here's Humphrey. Bone's first novel for young adults was Fat Boy Saves World. In this story, sixteen-year-old Susan Bennett must deal with her older brother Neat, who has not spoken a word in eight years. When he finally does speak, Neat says something surprising: "I want to save the world." With the help of Todd, a young actor friend, Neat gets a chance to appear on community television. But while Neat gains an audience to hear what he has to say, Susan is still trying to figure out why her brother refused to speak for so long. The answer leads her into family secrets and a confrontation with her parents. Miranda Doyle in the School Library Journal found that the novel "boasts quirky, offbeat characters." "Readers will find themselves swept up in the Bennett's world," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly, while Australian Book Review contributor Tess Brady concluded: "Rarely have I read a youth novel of such quality and insight."

In The Song of an Innocent Bystander Bone tells the story of nineteen-year-old Freda. Ten years before, Freda had been a hostage during the robbery of a fast-food restaurant. The gunman was an ex-employee who blamed the restaurant chain for damaging the environment, and during a thirty-six-hour standoff he murdered two people. Now Freda meets a young man who seems to know too much about her involvement in that terrible experience. The meeting forces Freda to confront the emotional damage caused by the incident, when she became unexpectedly attached to the gunman despite his violence and the fear he caused. A critic for Kirkus Reviews praised "Bone's deft, poetic writing," while Stephanie Zvirin in Booklist found the novel "hard to forget." Writing in the Liverpool Echo, Janet Tansley called The Song of an Innocent Bystander "a tense and shocking tale, which shows how single events can affect the rest of our lives."

In an interview with Australian Women's Weekly, Bone explained where he got the idea for The Song of an Innocent Bystander: "I had been talking to someone a few years ago about parents who exert a very powerful influence on their children, to the point of almost brainwashing them....The initial idea came from that conversation about children and how they can be so taken in by the strong world around them or by any strong ideology. How they need to cling to something. It can be anything because they are not as discerning as we are. So it grew from that."

Bone once told Something about the Author: "I was born in Geelong, a coastal and industrial town in Australia where the Ford motor car is manufactured. Geelong is also the gateway to the southern surf beaches of Victoria; hence, there is a schizophrenic feel about the place—heavy industry mixed with sun and surf.

"During my misspent youth, I watched the cars burn 'round the 'Golden Mile' in the middle of town, hoping one day that I could own one of these noisy machines. As I grew older, my passion changed direction, and I turned to cameras and photography. It was a logical step for me to attend teacher's college in Melbourne, where I studied the media (including photography). It was during this time that I discovered a new passion: filmmaking.

"After four years of teacher's college, I enrolled in the Australian Film and Television School. This was quite a prestigious place at the time (and it probably still is). It has pumped out many Australian film directors who have 'made it big' in the United States. I was never one of the 'big fish' at film school. One look at the amount of energy, time, and effort it took to be successful in the film industry put me off.

"After graduating I joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and began producing and directing children's television programs. I found a happy niche, and my passion changed again. Children's television gave me a great outlet for my stupid sense of humor. I produced and developed many programs, such as Play School, Swap Shop, and Finders Keepers. Some of these went on to win national and international awards.

"After many years of producing for children's television, my passion changed yet again. I started writing stories for one of my programs, something I found I enjoyed immensely. So, I mixed story-writing at night with television-producing during the day for a year or two, until I realized that one had to go.

"I left the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1993 with the romantic notion that I would be an 'author' in the not-too-distant future. After many years of hard work and freelance jobs, I finally achieved this ambition. Let's just hope my passion doesn't change again—not for a while, at least."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Australian Book Review, February-March, 1999, Tess Brady, review of Fat Boy Saves World.

Australian Bookseller and Publisher, October, 1998.

Booklist, May 1, 2004, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 1495.

Brisbane Courier Mail, February 9, 1999.

Guardian (Manchester, England), December 2, 2003, Lindsey Fraser, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 13.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 487.

Kliatt, May, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 5.

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), August 2, 2003, Janet Tansley, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 29.

Magpies, March, 1999, p., 37.

Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2001, Fat Boy Saves World, p. 65; January 10, 2005, review of A Dangerous Secret, p. 56.

React, November, 1998.

School Library Journal, December, 2001, Miranda Doyle, review of Fat Boy Saves World, p. 132; September, 2004, Jeffrey Hastings, review of The Song of an Innocent Bystander, p. 198.

Viewpoint, winter, 1999.

ONLINE

Australian Women's Weekly, http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/aww/ (September, 2004), "Q & A with Ian Bone."

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