Geoff Havel (1955-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1955, in Wau, New Guinea; Ethnicity: "European." Education: Edith Cowan University, B.Ed., 1999. Politics: "Democracy." Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Surfing.
Agent—Jenny Dorling & Associates, P.O. Box 413, Toorak, Victoria, Australia.
Education Department of Western Australia, Western Australia, Australia, primary teacher, 1980—.
Peter Cowan Writers Centre, Children's Book Council of Australia (Western Australia branch), Western Australia State Literature Centre.
Shortlisted for the Western Australia Premiers Awards and the Western Australia Young Readers' Book Awards, both 2002.
Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r (picture book), illustrated by Peter Kendall, Sandcastle Books (South Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia), 1996.
Punzie, ICQ! (picture book), Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia), 1999.
The Real Facts of Life (chapter book), illustrated by Shane Tholen, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia), 2001.
Grave of the Roti Men (young adult novel), Fremantle Arts Centre Press (Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia), 2003.
Work in Progress
A teen novel, titled Water; research on the impact of immigration on Australian society and attitudes of the children of immigrants.
Geoff Havel is an Australian writer of humorous stories for children. In Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, his first published work, Havel uses a picture book format to tell a story about an automobile accident witnessed by a group of animals. But since the animals do not speak English, they contribute the sounds they naturally make, honking, braying, squawking, and the like, and manage to tell the story quite ingeniously, according to Sally Murphy, a contributor to the Web site Aussie Reviews. "This is a book which will be read and enjoyed many times," predicted Murphy, who added that the story is told in such a way as to invite young children to supply the requisite noises for the reader.
Havel is also the author of a chapter book called The Real Facts of Life, narrated by ten-year-old Max, who is interested in writing down and keeping track of the important information he is coming to know about the world around him. During the weekend that the story takes place, there is a mystery afoot, as Max notices his parents acting strangely and his annoying sister looking smug, as if she is in on the secret. After the young boy has a portentous dream about babies and a frank discussion with his father about the facts of life, The Real Facts of Life ends with Max's sister archly asking him if he has figured out what the big secret is after all. Although Amy Lilien-Harper complained in School Library Journal about the book's abrupt ending, Aussie Reviews contributor Murphy concluded that "Even Mum and Dad will laugh at this one."
Havel told SATA: "I began writing around 1985, when I was teaching in Walpole. At the time, I couldn't find any suitable reading materials for the reluctant readers in my class so I wrote some stories of my own. The children liked the stories so I wrote more. Positive feedback from children has kept me writing ever since.
"I have a different purpose every time I write a story. I write about whatever captures my attention at the time. When I wrote Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, I was playing with words. I liked the idea that animals might want to speak English but only be able to pronounce one or two words so they would have to wait for the perfect moment to join in a conversation. Punzie, ICQ! was the outcome of watching a group of children poring over a puzzle book. I thought I could use the puzzle idea and add several layers of meaning. I suppose I also felt that European culture was being devalued at the time and the book would stimulate children to read fairytales. In The Real Facts of Life, I wanted the main character to be someone the reader would identify with strongly. I wanted to say, 'This is what it's like to be ordinary. Here is what we all have in common. Isn't it funny?' My next book, Grave of the Roti Men, is based on the
plight of the illegal fishermen off the north coast of Australia. Good men on both sides are caught up in a bad situation—the result of a deal between governments in which the needs of the individuals affected are not properly considered.
"I believe it is the duty of a children's writer to provide children with the vicarious experience they need to deal with life in modern society. To avoid unpleasant or dangerous issues because of correctness or to censor writing which others may see as not suitable is to fail the children who read our stories. Better they deal with these issues vicariously than walk blindly into the pitfalls they will surely face later.
"That said, an author should always present issues clearly, showing the dangers and consequences of each course of action and never glorifying destructive behaviour.
"I have always loved the songs of Bob Dylan and the writing of Margaret Mahy. Both have a way of finding the perfect word, of expressing an idea that captures the imagination. I believe picture books suit the increasingly visual nature of society, and I admire the way Gary Crew has taken them into new areas. And also I respect the work of many Australian writers and value the supportive community of writers here in Western Australia.
"I think aspiring writers should keep in mind that the difference between success and failure is having a go. It is very true that if a publisher rejects a book, it doesn't necessarily mean the book is no good. Try elsewhere, try again, but don't give up. When you finally have a book accepted for publication, take advice from those you respect."
Biographical and Critical Sources
School Library Journal, October, 2002, Amy LilienHarper, review of The Real Facts of Life, p. 112.
Aussie Reviews, http://www.aussiereviews.com/ (March 11, 2003), Sally Murphy, review of The Real Facts of Life and Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r.*
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