1st March 2011, Templar Publishing
252 pages, Paperback
Family life, mental illness, childhood worries, dysfunctional families, ups & downs of friendships, some humour,
Summary from Templar Publishing
Twelve-year-old Frankie Parsons has a head full of questions. Only Ma takes him seriously, but unfortunately she is the cause of the most worrying question of all, the one Frankie can never bring himself to ask. Then a new girl arrives at school with questions of her own: questions that make Frankie’s carefully controlled world begin to unravel.
It's quite funny because Frankie thinks and worries about things more than I do! I think it's an accurate portrayal of someone like Frankie especially with what he has to deal with his mother. She is very kind to him, does her best to contribute to the family. There is something odd about her, but I accepted this as being normal because of the way Frankie deals with it. It's only when Sydney, the new girl asks questions that Frankie dwells more on what's wrong with her mother. He is able to find out the information he needs from an unexpected source. That section of the book had me teary eyed. I felt that Frankie had so much to deal with because he was young and his family never talked about his mother, not at first. I loved how his sister managed to warm to Frankie a smidgeon, and they actually got on a little.
Frankie is a typical boy, getting up to mischief with his friend. Unfortunately his friend can't answer all his questions, and I think Frankie worries so much that if he didn't speak to someone, he would go a little bit loopy. So every night at 10pm he chats about his worries to his mother. Over time, this soothing event actually becomes a concern to Frankie, and he has to make a very big decision about it.
There's so much detail to this book, which suits Frankie's voice and how he views the world. There is enough in it that every reader can relate to him and his family - all of us have relatives we aren't so keen on, friends who have to leave us, siblings who do their own thing most of the time. It's the kind of book that I'll re-read, and each time I do that I think I'll understand Frankie a little bit more. There were a few occasions when I thought he was a bit over dramatic, but then pre-teens can be like that, so it's quite normal.
The 10pm Question is a book which you get lost in, and find yourself learning about deep issues without realising that they are deep until quite a way into the book.
Suggested read: Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko, another book examining big issues through a child's eyes.
Guest Blog Post
As well as this review, I've got a guest blog post from Kate! Here's her view on writing and it's place in her life.
In a way, writing has more or less emerged out of my reading life, and as it happens, my reading life more or less became my working life as time went by... so there’s a nice fit between life and writing – indeed, I don’t really think of them as separate entities.
I live with my partner, Bruce, in a little art deco house on the top of a hill near the centre of Wellington. Our kids have moved out in the last few years (though they live in Wellington which is very nice) so I’m in that lovely phase of life where I have fewer domestic responsibilities. My days are a blend of the various types of work I do – and the things I do for fun (though often these are the same things). I suppose I could say that the writing projects are the backbone of my life - currently I have a fellowship (which entails a substantial grant of money) to work on a long-term project about a fascinating bibliophile, Susan Price, and an enormous library of children’s books she has built for a child she knows. At the same time I’m writing a novel which I hope to finish by the end of the year. In the last few weeks I’ve been writing a smaller book, a kind of ABC (kind of)... an idea that suddenly announced itself and which I thought I’d better wrestle to the ground as swiftly as possible.
If I didn’t have the fellowship I’d still be doing those projects, but with much less time to give to them. Generally, in order to earn a living, I work my writing round a number of different jobs – reviewing: I have a regular slot talking about children’s books on NZ National Radio, and a regular TVNZ book slot where I get to review anything I feel like. So, every couple of weeks I have to read at least six books – luckily, this is no burden. In an average working year I travel a lot, too, teaching creative writing in schools about the country; this is a fantastic job – hugely varied (because the schools are so varied) and very stimulating. I often give lectures or talks about children’s literature or general ‘writerly’ matters at conferences or other events. I enjoy that too – it’s great to have the opportunity to think on the page, to work out at length thoughts about writing and literature and the place story and language have in our life...Other opportunities come up pretty often, too – I’ve edited a books magazine, curated a project bringing together different artists, for instance... Wellington has a big and varied community of writers and artists and all sorts of things happen as a consequence...
So, one way or another I’m either reading or writing or talking about reading and writing...which means I can work at home much of the time – which is both good and bad...good, because you can read a chapter or write a chapter and then hang out a load of washing, read another chapter, make a cup of tea, answer some emails, go for a run, pick up something for dinner on the way back, read another chapter, bring in the washing, have a chat on the phone, read a chapter, make some notes, have a nap, etc etc....in other words work and domesticity can blend nicely...but you can get very distracted too. And occasionally I feel a bit isolated. So, sometimes I take my laptop and work for a few days in a busy café (but one where I don’t know people)...it’s nice to be surrounded by the buzz of humanity but not be distracted by the phone or email or the laundry. I wrote a whole picture book in a café once, and then got a job as a cake baker there. And that was why there were a lot of cakes in The 10 pm Question. I like the way everything in life and work ends up fusing.
Perhaps the most fundamental way in which writing fits with my life is that much of the minutiae of my life ends up in my books. Certain objects from my present and past end up as accoutrements in my characters’ lives. Also many of my own pleasures and phobias (Frankie Parsons and I share an abhorrence for swimming pools, for instance). Also much of my family’s habits and stories (this is a sad hazard for the families’ of writers)...Running and cricket have found their way into many stories, and music. Knitting is bound to turn up in a book soon, because I’ve been getting more and more obsessed with that over the last several years...and food is ever present because cooking is an ongoing preoccupation.
On the whole I love a writing life, though occasionally I’m wistful about having no office Xmas party or birthday shouts – having no official colleagues...I was the presenter of a television book programme a few years ago and worked in an office for several months...it was strangely exciting to be able to take part in the staff Melbourne Cup sweepstake...
Thank you Kate for giving some an informative view on your life! It was really interested, and it's awesome that you're always doing what you enjoy. I guessed that you might like baking cakes. It's great that you love knitting - I do too! Looking forward to see how you slip it into a story. You've had a wide range of intriguing jobs that will provide good writing material. I hope the work on the Fellowship project progresses smoothly for you too.