Thursday, 22 May 2014

Countdown 5th June Review, Review & Guest Blog Post: The Mute Button by Ellie Irving (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

5th June 2014, Corgi, 320 pages, Paperback, Review copy
Themes: family life, school life, feeling left out, bullying, tantrums,  sulks, misbehaving, compassion, getting enough attention, friendships changing

Content: Some emotional drama, lots of hilarity, tissue needed

 How do you make yourself heard in the midst of chaos?

Anthony Button loves his big family, but their noise can drive him crazy.
And with the arrival of a brand-new older brother, it’s worse than ever!

So Ant starts a silent protest to try and get everyone’s attention.
But now he’s pressed the mute button, will he ever find his voice again?

Nayuleska's thoughts
I'd have been interested in reading this anyway because I know people who don't speak have a story to tell. However, because this is part of Countdown to the 5th of June, celebrating authors whose books are out on 5th June, and Ellie is the author I've been partnered up for this fun blogging event which must have taken the organiser Jim of YAYeahYeah lots of dedication and effort, I simply had to read it.

*breathes* Unlike my last long sentence Anthony doesn't have to worry about breathing. He does it, he just doesn't speak for most of the book. I could see why he chose silence, at first it was easy for him to do and people didn't seem to notice, but they did. He had no idea he'd have to see various medical people in an attempt to get him speaking again. I certainly didn't expect cheese, Anthony's passion, to be so central to helping him speak again.

I do think some of his reasoning was, well, childish, BUT that is all part of growing up. We all make mistakes and do things we feel is right, even when in hindsight it wasn't. I only have 1 sibling, so didn't have quite as much competition for attention growing up, yet I can remember hating when my sibling began to do any of 'my' hobbies. Anthony struggles when his most disliked person is eerily similar to himself. The situation is mostly resolved at the end in a moment that made me cry. It's not a perfect ending, there are still issues to be faced but Anthony overcomes what he wrestled with on his own which, as someone points out, shows his inner strength which is a great gift.

There are heaps of hilarious moments both at home and at school. For a book with a boy protagonist I surprised myself by totally loving it! I was able to relate to and understand most of Anthony's feelings. Like all of us he had several issues to contend with, and he gets through them with help from others, especially when he doesn't want it. Go read this ace book!

Find out more on Ellie's website.

Suggested read
Read another of Ellie's books, Billie Templar's War (Children's, 9 years +, 9/10E)

Guest Blog Post by Ellie Irving: Book Research

I'd vaguely heard of Ellie before Jim contacted me about Countdown To 5th June, but through emails I'm learning how awesome an author and a friend she is. It is with great pleasure that I'm hosting her guest blog post today - it'll be sure to make you laugh! Ellie didn't know about the pictures I've added to it ^o^

 There’s a famous story involving Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman during the filming of ‘Marathon Man.’ To prepare for a scene where he looks like he’s not slept for two days, Dustin Hoffman did, in fact, stay awake for 48 hours. Arriving on set looking utterly exhausted, Olivier asked him simply: ‘Why don’t you just try acting, dear boy?’

I thought about this story a lot during the writing of my latest book, ‘The Mute Button.’ How ‘Method’ do we, as writers, have to go in order to write our stories? How much research do we need to undertake to colour our tales with truth and authenticity? Isn’t that what imagination is for?

‘The Mute Button’ tells the story of 10 year old Anthony Button, who has a large, loud and annoying family, and feels somewhat ignored in the midst of them. When his Dad finds out he’s got another son, Anthony starts a silent protest as a way of attention-seeking, but things soon get a bit out of hand...

I don’t have five siblings, like Anthony, but I do have an (annoying) older brother, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to write about sibling rivalry and how siblings wind each other up. Anthony likes cheese, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to work my way through slabs of Cheddar,


Goats cheese

and Baked Camembert fully appreciate Anthony’s obsession with it. IT WAS VITAL TO THE STORY, I *HAD* TO GET IT RIGHT! 
Of course you had to Ellie! (The cheese is hidden)
And when Anthony’s parents take him to a child psychologist and speech therapist, well, one could argue that I’d been preparing to write that scene for 28 years, having had speech therapy sessions for a speech impediment when I was five. 

So my real-life experiences played a part in adding depth to my characters and their situations. But I felt that I needed to do more. Anthony ends up not talking, not uttering a peep, for fourteen days. Sure, I could probably imagine what it felt like to not talk for that long, but why not give it a go?

And so it was, that for one whole day last year, I decided not to talk. Odd, I know, considering I’m not eight and participating in a Sponsored Silence. I’d prepped my flatmates the night before, so they didn’t think I was being rude when I didn’t talk to them like usual over our bowls of cornflakes in the morning, but it still felt quite odd just to wave at them as they hurried out the door for work. It would have been very easy to stay in my flat all day and not have to see anyone, but what would have been the point in that? So I forced myself to go to Tesco, where I mimed the action for ‘HELP’ at the self-service checkout when it kept telling me there was an unexpected item in the bagging area. I merely smiled my thanks at the member of staff that came to my rescue.

Onwards to Costa (other coffee chains are available), where I mimed that I’d lost my voice and scribbled on a bit of paper ‘REGULAR SOYA LATTE TO STAY IN, PLEASE.’ 

 They must have thought I was nuts. Especially when I flipped the piece of paper over to read ‘THANKS A LATTE.’ Seriously, I’ve not dared to go back since.

On the way out, a middle-aged chap held the door open for me and when I didn’t say ‘thank you,’ he huffed and tutted at me. Oh, the shame! I felt my face turn bright red and I scurried home, mortified.

Sometimes research can bog down a story. If a writer’s too busy describing in great detail a particularly ornate piece of furniture, or exactly what garb a 17th century buccaneer might wear, because they want you to know that they did their homework, I quickly lose interest. But sometimes, research can bring out facts which spark ideas you’d never have otherwise thought of, and completely enhance your story. I had no idea of the shame, the embarrassment I would feel when I realised I couldn’t respond to Tutting Man; of just how flushed my face would get. And that was just after one morning. Imagine not talking for fourteen whole days!

And of course I couldn’t talk on the phone. 
Ellie possibly looked surprised at one part of her conversation

Which wasn’t such a bad thing when a woman from Birmingham rang to talk to me about a PPI claim. But quite awkward when my Mum phoned and, sensing a captive audience, proceeded to launch into a monologue about the ducks in the village pond, and did I know that there was a new bakery opening up on the High Street, and that her friends Marion and Nigel had invited her and Dad out to the pub that evening, though she probably wasn’t going to have a drink, well, maybe just one red wine and blah blah blah without me being able to cut in and say, ‘Oh, sorry, Mum, is that the time...?’ Still. At the end of the call, she did say, ‘I forgot you weren’t talking today. Just cough then, once for yes, twice for no. Do you feel a bit like Terry Waite?’

So I guess research has its moments after all.

The Mute Button is published by Random House Children’s Publishers on 5th June. 

Nayu: I'm loving the cheese research! Ellie, I think you were especially brave with the not talking, it's interesting to see how others interpreted your silence. I like my writing research of eating chocolate, which is completely relevant to my work in progress!

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Mary Preston said...

What a fun post!!

Nayuleska said...

Thanks Mary, I had fun posting it!