The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp, written by Paul Russell, illustrated by Nicky Johnston (EK Books),
Story telling is both hard and a joy. When we find the right words, the moment of inspiration that grows into a story, and the right combination of passion, love and experience, amazing things can happen.
I will confess, though it isn’t that sort of book, this book it did make me weep a little. When stories are written from the heart and in a way that it invites readers into the story, to connect with what is happening, and to feel a part of the journey, then we will feel those emotions.
Newcastle author, Paul Russell and Melbourne author, Nicky Johnston have joined forces to create a beautiful book about finding your place in the world.
The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp is the result of the wonderfully creative minds of Paul and Nicky, who through gentle text and beautifully rendered visual narrative, take us on the journey of Bowen and his very busy, thoughtful and questioning mind.
Bowen is the child in the classroom that is swallowed by the physical busyness that occurs around him. He wants time to contemplate, ask questions, challenge the situation and what he is asked to do. His very busy mind takes him away from others, he finds it hard to understand why people would ask questions that have so many potential answers and how can he possibly choose the right one in time to offer an answer.
It is these busy minds, nurtured and encouraged by those who love and support, who are the fixers of the world. Temple Grandin comes to mind, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein. These are just a few of the names of busy minded people who have created, invented and progressed the world around us. Though these are examples of children who were misinterpreted by their teachers and peers, some even being thought to be seriously disabled in such a way that it was suggested they be put into care homes.
Thankfully, today, these children are everywhere, in every school, classroom and most families will have a sibling or cousin, aunt or uncle who are deemed to 'not quite fit in', but their unique perspectives are now being recognised as valuable and powerful in the resolution of problems and invention.
These traits in the dreamers and the thinkers are created by many things. In Bowen's story, they are not mentioned, or hinted at, thank goodness. Through the eyes of Bowen, these things do not matter. All he is interested in is working his way through life and answering the questions in his head. He takes his time to ponder, something we are forgetting how to do: take time, to consider, to take in the bigger picture. He knows he is different, but as he gets older, he knows that different is good, a power, and gift.
Paul's words take us straight into Bowen’s world. Not the world of his teachers or classmates, but on a gentle journey of experiencing what it is like to be inside that amazing, slightly confused and creative mind that looks for answers where many fail to look.
Nicky’s story through the colourful and active illustrations, shows us how Bowen’s outer world looks while he focuses of the bigger and smaller things.
This is a book for children, as one would hope a picture book to be, it is child centric and yet gives all of us insight into the mind of a child while his world doesn’t understand him.
My favourite part of the story, not because it is any better than the rest, but because it reminded me of a remarkably similar situation with my ASD son, is the page about the cola-powered tortoise.
‘When I was nine, my grandmother caught me strapping a home-made cola-powered rocket to Gertrude, my pet tortoise.
“Bowen, what are you thinking?”'
In my son’s case, he wanted to know “what velocity was required to throw a metal ruler across the classroom in order to hit the other side”. He was sent home from school that day. He was in year two. He was sent home a lot, probably to stop others being injured or to stop the school from being burnt down from his investigations, they had to hide the magnifying glasses!
This beautifully rendered story is essential reading for everyone who sits in a classroom, has people they know in classrooms, teaches, or works in a classroom or even has that aunty or uncle they don’t understand. But it is especially for all the Bowens out there who can feel empowered, finally, for others to hear their story and be empowered by that.
Thank you Paul and Nicky for this very special and insightful book. Thank you Bowen Bartholomew Crisp for sharing your inside world, and, I agree:
why aren’t red pandas called orange pandas?
Illustrations by Nicky Johnston, text by Paul Russell
Reviewers note/confession: As a reviewer I need to be impartial and honest about the books I present to my readers. In the Australian Children's and YA publishing industry, most creators know each other and sometimes we know each other quite well. Often we review books created by our friends and peers (this is hard to avoid) and I endeavour to maintain a professional approach to this task. My opinions of this book and others I review are not because of friendships but from a genuine response to great literature for children.
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