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article imageMan attempts to bridge English-Maori gaps with children’s book Special

By Justin King     Feb 3, 2014 in Entertainment
Wellington - New Zealander Clark Valmont is attempting to cross cultural barriers with the production of a new children’s book that has been three years in the making.
Clark Valmont’s book, Lil’ Monsters, Just Like You, hopes to end what he sees as the lack of sophistication in children’s books. The story follows Andy as he meets the monsters under his bed and discovers that those monsters are not much different than he is. Valmont sees the story as being able to reach across cultural lines, and an objective of his fundraiser is to gain enough funding to print the book in English and Maori. The author has pledged to donate copies to the Maori community in New Zealand if the goal can be reached.
The Maori are the native people of New Zealand. Treaties with the British crown have established lands specifically for the Maori. The people are possibly best known for their intricate tattoo work, but they have made headlines recently with spats of violence.
The book’s message of finding similarities among seemingly different groups is a powerful one the community may welcome.
Proceeds beyond the cost of production will be donated to children’s charities.
Interview with Clark Valmont
What prompted you to write a book for children afraid of the monsters under their bed?
When it comes to archetypal fears; I think all children have a fear or something that is unknown - I mean it carries over to when they are adults and this topic seems to be one that is very popular and always comes up. When I was younger I didn't really have that fear, because my Mother instilled into me from a young age that if there was anything under my bed it would probably be friendly and I guess that some how subconsciously influenced me into writing this.
So what is the basic story?
There is a young boy and he is being tucked into bed by his mother - she and him begin to speak about what is under the bed and from there the story spirals. I wanted to use an array of activities so that the book could relate to children from different walks of life and activities that children always seem to avoid - like eating dinner, having a shower, doing homework etc., through all these tasks the young boy "Andy" sees how the monsters do these things in a fun and slightly different way.
In reading one of the excerpts, it seemed like you avoided dumbing the book down. It's definitely going to increase the vocabulary of the children. Was that intentional?
I think all children are being dumbed down by modern television and literature they read; simplistic words and unrealistic situations are causing children's attention spans to reduce and I wanted to create a book where the children would understand what was being said but at the same time question their parents in regards to certain words. I think the best way a child can learn is from asking questions and the parents are often the best people to answer these so I wanted this to be reflected in my writing.
The idea of releasing the book in Maori and donating copies is interesting. What made you want to reach out to the indigenous community like that?
It has been a long time since I have seen a book that has the potential to actually be translated into Maori and still have a great story line - as a child I read legends of Maui and many myths in Maori however, while doing research for this book I have had great trouble finding books in print in Te Reo. I wanted to create a book that was both financially sustainable and in addition gave something back. That's why all the proceeds that I receive that exceed the printing and other costs I shall be donating to various children's charities in New Zealand and donating as many copies of the books as I can to schools around New Zealand.
Tell the readers a little bit about the downloadable game.
The game is made by some very cool friends of mine, it's five levels and the playable character is the "little monster" from the book, it's 2d graphics and based on a Mario-type game so all those retro gamers will love that feel. I wanted to reward people with something more than just a thank you or a soft toy they'd receive in 6 months and a game they can play almost instantly I think cracks that in one. It's a game that you would be able to finish in about 30 minutes with a bit of skill - but it is well rewarding and may bring back memories of when people were kids too.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell the readers?
I am not doing this project to get recognised as a writer or make money, I have a goal in mind and that is getting a printed run of 2,000 books out there and then maybe a publishing company will pick the idea up. All I want is to make sure that the next generation of children has more literature that respects them as individuals and at the same time I can give something back to the community. I wouldn't say it is a selfless activity, I would say it's a social investment on my behalf making the world a better place is a responsibility we all have and I think it can be very easily achieved with a bit of hard work.
The fundraiser terminates at the end of the month.
More about Kiwi, Maori, Children's book, Lil' Monsters, Just Like You, clark valmont
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