Short article from the Warrnambool Standard November 16, 1985 about the release of Unreal.
Unreal... That's for certain
As a former teacher of handicapped children, speech therapist and lecturer in special education, Mr Jennings said a lot of material written for children with a reading handicap was below their interest level. He had tried to avoid this. "I've done it in such a way that it doesn't appear to be a book like that." He said children with a reading handicap "feel stigmatised if they pick up a book that looks like a book for little kids."
Mr Jennings has done a lot of research into factors which made the text easier to read. He said there were several things he considered to be important for the child "which I would call a reluctant reader". First, there had to be a good story. Then the text should be predictable, he said. This helped the reader deduce the meaning of a more difficult word. Mr Jennings said this method was called definition strategy. Small or easy words were used to lead into the difficult word. "I've really defined the word before I've used it," he said. Mr Jennings said in the past, such stories were written with words of only three or four letters. "When you do that you can't really write a good story because your stuck with 'the cat sat on the mat' sort of thing."
Another factor Mr Jennings took into account was to preserve the Australian vernacular and settings. He said children were exposed to so much material from America and England it was important to keep the Australian perspective. "That's why I've got things (in the book) about dunnies and the sort of thing," Mr Jennings said. "It's a very Australian book."
Mr Jennings said children were exposed to too much violence on television. "You can be funny and exciting without violence and that's something I've tried to do here."
One of the eight stories is based in Warrnambool — others are from places such as Timboon, Horsham and Lakes Entrance. "I've tried to keep them in this area," he said.
Mr Jennings has had four other small books published in the education area. This is the first he has written aimed at the general market. The book stemmed from one short story he wrote and sent to Penguin books. The publishing company reacted favourably and wrote back to Mr Jennings, saying if he could write another seven it would take them.
Mr Jennings said it took him about a year to write all the stories. The hardest part was coming up with the ideas. "I'd never start (writing) until I'd got the end worked out," Mr Jennings said. Each of the stories is between two-and-a-half and five thousand words and is broken into very small chapters so the reader does not find it overwhelming. Mr Jennings said each of the stories had a surprise ending to appeal to children.
Taken from the US "Booklist", August 1991 Edition