As a young student named Beckett flies from a school swing set and high into the air, his three friends stand by, smiling, with score cards at the ready. He gets high marks for his daredevil manoeuvre.
The move is, thankfully, fictional, and is captured in an illustration describing the “biggest, greatest, most awesome game of Rocket Launcher that their school had ever seen.”
It is nine-year-old Madison Reaveley’s favourite part of the book she co-wrote with her step-mom Megan Williams titled Don’t Call the Office.
The colourful illustration includes Cameron, Sadie, Kayla, Beckett and Jeremy, the book’s main characters.
To some extent, Cameron is Madison and Madison is Cameron.
They share some obvious similarities: “The hair, the skin, and my favourite colour is orange, so the orange backpack,” notes Madison. The family and friends depicted in the book are also based on Madison’s real-life family and friends.
Don’t Call the Office was inspired by a true event as well: “Megan was late to pick me up one time and she called the office after school. I didn’t know what was happening so I just went down to the office and then I had to stay there because when people call the office, whoever is coming to pick you up, you’re not allowed to go back outside to play,” explains Madison.
Megan offers her side of the story: “She was at a new school and I was nervous that she would just be standing on a hill by herself.”
Instead, Madison was enjoying playing with her friends outside, but once she got called into the office, school policy dictated that she had to stay there until a parent picked her up.
“So Megan was two minutes or three minutes late and she just walked right in and I said ‘Megan don’t call the office so I can go play on the swings,’” recalls Madison.
Megan admits: “It was funny because when she said it it made total sense to me why I shouldn’t do it (call the office) but it was like a rookie move on my part.”
That simple sentence, “don’t call the office,” soon became the basis for a children’s book the pair self-published through Amazon in July.
The idea grew during one of the duo’s regular long rides home from school. Madison, just like her fictional counterpart Cameron, has a blended family that includes her parents, step-parents, a younger sister, and grandparents. She divides her time between West Vancouver, where Megan lives with Madison’s dad, and Coquitlam, where Madison’s mom, sister, and step-father live.
It was during their trip back to West Vancouver from her Coquitlam school that day that Megan and Madison hatched a plan. Often on their long rides between the two homes, Megan and Madison listen to audio books, and one of their favourite authors to listen to is Robert Munsch.
Madison made the suggestion that “Don’t Call the Office” might be a great book title for Munsch. Megan liked the idea, but came up with one of her own. She thought they could write the book themselves.
This wasn’t Megan’s first brush with writing. In 2014, she penned and self-published a non-fiction love story called Our Interrupted Fairy Tale based on the relationship between her and her late boyfriend Chad Warren, who passed away in 2009 from a form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma.
So Megan was familiar with the process of writing and self-publishing, but she also thought it would be a good learning opportunity for Madison. Then halfway through Grade 3, Madison wasn’t too interested in reading at the time, and Megan thought writing a book together might present a unique way to expand her literacy skills.
That weekend, the duo came up with a character list. The following weekend, they put together a plot line, and it grew from there. The ideas flowed easily. The creative pair worked on the book almost every weekend and rarely disagreed about anything.
“It wasn’t me pushing this project on Madison at any point,” says Megan. Madison calls the process “fun work.”
Don’t Call the Office tells the story of a young girl named Cameron who has a different family member pick her up each day after school one week. Each day, that family member is late to pick her up and each day they call the office, forcing Cameron to sit and wait inside instead of playing outside with her friends.
Megan enlisted the help of family friend Cathryn John to illustrate the book. Cathryn, also a West Vancouver resident, had never worked on a children’s book before, but Madison says she successfully captured her ideas in the drawings. She especially likes a fort Cathryn created for one of the chapters.
It was Cathryn’s idea to also create a complete colouring book version of the story as well.
Now in Grade 4, Madison says she enjoys writing more, and is planning on working with Megan to publish more stories, probably featuring their main character Cameron.
When her step-mom asks her what the biggest thing she learned from the six-month process was, Madison answers simply and quickly: “How to write a book.”
Don’t Call the Office is available through Amazon, at meganwilliams.ca, and in local Indigo stores.