Engaging young readers – that’s the trick!

Author Amy Adeney. Pictures: Rob Carew

By Casey Neill

A Glen Iris teen’s YouTube clips inspired his mum’s new children’s book series.

Toby, 14, has been running trick shot channel Trick’n Nuggets since he was 11 years old.

He’s taken classes to learn to film and edit his trick shots, each of which takes countless hours.

Most are filmed at home, a local park, or his school – Preshil in Kew – and feature juggling, basketball, frisbee, darts, cup flipping, card tossing, ping pong, and more.

Children’s author Amy Adeney watched her son’s journey and saw the incredible persistence and creativity involved.

“I conceived a new junior fiction series about a boy who wants to grow up and be a world-famous trick shot star,” she said.

“As a former primary school teacher, I’m well versed in the interests and abilities of children at the stage of transitioning from reading picture books to short chapter books, and particularly with how to engage reluctant readers.

“I thought trick shots would be a great hook to draw readers at this level into a new series of stories.”

Trick Shot Trevor: Frisbee Fiasco is now on bookstore shelves alongside Amy’s first junior fiction series Tilda Teaches and picture book Turning Cartwheels.

Amy took a “very long, convoluted path” to becoming an author, working in England as a fitness instructor for a year and in New York in PR for a few years before returning to Australia to study primary school teaching.

“I was always a huge reader,” she said.

“I didn’t anticipate what I’d love most about teaching was sharing books with my class.”

She started a small business running a book club for preschoolers, where participants would receive a book, a craft inspired by the text, plus cues for singing and dancing.

“I always thought it was a bit of a pipe dream that I’d write something myself,” she said.

Then Amy got an internship at Writers Victoria, attended workshops, and formed a writers’ group.

“I just threw myself at it and got quite lucky through the people I met,” she said.

“It took about three or four years to have my first book published.”

The main character in Tilda Teaches wants to grow up and be the world’s greatest teacher.

“I used to run lunchtime classes for my friends teaching cartwheels,” Amy said, explaining where the concept came from.

She’s been so exposed to Toby’s trick shot hobby it seems inevitable she’d write on the subject.

“Some of Toby’s favourite YouTubers have become my favourite YouTubers,” she said.

“I thought trick shots would make a great structure for a series.

“I know as a parent when your kids are that age, series are a godsend.”

The first one focuses on frisbee, the second on basketball, and there are plans for 12 more.

“When I was teaching full time I taught grade one,” she said.

“I saw students shift from picture books to chapter books, the pride and excitement that can happen when you read a book ‘this thick’ and feel like a grownup.

“It was about finding the right books that make that switch exciting.

“The series that are aimed at boys lean towards sports, or they’re fantasy.

“In terms of a real-life series about kids that age, things they’re going through, there wasn’t much that wasn’t sport.

“There are lots of non-sporty kids.

“Particularly in Australia there’s a lot of emphasis on team sports.

“Toby’s never really been into team sports.

“This is a great way of being active.

“You’re competing against yourself, with internal motivation rather than winning against another team.

“The persistence is just astounding.

“It’s hours and hours of sitting in a room by yourself.

“I hope that we can grow Trevor to be something that will get kids into trick shots, and the interest in the skills that come from that.

“The fast-paced and relatable stories were a good way to hook their kids into the series.

“I do try to deal with real-world situations in the books without ramming the message home too hard.

“The next one delves more into school friendships.”

It’s fair to say Toby is low-key chuffed that his mum found inspiration in his trick shots.

“I was honoured that anyone had taken the time to write a book about trick shots considering how unknown it is to the general public,” he said.

“I started watching other YouTubers doing trick shots.

“In 2018 I made one short video – it was a bottle flip video.

“In 2019 I picked up a frisbee.”

And it’s snowballed from there to dozens of videos and hundreds of followers.

“They’ve always been well-received but I didn’t get that many followers. My videos weren’t getting that many views,” he said.

“Last year I decided I needed to up the quality of my videos, and I started getting more followers.”

He doubled his subscribers in only a few months and started getting attention from other YouTubers.

“One of my Instagram videos was reposted by one of my favourite trick shooters,” he said.

Toby is always working on more videos and new skills.

“I hope to take the editing skills and expand that into becoming an editor for Hollywood or in the film industry,” he said.