Dara Oginni was only 10 years old when her debut 'School Friendship Solutions' — a book which chronicles the challenges of friendships as a primary school kid — was published.
Initially, the book started out as a way of overcoming boredom during the school holidays with no plan of publishing when Dara was about eight or nine.
However, things took a new turn when she showed her parents what she had done.
Troubador Publishing, an independent UK publisher, accepted to publish the book in 2020.
Unfortunately, 'School Friendship Solutions' was shifted till 2021 owing to the effect of the Covid-19 which rocked the world in 2020.
In a recent interview, the budding young author discussed varying topics ranging from what she is passionate about, her key message in 'School Friendship Solutions', to her position on cyberbullying.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
My book is centred around children of my age.
It’s about children going to school and sometimes why they can be reluctant about it.
There could be so many reasons! The work could be hard or, in Amy’s case, there could be a student(s) who might seem a little intimidating, but they really aren’t and are just misunderstood.
School can be hard sometimes, you face many obstacles every day!
My book helps you to understand that you can get through them, if you face your fears, be bold and stand up to your problems, then they’ll eventually fade away!
Every problem won’t go immediately, though, it takes time. School takes time.
School takes patience. But school is great, and an amazing place to be. It’s your second home.
I care about my family and friends. I also love my dog Nala, whom I got a few months after this book came out!
Nala makes me laugh every day.
I also care about making a difference. It doesn’t have to be mega-scale, but it could be as simple as giving someone some encouraging words if they are downcast or just really need it, or emptying both layers of the dishwasher if my brother is feeling ill.
I care about writing short, fun, stories and playing with my friends, siblings and dog (Nala likes to cause trouble sometimes!).
I love to play the cello and dance too.
Making a difference in the world can be really simple and brightens other’s day.
We can all do this! I care about equality.
If I had 30 minutes to speak to kids about my book, I’d ask them how much they relate to it.
School Friendship Solutions is a book that is meant to empathise with young kids and understand how they are feeling in some circumstances, so I want to make sure that it is doing just that.
I’d also want to speak to them about how their journey at school has been, whether it’s changed for the better, and also whether after reading my book, they could understand different points of view more and could handle situations slightly easier.
This news would be great to hear!
Around 4-5 years ago, when I was 8-9, I started writing this book.
I have been writing short stories since I was 6, a lot of those about fairies and mermaids and princesses.
Me writing was just as natural as my love of reading.
This book was just written for fun, and I wanted to just cure my boredom during the school holidays.
I wasn’t planning to go public with it or publish it at all! I originally wrote them in short books on paper, (each chapter in the actual book was a book in its own right originally) and I drew all of the pictures myself (I’m an avid artist).
I was ten when I showed my parents what I had done and things got serious.
A year and a half later, after a lot of admin, my book finally got published on the 28th of February 2021!! I was so excited!
But then, the book didn’t hold much meaning for me.
Sure, it was about a girl who moved to a new school and was feeling out of place, but it didn’t hold much power.
For me, it was just a funny, slightly weird book that I just found myself working on.
Now, I realise just how special it is.My lovely book holds so much potential!
I can’t wait to see how Amy develops further and I’m sure that you can’t too.
Covid hit the world like an unexpected storm.
I could never understand how something so, so, microscopic could be so horrible and steal so many lives.
It still makes me sad, just thinking about it.
As you may already be able to tell, Amy’s life is written in a pre-covid setting.
Lucky for her! Covid changed schools so much too, you had to do online school, which I actually quite enjoyed, solely because I had an extra hour of sleep!
However, I grew to miss the school atmosphere, which Zoom could never have.
Amy is shown to dislike school sometimes, but when you actually don’t have school anymore, you’ll realise how much you took it for granted and didn’t really appreciate it.
Amy loves spending time with her friends, so I’m quite sure that she’d realise how much she actually loves the school surrounding, even if the smell of pencil sharpeners could be annoying.
School is a special place and it can never be replaced or have a contestant.
My book resonates with kids with the way it’s set.
Things have changed A LOT since I wrote my book, so rapidly.
So, while in-person bullying is still a problem, cyberbullying is a huge one too!!
Many people (including me, yes I’m admitting it) spend a lot of time on their devices, which isn’t good for your mental health or well-being.
It’s a lot easier to say mean things to someone behind a screen than in person.
Unfortunately, Cyberbullying is a serious problem and it’s getting normalised now too.
Whenever I go on YouTube there’s always got to be a troll in the comments who just wants to pick a fight with someone.
You won’t know who the person is, where they are and how old they are, which can make you feel scared and/or intimidated.
Some people can be really mean. It can be worrying for kids.
So while Amy was being bullied physically at school, I hope to add cyberbullying to one of the situations that she has to deal with as her character develops and she grows.
I feel like this is so important for young kids to know and tell someone.
Sometimes it can be difficult, and annoying, and sometimes even embarrassing, but it’s the best decision, and much better than to let the person continue to make you feel insecure or make you fire back.
An adult will know how to properly block or report the person, and you can go on with life.
You can put it past you. After all, you don’t know what someone is going through, as seen when Sapphire reveals why she was being so mean to Amy.
Plus, you’ve always got your friends behind your back, like Kelly and Sivanthi are always right behind Ava.
Thank you for reading and I hope that School Friendship Solutions will become as special to you as it has to me.