Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rockville author finds balance in writing for children

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Elle Jauffret of Rockville writes a children’s series of books about 12-year-old James Normal.
Elle Jauffret graduated at the top of her law school class in France and went on to earn a law degree from The George Washington University. The Rockville resident decided, however, to put her career as an attorney on hold to become a children’s author.

Jauffret’s latest book, ‘‘The Smithsonian Librafly,” follows her recurring character James Normal as he struggles to capture a creature that is eating words and making them disappear from the English language. The book is intended for the 8- to 13-year-old crowd.

The author describes this book as ‘‘kind of a little bit of the ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ but for kids.”

James Normal is a typical 12-year-old boy, born into a family of superheroes. He has no supernatural abilities, but can read from a magical encyclopedia no one else can decipher. This encyclopedia holds all the secrets about strengths and weaknesses of superheroes and villains. Using the book, his wits and his determination, he solves mysteries and restores order.

In ‘‘The Smithsonian Librafly,” James, his sidekick and his sister chase a man-bird, or ‘‘librafly,” around Washington, D.C., trying to keep it from snatching more words. In particular danger is the Declaration of Independence, as the first two words to be eaten are ‘‘liberty” and ‘‘equality.”

Jauffret says she decided to set this book in D.C. because of the city’s ‘‘intense” culture and power.

When she began thinking about what the world would be like without words as a means of expression, the idea for a word-snatcher was born.

‘‘I think people take words for granted,” Jauffret says. ‘‘People tend to use words and forget the real meaning of them.”

The librafly is a huge bird with wings covered in book pages rather than feathers. Jauffret says her writing is influenced by mythology, and that the librafly character is mythological, but with a modern twist.

In her first James Normal book, ‘‘Jimmy-The-Wits,” James squares off against the school bully and saves his family from a powerful villain. ‘‘The Ghost of Sorrow,” another book in the series, is due out in August. In this story, James goes up against a ghost that is haunting the town’s youngsters and leaving them exhausted and fragile.

There are three other planned James Normal books. All, Jauffret says, will address important life topics in a child-friendly way.

Jauffret has been writing since childhood.

‘‘I always wrote for myself first,” she says.

Later, she wrote stories for her son and his friends, but never published them. The stories ranged in topics from Halloween, to the four seasons, to human anatomy.

Jauffret says she started to get positive reaction to her stories, and one of her son’s teachers even asked if she could use her stories in class.

The James Normal series is published by Space Wave Publishing, which was started by two moms living in California. The women read Jauffret’s work and offered to take her on as their first writer.

Her latest project is a children’s book on astronomy, which she is working on with science writer Jeff Kanipe.

Jauffret says writing allows her to spend more time with her children, and it is a practical choice since her husband is in the military and has to move every few years.

‘‘I hope it’s the beginning of a career,” she says.

Jauffret decided to write the series because she has always loved mystery and adventure. She says she promised herself long ago not to let her love for this genre fade as she grew into adulthood.

‘‘In a way, it was keeping the child inside me alive.”

‘‘The Smithsonian Librafly” is available for purchase at http:⁄⁄ and