THE STONKING STEPS, a journey through ING-ONG-UNG
The Stonking Steps Reviews
Reality informs Rogers’ fantasy childhood quest
By Amy Jo Ehman, for The StarPhoenix
Will Rogers knows that Christmas wishes don’t always come true. In fact, he even got a rejection letter from a publisher on Christmas Eve.
“It was the only piece of mail that I got that day. I was in a grinchy mood after that,” he says.
So, it’s no surprise that Rogers’ first novel doesn’t have a fairy tale, solve all your problems, Christmas magic type of ending. There is plenty of fantasy and imagination, but a good dose of reality, too.
“I wanted a fantasy story with a realistic ending,” says Rogers, author of The Stonking Steps: A Journey through Ing-Ong-Ung, a novel for seven-12 year olds. “Too many Hollywood and Disney films have chiché endings, where traumatized families get unexpected surprises that improve their lives forever. That rarely happens in real life, especially at Christmas time. The fantasy world can’t solve the problems that we face in the real world.”
Let’s make it clear that Rogers had a happy childhood and he really loved Christmas. He was an only child, and didn’t live close to other relatives, so Christmas was a quiet time with his parents.
But they moved a lot when he was young, and he often felt dislocated from his surroundings. His best friend was a stuffed dog. When he was six, his parents moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to Saskatoon, and he settled into his new home.
Now 35, working as a teacher’s assistant at Bishop Pocock Elementary School, Rogers says he’s met children whose lives were less fortunate than his own.
“I used to volunteer in the Victoria School library and I knew a young boy who kept living with different relatives and changing schools. He got really attached to me, and I sort of based this book on him,” he says.
The story is about a boy named Justin who is living unhappily with his aunt and uncle. He overhears that they will send him to a foster home after the Christmas holiday. Justin’s dream is to live with his mother, convinced that everything would be wonderful if only he could find her.
He discovers a portal into the fantasy world of Ing-Ong-Ung and sets off on a grand adventure to find his mom. Along the way, he makes friends with some stuffed animals and four carousel horses. Together they head for the Stonking Steps which, if you reach the top, have the power to grant wishes. (Stonking is a British slang word for something really wonderful as in, “That was a stonking good party.”
Of course, there are bad people along the way, like the greedy Hip O’Pigamus who steals children’s toys before they can be delivered by Santa Clause.
The novel is set in Saskatchewan. According to the author, Justin’s fictional hometown of Aspen Grove is located in the area of Melfort and Tisdale. The portal is north of that, in the forest around Narrow Hills Provincial Park. Rogers included maps of Ing-Ong-Ung which he drew himself.
In fact, the book is a family affair. Rogers’ mom, the artist Honor Kever, illustrated the book. His stepfather, the author David Carpenter, provided proofreading and encouragement.
After one too many rejection letters from publishers, Rogers and his family paid to have the book published by Trafford Publishing of Vancouver, which sells books over the Internet at www.trafford.com. He says about 50 books have been sold already, mostly into the United States.
Rogers, who has high-functioning autism, is already working on a sequel.
“Writing is a very good way to communicate if you’re autistic,” he says.
“You can take your time to think about what you’re going to say.”
Rogers and his book, The Stonking Steps: A journey through Ing-Ong-Ung, will be featured at the McNally Robinson bookstore on the evening of Dec. 2. He will give a reading Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Alice Turner Library.
– The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Saturday, October 16, 2004
Ehman is a Saskatoon freelance writer.
Although I try my best to be accurate in my reviews and essays, I had no control over what was said in the Star Phoenix review. One of the things mentioned indicated that I never spent time with relatives at Christmas when I was a kid. Although this was very true when I was a young child, it was much less true when I was an older kid and a teenager. When I was in my early and mid-teens, I would go down to the U.S. to visit my dad and stepmother and we’d go to my stepmother’s family’s farm near Eagle Grove, Iowa, every Christmas, Easter, and summer. Also, from the Christmas I was ten, my mom and I would spend the holidays in San Antonio, Texas, with my grandparents. For several Christmases, I’d first go to see my dad’s family, then I’d fly down to San Antonio and meet my mom and grandparents. Then my mom and I would come home to Saskatoon. Grandma and Grandpa also came up for Christmas when I was six, and we flew down to San Antonio the Christmas I was eight, which was my first airplane trip.