Category Archives: middle readers
When he was six years old, a child was found in a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce. He’s suffering from amnesia and only a small scrap of paper offers a clue: his name, Bran Hambric. His parents’ whereabouts are unknown, and so according to Dunce law, whoever found him is responsible for his welfare. The task is entrusted to Sewey and Mabel Wilomas. But nobody, not even Bran, realizes how important the boy’s survival is, and his connection to the titular Farfield Curse.
Reading Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the similarities of Harry Potter will occur. However, after the publishing of the Potter series, such comparisons were inevitable. Literature throughout the ages has been littered with the archetype of the hero, a boy of extraordinary power and living in ordinary circumstances. Bran Hambric has another thing in common with Mr. Potter: A sharply written novel with engaging characters, a twisting storyline, and equal dashes of humor and action.
Author Kaleb Nation started Bran Hambric when he was fourteen years old. He completed the novel in 2007. It all started with his imagining a boy and a banker waiting on a rooftop for a burglar to arrive. As Nation tells it, he wrote five hundred pages in six to nine months. The result is a novel meant for middle grades but enjoyable by all ages.
Starting in on Bran Hambric, once I was invested in the story, I didn’t want to leave. You know a book is good when you’ll torture yourself on an elliptical for another thirty minutes to read it! The characterization is great, from the curmudgeonly yet likable Sewey Wilomas (my favorite) his health-obsessed wife Mabel to the characters who aid Bran Hambric in his search for the truth – Adi and Astara. The book is filled with scenes of Bran’s family life, Sewey’s outlandish behavior, the mysterious world of gnomes, mages, and etc. This wait for more action, however, might bore younger readers. With so many wild incidents (odd occurences at a town fair, an unusual bookstore visit), older readers should be entertained nonetheless. The villain, Baslyn, is amiss for a good deal of the book, but his evil presence still fills the novel, making the confrontation of him and Bran thoroughly creepy, and worthwhile.
Nation has mentioned he has enough material written by five more sequels, and hopefully, Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse leaves readers anticipating more, as Bran is a promising new character whose story has much left to tell.
Copy for review received from the publisher.
Title: Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
Author: Kaleb Nation
Date: September 9, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
I conducted an interview with Kaleb Nation as part of the blog tour, with the help of Sourcebooks. You’ll find it below!
The world of Bran Hambric is inventive, with a variety of magical creatures, items, and beings. If there could be one magic-related item, creature, or person from your novel that was in the real world, who or what it would be? Why?
I think (as most people probably already expect!) I would really enjoy having a gnome around! Gnomes are such wonderful creatures and can do so many things, and I think a gnome would be a wonderful friend to have as well.
We learn in Bran Hambric there’s several different types of mages. Into which category do you think you’d fall?
I think I would most likely be an Illian. Illians are drawn towards books and writing, and I think that I can relate to Adi in that way as well!
Who have been your greatest writing inspirations? What advice would you give to other aspiring young authors?
I think one of my greatest writing inspirations has been Stephenie Meyer, not so much of her writing style but because of the way that she interacts with her readers. She has an interesting way of making her readers feel as if she’s talking directly to them, even if there might be 500 or 1000 people at the event. I always want to have a connection with readers the way she does.
I think that the advice I would give to other young writers is to really stick with it and make sure that you enjoy what you are writing. There are a lot of rough times when you’re writing a book with little hope of it being published, so it’s important that you’re writing a story that you enjoy, not just something you think will sell!
One of my favorite elements of the novel is the diverse cast of the characters. Each of them was compelling in their own way, from Mabel’s constant paranoia about imaginary germs to the curmudgeonly yet still oddly likable Sewey. Do any of the characters within your book have facets to their personality that you’ve drawn from yourself or other people you know?
I think that every character in the book draws upon certain aspects of myself or people that I have met in real life. I think that Bran’s interest in drawing is very much his version of my interest in writing. Some of Sewey’s crazy driving was directly inspired by my early driving lessons! And my family went through some sort of a health craze for a year or two a long time ago, so I think that Mabel’s health obsession might have been inspired by that somewhat (though greatly exaggerated in her case!).
I know from your website you’re a composer yourself. A good deal of authors sometimes mention particular songs or genres that have influenced them, such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and the band Blue October. Is this the case with you and Bran Hambric?
There were many songs and bands that I found over the years to fit with writing Bran Hambric. But since I wrote the book between ages 14 and 20, my musical interests naturally changed a lot over the years. At the beginning of writing, I almost entirely wrote with Enya playing in the background. Closer to the end though, I switched to a more random assortment or rock, with a lot of Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns. Nowadays, it’s a mix of those bands and a lot of movie soundtracks, especially from the Lemony Snicket movie and Finding Neverland.
If you could live inside any children’s book, what title would it be and why?
I think I’d love to live in the world of Lemony Snicket, as dreary as it might seem! It’s so quirky and strange I’d have a wonderful time exploring it.
My thanks to Kaleb and Sourcebooks for letting me participate in the blog tour. You’ll find the rest of the stops on the tour below. There’s some great stops, be sure to visit them all! Also check out Kaleb Nation’s Official Site, BranHambric (where you’ll find music composed by Kaleb for the novel), and Sourcebooks’ Bran Hambric page. You can download the first four chapters here and enter Sourcebooks’ contests for signed soundtrack CDs, Bran’s necklace, and more.
Blog Tour Schedule
Sunday, August 30th
Monday, August 31st
Tuesday, September 1st
Wednesday, September 2nd
Thursday, September 3rd
Friday, September 4th
Saturday, September 5th
Sunday, September 6th
Monday, September 7th
Tuesday, September 8th
Wednesday, September 9th
Thursday, September 10th
Friday, September 11th
Saturday, September 12th
Sunday, September 13th
Monday, September 14th
Tuesday, September 15th
Wednesday, September 16th
Thursday, September 17th
Friday, September 18th
Saturday, September 19th
This was part of a summer blog tour.
Vivian French’s Robe of Skulls begins with a robe. Not just any robe, but a robe of the deepest black velvet with tiny skulls cascading down the hem. Like most villians, Lady Lamorna is concerned about her fashion. After all, where would Darth Vader be without his breathing suit or Hook without his…hook?
Vivian French’s The Robe of Skulls is macabre yet lively adventure of fairy tale proportions. Gracie Gillypot is pure of heart and overworked and under appreciated, living with her loathsome stepfather and stepsister. But fate comes in the form of an unlikely source – a chattersome bat, some Crones, and a peculiar prince.
The Robe of Skulls is a madcap fractured fairy tale of twists and turns that readers of any age can enjoy. It’s a really fun read, with laughs, mystery, and just a little bit of evil.
Title: The Robe of Skulls
Date: April 2008
Publisher: Candlewick (US print edition)
Format: Hardback & Paperback
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
And now, there’s three books in the series of “Tales from the Five Kingdoms”! Visit Vivian’s website to learn more. Read a preview from the second book, The Bag of Bones, and from the third, The Heart of Glass, released this month from Walker Books.
And now, an interview with author Vivian French.
There’s a variety of fairy tale and folktale elements in The Robe of Skulls – from the traditional evil stepsister, to the royalty into frogs. What was the inspiration for this darkly whimsical novel?
I’ve always loved fairy and folk tales; my dad always read us stories before we went to bed, and later I read my way through all the Andrew Lang collections, together with Grimm and Perrault – anything and everything I could get my hands on. After a spell as an actor I became a storyteller, so I used to tell folk tales … but I didn’t mean to use them quite so much when I came to write the Robe of Skulls. I’d intended to write a very different book, about a boy called Thomas Catt, but it was DREADFUL. I wrote about 20,000 words, and had to delete the whole lot, and I was getting desperate! But then one evening I was in the kitchen (making my one hundredth cup of tea of the day), and I heard a voice from the TV next door … and the voice was talking about Evil. It was a very distinctive voice, and I remembered seeing a play with that particular actor in it … I remembered seeing her sweeping across the stage wearing a long black velvet dress. Bingo! I decided I was going to write a story about someone evil who wanted a long black velvet dress … and the other characters just sort of fell into place.
If you could live inside any children’s book, which title would it be and why?
Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan. I’ve always absolutely loved that book, and I’d love to spend time with Sarah, and have her show me things, and talk to me about them. There’s the most beautiful truth and simplicity in the story; it makes me cry every time I read it.
You’ve written for various ages – from teens and toddlers. Are there different challenges with writing for individual age groups, and do you have a preference?
To be honest, I don’t really think too much about age groups once I’ve actually started writing. That probably sounds odd, but I think it might go back to my storytelling days; I had to choose a style of story that was right for the children I was faced with, and then keep going, or there’d be mayhem and chaos.
It’s an interesting question, though. I hadn’t realised before quite how instinctively I fall into different styles for different age groups … and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. As far as a preference goes, I suppose I’d have to say I really REALLY enjoy writing for the Robe of Skulls age range, whatever that is. It seems to vary wildly; here in the UK I’ve had letters ranging from all different ages … including a grandmother of 62. I was very honoured. The quick paced and lively style of The Robe of Skulls makes the novel an excellent candidate for a film version to me. What technique – live-action or animated – do you feel would be the best interpretation? Any thoughts on a potential cast?
Oh wowsers – I would absolutely LOVE someone to make a film of Robe! I’m inclined to favour animation (I’m a massive animation fan) but I’d be over the moon with live action too. Tim Burton would be my dream director … but then again, there are so many brilliant directors out there. Cast? Geraldine McEwan would absolutely HAVE to play Lady Lamorna, because it was her voice that gave me the idea right at the very beginning ….