Author Interviews

Taking children on a trip of the universe

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking | Pic Courtesy: Alan Peebles

Lucy Hawking, daughter of the world famous theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, knows the art of telling a good story. Lucy is the author of two novels for adults (‘Run for your Life’ and ‘Jaded’) and the George Greenby series which includes ‘George’s Secret Key to the Universe,’ ‘George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt,’ ‘George and the Big Bang,’ ‘George and the Unbreakable Code,’ with the final book almost completed and a television series in the works. But she writes with a purpose, her single-minded objective being to make science accessible and entertaining to young readers. “Children find it difficult to relate to concepts of time or space. I use storytelling to explain scientific concepts. It is fun and engages their creativity,” she observes.

p5lucy2In the George series, we meet a charming young boy George Greenby and his friend Annie and, we learn about their adventures to the solar system and beyond. Lucy adds, “It is not just children’s fantasy, it is based on real science. To make it factually tenable, I took help from my father and his colleague, Christophe Galfard, and got them to write about the work they do.”

When not writing, Lucy travels the world, meeting children, “taking them on a trip around the universe.” She also visited India recently, making an appearance at the Bookaroo Festival for Children in New Delhi. But varied though the countries are, she notes that children everywhere share a common enthusiasm for space-related topics. “The countries themselves may be different — Japan, United States of America, Australia, Bangladesh, India. But what is the same everywhere is that these children are keen to know more about space travel and black holes. There is a willingness to learn and the wonder and joy at discovering something new is palpable.”

Though Lucy was introduced to science at a very young age, even before her father’s inevitable rise to fame, she never had the slightest inclination to emulate her father. “I loved reading books and developed a love for the arts from an early age. I therefore went on to study literature and foreign languages at Oxford and then became a journalist and a writer.” Having said that, Lucy admits that her father has had the strongest influence on her career as a writer. “He is a great writer himself. And now more than ever I look up to him, as I strive to use arts to make scientific concepts accessible.”

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Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Author Interviews, Books, Penguin Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The humorous world of children’s books

kapdia payal

A year after her children’s novel, Wisha Wozzariter, won the Crossword Award for Children’s writing, author Payal Kapadia is back with a new book. This new offering is “so absurdly horrid that it would make kids laugh.” Horrid High, published by Puffin India, is set in the world’s most horrid school where most of the grown-ups are utterly despicable and the kids are left to their own devices to save the day.

The book has five lead characters, each one blessed with an extraordinary skill to help them through school. “They have names to match those qualities too,” says Payal. We meet Phil Fingersmith who can crack all kinds of locks and Fermina Filch, a pickpocket par excellence. And then come the baddies. From the English teacher Vera Verbose who makes the kids read dictionaries to Coach Kallus who makes them run on their knees, these evil folks fill the book with their malicious designs. It is a melange of all things horrid. Payal laughs, “I figured the more horridness, the better! I have to confess: I couldn’t get enough!” And then there’s her favourite grown-up character: Granny Grit, who can save a school or a planet just as well. “Because it’s about time that grandmas figured in a big way in an action-packed children’s adventure!” she says.

Interestingly, she notes, the hero, Ferg Gottin, is an unremarkable-looking boy who might be easily forgotten, but he realizes that he also brings some valuable qualities to the final mix. Talking about how she etched this character, she says,”I needed to ask myself: do heroes have to be blatantly heroic, or is heroism about the choices you make when you’re cornered?”

Payal, an erstwhile journalist, always wanted to be a writer from as far back as she could remember. “Fresh out of college and looking for a credible Master’s degree option, I turned to journalism,” she says. “It would quench two desires at once, I supposed, a desire to write and a desire to change the world.” Journalism was meant to be a pit stop, a platform to develop a worldview and an authorial voice. But after ten years in the field and just around the birth of her first daughter, she was convinced that this pit stop would become a full stop unless she bit the bullet and wrote the books she had always dreamt of writing. “I was on the cusp of motherhood, poised to see the world again as a child. I had become a voracious reader of children’s books. Writing my first book for children felt like a natural choice at this time,” she recalls.

She is currently working on book two of Horrid High which “gets more horrid,” in her view. What does she think about children’s literature at present? Is writing for children different from writing for adults? She answers, “I think the gap between children’s fiction and adult fiction has closed considerably. The best children’s books have complicated plots and characters and even allow for satire and moral ambiguity. Children these days can handle sophisticated thought—maybe they always could, but we never spoke to them as equals, which is a big mistake; they make for very savvy readers.”

The one distinction she sees is that children’s fiction can be unapologetically imaginative. She says, “Children are much more willing to suspend disbelief, thank god for that!”

Horrid High Details of the book: 

Title: Horrid High
Author: Payal Kapadia
Publisher: Puffin Books
Published: September 2014
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780143333173
Genre: Children, Fiction
Buy the book here

Watch the trailer of the book here:

Categories: Articles- New Indian Express, Author Interviews, Books, Children's Fiction, Penguin Books | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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