Review & Author Blog: Spylark / Danny Rurlander

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations


Today is our stop on the blog tour for Spylark by Danny Rurlander. Spylark is an exciting drone adventure suitable for readers aged 9-12.


Read on for a review of Spylark followed by an exclusive guest post in which the author Danny explores the topic of drones.

Book Title: Spylark (available here)

Author: Danny Rurlander

Publisher: Chicken House

Publication Date: September 2019

Most Suitable For: Upper KS2

Reviewed By: Carol Carter, Librarian


Review


Spylark is a thoroughly modern adventure story, up-to-the-minute in its technology while fully immersed in the tradition of children’s literature from Enid Blyton onwards. Mixing drone technology with stunning Lake district scenery, it will be devoured by Year 5 and 6 children with a thirst for adventure and escape from daily life.


Tom Hopkins is 13 years old and not much has gone right in his life in the last few years - his much-loved father is MIA, presumed dead; he walks with a stick since a freak school trip accident, and he also has to contend with a new school, bullies and living with his great aunt. Tom is a loner, closed off and angry at the hand life has dealt him with his only pleasures being working in his electronics workshop and soaring over the Lake District with his self-built drone Skylark.


Soon Tom witnesses a suspicious boat explosion on the lake and is quickly drawn into a convoluted terror plot involving military helicopters, underground aqueducts, VIP assassinations and high-speed digger chases. But who will believe a teenager with no hard evidence? Tom is going to have to foil the plot himself.


Spylark is remarkably well-written debut novel. Danny Rurlander deftly juggles sketching realistic, multi-faceted personalities in the main child characters, wonderful landscape descriptions of the Lake District and a plot that never lets up. The ending seems a little abrupt, but Spylark is obviously not a stand-alone book and lots of clues are left for where the next book in the series may head.



You can order Spylark online or from your local bookshop or library.


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Guest Blog Post

by Danny Rurlander, author of Spylark


Drones

Some aspects of human ingenuity have taken a very long time to mature. For example, think about the time between the invention of the wheel to the invention of the motor car – a slow burn story of about 5,000 years.


The story of flight is very different. Back in 19th September 1783 a sheep, a duck and a chicken had the experience of their lives when they went up in the Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon. Just over a century later the Wright brothers took off in their Kitty Hawk bi-plane. Less than 70 years after that the first man walked on the moon!


The amazing speed of the progress of the story of flight has picked up again in a matter of a few years with the introduction of drones to our world. UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones as they are commonly known literally make flight a possibility for almost anyone.


One of the scenes in Spylark I really enjoyed writing involves a confrontation between 13 year old Tom Hopkins, the main protagonist of the story, and an RAF helicopter pilot who has just jammed his drone and forced him to crash land in a bush because he suspects the drone pilot might be up to no good.


After examining the machine the helicopter pilot can neither hide his admiration nor his disbelief:

It would take a full-on aeronautical genius to make a tricopter like this.’

Tom insists that he did make it himself:

‘I used some CAD software at school, ripped some motion-control components out of an old Wii, persuaded the tech teacher to let me use the 3D printer, made a wind tunnel in my workshop—’

In fact it was hobby drone flyers, rather than multi-national tech companies that first got drones off the ground! The first drones – and still the best, like Tom Hopkins’s – were homemade.


Although they have had a bad press drones are an exciting and rapidly developing technology that could help save lives, cut pollution, manage the environment…and of course catch criminals. Drones are especially good at gathering data that previously could only be done by costly helicopter or aeroplane flights or by the even more expensive use of a satellite. This is why savvy farmers, utility companies, rescue services and even estate agents have all found drones indispensable tools for efficiently gathering data. They are the ultimate democratisation of flight. With a drone literally anyone can take the skies – even a 13 year old boy in his garden shed.


Here are some examples of the real life constructive uses of drones:

  • Photography

  • Film-making

  • Emergency services

  • Surveying

  • Checking electricity cables and railway tracks

  • Racing

  • Delivering medicine and even organs to remote places

  • Lifesaving at sea

  • Search and rescue

  • Helping arable farmers use fewer chemicals on crops

  • Helping livestock farmers keep a track of animals

  • Collecting data

  • Planting trees

  • Tracking wildlife

  • Monitoring nuclear waste

  • Spotting forest fires.


Like all technology, drones can be used for good and bad, to destroy life or to save it. The issue is not the technology but the human being who is controlling it, and whether their motives are for the good of others or for their harm.


SPYLARK by Danny Rurlander is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Follow Danny on twitter @DannyRurlander

Find out more at dannyrurlander.com and chickenhousebooks.com



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You can order Spylark online or from your local bookshop or library.


Many thanks to Danny for writing the guest post and to Review Panel member Carol for reviewing our copy, provided by the publisher.


Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too!



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