BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
We are so excited to host a Q&A with author Vashti Hardy, whose latest book Wildspark is out this week.
Read on for a review of Wildspark and a giveaway for one of three copies, followed by an exclusive Q&A in which we ask Vashti all about inventive female characters, animal machines and what to expect from her next writing project....
Book Title: Wildspark (available here)
Author: Vashti Hardy
Publication Date: May 2019
Most Suitable For: Years 5-6+
Fans of Brightstorm will be delighted to see a new middle-grade offering from Vashti Hardy. I was thrilled to receive an early copy of this book and I just loved being immersed in the world of Wildspark. Vashti Hardy is a clever storyteller whose imaginary worlds are as inventive as they are thrilling.
Prue Haywood is an innovative and curious girl who lives on a remote farm. Her aptitude for engineering gains her entry into the exciting world of Medlock and its secretive guild of inventors - but only because she poses as her brother, who really passed away not too long before.
I loved following Prue’s journey on the Gigantrak train into the great metal city of Medlock and I read on with wide eyes, as Prue - a farm girl - acclimatises to the bright amber lights and towering structures of the city and the advanced systems and technologies waiting for her at the guild. With the brightest minds developing ways of placing human spirits into animal-like machines, the work of the guild is completely alluring for budding young inventors like Prue.
Prue is driven by a desire to bring her brother to life again, but it's her warm nature, natural creativity and loyalty to friends and family that really help her the most as she navigates the complex issues of using advanced technology responsibly. The narrative provides plenty to think about; many of the issues raised will resonate with readers growing up in the current generation that's used to the pace of technologies advancing faster than the Gigantrak itself. I’m sure the book will raise fascinating discussions in many classrooms. Ambitious in length and vocabulary, this is a suitable choice of book for upper KS2 and lower KS3.
Wildspark is absorbing, thoroughly exciting and sparkling with that extra something that only the very best stories possess.
with Vashti Hardy, author of Wildspark.
Can you describe the story of Wildspark in 5 words?
Ghosts, adventure, dilemma, incredible technology!
Readers familiar with Brightstorm will be excited to hear that you have created another female lead with an aptitude for engineering and invention. Is Prue based on anyone you know in real life?
I think I always put a little of how I would’ve liked to have been into my inventive females! But in a way, Prue and the others are a channelling of all the potential out there in young females to achieve in the STEM subjects and redress the gender imbalance that exists in real life. That’s why I tend to choose to create worlds where gender has never been a barrier to achievement – to present how it should be.
In Wildspark, the importance of looking beyond outward appearances is emphasised and this is a theme which comes through very strongly in the relationships between different types of characters. What advice would you give to readers who can identify with the frustration of being labelled and overlooked?
Thank you, I’m so pleased that came through. I think as a species, we are often inclined to define people based on limited criteria, rather than celebrate individualism. It’s a complex subject, but I would say to readers to remember that none of us can change what we were born looking like, where we were born, or the family we were born into, but how we sail our ship is down to us. Don’t let others define you – define yourself and do it boldly.
You are often seen engaging with the teaching community via social media and schools' events. How much do you enjoy this aspect of being a children’s writer?
I absolutely love it! The teacher and librarian community are the ripples in the pond spreading a joy of reading, and I feel very lucky that they have taken my books into their hearts and classrooms. Their creativity with story related activities has been stunning.
There’s lots of cool technology in this story! But there is also a sense that technological advances can be dangerous in the wrong hands - a theme that is likely to really resonate with the current generation of young readers. Do you think digital technology has the potential to do more good or more bad in the world - and why?
I hope that it’s an area of the story that will promote lots of discussion in schools. Whether digital technology has the potential to do more good in the world, I would say most definitely, however as a species the big question is will we, or even can we? Can the human species learn to work together for the good of all, or are we intrinsically more driven by the self than the together, perhaps leading to bad ends? Whatever the case, technology is moving fast and it’s important to take a step back and debate – and as we know, one of the best ways to figure out our place in the world, what we stand for, and how to take action, is through story.
If you could be brought to life as a ghost machine, which kind of creature would you most like to be?
Perhaps a lynx like Zareen as she has a certain composure and strength about her which would be nice to borrow for a while! Although perhaps a winged animal would be huge fun… What would you be?
Something that can fly - it would be brilliant to get a bird's eye view of the world, wouldn't it?
One of my favourite aspects of the story was the sense of excitement and wonder as Prue discovers a whole new world waiting for her in Medlock. Can you think of times in your life when you have moved to a new place or setting and experienced something similar?
There are so many places I’m filled with wonder by on our planet that I haven’t had the opportunity to visit, like Antarctica, Alaska, the Amazon Rainforest, Japan, Norway, New Zealand… We’re lucky to live in a time where we can learn about and experience the variety of our world through the brilliant documentaries of David Attenborough etc. One place I have been to which I found fascinating was New York – I imagine that’s the closest to the feeling Prue would have going to Medlock in her world.
What were your own favourite books as a child?
Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation was the book that made me want to create my own story landscapes, but also Charlotte’s Web, the Narnia books, John Wyndham’s Chocky was a favourite, and I also had a book of short ghost stories which I read many many times!
I’ve heard rumours about a Brightstorm sequel on the horizon. What can you tell us about your next writing projects?
Yes! I’m working on a sequel to Brightstorm at the moment, which should be out early next year. We have a working title, but I shan’t jinx it by saying, as it may change. I can tell you that the crew is heading east in pursuit of a missing explorer, there are some new inventions, more sapients, it’s going to be hotter than the South Polaris, and there are surprises! Brilliant - I can't wait!
For more from Vashti, follow @Vashti_hardy on Twitter or visit https://www.vashtihardy.com.
Thanks to the publishers at Scholastic, we have three copies of Wildspark to give away to our followers!
Many thanks to Vashti for answering my questions and to the publisher for sending me a review copy of the book.