Happy New Year! What a thrill to be able to start off 2017 with a shiny bright spotlight on an amazing middle grade novel, already garnering high praise. It’s also a Winter 2017 Kids’ Indie Next Pick! Stay tuned below to enter to win a copy of this amazing page-turner.
A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman (Penguin Young Readers Group/2017)
In the Second World, Pip can speak to the fish, a gift the Raft King needs in order to get his people through the mysterious “door” in the ocean back to the First World. When the Raft King kidnaps Pip from the island to Raftworld, Pip’s protective sister Kinchen is determined to rescue him. Also intertwining with this story are the stories from the First World of Thanh and his family escaping to the seas in post-war Vietnam and from the past of Venus and Swimmer who escape a slave ship to come upon the crack in the sea into the Second World. A fascinating and gripping tale of friendship, love, adventure, and truth, sprinkled with a Kraken love story.
Spotlight on H.M. Bouwman:
Congratulations on A CRACK IN THE SEA! What an amazing tale – I don’t even know where to start with the questions, so I’ll start with my usual: What was the spark behind the idea for this book? And how did it grow into a full-fledged story?
For me the beginning of a story is always something small, a footprint on the ground or a broken twig, and it’s not until I follow the trail for a long, long time that it widens and I see what the story is really about. With this book there were two initial sparks: the image of a giant Raft big enough to hold a whole nation; and the story of the Zong slave ship, which I was researching for an early American literature class I was teaching. I wrote for quite a while—free-writing and individual scenes that popped into my head and images that stuck with me—until the story started to emerge. Even then I made a lot of wrong turns before I realized this was at heart a story about immigration and finding your home.
I’m fascinated by all of the characters in the story, from adventurous Caesar of Raftworld to brave Venus who escapes the slave ship and manages to save many others. But I have to say that Pip really caught my heart. I love that his sister wants to protect him, but that Pip figures out how to manage his disability AND his gift and grows from this discovery. Do you have a favorite character (I know it’s hard to choose from your babies)? How did you develop such distinct personalities and stories for each?
Ohhhhh, that’s kind of like asking which of my kids is my favorite. Or which of my cats. I love them all infinitely. However, there are days that I certainly feel more akin to one or the other of these characters. Kinchen feels injustice strongly; Caesar is determined to put her best face forward; Thanh feels like he does everything wrong; Pip feels like he doesn’t fit in; Venus, at points, just wants to be left alone; and so on. On different days I feel closer to one or the other of these characters. What I hope is that a reader might have some of those same moments of recognition and closeness.
Okay, I have to ask about the Kraken! How did they make their way into your story? I love them!
HAHA! The Kraken came into the story when I was drafting and ran out of options. I had a rough-ish outline, and it just…trailed off to nothing. Kinchen was standing on the beach, needing to chase after Raftworld and with no way to get there. I stared at the screen for a long time, typed “Add sea monsters?” into my not-really-an-outline and quit for the day. The next day: there the kraken were, waiting for me and waving from the bay.
I was teaching a creative writing class at the time, and when I showed my students what I was working on (we were talking about ways of drafting and outlining and prewriting), one of them noticed that note and started laughing. “Just add sea monsters!” became probably the most memorable advice I gave that semester. I won’t say it was the most helpful advice, but it was probably the most memorable.
About H.M. Bouwman:
H.M. Bouwman is the author of middle grade historical fantasy novels
The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap and A Crack in
the Sea, which publishes with Putnam/PRH on January 3. She lives with
her two kids in St. Paul, MN and teaches in the English department at
the University of St. Thomas.
To win a signed copy of A Crack in the Sea for yourself, a young reader, or a school or library, follow these directions to enter in the drawing:
1. Comment on this post by Saturday, January 7 by midnight EST. A winner will be drawn at random and contacted on Tuesday, January 10 (be sure to include your email address).
2. Entrants must have a US mailing address.
EDITED TO ADD: Congratulations to Cherilyn for winning a copy of A CRACK IN THE SEA!
Come back again for more interviews, buzz reviews, and drawings! Happy Reading!