Thursday, 4 March 2021

Have a whale of a time this World Book Day!

 Happy World Book Day 2021 from Sita and Billie! 

Today find someone to read aloud to... on the phone or cuddled up on the sofa. I've been reading my new World Book Day story, The River Whale to my Mum over the phone and our lovely dog, curls up beside us to share in the story. Billie has been a popular visitor to quite a few book groups and libraries and he's very encouraging! He wags his tail when you read different voices for the characters!  Why not show your book shares by posting a picture of what you're enjoying reading. Share in your love of stories and reading for pleasure this #worldbookday.

I am so happy to be a World Book Day author this year, of all years, with my £1 story The River Whale. It's a dream come true for me that on this day I might have written a story that begins a life-long habit of reading for pleasure. That journey led me to becoming a writer. Who knows where that journey can take you... or Immy and Cosmo in The River Whale.

Here's Immy diving into her imagination. Have a whale of a time diving into yours.


Poonam Mistry's beautiful illustrations float through the pages

The River Whale is an astonishing piece of lyrical writing; powerful and deep, it questions belonging, identity and dreams for the future. Humanity and protection of the natural world are the beating heart of Brahmachari’s stories.'

Author Gill Lewis

Where did you get the idea to write 'The River Whale?'
In the build up to World Book Day 2021 I have met many young people through virtual events who have wanted to know the answer to the above question. Authors are often asked it, but because stories flow from so many places, there is usually more than one answer.  Here are five! 

1. I thought about the kind of story I would like to read at this challenging time.

I was invited to write it especially for World Book Day. It was written in lockdown and I dreamed it up from my own imaginary dreaming top deck (in reality a tent sized writing alcove.) I thought about the kind of story I would like  to read at this time if I was Immy's age in year seven of secondary school.  As I wrote I too was yearning  to swim free, to open windows onto a wider world. Stories have that superpower. This story is written in a combination of prose and free verse because when Immy is dreaming or diving the words go diving too and when she's awake the language goes back to  the way she would normally chat to her friend Cosmo at school.  Warning!  You might meet some strange creatures in Immy's dreams!  Poonam Mistry's beautiful illustrations float through this story taking you from dream-diving to reality.  

2. Watching  Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet in Lockdown.

Since I was a child David Attenborough has been an inspiration to me and especially during this lockdown. His life long work inspires Immy too when she dreams of swimming into 'Blue Planet, Ocean Light.' 

3. The characters of Immy and Cosmo wanted a new adventure.

I got to know Immy (Imtiaz) well from writing When Secrets Set Sail (published in the summer of 2020) but some characters won't be contained  within the pages of one story... and Immy's one of them! So Immy and her friend Cosmo sailed right out of one story and into another!  

The Dreaming Room by Evan Hollingdale, Illustrator of When Secrets Set Sail

4.  From the dreaming room in When Secrets Set Sail to The River Whale.

Immy hasn't always known how to find a dreaming room and since childhood she has found it difficult to sleep. She worries about: fitting in, what school will be like, whether she'll pass her exams and how she'll get on at school without her sister Usha by her side. But staring at her much loved whale poster (spot it on the wall at the end of her bed!) and listening to whale song or to the sea in the ear of a conch shell, helps her to sleep and when she finally drifts off she goes wild-diving with whales.

5. The real world gives me stories and a twist in the gut to write.

Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. The idea for The River Whale came from reading this newspaper article of a whale that became disorientated and swam up the Thames. Despite the light-hearted pun of the headline the poor whale was in great danger.

I remember that day so clearly because it was surreal to think that a Humpback whale should have lost its way  and be swimming into London. Scientists think this may be happening more because of changes to the ocean currents due to global warming and pollution of the seas or even sound and light pollution. While this whale was swimming towards us into the city people were going about their business as if all was well with the world.  That's sometimes how it feels when we are so slow to act for the good of our planet.. like we're sleepwalking. 

5. Young people inspire me. 

My water-borne stories 
Where the River Runs GoldWhen Secrets Set Sail
The River Whale

Like Shifa and Themba in Where The River Runs Gold  Immy and Cosmo cannot sit back and be bystanders when the things that they know need to change are takiing place before their eyes, like polluting this beautiful planet and Climate Chaos. 

Just as Shifa and Themba could not live with the lies and inequalities in the near-future Kairos Lands, Immy and her friend Cosmo too have to DO something, to ACT for change. Immy dives in, in her own Immy way, to see what she can do to save the whale. 

It's not every day after school that you go diving in the Thames and come face to face with a river whale. But then it's not everyday that you find the confidence to face your fears and learn exactly what you're going to do with your life. In Immy's case to become a marine biologist .. but then this is not every day!  

It's World Book Day!

Who knows where a book you open today might lead you. It's time to dare, dream, believe and imagine in Blue Planet, startling, sparkling light! Time to pick up the book of your dreams and step through the dreaming portholes of The Globe Window!  


Happy World Book Day!

Sita x

Looking forward to sharing more creative inspirations with you at our event on Friday with the wonderful Katherine Rundell and Jess French hosted by Jessie Cave.  

Huge thanks to Poonam Mistry for the beautiful illustrations that run through this story. To the whole team at Orion Children's Books: Tig Wallace, Senior Editor and Sam Perrett, Designer who have taken such care with this story and to Dominic Kingston and Felicity Highet for all your work in helping it swim into the world. Thanks to my agent Sophie Gorell Barnes of MBA Literary Agents for loving this dream-time story so much and to Dominic Kingston and Felicity Highet for all your work in helping it swim into the world.  

Enormous thanks to The World Book Day team for working so hard to make sure that every child has the chance to hold a book in their hands and to believe that their dreams can come true. World Book Day changes lives through a love of books and shared reading. The World Book Day mission is to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income.  

One of the many great thing about the World Book Day stories is that they introduce you to another story and author. When you've finished The River Whale you can start the first chapter of Amy Raphael's compelling story The Forest Moon and Sword.

If you, like Immy, want to know more about how to help clean up the rivers and oceans visit:

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