HYDERABAD: In a chance visit to a mini-cab office, 16-year-old Lucas Swain finds an unclaimed urn of ashes. And so begins Jenny Valentine’s story about a young boy who finds himself as he searches for the dead Violet Park whose ashes were abandoned in a taxi.
“It’s about an unusual friendship between a young boy and a dead old woman,” says Valentine of ‘Finding Violet Park’, her first book, which won the prestigious Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. The author was here on Tuesday for a book reading of her two novels. The second, ‘Broken Soup’, is also the story of a teenager, a young girl this time. Rowan Clarke, with a broken family and a six-year-old sister to care for has enough on her plate until a stranger forces her to accept a negative of a photograph which doesn’t belong to her.
However, she soon finds an unexpected connection.
“Both my books are similar in that they are about teenagers who have to solve a mystery to answer questions about their lives,” says the author, who never intended to write for children. “After I wrote the book, the publisher told me it’s a children’s book,” she says. “If you keep thinking about the genre, it makes the writing stunted, less convincing.” A huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut, she believes in a simple style and succeeds because her writing carries a disarming simplicity, characteristic of the young adults who tell the stories.
“My books are always in first person. I find it to be less pretentious,” she explains.
To the constant lament that children do not read as much nowadays, she responds, “I think television and books have their own place. And I always end up meeting children who are passionate about words.” At the book reading itself, she met a 12-year-old, who is ready to publish his own book. “It’s great to meet children like him. I wish I wrote a book at that age!”