Thursday, 4 August 2011

Booksurfers - with David Gatward

So, James and I might just be fighting over my Kindle on holiday.  David Gatward sent me the first two ebooks in his Booksurfers series to road-test and James was the obvious reviewer.  He loved them (see his reviews below) but, unfortunately, he also fell in love with my Kindle.  Unseemly tussles may ensue. 

But anyhow, back to Mr Gatward.  I like this guy.  He’s unstarry and down-to-earth, which is a huge blessing (I can’t tell you how many published authors I've unfollowed on Twitter for being totally and completely up themselves.  Word to the wise: don’t let your ego run naked on Twitter, guys and gals – it’s icky).  He usually writes YA horror and I have a penchant for a juicy dose of gore – actually, the more I think about it, the more I have in common with teenage boys, which is really very alarming.  Anyhow, check out The Dead series – splattered brains galore.
However, Booksurfers isn’t horror.  It’s really quite a neat little concept – a quest to find objects inside classic (existing) children’s books.  The series is only available in e-format because it relies on hyperlinks that jump you from the story to the relevant place in the original text.  Oh hell, I’m making a pig’s ear of this…I’ll hand over to David:
DG: From the off, the idea of Booksurfers was to give the reader an interactive experience with the story as well as introduce them to classic children's fiction. harnessing the functionality of Kindle allowed us to do that really well. There you are, rushing along with Jake and the rest, exploring Treasure Island or Oz or whatever, when you come across a hyperlink and can, if you want, click on it and zip over to the original text. That way, you get to find out about how the original book feels and reads. Fab or what?

Fab indeed.  However, let it be said, James (who is click-happy, didn’t even notice the hyperlinks on Kindle)...  But he loved the books anyhow. At this point, I’ll let James take over and tell you about the first two titles.
Booksurfers:Treasure Island

This book is all about four kids (Becca, Jake, Ryan and Harriet) who didn’t even know each other before suddenly being forced together to work for a madman called Crookshanks. Crookshanks has invented a machine in which he is able to delve into books and see what it is really like in the book. But what he really wants is for the kids to do his dirty work for him. They have to go into the stories and take out the special objects that Crookshanks desires.
In the first book they have to go to Treasure Island, and get out the treasure map without it disturbing the whole story. They didn’t actually realise this to begin with so they took it out right at the beginning because they thought they could get away with it. They didn’t of course because they left Blind Pugh still alive which he shouldn’t have been at that point in the story. So, realising their mistake, they take the treasure map back and put it back in the treasure chest.

Most of the rest of the story runs along with the real Treasure Island story.  The solution they find to getting the treasure map out is for Harriet to copy it out perfectly onto a piece of paper.
I really enjoyed this story.  I thought it was a fun read and most of it went really well. There was one bit right at the beginning I didn’t really understand - when he said about how Jake was abducted.  Maybe he should have said a bit about the other characters -  like how it turns out that Ryan is a whizz at computers or that Becca is really really into fashion and how Harriet is really into horror films and drawing.  I thought that maybe he could have introduced them earlier and have a longer beginning.  But other than that I thought it was a really good read and I would recommend it to some of my friends.

Booksurfers: TheWonderful Wizard of Oz

This book was as good as the other one and even longer which certainly added more to it. It’s about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum, as first published in 1900.  But back to the Booksurfers book…
I thought that it was a really good book because it felt like the author was telling us more about the characters. Also instead of watching the book from the side the four friends had to play the main roles which I thought told us more about them and what they really are like inside. For example Becca is Dorothy and that brings her out of her shell a lot more than in the first book where she was just obsessed with herself.  In this one there are flickers when she really shows how selfish she is – it’s more subtle.  
Jake is the scarecrow in this book which really works out well. Jake was also the first person to realise that they should dress up and be the characters instead of following the characters round. Crookshanks wants the kids to get back Dorothy’s ruby slippers but they are only ruby in the film, not in the book.  So they are really silver slippers.

Ryan is the tin man which really suits him as you figure he really wants to be someone courageous. Ryan has always been a whizz at computers and all that and I think that the author is trying to hint that he didn’t have many friends at his old school, so he really suits the tin man. Harriet is the friendly lion but I am not sure that is quite such a good fit as the others because Harriet is a dark and mystical girl and you associate the friendly lion with happiness and everything nice.
I really enjoyed these two books.  I thought they were well written (although they are pretty short).  Then again, you get the original book as well on the e-book.  I think that because the author talks a little bit about Robin Hood, that that will be the next adventure. I hope so – I really think he should write more.

EJ: Soo, David, are there going to be more?
DG: We've got two more coming out this year; Robin Hood and A Christmas Carol. How many is impossible to answer, and even if I knew I wouldn't be about to give such a juicy piece of info away! There's so much we want to do with this, so many ideas, possibilities, that we're just holding on tight and seeing what happens. So no final number!”
EJ: How did you pick the books? 
DG: We wanted books that were widely regarded and known as classics, ones that most readers would go, "Hey, I think I know that one". The funny thing is, most of us do know the stories, but probably haven't read the originals. And I'm one of those! Treasure Island is now one of my favourite books ever. And with Oz, I had no idea that the slippers were silver in the book! [nor did I] So that's how we've been choosing them; books that people would probably know about, that they would want to find out about, and which are, to our mind, fantastic fun to read.

Are you luring children into reading ‘literature’ almost by sleight of hand?
DG: We're trying to give them a great, fun, exciting and unique story packed with adventure and populated by fab, fun, crazy, interesting characters. And if they start discovering the classics, too, all the better.

EJ: Any idea of jazzing them up even further?  Kindle is a pretty limited format but you could do amazing things with, say, iPad?
DG: The concept of Booksurfers is huge. Many's the night I find it impossible to sleep because of the possibilities it presents. We'll just have to see, won't we?

We will indeed. 

1 comment:

Milla said...

sounds great and in tune with our click happy age, but taking us into something valid rather than a dead end ad, say. Good to see James reviewing, too. Well done, kiddo! But give your mother her kindle back. She's old, she needs her toys. ;)