I’m genuinely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Wilderness Wars by Barbara Henderson – partly because I’ve met Barbara who is utterly lovely, but also because she is a fantastic author. I’ve featured Barbara here on Linda’s Book Bag before and you can see the following posts:
A smashing guest post from Barbara about Fir For Luck publication day here.
Another super post about why a book launch matters to celebrate Punch here.
Today, alongside my review of Wilderness Wars I have another fantastic guest post from Barbara, this time about the nature in her childhood.
Wilderness Wars is published by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing and is available for purchase here.
What if nature fights back?
Still in a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.
And, far in the distance, a misty outline.
Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.
And now, home.
When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em, and her friend Zac, realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.
Danger lurks everywhere. But can Em and Zac persuade the adults to believe it before it’s too late?
Nature and Me
A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson
My new novel Wilderness Wars celebrates the beauty of natural world, but it also warns of imposing our will on it lightly. A respect, an awe, a reverence for the wild places all around us – for me this goes right back to my childhood and to my father. My mother loved the water, the garden, the flowers and the vegetable patch. My dad was about the wild places.
Barbara with her father around 1980
My earliest memory? It is often hard to be sure, but I am certain Dad was part of it. He passed away five years ago, but he was a child of the woods. His parental home, still in the family, was the last house of the village, where scattered houses gave way to sweeping forest. He was a child of the war, too – foraging for mushrooms, berries and goodness knows what else: if you needed to know what is edible and what isn’t, my father was your man. The most exciting mornings of my young life involved heading into the woods, going off-piste. He made me clamber up a hide and sit still. It wasn’t long before roe deer grazed on the clearing, oblivious to my presence, or his. I was hooked.
Another walk in the woods
Like most young people, I went through a phase where going for a walk simply didn’t cut the mustard anymore. But when my father added ‘through the forest’, there was a sense of adventure, of possible danger, however imagined. To my young mind, this was undoubtedly the forest of Hansel and Gretel. Rapunzel’s tower was bound to be around here somewhere, and there was even an old water spring with circular stonework. The Frog Prince dwelt there, I was sure of it. The imagination and the wilderness are connected in my mind still.
Climbing trees was one of Barbara’s favourite pastimes
Holidays invariably took us away from the small town where I lived: beaches, mountains – the wider (and wilder) the view the better. My father was a treasure hunter, a spotter, a counter. Someone who needed a mission. Thus, the car screeched to a halt when a bird of prey soared over, until that bird could be identified. Bird houses were erected, and soon you’d hear his voice, calling me over, demanding my attention: Barbara, come, quick. Look, a male bullfinch, look at those clouds, have you ever seen lightning like this before. Look, look: two, four eight, nine deer! Look at those antlers. Look at those tracks, see them? Wild Boar, that’s what that is. (not common, but not unheard of in the area of Germany where I grew up). Look, a wasps’ nest. Look, that moving mound of earth; there is a mole under that right now. Look, a grass snake.
My mum, in turn, tried to interest me in flowers and shrubs, neatly planted in rows of tidy rows. Beans climbing up domesticated poles, salad leaves bending under the dew. But my eyes were always drawn to the wild things. Wild and unpredictable creatures, wild waves, dramatic rocks, sweeping sands, trees towering high against the sky: the untamed.
I am convinced that this was part of the reason I was so attracted to Scotland and why we eventually chose to live in the Highlands. When my children came along we began to spend endless summers rock-pooling, walking and spotting. I had grown into my father’s daughter. Now it was my turn to say: look, a coral beach. Look, a golden eagle. Look, look at the colours of all the wildflowers on the machair.
It’s funny how memory works, isn’t it?
It is indeed Barbara. And I can see how those memories have woven themselves into Wilderness Wars. Here’s my review:
My Review of Wilderness Wars
Em’s family relocate to the remote Scottish island of Skelsay where her father will be part of a team building a new leisure complex, but not all will go according to plan!
Oh my goodness. Wilderness Wars is an absolute cracker of a book. It may be aimed at children, who I know will be utterly captivated by it, but I adored it too. Barbara Henderson really is the most fantastic storyteller. She holds the reader captive so that it is impossible to put down the book until every last drop of it has been drunk.
The characters at the heart of the story are perfectly drawn – and this includes the island of Skelsay too. Within just a few pages I felt as if I’d known them for years. Em and Zac are so identifiable for children and it is a stroke of genius to give both sexes a starring role as all children will find a character just right for them. I usually find children in fiction completely unrealistic creations but in Wilderness Wars the are such vivid and three dimensional people who feel completely real.
The plot is fabulous. It races along with a pitch perfect balance between the mundane elements of a child’s life, like homework, acting as a foil to dramatic and exciting events that take the breath away. There are some hugely pulse racing moments. I loved the way in which these events are set against the concept of nature, of how we exploit and manipulate nature and how we ought to be just that bit more respectful and careful in our actions. There’s so much to think about and enjoy in Wilderness Wars.
I’m finding it hard to praise Wilderness Wars highly enough. I think it is absolutely brilliant. If I were to write a children’s book, Wilderness Wars would be the one I would have liked to be able to put my name to. Fantastic!
About Barbara Henderson
Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.
Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: