In this issue we meet Virginia Clay, the author of the best-selling book, Warrior Boy, which is enthralling young readers all over the world. An adventure story, it follows the encounters of a young Maasai boy on his voyage of discovery, which leads him from London to the land of his birth.
I was an unexceptional child. Like most others, I enjoyed disappearing into the limitless world of my imagination. I don’t know if I ever expected to grow out of this habit, but I think what makes me different now, is that I haven’t. As a youngster I read prolifically, forced indoors by the persistent Lake District rain, and each story I consumed would inspire me to put myself in another person’s shoes. It’s probably the reason I became an actor initially, but I distinctly remember – at the age of twelve – reading about the Maasai and thinking how phenomenal it was that they could survive, even thrive, on blood and milk alone. I wondered if I could do that too and, although I knew nothing of it at the time, that’s when the WARRIOR BOY seed was sown.
When I was fifteen, one of my elder brothers took a teaching post in Kenya. Occasionally he would send letters home, filled with thrilling adventures and encounters with exotic wildlife. When I finally gave in to my curiosity and joined him as a teacher in 2009, I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the Maasai Mara – the landscape, the wildlife and the glorious people I had been so interested in as a child – but I never considered writing a book about it until a new student from London joined my English class.
Matthew’s family were Kenyan but he had never visited the country himself. As his peers made jokes about his strangeness, I began to wonder how he would cope. What would happen to him if he just couldn’t fit in, would his family reject him? Send him home? A story began to emerge and I knew I had to pay attention.
WARRIOR BOY is an adventure story that follows its hero Ben, a boy from London, as he meets his Maasai family in Kenya for the first time. Ben’s journey unfolds and he begins to question his place in this new community, including his responsibilities to care for an environment he wasn’t born into. But eventually, he discovers more about himself than he ever could have imagined possible, including extreme bravery as he challenges the endemic problem of elephant poaching.
But how do we carry this burden of conservation, whilst attempting to discover our own place in the world? This seems to be one of the weightier questions preoccupying our young people today. And whilst it has become a burden for them – the issues are so much more complex than they were when I was young – I feel passionately that we need to find strategies to help them carry it. I hope you will agree that WARRIOR BOY goes some way to achieving this. But it is also my heartfelt wish that, as the story takes you from inner city London to the vast plains of Kenya, you might be able to lose yourself in the adventure of it, and perhaps fall in love with this wonderful country as I did.
You can find out more about the author at www.virginiaclay.co.uk
WARRIOR BOY is published by Chicken House Books and is available at all good book shops and on www.amazon.co.uk