Fast Five with Sherryl Jordan

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

I wanted to write books even before I could write. My first book, made when I was four years old, was a picture story about a little mermaid. I had to draw pictures to make the book, because I couldn’t write. The book doesn’t exist anymore (it probably went up the vacuum cleaner!) but my love of books and writing has never left me.

  • What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I get paid to day-dream.

Also, it’s an awesome thing to live in the world inside my head, the world of the imagination. While I’m writing a book, that imagined world is much more real to me than this world.  Another wonderful thing about being a writer is receiving letters from readers who love my stories. It’s amazing to realise that my dreams have been shared by someone else.

  • What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Ah… a hard question. I have several favourite NZ writers – Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley at the top — but no single book I love the best.

  • What do you love most about New Zealand?

Freedom of speech. The freedom to write what we want to write, and not be imprisoned for it.

  • What do you love most about libraries?

A library is like a cave full of treasure — every book another world to be explored, another dream to be shared. What riches! I always feel overwhelmed in a library, hoping I choose the right world for me, and don’t miss out on another one that I’d also love.  Mind you, books can be dangerous, too … a book could change your life.  My life has been changed several times, by books I’ve read.

Sherryl Jordan is the author of many wonderful books in her long career, including Rocco, The Wednesday Wizard, The Raging Quiet, Finnigan and the Pirates, and her latest book Ransomwood.

Win Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Ransomwood is the latest book from one of New Zealand’s best writers for children and young adults, Sherryl Jordan.  I loved Ransomwood (you can read my review here) and it’s one of those books I want to shout about.

Thanks to Scholastic NZ I have 2 copies of Ransomwood to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address below.  Competition closes Monday 16 July (NZ only).

Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Every now and again a book comes along that surprises you.  I find myself reading a lot of Young Adult science fiction because I like the sound of the story and I love the different versions of society that authors can create.  A completely different type of story caught my eye recently, one by a New Zealand author who I love.  That book is called Ransomwood, by award-winning New Zealand author, Sherryl Jordan.

Spurned by her lover, and with her uncle threatening to marry her off to his odious widowed brother, Gwenifer is almost relieved to be sent away to escort the magistrate’s old, blind mother to Ransomwood, where the tears of the statue of the Holy Mother are said to have healing qualities.

Together with Harry, the village halfwit, who is escaping a sentence of hanging for being in charge of an ox that trampled a child almost to death, they embark on a perilous journey … each of them looking for a different kind of healing.

Ransomwood is a story of gossip, friendship, loyalty, suffering, acceptance and identity.  It’s the story of three very different people thrown together to go off in search of a cure for their ailments and medicine for a dying girl.  There is Halfwit Harry, the village idiot, whose fault it is that a little girl was trampled by oxen; Mother Dorit, an old crone who is thought to be a witch and is hoping to cure her blindness; and Gwenifer, who was caught with another boy who was betrothed.  Each of the pilgrims is hoping to achieve something by journeying to Ransomwood to collect the tears of the Holy Mother.

As we follow the pilgrims on their journey, you learn that there is more to them than the other villagers have assumed.   One quote from Mother Dorit that I love is about the gossip that flies around the village.

“If every word of gossip in Grimblebury was a bumblebee, the buzzing about the village would be enough to deafen the Good Lord Himself.  And if every gossip word were true, I say there’d be a blessed silence, and not one drop of honey to be had.  Nor anyone stung, for that matter.”

Mother Dorit is much more than the witch that others believe she is.  She’s a wise, kind soul who cares for Gwenifer and Harry and reassures them that everything is going to be alright.  Gwenifer is far from the girl of loose morals that others believe she is either.  She wishes to escape the clutches of her uncle and his horrible brother, and make a life for herself, where she can decide where life takes her.  Mother Dorit encourages her to follow her dreams by saying “If you have a dream, pick it up in both hands and shake it in the face of fate, and fight till you make every bit of your dream come true.”  She grows incredibly throughout the story and even puts herself in danger to help her friends.  My favourite character by far though has to be Harry.  Although everyone (even Gwenifer at first) believes him to be a half-wit and should be treated like one, he is probably the wisest of the pilgrims.  He truly regrets the awful thing that happened to Tilly and wants to make things right.  He is incredibly loyal to both Gwenifer (who he affectionately calls ‘Gwennie’) and Mother Dorit and will do anything to protect them on their journey.  One of my favourite parts of the book is when they are attacked by a group of men and Harry fights back with his pilgrim’s staff.  He’s also incredibly gentle and loving, and adopts a bantam along the way that he nurtures.  Harry actually reminded me of a bulkier version of Forrest Gump (think ‘I love you Gwennie’).

Sherryl Jordan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and she had me hanging on every word.  She transports you to an England of long ago, where everyone lived off the land, you slept on the hard ground or scratchy straw, you cooked over a fire, and it took you days or weeks to get to where you wanted to go.  Ransomwood will certainly be a finalist in next year’s New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, if not the winner of the Young Adult category.

5 out of 5 stars