Author Post - Nicola Penfold - Where the World Turns Wild

Hello everyone! I am very excited to be able to bring you another author piece. Today I'm welcoming Nicola Penfold to the Book Worm Hole. Nicola's new book, Where the World Turns Wild is a gorgeous middle grade novel, mixing dystopia and climate change with a love of nature and the rewilding movement, as two young children go on an incredible journey of hope and belief.

This is part of the blog tour for the novel, and you can find my accompanying review here.

So, straight over to Nicola, who's going to be talking to us about journeys in fiction...




There’s something lovely and tangible about a journey in fiction. All journeys
begin somewhere, then there’s the journey itself (and endless obstacles and
tangents to be thrown in), and there’s the end point. As a writer, a journey
gives you a structure for free! But to work well, characters have to develop.
There has to be a metaphorical as well as a literal journey. Here are three
books involving journeys that I loved as a child and drew on for inspiration
when writing Where the World Turns Wild.


Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt (1981).

Four siblings are abandoned in a shopping mall parking lot, in the middle of
Connecticut, when their mother has a nervous breakdown. The mum puts her
“sad moon-face” in through the window of their battered station wagon and
tells the children: “You be good…You hear me? You little ones, mind what
Dicey tells you.” Then it’s up to thirteen year old Dicey to lead her siblings,
James, Maybeth and Sammy, across the state to their great-aunt’s house.
Dicey navigates, finds food and shelter, keeps them out of sight of the
authorities. The children’s biggest fear is being separated and not seeing their
mum again.
I loved this family unit, travelling on the fringes of society, using what money
they had to buy doughnuts and chicken wings and potatoes, sleeping under
the stars, fishing, singing to keep up their spirits. They’re scared and vulnerable
(I felt this especially as an adult, rereading), but they stay strong. Dicey keeps
them strong, and she felt exactly the right person to channel when I was
writing my main character, Juniper.


The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier (1956)

The Silver Sword tells the story of Polish siblings, Ruth, Edek and Bronia Balicki.
Poland is under Nazi occupation and the Balicki children are separated from
their parents (their teacher father is arrested for turning a photo of Adolf Hitler
to the wall in his classroom; their mother is sent to a labour camp). The siblings
realise their father has escaped prison when they meet a young orphan boy,
Jan, who has in his possession a silver sword penknife that was given to him by
the children’s father. Jan tells them their father is heading to Switzerland and

the children set off to find him. This book really caught my imagination as a
child: the journey to find their lost parents, banding together, finding safe
places to sleep and making it homely, looking after younger siblings. In The
Silver Sword, Ruth encourages her little sister, Bronia, to draw, using charcoal
from their fire. I cheat slightly in Where the World Turns Wild, as Juniper brings
a sketchbook and pencil with her from the city, but distracting Bear, and
herself, from their perilous journey by drawing is something I think I borrowed
from this book.


Travellers by Night by Vivien Alcock (1983)

I adored Travellers by Night growing up and a couple of years ago read it to my
two oldest daughters, and they adored it too. Belle and Charlie are circus
children, but their way of life is ending: their circus is closing, they have to go
to school, and worst of all, the circus’s beloved elephant, Tessie, is being sent
to the slaughterhouse. Belle and Charlie disappear into the countryside with
Tessie, travelling by night, to a safari park they think might just take the elderly
elephant. There are beautiful descriptions of the children in the forest. Belle
and Charlie become wilder and Tessie gets wilder too:

The elephant opened her eyes and looked fondly and sleepily at Belle. Then she sat
down and rolled over on to her side. Her great grey belly humped up from a sea of green
ferns like a fissured rock. Dappled with sunlight and smudged with mud, it blended into the
background, becoming part of the forest, a pattern of light and shade.

This is where she belongs, thought Belle, here in this wild nowhere. Not decked out
in crimson and gold in a circus tent. Poor old Tess, she should’ve had a mate and calves of
her own to love. Not just me and Charlie.

Before the journey, Belle has “lost her nerve”; she is scarred – physically and
emotionally – by a trapeze accident. She’s terrified about how she’ll fit into
conventional school. But she fits into the wild. She’s strong and capable there,
and the journey she takes, and the close bond she forms with Tessie along the
way, help heal her.

This book has always stayed with me – the journey away from civilisation, into
the forest, and Belle finding her spirit again and new ways of being brave. I’d
really urge people to seek it out. It’s beautiful, and to me it really stands the
test of time!

I can’t help myself from sneaking in a few contemporary books that feature
journeys. Four firm favourites are:

  • The Girl Who Stole an Elephant by Nizrana Farook (another journey with an elephant, this time in the island kingdom of Serendib, or Sri Lanka)
  • Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan (two best friends journey through the Himalayas, with a spirit bird as guide)
  • To the Edge of the World by Julia Green (a sea voyage to the desolate and remote St Kilda archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean)
  • The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (a flight across snow covered Russia, with beautiful wolves)

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