For me the build-up to publication day is similar to how I imagine actors feel before the curtain goes up on opening night, filled with nervous anticipation, so it’s been really heartening to hear some early reviews of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Thank you to @bookloverJo and @chaletfan for these fantastic first reviews:
It’s been amazing too to hear some really positive feedback about the novel from authors I admire and I want to thank Piers Torday for his quotes about The Many Worlds of Albie Bright that grace the cover of the book and the title of this blogpost.
I’ve got some exciting stuff planned for the rest of the month, so keep checking back for updates. You can read my Top Ten list of parallel worlds in fiction at the Guardian Children's Books website. And if you’re interested in finding out more about the real-life science behind The Many Worlds of Albie Bright, check out the Pinterest board for the book.
Wishing you all a very happy new year. I hope your world in 2016 is filled with hope and wonder.
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was inspired by quantum physics, specifically the Many Worlds Interpretation of parallel universes. This concept is brilliantly explained at the 2 minutes 45 seconds mark in the above video by MinutePhysics. (Check out the MinutePhysicsYouTube channel for more ace explanations of physics-related topics from filmmaker Henry Reich.)
The idea of parallel worlds is a staple of children’s fiction from the world of Narnia to the multiverse explored in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I recently created a list of my Top 10 parallel universes in fiction for the Guardian Children’s Books website and you can find this here. As I say in the article, what’s beautiful to me about the idea of parallel worlds is the fact that science suggests that they might actually exist. As storytellers we no longer have to climb through the wardrobe to take our readers into parallel universes, but can use science to show how these worlds could be real.
Both science and fiction help us to make sense of the world, with all its wonder and possibilities as well as its inevitable pain. Scientists such as Professor Brian Cox have used their expertise to popularize science using TV and radio programmes to help audiences in their millions understand more about the incredible Universe we live in. Professor Cox has been quoted as saying, "Science is too important not to be part of popular culture" and I believe children’s books have a role to play here too.
It was important to me that all the scientific concepts mentioned in The Many Worlds of Albie Bright are real and accurately described, so I had the manuscript checked and approved by a friend who's a Professor of Particle Physics and also works at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I hope this scientific authenticity might encourage a reluctant reader or someone who’s maybe stuck in the non-fiction section to pick up a novel for the first time.
Other children’s writers have used science as a jumping off point to create exciting plots and wondrous stories. In his high-octane Itch series, Simon Mayo tells the story of Itchingham Lofte, an ordinary 14-year-old boy whose quest to collect all the elements in the periodic table pitches him into perilous adventures. Collaborating with her father, the famous physicist Stephen Hawking, Lucy Hawking has authored several books including George and the Big Bang, using fiction to explore theories about the birth of the Universe. And in this article in The Guardian, the author Tim Lott writes about the inspiration that can be found in science and how this helped to inspire his novel How to Be Invisible.
Science explores the big questions about life, the universe and everything – the same questions that can underpin the very best fiction. Why are we here? What makes us human? What comes next? Science can help to create a real sense of wonder. A gift for storytellers.
To celebrate the publication of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright on the 14 January. I’m running a Twitter giveaway to win a signed copy of the book. All you’ve got to do is #ScienceUpABook in a tweet. This can be a picture book, a children’s or YA novel, a classic text or even a comic book – all you’ve got to do is add some science to the title! Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
The Rationally-Explained Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Pipette Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Tabby McTat meets Schrödinger's cat by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
The Ragged Trousered Paleontologists by Robert Tressell
Hubble by Non Pratt #ScienceUpABook #AlbieBright
Don’t forget you need to include the hashtags #ScienceUpABook and #AlbieBright in your tweets for a chance of winning a signed copy of the book. The winner will be chosen at 11am on 12/01/16. Good luck!
The Many Worlds of Albie Bright was published on the 14th January and I’ve been absolutely thrilled by the reception it’s received so far from readers. Just ahead of publication, The Times chose The Many Worlds of Albie Bright as their Children’s Book of the Week and Albie’s also received some lovely reviews from magazines and book blogs too.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s read and reviewed The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Last night, Frances Hardinge was awarded the Costa Book of the Year for her amazing novel The Lie Tree, and in her acceptance speech she described how it is a fantastic time to be writing children’s fiction and invited readers who might think that children’s books are not their thing to come and explore because ‘there’s a beautiful jungle out there.’
I love this image of the ‘beautiful jungle’ of children’s fiction, a world filled with wonder and excitement, where writers of real ambition such as Hardinge have made their home. Reviewers of children’s books are the indispensible guides to this ‘beautiful jungle’, leading readers through the thickets and vines to discover amazing books and fantastic authors, and I’m so grateful to all the reviewers who have shared their thoughts on The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. And if any reviewers felt able too to cross-post their review on the websites of online retailers such as Amazon, Waterstones etc. I’d really appreciate this, as sometimes these websites are where new readers take a first peek at the ‘beautiful jungle’ that’s out there.
Here’s the round-up of reviews and if you’ve reviewed The Many Worlds of Albie Bright and would like me to add a link to your review to this list, just drop me a line and I’ll update this blogpost.
"An accessible, inclusive delight of an adventure, with a bittersweet centre - that will take readers as far as their curiosity dares them to go" Teach Primary magazine
Finally, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Samira Ahmed for Front Row, Radio 4’s premier magazine programme about the arts, earlier this month, and you’ll be able to hear me discussing quantum physics, children’s fiction and The Many Worlds of Albie Bright when this is broadcast on Front Row at 7.15pm on Thursday 28th January. Here’s the link to the podcast of the programme which should be available shortly after broadcast.