On Thursday, I went to Bath for an evening with Jess Butterworth, talking about her debut book, 'Running on the Roof of the World'.
Living in Tibet, under Chinese occupation, there are two words that are banned- Dalai Lama. Soldiers are everywhere and young Tash's life is governed by rules to keep her safe:
Rule Number One: Don't Run in Front of a Soldier.
Rule Number Two: Never Look at a Soldier.
Rule Number Three: Say as Little as Possible.
Rule Number Four: Don't Draw Attention to Yourself.
But even in the face of the harshest oppression, there are acts of rebellion. Her mother tells stories about the time before the Chinese invasion and of Tibetian heritage, her father works for the local paper by day and by night, he writes leaflets for the secret resistance and Tash thinks the fobidden words often.
Then, one day, a man in the market sets fire to himself as an act of protest and the Chinese authorities crack down hard on the locals. When her parents are taken in a raid, Tash and her friend, Sam, decide to make the perilous journey across the Himalayas to India to find the Dalai Lama and ask him for help.
Running on the Roof of the World is an amazing tale of courage, hope and faith. Honestly written, it offers an insight into some of the awful things that occur in the world, encouraging empathy and understanding.
At its heart, this is an adventure story- pacey and compelling- with plenty of action and strong, likeable characters. It is full of hope and the human instinct to survive. The short chapters make it accessible to a wide range of readers, but Jess Butterworth carefully chooses her language, resulting in a story full of strong imagery and vividly depicted scenes. Beautifully written, the book is also beautifully presented with rich colours and intricate deisgns.
There are so many ways a text like this could be used in school. From being an exciting class read to being a text to develop empathy to being at the heart of a whole unit of work, it is a gem for teachers in KS2.
The evening in Bath was a great success with a large crowd turning out in support of this talented new author. Scattered around the room were a number of lovely objects pertinent to the story- a prayer wheel, fabrics, bowls- from Jess's time in the Himalayas and she spoke warmly about her experiences there.
Jess also spoke of her plans for her second book, inspired by the antics of her grandmother, who sounds like a remarkable lady! Can't wait to read it.
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orion Children's ISBN: 978-1510102088