By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 5, 2010
TCBR: With so many blockbuster franchises targeted at YA and tween readers, why should a parent buy this book for their kid?
Indigo Jones: There are three reasons – a gripping story, a cool educational website and supporting Doctors Without Borders.
Sign of the Rat is a compelling thriller that hooks a reader for days. It moves like a rocket ride. Kids love escaping into a vivid, fast-paced adventure with realistic characters. When you finish the book and don’t want to leave the world behind, you can explore the reality behind the fiction at a Learning Center on the Silicon Valley Novel website. It’s a fascinating portal that explores the locations, creatures, art and science behind Sign of the Rat, rather like special features on a Blu-Ray or DVD. Proceeds from sales of the Trouble adventure series are donated to Doctors Without Borders. Each book purchased saves a child’s life.
TCBR: How can kids explore the ideas behind your novel in more depth, getting a feeling for how things work?
IJ: Curious readers enjoy visiting the Learning Center, which lets you experience the real world behind the fictional world. Vivid illustrations and videos enhance the interaction.
For example, Trouble enters Old Town Hanoi by passing through the gnarled roots of a strangler fig tree.
In the Learning Center, a video shows how strangler figs grow by choking their hosts, using time-lapse photography. This short film is part of a BBC series narrated by Sir David Attenborough, a distinguished naturalist.
You can also take a tour of the Paris Opera House, zooming through the velvet auditorium and lingering on the ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.
Or experience the threats of crossing a street in Downtown Hanoi, where the high-density of motorcycles and the tides of car traffic make each step a danger.
TCBR: It sounds like there is a lot to do. What else is there to discover on the Learning Center?
IJ: Yes, there’s a great deal to discover. The team put as much energy into the website as I put into writing the novel. Learning Center entries highlight science, art, literature, and history, inspired by events in the story. You discover how planes fly, why an optical microscope works and who invented the stoplight. (He was a freed slave.) You can see a video about a Tarsier, the world’s smallest monkey. It resembles the alien E.T. in the Steven Spielberg movie, only smaller.
TCBR: Why do you consider Sign of the Rat an action thriller?
IJ: The story and evolution of the characters were carefully put together to insure that every scene has tension, action or discovery. There are chase scenes, revelations and unexpected transformations. The plot is designed to keep the reader asking “what happens next?” I sought to capture the feeling I had as a kid, when I discovered a favorite book and had to keep reading, even if it meant sneaking a flashlight under the covers to finish chapters in the dark. Sign of the Rat seems like a thriller to me because the main character, Trouble, is always at risk and about to have his life change – for better or worse.
TCBR: What is your motivation in writing the Trouble series?
IJ: As an action lover and traveler, I wanted to share my imagination through storytelling. It’s exciting to expose American kids to foreign cultures and other countries, so they’re interested in our world, beyond their local environment. Through unusual plots and characters, I’m also seeking to captivate reluctant readers and people who’ve given up on reading books as a form of entertainment.
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