Monday, October 10, 2016

Joining an awesome blog tour - A fantastic guest post from Lou Kuenzler, author of "Finding Black Beauty" (Scholastic Press)

We're hosting a rather special guest post from an author who has written an utterly spellbinding and brilliant new book based on the works of Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty".

In Lou Kuenzler's "Finding Black Beauty" you'll meet a young girl called Josie who is forced to masquerade as a boy to keep her dream job as a stable hand. She falls in love with Beauty, a gorgeous black horse - and vows to follow Beauty to London when he's sold off one day.

Lou is here to share with us her influences and favourite childhood books, so take it away Lou!


First of all, just to say, a huge thank you to Read It Daddy for inviting me on to the blog (thank YOU too! - Ed)

My latest children’s book, Finding Black Beauty, has just come out. It is inspired by Anna Sewell’s wonderful and heart-breaking classic, Black Beauty, which I read many, many times as a child.  I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm and have my own pony, so I always loved animal stories.  Black Beauty had a very special place though - Beauty’s adventures and the set-backs he faces really matter. It is life and death stuff! I know, as a child, I loved that … I loved hoping and crying and living every moment with the magnificent horse.  Even though I have read the book four or five times in the last year alone, I still can’t turn to the final scenes with Ginger without a tissue in hand.  That sadness is cathartic - I didn’t know that when was eight or nine years old, of course - but I did know that I was totally immersed in Beauty’s world and always sorry when somebody called me away from the book to do chores. (It was the 1970s - children had a lot of chores! Especially on a farm …)

I know my own children would list Michael Morpurgo’s heart-wrenching War Horse amongst their favourite books for many of the same reasons. Sewell’s Beauty and Morpurgo’s Joey share that same honest, direct, first-person-animal viewpoint which draws the child reader in.  Genius!

I knew with Finding Black Beauty that I wanted to tell the story of the young stable lad, Joe. He only appears in two brief incidents in Sewell’s book but both are vital to Beauty’s welfare.  As soon as I looked at the story with an eye to developing it for contemporary readers, it was this character who fascinated me most.  What was it like to be a servant in Victorian times?  What would his childhood be like when he had work for a living? I was acutely aware that he is only a little older than many of my readers themselves would be.  Sewell tells us: “Poor Joe! He was young and small, and as yet he knew very little …” He makes a terrible mistake which nearly costs Beauty his life. This got me to wondering why he was so inexperienced… Was it just his age? Then I had an idea! “What if he is really a girl in disguise?” I wondered. If Joseph was really Josephine she would never have been allowed to work with horses before (girls were sent to the laundry or the dairy) … and from that moment on, I knew I had to write the story from the point of view of a young Victorian girl, Josie, and all the things that disguising her gender might open up for her at that time.

The decision to have Josie disguise herself, instantly reminded me of one of my other favourite childhood books.  In Geoffrey Trease’s Cue for Treason a young boy actor Kit, turns out to really be Katherine in disguise.  Kit has joined Shakespeare’s Players to escape a forced marriage to the villain of the book.  Lots of the action takes place on horseback too - so I was over the moon, two of my greatest passions, riding and theatre all in one book!  As it turned out, I eventually ran away from the farm (well, asked my parents to loan me the money for a National Express coach ticket) and became a theatre director. There are several chapters in Finding Black Beauty set in the theatre too (when Josie comes to London). I was delighted to be able to bring those childhood passions together and, in some small way, say thank you to the wonderful books which inspired my imagination all those (rather too many) years ago.

"Finding Black Beauty" by Lou Kuenzler is released on 6th October 2016, published by Scholastic Press.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

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