Jane Wilson-Howarth

 

Chasing the Tiger

 
 
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Publisher: Eifrig Publishing, Lemont & Berlin
Author: Jane Wilson-Howarth
Page count: 216
RRP: US$ 9.99 / £7.99
ISBN: 9781632331038

This is the second of two Alex and James wildlife adventures set in Nepal aimed at middle grade readers. The animals that feature in the story are beautifully drawn by Betty Levene. There are two black and white photos of scary Nepali bridges too. Both adventures are available in electronic form for US$ 3.99 from Eifrig e-book Publishing.

How could everything have gone so horribly wrong? Why weren't the police interested? Sixteen year old Alex and his little brother James had managed to get their parents away from their kidnappers, only to be recaptured. Now the situation was even worse because the terrorists are taking the parents to their mountain stronghold where even the Army fear to go. The boys, with their local friend Bim, must follow in a desperate race to free the parents before they are too far from help. But it isn't only the terrorists that endanger the children on this new journey. Many of the mountain animals are also after their blood. And the three children have two high-altitude passes to cross.

 

This adventure started as a bedtime story for my then 10-year-old son.... He and his big brother were the central to the story and I introduced a strong Nepali girl character to improve the banter between the three children. My son became really involved in the adventure and demanded a good chunk of story every night, whether or not I'd had a tough day at work. In fact when I'd had a stressful day, writing helped me travel to Nepal in my head and escape. The first draft, then, was quickly dashed off and was stashed away and forgotten until I finished several other big writing projects. A few years later I joined Walden Writers and this group of published authors helped me hone the stories so that people outside my family could enjoy them too.  

 

I woke hungry. The grease from last night’s meagre meal still lined my mouth. The cold of the bare concrete floor had seeped into my bones. Shivering made the wound in my leg ache. It was a nasty purple colour now. I looked around. Mum, Dad and my little brother, James, were still asleep. Through the bars of our cell I could see that the skies were slowly starting to lighten. Morning had arrived at long last. The weak dawn light picked out streaks of grey mould on the once-whitewashed walls, and there were patterns of green stuff where monsoon rains seeped through cracks in the plaster; it almost looked like a map. The team of ants that found a gecko’s tail on the floor last night had managed to pull it half way up to the ceiling. I was so hungry I almost envied their feast to come.
I heard footsteps and jangling keys. Suddenly everyone was awake.
“This was earlier than I expected,” Dad whispered. “You’ve got to really focus, Alex. No day-dreaming. Don’t forget the plan.” I gave him a dirty look but he didn’t notice. He went on, “Get away, and get word to the Embassy – then we might have some chance of rescue, and of clearing up this big ugly misunderstanding. Once we’re out, we must separate straight away. You boys, go straight to the Irrigation office. Ask Dinesh if he’ll let you phone Kathmandu. We can trust him. Tell him what’s going on. Mum and I’ll head for the main Post Office and try to phone from there. If there’s no Maoist reception committee, we’ll meet at the Post Office and take a tanga to the ferry at Kothiyaghat and then the bus for Kathmandu.”
Keys rattled in the lock. A junior policeman we hadn’t seen before opened the door of our cell. He looked as if he’d slept in his uniform. He looked tired. He waved the four of us into the gloomy corridor. Wordlessly he indicated we should just go.
Dad said quietly, “Head straight for Dinesh’s house. As soon as you can boys, just run!”
 
Outside the sun was dazzling but the air still felt dank. Mum pushed me and stage-whispered, “Run!”
As we moved away from Mum and Dad, I saw four big men close around my parents and bundle them towards a waiting vehicle. James and I watched from a safe distance.
One of men was the Maoist leader – the little guy with the deep voice and expensive sunglasses. He was the one who looked as if he’d been feeding on someone’s blood because the betel* nut he’d been chewing had coloured his teeth red. He said nastily, “We’re taking a little tourist trip to Bhalubang.” A fifth man joined the group. He was dressed very differently and he began an argument with the others. He was trying pull the strangers away from my parents. It was Ramdin, Dad’s field assistant. He was the zoologist who had taught us so much about the wildlife of Nepal, but he had betrayed us. Now, though, he seemed to be trying to get my parents free. I desperately wanted to ask him what the hell was going on, but there was no time.
I heard the leader of the group ask Dad nastily, “Where are your sons?”
“Oh, they’re inside the police station still,” Mum said, fixing her sweetest smile on her face. She was doing a very convincing impression of being a complete dough-brain. “They’re using the toilet. You know what it’s like – prison food....” She laughed a silly high-pitched laugh. I’d never heard her do that before. You’d never guess she had a PhD.
Dad was gesturing for us to run. When his gesticulations attracted the thugs’ attention, he coughed and asked, “Any chance of a drink of water?”
Deep Voice said, “Who do you think we are? Your servants? Do you understand nothing? Do you not understand why we do not want you in our country?”
Then he spotted us and cursed. I heard him swear again as we started to move away. He shouted for one of his henchmen to bring us back. We sprinted off like startled hares. The guy who was chasing us was big, heavy and not at all fast.  We put on more of a sprint. James was on my heels.
We dived into the tunnel-like maze of stalls in the main bazaar. We darted under a table stacked with bangles and cheap hair slides. We scared a skinny cat and a couple of rats. On we rushed, taking a zigzag route through the bazaar that we knew so well, racing on until we were sure that we’d lost the fat henchman. 

 

We were into forest again and amongst twittering birds. The sounds cheered me up a bit. I pictured Mum’s smiling face as she listened to birdsong and that made me feel horrible again. Would we get to them in time? Then I started thinking about what might be lurking in the trees.
There were the usual scuttings and rustlings of insects and small rodents in the leaf-litter. But then I started wondering if I was imagining the sounds made by a larger animal. “Did you hear something?”
“No,” said James.
“Oh yes, I hear it Alex,” Bim said. “There’s something large over there by that big tree.”
“Mmm, that’s what I thought.”
“What is it?” James asked.
“Don’t want to wait to find out.” Bim shouted.
“What?” James stood there looking idiotic.
“Run James!”
As we took off I registered the sounds of a large lumbering animal. It was fast and it was coming after us. It seemed to be speeding up. It was definitely gaining on us. I’d decided it must be a leopard. I snatched up a stick and increased my pace. There were trees of all sizes around us and I thought about climbing out of danger. But leopards are good climbers.
Bim shouted, “Look we need to get up a small tree – one each. Quick!”
She didn’t need to tell us twice. We were both up ours’ before she’d started climbing hers.
A big black shape burst out of the undergrowth. It was followed by another. Now were were in big trouble.

*

Red-trunked rhododendron trees looked like so many writhing russet snakes. In some places the forest floor was carpeted crimson with fallen rhododendron petals.

*

When we reached the prayer flags and a pile of rocks that marked the highest point on the pass, the view was brilliant. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. To the south we could see rolling foothills: the gentle ups and downs that we’d walked through. Some of the hillsides were red or purple with rhododendron blossoms. To the west and east there was a muddle of ridges and spurs. To the north, there were several mighty snow-capped himals. The real Himalayan giants were mostly east of where we stood. We were a very long way from anywhere. We were a very long way from help.

*

A shape passed in front of the sun. I shaded my eyes with my hand and scanned the sky. A couple of vultures were circling as if waiting for us to die...
Then in the distance we heard gunfire. It sounded like people were shooting at the helicopter gunships, which were launching rockets in reply.
I murmured, "This is serious. We're in the middle of a real war!"

Reviews

  • A rollicking adventure ... and a great follow-on to Himalayan Kidnap. It has boys who behave in the all the annoying ways boys do, and a girl to pick them up on their absurdities. It made me want to go away and search for images of the vividly described landscapes and, of course the amazing array of animals in the Himalayas. Can't wait for volume 3.


  • A brilliant, gripping and informative book. Well worth the read.
    Deri, aged 13


  • The second book in the series is a fun work of fiction layered upon a factual description of an exotic life in the Himalayan nation of Nepal, written by an author in residence there. The latest tale is a fast-paced and exciting adventure where the main characters encounter the local wild-life and cultures, with lovely line drawings of the animals interspersed in the text as amusing and interesting bonus material. Though aimed primarily at readers in the 8- to 12-year old age range, this book will bring pleasure to all who open it.


  • With amazing details Jane Wilson-Howarth takes readers on another adventure in Nepal with Alex and James. I couldn't stop reading 'til I found out the ending. An exciting read from start to finish!
    Jan Milusich, children's author


  • In this second of the Alex and James adventures the story begins with the boys and their parents imprisoned by Maoists in Nepal, in filthy conditions. As they are being moved to a remote hideout, the boys escape and, with their friend Bim, they try to follow their parents, hoping to free them. This is a journey fraught with danger not only from the angry Maoists but also from wild animals and hostile conditions. Wonderfully accurate black and while illustrations by Betty Levene bring the story (and the animals) to life for the reader.


  • The adventures of Alex and James continue on as they brave hunger and every kind of wildlife in Nepal in order to rescue their kidnapped conservationist parents. Young readers are introduced to Nepal's past, a time when real-life kidnappings of conservationists occurred. Not only will readers learn about the history of Nepal and the rich wildlife and foods there, they will be reminded of the grit it takes to stand up for what one believes. Beautifully told and illustrated, a real treat!
    Lizbeth Meredith, author


  • Having read the first Alex and James book, Himalayan Adventure, and been left high and dry on a cliff hanger I couldn't wait to read the sequel. How would the intrepid duo fare? Would they and their equally doughty female companion survive? The book did not disappoint. It tells a pacy adventure story but is much more; interweaving, as it seamlessly does, interesting facts about Nepali culture and wildlife.


  • This is another romping Himalayan adventure. This time the boys, and their long-suffering friend Bim, end up in the high Himalayas where they encounter a family of hungry bears and even a snow leopard and much more astonishing wildlife as they wander, lost, amongst the crags and deep into terrorist territory.


  • In this gripping sequel to ‘Himalayan Kidnap’ we follow the adventures of two brothers searching for their kidnapped parents across the hills of Nepal. Vivid descriptions (and beautiful illustrations) of the wildlife and people they encounter bring this action-packed story to life.


  • This book, not like many others, it starts by plunging you into an adventure, where you are instantly gripped. I really loved this book and read it in an afternoon.  It is not the children being kidnapped, but the adults. The children set off on a long fun, challenging adventure encountering lots of different animals with beautiful descriptions and illustrations. You feel as if you could walk up to them and greet them with their full name. The different personalities of the children really bring the story alive. There are two boys, the younger one thinks mainly of food and the older one tries to be clever but fails desperately over time because the girl out smarts his thinking with her knowledge of Nepali culture. I think everyone would enjoy this book, even if you don’t have a particular interest in different animals. By the end, you will have a knowledge of more than just foxes and badgers.
    Toma, aged 12


  • Where to buy

    Eifrig Publishing based in Lemont, Pennsylvania and Berlin launched this next adventure in paperback and as an e-book in January 2018. It can be ordered though Eifrig (as well as via amazon).