Jane Wilson-Howarth

 

Himalayan Kidnap

 
 
himalayan_kidnap_03_lrg
Publisher: Eifrig Publishing, Lemont & Berlin
Author: Jane Wilson-Howarth
Page count: 234
RRP: US$ 9.99 / £7.99
ISBN: 978-1-63233-100-7 & 9781632331274

This is the first of two Alex and James wildlife-packed adventures set in Nepal. They are aimed at middle grade readers.
The animals that feature in the story are beautifully drawn by Betty Levene.
Here's a short clip at my book launch in Cambridgeshire. Electronic versions are available for US$ 3.99 by visiting Eifrig Publishing and clicking here e-book.

Alex and James live in Kathmandu. Their parents are experts in wildlife conservation and the brothers spend school holidays in the forests of lowland Nepal in the domain of tigers, elephants, rhinos and much more.
One morning there is a strange phonecall that is to change everything for the family. It is the beginning of a tense chase and a race for the boys to save their parents' lives. But even with their friend Atti's help, how can three children rescue the parents from armed kidnappers?

 

This all started as a bed-time story for my then 10-year-old son.... Then I took the tale to my writers' group, and a friend even tried it out on her class of 7 to 9-year olds. They were enthusiastic and wrote some reviews...

It seemed to me that there was a dearth of reality adventures for children to read, and then I recalled how much my oldest son enjoyed the adventure series by Willard Price. He wrote from the experience of having travelled widely and with knowledge of wild animals. His books - 14 in all - were written in the 1950s and 1960s but were relaunched recently and continue to engage children. Indeed Anthony Horowitz said these books got him reading.

I revisited them, and found them a bit colonial and rather dated. Some of the scenes were quite unbelievable too. My idea was to use my extensive travel experience to update the context but, like Price, pack in plenty of exotic wildlife. And I wanted it all to be possible and believable.

The first of the series is set in Nepal during the decade when the Maoist insurgency was at its height. Happily the comprehensive peace accord that was signed in November 2006 allowed the Maoists a voice in government and life in Nepal is safer and more settled.  These days kidnap is unlikely.

Here is a link to a writing workshop where East Anglian children's authors discuss a fragment of Himalayan Kidnap.

 

No matter how often I shook my head, flies landed back on my face. Blinking didn’t keep them out of my eyes either.
They slurped stuff from the corners. They walked on my lips.
Something bigger tickled the end of my nose. I looked crosseyed.
The two of them were mating on me. I tried to blow them away. They weren’t bothered.
We didn’t know why those men had picked on our family, why they’d made that phone call, which in a few short days had turned our lives into a complete nightmare. All we knew was they’d left us here, tied together around a thin tree.
A fly landed by my nostril. It actually went inside my nose—until I sort of snorted it out. This had to be a bad dream. I shook my head again. That felt real enough. Ropes cut into my wrists. This was no dream. If we didn’t do something, we’d die here.
“Hey, James,” I rasped.
“Huh?”
“You asleep?”
“I was till you woke me.” He fidgeted and pulled the ropes so they hurt my wrists even more. “So what happens now, Alex?”
“I dunno.”
“I want a drink,” said James.
“Yeah. Me too.” My voice was scratchy, my tongue thick. It
stuck to the roof of my mouth.
James made a strange spluttering sound. “Aggh, a big fat
fly just flew into my mouth! And ants are biting me again—they really hurt!”
“Try wriggling your butt about.”
He yelped. “That’s made them even angrier.”
We were sitting on the dry dirt. Each of my hands was tied to my little brother’s so our arms encircled the smooth tree-trunk. Roped like this with our backs to the tree, we couldn’t even really look at each other.
“When will they come back, Alex?”
“I don’t know. I don’t suppose they care. Not now they’ve got the ransom money.”
Saying that out loud made me choke up. I was glad James couldn’t see my face.
There was a kak kak alarm shout from a langur in a tree above us. This was not a good sign.
Then James said, “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“That bark.”
“Spotted deer. Alarm calls. Quite close.”
“Yeah, yeah, but something's moving over there,” he said jerking his chin towards the thickest patch of undergrowth. “Alarm barks—I don’t like the sound of that. It could mean there’s a leopard or tiger about.”

 

I was jolted awake. A chipped enamel plate was suspended in front of my face. Triangles of coconut rocked on it. A fly rode on one piece. The plate was held by a skinny little girl.
"One rupees only!" She said.
James woke too. He rummaged for coins and bought some. The girl disappeared, and then the plate came in through the next glassless window of the beaten up old bus.  I stuck my head out. The girl was standing on a tiny ledge that ran along the side of the bus, on just the ends of her two big toes. The smell of popcorn made my mouth water but I couldn’t see a seller. Anyway, it was too late to buy any. The driver honked a warning, revved the engine and the girl jumped clear without dropping any coconut. The bus moved on. The coconut made a satisfying snapping sound as I sunk my teeth into it. It tasted good, refreshing.
I was too hot. Sweat stuck my backside to the seat. By now, it felt like we’d been travelling for days, though we’d only left our house in Kathmandu that morning – before dawn, it was. Then there was the short bumpy flight to stinky old Nepalgunj Airport, and now the bus. I thought about putting my head out of the window again. It might cool me down, but people puke so much on these trips you risk getting a faceful. I stared ahead. I dared not let go of my day-sack. The money was inside: a large packet of new thousand-rupee-notes bound up in wads of 100. Who’d have thought a couple of school kids could get a hold of a thousand pounds at such short notice? I hated lying to Dad’s expat friends but it had to be done. We couldn’t tell anyone else; that would put them in even greater danger.

*

The storm hit. It blasted the strip of bare skin above the waistband of my jeans so it stung. Sand got into our mouths, into our eyes. It went up our noses so that we sneezed. It was so hot that it was hard to breathe. We lay there, eyes clamped shut, ears singing. All we could do is lie still and wait. Lying there face down in the dirt I was thinking about my cousins back in England. They were forever on about what an amazing life we had, living in the foothills of the Himalayas. We did have an amazing life, but not always in a good way.

*

Then something really weird happened. I felt suddenly unsteady on my feet. There was a strange feeling like someone was wobbling my belly but from the inside. Then it felt like something had grabbed hold of the ground and was pulling it bad-temperedly back and foward. It made me stagger. James almost fell, but then recovered and said, "Wicked - an earthquake!"
The teashop owner lunged out through her tiny little doorway and stood well clear of her house. The back-and-forward motion didn't go on for long but it clearly frightened her. She seemed to be mumbling prayers and was frantically looking around at the hillsides and mountain ridges, checking, I guess, for landslides and rockfalls.

*

We'd often felt temors. There have been really big earthquakes in the Himalayas and people in Kathmandu talk all the time about when others will come.

*

If we ever manged to get out of the cave now, it would be by sheer luck.

*

He pulled a lethal-looking khukuri from his belt.

 

Reviews

  • "A great story full of adventure, excitement and surprises"
    "I like your story because of the really fierce animals. I like the bit with the tiger!
    "My favriot part was when the monkey weed on their head!"
    "It is funny and a bit scary."
    "I like the story line and it is easy to picture in your head."
    "FANTASTIC. I really like the way you introduce new animals and tell us a bit about them. It's really interesting. It's so exciting too!"
    "I liket the bit wen the muncey weed on them. It was funny."
    "Sometimes the story made me jump and some times it sounded quite scary. And I sometimes looked forward to bits."
    "It has lots of interesting words in it and sounds a bit scary."
    "It is just so radical, dudet."
    "VERY realistic and very exciting. My favirite part is how they cleverly escape from the king kobra. Your storie is brilleant.”
    “It is a very good story Jane. I liked the king kobra and the bit wen the tiger comes and chasis them and they get separated so yeah it’s exsiting cool and really makes people tence.”
    St Luke's Primary School, Cambridge


  • An action packed read. The story follows Alex and James' progress as they make their some time harrowing journey to find out what's happened to their parents. Chapter after chapter leaves you wondering if and how the two boys will make it. Alex and James are characters you'll want to root for. I can't wait to read the next book.


  • I may be older than the target audience, but I so enjoyed this adventure of two brothers trying to survive a disaster that they could not have seen coming. Their adventures through the Nepali landscapes and beautifully illustrated wildlife kept my attention, and I can't wait to read what happens next to Alex and James.

    Lizbeth Meredith, author


  • ... a compelling political and ecological wildlife adventure in the Himalayan mountains. Recalling Kipling’s Jungle Book,
    Wilson-Howarth’s attention to cultural and zoological detail provocatively weaves a riveting collision of civilizations, avalanches, and river boat escapes as two brothers search for their kidnapped parents by ruthless Maoist terrorists.
    From goats getting sick from eating plastic bags (“Now everyone uses plastic, and its not good for the goats,”), to life and death underwater struggles with crocodiles, this harrowing adventure left my husband and me on the edge of our seats.  Himalayan Kidnap is a nuanced tale with sensitively imagined characters. 
    Although intended for kids 8-12, it’s an exciting read for adults. Can’t wait for the continuing adventures of Alex
    and James!  
    Micaela Amateau Amato


  • Looking for an easy relaxed read for you kids? Look no further. This is a fast-paced adventure with plenty of wildlife, dung-fights and brotherly banter.


  • I’m betting that no other book combines a story about Nepal with an eco-friendly message. Although the story is meant for early to mid-readers, this adult thoroughly enjoyed it. Right from the start, I felt that I got to know the two brothers on an intimate level – their dialogue makes you smile and pulls you into getting to know them well. The animals of Nepal play a role throughout the story … readers won’t even realize how much new knowledge about Nepal they are absorbing as they read. Toward the end, I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out what happened 
    Patty Costello, children's author


  • Exciting adventure story...between the wild animals and the kidnappers, there is never a dull moment. Great book for all young adventurers!


  • Stunning descriptions of the flora and fauna of Nepal are subtly woven into this fast-moving story of two brothers on the trail of their kidnapped parents
    Rosemary Hayes, author


  • Himalayan kidnap is about teenage brothers, Alex and James, who are on a hazardous journey taking a package to their parents in Nepal. They later find out this package contains a ransom to free their parents from the Maoists, a group that opposes the Nepalese government. The book is gripping and the descriptions of the jungle and the wildlife they encounter make you feel that you are there too. On their way, they meet many people some of whom are helpful but they are unsure who they can trust. After avoiding various wild animals, they fall down an unclimbable hole and end up in a vast cave system. Will the squabbling siblings escape?
    I thought that the book was extremely good, well-structured and fast moving. I enjoyed reading it so much that I found it hard to put down. I would recommend it for anyone who likes adventure books that don’t drag on, especially if they like wildlife too. It would be good to read to younger children and there are some excellent illustrations as well. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
    Deri C-H, aged 13


  • This is a gripping and fast-paced story, firmly rooted in reality. There are two boys, young, funny, vulnerable and scared. And there’s the exotic and alien environment of the Himalayas, rich with vividly enticing wildlife – but also full of danger. This adventure story dramatically explores how determination can turn into heroism.
    Victor Watson, children's author


  • [The] story is very sharp with a great balance between dialogue and description that creates an energetic flow to the adventure. The relationship between the two brothers is particularly engaging and nicely injects humour into the story, as they attempt to save their parents.


  • I read this book in one sitting finding it impossible to put it down.
    This adventure story is set in Nepal with two boys as the main characters though there is also a no nonsense female character for whom the boys have great respect.. It is pacy and full of unforced information about the flora, fauna and culture in Nepal. As with James Bond the boys get into impossible situations and like him (thus far) they manage with ingenuity, luck and humour to extricate themselves.
    Were I not retired from my position as a school librarian this book would be be heading for the library shelves. As it is, the grandchildren will benefit.
    Pauline


  • A combination of Hardy Boys adventures and Rudyard Kipling’s mysterious, jungle-inhabited prose, this Himalayan adventure had me on edge of my seat! I couldn’t put the book down.
    Jane Wilson-Howarth’s rich descriptions draw you in and take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, as you journey with two young boys in search of their kidnapped parents in the Nepalese jungle.
    Wilson-Howarth’s clever prose and skillful descriptions of the ecology of Nepal in this book deserve worldwide recognition. I learned so much about the creatures of the Himalayan terrain as well as the villagers and the culture of the region - and I was left wanting even more at the end.
    Fortunately, a sequel is already available called Chasing the Tiger :-) ... the next book on my spring reading list. This series is destined to be a classic and fully deserves five spectacular stars!
    Heather Herzog, children's author


  • An excellent story, well told, which will appeal to children and adults alike. It provides a range of observations on the local environment, wildlife and peoples of Nepal to stimulate the reader's imagination and encourage further reading on this fascinating country. Looking forward to reading Alex and James' next adventure.


  • This is an exotic adventure story about two brothers who have found out their parents have been kidnapped and must travel through the jungles of Nepal to find them. Their travels encounter fast flowing rivers and a maze of long dark cavernous caves with murderous men hot on their heels. I read this book not knowing if I would like it or not but by the first chapter it was hard not to get glued. I loved that this book gives you a taste for Nepali culture and  an understanding of the animals that live there. Each chapter includes pictures of Nepalese animals some of which were new to me. I recommend this book to people age 8 and above.
    Tess, aged 13


  • I'm enjoying the dialogue between the two boys and learning about the wild life of Nepal. A definite recommended read for all ages.


  • 16 year old Alex and his 12 year old brother James are asked to take a mysterious package to their parents, who are engaged in animal research in the Nepalese jungle. They soon become involved in a dangerous journey involving betrayal, wild animals, avalanches, deep and dark caves and kidnap by Maoist insurgents, as well as help from many Nepalis, including their young friend Atti. The story  moves rapidly from one incident and escape to another, and is sure to hold the interest of young readers. Throughout the book Jane’s knowledge and love of Nepal, its people, its geography and its wildlife shine through the narrative, skilfully making it as informative as it is entertaining. The book includes a glossary of Nepali terms used in the text, as well as delightful illustrations by Betty Levene of many of the creatures encountered by Alex and James during their adventure. Young readers given this book, whether in print format or as an ebook will devour it and will eagerly await the next of Alex and James’s adventures. 
    Mike Townend in Travelwise


  • Surfing a narrative as swift and treacherous as a Himalayan river, Alex and his brother James pursue their kidnapped parents into the jungles of southwest Nepal, bonding over very many very lucky escapes and a good dose of samosas, milky tea and practical jokes. An enjoyable, educational read for all ages, this beautifully illustrated eco-adventure is an authentic contemporary portrayal of – and call to action for – a country beset by ecological and moral challenges.
    Rabi Thapa


  • "I think the author was amazing. The best bits were when she read extracts from Himalayan Kidnap. Listening to her life in Nepal was fascinating." Alex H.

    "I liked it because the author had lots of detail in everything she said. I also think she likes travelling like I do!" Lucia L-T.

    "I liked it when the author read the part about the two boys trying to cross the river. She made it realistic, for example, about the crocodile spinning the boy round in the water."
    Hanif M.

    "I think her books seem interesting. Also, I think the author is a good inspiration to people."
    Maddie P-M.
    Year 7 Beaumont School


  • Where to buy

    Eifrig publishing based in Lemont, Pennsylvania and Berlin launched this book in paperback and as an e-book in August 2016 in the UK and in November in the US. It can be ordered through Eifrig now. It is also in stock at Heffers bookshop in Cambridge and from amazon.