IBA Spotlight: Tom Adams :: NEWS
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IBA Spotlight: Tom Adams

12 November 2021 Share

Meet the author of 'Youthquake'

The SLA's Information Book Award (IBA) shortlist was announced earlier this year. On that list of incredible information books in the 8-12 age category we're thrilled to have Youthquake by Tom Adams (illustrated by Sarah Walsh , published by Nosy Crow).

Spanning centuries and sweeping the globe, this inclusive book focuses on the young people who have had an impact on the world we know today through their inventions, political or social equality campaigns, and creative or sporting achievements, often overcoming obstacles themselves.

We're delighted that Tom took part in a short Q&A to tell us more about creating this brilliant book.

What’s your favourite fact that you learnt from creating the book?

Two facts I’m afraid, from either end of the spectrum: one frightening, the other ridiculous.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France. It’s a terrifying statistic and every one of us should be concerned about it.

Bjork used a popcorn machine as an instrument early in her career. It shows her inventiveness, playfulness and risk taking as a creator. I love it!

What’s your favourite page of the book and why?

With a book like YouthQuake that’s a tricky question. Whilst all the biographies in this book are uplifting in some way, as all the children have done something extraordinary, some of the stories are truly heart-breaking. ‘Favourite’ is probably the wrong word. I think perhaps a better question might be 'who of the children included, do I admire most, or which story most hits home?' That would be the story of Iqbal Masih.

Iqbal was a little boy sold into slavery in Pakistan. From the age of 4 he was forced to crouch over a carpet loom, and weave expensive silk carpets for hours a day, seven days a week. It was backbreaking work. He escaped once, but was brought back to the factory by police, who sided with the factory owner. For a while he was then chained to his loom. Some years later, when he was 10, he managed to escape again, this time for good. He had spent over half his life in slavery.

I cannot imagine what life must have been like for that four-year-old Iqbal. I look at my own children and find the thought unbearable.  

But Iqbal’s story didn’t end here. He must have known how dangerous it was trying to escape, but he did so anyway. Even then, he could have just made his own way in the world, but instead, Iqbal then set about trying to get justice for those he had left behind in the factories, campaigning for the end of child labour. His work led to over 3,000 children being set free and raised the public’s awareness as to the extent of child labour in Pakistan. Tragically, he paid for his bravery with his life. At the age of 12 he was gunned down, most likely on the orders of the factory bosses. After all, they were the ones with the most to lose from Iqbal’s work.

As I say, a heart-breaking story but I am in awe of Iqbal’s bravery and selflessness. Sarah Walsh’s dignified portrait of Iqbal complements his story perfectly.

What is it about writing information books that you enjoy?

Writing information books provides enjoyment for me on two levels, the process and the purpose. Firstly, the process. I find digging deep into a subject a joy. It’s then a case of sifting through that information and turning it into digestible, interesting, engaging writing. Getting the gist of an idea or story over in a minimal wordcount is a challenge, but an enjoyable one. Every word counts.

Then there is the purpose. It’s less the case now as there are some amazing information books in the bookshops and libraries, but there was a time when many non-fiction books were as dry and dusty as the museums I visited as a child, way back when. Being able to write something that reveals to a child the world about them, explaining science and nature, art and history or environment and society, and having a child engage with that book, genuinely enjoy it and get lost in it, is a real thrill. I get a pang of delight every time I see an image of a child reading and enjoying one of my books on social media.

Youthquake is available here.

Tom Adams is a children’s author who juggles his time between writing books and making television programmes. He was born in Yorkshire but now lives in Kent with his wife and their three teenage sons. When he’s not at his desk writing, he’s often scribbling ideas for books and TV shows down in his notebook. He likes lots of sports, cooking, walking and playing the guitar but is slowly realising that his children are better than him at most of these things. He dislikes weeding the garden but does it anyway.

Visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

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