Questions and Answers with the Author
1. What is this story about?
Four orphaned children find themselves in the distant land of Faracadar where they must retrieve the Staff of Shakabaz and free the land from the grip of the evil enchanter Sissrath.
2. For what age group did you write the book?
I read it aloud to a class of fifth- and sixth-graders and we had a great time. It will appeal most to children in grades four to nine.
3. With all the electronic distractions these days, it’s hard to get youngsters to read. Why will children want to read your book?
The adventures are fun and keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. Each child in the book has his or her own talents, reminding children that they each have their own gifts to discover, cultivate, and use. Young readers enjoy seeing children solve problems, and doing it better than the adults, and they can identify with the challenges the characters face. I think readers are curious to see how the characters will resolve these problems. And everyone loves Bayard the parrot; he’s an amusing little guy.
4. What was your main purpose in writing the book?
I want to inspire children to think about peaceful solutions to conflict on both a personal level and a global level. I watched thousands of children march to prevent and later to protest the war on Iraq in 2003. This story is a tribute to those children and the many others who are wiser than our world leaders.
5. What makes The Call to Shakabaz different?
The majority of classic fantasy adventures for English-speaking children are set in a British cultural context with British characters. The Call to Shakabaz is set in an African American cultural context. There are some excellent children’s fantasy adventures with African American characters, but we need more of them. Although this story will appeal to many different children, I wrote it especially for African American children who long to see themselves reflected in the books they read and love.
6. What lessons does the book teach?
It’s a thought-provoking book. It asks children to think about tough questions that revolve around our survival on the planet. Many children have these problems on their minds and welcome an opportunity to consider solutions. The central puzzle of the book is the question of how to wage war against a brutal dictator without resorting to violence. The Call to Shakabaz teaches children fundamental principles of nonviolence.
7. Why will The Call to Shakabaz appeal to parents, teachers, and librarians?
We all know the value of a text that gets children excited about reading, and the children who’ve read it love it. I think adults will especially like teaching from the book because it offers a springboard for discussing provocative issues. A list of study questions and a teacher’s study guide are available free on the Woza Books website.
8. What are some of your favorite books written for the nine-to-fourteen age group?
A few at the top of my list are A Wrinkle in Time, The House of Dies Drear, Ender’s Game, Holes, Homecoming, The BFG, The Ear The Eye and The Arm, Half Magic, the Narnia books, and of course Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling is about as good as it gets.
9. What do you know about writing children’s stories?
I have a master’s degree in English. Literature is my area of expertise. I’ve worked as a grant writer for twelve years, and good grant writing is good storytelling. As for children’s literature, I’ve read books aloud at home, in the schools, and in Head Start preschool classrooms for nearly thirty years. While my three children were growing up, I read aloud to each of them for half an hour every night until they were fifteen. That’s a lot of reading!
The Call to Shakabaz
by Amy Wachspress • Published by Woza Books
ISBN 978-0-9788350-2-6 • Paper 6 × 9 • 272 pages • $15.50
Available from Rayve Productions @ 800-852-4890, Baker & Taylor, bookstores, Amazon.com,
and Woza Books @ www.wozabooks.com