Title: More Precious Than Rubies
Author: Randy Coates
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Paul Brager is twelve when his father tells the story of Iduna and her apples. Mr. Brager always tells stories before bed to entertain Paul’s little brother, Adrian—a ritual that has become even more important since their mother died. Iduna was a goddess who grew apples that made the gods younger and stronger, but one day she disappeared, along with her apples. Paul doesn’t think much of the myth; he has other things on his mind.
Paul and his best friend, Chad Tremblay, are excited to start the school year as seventh graders at Dorian Heights Public School. Even when they hear about the new principal, Mr. Theisen, they aren’t worried about ending up in his office. When Paul finally meets the principal, however, he finds him to be strange, mysterious, and extremely fond of apples. That’s when things start going wrong.
Theisen develops an uncomfortable interest in Paul, claiming he once knew Paul’s father. It becomes apparent to Paul and Chad that Theisen is after something, maybe some kind of treasure—and it involves the Brager family. Paul believes his family must be protected and that Theisen must be stopped. Still, he can’t get the story of Iduna’s apples out of his head; there seems to be an odd connection to the tale his father told. He and Chad want to know the answers, but learning them may put their lives in danger.
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
I wanted to make this book in the genre of fantasy since many children’s books aim at fantastical happenings to draw in their audience; however, I am not very knowledgeable about mythology which plays a major part in my novel.
The most difficult part in writing this book was to first research various myths and then, secondly, to tie in the myth with a school setting. Since I wanted the book to be in the present and not to involve time travel, Ihad to think of a way to bring the mythology to the students.
Do you have a favorite excerpt from the book? If so, can you share it?
The novel takes place most of the time in an elementary school and involves many scenes in which students interact with each other and with their teachers.
As a teacher myself, I have been witness to these types of interactions. Therefore, I believe that these scenes in the book are the best-written and the most intriguing because I use precise dialogue that one would use in schools. Plus, I believe that I have accentuated the type of rapport between students even when they don’t always agree with each other. Students have a habit of not getting along one moment, then getting along the next.
What do you hope readers will take away after readingthe book?
I hope that the story entertains young readers. It is not the kind of sprawling fantasy book that is so popular today with whimsical creatures and heroic people; however, it is engaging in its simplicity of showing human frailties and emotions. Plus, there are still conflicts that are overcome by people workingtogether.
Ialso hope that my readers are stimulated by my use of Norse mythology and are spurred on to learn more about it the way Iwas when I researched the content.
Who or what is the inspiration for the book?
The book is based upon the reoccurrence of a story in Norse mythology: the tale of lduna’s apples. lduna had an orchard of apples that, when eaten by the Gods, brought them strength and vitality.
In my novel,the apples make a reappearance and, because of their power, one might consider them “more precious than rubies,” gems that are comparable in colour and value.
Have you had a mentor? If so, can you talk about them a little?
Probably the most influential person in my life was a teacher who taught me English Literature in high school. Sadly, he died ten years ago.
He taught me the value of the written word and was a writer of poetry. He knew how to communicate creatively with his students and he made us discover meaning in literary passages where we thought none existed.
My parents have also been an influence. Though never writers themselves, they always encouraged me to pursue my interests and never dissuaded me from my creativity although I don’t think they always understood it.
I have heard it said in order to be a good writer, you have to be a reader as well? Do you find this to be true? And if you are a reader, do you have a favorite genre and/or author?
In almost every interview with a writer that I have read, the writer says that one must read voraciously to become a great writer. I agree with that. As a teacher, I have also come across this statement in the curriculum guidelines for Language Arts in schools.
When I read, I take particular notice of the nuances of the author, how he composes his sentences, and so on. Often, sometimes subliminally, I find these authors’ styles influencing my own.
As a reader, I do not have a favorite genre. I just know that if the characters are appealing to me (e.g.,make me feel for them), then I would read the book, regardless of genre.
Interestingly, watching a movie sometimes causes me to read the book that the movie is based upon,and vice versa.
This is why I am reading Doctor Zhivago at the moment.
Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.