Sunday, 1 May 2011

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the A Small Free Kiss in the Dark Blog Tour! Today, the lovely people from Templar Publishing have given me an exclusive extract from the book to share with you all and I also have my own review of the book as well, which will hopefully give you a better idea of what it's about.

Let's start with the synopsis:

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
Publisher: Templar
Released: May 1st 2011

Two young boys, an old tramp, a beautiful teenage dancer, and the girl's baby--ragtag survivors of a sudden war--form a fragile family, hiding out in the ruins of an amusement park. As they scavenge for good, diapers, and baby formula, they must stay out of sight of vicious gangs and lawless soldiers. At first they rely on Billy, the only adult in the group. But as civil life deteriorates, Billy starts to fall apart. Skip, who is barely into his teens, must take over and lead them on a search for sanctuary. This complex and haunting exploration of life on the edge and what it takes to triumph over adversity is a story about the indomitable nature of hope. (from Goodreads)

Curious? Want to know more? Next up, Glenda Millard introducing the exclusive extract:

Chapter 9 One Perfect Day.

Skip, a twelve-year-old homeless boy, Billy who’s lived on the streets for as long as he can remember and Max, a six-year old, are on the run from foreign forces who have invaded their city. Max has been separated from his mother and won’t give up the idea that he should stay at the library like his mother told him to and wait for her return. The only trouble is, the library has been bombed and it’s possible Max’s mother will never come back. So, in between dodging soldiers and searching for food and shelter, Billy and Skip take it in turns to think of things to keep Max amused and to stop him missing his mother so much. One perfect day is Skip’s idea to make Max happy. But in reality it is not only a perfect day for Max, but for him, too. It is a chance for them to behave like children should, to play cricket on the beach, to pretend there are no warships on the horizon, or that their city is not burning in the distance, to behave as though they are a real family, not just a group of misfits thrown together through tragic circumstance.

Extract (pages 98-102):

I tried to remember everything about that day. I heard the rush and sigh of small waves before I saw them and I felt glad because the sea is like the Carousel of War and Peace: it’s always there.

Billy lit a fire on the sand beside the sea, and when my eyes crept up towards the Boulevard he said, “They won’t be able to see it from there, and anyway there’s so many fires burning in this city, no one’s gonna take any notice of a little one like ours.”

“Where are the ships, Billy?” asked Max.

“They can’t come anywhere near here. The bay’s too shallow.”

Billy’s voice was smooth and yellow and peaceful, and it didn’t matter at all that the sky was as grey as a pigeon’s back. We spread our blankets on the damp sand and Billy boiled water in an empty peach can and made coffee and we sipped it from the stolen takeaway cups while we toasted our stale bread with the long handled fork. Then we shared the last of our sardines and sprinkled them with salt from the paper packets.

After breakfast I found a feather for Max and stuck it in his football beanie, and even though it wasn’t an eagle’s feather he didn’t mind. Then we borrowed Billy’s peach can and built a sandcastle with twenty-seven turrets and a moat to keep the enemy out. Next we played cricket on the hard, wet sand until Billy hit a six with the driftwood bat and I saw my rolled-up football socks disappear into the sea. Max and me stripped our clothes off then and ran into the waves, and Billy laughed and shook his head and watched us go.

“Crazy kids! Crazy!”

“Crazeeeeeee!” we shouted back, and our voices sailed away like kite tails on the wind.

The crystal sea was freezing but we danced and ducked and dived. We were merchildren and we weren’t afraid of the waves that crashed against our bodies and tried to drag us down. We saw Billy go searching up and down the long, straight beach like a pirate looking for buried treasure. We saw him discover driftwood sticks and drag them to the fire.

“Castaways!” I said to Max and punched the water with my fists. “Castaways on a deserted island; you and me and Billy.”

“Castaways!” shouted Max.

Billy looked at us across the foaming waves and he got reckless and brave like Max and me; he piled the bleached wood on the leaping flames. Then he stood there on the shore with a blanket wrapped around him and his long grey whiskers flying like seaweed from his chin, and he roared at us like Neptune. We ran to him and we didn’t care that we had no clothes on because we were wild creatures, Max and me. Then we lay down on a blanket as close to the fire as we dared. The flames flickered on our stormy-blue skins and made our hearts beat slow until we turned back into ordinary boys again. Then we put our clothes on and Billy baked bananas on the coals. When they were cooked we split them open and sprinkled them with cinnamon and chocolate powder and crystals of brown sugar that we’d got from the coffee-seller’s stall, and we
ate them out of their sizzling skins with plastic spoons.

Then the storm came and we stuffed everything into my case and hurried back to Dreamland. We lay in the ghost train, Max and me together in the Devil’s Lair, warm and tired and sanded smooth. We whispered secrets to each other while rain battered the tin roof and thunder shook the world and Billy played his Hohner in the Vampire’s Nest.

“I’m going to be a musician when I grow up,” Max said.

“What instrument are you going to play?”

“Violin. I’ve got a violin, only it’s at my house.”

“Can you play it?”

“‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’”


“I’m not very good yet. Mummy says you have to practise every day to get good.”

I didn’t want him to talk about his mother on that perfect day. “What do you want to do tomorrow?”

“I think I’d like to go home.”

“We could go for another adventure.”

“We could go home first and then go for another adventure.”

“What if your mother wouldn’t let you go?” I said and I felt Max grip my hand with one of his. “It’s your turn to choose tomorrow, Max. You can pick anywhere you like, anywhere.”

Max didn’t answer straight away and I thought he was trying to decide. I didn’t know he wanted to go home more than anything else in the whole universe, because that’s something only people with homes can wish for. So I got a surprise when Max said in a small voice, “I think I’d just like to go home, please.”

Billy stopped playing his harmonica then.

“Wait a few more days, Max,” he said, “then we might be able to go back and see if they’ve put up the missing persons lists. Your mother might have put your name on the list. Then we can let her know where you are.”

The thought of Max finding his mother was as lonely as an albatross. I felt angry at how stupid I’d been. Max belonged to someone else and even Billy didn’t belong to me. It didn’t matter how perfect our day had been, it didn’t change a thing.

The extract is actually one of my favourite parts of the book. I hope you liked it as much as I did!

Now for my review:  

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark is a poignant read, exploring the effects of war through a young boy’s eyes. Skip is not even a teenager yet, but he has witnessed greater horrors than most people will see in their lifetime. His determination has kept him alive, and Billy, an old man he sees as his grandfather, and Max, a young child who depends on him, are the only staples in his chaotic and uncertain existence. Then he meets Tia and her baby Sixpence. New bonds are created, and Skip finds himself growing more and more anxious to find a place to keep everyone safe.

I really liked Skip; he was so brave for someone barely even twelve years old, and he had taken on responsibilities no child should ever have to experience. He was loving and kind and he cared for Max like he was his own brother. He looked after Sixpence with as much love as any parent, and his relationship with Billy was especially close – Billy was the only adult that Skip could ever rely on to come back and look after him. Yet despite Skip’s maturity and responsibilities, parts of him still remained child-like and innocent. He couldn’t understand Tia, who was fifteen, but he cared for her and her child all the same, despite not comprehending her situation. He looked up to Billy and got upset whenever he made him angry. I think this is what made him such a likeable character - he was just a regular kid, living in an irregular world, hoping and desperately trying to stay alive.

The plot doesn’t involve much action, but rather flows like a brief journey through Skip’s life. The rich descriptions make us experience what he experiences, feel what he feels and learn what he learns. Overall, A Small Free Kiss in the Dark is a book about hope in times of hardship, and though  it is a fairly sad book, it leaves you with the feeling that there’s always a chance for you, if you never give up.

Author info: Glenda Millard is an award-winning Australian author. She began thinking about the main character for A Small Free Kiss In The Dark after noticing a newspaper headline about urban tribes, and she wondered what life would be like for a young homeless boy, living with people thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. While the backdrop for this story is war, her intention was to capture the indomitable nature of hope.

Glenda lives in the Goldfields region of Central Victoria. Her book The Naming of Tishkin Silk was an Honour Book in the 2004 CBC Book of the Year Awards. Layla Queen of Heartswas a winner in the 2007 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and her picture book, Kaito's Cloth, was also shortlisted in the 2007 Queensland Premier's Literary Award.

A Small Free Kiss In The Dark won the prestigious Queensland Premier's Literary Award for Best Young Adult book, 2009.

Hopefully I've managed to persuade you to check this book out - it really is worth it, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. For more information, have a look at the links below:

That's it for my stop. Thanks to Templar Publishing for giving me this opportunity - the next stop will be tomorrow at Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, where they'll be having an interview with Glenda Millard. Make sure you visit!