Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - Personal » Tim Bowler (1953-) Biography - Writings, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Adaptations, Work in Progress

Tim Bowler (1953-) - Sidelights

review midget river boy

Tim Bowler started writing at the age of five, but it did not become his career for many years. He worked in forestry and then as a language teacher for nearly twenty years, doing his writing between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. before he left for work. He started his first novel, Midget, when he was twenty-five, writing in this fashion; it was not published until he was over forty years old. Even though Bowler now writes full-time, he still prefers to write early in the morning while drinking a thermos of maté tea he makes the night before. "My workroom is a converted bedroom overlooking the churchyard with trees and flowers and rolling hills beyond," he commented on his Web site, continuing, "All my books have been written to the sound of birdsong."

Midget is a psychological thriller that "might have been a Twilight Zone episode," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Horn Book reviewer Nancy Vasilakis praised Midget, saying, "The tightly scripted plot with its steadily building tension will keep readers spellbound to the end." Midget is a tiny fifteen-year-old boy, physically and emotionally warped by the abuse he suffers at the hands of his outwardly devoted older brother, Seb. The story is set in Bowler's native Leigh-on-Sea, a fishing village in southeastern England, and the ocean features prominently in the tale. Midget's one escape is the marina, where he takes great pleasure in watching Old Joseph work on fixing up an old, wooden sailboat. Midget wants to sail this boat, a fact which is apparently known to Joseph, who leaves the boat to Midget in his will. Around this time, Midget has discovered his ability to influence events with his mind, a skill which he uses to do minor harm to his therapist and to win a sailboat race against his brother. Seb, furious at his defeat, tries to carry out his oft-repeated threat to kill Midget, so Midget uses his new powers to cripple Seb. He thinks about killing him, but stops at the last minute. Then he walks out into the sea and disappears. "He acts the way he does because he realizes that the power he has acquired—after being so long in the power of another—has not fulfilled him or released him from his pain, but has actually corrupted him and made things worse," Bowler noted on his Web site.

On his Web site, Bowler discussed his experiences writing Midget: "The level of violence isn't something you choose as a writer. At least I don't. When I'm writing a story, the characters and scenes and places start to form pictures, and then the momentum builds up and it's as though you find the direction the story wants to go.... It's the writing itself for me that unlocks the story. Writing Midget scared the pants off me when the violent stuff started coming out. I started to wonder what was wrong with me and it took ten drafts to work the thing out."

Bowler is also the author of River Boy, the winner of a Carnegie Medal. It is a story about "the embodiment of hope, the circle of life, and an artist's spiritual quest," in the words of School Library Journal critic Alison Follos. Jess's grandfather is dying. He convinces Jess's parents to take him back to his boyhood home, along the banks of a river flowing through the countryside, so he can finish his painting, "River Boy," before he dies. While he works on this painting, fifteen-year-old Jess, a competitive swimmer, explores the river. There she meets the "river boy," a mysterious, otherworldly character with some connection to her grandfather. The river boy wants to swim from the source of the river to its mouth at the ocean, and he wants Jess to accompany him.

Several critics praised Bowler's writing style in River Boy. "There's poetry in the simple, elemental words and the space between them," Hazel Rochman commented in a review for Booklist, while Follos praised Bowler's "lyrical metaphors and fluid writing style." Additionally, Bowler "succeeds in conveying the strong bond between Jess and her grandfather," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor.

Shadows, Bowler's next book after River Boy, is the story of a young man named Jamie who is pushed by his obsessive and abusive father to become a champion squash player. His relationship with his father begins to change when Jamie finds a pregnant teen named Abby hiding in his shed as she flees from a very bad situation. "The story zips along," commented Observer reviewer Caroline Boucher, who also thought that this book was "much tighter, grittier, and, I think, better," than River Boy. In a review for School Librarian, Michael Lockwood noted that Shadows, with its faced-paced narrative and dramatic tension, was "very different from River Boy in style, but just as successful in its own terms."

Fifteen-year-old Jess is better able to cope with the death of her grandfather with the help of the presence of the boy depicted in her grandfather's final painting. (Written by Tim Bowler, cover illustration by Rafal Olbinski.)

Like Shadows, Storm Catchers also features a flawed father and a young woman in danger. Ella, the thirteen-year-old middle child, is kidnapped from her family's seaside home one stormy night while her parents are out. Her fifteen-year-old brother Fin is guilt-wracked; three-year-old Sam begins seeing the ghost of another girl. The point of view alternates between Fin, Ella, and Sam, as they slowly learn about their family's dark secret and the motive of the young kidnapper. "It's the fast, realistic action and dialogue and the stormy coastal setting that drive this story," Booklist's Rochman thought. But as Connie Tyrrell Burns noted in School Library Journal, "The complex themes of guilt and betrayal enhance the suspense."

Bowler commented on his Web site: "Some people think there must be a set of rules for writing, but the truth is there aren't any. It's more like tickling trout, holding your hand out and trying to coax the ideas to swim into your grasp; or being a potter, throwing the rough clay of your thoughts down and letting the story twist out under the palms of your hands; or being a sorcerer, stirring Guilt-ridden over his sister's kidnapping, Fin determines to rescue her and unleashes his family's dark secrets. (Written by Bowler, cover illustration by Cliff Nielsen.) the cauldron of your imagination and watching the vapour of the story rise. Writing is all these things and many more. It's something you never bottom, never crack, never stop learning about. And that's why I love it."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 1, 2000, Hazel Rochman, review of River Boy, p. 1660; September 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Storm Catchers, p. 112.

Book Report, November-December, 1995, Jo Rae Peiffer, review of Midget, p. 31.

Books for Keeps, November, 1995, Val Randall, review of Dragon's Rock, p. 13; July, 2000, Lesley de Meza, review of Shadows, p. 6.

Horn Book, March-April, 1996, Nancy Vasilakis, review of Midget, pp. 203-204.

Independent (London, England), July 16, 1998, Anne Treneman, "You Can Cry Me a River," p. S10.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1995, review of Dragon's Rock, p. 142.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1999, review of Midget, p. 1347; May 15, 2003, review of Storm Catchers, p. 746.

Magpies, March, 2002, Rayma Turton, review of Storm Catchers, p. 41.

Observer (London, England), February 14, 1999, Caroline Boucher, review of Shadows, p. 15; October 27, 2002, Nicci Gerrard, review of Starseeker, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, September 25, 1995, review of Midget, p. 57; July 10, 2000, review of River Boy, p. 64; June 2, 2003, review of Storm Catchers, p. 53.

School Librarian, summer, 1999, Michael Lockwood, review of Shadows, p. 98.

School Library Journal, October, 1995, Kelly Diller, review of Midget, p. 152; October, 1999, Brian E. Wilson, review of River Boy, p. 88; August, 2000, Alison Follos, review of River Boy, p. 177; May, 2003, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of Storm Catchers, p. 144.

Spectator, July 18, 1998, Jane Gardam, review of River Boy, pp. 36-37.

Times Educational Supplement, September 23, 1994, Geoff Fox, review of Midget, p. A19; May 12, 1995, David Buckley, review of Dragon's Rock, p. 16; July 17, 1998, Geraldine Brennan, "Journey Man," p. A12; February 12, 1999, Geraldine Brennan, review of Shadows, p. 27; September 27, 2002, Linda Newbery, review of Starseeker, p. 12.

ONLINE

Oxford University Press, http://www.oup.co.uk/ (November 6, 2001), "Oxford Children's Authors: Tim Bowler."

Read In!, http://www.readin.org/ (November 6, 2001), "Tim Bowler @ The Read In!"

Tim Bowler Home Page, http://www.timbowler.co.uk/ (November 6, 2001).

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