Stephen Elboz (1956-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1956, in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England. Education: Attended Lancaster University.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon St., Oxford OX2 6DP, England.
Writer. Previously worked as a primary school teacher; presently part-time junior-school teacher in Corby, England.
Smarties prize, 1991, for The House of Rats.
The House of Rats, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1991.
The Games Board Map, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1993.
Bottle Boy, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1994.
The Byzantium Bazaar, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1996, published as A Store of Secrets, 2000.
Ghostlands, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1996.
Temmi and the Flying Bears, illustrated by Lesley Harker, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1998.
The Tower at Moonville, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.
Temmi and the Frost Dragon (sequel to Temmi and the Flying Bears), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.
FOR YOUNG READERS
Captain Skywriter and Kid Wonder (stories), illustrated by John Eastwood, Collins (London, England), 1995.
Kid Wonder and the Terrible Truth, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.
Kid Wonder and the Half-hearted Hero, illustrated by Judy Brown, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.
Kid Wonder and the Sticky Skyscraper, illustrated by Judy Brown, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.
(With Dee Schulman) Clever Monkey, illustrated by Peter Bowman, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2002.
"KIT STIXBY" SERIES
A Handful of Magic, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2000.
A Land without Magic, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.
A Wild Kind of Magic, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.
While still in school, Stephen Elboz was encouraged by his teachers to begin writing, and although he was a poor student, once he reached university level he won a competition for radio plays. However, even after graduating and becoming a teacher, Elboz took a long time to become published. "I had about ten years of sending work in before I got my first book published," he explained to Nikki Gamble of Write Away! It was worth the wait; Elboz's first book, The House of Rats, won the Smarties prize in 1991.
The House of Rats is the story of four young orphans who go to live in a mansion as guests of the master of the house. When the master disappears, life continues as normal for a short time, but soon the servants begin to become sloppy at their tasks, and the butler's wife convinces her husband to take the place of the master himself! The children fear they may be in danger with this turn of events; what's worse, there seems to be something sinister scratching at the walls inside the house. Escape seems impossible until the children meet the creatures responsible for the scratching: intelligent rats who live in an underground world below the house. With the help of the rats, the children work to find their way to freedom.
Elboz's works for juvenile readers are known for having a fairly gothic and dark tone; Christina Hardyment in the London Independent grouped Elboz in with such horror writers as Joan Aiken, Gillian Cross, and R. L. Stine. Ghostlands is certainly an example of one of his scarier books. In the novel, Ewan becomes good friends with a ghost in the house where he is staying, only to realize that the ghost, Ziggy, is in danger of being ghostnapped. The ghostnappers are collecting ghosts and bringing them to an amusement park called Ghostlands, where the spectres are enslaved and given no means to escape. Hardyment credited the book with "a shudder a page" and called it "scintillatingly written."
In 1998 Elboz introduced readers to a boy named Temmi and a race of flying bears. Temmi befriends a flying bear cub, Cush, when they are both taken prisoner at the Ice Castle of an evil Witch-Queen in Temmi and the Flying Bears. As prisoners, Temmi and Cush are treated as the toys of the princess Agna, who will take over the throne when the sickly Witch-Queen dies. When he learns that members of the court may be conspiring against the princess, Temmi realizes it is not only Cush he may have to rescue from the Ice Castle.
The adventures of Temmi and Cush continue in Temmi and the Frost Dragon. Having long since escaped from the Witch Queen, Temmi, Agna, and Cush realize that they brought a curse back with them. A gem that Agna brought with her from the Ice Castle was part of a dragon's hoard, and unless they return it to the frost dragon, their village will be destroyed. The three heroes, with the help of a mysterious wizard named Ollimun Nub, make their way to the home of the frost dragon, hoping they will be able to lift the curse.
Along with the "Temmi" series, Elboz has published several books about young wizard Kit Stixby and Kit's friend, the crown prince Henry, beginning with A Handful of Magic. The series is set in Victorian London, but it is a London full of witch doctors, wizards, and evil scientists. Kit is the son of Dr. Stixby, the witch doctor to Queen Victoria. In the first book, Prince Henry is bitten by a werewolf when he and Kit sneak out to have an adventure. Instead of trusting her witch doctor, Queen Victoria turns to the wicked Stafford Sparks for a solution. Kit has to find a way to rescue Prince Henry from the curse before he becomes a werewolf. A reviewer for the Guardian Unlimited called A Handful of Magic "sheer bliss for nine-year-olds and up."
In the second book in the series, A Land without Magic, Kit has to face off against Sparks once again, this time in the exotic land of Callalabasa, a place where magic
use is illegal. This instantly means trouble for Kit, especially with Sparks out to get him. "If your children are not familiar with the work of Stephen Elboz, you should acquaint them immediately," wrote a reviewer for the Guardian Unlimited, calling A Land without Magic a brilliant follow-up to the first book in the series. Kit's adventures continue in A Wild Kind of Magic where, back in London, Kit and Prince Henry try to track down the mysterious killer Jack the Ripper. The murderer is not the only enemy they have to contend with, however; a strange new plant is coming to life, and yet again they must face off against the wicked Sparks.
Dedicated to writing by hand instead of typing, Elboz told Nikki Gamble at Write Away!, "I write the book in long hand three times. When it's rough it's VERY rough. I cross things out and change it all the time; it creates a 3D effect on the page. Everything is all over the place until I work on the final draft, which I have to give neatly presented to the typist." Gamble reported that Elboz "firmly believes that a single teacher can make a significant difference" to impressionable students; in his own life one special teacher influenced his decision to become a writer and Elboz dedicated his book Temmi and the Flying Bears to that teacher. In addition to continuing to produce fiction, Elboz continues to teach part-time, hoping to provide similar inspiration to his own students.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Independent (London, England), December 7, 1996, Christina Hardyment, "Tea, Toast, and Techno-Terror," p. 8.
School Library Journal, September, 1999, Fritz Mitnick, review of Temmi and the Flying Bears, p. 167.
Times Educational Supplement, February 14, 1992, Sandra Kemp, review of The House of Rats, p. 33; September 23, 1994, Geoff Fox, review of Bottle Boy, p. 19.
Guardian Unlimited, http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (March 28, 2002), review of A Handful of Magic and A Land without Magic.
Oxford University Press Web site, http://www.oup.co.uk/ (March 24, 2004), profile of Elboz.
Reading Matters, http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/ (March 24, 2004).
Write Away!, http://improbability.ultralab.net/writeaway/ (February 5, 2004), Nikki Gamble, interview with Elboz.*
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