Year 6 interview with Arctic Star author, Tom Palmer.

Tom Palmer’s historical fiction is guaranteed to be excellently researched and packed with emotion; his new book,  Arctic Star, excels on both counts.

From the very first chapter, you are drawn into Frank, Stephen and Joseph’s lives aboard HMS Forgetmenot. Dark humour peppers their voyage across the freezing seas where the dangers are not only from the enemy.

It’s winter 1943 and teenagers Frank, Joseph and Stephen are Royal Navy recruits on their first mission at sea during the Second World War. Their ship is part of an Arctic Convoy sailing to Russia to deliver supplies to the Soviets. The convoys have to navigate treacherous waters, sailing through a narrow channel between the Arctic ice pack and German bases on the Norwegian coast. Faced with terrifying enemy attacks from both air and sea, as well as life-threatening cold and storms, will all three boys make it home again.

The intricacies of the three men’s friendships are expertly highlighted, which makes some of the conversations more harrowing for more sensitive readers. They create a myriad of discussion points too, from how friendships survive a fall out, to dealing with loss and grief, why people chose to go to war and how they survived their experiences

The differing perspectives are never clearer than when discussing their convoy’s destination, Murmansk in Russia. The ideology in theory doesn’t match the reality they find on shore leave, opening up a huge discussion on different political ideologies and ways of life

For a very different perspective on WW2 and a very different battlefield, Arctic Star is an all action, heart-breaking story of friendship and survival. Tissues are a must. Here’s what Year 6 thought:  

  • I love how it goes straight into the action and doesn’t stop!
  • I like how every chapter ends on a cliff hanger which makes you think a lot.
  • I love how there is humour even though it is a really serious story.
  • The description is so good it puts images in my head.
  • I like the chemistry between the characters and that they have such a strong friendship.
  • I like that it’s based around an aspect of WW2 we don’t normally get to read about.
  • I love that it is based on real events and you can feel the emotion in the story.

Now for the interview!

Miss Cleveland has lots of books on her bookcase. Why should we pick Arctic Star?

I’d say you don’t have to. But, if you like stories of war, adventure and danger – that feature friendship – then you might enjoy it. But compare it to some of the other books and choose the one you like the sound of most.

How would feel if you were one of the characters from Arctic Star, and how would you deal with that emotion?

I don’t know is the honest answer. I’ve never been in a shipwreck, but my job is to try to imagine it. To be honest, I compared it with the time I was in a ship in the North Sea in a force 9 gale and another time that my best friend died (aka Stephen). Then I drew from those emotional situations. Not easy, but it is good to use traumatic things you have been through when you write, I think. Most of the time.

Why do you think it’s important to write about things that have happened in history?

So that we are well informed about the past, meaning we can deal better with the future. There are lots of misconceptions about history and I think it is our duty to understand it properly and be respectful to those involved – and their memory.

Are there any other historical periods you would like to write about?

The Iron Age, in particular Queen Cartimandua.

Which of your books are you most passionate about and why?

After the War. Because I met some of the Holocaust survivors it is about and they told me they wanted me to write about their story because – to be quite honest – as they were very old, they would be dead soon and the story needed to be told when they were gone.

How long does it usually take you to write a story?

Football books = 2 months. History books 6 to 9 months.

Do you have any unfinished writing projects?

Yes. They are ones that didn’t work out.

What do you do if you are struggling for ideas?

Make a scrap book of images and ideas. Do lots of plans. Play with different ideas and juxtapose them until I find the right idea for me.

If you weren’t an author, what would you like to be instead?

An explorer.

Which children’s book characters would you like to go on a socially distanced picnic with?

The Cat in the Hat. That’d be a good laugh.

About Tom Palmer Tom is the multi award winning author of over fifty children’s books including three Puffin football series, Football Academy, Foul Play and The Squad, and 15 books for Barrington Stoke.

Huge thanks to Tom Palmer for answering our questions and to his publisher, Barrington Stoke, for arranging it for us.