Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Great and the Small by A.T. Balsara

The Great and The Small
A.T. Balsara

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Date of Publication: October 31, 2017

ASIN: B07543NL6H

Number of pages: 292 pages

Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila of Move tothe Write

Book Description:

Deep below the market, in the dark tunnels no human knows exist, a war has begun. Lead by the charismatic Beloved Chairman, a colony of rats plots to exterminate the ugly two-legs who have tortured them in labs, crushed them with boots, and looked at them with disgust for as long as anyone can remember.

When the Chairman’s nephew is injured and a young two-leg nurses him back to health, however, doubt about the war creeps in. Now the colony is split—obey the Chairman and infect the two-legs with the ancient sickness passed down from the Old Ones, or do the unthinkable...


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from The Great and the Small: The

loud crash boomed from the fish stalls, making them both jump.
huge man wearing rubber boots and a plastic apron came charging down the aisle.
“You filthy piece of… I’m gonna get you!” He was focused on something on the
ground and didn’t seem to notice that he was charging straight at them.
father braced himself, toothpick though he was, in front of her. But the
fishmonger barrelled past, following a streak of white and grey. A mouse! The
man raised his boot, slammed it down on the mouse.
gasped. So did others in the crowd. The mouse squirmed in pain, its back paw
crushed. A dark splotch of blood bloomed on the pavement. 
man lifted his boot again.
seemed to slow down for Ananda. “Stop!” she roared. She pushed by her dad and
jumped between the man and the mouse. Blood pounded in her ears and her heart
thrummed. She held up her hands to block him and shouted, “Leave it the Hell
man stumbled backward, tripping over his own enormous boot. He pulled himself
up to his full height and glowered down at her. His face was as red as boiled
lobster, and a sheen of sweat glistened on his fat upper lip and quivering
jowls. He sneered. 
your problem, you stupid kid?” he snarled.
was too pumped with adrenaline to be cowed by this mastodon. She rose to her
full five-foot-one-inch height and glared up at the giant. “I’m not the
troublemaker here, you bloody, murderous jerk! What gives you the right to hurt
an innocent animal?” 
you crazy?” the guy sputtered.
wanted to sink her fist into his fat ham of a face. “No, you’re crazy! Torturing an innocent mouse who hasn’t done you any
harm—ouch!” She was suddenly yanked to one side.
skinny father, with his thick glasses and mop of dark brown hair, stepped
forward, putting himself between her and the fish-selling Goliath. Tom pushed
his glasses up his nose. “Let’s all just calm down…”
Fish-Guy began ranting, waving his meaty hands, drops of sweat flying off him
like a dog shaking itself after a dip in the pond. Tom’s voice began to rise.
her dad to it, Ananda swooped around and crouched on the ground before the
mouse. It was white with grey markings. It looked like it had a little cape. It
was still moving, its long, pink tail flickering like a groggy snake.
on, little guy,” whispered Ananda. “You’ve got to get up now.”
small creature seemed to know it had been given a reprieve. It picked itself
up, slowly peeled its crushed
paw from the pavement, gave itself a small shake, and lolloped
away, holding its crushed paw to its belly. It made it past the gargoyle
statue. It had just leaped onto the column when Fish-Guy caught sight of it. He
swore and lumbered after it.
it alone!” screamed Ananda. She went to run
after him but was stopped by an iron grip on her arm. “Stop him, somebody!” she
now, the entire market had stopped to gawk. The mouse was halfway up the
column. Cursing, Fish-Guy hopped on one foot and ripped off a boot. He threw
it. The boot bounced off the column.
mouse kept climbing.
threw the other boot. Missed!  
cheered as the mouse slid over the rooftop. “Yes! The mouse got away!” She
jumped up and down, clapping, and swung around. Dozens of people were staring,
jaws flapped open. She froze. In the crowd she saw one of the guys from her
school. He looked like Ed the Hyena from The
Lion King
. His
mouth was in perma-sneer mode, and his head thrust forward on his neck like
someone was leading him by his pimply nostrils. He shook his head at her.
“Loser,” he mouthed, and laughed. She’d seen his type a million times. A coward
until he smelled blood. There was no way he was going to bully her.
prickling sweat had broken out all over her body, Ananda thrust out her chin.
She smiled—a bright, fake mask. “Good!” she called to the crowd. “The mouse is
safe. All’s well that ends well, right?” She curled her mouth into a sarcastic grin and stared down the hyena.

About the Author:


Interview with A.T. Balsara 

 Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
It depends on the story. For my newest book, the young adult novel The Great & the Small, the seed of the story was planted a long time ago. I had gone through a concentration camp museum in Dachau when I was 10, and from that time on, the biggest question in my life was how does such evil happen. The Great & the Small is my attempt, as a writer and as a human being, to work through that question. Not all my books have such tumultuous beginnings. My picture book series, Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, about a little green-bearded guinea pig pirate, was inspired by my two guinea pigs, Piggie and Petunia. They would gobble down lettuce so fast that their little beards streamed with green juice. 

 How did you do research for your book?
I had to do a lot of research for The Great & the Small, as it is about a totalitarian regime in a rat colony that has sworn to destroy humanity using the bubonic plague. I read about Stalin, about the “Great Mortality” of the 1300’s, and lots of books about rats. I also went to the famous farmer’s market (which shall remain nameless so I don’t get sued!) where The Great & the Small is set and took lots of photos. I must have looked a little eccentric, because as the tourists were snapping photos of the sights, I was taking photos of the fish guts under the stalls. I was looking for anything that would be a rat’s-eye view of the world to use for reference photos, as I was going to illustrate the book. The best part of my research, though, was getting my little rattie. Frodo was my guide in my quest in writing this story. And yes, I am a Lord of the Rings nerd.

 Do you have another profession besides writing?
I am lucky in that my husband supports what I do. If I were on my own I would definitely need a “day job” as writing is a tough way to make a living. For many years, I was a stay-at-home mom and juggled writing and illustrating when I found time. Now I have more time to write/illustrate, but I also take care of the garden, the house, the animals (two cats and two dogs) and my hives of honey bees.

 If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I am fascinated by history, but I wouldn’t want to live in any other time than right now. Women were treated terribly for 99% of human history, and in many parts of the world they still are. People of colour were treated as slaves and are still treated as second-class, but more and more people are waking up to the fact that we are one human family. Even though things seem to be such a mess, and the environment is at a tipping point, I truly believe that humanity will eventually realize that we are one people. As humans, we are often not open to change until we have to change. At this point in our collective life, we have to change now, and work together, or we won’t survive. As difficult as it is to see the level of suffering in the world, I believe we will come through this as a peaceful, unified, global society. So I’m grateful to be living right here and now.

 What is your next project?
I have a picture book called The Nightingale’s Song which I am writing and illustrating which shares the message of unity in diversity, and am finishing up the illustrations for that. I’m also the illustrator for the picture book series, Happy the Pocket Mouse, and will be starting Book 5 in December. I have another book project which I am excited about—I’m starting research on a book about modern-day slavery in India, told from the perspective of a child. I had taken an online course last year on modern-day slavery through the University of Nottingham and Future Learn, and it boggled my mind how many slaves there still are in the world. Things are better now than they’ve ever been, in terms of human rights, but there’s still a long way to go.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the interesting interview with A.T. Balsara.

    Common Deer Press