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Richardson, V.A. (Ben Bo)

Richardson, V.A. (Ben Bo)

PERSONAL:

Born in England; married; wife's name Janie; children: Indigo, Zara. Education: Attended Reading University and University of Caen (France).

ADDRESSES:

Home—England.

CAREER:

Children's book author. Formerly worked as a designer of novelties, diaries, and calendars for British publishers.

WRITINGS:

FOR CHILDREN

The House of Windjammer, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Moneylender's Daughter, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.

The Street of Knives, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2008.

SERIES FICTION FOR CHILDREN; UNDER PSEUDONYM BEN BO

The Edge ("Xtreme" series), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1998.

Skullcrack ("Xtreme" series), Bloomsbury (London, England), 1999.

Burnout ("Xtreme" series), Bloomsbury (London, England), 2000.

Snow Blind ("High Impact" series), illustrated by Mike Perkins, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 2001.

Thunder Bay ("High Impact" series), Heinemann (Oxford, England), 2002.

Flood Warning (play; "High Impact" series), illustrated by Mike White, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

V.A. Richardson is a British writer who began his career writing series fiction for middle-grade readers under the pseudonym Ben Bo. With his 2003 novel The House of Windjammer, as well as its sequels, Richardson introduces readers to the Dutch House of Windjammer, a family dynasty whose fortunes were made during a tumultuous era in European history.

Set in seventeenth-century Holland, The House of Windjammer brings to life the richness and tumult of an era when shipping is opening Europe up to the richness of exotic lands, and the Enlightenment is ushering in an intellectual life enriched by scientific discovery and new ways of thinking. In Amsterdam, where the Windjammer family resides, tulips are all the rage, and the rarest varieties are as costly as jewels. The novel opens in the 1630s, as several deaths leave fifteen-year-old Adam at the helm of the merchant family. As Hugo van Helsen, an avaricious banker, attempts to crush the family financially, Adam begins a friendship with the man's daughter, Jade. With Jade's help, he manages to keep the family solvent, even in the face of huge shipping losses caused by an ill-fated trip to the Americas. Noting that The House of Windjammer spins out its story in the tradition of Charles Dickens—"lengthy and filled with exciting details"—Kliatt contributor Claire Rosser added that Richardson's novel is enriched by interesting characters, including a teen attempting "to retain his honor and protect his mother and sisters." In Booklist, Ilene Cooper cited Richardson's story for its "evocative background" and added that the book's "interesting stew of personalities and events rises above the stereotypical." According to Connie Tyrrell Burns in School Library Journal, The House of Windjammer "weaves together a dark secret, a rare treasure, treachery, murder, and even a hint of romance into a fascinating, well-researched story."

The "Windjammer" series continues in The Moneylender's Daughter, which finds Adam on his way to Cape Fear aboard the Draco when his ship is attacked by a Spanish galleon. Although the teen survives, the uncle who has helped him run the family does not, leaving Adam to continue the battle for the family's survival on his own. Fortunately, he still has an ally in Jade, who is juggling her efforts with avoiding an arranged marriage that will preserve a good relationship with her banker father. "Fans of [The House of Windjammer] … who climb aboard here will be treated to another taste of the unusual setting," concluded Booklist contributor Cindy Dobrez, while in School Library Journal Denise Moore praised The Moneylender's Daughter as "an appealing read for all who enjoy mystery and adventure." In the third installment in the Windjammer family saga, The Street of Knives, the relationship between Adam and Jade has matured and things are getting more serious. However, their demanding family and business responsibilities are also pulling them apart and a somewhat questionable business deal threatens to sink the friendship altogether.

"Much of my early life was spent roaming the woods and river banks," Richardson recalled on his home page in explaining the interest in history that inspired his "Windjammer" novels. "I had so much freedom and time to think—I have my parents and a safer world to thank for that. One of my favourite places was the Roman Wall. We used to go up to the Roman Fort of Housesteads during the holidays and my imagination used to run wild with the ghosts of lost legions. I'm sure my interest in history came from growing up surrounded by it."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2001, review of The Edge, p. 1383; May 15, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 1666; June 1, 2006, Cindy Dobrez, review of The Moneylender's Daughter, p. 72.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2003, Elizabeth Bush, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 29.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2003, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 913; July 1, 2006, review of The Moneylender's Daughter, p. 681.

Kliatt, May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, July 14, 2003, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 77.

School Librarian, autumn, 1998, review of The Edge, p. 156; winter, 1999, review of Skullcrack, p. 209; winter, 2000, review of Burnout, p. 211.

School Library Journal, September, 2003, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 219; September, 2006, Denise Moore, review of The Moneylender's Daughter, p. 217.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 2003, review of The House of Windjammer, p. 318.

ONLINE

Bloomsbury Web site,http://www.bloomsbury.com (June 10, 2008), "V.A. Richardson."

V.A. Richardson Home Page,http://www.houseofwindjammer.com (June 10, 2008).

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