Voake, Steve 1961–
Voake, Steve 1961–
Born 1961, in Somerset, England; married; wife's name Tory; children: Tim, Daisy. Education: Degree (philosophy). Hobbies and other interests: Playing guitar.
Home—Coleford, Somerset, England. Agent—Ed Jaspers, Conville & Walsh, 2 Ganton St., London 71F 7QL, England.
Educator and novelist. Primary-school teacher; Kilmersdon Primary School, Kilmersdon, Somerset, England, head teacher, 1997-2005; full-time writer, 2005—.
Award for Best Comedy Performance, Bath Drama Festival.
The Dreamwalker's Child, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2005, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.
The Web of Fire, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2006, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2007.
The Starlight Conspiracy, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2007.
Daisy Dawson, Walker Books (London, England), 2007, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 2008.
Author's works have been published in German, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Russian.
A walk in the countryside near his home in Somerset, England, provided Steve Voake with the inspiration for his first children's book. More specifically, the inspiration came from the annoying and continual attention paid Voake by a pesky horse fly. "It was quite an ugly fly, and I kept flicking it away but it kept coming back," the former primary-school headmaster explained to Bookseller interviewer Benedicte Page. "It turned out that it was … trying to bite me. So then I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be interesting if there was a little pilot inside trying to fly it?’ And at that point I thought it would be a really nice idea for a children's story." Written over eighteen months with the encouragement of his wife, Tory—Voake did his writing during the wee hours of the morning, prior to leaving for work, so he could reserve evenings for his family—The Dreamwalker's Child was the result of that afternoon ramble. The novel has proved so popular that it has spawned a sequel and also attracted the interest of several filmmakers.
Geared for a pre-teen readership, The Dreamwalker's Child introduces shy, insect-loving Sam Palmer. Hit by a car and seriously injured while riding his bicycle in the countryside, the boy is transported to a hospital where he remains in a coma. In his mind, however, Sam is somehow transported to Aurobon, a magical world in a parallel universe that is ruled by giant insects the size of small aircraft. The ecology of this Earth-like world is currently being threatened by humans, and the insects are divided: western wasps work to preserve the ecosystem while eastern mosquitoes and horse flies, led by the evil Odoursin, hope to exterminate Man by introducing a lethal virus via the mosquito's sting. In an effort to save humankind, Sam teams up with a sassy girl named Skipper, who is an ace wasp pilot. Keeping one step ahead of Odoursin's henchmen, the Vernians, who have been ordered to seek him out, the boy ultimately leads the battle between these two insect armies, a battle that must be won if Sam is to return home.
Critics were quick to note Voake's environmental message, as well as his ability to connect with his intended readership in The Dreamwalker's Child. As Nicolette Jones remarked in her review of the fiction debut for the London Sunday Times, the former teacher's "inventive adventure has a neatly constructed plot and brave, funny … protagonists" in Sam and Skipper. Jones went on to praise Voake's "intelligent" storyline, dubbing the novel "a tale to remember." Jones's conclusion was shared by a Kirkus Reviews writer, who called The Dreamwalker's Child "an immensely enjoyable read," while in School Library Journal Michele Capozzella called the novel "a riveting adventure" with a fast pace that would attract even reluctant boy readers.
Sam returns to Aurobon in The Web of Fire, which takes place four years after the action in The Dreamwalker's Child. Now a teen, Sam finds the strange world much altered. In the degraded landscape the Vernians have taken control, leaving the wasp armies an embattled resistance. Sam quickly rejoins Skipper and together the two attempt to wages a battle for survival that will not only save their own lives, but the lives of everyone on
the earth. Odoursin, readers learn, has reemerged and is up to his old evil tricks: with a more powerful army at his command, he intends to launch a new army of flies in a plague on Earth with the goal of ultimate destruction. While noting that readers should begin the series with The Dreamwalker's Child, Diana Tixier Herald wrote that fans of science fiction and spy stories will enjoy the "fast-moving, intriguing plot" that continues Voake's enjoyable saga.
In an interview with The Wee Web online, Voake gave the following advice to young writers: "Keep at it—it is a wonderful thing to write for enjoyment. If you want to develop your writing, keep a diary and record your thoughts, feelings, and descriptions of things you have seen and experienced. Not only will it help you to develop your own style, but it will be fascinating to look back on in years to come!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 2007, Diana Tixier Herald, review of The Web of Fire, p. 106.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 2006, April Spisak, review of The Dreamwalker's Child, p. 427.
Bookseller, November 19, 2004, Benedicte Page, "Creating a Buzz," p. 27.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2006, review of The Dreamwalker's Child, p. 302.
School Library Journal, August, 2006, Michele Capozzella, review of The Dreamwalker's Child, p. 131.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Stacy Dillon, review of The Dreamwalker's Child, p. 66.
Sunday Times (London, England), January 16, 2005, Nicolette Jones, review of The Dreamwalker's Child, p. 46.
BookBrowse,http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (April 15, 2007), "Steve Voake."
Steve Voake Home Page,http://www.stevevoake.co.uk/ (April 15, 2007).
Wee Web Online,http://www.theweeweb.co.uk/ (November 10, 2003), interview with Voake.