Tony Bradman’s ‘Viking Boy’ is used in classrooms across the country when it’s time to learn about the intrepid Vikings. I am sure teachers will be delighted to learn that there’s now an official non-fiction guide written to help readers explore Gunnar’s world! Make sure you read Tony Bradman’s piece about what inspired him to write this helpful tome.
Take a real-life tour of the everyday world of Gunnar, a teenage Viking boy: find out how the Vikings lived, what they believed, how they travelled and fought, and gained their legendary reputation as warriors. Gunnar tells us the real story of growing up as a Viking in an exciting first-hand account, introducing us to family and friends, famous warriors, sea-raiders and even a Norse god!
Packed with historical facts, figures and anecdotes, with illustrated information panels on topics from Viking poetry to battle and bloodlust, this is a brilliant new read for Viking fanatics, both at home and in the classroom.
‘Hobbits and Vikings – How I Came to Write Viking Boy: The Real Story’ by Tony Bradman.
My novel Viking Boy was published in 2012, and soon proved to be very popular. In fact, my tale of young Gunnar’s quest for vengeance against Skuli, the evil Viking who killed his father and burned down his home, has turned out to be one of my most successful books, which has been a lovely surprise. It’s been especially popular in primary schools, where it’s often used as a class reader when Years 4, 5 or 6 study the Vikings, which is part of the primary history curriculum.
Over the last few years, many schools have therefore got in touch with me, usually via Twitter or Facebook, to show me children’s work based on the book, or to ask me questions about the story, the characters, or the Vikings in general.
I became interested in the Vikings myself when I was at primary school (a very long time ago!); my teacher MrSmith read our class The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I was so gripped by the story that from then on I became an obsessive reader. As I discovered later, Tolkien was for many years a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, and his fiction was imbued with the myths and legends of northern Europe, including those of the Vikings. So it’s no wonder I was drawn to finding out more about them.
Viking Boy was commissioned by my publishers Walker Books, and although it’s always nice to be asked to write something, one of the biggest attractions of the project was that it gave me the chance to do even more reading and research about my favourite subject. There followed a lot of book-buying, and some exciting trips to Scandinavia – I visited two brilliant Viking ship museums, one near Oslo in Norway and another at Roskilde in Denmark, where I sailed up the fjord in a reconstructed Viking boat. There’s nothing like a bit of hands-on research experience!
The success of Viking Boy led to Walker asking me to write another book, this time about the Anglo-Saxons, which was published in 2017. Anglo-Saxon Boy is the story of 1066 told by Magnus, youngest son of Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. It was fun to research and write, and it did well too – it won a Historical Association Young Quills Award in 2018 and has also been very successful in schools. The Anglo-Saxons are also part of the primary history curriculum.
So I suggested the idea of a non-fiction book about the Vikings. I thought it would make a good companion volume to Viking Boy, and would be an excellent way to use all the stuff I’d learned about the Vikings over the years. My publishers then came up with a really good idea: one of the editors suggested that Gunnar, the hero of Viking Boy, should be the narrator of the new book. It was reading historical fiction after my encounter with The Hobbit (my favourites were the books of Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff) that got me interested in history itself. So in many ways Viking Boy: The Real Story is designed to make that journey even easier.
I’ve done lots of school visits and Zoom calls, so I know teachers are brilliant at coming up with creative ways to help children learn about the Vikings, and I have a feeling they’ll find Viking Boy: The Real Story a useful extra resource. When I was planning and writing Viking Boy: The Real Story, I thought carefully about all the things I’d wanted to know about the Vikings when I first became interested in them: where they came from, what they believed and did, what they looked like. I’ve always been fascinated by their courage and optimism – they were intrepid explorers and very practical, both women and men. Of course, they were amazing warriors, but they were storytellers and poets too, and there’s also a darkness to their religion and myths that is very compelling.
Walker Books has done a great job with the design, and the book is full of wonderful illustrations by Thomas Sperling. It’s been one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on – and I hope readers will enjoy it too!
Tony Bradman, 2022
Bradman’s passion for the subject shines through in this lively, fact-filled guide to life in Viking times.
I loved the distinctive narrative voice of Gunnar and really did feel that he was giving me a personal guided tour of his home. I can imagine that children will feel exactly the same and begin picturing themselves as a mighty Viking warrior.
It is packed with exactly the kind of details aspiring marauders will eagerly gobble up: gods, monsters, warriors, and plunder. This, plus a generous dose of illustrations, is sure to make it a hit with readers.
*Many thanks to Walker Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*