The Carved Box by Gillian ChanThe Carved Box by Gillian Chan

The Carved Box

byGillian Chan

Paperback | August 1, 2001

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Fifteen-year-old Callum Murdoch knows he's a fool. He's just arrived from Scotland, and he's already handed over his money to a total stranger. And for what? A filthy, half-starved dog and a carved box that he's been warned never to open. Now he'll have to explain his impulsive action to Uncle Rory, the only relative willing to give him a home.

Callum is unprepared for the grinding physical labor of farm work. His only source of comfort is Dog. She seems to know all his secret wishes and fears. With Dog by his side, Callum gains the courage to face life in the New World. But when the mysterious carved box is accidentally broken open, Callum is faced with astonishing revelations — and difficult decisions.
Gillian Chan is the author of Glory Days, Golden Girl and The Carved Box. She lives in Dundas, Ontario.

interview with the author

Birth place?
I was born in Cleethorpes, a very small and dull seaside town in the east of England.

I was born on the 29th of March, which makes me an Aries, but a very atypical Aries if you believe that stuff. As to the year, I was born in the Chinese year of the horse.

Where do you live now?
I live in Dundas, Ontario.

When did you start writing?
I've always written, ever since I could produce something legible and coherent. The crucial thing is probably when did I start to show my writing to others and that would be in 1990.

Do you have a favourite book?
My favourite book: Adult -- Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; Children's -- Nina Bawden's The Peppermint Pig.

Do you have any pets?
We have no actual pets, but there are some odd ones around the house. I'm allergic to cats and have to make do with a life-sized china one who answers to the name of Snowy. To keep her company, we got a china puppy, also life-sized, who is known as Dave the dog. They sit in my bay window and bask in the afternoon sun.

What are your hobbies?
Reading is a biggie, as you might expect. I also love to bake. Ashamed though I am to admit it, I'm addicted to computer games.

What was your schooling or training?
By training, I am a high school English teacher.

How did you become involved with children's books?
I missed out on reading children's books when I was a child. I was a very precocious reader and quickly moved on to adult books, round about the age of nine or ten. I started reading them again when I was training to be a teacher and never stopped. In my last job, I was the librarian in a high school and the myth was that Mrs. Chan had read every single book in the library. I had read most of the fiction, but not all -- I just read blurbs well! This also inspired me to have a go at writing myself.

Do you have any tips for young creators?
My tip for young creators would be, in the words of a famous commercial, ""just do it!"" The more you write, the more you learn. It doesn't matter if you scrap what you write; you will have learned something by creating it. Several authors had their first books published when they were really young -- Gordon Korman, Ken Oppel and S. E. Hinton, to name a few -- so if you are a good writer, age shouldn't be a barrier.

What do you like most about creating kids' books?
I like the way that writing children's books or YA novels gives me the opportunity to push boundaries, to explore things from different perspectives. For example, my next book is both a straight historical novel and also a fantasy.

Where do you work?
I work in an office in the basement of my house. It is fairly idiosyncratically decorated. The walls are grey, and the furniture is black and businesslike, but I have a huge pink parrot made of papier mache who hangs from the ceiling on a wrought-iron perch. In one corner of the room is a circle of miniature chairs, containing teddy bears.

How do you research or create your stories?
I research everything very thoroughly. This can mean reading a lot of non-fiction, newspapers and archival documents. I also talk to people a lot. When creating characters, I write their biographies and this means that I sometimes write more in a biography than I do in the story in which they appear.

Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from the oddest places: dreams, songs, things I see on TV or hear on the radio. People often inspire me. ""The Courtship of Rudy"" in Golden Girl was based on a boy I once taught who was over six feet tall by the time he was 13.

What's your favourite childhood memory?
That's a toughie. I had a really good time as a kid, so it's hard to choose. Probably, it would be the time a friend and I built this really complicated den in some bushes at the end of her garden when we were about eight. We spent most of one summer playing there. Our mothers even used to pack us lunches to take there, so we didn't even need to come home until tea time.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, it depended on what I was reading to a large extent. There was always being a writer in the background, though. Apparently, I announced I was going to do that when I was five. It changed constantly. I read a book about Archibald McIndoe, the Canadian plastic surgeon who worked on the burned fighter pilots of WW II, so I immediately wanted to be a doctor, never mind the fact that I can't stand the sight of blood. I read Noel Streatfield's books, so I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I was going to dye my hair black and change my name so it sounded Russian, because I thought that's what ballet dancers were like. For a long time, I wanted to be an archaeologist, specializing in Scandinavian history (I still have a thing for Vikings). Then, when I was about 16, I settled on being an English teacher and that's what I eventually did.

What's the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
While I was a student, I was very hard up for cash so I had some very odd jobs. One job was working in a store that sold only tartan clothes. Maybe that's why my new book has a Scottish theme!

Do you have any special secrets or insights into any of your books or characters?
Special secrets? Only one and that is that as I write, the characters really come to life for me, so much so that if I look up quickly, I see them! Is that weird or what?

Title:The Carved BoxFormat:PaperbackDimensions:232 pages, 8 × 5 × 1 inPublished:August 1, 2001Publisher:Kids Can PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553370163

ISBN - 13:9781553370161

Appropriate for ages: 9 - 12


Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great read! Once I started reading The Carved Box, I couldn't put it down. I was intrigued with how the mystery sequence in the beginning would play out, and I was very satisfied with how it did. I love all the historial details in this novel and also the realistic character of Callum. My favourite part of this novel, though, is Dog. I want a dog like Dog! Chan developed the character of Dog so brilliantly that I could almost reach out and pat him. Bravo!
Date published: 2002-05-07

From the Author

"As I write, the characters really come to life for me, so much so that if I look up quickly, I see them!"

Editorial Reviews

[Gillian Chan has created herself a tough challenge for a first novel and has well earned her stripes to write another.