How I Saved The World in a Week by Polly Ho-Yen

The summer holidays are fast approaching (some have already begun!) and so I’d like to spend a little time over the coming days with a few recommended reads that I’ve either read and loved, or books that are firmly on my own reading pile. Today I’d like to kick off with what looks to be a brilliant middle-grade adventure by Polly Ho-Yen, author of the critically acclaimed Boy In The Tower (which was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Boom Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award.)

Her latest novel, How I Saved The World in a Week is published TODAY (8th July 2021) and I’m delighted to welcome Polly to Tales Before Bedtime to tell us a little bit about what inspired her to write it. Over to Polly…

Why I had to write ‘How I Saved the World in a Week’

My husband had the original idea for ‘How I Saved the World in a Week’. I was telling him that I was ready to start something new and he said that he thought that there might be something in a kid who has a treasured survival guide and from it, learns many survival skills. Then, something world-changing happens so that everything he has learnt suddenly comes to use.

I loved this idea so much that I instantly started sketching out a loose plot on paper. I like to doodle and scribble away when I plan initial ideas. I let anything that comes to me fall on the page – however small, silly, bizarre or safe – and look for a story shape and characters that interest me.

Long before Covid was part of our daily vocabulary, I thought that an imaginary virus would drive the plot of this story. The virus in my book is very different to the virus that we’ve been experiencing in the last couple of strange, scary years and as the title of this book – ‘How I Saved the World in a Week’ – suggests, is containable.

But before I had worked out these details, Billy, the main character in ‘How I Saved the World in a Week’, came to me first. I knew this story would belong to. Around him quickly fell his family, his friends. This was as much a story about his family than the world- changing events that happen.

For me, this is often when a story truly begins. It’s when I think about the characters
inhabiting the story. People who are going to change, people who need to change, people who might not want to or feel like they can change but, in this story, are going to get their chance.

I can’t let go of stories once I’ve found its characters. I have to write it or it won’t leave me alone. This is what happened for ‘How I Saved the World in a Week’. And as we’ve held our own family and friends in our hearts during this pandemic, the power of connection that Billy finds with those close to him in this story is, I feel, worth sharing.

Polly used to be a primary school teacher in London and while she was teaching there she used to get up very early in the morning to write stories. The first of those stories is BOY IN THE TOWER.
Her books have been shortlisted for, among others awards, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award.

She’s still writing stories and though she doesn’t teach now, she still visit schools … only now they’re all over the country. She lives in Bristol with her husband and daughter.

Thank you so much Polly, this sounds and looks a wonderful story!

It is classed as middle-grade and the content should be suitable for readers aged 8 and above – I have no doubt that the story can be enjoyed by any ‘older’ readers too and I’m really looking forward to getting to know Billy (and perhaps learning a thing or two along the way).


How I Saved The World in a Week

Billy’s mum isn’t like other mums. He has to call her Sylvia and she spends all their time together teaching him The Rules of Survival – how to make a fire, build shelter and find food. Sylvia is always testing Billy, making sure he knows the Rules, until one day the test goes too far… While Sylvia is getting better, Billy has to live with the dad he’s barely met.

Billy misses his mum and keeps practicing the Rules, but he also learns new things, like how it feels to make a friend and be part of a different type of family.

And then the world changes forever.

People are turning into zombie-like creatures with grey skin, and as chaos breaks out and Billy and his family flee Bristol, their journey is the ultimate test of survival, and Billy’s going to need all he’s learned about survival – and the Greys – to get through it.

How I Saved the World in a Week is the brilliantly imagined new adventure from the author of the acclaimed Boy in the Tower. This highly anticipated new middle grade novel, from gifted storyteller Polly Ho_yen, is a story of resilience, family and hope.

How I Saved The World in a Week by Polly Ho-Yen is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now in paperback, on ebook and on Audiobook.

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