Bottle of Light was published by Scholastic Canada in 2008 as part of their Grade 5 Guided Reading series. It isn't available for general sale, since Scholastic wants readers to encounter it for the first time with a teacher there to help them read it, but I hope that I'll be able to share it with you some day.
In November 2014, this comment was left on this site:
Good Morning Mr. Wilson,
We have read your "Bottle of Light" for several years in our Elementary School during our reading program and all the children I have had........Love it!!Besides the wonderful reading aspect, there are so many avenues for activities that I can take the children to with your book.
My most recent group has just finished the book (which we read in the dark, in our gym storage room with flashlights!) and they have so many questions!
We are hoping that you will be able to answer a few of them for us.
As our windup activity,we discussed all the above questions and have come up with our own predictions, but are super interested in your thoughts!
Thank you in advance for your time and your wonderful book! The students and I have had a blast with it!
To which I replied:
Thank you very much for your mail (and please call me "Greg"). It's always a pleasure to hear from readers, particularly ones who like the book enough to read it by flashlight. (If there's any way I could get a picture of your class reading like that, I'd be very grateful - it never occurred to me that people would do that, and I think it's wonderful that you do.)
To answer your questions:
Yes, I imagine there was absolute panic when the light came back. Imagine what it would be like in our world if people could suddenly read minds or see through walls - it must have felt like that to the villagers.
I don't know if the villagers will believe everything Zumu says or not - at least not right away - but I think that showing up with a bunch of robots marching along behind him will be pretty convincing I also think that when the villagers follow him to the observatory, and see what's left of the storage tanks, and Mr. Fing standing there with his head open, they'll be more inclined to listen as well.
I don't think the villagers will have to start *all* of their learning over - after all, two plus two is still four - but I think a great many things will change. At the very least, I think they'll start writing with ink instead of poking Braille into leaves. And do the children in your class ever play catch with a ball? I don't think anyone in the village will ever have done that, because how can you in the dark? I wonder how long it will take them to rediscover it...
The first version of the story didn't end with Zumu walking down the hill from the observatory. Instead, it ended with him showing up at the village with the robots behind him. And yes, the villagers are scared - these aren't just the first robots they've seen, they're the first *strangers* they've seen, ever, of any kind. But I hope that they will get over their fear and realize that the robots can be their friends.
I wrote this book because I'm very clumsy. Everyone else in my family makes things - they build houses and cabinets, make jewellery, knit, sew, and do all sorts of other things - but I can't be trusted to pick up a saw by the right end, and if there's a nail to be stepped on, I'll step on it. So when I wanted to make something to give to my niece and nephews, my choices were a story or a song, and I can't sing. Plus, I've always loved reading stories, and once I had a picture in my head of a little boy with a bottle full of light, the rest just came to me...
Before I answer your question, may I ask: what messages did *you* find in the book? I'm pretty sure there will be some that I didn't realize were there...
I tried writing a sequel several years ago about Zumu's little brother Iji, and about what it would be like to grow up as the younger brother of the boy who saved the world, but I never finished it. Instead, I wrote a book called "Still". I'd be happy to send a copy to Mrs. Woelfing so that she can read it and decide if it's appropriate for your class or not.
Thank you again for your mail - it was a real pleasure to get it, and I hope you never, ever stop reading stories.
In May 2016, I received this email:
My class of Grade 5 students have just finished reading Bottle of Light. We wanted to e-mail you and let you know that you MUST write a sequel. You have left us wanting more and with many questions.
We have the idea that the sequel should focus on Zumu's brother and how he is growing up with light. There could even be a re-birth of 20717 and the crow. If you would like any other ideas we would love to share our thoughts with you. Right now, my class is surrounding me by the computer as I am typing yelling out ideas that you must write about.