We are moving!

The Christchurch Kids Blog content will be moving to our new Christchurch City Libraries website.  We won’t be using this blog any more but you will still be able to read our posts about children’s books, authors and writing on our new website.  You will also still be able to have your say and let us know what you think.

If there is anything that you would really like to see on our new website for kids please post a comment and let us know.

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We Are Moving!

The Christchurch Kids Blog content will be moving to our new Christchurch City Libraries website.  We won’t be using this blog any more but you will still be able to read our posts about children’s books, authors and writing on our new website.  You will also still be able to have your say and let us know what you think.

If there is anything that you would really like to see on our new website for kids please post a comment and let us know.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How is The Volume of Possible Endings different from the first two Tales?

This third Tale of Fontania is another stand-alone novel. Some of the characters from the first two come back into it. But the main character, Dorrity, is new. So is the other important character, Metalboy. I like to have new main characters each time because that means there is an interesting (I hope) new story to be told even though it is set in the same fantasy world.

This time, there is another difference too. In The Travelling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy the characters left home and went on an adventure. With this third one, I wanted to explore the place the novel started. It’s set mostly in Owl Town on the edges of the Beastly Dark, a great forest in the south-west of Fontania. It seems a fairly ordinary place at first, where life always goes on in the same sort of way. But there is only one child in the whole town. That’s odd. And there is a lot more going on than the child, Dorrity, realises. I wanted to find out what lived in the Beastly Dark.

I also wanted to figure out what King Jasper might have invented next. In The Queen and the Nobody Boy, he has only recently invented message birds. But that is five years before the story of Dorrity and Metalboy. What would Jasper have invented by now?

Though I’d had great fun writing the travel adventure stories of the first two novels, this time it was a change to ‘stay put’ and make the story a different sort of adventure that happens exploring pretty much one place.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How cool are maps?

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for the Tales of Fontania.

What are the best things about Sam? He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds in his own little details.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s pretty disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How things happen to surprise you when you’re writing

At the back of The Volume of Possible Endings you’ll find the Anarchists’ Marching Song – words and music.  Anarchists are people who don’t believe in having rules, so the very idea of them marching in step is kind’a ridiculous. But these particular anarchists are rather ridiculous. They’re the guys on the motorbikes on the cover.

I didn’t set out to give them a song, but when I was rewriting the novel I thought – hmm, people camping out in the wild often sing around their camp fire in the evenings. So I could give the anarchists a guitar or a piano accordion just for some extra detail. I also find it very funny when people yawn so loudly that it sounds like shouting and gives you a fright. So I put those ideas together. Now, in the finished novel, the anarchists start yawning and it turns into their marching song.

By the time I’d written the words for the song, a tune had come into my head. I can’t write down music but I sang it into the recording programme on my laptop and emailed it to Jane Arthur, the very clever Assistant Publisher at Gecko Press.  She was able to write the tune down. She even, very nicely, said my singing was all right. But I know she was fibbing.

If you happen to be a musician you’ll be able to play the Anarchists’ Marching Song for yourself. If you want to try singing, it will help if you have a very deep gruff voice.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – How much research do you do when you’re writing a fantasy story?

Really annoying answer: it depends.

Sometimes you need the exact facts about something in your story. Like, if you want to set a story in the real Paris or an imaginary version of it, you might need to know the name of the river that flows through it (the Loire), what the French call their money (the lire) and those sorts of practical details. It never hurts to check facts or tiny details. For example, I did some research about ocean currents when I was writing The Travelling Restaurant. After all, I figured that sort of thing would be true whether it was the real world or a fantasy.

Other times, doing some research can help your fantasy ideas get bigger and better. When I was writing The Queen and the Nobody Boy I wanted an unusual flying vehicle so I looked on the internet for the history of air travel. I learned that one early inventor thought that a plane would never be able to get off the ground so he imagined it being attached to a tower. People would climb up the tower into the plane, then the engines would start and off they’d go. I used that information as a basis for the wind-train that Hodie and Sibilla use to escape the Um’Binnians (except it gets them into more trouble).  For The Volume of Possible Endings I wanted to have the first submarine built in Fontania. So I looked up the history of submarines and found heaps of fascinating stuff that happened in our own real world.  For instance, centuries ago someone invented a submarine that used oars – underwater!  It wasn’t a great triumph.

The not-so-annoying answer to today’s question is: no matter what you’re writing, it doesn’t hurt to find out what is possible and use the facts however you like to help your own story.

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The Best and Worst Children’s Books of 2014

Cover of the song of the kauriThe end of the year is approaching and that means it’s time to evaluate the best and worst of 2014’s crop of children’s books. Hosted by Christchurch City Libraries, in conjunction with the Canterbury Literacy Association, the Best and Worst Evening is a Christchurch literary tradition. 2013’s event was so popular the event has been moved to the larger venue of Upper Riccarton Library.

Speakers include Bob Docherty (children’s book guru and renowned promoter of reading and literacy for kids), Kirsten Smith (Kaitakawaenga – Ngā Ratonga Māori at Christchurch City Libraries) and a kids-eye-view from Briana.

Our annual Holiday Reading list will also be officially announced on the night. Holiday Reading is a recommended selection of new titles added to Christchurch City Libraries in 2014 and includes picture books, chapter books, young adult and non-fiction titles.

Come along this Wednesday night (19 November) to Upper Riccarton Library, 7pm. Bring a gold coin for refreshments and early Christmas raffles.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Where do the ideas for stories come from?

Answer: ideas come from everywhere and anywhere. The first idea for The Volume of Possible Endings came from a fairy tale. It isn’t one of the best known ones, but I’d been interested by it since I was about ten or eleven. It’s a story of a girl who has either six, seven or twenty-one brothers depending on which version of the story it is. A wicked witch changes all the brothers into swans and the spell can only be broken if the girl sews shirts for them all. I remember thinking what a lot of work that would have been – especially if it was twenty-one brothers. She didn’t have a sewing machine, either. It all had to be done with a needle and thread. Yikes. What really grabbed my interest was how much she must have loved her brothers.

But of course, it would have been hard work for me as well to manage twenty-one brothers in a story. I decided that three brothers would be plenty for my story, thanks. And – this isn’t a spoiler – the brothers in this novel don’t get turned into swans. But there is magic involved, and magical wickedness.

Anyway, maybe there’s an idea here that you could use for writing one of your own stories. In fairy stories you never get a lot of information about how the characters feel. They just do things, or things just happen to them. So why not start thinking about why the characters in a fairy story come to do whatever it might be. How do they actually feel? Choose a fairy tale you especially like, say, Red Riding Hood. Why would a mother could send her precious child into a forest all by herself? Does Red Riding Hood really want to go into the forest? Or, think about how the wolf feels. For instance, how long is it since he had a good dinner? Or is he just a greedy-guts? Or a bully and a show-off? Could you tell the story from his point of view? That might be fun.

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Star Author: Barbara Else – Titles

Titles are important, aren’t they? A book need one that makes a reader intrigued as to what the story will be about. But if you’re writing a story, you don’t have to have the title right away. Sometimes the right title will just pop into your head at some stage while you’re working on the piece.

When I was writing the first Tale of Fontania, the title was pretty obvious as soon as I decided to have a sailing ship as a restaurant a sailing ship. ‘The Sailing Restaurant’ wouldn’t have sounded quite right, but The Travelling Restaurant sounded good to me. It’s at least a bit intriguing, to think of how a restaurant would travel about. (And apologies to American readers who spell travelling with only one l – traveling.)

With the second Tale, at first I thought the title would be ‘The Queen and the Elephant Boy.’ That idea soon got tossed aside when I realised it was going to be tricky having an actual elephant in the story. How could my characters have the wild adventures I wanted if they had to take an elephant along? So I made the elephant one that had died and been buried years ago. ‘The Queen and the …something … Boy’. Hmm. I had to choose a good opposite word to queen. Well the boy in the story had been ignored by everyone, treated like a nobody. So there it was: The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Opposite ideas in a title that can catch a reader’s interest.

I had no idea what I would call the third Tale. The novel opens with a boy as the main character in the first chapter. Then chapter two moves to a girl, Dorrity, who is the only child in Owl Town on the edge of the Beastly Dark. The citizens boast that their town is magic-free. But Dorrity discovers a book on her teacher’s table. When she opens it, the title page is blank at first. Then words appear on it – ‘The Volume of Possible Endings.’ Pages continue to turn on their own and stop at a list of five endings headed ‘Dorrity’s Tale.’ Magic most certainly exists in the town! She’s scared and offended at being lied to by grown-ups.

I was still wondering what to call the novel when I thought – ‘Du-uh! There’s a perfectly good title already there in the story – the title of the book in my book!’ Just as the title of the magical book revealed itself to Dorrity, the title revealed itself to me.

If you happen to be struggling to find the right title, have a look at what you’ve already written for your tale. Maybe it is lurking in a paragraph just waiting to be found.

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Meet our November Star Author – Barbara Else

Our wonderful November Star Author is New Zealand author Barbara Else.  Barbara is an author of books for children and adults, an editor, agent, and was a judge for this year’s New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.  She has edited several collections of children’s stories, including Great Mates and Hideous and Hilarious.  Barbara’s latest novels for children, The Travelling Restaurant, The Queen and the Nobody Boy and The Volume of Possible Endings, are set in the Land of Fontania.

Thanks for joining us Barbara!  We look forward to hearing all about your books and your writing.

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Final blog

Good morning from our Rome Hotel.  I was thinking this morning at breakfast what would be in the last blog and when should I do it!  Well today is the day!  I am packed and waiting for David and Amelia to finish their packing.  Its always a little challenging.  You need to  think and  pack, in such a way, to meet the requirements of the airline.

So we are off to Hong Kong today before heading back home.   I will leave you with some wise words from Amelia.

Amelia’sl Shopping Questions:

Do I want it?

Do I need it?

Will I use it?

Will it help me with anything?

Can it make my life easier?

Is it good quality?

Will MUM buy it for me?

____________________

Her list made me smile.

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Rome Summary

As I look out the window from our hotel I see tour buses; walking tour groups; people rushing here and there; tourists looking at maps; motorbikes; push bikes; parked cars in every spot; local buses; police cars – everything that makes this a busy city.

Can you guess what we did with 30,000 other people today.  We have sore feet and are all happy to have some relaxing time. Have you guessed?  Yes we went to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel (not the 16 Chapel someone in Amelias class said it was called),  St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square.  We went with a tour to skip the line entrance which was a long line when we got there.  After the tour we decided that we should take the opportunity to go up in the Dome.  Amelia was unimpressed with the time it took us to line up move forward.  The thought of walking up 320 steps after 3 solid hours of walking around was not exciting Amelia.  I promised the biggest gelato we could find at the end.

We found a nice restaruant for lunch and a refreshing glass of beer.  Arriving home to our hotel at 4.15 – a very full on day.

So packing, dinner and early night and we will be on our way to Hong Kong.  We will sleep well tonight even though I dislike the bed here. It is far to hard for my liking.

You might remember we were getting back here to the hotel in central Rome on Friday night.  So the weekend was full of walking with Margaret and visiting lots of sites.  So many photos were taken and there was lots of gazing at marble and granite and  battling thru 1/2 of the world’s population at places like Trevi fountain, the Pantheon & the Spanish Steps.  Both David and Margaret proved that their navigational skills need upgrading. Often walking in a direction other than where we ought to have been. Amelia to her credit just kept on walking and there was no complaints.

We bused to  our Saturday night dinner with Margaret’s familly.  Nigel cooked us a great meal of pasta with wild boar sauce, the meat with bitter broccoletti (didn’t enjoy that) and peas.  Isalena  had made pameir biscuits with fruit salad  and Amelia said homemade  ice cream was better than the expensive bought stuff.  Nigel took us high up on the roof and we saw all the major icons at night.  St Peters had singing and it was magical to hear it.

Sunday’s was another feast all cooked on the BBQ;  lamb, veal ribs, peppers,potatoes, and very long beans.  Isalena had been up early and  made lemon slice (we now have the receipe).  Phillipa (varsity mate of Nigel’s – lives in Perugia) brought pinenut biscuits.  As Margaret said we were still at the table at 5 pm; all quite memorable. It was a beautiful calm day,  perfect for sitting on the terrace.

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Rome – Naples – Pompeii — Sorrento – Capri – Positano – Rome

Good afternoon – message coming to you from our hotel in Sorrento.

We had our first day in Rome (Tuesday I think) with our own personal tour guide.  David’s cousin Margaret is visiting Rome to see her daughter and her family.  She had the day to be with us and it was amazing the things she could point outto us and the stories she could tell Amelia. Amelia is like a sponge soaking up the history and lucky we have a few more days in Rome as we have some biggies to do!

After four hours solid walking we stopped for lunch and then Margaret showed us whichbus stop to get off at for our hotel.  I had to push through many people to get off I did say excuse me but don’t think anyone understood.

So Wednesday morning with a 6.00am wakeup call we were checked out and waiting for the tour bus to collect us.

YES we were joining a tour for the first time on our trip and we were not sure how we would go with that.  By 7.15 David was back inside and asking reception of our hotel to ring and find outwhere they were.  They said they would send a taxi.  On arrival the taxi driver asked wherewe were going and we showed him the address.  He could not work out where to take us.Thankfully he was able to ring his office and we got on the bus and were on our way toNaples.  A highlight was seeing so many policemen and women around waiting forsomeone to come.  I asked who was coming but they didn’t have English and my Italianis not the best!

Next stop lunch and a drink before we toured Pompeii.  This buried city is  amazing and Ameliawas able to remember her year 4 learning.  If I remember correctly, 22,000 escaped and4000 were buried alive.  It was heart wrenching to see the Mother that laid over her baby for protection.  The ancient Roman city was destroyed by the eruption of ‘Mount Vesuvio in79 BC and buried it in stones and ash.  4-6 metres.

From Pompeii it was to our hotel in Sorrento.

Day two – picked up and taken to the ferry to Capri.

Marco our super Italian guide gave us instructions to be the first off the ferry.Stay down the back.  Following instructions. We all did what we were asked and thatenabled us to get on to our waiting boat and make our way to the Blue Grotto.We were going “grotting” – that is what David called it – a new word.Anyway, into little boats in fours we waited a short time and entered into a magicalplace.  This is very much a weather permitting activity and we learnt no one got through the next day.

Visited the Augustus Gardens and had free time to meet up again.The Spanish speaking people (3 in toal) ruined our guides day.  We waited forty-five minutes.  Missed our bus and had to get another one andmissed our lunch slot.  Got on the ferry to return and still no sign of the 3 people.Everyone knows Marco and he left heaps of messages trying to find them.

Day 3 – the 3 of us caught a local bus and went to  Positano, a town on the Amalfi coast. Spectacular road carved ito the cliffs.Caught the bus back and had lunch and cruised the shops of Sorrento,

Here we are waiting to do a few pickups of people and transfer back to Roma.

POSTSCRIPT – late into our hotel  9.15pm.

Long story.

 

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SANTORINI

Quiz question:  Where in the world do churches and buildings have blue domes?

Answer: Santorini

That was apparently a question Amelia was asked as a part of a classroom quiz during the third term.  Amelia was able to tell her team members because she was coming here.  The schools are now on holiday in New Zealand and it will be Monday when you read this.  I find it interesting that Amelia is the only child here on holiday.  She gets more than her share of double takes.

Amelia  is now over us taking her photo.  It was to be expected as David and I are having an undeclared competition with our new cameras who can get the best photos.  Don’t tell him, but he is winning as my camera has a little time delay and I sometimes miss that opportunity and in real life you cannot go back and say do that again.

Like this morning a bus wanting to turn into a narrow one way street in Thira.  Some foolish driver had parked with hazard lights on and left the car in the way of the turning bus.  Yesterday seeing a bride rushing down a little road.  This is the get married and have your photos taken in the Greek Islands place to be.  Seeing a group of donkeys walk up the path.  Another blue dome and another ice cream with Amelia having it all round her mouth.

We have had a car so we have been able to get around.  We have explored the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri at the southern end of the island of Thera.  This is where the city whose ruins can be seen by the modern vistor dates from the first phase of the Late Bronze Age (1650-1500 BC). Finds discovered in the earlier levels of the dig indicate that the site was continuously inhabited from the Middle Neolithic period (that is the middlfe of the 5th millennium BC).  Earthquakes and a volcanic eruption over the different periods of time has seen it damaged and burried under the mantle of pumice and volcanic ash, which have preserved it for posterity.  The part they have unearthed is covered in a huge building and there is many years of work ahead of them to unearth the entire 1.2 hectare area.

We walked last night to the Pyrgos Tavern and Restuaruant for dinner last night.  Very nice and back to our hotel before dark.  You really don’t want to be walking along two way roads here in the dark – far to dangerous with tourists  from many countries driving cars and quad bikes.  More than once we have seen a close call and had a driver driving at us over the centre line.

We have of course driven to Oia for the recommended sunset views.  We went early and found somewhere to sit down for a drink and made a booking on their rooftop for dinner.  We then wandered along the narrow little alleys and admired the best Oia had to offer.  Amelia told me everytime I picked up something – what do you want that for.  David much to her disgust purchased a fridge magnet with the water and blue domed buildings.  Its probably good that we are challenged by having no room in our bags so it is easy to say lovely but no can’t take that home.

Oh by the way the sunset was not particularly good and the next night we saw an impressive sunset from the restauruant in our hotel.

The highlight for David would be the day  we went out sailing.  There was 4 Australian’s; 3 Kiwis (thats us) and the two sailing hosts – Greeks.  It was a five hour sail and were shown the major points of interest and learnt about how the Vulcano had created the caldera and Islands.  We were taken to a little bay where a man lives in isolation.  We donned life jackets and swam around into an area where the water was warmer and it is heated from the gases from the volcano.   it was smelly because of the sulphur. We were laughing and all agreed that we would be swimming fast back to the boat if it suddenly got very hot.

We moved to another spot and Amelia and two others went snorkelling and saw small fish.  Back on board we were shown a ship wreck underneath us, and Amelia steered the boat.  A very nice day.  Oh and a wonderful lunch on board!

Off to Rome in the morning.

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ATHENS to SANTORINI

We had a flying visit to Athens.

Let me explain.

We had a 6.00am wakeup call on Monday and flew to Athens and arrived at our accommodation about 3.00pm.  We went looking for lunch/dinner and went to a restaurant close by that our driver had told us about.  Said it was “Greek food just like his Mother made and cheap.”   We were waved in and a white paper table cloth was put on our table.   The economy has been challenged so we asked what he recommended and made our selections.  The Greek salad was lovely but the rest can be described as ok.

Our hotel was well placed in the heart of Athens and only steps away from the New Acropolis Museum and The  Acropolis that is pearched on the hill.  We walked up the hill and made our way to entrance way.  Got tickets for the next morning and climbed up some very slippery rocks to take photos along with heaps of others and by now it was 8.15pm.  Made our way down the hill to beds.  Night owls and good books on kindles makes for a late night.

6.00am wake up call for the second morning saw us eating breakfast at 7 and heading to the Acropolis for an 8.00 am opening.  Interesting opportunity for 100E we could have had a guided tour.  Very persistent lady came back at us with a offer of 50E – she was going to find another couple.  A case of indecision do we wait or do we go and we went.  Lucky we did!

I failed to mention last night we saw the guards arrived to guard the Acropolis.  Being their at the opening allowed us to see the guards leaving with much stamping of their feet coming down stairs and stamping.  I was told to get out of the way and I was somewhat offended as I had no intention of staying where I was.  Lots of photos and then heaps more photos of the sacred rock that for many centuries has been the most important religous centre of the city of Athens.

Choose the right exit and you see and learn so much more.

Heading to The Museum we had a plan.  We purchased tickets and left to explore more of Athens.  Decision to go on the Sunshine Express by train (not a train on tracks) and we the other important sites.  It was an on-off train but on limited time we stayed on for the full 40 minutes.  A short walk and final pack and storage of bags.

We eventually came across the Smile Family Restaurant for lunch.  It was our intention to head there but a wrong turning had us lost and we were delighted to sit down and drink and eat.  For .50E we could have decorated a stone and left it with their collection.  Might post photos on their Facfebook page when we get home.

The Museum was next and sitting watch the video on The Acropolis was very enlightening.  A wonderful musuem and Amelia recognised that Jack in her class would love to have been experiencing the days visits.

An ice cream and we were waiting for our transfer to the airport.

Yes Santorini we are on our way.  A short flight with Aegean air and had to pay 75E for our bags and thinking it is strange that wasn’t done online as it would have been only $45E,  We were squashed into buses and  poor Amelia was somewhat challenged being on the shorter side.  They bus you from the plane to the arrivals lounge.  Waiting for the bags is challenging at best and Amelia was pleased to finally get her bag she did a victory dance.

The outlook from our hotel is stunning and the pool very inviting.

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Little brothers

web cover low resI have two brothers, both younger than me, but only one that I think of as my ‘little brother’. He’s called Andy and he was born when I was six and going to Karori Normal School. My brother Pete is so close in age I can barely remember a time in my life without him (he was my first best friend), but I remember the day Andy was born. I drew a picture at school of what looked like a tadpole with a baby’s face – Andy in his white blanket. You couldn’t see his fuzz of red hair. I wrote underneath about ‘my baby’, and about how I liked bathing him and looking after him.

When he started walking I was Andy’s unpaid protector, dragging him from the edges of bush tracks and wharves, sure he’d die a terrible death (and convinced my mother wasn’t paying enough attention.) Later, I rolled my eyes when his little friends came over and played cars and Lego – brmmm, brmmm etc. Boys!

Andy liked collecting things, small things. He ate the cuffs of his jerseys. He was loud and sticky. His hair got redder and redder, and he got taller … and taller.

When I was writing Dappled Annie and the Tigrish, I gave Annie a little brother called Robbie. He’s six years younger than Annie – he’s 4 and Annie’s nearly 10 – and like my brother Andy, he’s loud and sticky, and likes collecting small things. He collects them in his pockets so that when he walks he rattles. His father calls them the shinies.

I hadn’t expected Robbie to be such an important character in the book. When I first wrote it, he stayed at home with his mum while Annie went on her adventure with the tigrish. But he didn’t like that. Neither did I. I kept feeling something was missing.

So I rewrote the book and found that (without being asked) Robbie charged off on the adventure too. Much to Annie’s annoyance at first – because he is loud and he is sticky and he is 4 … but, like all little brothers, she discovers he has his moments. When they’re stuck in the Giant Wood with all sorts of scary things going on, Robbie’s collection of shinies and ‘commando moves’ help save the day.

Robbie has a lot of my brother Andy in him, but he has other important little boys wrapped up in him too: especially my son Adam and godson Ned – who were/are both loud and sticky and smart and adventurous. There are glimpses too of my brother Pete and son Paul who did less of the loud, sticky, physical thing and more talking, and two little boys who came regularly to my house when I was writing: Lincoln and Carter.

Boys! Who’d be without them? As a big sister of two, and a mum of two (and a girl too, my youngest), I know I wouldn’t. Above all else these lovely boys have given me a lot to laugh about. Here’s a taste of Robbie in the book. He and Annie are visiting Mr and Mrs Hedge who are part of the hedge at the end of the garden. There’s a nest of baby fantails for Robbie to see, including Bud, the smallest …

Robbie climbed up so his blue shorts were level with Annie’s eyes. She could see his back pocket had bulgy bits where he’d put his little things, what he called his shinies: small stones and bottle tops and dice and Lego bricks and walnut shells. They weren’t all shiny, really, but their dad said Robbie was a magpie and magpies liked shiny things, so that’s how they came to be called that.

Annie could see the way Mrs. Hedge had cupped her branches around Robbie and was watching him closely. Just a glimpse of her eyes, and then they were gone.

“Bud’s the littlest one,” said Annie. “The one with the wobbly head.”

“Getting bigger,” said Mrs. Hedge, “and noisier—listen to that squeaking! They think you’ve brought worms, Robbie.”

“One, two, three, four, five,” said Robbie, counting. “There are five baby birds.”

“They’re hungry,” said Mr. Hedge. “Bud especially—he misses out. He’s small and the other babies push him aside.”

“Worms,” said Robbie, and he pushed one hand into his back pocket. Out came a broken rubber band. Robbie wiggled it in front of his nose, sniffed, then pushed it back where it had come from. He fiddled around some more. A cotton reel. String. Then a fat thing that was brown and pinkish. It wriggled.

“Here, Bud,” Robbie said, and dropped it into the nest.

All Annie could hear were the cicadas. Then:

“He did eat it!”

“Yes, he did,” said Mrs. Hedge. “Thank you, Robbie.” And the leaves parted, and there were the leafy eyes. Robbie didn’t see them—he was too busy watching the nest.

“In one gulp!” said Robbie.

“I would think so,” said Mr. Hedge. “That was a nice fat worm.”

“I’ve got my worm-hunting tee-shirt on,” said Robbie, “that’s why I found it,” and he waved towards the rose bush. “You know, Mrs. Hedge, birds are cute dinosaurs, too.”

That’s when the leaves around Robbie shivered and shivered. Then they shook and shook. And a sound like a huge wave rushed towards them. Annie tugged hard at one of Robbie’s back pockets.               “Let’s get down.”

Robbie stayed as he was.

Annie tugged again—sharper this time—and the pocket wriggled. A cute something was in there. She let go.

The wave of sound made her feel like she’d jumped into a pool of icy water—there were goosebumps all over her arms and neck. Whatever it was, it was coming closer, sweeping the wire fence and crashing across the lawn…

Wind. Sending the wire fence twanging, billowing the sheets on the line, pushing and shoving its way between Annie and Robbie and the Hedges, roaring in their faces. Mrs. Hedge’s mouth moved but didn’t make a sound as she struggled to keep a grip on the nest. Mr. Hedge gripped Mrs. Hedge.

“Robbie,” yelled Annie over the torrent of air, “get down!”

from Dappled Annie and the Tigrish (Gecko Press 2014)

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BARCALONA 2

Today is Monday and we realise that back in New Zealand  this is the last week of school before the holidays.

Today we went to Park Guell which was designed by Gaudi, who designed the Sagria Familia. This park construction began in 1900.  It was originally constructed as an estate for well-off families in a large property.  It was not until 1922 that it was gifted to the Barcelona city Council and four years later turned into this public park.  It was evident by the number of people visiting today that it is an attraction for visitors from all around the world.

While there four visitors, from South Korea, said Amelia was cute.  I think they asked why she was not in school and where we came from.  We said “Christchurch, New Zealand” and they said “Aahhh, Christchurch, New Zealand”.

Did you realise everywhere in the world attractions have a gift shop that you must exit through – Amelia is very good at saying “You don’t need that”.

Taxi to the older part of Barcelona where we saw momuments to the battle that took place back on 11 September 1714.

For the first time we have had rain today – on and off.  Its not been a problem and the street sellers have had a chance to sell the supply of umbrellas as they quickly got them out for the passing walkers today.

Amelia must have internal radar for ice cream shops.  Chocolate and white chocolate ice cream – seems to cover her face but she is happy!  Very happy as we let her go to a shop called “Happy Pills”.  Can you guess what kind of shop that is for children and adults?  Mainly for children.

After shared Tapas and Paella we went to the Sagrada Familia.  A very famous building In Barcalona.  The brochure actually says “The Church of La Sagrade Familia – a Barcelona landmark and an artistic and spirutal symbol of Catalonia.”  It was good advice to book the tickets on-line before the day and ask the hotel to print them out.

We sat in the Church in silence and reflection and also watched the thousands of people taking photos and some not showing any respect at all.  Who would enter a church with an umbrella up.  Yes it was raining but getting well inside and continuing to walk around with it seemed strange.

We will go out tonight for our final meal here in Barcelona as we fly to Greece in the morning.

Exciting another place to visit.

Note:  Yesterday was walking and visiting the sites closer to our hotel.  So many people, so much history and a lesson for Amelia on cost benefit analysis. She understands now the concept.

Julie, David and Amelia

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LONDON catch up blog

We were lucky to spend 4 nights in London and during the day we took the tube to get

around places in London.

The London Eye was a great place to be able to see all the significant landmarks

in London.  We also had an introduction to the art of queuing.  Interesting to see that

some people from other countries didn’t think that they needed to stand in line like everyone

else.

David worked a number of years ago in Convent Garden area so we went back

to see where he worked,.and found it was all boarded up.

Before we left we were happy to help a busker, the Mighty Gareth, form a crowd and to

entertain us with his routine.  A few coins for his hat were well earned.

Seeing Buckingham Palace and the Beefeater Guards was very special.

Thousands of people waited with us, then we walked up The Mall.

The guards and the horses that came around the square were very regal.

A visit to the tower of London and seeing the Crown Jewels another highlight.

Amelia will always remember her 11th birthday.

Where do you think we went with a writer in the family?

Yes Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  Matt our guide was a character, and gave

Amelia a few jibes in good fun.  We learnt some interesting information.

Enjoying our travels.

Julie, David and Amelia

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BARCELONA

“Sleep is the best meditation”  Dalai Lama – that is what we found on a little card on our pillows when we arrived at our hotel in Barcelona.

No sign of gangs of pick-pockets at the train station.   Lots of warnings to be very careful and consider security

of money and other valuables.  Even being told to report thefts to the police for insurance purposes as you

won’t get them back.

After settling in we went looking for the swimming pool.  Very disappointed as it is so tiny – about the size of

two double beds..  Then it was time to search  for lunch/dinner.

Getting with the Barcelona atmosphere we sat outside in the outdoor dining area on  Rambla  Catalunya  and dined.

Paella, garlic mushbrooms, pesto ravoli.  Such beautiful food.

We will enjoy our stay in Barcelona.

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PARIS 2

Bonjour, & merci.
We are again back in the hotel room with sore legs.
.
Yesterday, was the Louvre. In the queue early and then raced to see Mona Lisa before the hordes. Only about 20 in front of her when we got there. I hate to think what it was like when the Japanese & American tour groups arrived – we saw them heading there later.  Extremely impressive building.  I took so many photos my camera battery died and I felt lost.
We did the old Greek, Roman & Egyptian stuff which was our interest – way to much to look at, you would need several days.  Then on to Notre Dame then eventually to the metro station.
Today a bit slower start to the day and on the metro to experience the  real Paris. No one smiles – feeling sad!
Into the Pompidou Centre, visited a few shops, Amelia tried on some sneakers, looked at t-shirts – didn’t buy anything other than lunch.  For the first time a nice waiter asked us where we were from.  Coconut ice cream is very nice – Amelia thinks chocolate is the best
Sitting outside the French Cafe – Amelia and I watched the people of Paris and the tourists go by.  We all thought that Paris would have a high standard of dress.  As you can gather we saw it all.  It was very nice taking time out to do what you do in Paris – eat, drink and watch the people go past.
Packed, as in the morning we will be off to Barcelona by train.
Early start – departing 6.30am.
Note:  I plan to do a catch up post on London – as it will be good to keep a record.  Each day we do so much, that this will be a great place to look back at.
Julie, David and Amelia

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