Archive for November, 2011

Is the Animal Story a Dead Duck?

I’ve always been told not to write animal stories, that no-one reads them any more. Unless it’s a picture book. But as a reader, I love animal story novels – stories in which animals are the main characters and are given human characteristics such as speech. Any humans are the minor characters! Two of my favourite series of books are about wolves (The Wolves of Time by William Horwood) and moles (Duncton Wood also by William Horwood). My all-time favourite book is about a mouse, The Tale of Despereaux. Apparently the movie was awful but the book is great.

I also enjoyed the Redwall series (more mice), Watership Down (rabbits), Guardians of Ga’Hoole (owls and I saw that movie last year and it was great) and Warriors (cats). Does anyone else have any animal stories to add to my list? Do you like animal stories and if not, why?

I’ve heard some people say it is a ridiculous idea to have talking animals but I think that Wilbur, the talking pig in Charlotte’s Web would have to be one of the most famous characters of all time.

But I also believe it’s important for a writer to write what they love. So yes, I am working on an animal story!

Here is a YouTube of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole movie trailer. if you get a chance, read the book and watch the DVD. Let me know which one you think is best.

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Billionaire Trilogy Competition

I was lucky enough last week to be able to meet Richard Newsome, the author of the fantastic Billionaire Trilogy.  I got the inside scoop on what he’s writing next and found out a little about what Gerald, Sam and Ruby are up to now that their adventures have come to a conclusion.

Thanks to Richard’s amazing publishers, Text, we have a set of the Billionaire Trilogy to give away.  These are extra special copies of the books because they’re signed by Richard Newsome.  All you have to do to get in the draw to win the set is tell us:  What would you do with 20 billion dollars?  Tell us your answer by leaving a comment on this post, along with your name and email address (so that we can contact you if you win).

Competition closes Wednesday 7 December.  See below for terms and conditions

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Warriors: Into the Wild (Book 1) by Erin Hunter

This is the world-famous in Queenspark School series called Warriors!! This is such an awesome series by cat-lover Erin Hunter, and this is my summary of the first book, Into the Wild.

This story is about an ordinary but adventurous housecat – kittypet in Warrior-speak – called Rusty, who meets Graypaw – a Warrior apprentice – while out exploring in the forest. Graypaw is being followed by his mentor, Lionheart and the ThunderClan leader Bluestar. The she-cat invites Rusty to become a ThunderClan warrior, he accepts, and becomes Firepaw, because of the way the sunlight almost sets his fur on on fire. But a mysterious force is on the loose in the forest. What will the Clans do to stop it?

Very, very alluring eh? Well, in my words this book is O FOR ORSOME!. Firepaw is a mysterious, mischievous, adventurous and interesting kittypet that I have enjoyed following throughout the series. He has no urge to stay with his twolegs (housefolk), and wants to explore an interesting forest just outside the twolegplace (suburb).

I give this series a complete 100000000/10 stars, because it is my favourite series, and everyone else that I have recommended this to has loved it too! This series is intriguing, and you just can’t wait to pick up the next one because they are so good.

 The series order is: #1 Into the Wild, #2 Fire and Ice, #3 Forest of Secrets, #4 Rising Storm, #5 A Dangerous Path, and #6 The Darkest Hour. Once you have finished this series, there is another called The New Prophecy, which follows the enormous adventures of his latest apprentice, Brambleclaw, and his two daughters, Squirrelpaw and Leafpaw-the medicine cat apprentice.

Happy days,

Sam from the Queenspark School Noses in Books Group.

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Best Books of 2011

Thanks to everyone who voted in our Best Books of 2011 Competition.  The votes have been counted and we can now announce the winners.  The best Kids book of 2011 is Northwood by Brian Falkner and the best Young Adult book of 2011 is Plague by Michael Grant.  You can see how many votes each book got in the polls below.

Everyone who entered went into the draw to win the Top 5 books and the winners are:

  • Kids – Annahlise Hall
  • Young Adult – Rebecca Deakins


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Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

Imagine living in a world where the sun hasn’t shone for many months.  Because there is no sun, the colour has gone out of the world so everything is grey and gloomy, plants and trees have withered and everyone is miserable.  There is still magic in the world though and this magic has the power to change everything.

Liesl hasn’t left her house in several months.  After her father died, her cruel stepmother locked her in the tiny bedroom in the attic and she’s never allowed out.  Her only friends are the shadows and the mice, until one night a ghost appears.  His name is Po and he comes from a place called the Other Side. Will is an alchemist’s apprentice, helping his mean master gather the ingredients for his strange magical experiments.  One night Will makes a dangerous mistake when he accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing Liesl’s father’s ashes. Will’s mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws them together on an extraordinary journey.

Liesl and Po is one of the most unique and magical books I’ve read. Lauren Oliver’s writing is amazing and she transports you to this weird and wonderful world where the sun hasn’t shone for years and the colour has gone out of the world.  She writes in such a way that it makes you think she must have gone through the whole story picking out the perfect words to describe her characters and the world they live in.  Here’s her description of Will,

“He was wearing a large lumpy coat that came that came well past his knees and had, in fact, most recently belonged to someone twice his age and size.  He carried a wooden box – about the size of a loaf of bread – under one arm, and his hair was sticking up from his head at various odd angles and had in it the remains of hay and dried leaves…”

Lauren Oliver says in the authors note that she wrote Liesl and Po after the death of her best friend, so it is a bit dark in places.  She wrote it in two months and didn’t think it would be published, but I’m certainly glad it was.  If you like Kate DiCamillo’s books, like The Magician’s Elephant and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, you’ll love Liesl and Po.

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Six Days book trailer

Six Days by Philip Webb is a very cool book that I’m reading at the moment.  It’s set in a future London where the city is being torn down to hunt for a mysterious ‘artefact’ that is incredibly valuable.  If you like books like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld then Six Days is the book for you.

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Come and meet Billionaire’s Curse author Richard Newsome

One of my favourite series is the Billionaire Trilogy by Richard Newsome.  They follow the adventures of Gerald, Sam and Ruby as they uncover the truth about Gerald’s family.  You can read all about the three books in the trilogy, The Billionaire’s Curse, The Emerald Casket and The Mask of Destiny here on the blog.  Richard Newsome is coming to Christchurch this Friday (25th November) and you can meet him and get his books signed.

Richard Newsome will be at The Children’s Bookshop, 227 Blenheim Square at 4pm on Friday 25th November. 

For those of you who can’t be there we’ll be giving away a signed set of the three books in the Billionaire Trilogy next week right here on the blog.

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A thousand Tintins

Kia ora and thanks to all the cool Christchurch kids who entered the Tintin colouring competition. We got nearly a thousand entries, and look how fabulous they are!
Paris's entry Leni's entry
Laura's entry
Amelie's entry

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Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

Does your granny smell like cabbage?  Does she like to play boring games like Scrabble? Do you think she’s boring?  If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions you probably don’t know her that well.  For all you know she could be a spy, a superhero or even an international jewel thief like Ben’s granny.

Every Friday night Ben gets sent to stay with his granny, while his parents go out to the movies or to watch Strictly Stars Dancing Live.  Ben thinks she’s boring and would rather be anywhere else than spending time with her.  Ben gets sick of eating his granny’s cabbage soup and decides to look in her cupboard for some real food.  He never thought he would discover the stash of priceless jewels in her biscuit tin.  When he confronts her to find out the truth, he discovers that his granny isn’t boring, she’s an international jewel thief.  Ben decides to help his granny pull off the crime of the century – break into the Tower of London and steal the crown jewels.

Gangsta Granny is a book that’s both really funny and a bit sad.  I’m sure your granny’s just a bit like Ben’s granny, even if she’s not a jewel thief.  If you ask her I’m sure some of her stories are just as interesting.  Ben’s parents seem like they don’t really care about him because they’re more interested in their dancing show than they are in him, but deep down they love him.  I love the way David Walliams writes because his stories are so different and his characters are really easy to relate too.  If you liked his other stories, like The Boy in the Dress, Mr Stink and Billionaire Boy, or you like Roald Dahl’s books, you’ll love Gangsta GrannyRecommended for 7+     8 out of 10

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Research a Story – it’s fun

One of the things I love about writing is all the interesting things I discover on the way to writing the story. Becuase I write historical fiction, there’s quite a lot research involved. I spend a whole month looking up bits and pieces before I even start to write – and the research doesn’t end until the story is done. The strange thing is most of the things I discover don’t end up in a book at all. But it still helps me write.

Research gives me story ideas. When I was writing Polar Boy, my initial idea was a story about a boy who was scared of bears. I was thinking polar bears, because they are magnificent creatures, they scare the life out of me, and I wouldn’t go anywhere near one!  As I dug deeper into my research I discovered the Vikings were coming from Greenland, at the same time as my story, heading for the same place I was. And they were called ‘the berserkers’ or ‘bears’. So immediately my plot extended and it wasn’t a Polar Bear that became Iluak’s biggest challenge. It was the threat of the Vikings who didn’t want to share the land with the Inuit people.

Research is full of snippets of day-to-day information. What should my characters wear? What do they eat? Do the doors have doorhandles? I am constantly surprises how much the details of life change from place to place and through the centures.

Another thing I get from research is a strong sense of time and place. I am an armchair writer. I never travel anywhere, although I would love to visit Japan. So when I am writing the Samurai Kids series I have to imagine I am there. I do this by watching documentaries, looking at images, reading books written by Japaese samurai hundreds of years ago and listening to shakuhachi flute music.

Sometimes I can’t find all the answers I need. I wanted my samurai kids to study origami. I knew the samurai believed it was important to exercise the mind as well as the body and in addition to fighting skills they also learned other things – like  flower arranging and poetry! And I knew origami was paractised in Japan at the time of my novel. But I couldn’t find any proof – not a sentence, not a picture. So I decided most kids love origami so the samurai kids would too and included it in my book.

Photo Copyright: Pedro Henriques

When I was researching the next Samurai Kids book, Elephant Feet (#7). I needed to know all about Cambodia. I didn’t know anything. One thing I quickly learned is it has the most amazing array of birds and animals. Many of the birds and their calls made their way into my story background like the hoopoe bird (It’s call is oop-oop-oop! You can listen to a sound file here ). But I was always gettting sidetracked by other interesting information even though I knew I wouldn’t use it. Here’s an example. I found that a new species of gecko had been discovered in the southern mountains of Cambodia. It’s wonderful to think new species are still being found but there is a sad side to this lizard discovery too. Cambodia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world and many of it animal habitats are in danger of disappearing.

PS When I went to find a picture of the gecko on the Internet I found another new species had been discovered even more recently – a blind legless lizard that looks like a snake!

Check out my other posts here:

Making a Noise – in the library!

Hello from Sandy

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The Hunger Games trailer and book giveaway

The first full-length trailer for the Hunger Games movie has just been released and you can watch it here.  It’s being released on March 23, 2012 and it’s going to be one of the biggest movies of the year.  The movie is based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is the first book in one of the most exciting series you’ll ever read.  Here’s what our Star Blogger Rhys said about it:

“Prim Everdeen is chosen as a representative for the hunger games while she is still 12 years old, Katniss, her big sister, volunteers to go instead of Prim and she goes to save her sister. Without giving too much away being selected isn’t a good thing. I reckon that they are a great series and that if you like fighting, romance (sort of) and cunning plotting you should read them.  I’d recommend them to anyone over 10.  They are great for adults too.  They are some of the best books I’ve read, and I have read some really, really good books.”

The movie looks like it’s going to be absolutely amazing and you can see what it’s like in this trailer:

If you’ve been dying to read The Hunger Games to find out why it’s so great or you would just really like to have your own copy, we’ve got one to giveaway.  To get in the draw, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us why you should win the book.  Competition closes Friday 25 November.

See below for terms and conditions          Read the rest of this entry »

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Bananas In My Ears – Poems by Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is a cool poet and author who has been writing poems for years.  His poetry collections always have really funny titles like Lunch Boxes Don’t Fly and Mustard, Custard, Grumble Belly and Gravy.  His latest collection, Bananas In My Ears, is full of weird and wonderful poems.

In Bananas In My Ears there are poems about everyday life, like things that happen at breakfast time or when you go to the doctors, but there are also poems about silly things that could happen.  My favourite poems in the book are called ‘What if…’ and they’re about things like ‘What if a piece of toast turned into a ghost just as you were eating it?’ or ‘What if they made children-sized diggers?’  They’re really funny and things get completely out of control in them.  Each of the poems are illustrated by Quentin Blake, who you might recognize as the illustrator that did the covers and illustrations for all of Roald Dahl’s books.

Poems are great to read if you don’t have alot of time to read or just want something short and Bananas In My Ears is a collection of poems you’ll want to read again and again.

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Sticky Ends – Poems by Jeanne Willis

There are all sorts of poetry books you can find in the library.  There are nice, sweet poems about friends, poems about animals, or poems about monsters.  Some of them rhyme and some of them twist and turn all over the page.  Sticky Ends is a new collection of twenty-six very funny cautionary verses where the characters come to a sticky end.  Some of them are stupendously silly, some are horribly gross, but they’re all funny.

In Sticky Ends you’ll meet Bubblegum Pete who ate all the bubblegum he could eat, but then comes to a sticky end when he blows the biggest bubble and gets blown away.  There’s a very naughty Father Christmas who gets blackmailed by a naughty boy, Lardy Marge who eats too much butter, and Filthy Frankie who gets cocooned in snot.

If you ever need a really funny poem to read aloud at school or to make your parents squirm, Sticky Ends has a great selection to choose from.  If you’re looking for it in the library, just look for the picture of an elephant sitting on a person on the front cover.

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Rosie Black Blog Tour

Follow Lara Morgan’s Rosie Black Blog Tour to find out more about Lara’s writing, her characters and the Rosie Black Chronicles.

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Interview with Lara Morgan

Today we’re joined by Lara Morgan, author of The Rosie Black Chronicles, which includes Genesis and the latest book, Equinox.  We caught up with Lara to ask her about Rosie Black, future technology and the best things about being a writer.

  • What five words would you use to describe The Rosie Black Chronicles?

Dystopian thriller with romantic elements

  • What idea/s did the Rosie Black Chronicles grow from?

Essentially from my interest in climate change and how it will affect us in the future, and what I see as a growth in the power and influence of massive corporations within our political and social structure. I wanted to explore what kind of future could arise if we didn’t regulate the way we are going now and the world of Rosie Black is the result of that. I’m also interested in space travel and the possibility of outer planet colonisation so I threw that in the mix as well.

  •  Who is the character of Rosie Black based on?

No one in particular. Rosie has elements of my teenage self in her, but she is also a creation of the world she’s come from – the future Earth. I’m very much interested in the psychology of people, how they become who they are so the type of person Rosie is comes from the experiences she’s had as she’s grown ie losing her mother, being poor in a broken world, as well as just her innate self. I believe in strong rounded characters so I tried to create that in Rosie.

  • If you could have one piece of technology from Rosie’s world, what would it be?

Space ships – her Aunt Essie’s little ship would be a very cool thing to have. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of travelling through space.

  • Who is your favourite author/childrens author?

That is a very hard one to answer, but one of my favourites is Ursula Le Guin, especially her Earthsea stories.

  • Why did you want to be a writer?

It’s what gives me the most satisfaction. I’ve always been a daydreamer and writing is just a way of getting those dreams out of my head and onto the page. I just love making up stories and never feel as at peace as when I can get up from my desk at the end of the day and feel I’ve achieved something.

  • What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?

Best is definitely being my own boss and being able to work from home in my pyjamas. The worst is the need to promote yourself. These days being writer means having to be good at self promotion as well as promoting your work, building a known name, and that means talking yourself up at events and gatherings and that doesn’t come naturally to me, or I think most writers.

  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Make sure you finish what you start. I’ve spoken to many aspiring writers who focus too much on fine tuning a first chapter, or first few chapters, before they’ve finished writing the story all the way through to the end and that is a fine way to ensure you never finish anything. And you can’t get unfinished work published. It is hard and the temptation is to think that if you just get the first bit right then the rest will be easier, you’ll have a better idea, but really that only works for a minute amount of people. Usually the best way to get the story right is to write it all the way through to the end, not worrying too much about how some things might not quite make sense, or some metaphors are terrible, or your dialogue sucks, but going forward anyway until you finish it. Then you go back and start to refine it. You have to allow yourself the room to make mistakes in the first draft safe in the knowledge that only you will see it. And I mean no one else, really, don’t show it to anyone, not even your mum. That’s what works for me anyway – and for many, many other writers. And read everything. Writers read, it’s essential.

Check out Lara’s Facebook page to find out more about the Rosie Black Blog Tour

Join Lara tomorrow on the Booksellers New Zealand blog.

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Guest Post: Brian Falkner – Alien Invasion!

When I was a young reader the two kinds of books I most liked were science fiction, and the thrillers of Alistair McLean.

It so happened that a year or so ago my glance fell on a copy of “Where Eagles Dare” by Alistair McLean, and the idea popped into my head to combine my two favourite kinds of books. So I set out to write an Alistair McLean inspired science fiction war thriller. I even named the first chapter “Where Angels Fear” as a tribute to McLean.

I wanted to write a book that was exciting and action-packed from the get-go, and didn’t let up until the very end. Yet at the same time I wanted to have characters that seemed believable and interesting. I have read other “action-packed” books where the characters were just a flimsy excuse to move the action from one scene to the next, and I didn’t want to write that kind of book, because I want the reader to care about the characters.

When I started developing the idea for the book, I quickly realised that it was too big for a single book, and it would have to be a series, each with their own story. I eventually decided on four books, although I have left it open to write more books if I want to later.

I wanted to write a series of war stories, but I didn’t want it set so far in the future that it became Space Opera, with laser guns and spaceships. (I love Star Wars and those kinds of stories, but I wanted this to be different.) I wanted this to be more like a real war, with weapons that were close to those we have now, but just a little bit futuristic. I wanted the conflict to seem real, and the introduction and the forward are all part of setting the scene for a realistic war, that just happens to be against aliens, not human beings.

For the name of the alien race, I wanted harsh sounds, and it had to include a Z (you’ll understand why, if you read the book). After trying out a lot of names, I was eventually inspired by the word “Buzzard” which conjures up images of an ugly, carrion-eating bird. So the aliens became “Bzadians” which incorporates the same sounds.

Writing “Assault” the first book of the Recon Team Angel series, was a wild ride, and I hope you enjoy reading it just as much.

Pictured are the NZ and the US covers.



You can read Chapter One of The Assault here.

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Dragon’s Breath by E.D. Baker

This is the fourth book in the Frog Princess series by E. D. Baker. The series goes like this: A Prince Among Frogs, Dragon Kiss, The Frog Princess, Dragon’s Breath, The Dragon Princess, Once Upon A Curse, No Place for Magic, and Salamander Spell.

In Dragon’s Breath, Emerelda, Eadric and Grassina go on a quest to save Haywood from ‘otter-hood’. On the way they face many challenges and threats. But something terrible will happen concerning a family curse and a grumpy old witch …! My favourite part is when they meet Ralf, the dragon, and fight the Giant spider, as frogs – I thought this was interesting and scary because I HATE SPIDERS!

My favourite character was Ralf. Ralf is a dragon who is blue as well as being a young dragon prince whose grandfather is King Grumble Snort.

I really liked how this book is a real adventure and not just a normal fairy tale where five minutes later, they get married! It also doesn’t have the usual gender stereotypes fairy tales have.

I recommend it for 8-13 years old and I give it a 10 out of 10.

Alice from the Queenspark Noses In Books group.

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Beastly by Alix Flinn

I AM A BEAST. A BEAST! Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright. I am a monster.  You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever-ruined-unless i can break the spell. Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly……..BEASTLY.”

This book is a modern version of “Beauty and the beast” It is a romantic book and is much better than the movie (Like most books/movies) It tells you a good lesson too. Someone’s inside is more important than the outside. Three things that I liked about it were … the good lesson, that it is a modern take on a classic Disney movie, and that it is nicely paced. Its a very good book that I recommend for year 8 up girls, that love romantic stories.


Emma C. from the Queenspark Noses In Books group 🙂

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Gifted Hands, a biography of Ben Carson

Ben Carson is an amazing man, he was the first person to separate conjoined twins joined by the back of the head and complete it successfully. Yet he was told that he would amount to nothing, except life in a jail-cell.

During his childhood his mother had a third-grade education, he had a pathological temper and he lacked motivation. Everything around him said he was a failure, except his mother, for it was her who inspired him and pushed to make something of his life.  This is because she could see the potential hiding in her son, Ben Carson.

Gifted Hands is very inspiring and you will just want to keep reading more and more about his work. The neurosurgery part of the book is what I like the best about it, it gives you lots of interesting detail of the part of surgery no-one really knows about. I found it the best part because it is so very detailed, and just gives you that little bit more of emotion that you don’t get so much of in other non-fiction books.

I would recommend it to people 11+ ( Adults should read it too.)

This book really made me look at my own decisions and inspired me to do things out of my comfort zone. I would read it over and over and over again if I got the chance.

11/10 a personal favourite, if you like this then you might want to try Think Big by Ben Carson himself. ( I’m planning on reading this myself next.)


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Making a Noise

If I came to your school for an author visit, one of the first things you would notice is I like to make a noise. When I visit schools I take along the gong I used for research when I was writing Samurai Kids 1:White Crane. Most of my presentations are in libraries. There’s something a bit radical about being able to make a big noise in the library!

I love to make a noise when I write too. My favourite words are onamotapoeias. An onamatopoeia is word that imitates the sound or noise it is describing. In the Samurai Kids series Sensei Ki-Yaga regularly bangs his gong to get the Kids’ attention so I needed lots of sound words for that. But the most fun I had with onamatopoeias was when I was writing Polar Boy. I knew one of the things that happened on the first page was that Iluak tripped over a pile of pots and pans and attracted the attention of a polar bear. It was a long way away… until it heard the noise.

The best way to find onamatopoeias is to listen to the sound you need. So I took some pots and pans from my kitchen and dropped them off the balcony. They made wonderful sounds. Crash. Bash. Clang. I thought that would make a great start to my novel. But then when I continued researching life above the Arctic Circle, I realised there was no metal there. My story is set 800 years ago, when pots and pans were made out of soapstone, a soft rock. So I took rocks from my garden and dropped them off the balcony. They made a very different sound.

Here is what I heard and how I used it in the first few lines of Polar Boy:


Klunk-tunk. Konk. Tunk.

There are no words in my language to escribe tripping over a fully laden sled and landing with a cooking pot on your head. But that’s the sound it makes. The noise skids across the night to touch the arctic sky.

The onamatopoeias I ultimately used are much more interesting than the first ones I found – because I made them up. Not only can you make up onamatopoeias but you can give them an unusual spelling. Recently I wrote a short story about a boy who lived with dingos. I called the boy Rlph becuase it sounds like a dingo yip and because it looks like the human name Ralph.

But perhaps the best thing about noise words is they are a great way to start a story. They are a real attention grabber. So if you ever get stuck trying to begin a story in class… use words to make a noise

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