Tag Archives: Barbara Else

2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else

The Queen and the Nobody Boy by Barbara Else is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I love the world of Fontania that Barbara introduced us to in The Traveling Restaurant.  I reviewed it in September last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.  You can also read my interview with Barbara Else and Barbara’s guest post about The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

Last year, Barbara Else took us on a magical journey through the land of Fontania, with Sibilla and The Traveling Restaurant.  Now she takes us back to Fontania and introduces us to some wonderful new characters in The Queen and the Nobody Boy.

Hodie is the unpaid odd-job boy at the Grand Palace in the Kingdom of Fontania.  Fed-up, he decides to leave and better himself.

The young Queen, 12 -year-old Sibilla, is fed-up too.  Sick of gossip about her lack of magical ability, she decides to run away with Hodie, whether he likes it or not.

The Queen and the Nobody Boy is a magical story, full of adventure, danger, royalty, spies, flying trains, stinky trolls and poisonous toads. Trouble is brewing from the very beginning of the story.  The Emperor of Um’Binnia threatens war with Fontania and he hopes to destroy what magic there may be in the world.  The Fontanians have been looking for ‘The Ties’ for many years, but nobody really seems to know what they are, and for the Emperor to carry out his plans he must get his hands on them too.  Little do they know how important an odd-job boy might be.

Your favourite characters from The Travelling Restaurant return, including Sibilla and the pirate chef, Murgott.  Hodie is the main character of this tale of Fontania.  Even though he’s not treated very well in the Palace, he’s smart and brave, and determined to make something of himself.   My favourite quote from the book sums up Hodie, ‘Whether a boy was somebody or nobody, if he was normal he was expected to be curious.’  Hodie and Sibilla meet lots of other interesting characters on their journey, including a rather strange Um’Binnian spy called Ogg’ward, and a very persistent squirrel.  The Um’Binnians themselves are quite interesting.  They have a different way of speaking and their names look and sound strange.

If you loved The Traveling Restaurant you have to get your hands on The Queen and the Nobody Boy, but if you haven’t read it this book will make you fall in love with the land of Fontania.  You certainly won’t be able to go past this book on the shelf without wanting to see what magic is inside, thanks to Sam Broad’s brilliant cover.

4 out of 5 stars

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Guest Author: Barbara Else on The Queen and the Nobody Boy

I’m very lucky today to be joined by New Zealand author Barbara Else.  As well as writing novels for adults and editing several short story collections for children, Barbara is the author of the magical adventure stories set in the land of Fontania, The Traveling Restaurant and The Queen and the Nobody Boy.  Barbara has written a wonderful post all about The Queen and the Nobody Boy and her wonderful new character, Hodie.

 

When you start work on a new story, usually you decide on the main character at once. But sometimes you might find your first choice isn’t the right one. It’s perfectly ok to change your mind.

This happened to me with my latest novel the second tale of Fontania, The Queen and the Nobody Boy. The obvious choice for main character was the Queen.  In the first tale, her brother has a series of adventures when he turns twelve. I thought that when she turned twelve, little Sibilla would have adventures of her own.  Because I didn’t want to simply repeat the same sort of story, I came up with the ‘nobody boy’ Hodie, who is the odd-job boy at the Grand Palace. I thought that I would use him as the main character for some sections and Sibilla in others.  The technical way to put this is, I would use two point of view characters.

Being a queen, Sibilla has some big problems – people gossip about her and keep expecting her to do great things. That can be very hard for a person to cope with. But when I wrote about her in her point of view she sometimes sounded too sugary (argh!). Sometimes she sounded like a spoiled brat (double argh!). I also worried that because she’s already a queen, readers might have thought, What does she have to complain about? Did I think she was sugary or a spoiled brat? Definitely not. But writing from her point of view didn’t show her in the right way.

For me, the passion and grip of story come from the troubled heart of the character. In his sections of the story Hodie was working well as a character in this way. So I rewrote the whole story in his point of view, in his thoughts, in the way he sees everything (even though it is 3rd person). Through his eyes, Sibilla began to shine. She became more interesting and much braver.  She became more vulnerable and charming in her own often very funny way. The whole story raced on much more smoothly.  That’s part of the fun of writing – gradually figuring the best way to tell your stories.

You can read my review of The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

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Interview with Barbara Else, author of The Queen and the Nobody Boy

Barbara Else is the creator of the Land of Fontania, the magical setting of her award-winning The Traveling Restaurant and her latest book, The Queen and the Nobody Boy.  Her books are full of magic, adventure, pirates, spies, and wonderful characters.  I had a few questions about Fontania and its inhabitants and Barbara very kindly answered them.

  • What’s your favourite place in Fontania?

I’m a city girl so it has to be the City of Spires. But I’d like to visit the High Murisons. There (so I have heard) live the only wild bears in Fontania. They have a growl deeper than any other living creature.

  • The Um’binnians have strange names and speak quite differently than the Fontanians. How did you come up with them?

The name for Um’Binnia just typed out under my fingers when I was wondering what to call the neighbouring country. It seemed to me that a good way to identity the Um’Binnian characters would be to use commas in their names too. They speak the same language as Fontanians but, just as all English speaking countries have different accents, I thought the Um’Binnians would sound different too.

  • The Queen and the Nobody Boy features some wonderful new characters, creatures and machines. What is your favourite creation from this story?

I love Hodie for his courage and determination.  And I love the squirrel for its single-mindedness.  But I think Princessa Lu’nedda is the character I cherish the most. She’s very troubled by her father, seems far too cutesy and fluffy at first, but is full of courageous surprises.

And I’m very pleased with the wind-train.

  • If you were the Queen of Fontania what would your first royal proclamation be?

‘Royal Proclamation, Part the First:  Every city, town and village in the Kingdom of Fontania shall have a library stocked to the brim with books to suit each child.

Royal Proclamation, Part the Second: At the end of each year of successful reading every child shall be rewarded with a cake shaped like the Travelling Restaurant.’

  • Can we look forward to more Tales of Fontania?

I’m certainly playing around with more ideas.

 

 

Barbara’s follow-up to The Traveling Restaurant, called The Queen and the Nobody Boy, is out now in NZ.  It’s another wonderful story, set in the world of Fontania.  You can read my review of The Queen and the Nobody Boy here on the blog.

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Barbara Else on being a finalist in 2012 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards

Even off the top of my distracted head after this exciting news, I can come up with three reasons why being a finalist is so important for me.  First – it is wonderful to be listed in the company of some fine established names in NZ children’s books and with such talented and energetic newcomers. Second – a short listing is very significant for getting your name and work in front of schools and the general public. Third –  this is the greatest treasure – it is a huge affirmation of my work for children. After 6 novels for adults as well as 2 for children some time ago now, working on The Travelling Restaurant was breaking into a new area on a whole new level.  Writing it was a glorious romp. It’s a bonus to find that readers enjoy the fun, tears and magic of the adventure too.

I wanted to see if I’d have as much fun with a follow-up, but I wasn’t going to let it leave my hands unless it was a solid stand-alone book.  The Queen and the Nobody Boy is set in the same world as The Travelling Restaurant a few years later. It was a challenge to kick the story into action as quickly as possible without getting trapped by the need for background. In the end I just booted the characters off into their own tale. Some characters are back again showing different sides of their personalities. There are new characters I’ve grown very fond of, and a villain I love to loathe.

I’m also excited at being asked to take part in the finalists’ tour organised by the NZ Book Council. It’s a treat to meet readers in person. I love reading aloud, and love the unusual questions children ask as well as how they react to unexpected answers.

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The Travelling Restaurant by Barbara Else

In the land of Fontania magic has been outlawed.  Ever since The Great Accident, even uttering the word ‘with five letters that began with ‘m’, had a ‘g’ in the middle and ended with ‘c’ was completely and utterly forbidden.’  The land is ruled by the Provisional Monarch, Lady Gall who keeps herself beautiful by injecting a special fluid called Beauteen into her wrinkles.  Jasper’s father, Dr Ludlow, is the inventor of Beauteen and works for Lady Gall, but when Jasper discovers that his sister, Sibilla was poisoned by Lady Gall, the family must escape.  When Jasper falls asleep on the docks, his family leave him behind.  While he’s looking for their ship he finds the Travelling Restaurant, a colourful ship run by Polly and Dr Rocket.  On the Travelling Restaurant, Jasper embarks on a wild adventure across lakes and oceans.  He faces raging rapids, troublesome monkeys and hungry pirates in the search for his baby sister, who might just be the key to saving Fontania.

The Travelling Restaurant is a magical story, set in a magnificent kingdom filled with colourful characters. My favourite character was Jasper, who is an incredibly brave boy who gets into some dangerous situations, in the hope of finding his sister.  The descriptions of the food that they prepare on the Travelling Restaurant will make your mouth water and your stomach grumble.  Barbara Else has created a world that you will never want to leave.  Recommended for 9+     9 out of 10

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