Tag Archives: magic

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children, children's fiction, fantasy, New Zealand

Picture Book Nook: The Great Orlando by Ben Brown and Helen Taylor

I’ve always loved Ben Brown and Helen Taylor’s books.  So far their books have been mostly about native New Zealand wildlife and they’re beautiful books.  Their latest book, The Great Orlando, is something completely different, but absolutely stunning.

From the very first page you know that this is not a happy story.  ‘The Great Orlando,’ otherwise known as Sunday Jones lives in a ‘rough, broken house with an unkempt lawn and a dead lemon tree in the front yard.’  His father is a cruel, miserable man, but his mother cares for him, protects him, and tells him bedtime stories of The Great Orlando.  When his mother dies, Sunday Jones is left with his father who makes his life a misery.  When he gets the chance to enter the school talent show, he transforms himself into The Great Orlando and is finally able to escape his miserable life.

The Great Orlando is a dark, multi-layered story about a boy who wants to escape.  Ben and Helen introduce us to Sunday Jones, a boy with a father who makes life hard for him, but holds onto the dreams his mother gave to him through her stories.   Ben Brown weaves his magic on the reader with his words and shows us a snapshot of Sunday’s life.  I particularly like the way Ben describes the mother’s love for her son.  This story also shows us how versatile Helen Taylor is.  It’s a completely different subject matter to her previous illustrations but they match the text perfectly and I really love them.  They’re quite dark and eerie, which matches the tone of the story, and I like the symbolism she’s used throughout the book (the shadow of the bull in the background and the butterfly).  The Great Orlando is the perfect picture book to share with older readers who will appreciate both the story and the illustrations.  I hope The Great Orlando sees some success outside of New Zealand for this talented duo.

4 out of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children, New Zealand, Picture Book Nook, picture books

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under authors, books, children, children's fiction, fantasy

Liesl and Po book trailer

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver is one of the fantastic books I’m reading at the moment.  It’s a really magical book and one of those stories that you can get lost in.  If you like books like The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, I highly recommend it.  Reserve it at your library now.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, children, children's fiction, fantasy