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.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards

The winners of the 2012 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards were announced in Wellington last night.  The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards are awarded each year by Children’s Librarians for outstanding books for children and young people.  Here are the winners in each category:

LIANZA Junior Fiction Award – Esther Glen Medal
The Travelling Restaurant
by Barbara Else, (GECKO Press).

LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award
Pyre of Queens
by David Hair, (Penguin NZ)

LIANZA Illustration Award – Russell Clark Award
 by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, (Huia).

LIANZA Non Fiction Award – Elsie Locke Medal
Nice Day for a War
by Chris Slane and Matt Elliott, illustrated by Chris Slane (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd).

Te Kura Pounamu (te reo Māori)
ā Taniwha i te-Whanga-nui-a-Tara by Moira Wairama and Bruce Potter, (Penguin NZ).

The winner of each category was awarded a medal or taonga and $1,000.

Librarians’ Choice Award
 by Chris Szekely and Malcolm Ross, (Huia).

For more information about the awards see the LIANZA website.


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.