With the help of NZ Book Month I had a ticket to Queenstown to tour the schools at the southern-most corner of New Zealand. New Zealand Book Council found eight willing schools and I was off to visit them in my hired car. On the first morning, I passed a falcon on the side of the road glaring at me, daring me to stop, as I wound my way up the mountains then down the other side to Wanaka. The fog dissipated as I passed a silvery lake and drove into Holy Family school nestled at the bottom of the mountains.
I talked to the children about how heroes started at their age with a dream and with hard work and determination they succeeded. I included conservationists in the hero status and read from my latest book The Call of the Kokako. Children acted out how vulnerable some of our endangered birds were with puppets – the ferret being a firm baddy favourite with the kids. I then held up baby pictures of remarkable kiwis from New Zealand Hall of Fame and with clues students guessed who they were. At the end, I gave out bookmarks, packed away my laptop and drove off to the next school.
Over the next four days, I hitched up my PowerPoint, brought out the puppets, pranced around the stage and waved my arms about to entertain the students. The smiling faces said it all. On the last day, author Kathy White joined me at Catlins Area School and we co-presented. It really is a treat talking to schools that are enthusiastic about books.
On the journey, I passed some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. Shhhhh, I’m not supposed to tell anyone because it is the Southerners best kept secret. Did I tell you about the fruit – raspberries that stained my fingers red, the promise of a box of walnuts from one school, and the crisp blue skies. Sigh – I want to go again.
by author Maria Gill - shown below on her tour.