Darlene Foster's Blog

I am honoured to be asked about inspiring children to read by Sue Slaght of Travel Tales of Life.

Why would a child want to read? How can a book compete with the tantalizing glow of a screen? As the months, or has it been years, of time at home drag on, parents’ nerves are fraying. How can we get kids excited about adventure? Is the love of reading in children a forgotten skill?

We reached out to an expert for advice. How can we turn reluctant readers into book loving kids? Darlene Foster is an award winning author, publishing seven books about a spunky young girl named Amanda. The popular series inspires adventure, travel and reading.

Darlene Foster on inspiring reading in children

Thanks, Sue for inviting me to your awesome blog which encourages travel and appreciating other countries and cultures.

I write my books to inspire children to explore the world and appreciate our unique differences as well as our similarities. Unlike when I was a child, children today are well travelled. Which is great. But right now, because of the COVID 19 pandemic, their parents aren’t able to take them on trips. By providing children with books that take place in other countries, they can go on a vacation without leaving the safety of their home. And by reading the books together, the whole family gets a holiday.

At what age should parents start reading to their children? What types of books are best?

Read the rest of the article here.

I am a guest on The Writer’s Treasure Chest where I talk about writing for children, with a list of things I’ve learned over the years of writing my books.

Writer's Treasure Chest

If you like children and are quite childish, something I´ve often been accused of, then writing for children may seem easy and natural.

I began my love affair with words many years ago. Some of my fondest memories are being read to as a child, visiting the library, and discovering the ability to read by myself. I still have worn copies of favourite childhood books, such as The Bobbsey Twins, Little Women, Black Beauty and Anne of Green Gables; and revisit these old friends from time to time. Books and children go together like toast and jam. Recently, one seven-year-old friend said to me, “Who doesn´t like books?” I never show up without books as gifts for my grandchildren. I am known as The Book Grandma.

It´s not surprising that I love writing stories for children.

While writing for children can be fun, it isn´t easy. It requires removing yourself…

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One question often asked of those of us who were around at the time is, “Where were you when you heard that President John F Kennedy had been shot?” I remember the day clearly even though it happened fifty-seven years ago.

I’d like to share with you a poem a poet friend of mine wrote.

22/11/63

A shot rang out across the years

embedded itself in a nation’s fears.

November the month with stains on its soul

history stilled near a green grassy knoll.

The New Camelot was shattered

and everyhing that mattered

suddenly not an issue

as fragile as brain tissue.

poem by John McGilvary

John F. Kennedy May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

It was a sad day indeed. I remember it was recess time at school and one of the boys said that Kennedy had been shot. I said that it wasn’t funny and he shouldn’t joke about things like that. Once we returned to class, the teacher was visibly upset and broke the news that the President of the United States had indeed been shot. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about his beautiful wife and adorable little children and cried. There have been many other sad events since then, but this sticks with me as it was the first international news that affected me as a young girl living a sheltered life on the Canadian prairies.

Do you recall that day?

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” JFK

I am delighted with this review of Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone from Teri Polen. I love it when someone is enthusiastic about my home province.

Books and Such

Amanda is delighted to show Leah aaround Alberta during her visit from England. They take in the Calgary Stampede, go on a cattle drive, visit Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, spend time with the dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and explore the crazy Hoodoos.When Amanda finds a stone with a unique mark on it, she doesn’t think it’s important until everyone seems to want it – including a very ornery cowboy. Is this stone worth ruining Leah’s holiday and placing them both in danger? Spend time with Amanda as she explores her own country while attempting to decipher the mysterious writing on the stone and keep it from those determined to take it from her.

This is my first time ‘meeting’ Amanda and while there are several books in the series, I chose this one because I traveled to Calgary earlier this year and visited some of the places mentioned in…

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A favourite place to visit near us is the historic village of Guadalest located on a pinnacle of rock with spectacular views all around. It requires driving a twisty, narrow road that winds up into the mountains. At one time Guadalest was only accessible by donkeys. I think it is the same path. But it is so worth it when you get there! I wrote about the Museum of Torture we discovered on one visit, but there is much more to see and do.

There are many shops selling souvenirs, crafts and local produce such as honey, wine, and handbags. There are also a number of unique small museums and great restaurants offering Spanish tapas and full meals. The cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses are straight out of a storybook.

A highlight is Guadalest Castle (Castell de Guadalest), built in the 11th Century by the Moors, which is accessed by walking through a 15-foot long tunnel carved out of the rock, known as the Portal de San Jose.

Portal de San Jose

Once through the tunnel, it’s like you have entered another time. The old village houses surround a square with a statue of a famous bishop in the centre. The restored house of the Orduna family, an important family of Guadalest, is a museum that gives an idea of what it used to be like living in the village many years ago. It also houses an art gallery. From this house, a path leads to the bell tower.

Bell tower of Penon de la Alcala

The most famous attraction is the picturesque white bell tower of Penon de la Alcala, precariously perched on the mountainside and found on most postcards. If you don’t mind a bit of a hike, a well-maintained path takes you up to the bell tower. The twelve stations of the cross dot the side of the path, and near the top is an old graveyard. The hike is worth it as at the very top, you are treated to fabulous views of the valley and reservoir.

A view of the castle from the path.
An easy path leading up to the bell tower with stations of the cross along the way
The stations of the cross are painted on ceramic tiles
A lovely sign as you near the cemetery in four languages
The gate to the cemetery, with a view
The bell tower and the castle in a gorgeous setting
A fabulous view of the valley and reservoir
I love Guadalest as you can tell. (Picture taken by Donna Cluff)

© Darlene Foster

I’m a guest on The Write Stuff. Check out a sneak peek of Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady.

The Write Stuff

Today, please join me in giving  Darlene Foster a huge welcome back to The Write Stuff. Darlene has been sharing new Amanda adventures with us for some time, and she’s back with the cover reveal for her upcoming book, Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady. I think you’ll agree that it’s gorgeous! Congratulations, Darlene!


Thanks, Marcia for letting me share the cover of Amanda in Malta!
Book 8 in the exciting Amanda Travels series will be released in May 2021 and is available for pre-order on all Amazon and Indigo sites, links below.

Remember, all the books in the Amanda Travels series make great Christmas gifts.

~~~ 

The grass certainly doesn’t grow under Amanda’s feet. When she gets an odd postcard from Leah in Malta, alarm bells go off and she decides she has to go and help her best friend. As luck would have it, her…

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Hi Readers! Dot here. I just turned five years old. I had a little party and got two of my favourite bones and a cup cake. I´m one lucky dog.

I have a good life here on the Costa Blanca of Spain since mom and dad adopted me. I thought I would share some of my favourite things with you, because mom said I could.

I love the beach and playing with my friends at the beach
I love going to the park and chasing squirrels
I just wish I could climb trees!
Sometimes I make friends at the park. I love my warm jackets for cool winter days too.
I really love playing with my best friend Patch. I´m so happy I´m smiling.
I love ice cream and wait in line patiently when the ice cream lady comes every Monday. She told us last week it would be her last visit until March. I don´t know if I can wait that long!
I love the children who come to visit and play with me.
I especially love my comfy blanket
I love my comfy chair too
My chair is a good place to watch for Dad to come home. You can see why I´m called Dot.
Sometimes I sneak into mom and dad´s bed and have a really good sleep.
It´s Remembrance Day on Wednesday and I hope everyone remembers those who gave their lives so we can all have a good life.

Thanks for reading about me and my good life.

Dot the Dog

Guadalest is a great place and only about a little over an hour from our home in Spain. We often take out-of-town guests there for a day trip. I plan to write a post about it soon. But for today, I want to tell you about one of the many museums in this amazing place. The Torture Museum, perfect for Halloween! For those who write horror stories, you may get some ideas.

The museum is housed in a heritage building that feels creepy as soon as you enter.

The buliding consists of eleven small rooms on four levels with displays of more than 70 instruments of torture and execution used by the Inquisition, royalty and governments, not only in Spain but throughout medieval Europe. Some of the detailed descriptions were too gruesome for me to read. But the displays were well done and not too terrible to look at. Here are a few of them.

Hanging cages

The French Bishop who invented the hanging cage ended up in one. How ironic is that? They could be seen hanging in alcoves of the royal castles to warn others what might happen should they disobey the king. Prisoners were often left to starve to death hanging in the cages, like this poor fellow.

The barrel pillory

The barrel was used to humiliate drunkards and people who spoke against the government or king. An iron mask was often put on the subject who would have to walk around town in the barrel while people threw slop and garbage in it.

The rack, used for interrogation since the Roman times
The grill, as old as the Roman Empire or maybe older.
Chastity belts, humiliation for women
Don’t touch or you may lose your fingers, or your head.
The wheel, a nasty means of execution.
I didn’t need to be reminded not to touch the guillotine.
Lots of cool old doors in the building leading to rooms holding more torture devices
Don’t ask. I stopped reading the descriptions by then.

I know these were used a long time ago, but I still couldn’t get over how cruel mankind can be.

We eventually found a friend who seemed harmless enough.

I love Halloween. It was so much fun as a kid to dress up and collect goodies. I still remember some of the costumes mom made for me, Little Bo Peep was my favourite. No store-bought costumes! Later, I had fun making costumes for my kids. A snoopy costume for my son was a big hit, as was a cute Little Red Riding Hood for my daughter. As they got older I made Kiss outfits for my son and his three friends. And a Teddy Bear costume for my daughter which she still wears when she goes to schools to teach pottery.

Mom continued making costumes for her grandkids and great-grandkids. She made a clown costume for my daughter that has been handed down over the years and recently her great-great-granddaughter wore it.

Clown costume made by mom

Most of the offices I worked in encouraged us to dress up for Halloween and I always enjoyed that. Here are a couple of my favourite costumes.

Jane Austen
Would you like your fortune told?
A scary pirate

Even the fur babies get to dress up. Here’s my grandpuppy Lola in her Batman costume.

I don’t read scary books (sorry Stephen King) or watch horror movies, although some are probably very well done. The books I write are not too frightening, except for Amanda in Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind which has a few spooky parts. But nothing that would keep kids up at night.

Here is a short excerpt.

Amanda stood in front of a door the map showed as the Santos Display Room.

“What’s in here?”

Along with Caleb and a couple of other students, she entered the dimly-lit room containing glass cabinets filled with pictures and statues of various saints. A sign explained how the families in Spanish America always
kept a shrine to a saint in their homes. The shrine often held Milagros, tiny silver shapes attached to statues of the saints. There were legs for people who couldn’t walk, eyes for those who had bad eyesight and animal
figures to wish a farmer a productive year with his flock.

Amanda was fascinated as she peered through the glass at small objects stuck on the figures.

She looked up and gasped. At the end of the narrow room stood a life-sized skeleton of a woman riding in a wooden cart. Amanda, heart beating, crept closer to the scary figure wearing a scraggly white wig and a long dark
robe. She carried a scythe in one hand and a globe in the other. On the wall beside the figure, a plaque told of Doña Sebastiana, the female saint of death, or Santa Muerte. During the Holy Week procession at Easter, this
female Grim Reaper was rolled out in her death cart and transported through the town. Parents would point her out and tell the children if they did not behave, Doña Sebastiana would come for them.

Amanda gulped and peered more closely at the horrible figure. She couldn’t understand why parents would want to scare their children like that.

‘Imagine the nightmares!’ Amanda thought.

Just then, everything went black. Something brushed Amanda’s shoulder. She froze.

“Caleb,” she whispered. “Is that you?”
There was no answer.
A cold breeze passed over her.

If you are looking for something to read or to read with the young children in your life, you might want to check it out.

Have a Happy Halloween!!

I’ve read some great books this year. I’m so pleased Sally Cronin is featuring this one on the Smorgasbord Children’s Cafe and Bookstore along with my review.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the series where you can share your reviews for any children’s books you have read recently and posted on your blog, Amazon, Goodreads or any other online bookstore. If you would like more details here is the post that explains how it works:Showcasing Children’s books

This week a review for children’s author Darlene Foster for The Jigsaw Puzzle King by Gina McMurchy-Barber

45308133About the book

When you’re new in school, all you want is to fit in. When eleven-year-old Warren and his family move to a new city, his twin brother, who has Down syndrome, attracts too much attention for Warren’s liking. Bennie’s different and doesn’t care about it. But while Bennie may be oblivious to those who are curious or uneasy with him, Warren notices every smirk, comment, and sideways glance.

Warren is weary of flip-flopping between trying to be just like everyone else and…

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© Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Darlene Foster and darlenefoster.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.