Darlene Foster's Blog

A great post on the importance of reading, that made me think of the books I read as a child and how they influenced my life.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

In celebration of the imminent release of Jessica Norrie’s new book on July 22nd, I will be sharing her literary column posts again every fortnight over the summer. More about The Magic Carpet later in the post.

Reading from the very start

What is the beginning?

Before I wrote fiction and blogged, I was a translator, teacher and teacher trainer, with students ranging from 3 – 80+. I learned if a child learns young enough to appreciate different points of view through reading stories, the habit ebbs and flows but is never quite lost, with huge repercussions for how their lives develop.

Non-fiction can be told as stories too. The beginnings are usually clear, the plotting goes all over the place, the ends may be murky, but there’s always a story in there somewhere. It may be obvious – Henry VIII and his six wives, Harriet Tubman, Mahatma Ghandhi. Sometimes…

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My talented daughter lives on the beautiful west coast of Canada where she makes pottery and communes with nature.

Here are a couple of examples of her pottery.

More of her pottery can be viewed on her website https://madmudslinger.com/

She recently had an opportunity recently to observe first hand an Eagle family. She sent me pictures of this amazing nest where the Eagle parents are raising their adorable Eaglet. This is what she had to say about the youngster –

“It’s so cute, ever since he’s been big enough he peaks his head over the side while waiting for his parents to come back with food. Interesting that only one hatched this year.”

She also included some information about the nest.

“The nest has been there for years, maybe decades, but 2 years ago a series of storms crashed it to the ground. The site was abandoned until last year when the Eagle couple decided to rebuild. Building is a lot of work, it went into the season so they waited until this year to hatch another family. It’s very exciting. A celebration!”

“An Eagle nest weighs one ton and a VW Beetle can fit inside it. The adult wingspan is 8 feet so they need some room with all the comings and goings.”

She is fortunate to be able to witness this marvel of nature. I’m so happy she shared it with me.

Have you ever had a chance to view wild animals in nature?

I am honoured to be featured on Nora Colvin’s blog where I discuss my school days. This is a fun feature. I love to read about school experiences everyone has had in various parts of the world and at different times.

Norah Colvin

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Darlene Foster, world traveller and writer of travel adventure books for children and adventurers of all ages. Darlene joined in the conversations about school days from the beginning and was keen to share her own reminiscences with you.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Darlene to tell you a little of herself:

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old…

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I love everything Gaudi and was delighted to learn that his birthplace was very near where we were staying on our recent holiday in the province of Tarragona. So, of course, we made a visit. Reus is another charming Spanish town with its own flavour. It is known as an important producer of wines and spirits, texiles and the birthplace of architect Antoni Gaudí.

Plaza del Mercadal

We found the old town square, which is the best place to start when visiting these towns as everything stems from there. There are always plenty of cute coffee shops with outdoor terraces, great for people watching and grabbing a snack. 

An interesting building around the square is Casa Navas, a house built in 1901 in the Catalan Art Noveau style designed by a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, for the textile dealer, Joaquim Navas. Surprisingly, there are no buildings designed by Gaudi in Reus.

Casa Navas

In the town hall stands a bust of their most famous resident born in 1852, the son of a coppersmith. He left Reus at age 16 when he moved to Barcelona to study and begin his amazing career.

The bust of Gaudi in the town hall.

A modern building houses the Gaudi Centre Reus dedicated to the life and work of the brilliant architect. The excellent interactive displays on three floors include examples of his inovative structures and details of where he got his ideas, many of them from nature. I noticed a number of school children being taken through while I visited. They appeared to be enjoying the centre. 

Inside the Gaudi Centre


A replica of part of Park Güell in Barcelona


The San Pedro church where Gaudi was baptised and confirmed.

I wandered down the side streets, imagining I was treading where Gaudi once walked as a young boy, his imagination already running wild. Looking down I noticed the paving stones are Gaudi inspired.

And then I came across this intriguing statue on the side of a building. Fortunately there was an explanation on a plaque.

The figure is called the Jew of Arrabal. In the mid-eighteenth century, the owner of this building erected a satirical statue pointing an accusing finger to the home of a neighbour he had had a legal dispute with. It became a popular sculpture in the city over the years. The original, from 1768, was badly damaged and has been recreated using the same colours.

These are the gems you find when you venture down the side streets of these wonderful Spanish towns. I’m sure Gaudi had passed by the statue many times.

Note – I didn’t take many pictures of this visit as my camera’s battery died just as we arrived. The pictures shown were taken with my cell phone and aren’t very good. But I hope you get the idea.

We are on the home stretch. Just doing the last spit and polish of Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action before it is printed. I’ve created a trailer for the book. Let me know what you think of it.

A huge thank you to everyone who downloaded the book on NetGalley and to those who wrote reviews, I so appreciate it. The e-book is still available free on NetGalley for a limited time. If you would like one click here

This little ornament, a gift from Holland, is mentioned in the book.

What people are saying abut Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action

As always, I love the way these books teach kids about new places. Darlene does a great job combining history, cuisine, architecture and in this case, botany, from new countries in a way that children will enjoy. Looking forward to the next of Amanda and Leah’s adventures! Alex Lyttle

I had to smile as page after page the essence of the country is superbly captured through Amanda’s eyes. A delightful way for a young person to be immersed in the local lifestyle while being swept away in an exciting tale with a great ending! Irene Butler

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action has a great conversational read style and one of the things that I loved the most is that Ms. Foster incorporates a lot of history and facts into the story to give the reader a lot of information about the country that Amanda is exploring. From Anne Frank to tulips to wooden shoes to windmills Amanda experiences. Beth Ann Chiles

The story is told in a conversational voice that will draw all readers in and deftly mixes the cultural details with how Amanda engages in and solves the mystery. Jacqui Murray

Amanda comes across this comical character while exploring Holland.

Available for pre-order on all Amazon sites.

I love history and can never get enough of it. Visiting sights and structures from long ago makes it all seem so much more real to me. On a recent visit to Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, much to my delight, I was immersed in it.

The entire city of Tarragona was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2000. And I can see why. Roman ruins are everywhere and appear naturally amongst more modern apartment blocks, restaurants, coffee shops and commercial buildings. It is fitting as, after all, they were there first.

Amphitheatres always intrigue me and the one in Tarragona, built in the time of Augustus, is quite intact and overlooks the Mediterranean sea. Imagine watching a play there. It is still used for reenactments of gladiator fights, plays and even weddings.

Imagine having lunch with a view of the sea and the amphitheatre!

Not far from the amphitheatre are the remains of the Roman Circus built in the first century which was used for horse and chariot races. It doesn’t take much to imagine the excitement of such an event.

A museum inside the Roman Circus held interesting artefacts

The old indoor market, Mercat Central, still sells fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and was worth a visit. I bought some lovely tea to bring home.

Coming across the Forum, the remains of a Roman street and basilica, in a residential area, was incredible. It was as if timelines had blurred together. And I had the place almost to myself!

This would have been part of someone’s home two thousand years ago. I touched the walls and my Roman heart sang.
The base of a sculpture

Tarragona is famous for its Concurs de Castells where people called Castellers in matching outfits and sashes, compete for building the tallest human pyramid. This exciting and well-attended event is held every other October at Plaza de Toros, the former bull ring. (Bullfighting is outlawed in Catalonia.) I found posters for the event and in the middle of the Rambla Nova, the city’s main business street, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the .

A poster for Concurs de Castells. Look at all the people cheering them on.
Hubby contemplating climbing the tower of people.

Tarragona has wonderful buildings, fountains and statues everywhere and much to see is in walking distance.

Mosaic on the sidewalk outside the theatre

As if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we drove 4 kilometres outside the city on a quest to find a two-thousand-year-old Roman Aqueduct. We drove past the entrance three times but eventually found the parking lot. A short hike through the forest and there it stood as it has for centuries. I truly felt time stand still.

The Romans built things to last!

I touched the stones that centuries of folks before me have, and all that history ran down my arm and into my heart. I was so happy.

A great review for Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music is being featured on The Write Stuff. This remains to be a popular book in the series, enjoyed by adults and children.

The Write Stuff

It’s Tuesday once more and time for #ShareAReviewDay here on The Write Stuff. Please help me welcome Darlene Foster this morning, who will be sharing a review of her book Amanda on the Danube. (Have you noticed what a well-traveled little girl Amanda is? Lucky her!) Hope you enjoy this one and will pass it along far and wide. Thanks!

REVIEW:

Robbie Cheadle

Michael and I read this book together and we both enjoyed it immensely. It is my favourite of the three Amanda books we have read to date and we will definitely be reading more.

Amanda and her good friend, Leah, are on a boat cruise along the Danube and very much enjoying the good food and fascinating villages and towns that they stop at when they become embroiled in…

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