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Anne Frank’s Journey, Part 1 – The Secret Annex

Earlier this year, I was privileged to visit the beautiful country of Holland and, while there, I finally realised a life-long ambition – visiting the Anne Frank House. I also had the opportunity to see Camp Westerbork, in the east of the country, where all the Dutch prisoners (Jews, resistance workers and others) were taken before they were transported to concentration camps in other parts of Europe.

This is the first of a three-part series where we will be following Anne Frank’s journey, from the Secret Annex in Amsterdam to Camp Westerbork, and onwards to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Anne died in March 1945 in Bergen-Belsen.

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The Last Chapter

Appalling. Dreadful. Distressing. Callous. Sickening. All words used in official statements to describe the Manchester bombing earlier this week when twenty-two people lost their lives and many more were injured. The world is reeling from the senseless loss of life, and the manifestation of desperate wickedness in the hearts of men. It has touched many to hear of children and young people killed, and we’ve watched in dread as pleas for information about missing people from distraught relatives have ended in announcements of their death.

Tears have been shed, and many more are yet to be shed. So much pain, so much tragedy. A sample of the countless tears shed across this groaning world through all the ages.READ MORE

Interview with children’s author, Robert Plant

Robert Plant is a Northern Ireland-based evangelist with a special interest in children’s work, and the author of a number of children’s books, both factual (Discover Britain series, and Emerald Isle Adventures), and historical fiction (Escape from the Island of Occupation, Return to the Island of Occupation, and Titanic: The Ship of Dreams). His latest book, Outstanding Orkney, part of the Discover Britain series, is due out within the next fortnight. Robert kindly agreed to answer a variety of questions about writing and books, and you can read his very interesting answers below.

Tell us a little about how you first began to write books.

I use a lot of books as prizes in my children’s meetings and when we first commenced working with children, Karen, my wife, read every book that we gave out. When our daughter, Grace, was born, Karen had other responsibilities, so we just used books that others had recommended or that looked good and were from reliable publishers. One day, I decided to read a few myself and was greatly troubled at the lack of Gospel content in them. I stated to Karen, “I could do much better myself,” to which she replied, “Go on, then!” I took up her challenge and commenced writing a book that I still have not completed!READ MORE

The dog who rides a motorbike, and other scenes from a Mexican road trip

The little dog, resplendent in red cape, goggles and tiny hat, sat calmly on the seat in front of the motorbike rider. His little ears flapped in the breeze as they zoomed past the ridiculously long line at the toll booth. I blinked. Had we been waiting so long that my boredom-addled brain was beginning to envisage scenes out of a children’s illustrated story book?

But no. This was Mexico. The land where motorbike-riding dogs happily share the unpredictable roads with green and white Nissan Tsuru taxis (an ancient design of car preferred by the Mexican taxi industry) and enormous road-hogging double-trailered trucks.READ MORE

Wallowing – for pigs or people?

Wallowing. An expressive word, the very sound of it conjuring up images of indulgently rolling around in a thick, gloopy substance. It is the favourite activity of Gladys the pig in my latest children’s book, Harry and the Muddy Pig. Despite being washed, her natural inclination is to head straight back to the mud puddle.

In a human context, the word is rarely used to describe favourable behaviour. Instead of mud, we humans like to wallow in self-pity, misery and envy, amongst other less-than-desirable traits. Even mentions of wallowing in luxury, food or relaxation have negative connotations of self-indulgence.READ MORE

Patrick – saint or sinner?

I had a wonderful childhood growing up at the foot of Slemish, the mountain to which, according to legend, Saint Patrick was brought after he was captured and became a slave. We loved climbing the small rock and heather-covered mountain as children, and we couldn’t slide back down the steep, muddy slopes until we’d each had a turn sitting in what we called Saint Patrick’s chair – a missing section from a large, flat-topped stone.

It wasn’t only local people who visited the mountain, however. Each 17th March, Saint Patrick’s Day, hordes of people descended on our area in cars, buses, and even walking the ten or so miles from the nearest town. From our garden, we were able to see the climbers as small specks silhouetted against the spring sky.READ MORE

‘Behind the scenes’ interview – Mary Weatherup, illustrator of the ‘Harry’ books

When did you begin to draw and when did you decide that you’d like to illustrate children’s books?

I’ve enjoyed drawing ever since I can remember. My sister and I were always doodling at home and we sometimes made ‘books’ and ‘magazines’!  We were always running out of paper and drew on anything we could find.  It wasn’t until I got to secondary school that I realised I could draw realistically from life. My favourite thing in Art class was when the teacher would set down a few random objects and tell us to draw them.  I didn’t choose to study Art at A level because I felt the emphasis was more on design than drawing, but the thought was always in the back of my mind that I’d like to draw pictures for books.  When I look at a book I always study the illustrations!READ MORE

A box of books, powerful memories, and the gift of reading

As I was rummaging through and half-heartedly attempting to sort out some boxes in our storage room one day, I pulled back the lid on one particular box and caught a glimpse of some special childhood friends. Laughing, I lifted out ‘The Best Mistake Ever’ by Richard Scarry and sank onto the floor to read. Huckle Cat, sent by his mother to the shop for butter, cream, apples, potatoes and oranges, had forgotten to take the shopping list. His friend Lowly Worm happened to be at the shop and so Huckle, on Lowly’s advice, arrived home with peanut butter, ice cream, apple pie, potato crisps and orange juice instead. Frustrated Mother Cat could see no use for party food, but quickly changed her mind with the arrival of unexpected guests.

As I read the words and perused the pictures, deep, long-buried and almost-forgotten memories bubbled up. Not one memory in particular, but a blending of all those times I stared at the illustrations and touched those thick, textured pages with my little hands.READ MORE

Why we shouldn’t focus on the brushstrokes

When I’m on holiday, I love stumbling across art galleries, and can never resist taking a peek inside to admire the paintings. While I know very little about the world of art, I find the variety of style and technique intriguing. My personal favourites are paintings which, up close, look like a mass of small, thickly-applied brushstrokes, seemingly with no pattern or focus, yet when you stand back and observe the painting from a distance, all the brushstrokes have combined to form a rich, textured and outstandingly beautiful picture.

In life, I often forget to stand back. Instead, I focus on the tiny, individual brushstrokes. The little daubs of paint that seem to make no sense. The humdrum of life. Everyday activities. Even things that we, as believers, started out with great gusto to do for God. It’s so easy to become focussed on today. This earthly life.READ MORE

Princess Precious and the Great King of Everything, by E M Wilkie

In this post, I chat to fellow children’s author, Eunice Wilkie, about her new release, Princess Precious and the Great King of Everything. This is a beautiful book with great biblical lessons. Little ‘princesses’ are going to love it!

Princess Precious serves the Great King of Everything who lives in Forever Castle, high in the sky. But sadly, not many of the people around her believe in him; they don’t seem to see all the good things the Great King has given her and how splendid he has made her. Unless the people trust in the King, they won’t receive the riches he has for them. The Princess must tell them about him. How can she help them to find him?

 

Where did you get your inspiration for this story and was there anything in particular which prompted you to write it?

In September 2015 I spent time with my nieces in the USA – three little girls aged 4-6. I saw firsthand how much they loved all the clothes and accessories and books which made them feel like a princess. I had a vague idea it would be good to write a princess story for them – one which wasn’t just another ‘happily-ever-after’ adventure, but also taught something about the message of the Bible. So, while the girls played, I began to scribble ideas – not knowing whether it would amount to much. But stories take on a life of their own – and, a bit further down the road, the book is completed at last.READ MORE