The Locust Curse

David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II continues to fascinate and instruct. Last week’s extraordinary footage of a locust swarm in Madagascar brought back horrific memories of the 2005 locust invasion in the Sahel, including our area of Burkina Faso. The locusts destroyed the crops of many thousands of people, prompted a huge relief effort (most of my work in Djibo that year was with the Red Cross and the World Food Programme) and inspired my second book Sophie and the Locust Curse, a story of creativity and resourcefulness in the wake of catastrophe.

“Watch out! The locusts are coming!”

A terrifying army of locusts is devouring crops in one village after another. Gidaado’s village is next. When the locusts arrive, Gidaado will need all his wits about him. He will need his friend Sophie, his three-stringed guitar, and an albino camel as fast as the harmattan wind.

Survivor: Titanic

Told from the perspective of a twelve year old Irish boy in third-class, Survivor: Titanic is a new book for reluctant readers aged eight plus. It comes out on 5 January 2017 (published by Scholastic) and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

I really enjoyed planning and writing this one. I spent hours poring over deck plans of the ship and trying to come up with the most dramatic, adventure-filled story I could, without either shying away from or glamourizing the tragedy of this real event.

I found the following video particularly helpful during my research: a highly accurate real-time animation of the sinking. An extraordinary reconstruction of one of the most terrible maritime disasters in history.

Children’s books about elections – Kindle ebooks

Political elections are tricky subjects for children’s fiction, and need to be written with a light hand. With the American 2012 Presidential Race now upon us, here are three recommendations for children’s adventure books which deal with election shenanigans. The links here are for Kindle ebooks, but paperbacks are also available – just follow the Paperback link from the product description page.

I have to declare an interest – the third book in this list is mine. To my knowledge, Sophie and the Pancake Plot is the only election-themed children’s adventure story not set in the US. Please correct me in the comments section if this is not the case – or if you have written an election story for kids, feel free to plug it in the comments.

1. Election Day by Margaret McNamara

Election DayToday is election day in Mrs. Connor’s class. The students will listen to speeches and vote for a new class president. Today is also Becky’s first day at Robin Hill School. She thinks she would make a great class president, but she’s new and has no friends yet. When Becky takes a chance and makes a speech, the whole class is surprised by the winner!

Ages 4+

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2. The Election-Day Disaster by Ron Roy

The Election Day Disaster kindle editionKC and her best friend wake up to a trick not a treat the morning after the White House Halloween costume party. With the presidential election only a week away, someone has posted damaging photos of the president on the Internet, photos that were digitally doctored! Will they ruin Thornton’s chances for a second term? Or can KC and Marshall rescue the election?

Ages 6+

3. Sophie and the Pancake Plot by Stephen Davies

Sophie and the Pancake Plot kindle editionElection day is just around the corner and Sophie’s best friend Gidaado is working for Presidential candidate General Crepe-Sombo. But Sophie discovers that the famous General is not at all the kind, peaceful man he pretends to be. To expose the villain before he becomes President, Sophie will need a dog whistle, a carnivorous plant and an albino camel as fast as the harmattan wind.

(Ages 7+)

How Chobbal the albino camel got his name

Fama is one of our neighbours here in Burkina Faso. She is eighteen and she makes a living from selling chobbal, which is porridge made from sour milk and millet. Every morning Fama gets up early and pounds millet in a wooden mortar until it is a fine flour. She mixes the flour with water and herbs and cooks it over a fire.

When the millet is cooked she leaves it to cool and forms it into balls (about the size of pool balls). She puts these millet balls in a calabash (a bowl made from the calabash fruit) and takes them from door to door. Each ball costs 50 African francs – that’s about 7 pence (10 cents). To make the chobbal, she simply mixes the millet balls with milk. She says it tastes better if you use yesterday’s milk rather than today’s.

Chobbal is delicious but it has a reputation for making you go to sleep. So don’t eat it at lunchtime if you’re working in the field or herding cows in the countryside.

I chose Chobbal as the name of the camel in Sophie and the Albino Camel. Like an albino camel, chobbal is an off-white colour – and very smelly!