Escape…… by Belinda Murrell
All of us read for different reasons – to learn, to laugh, to experience – but most of all we read to escape into another world.
Escape is one of my favourite words – whether it is to escape into a book, or to travel. So if I can combine both – that is truly wonderful! For two years I lived a long-held dream with my family. We ran away together and spent two years travelling throughout Europe and all around Australia, when my children were aged six, eight and ten. During this time, we home schooled the kids, which of course included lots of reading and sharing books. Here are some of our favourites:
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
This is one of my best children’s book memories. The Thief Lord, set in the enchanted city of Venice, is the story of two orphan runaway boys, Prospero and Bo, who find friendship and protection with a gang of street urchins, living in an abandoned cinema. The children are supported by Scipio, the Thief Lord, a mysterious and charming teenage boy who purports to be an elusive master thief. My whole family read the book before we visited Venice, then we planned a treasure hunt exploring the canals, palazzos, bridges and alleyways of the city searching for many of the book’s key scenes and settings – from the Piazza San Marco, the Duomo and the Ponte di Rialto, to Sculo san Rocco, and the cobbled Campo Santa Margherita guarded by a dragon. The Thief Lord brought the city of Venice alive for all of us so we could almost imagine the winged lions growling, and the mermaids dragging themselves up from the canals at midnight to drink from the fountains.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
Where else would you read this classic book but in the Alps? We spent three weeks living in an old timber house in the Swiss village of Klosters. Outside the snowflakes would float down all night, the church bells would ring out through the valley, and we would gather inside around the fire drinking hot chocolate, eating apfel strudel and reading books. Everyone had to take turns reading Heidi out loud. Despite the age of this book (it was published in 1880), my children loved this story of Heidi’s simple life growing up with the goats and her crotchety grandfather, high in the Swiss alps. Our Swiss adventures included visiting the winter cow barns down in the village to buy fresh milk, having snowball battles, tobogganing in the back garden, skiing over the snow-covered meadows past the tiny alp huts and jingling through the countryside in a horse-drawn sleigh. It was a time of simple pleasures surrounded by incredible beauty – a place where cold is fun!!
The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
During our travels, we had a Harry Potter read-a-thon where everyone in the family had to read the whole series of seven Harry Potter books from start to finish, one after the other. We had long, intense discussions about the characters and the story. There were arguments if someone was reading too slowly and holding everyone up, or if someone let something slip ‘oh, no, I can’t believe Harry did that!’. There were tears when favourite characters died and shouts of excitement when it looked like Harry, Hermione and Ron might be winning. My children wore velvet cloaks, shouting out Latin spells and having lively magic battles, with twigs for wands, or ‘flying’ on homemade Quidditch brooms. As part of our pilgrimage, we visited Alnwick Castle near the Scottish border, which was the grand setting for Hogwarts School in the movies and imagined our favourite characters flying around the turrets and battlements. Our epic HP readathon was a truly enchanting experience.
The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell
The adventures and places we experienced in our travels have inspired several of my books. In Australia, we spent several months in the exotic wilds of the Top End and I drew on these experiences while writing my new book, The Forgotten Pearl – the story of a teenage girl called Poppy and her experiences during World War 2. In 1941, Darwin is a remote outpost in the far north of Australia – a peaceful paradise far from the war. Poppy’s life seems perfect but when Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, then Australia, Poppy’s world is torn apart. Everything she holds dear is threatened – her family, her neighbours and her friends. The Forgotten Pearl is the story of Poppy’s own escape and her journey through love, grief, friendship and joy. The Forgotten Pearl will be published in May 2012.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
As a lover of all things Bronte, I dragged my family to celebrate my birthday at Haworth in West Yorkshire. For me it was an inspiring experience to visit the Parsonage where the Brontes lived for most of their lives, to see the furniture they used, clothes they wore, and miniature books they wrote as children. Theirs was a tragic story – their mother Maria died of cancer when Anne was a baby, two sisters, Maria and Elizabeth died at 11 and 12, then Branwell, Emily and Anne died within a few months of each other in their late twenties, leaving just Charlotte and her father Patrick. Yet in their short lives, in this lonely, isolated village – Charlotte, Emily and Anne wrote such amazing books. We wandered down the narrow cobbled streets of the village, scrambled over the stiles to the misty, blustery moors, and explored the crowded graveyard. My birthday pilgrimage to Haworth was completed with a celebration lunch at the Black Bull pub where Branwell misspent much of his time and talents. A hearty meal of roast beef, Yorkshire puds and two kinds of potato in front of a roaring log fire – now that is a true escape.
So now we are all back home, living in Sydney and firmly entrenched into the usual routine of careers, school, sport and homework. But every now and then, we pore over the photos and talk about the many amazing experiences, memories, adventures and books we shared as a family on our travels.
Belinda Murrell – Children’s Author Biography
Belinda Murrell is a bestselling, internationally published children’s author currently writing her twelfth book. These include four picture books, her fantasy adventure series – The Sun Sword Trilogy, and her time-slip adventures The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman, and The Ivory Rose – as well as Belinda’s new book The Forgotten Pearl set in Australia during World War 2. Belinda’s books have been shortlisted for various awards including the 2011 KOALA (Kids Own Australian Literary Awards), 2011 YABBA (Young Australian Best Book of the Year Award), 2011 COOL (Canberra’s Own Outstanding List), 2011 KROC NT Awards and 2010 WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers Book Award). Belinda’s website is http://www.belindamurrell.com.au