Cristy Burne

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Take&#$@a Demons?

The reviews for TAKESHITA DEMONS keep coming in and, although I try not to look and to focus on my own enjoyment of the stories, it is great to see that people are enjoying the read.

An interesting thing: one of the reviews was censored by Amazon for including an obscene word. Guess which one?

For the record, “Takeshita” is a common surname in Japan and is composed of the kanji “ta-ke” (which means bamboo) and “shi-ta” (which means under).

And, equally funny but perhaps a little rude for my French-speaking readers: “Burne” is a fairly unique surname, especially with the “e” at the end.

But apparently (and I thank my French-speaking pals for their courage in telling me this) it means something quite rude in French (think “kindama” for those of you who speak Japanese ;-)). While we were living in Geneva, if I rang up to book tables or leave messages, I used my husband’s name instead.

I wonder if I’ll be the only “Burne” on French shelves?

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Science on the Move: South Africa

I’ve just found out that my great pal and co-presenter Graham Walker is back in South Africa this year with a mobile science show raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.

At last week’s “Meet the Talent” session, I talked briefly of my experience in a science circus, mentioning that I’ve presented to a gazillion children over my years on the road. Some of these children were in Zululand, South Africa, where Graham and I volunteered with the FABULOUS UniZul Science Centre and Science on the Move, a mobile science exhibition that travels to remote and disadvantaged schools.

What follows is the story of one day on the road
(the photos come from many different days :-))

Fenced primary schools of ragged curious children, interactive science shows performed to packed classrooms, low-tech teacher workshops, streams of learners through the hands-on exhibition… We escape potholes, dodge taxis, pack boxes, choose words…Welcome to another day trucking with Science on the Move.

On this particular day we are travelling in a convoy of two, and already deep into the dirt roads and rolling hills of Zululand when we first suspect something is up.

The lead car, the one containing the teacher sent to guide us to her school, stops to ask a passerby for directions. Hang on…how can a teacher not know the way to her own school?

A few minutes on we stop again to ask for more directions. The T-shirt of the woman we ask reads: “Smile and be happy”. And so when she points in the opposite direction, we just smile and happily do a U-turn, narrowly avoiding a pothole that eats up half the road.

During the drive we pass two schools and no cars, and we are still heading into the hills when my co-presenter Graham leans over and whispers: “Are you covered for abduction?”

I’m still not sure what the answer to this question is. Hopefully I will never have to find out.

Just as we are beginning to entertain the idea that this teacher is an imposter sent to lead us to our ambush doom, we arrive at the school.

It is literally on the edge of nowhere. On one side are the round huts of the village, on the other, empty hills. The sign on the barbed wire fence says “No guns, No knives, No alcohol”. It’s a primary school.

There are 295 learners and the school fees are 50 Rand (around US$6.50) a year. There are six classrooms, wooden desks, concrete floors.

We do two shows (including the first-ever show performed by a female member of the science centre staff)(Yeeha!) and we get the whole school through the exhibition.

The kids understand hardly any English and are entranced by our white skin and big body language. The littlies dance in the just-shiny reflection of Derek’s car.

They seem to think I am an MTV diva…the girls strut and flick their hair in an imitation of what they think white women are, except that I’m wearing dirty sneakers with my hair shoved in a super-daggy cap.

The boys race to be the one to help me carry boxes; their friends point and look on and laugh. Some mock my sing-song language when they don’t understand. Others (none today) can hold a perfect English conversation.

There are ten staff, all women. At the end of the teacher workshop, when I ask if there are any questions, the teachers pepper me: How does rain work? Why are Australians so good at sport? What does the rest of the world think of Africa?

One woman raises her hand and says, “Can you help? Can you help our school?”

At the end of a hot, steamy, dusty, non-stop day we are offered another, different, escort for the trip home. Only then do the teachers come clean:

“Hijackings. This area is known for its hijackings. They see you arrive, and then they wait for you to come back. She will show you a different road home.”

Yikes. The first teacher didn’t know the way to her school because she was deliberately taking us a different way. Yikes again.

I cannot say it enough: These weeks were an AMAZING time. Many, many thanks to the amazing staff of the UniZul Science Centre, to the Fish family, Graham Walker, the Duck Inn, CPAS at the Australian National University and many more. Wow. Thankyou.

Good luck with the new show Graham! One day we’ll bring Fergus to Richard’s Bay and see if he can build the house of nails!

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Favourite use of a word in a children’s picture book

I love fabulous picture books: ones that challenge readers, inspire them to feel new things, make them laugh, and make their parents laugh too.

There are some fabulous picture books on my shelf: check out Diary of a Wombat (by Jackie French) and Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (by Mem Fox) for two Australian classics. The first is simple and laugh-out-loud funny; the second is poignant and beautiful and always makes me smile. Yay. I tingle just thinking about them.

So what’s your favourite use of a word in a children’s picture book?

MotherwasapirateMine is “philosopher”, from The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate, by Kiwi writer Margaret Mahy. Mahy studied philosophy at university before becoming a librarian and author.

As a kid I remember LOVING this tiny little man in his brown accountant’s suit, and being swept away with his adventures as he abandoned his office life to journey to the wild sea with his pirate mother. Wonderful! (And very similar to what we are doing with Fergus right now!)

Our teacher read The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate to our class: the highlight for me was meeting the philosopher: he sat, watching the world go by, under a tree. I loved being able to say such a large word. I loved knowing what it meant. And when we had to make papier mache puppets of a character in the book, I chose the philosopher (probably so I could say the word, over and over again). This book is tattooed in my brain: it sparked so many different feelings and emotions.

If you ever get your hands on a copy, be careful: you might follow the little man’s example (like we did!) and toss away your office job to head for the ocean. Whee!

So what about you?? What’s your favourite use of a word in a children’s picture book? Is it something that sticks in your head from childhood? Or something that’s grabbed you from more recent shelves…?