Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran


When I picked up Rebel Queen, I found the cover intriguing but the woman's thigh and her sword did not exactly made me want to read this book. Although I liked the title.

Once I read the short content I really knew I wanted to read this story. But I was still skeptical. The story takes plays in the mid 1800’s in India. I wasn’t sure this was my kind of book. However, as soon as I started reading, the use of language and the tone of storytelling pulled me in. 

All along, I marveled at the skillful writing. “How did this writer do all this research?” I kept asking myself. I loved this unique story with its colourful characters, its strong plot, with its passion and violence and unique setting. The customs, the food, the smells, the sights and sounds of India. I learned how people in India cooked meals, how they behaved and why, what their homes looked like. I learned about living in purda and other customs. It all pulled me in and took me along on an exotic journey.

But what made it a truly amazing story is the fact that this is a true story. The real Rebel Queen was an Indian rani, married to the raja of Jhansi. Their kingdom was fine until the British invaded, wanting to conquer all of India. The story that unfolds is told in the voice of one of the queen’s female bodyguards, her so called Durga Dal. I kept wondering how much the author had invented to make the story work. But, once I finished reading, I did some research and to my amazement I found that almost all of the story is true. The length to which this queen went to protect her country are incredible. Apparently all Indians know about this amazing woman. I'm glad I do, too, now because of this book.

If you want to read a ‘different’ book, set in a unique place in history, about strong females - this is the book. The queen and her all female guard really existed and resisted the British in an admirable, albeit bloody, manner. Great writing!

Click here to see an interview with the author:

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (March 3, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1476716358
ISBN-13: 978-1476716350

International School Visits

This article was written for the newsletter of African International Schools. I am posting it below for those interested in reading it.

Have Books, Will Travel - Author Visits to International Schools in Africa

As the author of many books for children, I started conducting school visits a long time ago. Regular talks about my books and my writing process soon let to creating workshops for students on how they can apply my ideas to their own writing.
These writing workshops for kids, soon led to workshops for teachers - helping them to tap into ways that make writing a fun, exciting activity for students. 
And that, in turn, led to talks for parents about the importance of encouraging kids to be both readers and writers, and how to accomplish this.

After much travel across the USA and Canada to speak at schools and conferences, I was thrilled to be invited to my first international school. Word of mouth soon had me flying to China, Malaysia, Mongolia and many other countries. Working as an author at international schools is vastly different from doing school visits closer to home. It usually requires adjustment to a new climate and culture on top of long days in schools. No matter how exciting dinner with teachers is, doing it five days in a row after performing all day is exhausting. So I find that it takes a special kind of person to adapt to the demands and the excitement. I have, long ago, been bitten by the travel bug. Over the years I learned to ‘go with the flow’ at international schools and so I absolutely love this unique experience. 

Having spoken at the ECIS Conference in Europe, I was recently invited to work at international schools in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. What an amazing opportunity! I had dreamed of Africa for most of my life so I loved coming to the continent. The sights, sounds and smells were enchanting. I learned so much. I had no idea that people in Ethiopia celebrate an elaborate coffee ceremony each day, burning incense and roasting popcorn, too. First graders made books based on my book Families Around The World while I was able to share stories about nonfiction research with fifth graders. Other kids honed interviewing skills and we talked about books and illustrations all week long.
I was able to bring some 55 pounds of books for Ethiopia Reads, an innovative library program that brings literacy to children across the country.

In Kenya, I enjoyed conducting presentations and writing workshops to hundreds of elementary school students. The parents seemed as excited as their kids! The teachers even coordinated a wonderful Authors’ Brunch whereby third graders enjoyed a breakfast buffet while listening to the guest speaker as if they were attending a university lecture.
Being in Nairobi allowed me the enriching experience of visiting an orphanage in the nearby hills, Creation of Hope, started by a Canadian author. 
Sixth grade students wrote me letters, following my talks with them. Wonderful letters that demonstrate to me that author visits do have a lasting impact on kids’ attitude towards books. Aden writes:
“I was shocked to learn that it takes years to write a book. Your presentation gave me ideas on how I can be creative when I write!”
Ravi told me that “my previous small school only had one author visit in six years, so I am so glad that my school now offers things like this. Your book about libraries around the world (My Librarian is a Camel) shows me how lucky I am to have a school library.”

From Nairobi I flew, right along Mount Kilimanjaro, to Dar Es Salaam and into a very different, hot and muggy, climate. At the wonderfully enthusiastic school I worked with children on writing their own poetry and stories. Upper elementary students even formed a Poetry Slam Club following my visit. 

The students may have been excited following my presentations, but I was just as excited to have the opportunity to travel and work with teachers and kids all over world. Just because I write books. I count my blessings.

Two Weeks With The Queen by Morris Gleitzman

Remember to 1] support your local bookseller, but 2] you can order from

"Dear Your Majesty the Queen,

I need to speak to you urgently about my brother Luke. He's got cancer and the doctors in Australia are being really slack. If I could borrow your top doctor for a few days I know he/she would fix things in no time. Of course Mum and Dad would pay his/her fares even if it meant selling the car or getting a loan. Please contact me at the above address urgently.

Yours sincerely,
Colin Mudford.

This is not a hoax.
Ring the above number and Aunty Iris will tell you.
Hang up if a man answers."

This is how Two Weeks With The Queen starts.
I like Morris Gleitzman's books for their tongue-in-cheek humor. But when I finished this book I was struck by the fact that he dealt with difficult issues: homosexuality, cancer and more - in such a wonderful, lighthearted manner.

This is a humorous but deeply moving story about Colin, who refuses to believe that his younger brother is dying of cancer. Colin takes matters in his own hands and decides to go to the top for help, who better than the all mighty Queen? Colin's efforts to reach Her Majesty are hilarious, surprising and doomed to failure. But even if Colin can't find a cure for cancer, he does find a way to help some of his new friends, as well as discovering the best thing he can do for Luke and his family. A tender, tough story that could be serve as a read-aloud to discussion the issues together.

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Bks (March 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014130300X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141303000

One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen

  • I don't know how this book ended up on my shelf. But, looking for a book to take along on my next trip, it seemed like a fitting title.
  • After one chapter I knew that this was not a book that I would leave along the way, as I usually do when I travel. This book I want to keep.

Reading One Year Off was like going along on the Cohen's trip around the world. Told in a conversational, comfortable voice, I identified with David Cohen's travel experiences. In fact, he seemed to have very similar ideas to mine as I travel. And we, too, once traveled for a whole year with our young children. We did it less drastic - in a camper all around North America.

The Cohen's hoofed it all around the globe. Having traveled before they got married, this couple wanted to do so again with their children - ages 9, 7 and 2 or so as they set off.

They take the bare essentials as they fly off to Costa Rica to discover a rain forest. They spend time in Europe and have fun adventures in France and Italy. They describe a crazy ferry ride to Greece and have fun holding their own Olympic races on the original site of the first Games.

I especially enjoyed reading about their African adventures as they go on safari. Like us, they spend time traveling across Australia. I recognized much of the descriptions of the vast empty Nullarbor and the convivial Aussies they met.

One place I have not been to, that the Cohen's visit in this book, is India. Their descriptions of the annual camel market in Rajasthan made me want to put this at the top of my bucket list!

The book is realistic. It gives practical advise in case you, too, want to take a year off with young children. But even without that, it makes for a plain fun read.

Remember to order from your local bookstore or from

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684836017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684836010