Darlene Foster is a writer of children’s stories, a retired employment counsellor, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. Her grandson once gave her the nickname “super-mega-woman-supreme.” Darlene was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. Her book series for children follows the heroine Amanda Ross as she travels throughout the world and learns the history and culture of faraway places.
Darlene, thank you so much for being a guest on “A Better World of Books!” Please tells us a little about the inspiration for your character Amanda Ross.
Amanda Ross is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. I had a wonderful rural upbringing but my world was limited and I was bored. My grade three teacher taught us about faraway places which sparked my interest in traveling the world and experiencing these places myself. Much later, as an adult, I took a trip to the United Arab Emirates and was fascinated by the culture, the people, the landscape and the food. I thought about how I would have felt if I had visited such an amazing place as a young person and began to write a story from the point of view of a twelve-year-old. Children view the world from a different perspective. Everything is fresh, new, and exciting. They are not yet jaded. Oh, to be a child again! For me, writing books for children, and the young at heart, is the next best thing.
You shared with me your “hope that children will read [your] books and become more tolerant of our differences.” Can you provide one or two moments from your books when your character Amanda learns about tolerance and unity through diversity?
By traveling to other places in the world, Amanda embraces the cultural differences and learns that basically people are all the same. She befriends local people wherever she goes and is always eager to help, often putting herself in danger. In England, she makes friends with a couple of tough street kids, in Germany a homeless musician, and in the UAE a princess avoiding an arranged marriage. In New Mexico, she shares a room with a classmate with mental health issues. Amanda learns through her travels that outward appearances can be deceiving.
In Holland, Amanda visits the Anne Frank house and is moved to tears as she becomes aware of the devastating effects of intolerance. Even her friend, Leah, who on the surface appears to be less caring than Amanda, is affected and shares a story of standing up against racial prejudice in her school in England. I think it is important that these atrocities are not forgotten by the younger generations.
One reviewer of Amanda in England: The Missing Novel stated, “In this story, Amanda makes some new and interesting friends and there is a subtle message about not judging a person by how they look and speak, which I liked.” – Robbie Cheadle
It sounds like Amanda is learning valuable lessons on being a compassionate person during her travels. On your website, you write, “I believe everyone has a right to dream and everyone has the capability to make their dreams come true.” What is Amanda’s dream and has it come true?
Amanda’s dream was to travel. In the first book, Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask, she wished for travel and adventure before she blew out the candles on her twelfth birthday cake. The next day, she received a ticket in the mail to visit her aunt and uncle in the United Arab Emirates. That dream did come true and inspired her to do more traveling. She saved up her babysitting money and weekly allowance in order to visit Leah in Spain and England. She invites Leah to visit her in Canada and both families take a trip down the Danube. Her dreams of visiting other countries have certainly come true, but sometimes they become nightmares as she attempts to help other people and gets herself into dangerous situations. However, that doesn’t stop her from helping people, or animals, in trouble.
How wonderful that Amanda never gives up trying to make the world a better place. What is your own dream for a “Better World?”
My dream for a better world is for everyone to get along in spite of cultural, religious, and political differences, enabling all children to feel safe and cared for. I know I am not alone in this dream.
You are definitely not alone. I believe you’ve written seven Amanda Ross adventures so far! Is there a fan favorite among the series? If so, what do you think makes that adventure stand out among the others?
I seem to have sold more of Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting. I’m not sure why that is. There is a lot of action in the book and Spain is a diverse and intriguing country. A young girl, who looks a lot like a girl in a famous painting, needs help to rescue her precious pony from nasty horse kidnappers. Amanda, an animal lover, is only too eager to help her. One reviewer stated, “Amanda in Spain is a book for the young and the young-at-heart. Vivid descriptions of the country and its customs, humorous details, and enough tension that keeps you turning the page, make this a very enjoyable reading.” – Christa Polkinhorn
That certainly does sound like an exciting adventure! Can you give us a hint as to where Amanda will go next and what she might encounter along the way?
Amanda will be going to Malta next where she will encounter a fascinating land with a colourful history, ancient temples, prehistoric artifacts and unpleasant people shooting endangered birds. Leah is in trouble and Amanda is desperate to help her best friend.
Oh, if I could choose one place in the world that I could go to, aside from Egypt, it would be Malta! I’m looking forward to Amanda’s adventure there. I wonder, if there was one “superpower” that you could endow upon each child at birth, what would it be?
My first response was to grant them the inability to hate. But, children already have that at birth. It’s the influence of others that give them the ability to hate. Perhaps the “superpower” would be to be able to eradicate hate and evil without the use of violence. By the next generation, hate would be gone and all children would be safe from harm. What a wonderful world that would be.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed on your wonderful blog.
And thank you, Darlene! I couldn’t agree more with your vision for the world.
If you would like to learn more about Darlene and her heroine Amanda, please visit her social media pages below:
“It’s never the differences between people that surprise us. It’s the things that, against all odds, we have in common.” – from the book Short, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Are you an author with a vision for a better world? Do you have a published book of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction that uplifts and empowers readers to create a more positive inner and outer environment? If so, I’d love to hear more about it. On a “Better World of Books,” I interview authors and review books of all genres that offer a vision for a better world. If you think your work is a part of this vision, please contact Alethea.