Sunday, February 7, 2016

Guest Author and Book Spotlight: Flame and Hope: An African Adventure by Maretha Botha

~About Maretha Botha~

Maretha is a South African Italian, who grew up in a Western-Cape town called Worcester – a place reminiscent of living in Switzerland among the snow-capped mountains. Worcester had a small library and young Maretha’s visits were limited to three times a week because the librarian told her, “You spend too much time with your nose in a book and neglect your school work.” Nothing much has changed because she is still a confirmed bookworm and constantly strives to raise more bookworms who will enjoy reading, not just as a pleasant past-time, but as an excellent tool to be used when grown-up.

Before immigrating to the UK to settle in Lancashire, Maretha worked as an assistant librarian in a private school in Botswana, where one of her tasks was to encourage children to enjoy reading. That was a labour of love for this bookworm and one that was to give her some valuable help in carving her own career as an author because it brought her face to face with the literary industry’s toughest critics – children and preteens. She saw what they really wanted to read and it was not only the mainstream ghosts, werewolves and shape shifters who interested them. When they were re-introduced to bird-and-animal stories, their care, habitats and general well-being; read with a few catchy rhymes here and there, the reading sessions were truly alive and well, and readers began pre-booking their favourites of the week. This insight helped to create Fauna Park Tales.

Maretha's online details: 

Author's Facebook / Flame and Hope UK / Author's Website / Twitter / Amazon

About the book:

There are many free-range cattle farms in southern Africa where the environment is often at risk when seasonal rains are late, or flash flooding occurs and topsoil is washed away. Sometimes fires ignite spontaneously or are started by villains and precious grassland is destroyed, affecting insect-, reptile-, amphibian-, bird-, animal- and human life. This book tells the story of the daily challenges of life on a cattle farm from the animals and birds’ perspective.

Within the boundaries of the farm is a place which the furry-and-feathered friends call Fauna Park. Here all vulnerable creatures are protected and cared for by Flame – an exceptional dog with a mission to stick to a promise he has made in the Kalughari to his dying mistress, Lera. When Jock James, owner of the farm is on a photographic safari in the wilderness, Flame is adopted by him after his first master Kgabo wants to go into the depths of the desert to mourn the loss of his wife and the departure of his son and family who leave the wilderness to go north to the diamond fields. From the outset, Flame courageously faces adversity.

Once on the farm in Molodi, he sets out on his quest, firstly becoming Self-Appointed Protector of Fauna Park where he sees a great need to assist the bush creatures, then getting support for his cause from a few loyal friends, including a rabbit, two cats, a timid rat and Hope, an elusive bird, perching in the acacia outside the porch door. (Flame rescues him under thrilling circumstances from poachers who disappear, only to re-appear causing havoc in the valley). Hope narrates their adventures, because he knows all the birds’ dialects, speaks Faunalang and understands human language. Everyone accepts Hope for the task, but Flame is not so fortunate and has to put up with name-calling, insults, physical injury and learning a few of life’s lessons the hard way while trying to stick to the Fauna Park Promise. Spike-BullT, the family’s injured bull-terrier loathes the desert dog and tells him in no uncertain terms to return to the desert and leave him to be the watchdog. Then too, a nasty rat, stubborn goats and a French-speaking martial eagle make life difficult for Flame, but there are furry-and-feathered friends, as well as caring humans such as Jock and Maisie James and their children: teenaged twins, who rescue a timid laboratory rat, find and care for Rocksy Rabbit and look after little Flame; and the family’s adopted, African siblings, Larita, who speaks Faunalang and baby brother, Leru, who help him.

Other memorable characters’ paths cross at Molodi; French-speaking Marie, who runs a volunteer sanctuary, the strange Pied Piper, who keeps at least twenty dogs and helps at the farm in times of need, and guides an old tracker and his dog from Molapo Lake to the farm on a very special spring day; Clement, Jock’s farmhand who helps him to complete a pond and rock garden and saves Jock when his arm is seriously cut while he works on their windmill. A sad martial eagle, a remarkable sand-grouse, a determined female eagle-owl, hoopoes, crimson-breasted shrikes, hornbills and many others find a home in the park with extra help from the family’s two cats and their horse, Chestnut Mare – a rescued racehorse.

Flame’s fame grows especially after he grapples with a young martial eagle called Mars that comes to hunt in Fauna Park, almost catching a few chicks. After this dramatic encounter the young martial eagle acquiesces and agrees to be shown a new hunting territory. Will he become a friend or remain a foe? What is his history? Has he any family? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Flame’s courage gives the bird population confidence that he will be able to help them to get a permanent water supply during the drought. There are some hilarious moments when the Bird Mission comes to see them in the farmyard at noon one day. Then serious planning and digging by Flame with the assistance of all the porch creatures and Chestnut Mare follow – upsetting Jock at first, but then he and Clement finish the project to the delight of all the birds – except for the unhappy kingfisher that also wants a waterfall. 

When duty calls unexpectedly, Flame risks his life to save a young zebra and her newborn foals from fires set by poachers, doing so without regard for his own safety and with this, a hero is born. But he and one of the foals collapse in the fumes, lying among the ashes after a sudden thunderstorm kills the fires and floods the area. There seems very little hope for them. Fortunately, a lone martial eagle warns Jock and Maisie, who with the help of a few villagers save them before nightfall, but Flame becomes very ill. Humans and furry-and-feathered friends surround him with love and care. When the bull-terrier comes to enquire after him, apologizing for his bad behaviour in the past, Flame’s work is vindicated. Many light-hearted events follow when the chickens want to feed him raw eggs daily and the cats take over as his nurse aids. He scares them all when he turns up at his own grave site. What is in store for this loyal community in future? There will be startling revelations and happy celebrations, when a feathered couple is re-united and an old grandfather finds happiness.

Friends (Chapter 1 - Flame and Hope: An African Adventure)


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