A Good Home

A Book Review: Myrtle the Purple Turtle

Thank you, Annika, for this generous review!

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

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‘Myrtle the Purple Turtle’ is one of the most striking, original children’s books released in recent years.

I was immediately drawn in by the welcoming cover of Myrtle proudly striding along and quickly became engaged with this wonderful character.

As a purple turtle, Myrtle has never considered herself any different from the other turtles and is happy and confident in her life. Until one day a rude turtle laughs and taunts her for even daring to consider herself a turtle.

What follows next is a touching and tender story to which we can all relate when faced with inconsiderate hurtful comments. As Myrtle sets out on a journey of self-discovery and understanding…with some help from her mother and friends along the way, she learns to accept herself and others.

I quickly lost myself within Myrtle’s world and empathised with her hurt and confusion … cheering her on as this feisty…

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A Good Home, Book Festivals, Book Interviews, Book lovers, Books, Children's Books, Paul Mason

The Multi-Talented Paul Mason

Paul Nicholas Mason is an actor, playwright and novelist. He’s acted in multiple films but confesses he has few photos of himself because he is bad at self-promotion.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason MCU

So I told him to have some taken! He sent a few, apologizing:

“With nearly 35 projects (including ten feature films) under my belt, you’d think I could offer you more.”

Blog Photo - Paul Mason in character as a butler

I wanted to introduce Paul on my blog for three reasons. He’s created a new career in film for himself after taking early retirement from teaching;  he will be appearing at the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, east of Toronto on Friday Nov. 3 and Saturday Nov. 4; plus he has a new book on the market.

Paul’s published books include the novels  Battered Soles, The Red Dress and The Night Drummer. 

Blog Photo - Poppy book cover

The new book, A Pug Called Poppy, is his first chapter book for children. It’s illustrated by artist Sarah Berrino.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason Poppy and Human

Paul says he’s excited about the book because he feels its central characters — Poppy the Pug and Smudge the Maine Coon Cat — “will meow and snuffle their way into a great many hearts.”

“I have such fond and powerful memories of the books I enjoyed as a little boy — Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington Bear, The Borrowers, Swallows and Amazons, the Narnia Chronicles.  It would make me happy to feel that I had introduced a character into the imaginative life of children.”

Blog Photo - Paul Mason and Reader

A Pug Called Poppy is meant to appeal particularly to 8 to 10-year-olds. But then there are adults like me, who love it too.

“There are a lot of little grace notes, little touches, that will amuse adults,” Paul says.

Yes!  I stand amused.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason Poppy

 

But let’s head back to Paul’s acting career. He has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, and as a result, does a great variety of voice-over work for film. (One of his first roles was playing the part of a “lecherous duck”.)

To be closer to his beloved family and have greater access to movie shoots, Paul recently moved from Peterborough to Newcastle, a quaint lakeside town east of Toronto. Though he misses his Peterborough friends, he says he’s delighted with his neighbours, with the town’s library and swimming pool, and by being closer to family.

Blog Photo - Paul Mason and Granddaughter

If you’re in the Cobourg-Northumberland area this weekend, you can meet Paul at the book fair at the Festival of the Arts, November 3 and 4.

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival of the Arts Photo

And if you haven’t yet, then one of these days, you just may hear/see him in a movie.

 

 

A Good Home, Building a School in Malawi, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Serendipity

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story – Pt. 2

When Kamala-Jean saw the school in Malosa for the first time, she sat in the car and started to cry.

“I said to the driver: ‘Just give me a moment, please.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean had “no notion” that a simple conversation in a Cape Town market would cause so many things to change.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie wins Hubbard award

When she met Happy, he was a market vendor whose chances in life seemed very limited. Now, he’d not only returned to school at age 23; he was suddenly in charge of building one! 

While Kamala-Jean and People Bridge continued raising funds in Canada, Happy bought the building materials – bricks and sand for walls, cement for the floor, zinc for the roof, glass for the windows.  Next, he hired the workers.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean School being built bricks in front

The school, they expected, would attract about 40 children. Then one day Kamala-Jean got an email.

“Happy emailed me and said, ‘Mum, I registered 70 students in two days. Should I continue the registration or not?’

“Seventy! I wrote back and said ‘No more!’ Then, after I got there, he said, ‘Mum, we have 90 registrations.’ “

~~

Kamala-Jean wiped her tears and stepped from the car. It was September 18 – opening day.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean new school building

“Not only did I hear the children’s voices, but I saw about forty mothers with babies sitting under a mango tree; then there was a table with the head chief and two others. All were there waiting for me.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Women smile in schoolyard

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Happy Chiefs and Children outside school

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy in front of children outside schoolhouse

Inside the building, all fifty chairs were filled; the other children sat on a tarpaulin on the floor. Some were barefooted.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and teacher at front of class

Happy and two young women are the teachers. Everyone sang together.

Afterwards, Kamala-Jean and the teachers planned lessons and went through the teaching supplies she’d brought.

“I told Happy, ‘Let’s close the school while we plan.’

“But the next day the kids were all there. Happy explained what the parents said: ‘If there’s a school, we are going to send our children to it.’ “

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean kneels with kids

~~

The families in the area live on subsistence farming – they grow maize and beans;  some also grow bananas, avocado and mangoes.

“People don’t starve – they grow their own food. But they have no cash.”

~~

Building the school boosted the local economy. It provided an income for many people, including local stores, builders, teachers, furniture-makers and even Happy’s mother and grandmother. Each woman is paid two dollars a week to cook maize for the children’s lunch.

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The benefits don’t end there. The community has no water supply, but Kamala-Jean felt the school needed its own water, for hygiene reasons. 

Maybe they should dig a bore-hole for water? She asked Happy to investigate.

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Happy did. He told her it was cost-efficient to make water available to the community, not just the school. So the region’s main water pipes, which currently stop outside their area, are now being extended. Happy is supervising this project too.

As his mentor Kamala-Jean says, “His commitment to the community is unbelievably strong.” 

~~

As for Happy?

Chimwemwe (Happy) Musa — his full name — finally got the other results he’d been waiting for. Weeks ago, he learned he passed his exams, thereby completing high school at last. He hopes to start teachers’ college a year from now.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

~~

Kamala-Jean still marvels at everything that’s happened since her random meeting with Happy in that Cape Town market.

“Some people would say the stars aligned. If you believe in God, you have to think there was a purpose for my being there. This young man, by the way, has a deep belief in God. He genuinely thinks that if he does the wrong thing, God will not be happy.  He’s always trying to do the right thing.”

As Happy “does the right thing” in Malosa, Kamala-Jean continues to guide and mentor him from Toronto.  And she and People Bridge are continuing to raise funds to support the school till it can stand on its own.

Want to contribute to the Malosa School Project in Malawi?   https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/the-people-bridge-charitable-foundation/

A Good Home, Achieving A Dream, Inspiration, Kamala-Jean Gopie, Schooling

Kamala-Jean’s Amazing Story

Imagine you’re visiting an open-air market in Cape Town, South Africa, talking to a bright, impoverished young vendor, not knowing your life is about to change.

The young man has the improbable name of ‘Happy’. 

Your actions will also change his life and that of his whole community, but as you return to your comfortable home in Toronto, Canada, no-one has any idea of what’s about to unfold.

~~

Meet my dear friend Kamala-Jean Gopie.

We first met when she was a teacher and community leader.  As a television journalist with Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC, I interviewed her. Later, we worked together as community volunteers and became friends.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean CU

I know this woman’s heart. She gives without expecting recognition.  And that’s partly why I’m recognizing her here.

I’ve known Kamala-Jean’s kindness firsthand. In one of my worst summers since the car accident, this elegant, dignified woman drove a long distance to my home, repeatedly, to visit, comfort me — and weed my garden. 

Blog Photo - Garden Tall flowers in front

But her works go far beyond one person.  She’s not rich, yet she has provided scholarships to needy students, contributed to Canadian arts, educational and community organizations — big and small — and helped many.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean Gopie with award

But nothing she’s done has surprised me – and perhaps even her – as much as this one.

~~

Kamala-Jean lingered to chat with the young vendor. She’d won her auction bid for a trip to South Africa and was now visiting Cape Town.

She asked him questions. He described his role as family breadwinner, and his dream of becoming a teacher. But he hadn’t completed high school. He was here selling goods to support his family back home in Malawi – a four-day bus ride away.

“When he said he had 6 siblings at home and his father was dead, and if he only had his Grade 12, he could help his family out of poverty, it just moved me.”

Kamala-Jean gave him her email address and asked him to contact her.

She asked her cousin, director-general for the Centre for Disease Control in South Africa, to find out more. He confirmed Happy’s story about the school. Kamala-Jean decided to fund Happy’s return to Malawi and his schooling.

Then, last June, she visited Happy and his family at their rural home in Malosa, bringing books and other supplies and singing with the children.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Happy and Family

“The family lives in three small houses with no real furniture, electricity or plumbing.  There is no kitchen or bathroom.  They sleep on straw mats on the ground.”

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean and Kids first trip

She learned there was no school for young children nearby.

~~

Back home in Toronto, she spoke with Diana Burke, head of Canadian charity People Bridge. Diana encouraged her.

“I wrote to Happy and asked: ‘What would it cost to build a school?’ Happy said, ‘I’ll talk to the chief.’

“The chief was very supportive. Then Happy told me: ‘My family will donate one hectare of land.’ “

Happy’s family was giving what it could. 

~~

Things moved quickly in both Canada and Malawi. People Bridge started a fund for the school, with Kamala-Jean and friends donating. Within days, trees were felled and building started.

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean school being built walls going up

Blog Photo - Kamala-Jean schoolhouse almost ready2

“It took 5 weeks. The school was completed by the first week of September and I travelled there and opened the school on September 18th.”

“What on earth made you do this wonderful, crazy thing?” I asked her.

“I didn’t know it was going to be wonderful and crazy. I had no notion. I just spoke to this young man who seemed honest and wholesome. His honesty was palpable. 

“When I was leaving the market, I gave him $10. He put his hands together in prayer and said ‘Oh, Ma’am. God bless you.’ I had to turn away. I was so moved. But I never knew things would end up where they did.”

COMING SOON: Pt 2. A WHOLE COMMUNITY IS CHANGED