About this episode’s KidLit Classic:
Rowan of Rin is a middle grade classic from one of Australia’s most-loved authors, Emily Rodda. Published in 1993, it won the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers in 1994. A further four books went on to be published in the series.
In this episode we discuss what Rowan of Rin is about, why guest Bethany Loveridge chose it, Australian children's fantasy in the 90s, and end with a dramatic reading.
About this week’s guest, Bethany Loveridge:
Bethany Loveridge is an arts education professional, who has worked for a variety of schools, museums, and arts associations, including the Queensland Art Teachers Association. She is passionate about cultivating vibrant and meaningful learning experiences in the arts, but also loves storytelling. Recently she was awarded an ASA/Copyright Agency Award Mentorship and is working on her debut middle grade trilogy. She is the face behind the bookstagram account Bettys Book Club, now @bethanyloveridgeauthor.
Connect with Bethany Loveridge: Instagram: @bethanyloveridgeauthor / Website: bethanyloveridge.com
Connect with host Sam-Ellen Bound: Instagram @samellenb / Website www.samanthaellenbound.com
To find out more about Emily Rodda: emilyrodda.com
Buy Rowan of Rin here.
Opening and Outro music:
‘Funny Whimsical Music’ by MoodMode, accessed via Storyblocks. Purchased and used under Storyblocks’Royalty-Free Individual License Agreement.
‘Crackling Fireplace – Nature Sounds‘ by JuliusH. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.
‘Antique-rocking-chair’ by alienistcog. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.
‘whispers (loop)’ by HAndLol. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.
‘Suspensefull Drone’ by Liecio. Used under the Pixabay Music License Agreement.
Thanks for listening!
Stay up to date - Instagram @Samellenb
*THIS TRANSCRIPT HAS BEEN EDITED MINIMALLY*
SEB: Hello and welcome to kidlit classics a podcast where children's authors booksellers and publishing professionals share the children's books that they love the most and that inspired them to follow their own path into the kidlit industry. I'm your host Sam-Ellen Bound and today I'm chatting with Bethany Loveridge. Bethany is an arts education professional who has worked for a variety of schools, museums and arts associations, including the Queensland art teachers association. She is passionate about cultivating vibrant and meaningful learning experiences in the arts but also loves storytelling. Recently, she was awarded an ASA copyright agency award mentorship, and is working on her debut middle grade trilogy. She is the face behind Bookstagram account Betty's book club now under the handle @BethanyLoveridgeauthor. Bethany, welcome to kidlit classics.
BL: Thank you and that's just a lovely introduction. I feel chuffed.
SEB: *laughs* I was creeping on you online.
BL: I know, you must have been. That’s good. You got you got it all right. You even got my updated Instagram handle. So no, no corrections.
SEB: A plus for me! So, chances are if you're in primary school in the 90s, you definitely know the book Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda. It's a children's fantasy novel, the first in a series of five, and it won the CBCA Book of the Year for younger readers in 1994. So Bethany, I first read Rowan of Rin in year four, it was our class read aloud text and it is a book that has stayed with me ever since. I actually think it was probably my first taste of that sort of high fantasy story. So I love that you have chosen Rowan of Rin as your kidlit classic book. So first things first, can you please share with us Rowan of RINs opening line?
BL: One morning the people have run work to find that the stream that flowed down the mountain and through their village had slowed to a trickle. That's it. That is from chapter one. That's called the meeting.
SEB: But it does very well set up what happens next because as we find out, both Rowan of Rin and a selection of villagers have to go and investigate why the stream has flowed to a trickle. So actually, it's a really good kicker into what's to come.
BL: Yeah, that's right. So this story as you said Rowan of Rin is actually the name of the whole series together. But the first story is called Rowan of Rin. And the author is the absolutely legendary Emily Rodda although that's just a pseudonym, but that's for another podcast. So in this story, Ron whose nickname is skinny rabbit lives in a village called Rin with a whole lot of people who are basically gladiators. They learn to climb swim, hunt, find all of the things as soon as they can walk. And poor Rowan isn't as strong or fast as the others so he's lumped with the job of Shepherd. He looks after these beautiful and gentle cattle called the Bukshah, and I picture them as like a hairy coon or a highland cow. And his favourite of the bukshah is called Star.
So as we established in that first line, poor Star and the other bukshah, their water supplies drying up and they’re a food source for the village as well like they cheese makers, they make really delicious sounding cheese. So the answer to the dried up river is up this mountain. So I think you said, Rin gets their strongest and bravest adults together to quest up the mountain and solve the problem, which probably has something to do with the dragon. But a stick in the mud is that after a visit to the town's WISEWOMAN there's a map that gets enchanted and all the lines and features on the map can only be seen when Rowan is holding them up. So skinny rabbit now has to join the quest. So they journey up the mountain these riddles appear on the map seven times so the seven of them. There's seven riddles and the heroes are tested. How many of the seven will make it to the top and who has to face the dragon? I'm not telling you.
SEB: the most deserving!
BL: that's it the bravest? The bravest.
SEB: That's a great summary and I love that you mentioned the riddles. The riddles are one of my favourite I can I could still probably memorise a few the riddles. I just loved them. I loved them when I first read this book and they really add to the stories don’t they.
BL: Yeah, they're a huge part of the story. So I love the riddles as a as a kid. They were hard. But I've read it recently and just so it's just so obvious.
SEB: because you know. You’ve read it so you know!
BL: Well, that's a very good point. I do know all the answers.
SEB: So what is it about Rowan of Rin that you love so much? Why have you chosen it as your kidlit classic.
BL: This is a very short podcast, as I understand. So I'm actually just going to give you an incomplete list of the reasons that I love Rowan of Rin.
The first thing is that there's a prophecy. The second is there's an unlikely hero or a chosen one. And it's always a bonus if said, Chosen One is an introverted character. Because I can relate to that. There's action and adventure with really relatable challenges and fears, like, you know, of tight spaces or of swimming or of darkness or of spiders, and I've just given lots of spoilers there. There's mysteries and riddles that you've talked about. The bookshop, look, I'm an animal lover, and much of Rowan's motivation, pretty much all of it to find the problem with the water source is because of his love for star. And his his duty and the way that they look after each other. And I think that's great character motivation. And my last point here is a dragon. So there's my reasons for loving Rowan of Rin. Incomplete.
SEB: you can expand a bit more if you want, that's really no problem.
BL: Well, the dragon, you see, most of the villagers believes that there is a dragon because they can hear it roaring and the bukshah look to the mountain to the top of the mountain. And it's stopped roaring. I don't know if that's the right word for onomatopoeia for a dragon sound now, but it stopped making its loud angry noises for the last couple of days. So they feel like there's a connection between the dragon and the lack of water. And they may be right. Which is why the the ultimate, the ultimate challenge. And the last riddle is about a dragon.
SEB: Yes. And it was a great dragon too, it was actually very scary. The way that they come across it. Oh, that's this book, we're gonna say spoilers. I mean, that's fine. I love that you mentioned that Rowan is sort of, you know, an unassuming hero. So, you know, the strongest and bravest villagers are selected to go on this quest. And then Rowan is almost ridiculed, because a lot of people see him as a bit useless and it with his head in the clouds, just, you know, looking after the buksha. But I love that these villagers who are considered the strongest or the most worthy to undertake such a quest sort of have to begrudgingly accept that Rowan has to come with them. But for various reasons, because of their own fears and their own insecurities, most of them, don't make it to the end. But Rowan, you know, he just keeps on hustlin’. And it's through his love for the bukshah and wanting to help them. He is the one who makes it through to the end, you know, this character that no one really thought would or they thought he would be the first to go. And when I was young, that was really revelationary to me, not that I probably knew what a revelation was, you know, but I thought it was just fantastic that it was this character who proved to be the hero. And I think that was a really wonderful and special thing. Being a hero isn't often about being the strongest or the toughest. It is about kindness, and it is about compassion. And it is about bravery. And it is about acquired a strength. And I really, really love that message. I love that as a kid. And I think it's really special now. And I love that Rowan basically saves the day because of his compassion even for the dragon.
BL: So it's, it's funny because I think as kids, you read a book, and if you can relate to the character, then it becomes all the more special. And I love magic. Like I said to you before when you weren't recording if there's no magic, I'm a bit, really? Will I read this?
But he's not magical. Like he's not anything special that that I couldn't have been or I couldn't have done, you know. And so I think that makes it really impactful. It's not like you have a dream that eventually one day you're going to find out that you have secret magic, you know, and I think that's that's really special.
SEB: Yeah, for sure. It definitely is. So at what age did you read Rowan of Rin and what impact did it have on you? And your writing as well now?
BL: Yeah, well, 1993 I turned eight. So this book is my vintage. It was written for me. A lot of 2000s. And I was already reading Robin Hobb. By then it's just so this is really, for me, and I don't think, look, I was a kid. So I might be wrong. I read what I had access to, but I don't I don't feel like there are a lot of you know, that middle grade 8 to 12, or that books like that that existed by, especially by Australian authors. And it's this age where young people stop reading. Um, I have to try not to get on my teacher chair. But yeah, junior fiction, you know, it can be boring or childish, and then young adult fiction, which I would not have been allowed to read anyway, can have graphical adult themes. So I felt like this was a book that was actually written for me. This suspense, there was a problem or a series of problems, or riddles that I can try to work out as I was reading, and there was a complex enough storyline to be invested in as well. And then after I discovered Rowan of Rin I became obsessed with Emily Rodda’s teen power Inc. Series, which is now called the Raven Hill mysteries.
SEB: I didn’t know that. Okay, right.
BL: Get out of town.
SEB: What’s wrong with Teen power Inc. That was cool!
BL: Yeah, so cool. And like, those books stopped me from going through a reading drought at that really developmental time when kids do stop reading. Although Australia has fantastic middle grade, as you know, at the moment, so in terms of how it impacted my, my writing, I guess I still feel like that age group is a wonderful age to write for. And, and I have taken some of those themes of like the agency of young people and empowering young young people that you know, that they can do great things. And actually, as I said before, if they're just kind, then that is doing a great thing, too. Yeah. But yeah, I do have adventure and magic in my in my storytelling, too.
SEB: And I think you're absolutely right. I mean, obviously, also, when I read it, it was in the early 90s. So my memory is pretty good. But I don't remember every single thing I was reading, but I do. I do tend to remember, it was a lot of realistic stuff like the baby sitters club or Sweet Valley High or even, you know, Nancy Drew, which was a mystery, but it was still realistic. And it was probably along with goose bumps probably, although that's a very different genre or category in itself, but Rowan of Rin was, I think, my first taste of a fantasy. I don't really remember reading, you know, much fantasy before that. And it definitely then made me want to read more. So same as you, I love fantasy, I will read contemporary, but I if something has a bit of magic or a bit of fantasy in it, you know, I'm there. And I do think this, you know, Rowan of Rin probably kickstarted that for me.
BL: Yeah, well, it's funny, because you just named like about four different series that I've never read a single book of. So yes, so it's another reason why I felt like it was written for me because I, I just love fantasy, and then continued to love it. As I said, Robin Hobb became my favourite after that when I was in high school. So yeah, it's a great introduction to more fantasy, I think.
SEB: Definitely. And even still now, not just in the nineties. So in Rowan of Rin, is there a particular character or scene that made a lasting impression on you?
BL: Yeah, in terms of lasting impression, like Rowan, the main character and Star, the bukshah, their relationship, I guess, and just the way that they trusted each other and the way Star’s big eyes are described, and their love for each other. has really, that was, you know, the thing that I've just remembered and hung on to that I just reread it recently. And I connected with some of the adult characters and their experiences in the mountain, which is obvious, because now I'm closer to them and age. But there's a character called Allan, who is one of the villagers who's an outcast, really, because his mother's from Rin and his father's a traveller. I don't know if you remember that character?
SEB: I do. And he makes it pretty far I think.
BL: he does, yeah. And he's the one who has the most empathy and understanding and is the most caring for Rowan and Rowan has a sense that he understands how he feels like that kind of, you know, being looked down upon because you're not from there. And you know, you know, the strong or not, you don't look as strong, but really, I think the message is that it turns out that Alan has all of those things just in a different way. So there's these great themes like prejudice and acceptance that I didn't pick up when I was young, which is an author's goal. So that's great. But yeah, reading and as an adult, I'm like, wow, look at all these look at all these wonderful moral messages.
SEB: Yeah, but always done so subtly, you know, never beating you over the head with that in the same way. That's why I really love, I think that he's called strong John, I remember his name was John but he was called Strong John, the strongest in the village, but he's actually a really gentle character as well like a gentle giant. So it was even playing with that kind of stereotype as well. And he also ends up having quite a really beautiful relationship with Rowan. Strong John also he gets quite far in the quest, and he actually has a really very lovely relationship with Rowan as well. In fact, I might edit this out if it's too spoilery. But I think he does end up with Rowan's mom in in future books. Well, now that I think about it.
BL: it's definitely implied. Look, John looks a certain way at JILA, who's the mother as they head off on their quest, and that sets Rowan, like off on this, all the way up, You know, he's holding against John, like, he's only been kind to me, because because of my mom kind of thing. And he comes to realise that that's not true. And that John really does care for him. So Rowan - and this is definitely just for the reel that happens at the start. So Rowan’s father rescues him out of a burning house when he's like a toddler or a young child, and he throws Rowan out of a window and then he perishes doesn't make it out. And so Rowan feels like the whole village hates him for that reason, and has blamed him for the loss of like, one of their strongest, bravest people. You know, and so that's an internal thing that he's struggling with all the way up the mountain. Yeah, which he overcomes. And now we're just now we'll just tell you exactly point by point everything.
SEB: No, I feel like a lot of people will have read it. So I may think it’s okay.
BL: Well, I feel like, it's important to say, because I know you keep talking about people not making it, but everyone makes it.
SEB: Yeah, when, in the final scene, it's, you know, the Rowan's pretty much on his own.
BL: They don't make it all the way up the mountain, but they make it back to Rin alive. They do. And I say that because I think hope, you know, is what puts this book in that middle grade. It's all okay.
SEB: And that's fine as well, like no one shakes their finger at them for being like, Oh, you didn't make it all the way up. As I said before, everyone is very kind, that have their own things that they go through. And it doesn't make them less, it doesn't make them less strong in any form of what strong could be. They're just humans with flaws. And I think that is woven all throughout the story in a really gentle way. And I also have to say my favourite scene was always the one with the spiders. And I'm not a big fan of spiders, but I just remember that the horror of what they have to do in the spider scene. Great scene.
BL: Well, that's actually that stuck with me that scene. And that's one of them that I can vividly like picture as I read as I read that chapter, so I think it's so well written that I can see it.
SEB: Yeah, remember the riddle was like, let arms be still and voices low a million eyes. Watch as you go.
BL: I can. That's awesome. Yeah, that was great. Great scene.
SEB: Okay, so what contribution do you think that Rowan of Rin - We've talked about it a little more, And that was, you know, probably a great introduction to fantasy for a lot of children – but what contribution do you think it has made to children's literature either in Australia or worldwide?
BL: Well, Emily wrote, her first book was like, before I was born, I think in the early 80s. And since then, she's kept writing Eliza Vanda’s Button Box published this year again, CBCA notable book, so it's not just Rowan of Rin, it's like this, this author, or the pseudonym has been with me for my life, my whole life. And I think that we would agree that Emily Rodda is a legend of children's literature. And just I can't believe like, how can you just write for so long and keep writing so well, and I mentioned just obviously, even getting better.
Anyway, I don't know that that answers the question, but I think this book was just one of the many books that she that she wrote that are amazing, but probably more of the things that I'm talking about personal. Yeah.
SEB: So as you said, Emily Rodda is still very much writing beautifully and very well received books. And in terms of her older books, I from working in bookstores, you know, we were still selling heaps of deltora quest. Not so much Rowan of Rin though. Do you still hear Rowan of Rin being talked about today?
BL: Not really. And yeah, I It's funny you talk about delta quest and everybody I say, oh, ROWAN OF RIN and they kind of go oh? And I say, Emily Rodda, and then they all say, oh! Deltora Quest. I love it. I didn't even pick that Deltora Quest up until I was an adult. I bought this 21st anniversary edition that no one can see last year.
SEB: I've got that one!
BL: So I feel Yeah, look, I talk about Rowan of Rin whenever I can, and I think it's, I think it's fabulous. But I also know there is so much wonderful new Australian middle grade fiction and yeah, look, we're never going to run out of things to read. But no, I don't hear it talked about enough.
SEB: But it is still available. If people do want to buy it. And of course, we both heartily recommend that.
BL: You can buy all five in one. Yeah, hardcover edition.
SEB: Okay, so we want everyone to read Rowan of Rin. So what current books would you compare it to as a way to entice new readers in?
BL: so I first of all, and if you have loved any other of Emily Rodda’s books you should read, you should go and read Rowan of Rin as well. If you like the riddles and mystery in Amelia mellor’s greatest bookshop in the world, so you probably like Rowan of Rin if you like a riddle. If you like the action and adventure and a whole cast of characters like in the world between blinks duology by Amie Kaufman and Ryan Graudin, then you’ll probably like Rowan of Rin. Yeah, it's just so good. And also fans of the impossible quest books by Kate Forsyth. Like if you're if you're into fantasy and the end those kind of quests, then you could try them too. So yes, those are all Australian authors, because they're the best.
SEB: We love. I love that you chose all Australian books.
BL: So yeah, I think that was a few that I came up with. And there's probably there's probably lots more but yeah, if you want a good adventure quest.
SEB: This is your book. It's a real quest book.
BL: Yeah. It also reminds me of those computer games that that I used to play as a young person where you had to, Yeah, the quest like Monkey Island or Inca.
SEB: Yeah, no, you're right. It really does as well. Yeah. Okay, so we would love to hear you read an extract from the book.
BL: I've had to edit because I thought oh, yeah, I'll read like these three pages, then you'll really get the picture but … so I'm going to read you something from chapter two. So right at the beginning of the book, so that way there's no more spoilers and you've already had.
And just for some context, strong John and Marlie, one of the other heroes that's going on the quest have gone to see Sheba who's a wise woman, for some advice about the quest. They've asked Rowan to go and get some of the bukshah’s best cheese and bring it over as some kind of bribery. Social help them out. So that's where they are. They're in Sheba's house …
She lay back in her chair and half closed her eyes, her hand stroked the cheese's in her lap as though they were cats. The fire glowed. She began to drone and mumbled to herself. For a long time they could make no sense of her words. And then at last she spoke clearly.
Seven hearts the journey make seven ways the heart will break. Bravest heart will carry on when sleep is death and hope is gone. Look in the fiery jaws of fear and see the answer white and clear. Then throw away all sorts of home for only then your quest is done.
Sheba’s eyelids fluttered and her eyes opened. For a moment she stared blankly at John, Marlie and Rowan as though wondering why they were there. Then her expression sharpened and she waved her hand at them impatiently. She no longer looked like a witch. Just a tired crabby old woman. Go now, she said. I can tell you no more.
SEB: I love that you read the riddle!
BL: Of course, I had to.
SEB: Could you memorise it off by heart?
BL: No. I couldn't have my memory, as I've already demonstrated several times. It's pretty tragic.
SEB: Well, that was great.
BL: I probably remember what it looked like on the page.
SEB: Yeah, and it has, I think there's maps in this book as well.
BL: There's a map in this edition.
SEB: Ah, my edition doesn’t have have maps so they've drawn maps for the anniversary edition. There we go listeners, if you love the maps, Rowan of Rin. Yeah it's great. Yeah, for sure map lovers.
BL: It's even on a scroll. You can't get better than that.
SEB: Thank you, Bethany. Before we go, give us a quick rundown of what you're working on now your latest book project and where we can find you online.
BL: I would love to do that this year has been amazing. So I just finished the ASA copyright agency award mentorship that you talked about before with the amazing Christina Schultz. And so my middle grade trilogy is on submission. So it's is spec fic or speculative fiction set in contemporary Queensland or a little bit of a fictional Queensland. But there is Australian historical fiction, mystery and lots of action and adventure so I can't wait to find it at home and then eventually share it with everyone in the community.
I talk about my writing and also lots of other people's books on Instagram at Bethany leverage author and I just recently have updated my website. It's still quite tragic, but that's Bethanyloverige.com. So I'd love to connect with with more people and talk about books. Until the bukshah come home. Ha! I just made that up then I thought you’d appreciate it.
SEB: I do. I always appreciate an animal reference as long as it's a lovely one.
BL: Because they’re like cows.
SEB: They are like the cow but a little bit of sort of a buffalo vibe as well, I always thought. Like a nice hybrid.
BL: Well, they're drawn in the map. They draw it like a bit like a buffalo but I don't. I don't care because I have this thing for Highland cows, especially the babies. They're just so beautiful. I want one to come and live here on my 800 square metre block.
SEB: With Rowan
BL: Yeah, that's it.
SEB: And the cheese. That'll be great, too.
BL: Yes. I had to read something apart that had cheese in it too. Yeah.
SEB: You hit all the marks Well done.
Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today and talking about Rowan of Rin. It's been a real pleasure talking about this very special book.
BL: No, thank you. And thank you for having me.
SEB: You're most welcome. And listeners. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are loving kidlit classics please like and share and stay tuned for future episodes where we will discuss even more wonderful children's literature. And if you are interested in being a guest and sharing your favourite book, please get in touch via social on my website, Samantha Ellen bound.com.