For those of you curious on what The Tunnels Below is all about, The Tunnels Below follows Celine on her twelfth birthday. On the way to the museum with her parents and sister, Celine drops a marble which her sister gave to her as a birthday present. As she runs to pick it up, she is taken away on an empty underground train where she and her marble might be an important role in saving the inhabitants of the tunnels from the tyrannical rule of the mysterious Corvus.
Now you see why I want to start reading this book next time am in London... It sounds so magical and yummy as heck!
Anyway, I am thrilled that Nadine wrote this guest blog post today talking about the power of friendship as friendship and self-belief are important to the story and to our lives.
So, before I hand you over to Nadine, I just want to thank her for finding time to write this. I know she is very busy with this coming out tomorrow! But thank you for doing this! I, also, want to thank Vicki at Pushkins, for chatting to me about this book and getting me super intrigued! If you want to chat to Nadine about The Tunnels Below, you can pop over to her website - nadinewildpalmer.co.uk - or tweet her at @NadineWildPalm! Or, if you want more info on The Tunnels Below (which is better explained than myself), you can check out either Pushkin Press for more details!
The Value of Friendship in The Tunnels Below
Acts of Kindness and the Power of Friendship
When I was eight years old, I went to school in Australia for a month. I left my home, my friends and family, my cats, everything back home and me Mum and my older sister Lou went off to OZ. I don’t think I realised the impact this was going to have on my life at the time; I was too little. When we got to Sydney my mum had to go to federal to see my uncle who was very poorly and my sister and I stayed at my other uncle’s house. Although I had been to Australia many times before, everything was strange. The air smelled different, the birdsong, the accents, the people and their faces, even the insects seemed strange and new to me.
School was terrifying especially in a new country without my mum to drop me off or pick me up at the end of the day. To make matters worse, as my sister is 4 years older than me, we were at different stages in our schooling and were therefore we were sent to different schools. I remember hiding in the toilet on break times because I had no one to play with and I felt so different and out of place. One day I had to be dropped off at school too early and I saw that other members of my class were in their P.E. kits already. Too frightened to ask if I needed to be in my P.E. kit too I fled back to safety of the girls loo where I sat in the cubicle and wept. Minutes later someone came in to the toilet and she must have overheard me weeping because she wrapped lightly on the door. I opened it and she asked if I was ok. I told her I didn’t know whether I needed to be in my P.E. kit or not and told me to wait there and she went and found out for me. She returned and told me that I did indeed have P.E and that I should get changed. But it wasn’t just that she went out of her way for another person in distress, it was that she was kind. That one act of kindness changed everything for me. It showed me that I was only outside everything and everyone because I was choosing to be because I was afraid and I had felt very afraid until I made a friend. And the funny thing was that once I made one friend I made several. Once I stopped being afraid and saw beyond the new faces and different accents, I got to see the what was inside the people around me. This was what I wanted to convey through my writing, in The Tunnels Below. Although Cecilia is afraid, lost and out of place in a strange new place with a breed of people she has never seen before, she is able to look beyond that and discover what similarities they share and the beauty in diversity.
Looking back on that early experience of going to a new school in a different country now, it is apparent to me that it has had a major impact on how I approached constructing the world of The Tunnels Below. Feeling out of place in a foreign land and learning to overcome those fears and embrace the culture is something that Cecilia has to learn very quickly in order to survive. It is because she makes friends that she will eventually get home and although she cannot take them with her, the relationships she has formed have impressed themselves upon her and when she returns to her family she has changed.
As I have grown older I have come to realise that people are made up of innumerable fragments reflecting back what is around them and how they deal with new and challenging situations is born from how they are built on the inside from their experiences, from their friends and family. Cecilia learns to navigate the tunnels and be a better person because of the friends she makes while she is trying to get home and because she puts their needs before her own when it is called for. I think teaching children about the value of friendship, especially in this digital age is incredibly important. It is also one of the reasons I set the story in a place beyond the realms of modern technology, don’t get me wrong I think all the gadgets we use to organise and enhance our lives are very useful but they can’t replace what is at the core of true friendship - heart. I wanted to remind my readers that the true value of a person cannot be summed up by what they own, what they wear or what they look like it’s how they treat you and how that makes you feel that really counts. Small acts of kindness are what bind the fabric of true friendships and although I have not seen the girl who helped me out of the cubicle and into the dazzling light of a Sydney playground back when I was eight. I have always remembered that her kindness saved me when I was lost and alone and that I also have the power to help people in that position and because of it, I have since made some very deep and lasting friendships many of which, though altered, can be found animating the story of The Tunnels Below.