Written by Eloise De Sousa
Meeting new people is never easy and from an introvert’s point of view – it’s downright scary! So, with a tentative wave, I’d like to introduce myself. Hi! I’m Eloise De Sousa and I’m a children’s author. I grew up in Zimbabwe which is several thousand miles away from our beautiful home here in England.
My mum, who hoped to have a large family, suffered several miscarriages and ended up with my brother and myself with several years separating us. Growing up was pretty lonely and I found solace in books or writing in my journals. People-watching became an activity I thoroughly enjoyed; it required little to no interaction with the subject matter but provided many entertaining moments, which I witnessed and recorded.
Volunteering on the children’s cancer ward
As a young adult, I found meaning and purpose in volunteering. After trying different societies, working with children was the most appealing. A friend, who was studying to be a doctor, helped me obtain a voluntary role at our local hospital. I could visit the children’s Cancer ward every Saturday afternoon to entertain them. Most of the children’s parents couldn’t afford to stay at the hospital as there were no facilities for families.
Instead, one parent would be allowed to stay during the day and, at night, had to find cheap accommodation nearby. The parents who stayed were tired and stressed while the other parent had to continue working to pay for treatments. The children themselves were bored from being stuck in hospital beds for days on end without any stimulation or entertainment. Or they were too sickly to participate in anything other than surviving each day.
I decided that the best way to help was to try to take the families’ minds off their situation, even if it was for one afternoon a week. Telling stories or supplying snacks, arts and crafts and toys helped do just this. Through the various activities, I discovered budding young artists, cheeky little story tellers and numerous hidden smiles under the sickness, worry and constant heartbreak.
Giving parents a short break
Parents would visibly relax once their children were engaged in talking to me or following me out to the playroom. They could take a moment to find a tea trolley where they congregated and chatted about mundane life things. Things that felt so unimportant while they watched their children fade away in those big hospital beds. The children’s laughter would echo through the corridors as they chased toy cars down squeaky, clean corridors and disrupted the tea service going through to the men’s ward further down the long, lonely hallways.
My favourite memory I will always treasure was the outdoor play. The hospital kept a small garden outside the Cancer wing. This was only used as a path to other buildings and staff breaks. At my request, the nurses allowed some of the mobile children to taste the sun and play on the very old playground equipment left from another time in the hospital’s life. I would take turns spinning the children slowly on the roundabout, listening to their squeals of delight as the world turned.
We sat together under the shady gazebo telling stories about brave adventurers finding treasure in foreign lands. Their eyes sparkled as the bubbles I blew floated lazily across the open sky. Those who still had some energy left at the end of the visit, tried to run and catch them. The others sat near me, very still as they listened to the sounds of the outdoors – at peace.
My inspiration to write came from moments like this. The joy generated from sharing my stories with families fighting against adversity every day – something that many families take for granted – helped to form some of my stories, like Space Dust.
I wrote Space Dust to support the local library service’s Summer Reading Challenge. This is a special event held each year to encourage children to read. As a school Librarian and Specialist Literacy Teaching Assistant, I’m aware of the growing lack of enthusiasm in visiting libraries. With that in mind, I decided to write a story to support the theme for this year’s challenge: Space Chase.
Space Dust tells the story of Little One, who is gender neutral, giving an opportunity for any girl or boy to become the character. It touches on the emotions of child left behind when Mummy goes somewhere and forgets to say good-bye because she’s in such a rush. Big Ox, who takes care of Little One, decides to set off on an adventure into space to find Mummy and wave to her.
Using their imagination, they discover fun, fantastic things in outer space, like sea horses swimming in creamy mushroom soup on Jupiter. Easy facts are woven into the story without making it too obvious. The book had to cater for 4 – 11 year old’s attending the reading sessions. So the vocabulary may feel advanced in some instances but can easily be understood in context.
With all my children’s stories, my hope is that the readers sail away into different worlds where daily troubles disappear, and magic fills their hearts and minds. Each book is written with an underlying moral code that explains tolerance, understanding or changing attitudes.
If you would like to find out more about my books, please click on any of the links below: