Book characters alleviate quake fears in tots

22:03, Jan 15 2014

A Tai Tapu woman has teamed up with a long-time friend to release a book they believe will help the earthquake-affected children of the region.

Rose Spijkerman said she and co-author Michelle Lagatule hope the story can be used as an educational resource to help little people come to terms with natural disasters such as earthquakes.

She describes the book as a combination of lighthearted and educational.

Mother Earth and the Quakeia Babies was conceived when Lagatule was at home with seven grandchildren during strong aftershocks following the 7.1 earthquake in September 2010.

When they struck, she saw fear in the children's eyes.

"I had to do something to let them know we were all going to be OK."


Without hesitation, she threw her false teeth onto the ground and told the children the noise and shaking was just mother earth looking for her teeth.

She cannot explain where the idea came from.

"It was a big deal. Nobody has seen me without them [false teeth] before."

When further aftershocks struck, her grandchildren would say to her, "don't worry, Nana, it's just Mother Nature looking for her teeth".

When the story kept evolving to the point where characters were introduced, the pair realised they needed to write a book.

"The story just grew out of the concept and the characters started to take on personalities, " Spijkerman said.

Given the need they saw around them to help children and parents better cope with the affects of the Canterbury earthquakes, they decided to take on the challenge.

"It didn't seem to us like there was much around for children," Spijkerman said.

"Some children are still very frightened when minor aftershocks hit, but through the book we can show them how to keep themselves safe in future earthquakes."

The story starts with Mother Earth having a restless sleep when she realises she has lost her false teeth.

She does the rounds of her rambunctious children, who include mess-maker Briden (New Brighton) in his mucky sandpit, Rolly, Darfy, ChiCha, Ester, Hayley and Kaia - representing Rolleston, Darfield, Christchurch, Eastern Suburbs, Halswell and Kaiapoi. Each child plays a part in contributing to the effects felt, heard and seen in earthquakes.

The back of the book features activity pages and instructions for children and parents.

Illustrator Brendon Wright has put 21 emergency kit items in the background of the pictures. Readers are challenged to find them and identify why they are important.

The book has been endorsed by civil defence head John Hamilton, who congratulated the creators on thinking of children and their need to understand and know what to do to prepare for and respond to earthquakes.

The book is available to buy on the website: and also from selected Paper Plus stores. An activity and colouring- in book is also available from the website.

Spijkerman said the pair are in the process of coming to arrangements with other parties and they hope the book may be used by schools.


The Press