Lori-Ann Preston of East London has just released her new science fiction comedy for tweens, Thabo, the Space Dude. In this first instalment of what promises to be a much-loved series, eleven-year-old Thabo’s parents announce that the family is moving … to Mars.
Written in the format of log book entries, Thabo, the Space Dude chronicles Thabo’s last days on Earth as he prepares himself for the daunting adventure of space travel and leaving his friends (and the girl he has his eye on) forever. As the countdown to lift-off grows ever nearer, this coming-of-age tale follows Thabo through the ups and downs of the tween years – getting into mischief with his best friends, dealing with nagging parents, besting the bully at school, and thinking up increasingly creative attempts to catch the girl of his dreams, Mbali’s, eye. In between all these very relatable events, Thabo also faces the unique challenges of attending Mars training camp and dealing with the sudden attention he receives as a soon-to-be Martian, and the reader gets to join Thabo in this exciting, scary, life-changing time. His log book entries are interspersed with comic-strip style illustrations by the talented Lindsey Cumming, bringing life to Thabo and his shenanigans on his last days on Earth.
This project was Lori-Ann’s first venture into self-publishing. In 2016, Lori-Ann won the Golden Baobab Prize for her early chapter book ‘The Ama-Zings!’, a fun-filled adventure story about five friends who get stuck in the Cango Caves. The Golden Baobab, presented annually for the best unpublished manuscript from the African continent targeting readers between nine and eleven years old, offers the opportunity to be published through African Bureau Stories as part of the prize. In the same year, Lori-Ann also received the New Writer of the Year award from the South African Writers’ Circle.
She has dabbled in adult fiction, too, but her passion is entertaining children and making them laugh, an enthusiasm that stems from her years as an educator in East London. She says, “I have always had a calling to write children’s stories and I’m passionate about educating children. As a teacher who has read hundreds of books to children over the past twenty years, nothing brings me more pleasure than introducing children to the wonderful world of their imagination.” Her stories are distinctly South African: “I absolutely love my beautiful country and its incredible diversity, and I love reading children’s stories that they can relate to.”
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