Giorgos Antonakis for NAVAGOI STA STA METEORA

In the beginning it was me and three kids, who might have been my students. The imaginative Odysseus, the hungry Thomas, Rallou the tomboy, from morning to night with joy and laughter, with fights and kisses. Now, between us, none of them were the kind of kids we call "good" and obedient. How can I tell you... it was not as we would like it to be.

Then came the books, the travels, the adventures in places, in secret rooms, in old monasteries, in feelings, in good and difficult times. Byzantine emperors, princesses, riddles, mysteries, bad guys who aren't totally bad!

Do old towers always have ghosts, even in our time? Uncle Vassilis is everywhere and nowhere, in his huge library, in Mani, Mystra, Monemvasia, disguised and normal? Unexplainable situations, epic stories, to let go, to get lost in time, seasons, land and seas.

Castaways in Meteora , my last book. The memory of feelings sometimes wakes up and torments us. What grabbed me and reminded me of a favorite childhood adventure, "Wreck of the Pacific"? And those school afternoons when our teacher read The Little Castaway over and over again?

I turned all this upside down, I moved the sea to the land, to an exotic, divine place, to the rocks of Meteora, to a deserted monastery. Where the soul becomes hard, granite and where it can grow so tall, surpass human measures and find itself between dream and reality, closer to heaven than to earth! But how, with what recipe?

Inside the monasteries you find countless paintings. In these children of mine, my three heroes, they found the answer. To the paintings and to a guy who didn't want to see people or painters!

I will always write stories for children, because they only want to listen, laugh, play, be happy, learn. We adults unfortunately have our ears blocked!

Anyway, my heroes always get into such strange situations, maybe because they are very curious and want to know who we are, if our ancestors were great people, and if with love we can spend our every day better. In Mystra with a full moon and The Pirate of Monemvasia , two other incredible adventures starring the same children, the well-known restless and strange company.

I, again, when I write such books I get lost in the narration. I am not in the place, in the time where I live, but with my heroes in history. I am an invisible sleepwalker of fairy tales, of adventure, I am next to the children, the emperors, the old churches, I walk with them on the paths of Mystras, I climb the old castle of Monemvasia, but no one sees me. The truth is that I never speak, lest I wake up, lest the weather overtake me and turn me back from where I came.

Often, I live another agony. Are today's children the same as the children I met years ago, my students, my children? Do they have the same needs, play the same games, pull the same pranks, listen to the same music, dance the same dances at parties, laugh at the same jokes? Do they like adventures, stories of mystery and suspense? And last question: Do adults read my books before recommending them to children?

Unanswered questions...however, when I found out that some parents and teachers force their children to read my books, and even ask them for a summary of the story after they finish them, I was very upset! I wouldn't want that at all. In other words, will we turn my stories into a lesson, into memorization and compulsion? But I wrote them because I liked them that way and I want the children to read them because they like them that way, to have a good time, to be happy, to have fun, to travel, to travel together I mean.

I will always write stories for children, because they only want to listen, laugh, play, be happy, learn. We adults unfortunately have our ears blocked!


Shipwrecked in Meteora
George Antonakis
illustration: Christos Gousidis

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