Visiting Author: Molly Oldfield
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
Hey book lovers! July was an exciting month. June-July is when we experience the monsoon season here in the Maldives… and when it rains here, it pours! Usually, it’s quite quiet during this season and the Barefoot Bookshop always remained closed as it was the interim period between booksellers. But we stayed open this time as I chose to stay on another season here at Soneva Jani and I’m here to tell you, it definitely was not quiet!
I had the pleasure of hosting the first ever visiting author at Soneva Jani, Molly Oldfield. Molly & I first spoke in May over Instagram when she expressed her interest to join the Jaipur Literature Festival x Soneva Fushi. But unfortunately, the program was already full for the yearyear, and I couldn’t invite her for it. But then Alex and I had a brainwave to invite her as a visiting author.
When I pitched the idea to Soneva, they were really enthusiastic, and I was finally able to invite Molly. The timing was perfect. We were preparing to open the new Den here for children which is the biggest kid’s club in the Maldives! Honestly, the place is INCREDIBLE! It has everything you can imagine; from a zip line going through a waterfall over a humungous pool, ping pong and pool tables, a pinball machine, a fully quippedequipped kitchen with mini cooking utensils, a music room and even a bar serving the most delicious mocktails. Ah… to be a kid again.
During Molly’s time here, she ran activities for children including an Everything Under the Sun themed family quiz night. We collected questions from the children in-house and got our Soneva resident experts to answer some of the questions such as our marine biologist Tess, turtle biologist Rosie and culinary director Chef Chris. We had the event at Crab Shack during sunset cocktails and it was an incredible evening filled with laughter and more buzzing questions by the kids.
Let me now pass on to Molly to tell you a little bit about her current work and her time here… Everyone, meet Molly!
Everything Under the Sun x Soneva by Molly Oldfield
What do clouds taste like? How many universes did the big bang create? Why do spinner dolphins spin?
Why do turtles hide in their shells? Why do fish blow bubbles? What noise do turtles make?
Why do some humans want to go to Mars? How did The Maldives form? What are atolls?
Just a sprinkling of the questions I was asked by children during my dreamy weeks on Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi in The Maldives.
My adventure began with a question. Would you like to come out to Soneva Jani as the Barefoot Bookseller’s first visiting author? YES. Of course, I would and thank you!
It felt like a wink from the universe when I got a DM from Malsa, inviting me out. Let me explain what I do. I am the host of Everything Under The Sun – a weekly podcast answering all the most pressing questions children around the world have about life on earth.
Each week I answer three questions sent into me by children – from why do hammerhead sharks have heads shaped like hammers to where do babies come from? I answered 366 of these questions in a book, Everything Under The Sun – a curious question for every day of the year (and a bonus question for a leap year…).
When Malsa’s DM appeared, I was on the school run, wondering how on earth I was going to begin my new book; a sequel, called Everywhere Under The Sun. How would I collect questions from children in as many countries in the world as possible, alongside looking after my two children, writing a weekly kids quiz in The Guardian and making a weekly podcast. And suddenly, before long, thanks to Malsa, my angel of joy, I was in The Maldives, surrounded by children from around the world. The book was beginning.
In the two most beautiful and wonderful bookshops in the world, on these paradise islands, surrounded by turquoise sea, several boxes of Everything Under The Sun - flown out on sea planes from The Ultimate Library in England via Male, the capital of The Maldives - were waiting for my arrival.
Malsa unpacked them while I marvelled at her exquisite bookshop she put a copy in the window. We hosted a mocktail party for children to find out about Everything Under The Sun and soon children from Korea, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Brazil, Denmark, and France…. all guests at the hotel were curiously popping into the shop to get signed copies and asking me questions for the new book and podcast. I couldn’t believe my luck! They were beginning my book for me, in the most exquisite setting imaginable!
One night at The Crab Shack, a beautiful restaurant on the beach with hammocks and swinging chairs we hosted a quiz night: kids v grown-ups. The children came up with questions beforehand, which I turned into a quiz - as I do for my weekly kid’s quiz in The Guardian in England - with graphic design help from Malsa! I loved working together in my villa overlooking the infinity pool and ocean taking a break to slide down the villa’s slide! The quiz night was a lot of fun and of course, a child won! Shizu and I hosted a similar event at Soneva Fushi by the bar, with new Soneva Fushi questions and once again, the kids came out on top. Sorry, grown upsgrown-ups!
The third Everything Under The Sun x Soneva event we created was called “Make a podcast’ where guests at Soneva and experts and I got together to make an episode of Everything Under The Sun podcast.
On Soneva Jani we gathered children and Soneva experts into their brand newbrand-new Den (kids club) complete with a slide, pirate ship, zip line, Lego room, music room – you name it, they have it! We made an episode with Tess (Soneva’s marine biologist), Rosie (their turtle expert) and Dee (their astronomer). The children came up one by one to ask questions into my microphone and the expert who knew the answer answered it for them. You can have a listen here.
It went so well that we did the same at Soneva Fushi; here we chose to make it in the sunshine outside the beautiful bookshop, the children on beanbags, the experts on a bench made of driftwood. They were Rio and Morgane from Soneva’s Coralife marine conservation project and astrophysicist Saraphina Nance who was visiting from California to host astronomy sessions and talks on the island. It was such a joy to watch the children asking their questions and learning so much from the experts who shared their knowledge so generously and well.
I got such great feedback from parents saying their children had grown in confidence from having their curiosity so valued and have had emails saying their children now listen to the episode each night as their bedtime story. It really makes me feel happy to hear this – I loved meeting all of the children and their families and it was a joy to answer their questions with the help of such experienced and wise Soneva experts.
I love to think of my book, Everything Under The Sun sitting in the window of both bookshops on each island watching families on the islands enjoying their Soneva adventure.
Right now, there will be guests enjoying the islands just as my family and I did; they’ll be popping into the bookshop for a holiday read, or cycling past on their way to go scuba diving, snorkellingsnorkeling with Manta Rays, or head to yoga…
Or they’ll be tasting delights in the chocolate room (!) and the ice cream room filled with thirty or so flavours which change each day. Perhaps they’ll be on their way to kayak nap in a hammock or slide down a slide into the ocean.
At this very moment, I am sure a guest is busy feeding a bunny some lettuce on the beach - I’m not even joking, Soneva Fushi is covered in sweet little bunnies hopping around the island, itsit’s that kind of a magical place. Or much-loved butler Chelsea is zipping around the island in her buggy helping her guests feel cared for and relaxed – my children still think she’s a member of our family even though we are back at home!
Back in my garden shed in the countryside in England I feel a piece of my heart is still there, in Soneva; I know the time I spent there will be deeply treasured forever, I miss the time I had to breathe, the ocean, the people, the food, cycling to yoga and the exciting experience of sharing Everything Under The Sun with families in person.
Usually, I make the podcast in my shed on my own, but thanks to Soneva and Malsa I think there will be more live episodes made on location to come because I so enjoyed meeting the children, hearing their questions in personperson, and watching their faces as people who are utterly passionate about what they do graciously answered their questions. I’ve found something new I’d love to do more of.
For now, I’m filled with sunshine, peacepeace, and a sprinkling of Soneva magic and I am excited to weave the adventure into the pages of my new book. I’m can’t wait to see the questions I was asked come to life in drawings. Imagine ‘how did the Maldives form?’ as a beautifully illustrated page? Or ‘why do spinner dolphins spin?’ - how wonderful that answer will look! ‘What do clouds taste like?’ Surely that question is an illustrator’s dream… They all are… So, thank you, everyone, who was part of the magic in Soneva and thank you Malsa for sending me my your question. Would I like to come to the Maldives?
If you have any little people in your life who love asking questions and would like them to be on the Everything Under The Sun the podcast, or in the new Everywhere Under The Sun book I am writing do get them to record their questions just doing a voice message using a phone saying their name, age, country and question and send it in to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to bring their questions to life and answer them too!
You can listen to the podcasts here:
Find out more about what I am up to, check out Everything Under The Sun the book and listen to the podcast here at www.mollyoldfield.com; and you can do the weekly Guardian Kids Quiz here: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/molly-oldfield
Tik Tok (which Malsa persuaded me to set to up on Soneva Jani!): @mollyunderthesun