Mokie and Bik

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mokie and Bik cover

Welcome to Mokie and Bik's blog, which I hope will give teachers some background information for using it in the classroom. I hope that when the book comes out people will feel free to add any suggestions of their own too.

There will eventually be two entirely different editions of Mokie and Bik, but as the American edition won't be out till June 2007, the illustrations and extracts here are all from the Australian edition, illustrated by Beth Norling, which will be released by Allen & Unwin in September 2006.

Mokie and Bik cover

Front Cover of the Australian edition of Mokie and BIk

Mokie and Bik extract

Here's the first couple of pages from the finished Australian book, coming out in September with Allen & Unwin.

Overboard or Underfoot

Mokie and Bik lived on a boat called Bullfrog.
‘When I’m big,’ said Mokie, ‘I’ll sail right across the harbour.’
‘When I’m bigger,’ said Bik, ‘I’ll sail right across the world!’

But Dad was sailing his ship-at-sea,
Mum was busy Arting
and Ruby was busy sploshing,
so Bullfrog stayed tied to the wharf - –

and Mokie and Bik played bumpboats
up and down the wheelhouse
bump thump rumping
from the steering drawers to the bouncy bunk
from sleepdog Laddie to the pot belly hotter .

Twins!’ their mother shouted
when the lines of her Art jiggled and jarred.
‘Get out from underfoot!’

Draft 8, out to both publishers

This draft went to my Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, and the American publisher Henry Holt, in early December 2004. The two books will end up quite different from each other despite being contracted from this same draft.

Moky and Bik lived on a boat called Bullfrog.
They lived in it, on it, all around it –
Monkeying up ladders
over the wheelhouse and across the cabin floor.

'Twins!' their mother shouted,
because the lines of her Art jiggled and jarred
when Mokie and Bik played bumpboats
bump thump rumpboats

Mokie and Bik - 5th draft , with editor's comments

I think this was about the fifth draft, probably September 2004. My editor liked it, but had a few comments...

Overboard or Underfoot

Long ago, before your grandad was a baby,
Moky and Bicky lived on a boat.
The boat was called Bullfrog,
and Moky and Bicky were called The Twins.

‘Twins!’ their mother shouted,
because she was trying to read
and it gave her a headache
when Moky and Bicky played bumpboats in the wheelhouse.
‘Get out from underfoot!’

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Drafting Mokie and Bik

A bit of the first draft, from July 2003.

Long ago, when your grandfather was a baby, Anne and Anthony lived on a boat.

It was like living in a house, except that if they wanted to move, the house could go too.
Instead of a garden, the sea was all around them.
Instead of a sidewalk and a road, there was a gangplank and a wharf.

Anne and Anthony were twins.
They were born on the same day.
"I'm older!" said Anne.
"Only an hour," sais Anthony.
"That's enough," said Anne.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mokie and Bik's father's ship-at-sea

'The Malahat' -the real Mokie and Bik's father was first mate of this schooner when she was a rumrunner out of Vancouver

The writing of Mokie and Bik

The writing of Mokie and Bik

If your father told you stories about growing up on a boat, speaking a language that only he and his twin sister (and sometimes their nanny) could understand, pulling his sister out by the hair when she fell overboard, being towed in his rowboat by the basking shark he’d hooked…. Well, you’d just have to write them, wouldn’t you?

From the age of three to six, my dad Anthony (Tony) and his twin sister Anne lived with their parents, their nanny or ‘mother’s help’ Ruby, a sheepdog named Laddie and a turtle, on a boat in the Canadian harbour of Vancouver. This was in the 1930’s, when the world was in the Depression and the United States was in Prohibition – which led to their father becoming first mate on the rumrunning ship the Malahat, a beautiful five masted schooner, and later the skipper of a rumrunning motorboat.

Their father returned from one of these trips with a puppy for the twins. Rabiot (meaning ‘scraps’, was a French cart dog owned by the captain of a French rumrunner who was not going to be able to keep a puppy in the Mexican jail he was being sent to… Laddie trained Rabiot to guard the twins and he grew into a brave and loyal dog. When he eventually died of injuries sustained in one too many dogfights, he was replaced by the spaniel Waggles.

During the years on the boat, my father and Anne spoke, probably made up of English words they couldn’t pronounce properly, combined with words from the various languages they heard on the wharf, especially from the Norwegian family whose boat was moored nearby. When the twins were six their parents suddenly realised that they didn’t speak English well enough to go to school, so the boat was leased out and the family moved into a house to civilise the children.

As a child I was fascinated by the twins’ adventures; as a mother I was somewhat horrified by the tale of Anne falling overboard and my father, equally unsupervised, rowing out to get the ‘golden seaweed’– he’s not sure whether or not he knew it was his sister’s hair when he went to rescue her. As a writer, I knew that their stories needed to be told.

And so, on and off over the years, I’ve been making notes. On a visit back to British Columbia five years ago, I spent a full afternoon with my aunt taking down her version of the stories as thoroughly as I could. A year or so later, with a comment from my publisher at Allen & Unwin, I suddenly saw the format for the book: not a picture book, not a novel, but something in between, more like linked short stories. I started writing, using their real stories, toning them down sometimes for believability, tidying them up and rounding them out. Fourteen drafts later, the Australian edition of ‘Mokie and Bik’ was ready for the typesetter. Beth Norling then got into the spirit with her lively, whimsical illustrations… a few more edits and changes…. in September the book will be born.

(And yes, my father and aunt, the original Mokie and Bik, have given it their seal of approval!)

A strange footnote

Visiting my parents last July, with the manuscript of Mokie and Bik well under way, I did a lot more tidying up research, not simply quizzing Anne and Dad for details and further stories, but photographing wharf life and beaches for the things that children would have explored, as well as going through albums and boxes of old photographs. On the way to the airport for the flight home, we stopped for lunch at a pub in Sidney, Vancouver Island, named the Rumrunner.And what was the first thing we saw as we walked in the door? A photograph of my grandfather at the wheel of the Malahat, the beautiful rumrunning schooner.

Teaching Notes for Mokie and Bik

Teaching Notes


Wendy Orr based this story on her father and his twin sister's childhood. Do you think it's EXACTLY true? Why or why not? Which parts do you think might be true, and which ones might be exaggerated?

Do your parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles have stories about when they were little? Do you?
Write a story using a story or stories from your family. How could you change it to make it a better story? Do their real names suit the characters in the story or could you think of better names? (In real life, people's names don't always suit their personalities, but they should in a story.)

When do you think this story happened? What are some of the clues that it's not right now? How has life changed since then?


Make a list of all the ‘twin language’ words in the story. What real words do they replace?

When you were younger did you have your own special words for things? What were they? Does your family still use some of them now?


Saying ‘botormike’ instead of motorbike is a spoonerism. Spoonerisms were named after Reverend William Archibald Spooner, an English minister who often got his words mixed up and said things like, ‘a blushing crow’ when he meant to say, ‘a crushing blow.’

Tongue twisters are groups of words that are tricky to say together , like ‘she sells sea shells by the sea shore.’ Sometimes if you say tongue twisters quickly you end up with spoonerisms!’

Can you make up some tongue twisters or spoonerisms? Here are a couple to get you started:

Pinny gig (guinea pig)
Rubble bab ((bubble wrap)


Are there any twins at your school or in your family? Did they have a special language that just they knew about? What are the good things about being a twin? What are the bad?

Develop a list of interview questions in class, divide up the questions among the students and get each child to interview twins and write up their answers.

From Romulus and Remus, the mythical twins who founded Rome, to Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen, there have been lots of famous twins throughout history. What other famous twins can you discover?


Laddie is a sheepdog. What work do sheepdogs do, and why would that make him a good dog to look after Mokie and Bik?

Waggles is a Newfoundland dog. What work do they do? Can you find any interesting facts about them?

The real Mokie and Bik's dog who came home with their father was a French cart dog - a big strong dog who was used to pull carts. What other kinds of working dogs can you find out about.

Slow is a 'tortle.' Do you think he's a turtle or tortoise? Find out what the differences are.

GEOGRAPHY - houses/boats

What would you like about living on a boat? What wouldn't you like?

Where in the world do people live in boats? Eg in Hue, Vietnam; barges on the Rhine and other rivers in Europe, houseboats in many cities – like Victoria in Canada.

Where in the world do people live right on the water but perhaps live on houses on stilts?
eg Myanmar (Burma) on Inle Lake

Find the places in an atlas.

Find out about the life styles of these people. do they spend a lot of time fishing and boating like Mokie and Bik? What foods do they eat?

Fnd out different types of house boats. What are they made of? Draw pictures of them. Design your own house boat.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The real Mokie and Bik

"Egret" – the real Bullfrog.

Anne and Anthony, the real Mokie and Bik