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Friday 26th April, 10am

Kingswood College, 355 Station St, Box Hill South VIC 3128, Australia

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Marj Brown's Tribute to Wayne Mills

Marj Brown, National Coordinator for South Africa, has written the following tribute to KLQ quizmaster Wayne Mills.

A Tribute to Wayne – twenty years of sharing the joy and sport of reading

Yorkshire, 2003. I heard of the Sport of reading, the Kids’ Lit Quiz, and hurriedly entered a team to travel to Newcastle, to compete, the next week. There I beheld a man in a top hat, with magic in his words, as he conjured up questions to literary competitors, and elicited their earliest memories of words, from nursery rhymes to fairy tales, heard during bedside stories, to early readers, and on to graphic novels, immortal classics, and contemporary fiction. I could almost see the visions in these young heads, as they journeyed back through literary adventures, to retrieve the answer to his carefully crafted challenges.

Then came adult questions. I eagerly answered a few and won some prizes, only to be banned from answering more! My level of eagerness and excitement led me over supper with UK librarians to impulsively offer to set up the quiz in SA if Wayne would come. He cautiously said yes, having never contemplated the event in the South of the African continent. IBBY SA organised a conference, and Wayne attended, so we twinned the quiz with this trip, with Cape Town and Johannesburg the only two regional heats at that stage. Penny Hochfeld and Sue Mayne, two stalwarts who supported me in securing Kids’ Lit Quiz sponsorship from Exclusive Books, have largely been involved through the years.

Wayne arrived in Johannesburg for the Johannesburg final, and then the SA final. I threw him in the deep end by handing him a set of car keys and asking him to follow my old white combi to the airport, to fetch the Cape Town teams. Wayne was not at all outwardly perplexed, and followed me through Johannesburg traffic, in rush hour, and later informed me although this was nerve wracking, he had at one time in his life been a taxi driver, and this helped!

Many years have passed, with SA hosting two international finals, in the Constitutional Court and in Durban. SA teams have won the international finals three times, and reading in SA has been transformed for the participating schools. Library stocks have been added to, with genres such as steampunk and graphic novels increasing in size. Children have travelled the world through reading, as well as in books, and have friends across the globe. Their network rests on a common love of reading, and as Wayne wanted this for young readers, his vision has been fulfilled.

On a personal note, I have loved creating the network of SA KLQ librarians, and readers, and forging links internationally on literary trips. Teamwork has been the order of the day, and friendships have been consolidated. I have loved Wayne and Pa’s visits, and they feel like part of my family. My children love them so much and they are an inspiration to many. I will miss hearing Wayne’s latest anecdote from his KLQ journeys and him exclaiming “that’s another one for my book”. We look forward to reading your book and meeting somewhere in the world! Tsamaya Sentle.

Marj Brown

Feb 2024.