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10 questions with Rhys Darby

In the spotlight this issue with KINETA BOOKER is international comedy star RHYS DARBY, who has just released the first book in his new funny fiction series for children – The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty. Rhys is also Dad to two young boys.

Is the Buttons McGinty character written with your children in mind?
I have definitely written this book with my own boys in mind. My kids Theo (eight) and Finn (twelve) are very different lads, but they do share the same sense of adventure and humour. Theo reminds me of myself as a kid, pretty much reluctant on the reading front and easily distracted by video games. I wanted to create a book that was funny and adventurous, something I would’ve picked up off the shelf as a young boy.

What surprised you most when you became a parent?
You can never plan for you children’s moods. Some kids are easier than others but I have found the unpredictable nature of what a kid is thinking or feeling can really be quite something! They become real little humans very quick, especially once they start attending school.

How do you keep up with your boys?
It’s hard to prepare for the sheer amount of energy boys possess. It’s actually quite staggering at times and I have found myself having to keep fit just so I can play with them anytime they want. I don’t like saying I’m too tired, so yeah, keep in shape dads!

How different are you now you’re a dad?
I like to think I’m pretty much the same person I was before I had children, the only difference is now I have two very special people to worry about. That has forced me to take less risks and to plan excursions with my kids in mind. This is a good thing. As parents I think it’s healthy that we think more healthily – partying less and being more responsible adults. This can only be a better thing for the world. I care about the world more now too. I want this world to be a better place for my boys when they grow up.

What sort of dad are you?
I’m very hands-on. If I haven’t been working late on a film shoot I like to get up in the morning before the kids. I help with the school runs and both their mum Rosie and I are always there volunteering at the elementary charter school in which Theo attends. I’m lucky with my career in that it enables me to be around my kids a lot. Of course, this is offset by the long periods of time that I can be away filming. When I’m home though, I’m very much in everybody’s faces. I love jumping on the bed with my youngest in the evening and reading with him.

Your top parenting tip?
Engage with your child’s interests. In my case with boys, it has been video games. They can become obsessed with certain things and they won’t stop talking about them. It’s better to get involved than to stand aside. That way you know what they’re talking about and can give advice on things that may get out of hand.

Worst parenting advice you’ve heard?
The worst advice is to take technology away from kids. It’s part of not only their life but modern life in general. We can’t be dinosaurs just because we don’t understand things. It’s up to all of us to embrace change and understand technology in order to keep some sort of control over how it is controlling our lives. Children are at the forefront of this.

Favourite family tradition?
We return to New Zealand at the end of each year. We do this to spend Christmas and New Year’s celebrations with our extended mix of friends and family. If we’re lucky we get to enjoy a bit of that classic Kiwi summer weather as well!

What social media advice do you have for parents?
Keep up with the play on social media. Once your child reaches the age of 10 theyre going to want to engage on Instagram. Its a must that you let this happen but monitor it from your devices as well! Ive found with my 12, going on 13-year-old that theres not much interest in Twitter and even less in Facebook. Those are old persons platforms.

The thing you enjoy most in everyday life with your family?
My favourite time with my family would have to be vacation. I love exploring new places with my kids and Rosie is masterful at organising an eventful, amazing time. A shared experience is the best experience!

Reviewed by Zia Knight-Baré, age 7

Rhys Darby’s The Top Secret Undercover Notes of Buttons McGinty is a book about a boy who is sent off to a school and there’s a lot of weird stuff going on there. Like they have to wear a special hat around the school, and if they leave the school the hat will beep and someone will come and get them. He says in his notebook that his parents are missing, and at school he only has one friend called Silky. Buttons McGinty keeps seeing this symbol with a snake and an egg on it and he spends a lot of time trying to figure out what it means. He tries to escape the school, and he actually does it. He ends up in the woods, and finds a cottage with an owl living in it. The story is a little silly, funny and is a good story for girls and boys.

If you know a young person who’d like to be part of our book reviewing team, please email kineta@27publishers.co.nz

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