Zimbabwe-born Belinda Booth reveals inspiration behind her first published story

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By The Sheffield Star

SHEFFIELD – She’s related to African royalty and has lived everywhere from Zimbabwe to France…but Belinda Booth’s debut book for children is inspired by a simple trip to Crystal Peaks.

The Sheffield-based author was joined by husband John and granddaughter Valentina for the visit to the Sheffield shopping mall and the family outing proved such an adventure that it inspired the book, Valentina’s Fun Day Out, which is available but now online from Waterstones and Amazon as well as from publisher ShieldCrest.

In the story, Valentina joins her grandparents for the trip to Crystal Peaks, where she visits the fictional children’s shop Dog and Gate, where pets are welcome and everybody can enjoy the flavours of a special ice cream parlour.And now it’s back to Crystal Peaks as the mum of four and grandmother of seven will be carrying out a book signing session at the centre on April 8, when she will be introducing shoppers to her new characters and their colourful adventures.

It’s a world away from 58-year-old Belinda’s own story – born in the city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, her family is originally from Swaziland, now called Eswatini, and she is related to the king of Eswatini, the longest serving Monarch in Africa.

Belinda with husband John and grandchildren Valentine and John

After leaving Africa – where as a teenager she had a shot at stardom when she presented Zimbabwean children’s TV show Teen Scene – she spent time in both France and London before arriving in Sheffield and the city’s Manor Park around a decade ago as her daughter and other family members were already living in South Yorkshire.

“My family is here, my children are here, my grandchildren are here and I’m married to a lovely Yorkshire man, my husband John,” she says.

No matter where she has lived, though, Belinda has always loved language and creative writing.

“I wrote my first book when I was 21 and living in Botswana,” she says. “It was a romance and it was never published.

“I’ve never seem myself as an author or writer or anything life that – I just write to entertain myself.”

The trip to Crystal Peaks, though, was filled with such happy memories of family time that Belinda was inspired to use the experience as the material for her first children’s book, initially with no thought of getting it published.

In addition to the fun of the shopping expedition, she also wanted to add in a special mention for Sheffield’s Supertram as Valentina’s brother Josh, who is autistic, is a big fan of the transport system.

“Valentina and Josh and their cousin Elliott, who is also in the book, were my main inspiration, but another reason I wanted to write is because of Sheffield itself,” she says.

“I love Sheffield, I love the people, I love everything about it because it’s a great city and I want everybody to know about it.

“I told Valentina and Josh’s mum, my daughter Charlene, that I was going to write the story but then things were slowed down by the fact that I needed an illustrator and the one I wanted was based in South Africa and not available straight away so that delayed us by a few months.

“I had no idea about illustrators or publishers or anything like that and nobody told me what I should do so I went online, contacted a few people and got a feel for it before finding a company called ShieldCrest who were interested in publishing.

“It’s taken a long time but it feels great now that it is published and I can’t wait to share it with people.

“I’m also wanting to make it into a series, so look out for my next story, Valentina Gets a Dog!”