Barbara Robertson adored her grandmother and spent a lot of time with her as a child. She remembers spending the night at Mimi’s house, bird-watching and playing dress-up in her pink satin bathrobe. But Robertson’s grandmother died before she could meet her great grandchildren, and Robertson has always wished they could have met. Then Robertson’s imagination kicked in, and she thought it would be wonderful if her three children could meet Mimi as a child and play with her. Before Robertson knew it, her heart’s desire for her children became the Hourglass Adventure Series.
Robertson describes her new series as “all about family connections.” In Rosemary Meets Rosemarie (Winslow House, 2001), the first book in the series, Rosemary Rita receives ten boxes from her grandmother, nine of which contain postcards and other mementos. Inside the tenth box is an ornate hourglass, which transports ten-year old Rosemary Rita back in time to meet her great-great-great grandmother at age ten. In each successive Hourglass Adventure story, Rosemary Rita meets a grandmother from the next generation, until she finally meets her mother in book five, Rosemary Rocks Spain (Winslow House, 2002).
Each Hourglass Adventure is historically accurate. Robertson spends hours on the Internet and in libraries searching for just the right details. Historical experts also double-check her facts. Robertson chose 1870 Germany as the starting point for the series because post cards were just invented. Rosemary Rita and her present-day grandmother communicate via postcards, a tradition that began with Rosemary Rita’s great-great-great grandmother in Germany.
From 1870, Robertson mapped out each of the maternal grandmothers Rosemary Rita visits and the settings for each adventure. The historical events of the time helped shape each plot. For instance, the 1930’s story of the Australian race horse, Phar Lap, inspired the plot for book number six, Rosemary and the Mystery Down Under (Winslow House, 2002). The 1889 World’s Fair in Paris figures prominently in book two, Rosemary in Paris(Winslow House, 2001). At a flea market in Paris, Robertson found two books published in French in 1889. Although she can’t read a word of the French, she was able to incorporate some of the lithographs into her own book.
Inspiration from every day situations finds its way into the Hourglass Adventure Series. According to Robertson, “I wrote the whole first chapter of my first book knowing Rosemary Rita would go back in time, but I didn’t know how.” The “minute” glass on her desk gave her the idea for the magical hourglass in the stories. Robertson admits that Rosemary Rita is modeled in-part after her ten-year old daughter, Ashley. Robertson lifted some of Ashley’s qualities, and invented others creating a bright, spunky, adventurous girl, who is sometimes too impetuous.
Ashley isn’t the only family member involved in the Hourglass Adventures. Robertson’s husband, Marsh, rescued book five when he thought of a contemporary title. Rosemary and the Singing Spaniards became Rosemary Rocks Spain. Even Robertson’s son, Will, contributed. At age four, he lettered the first postcard that Rosemary Rita ever wrote to her grandmother.
A pivotal point in the Hourglass Adventure Series came after Rosemary Rita met her mother in book five. Robertson knew in her heart that she wasn’t finished with Rosemary Rita yet, but she was having a difficult time figuring out where she was going. At a school visit in her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, Robertson shared her plans for book six with her audience. “I planned to have Rosemary Rita meet her great aunt, but as I was telling about it, something was missing.” One of the children asked if Rosemary Rita ever met her father when he was a boy, and Robertson knew she had found the missing piece. When she arrived home from the school visit, she wrote and wrote and wrote, and now Rosemary Rita will meet her paternal grandmothers in the next several books.
Robertson has combined two passions—children and writing—into a job that’s ideal for her. She received a bachelors and a masters degree in elementary education and taught kindergarten for three years until her first child was born. Even Robertson’s volunteer work focuses on children. She’s on the boards for Children’s Hospital, Friends of the Greenville Zoo, and the South Carolina Children’s Theater, plus she helps out at her children’s schools.
The Hourglass Adventure Series incorporates Robertson’s experience as an educator with her commitment to family. Her memories of her own grandmother are close to her heart. Her books are her way of sharing these memories with all children.