Thursday, 31 October 2019

School Visit Round-up

It's been a top half-term for school visits!

First it was off to Capel St Mary Primary near Ipswich. Year 5 have all been reading The Mystery of the Whistling Caves, and it was lovely to chat to so many children who knew all about the characters and setting and plot - they had lots of predictions about who had stolen the Carrickstowe Hoard, so I had to be very careful not to give away any spoilers. These children had all become total mystery experts!

I loved working with each of the three classes to create new missing treasure mysteries. We came up with three very different, but equally brilliant stories - involving everything from mysterious alien rainbow orbs to ancient Egyptian gold.

Then it was off to Walsall to Park Hall Junior Academy - my third visit to work with successive Y5's to tie in with their reading of The Phoenix Code for their Ancient Egypt Topic. It was a delight to be back - the enthusiasm for reading and writing for pleasure in this lovely school is a joy to behold. It was great fun to come up with new lost artifacts with legendary powers for Cleo and Ryan to search for on their next adventure -  I particularly liked The Silver Potato of Brazil.

By the end of the same week I was back on the road (or rather the rails; my car has been out of action so it was cross-country train time) to one of my other favourite schools, Kensington Primary in Liverpool. - where I'm honoured to be Patron of Reading.

It was a very busy morning - including the official opening of their new library - it's been beautifully decorated so that it's like walking into a magical enchanted forest. I was proud to cut the ribbon (there's a little video of the moment on the Kensington School twitter feed!) - ably assisted by members of the the Liverpool FC Academy, who stayed on to read with the children. I also spent time chatting about Time Dogs with Y2 and reading them a few chapters, and doing a mystery-book vote with Y4. (The book the children chose (based on the blurb and the first page alone, was A Moon Girl Stole My Friend by Rebecca Patterson - a great read!)

There are pictures from the Y4 mystery book compeition here and from the  Y2 reading here.

Thank you to all the teachers, teaching assistants and office staff at all the of the schools for organising these visits and making me so welcome.

If you would like me to come to your school, please see my School Visits page for more information.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Book Pen Pals

I love the BookPenPals scheme!

If you've not heard of it, this is what it's all about . . . 
"BookPenPals pairs UK authors and illustrators with UK schools to make book recommendations via postcards. Schools reply with a postcard of their own. The Pen Pals pairings last for one school year, and the joys of reading, writing and drawing multiply."

Set up by the amazing duo, Kate Scott and Sarah Moorhead, the scheme has been an incredible success, with more and more schools, authors and illustrators signing up. Last year I was delighted to be paired with two lovely schools, one on Merseyside and the other in Lincoln.

This year I've got three fab newschools; Great Malvern Primary (Y6) and Castlemorton Primary (Y3/4) in Worcestershire and Brownlow Primary (Y6) in Leicestershire.

I can't wait to get to know my new schools. If there's one thing I like almost as much as reading and writing books, it's talking about books, so this is so much fun!
"Authors and illustrators recommend other people’s books to a class, over the course of a school year. They can also send occasional writing advice or drawing tips. Schools reply to let their Pen Pals know if they’ve enjoyed the recommended books. Lovely relationships between schools and authors/illustrators develop!"

I've just written my first postcards - and introductory letters - it's hard to fit everything onto the back of one postcard.  They'll go in the post tomorrow.  It's always hard to choose which books to pick out of all the amazing books out there, and I like to include a few different options each time - after all,  not everyone likes the same kind of book.

It's a great excuse to read more and more and sneak a few more books into my shopping bag each time I'm out (as if I even needed another excuse!)

Find out all about Book Pen Pals on their website here.

Would you like to know which books I'm recommending this month? 

I'll tell you as soon as I know that the schools have received their postcards - I don't want to give away any spoilers . . . let's just say I couldn't stick to one book, and there's a mystery, a history, a funny one and a dog story . . . 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Out Of This World Library Event

Cambridge Central Library was a buzz of bookish activity on Saturday - even more than is usual for a
busy library, that is.

An entire chapter of authors and illustrators gathered for the SCBWI* Local Author event to meet readers, read stories, and run craft activities and workshops. There was a great quiz and a raffle too, and a chance to buy books and have them signed by their creators.

*SCBWI=Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (a.k.a. an all-round good thing).

I had a very lovely afternoon catching up with author/illustrator friends, meeting young readers and their families and running an action-packed creative writing workshop in conjunction with Camilla Chester (fantastic author of Jarred Dreams, Eats and Thirteenth Wish).

To tie in with the Space Race theme of this year's Summer Reading Challenge, the workshop was all about writing stories that are out of this world . . . using a snakes and ladders board template to come up with characters goals and obstacles for a space quest story. The super-imaginative group of kids and adults came up with some brilliant ideas - including the main character - Embers Marshmallow, a girl with fiery superpowers.

It was lovely to see a little girl called Maya win copies of Time Dogs (complete with a fluffy collie puppy) in the raffle, and to be able to sign the books for her. I hope she will enjoy them.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in organizing this brilliant event, which is fast becoming a favourite fixture in the Cambridge children's literature calendar!  Special mentions to organiser-extraordinaire, librarian and SCBWI member, Anita Lehmann, SCBWI regional network organiser, Debbie Edwards, all the library staff who helped, and to Heffers, Cambridge (in the person of Clair!) who ran the book stall.

Predictably, I came home with a bag of new books by my SCBWI friends!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Storyteller Update

My last post was all about The Storyteller - the interactive story-writing show on BBC Radio
Lincolnshire that I've been involved with.

Back in July I was interviewed on the show by fantastic presented, Ella Wydrzynska, and the first chapter of the story - written by me - was read out.

Since then, five more great authors have featured on the show, and each has added their own amazing twist to the story with a new chapter. There will be ten in total and in a moment of madness, I've agreed to write the last chapter and try to tie everything together -  it's going to be quite a challenge as the story has gone inter-galactic (literally!)

If you'd like to listen to the story so far, you can find all the chapters here.

It's impossible to summarise . .  The adventure starts out  with our main character, twelve year old James, in the sewers beneath Lincoln, but soon involves an inter-galactic band of talking animal super-heroes including Frank the Tracker Badger,  Trevor the Crocodile and Gerald the Mouse, who are fighting an an evil pan-dimensional being who is trying to destroy our world (as a school project), James's friends Freya and Jayden, a race to find three magical rings, being trapped in a video game . . 

You can have your say about what should happen next by listening on Sunday afternoons at 2pm and texting in your suggestions. Just don't come up with anything TOO crazy, otherwise I'll have to deal with it in my final chapter . . . who am I kidding? Feel free to come up with the craziest thing you can think of . . .