Theatrical tale of tails inspires audience to want to take part

img_10341.jpgAlways one to enjoy it when cast members run around the audience, Luke started enjoying a stage adaptation of Tabby McTat even before the characters took to the stage.

It was Terence who made it up the stairs to introduce himself to those seated in the circle and his continuing goofy clowning antics throughout the show confirmed him as Luke’s favourite.

The minis were the guests of the New Theatre Royal Lincoln for Freckle Productions’s late afternoon performance of Julia Donaldson’s musical tale of feline adventure on Sunday.

Willow enjoyed all of the opportunities to join in with the tale of friendship and loyalty and has since been attempting to teach her friends at nursery how to do the special paw shake apparently.

Advertised “for all ages”, Faith enjoyed the “heroic and epic lighting changes” as well as the harmonious songs and mummy enjoyed the inventiveness of some of the staging, including the depiction of the brass band, on the sparse set.

Presented by Samuel Spratt telling his father’s story, the other three actors swapped hats to indicate which role they were performing as the tail tale took us through Tabby’s life from street cat to home cat to cat on a mission to find his friend.

Called up on stage one by one to fulfil Samuel’s storytelling needs, Luke was convinced that the only reason he hadn’t fit the bill of being able to help act out McTat’s journey was his lack of appropriate hat and knowing all the words in advance – cue on returning home him immediately looking for his beloved summer baseball cap mummy had tried putting away for the winter and requesting another reading of the book.  Considering he hadn’t been feeling well before we went, the show fully captured his, and his sisters’ imaginations, and provided all of us with some much needed theatrical magic.

Are Freckle Productions performing Tabby McTat in a theatre near you?  Find out at www.tabbymctat.com 

The next family production to be hosted by the New Theatre Royal Lincoln is pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but there’s lots of fun promised for 2019 too with There Was An Old Lady, Twirlywoos, Wizard of Oz, the Amazing Adventures of Pinocchio, Dear Zoo, Sooty’s Magic Show and The Tiger Who Came to Tea already programmed into the venue’s next season – find out more at www.newtheatreroyallincoln.co.uk 

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Fantasy titles make fantastic festive gifts

Are you splashing out on a book advent calendar and need some suggestions to make up your 24 titles?  Are you following the more frugal four gift rule of want, need, wear and read and would like to make sure each gift is extra special?  Or are you just looking for something easy to wrap?  Here Gill Hart of Lindum Books picks out a few of her fantastical and seasonal favourites that might prove the perfect present if you’re buying for mini ones this year…

OUaWWOnce Upon a Wild Wood – Chris Riddell (Pan Macmillan, HB, £12.99)
Little Green Raincape is on her way to Rapunzel’s party, deep in the wild woods. The way is long and dark, but Green is a smart girl. Smart enough to turn down apples offered by kindly old ladies, smart enough to turn down travel advice from helpful wolves, and above all, smart enough to solve a wealth of classic fairy tale problems – not least mend a lovelorn beast’s broken heart.  Once Upon a Wild Wood is a richly imagined story packed full of familiar fairy tale characters as you’ve never seen them before.  Including Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the three bears, the seven dwarfs and many more!  A visual feast on every page, illustrated with warmth and humour and full of witty details to discover – this is ex Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell at his picture book best!

TTPThe Truth Pixie – Matt Haig (Cannongate, HB, £9.99)
Matt Haig has become known as an ambassador for the importance of talking about mental health and this heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould, is being called the Reason’s to Stay Alive for seven-year olds.  “Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.”  A very funny and lovable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.  The Truth Pixie is an enchanting, rhyming story that will delight younger readers.

TSMMThe Snowman – Michael Morpurgo (Penguin, HB, £12.99)
Michael Morpurgo has re-imagined Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman for a new generation of readers.  One December morning, James is thrilled to wake up to see snow falling. He spends the whole day making his perfect snowman; he has coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf and a tangerine nose, just like the snowman from his favourite story.  That night, something magical happens – the Snowman comes to life!  He and James take to the skies on a magical adventure where they meet someone very special.  Inspired by the timeless tale, Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Robin Shaw have created the perfect Christmas story for the whole family.

NSCSNoel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories – Noel Streatfeild (Little Brown, HB, £12.99)
A captivating collection of festive stories from the author of Ballet Shoes.  There are auditions on stage and antics on ice, trips to the pantomime, holiday adventures, and laughter shared with family and friends.  Originally written for annuals, magazines and the radio from the 1940s-60s, these stories by this much-loved author have never been collected before and are sure to be a hit with readers of all ages.

SWCThe Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition – Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, HB, £14.99)
When the Grace children moved into the old, abandoned Spiderwick Mansion, little did they realise that their lives would never be the same again. Having uncovered a fantastical world of sprites, faeries and goblins there’s no turning back. The Ultimate Spiderwick Chronicles features all five of the original books plus great new bonus content!  Discover the three “lost” chapters that were included in the Nestle Cereal Partners cereal boxes, and the special “development” section showing sketches and early drafts. Readers both old and new, young and old will be completely immersed in the world of Spiderwick with this ultimate collection.

BoDPPLa Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman (Penguin, PB, £7.99)
Philip Pullman’s prequel to his Dark Materials series is both for fans and those new to Lyra’s world.  Malcolm Polstead’s Oxford life has been one of routine, ordinary even.  He is happiest playing with his daemon, Asta, in their canoe, La Belle Sauvage.  But now as the rain builds, the world around Malcolm and Asta it seems is set to become increasingly far from ordinary.  Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra forever.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller call 01522 262374 or pop into their store in Bailgate, Lincoln.

For more Christmas gift guides visit www.arepops.com 

Freckle Productions to perform a purr-fect play

#Blogtober18: X-rays and broken bones

“Tabby McTat was a busker’s cat with a miaow that was loud and strong…”

In Julia Donaldson’s feline tale McTat is purr-fectly happy singing all day long with his best friend Fred until one day Fred sustains an injury whilst chasing a thief and the two are separated.  Tabby finds new home comforts but soon misses his friend.

The cast of Tabby McTat. Photo Credit Robin Savage (3)

Fans of the rhyming story and those who don’t yet know whether they find each other again can enjoy a brand new stage adaptation of the book when Freckle Productions performs it at the New Theatre Royal in Lincoln.

The show may be new but Freckle Productions has previously bought Donaldson’s creations to the stage with Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales and say “Brought to life on stage with original songs and inventive puppetry, Tabby McTat is a heart-warming story of friendship and loyalty”.

The cast of Tabby McTat. Photo Credit Robin Savage (7) (1)“I have a very soft spot for Tabby McTat, perhaps because I used to be a busker myself, and also because I am a great cat-lover, says Julia Donaldson, “So I’m absolutely delighted that Freckle Productions are going to be dramatizing my story and I can’t wait to see it.”

Suitable for children and families of all ages, the show’s tour is coming to the city venue on November 4th at 1.30pm and 4.30pm and November 5th at 11am and 1.30pm.  Tickets are £14, under 2s free.

Find out more at www.TabbyMcTat.com or book tickets at www.newtheatreroyallincoln.co.uk

Fortunately Fred recovers from his broken leg and bang to the head but he’s not the only one who’s incurred a hospital stay due to an accident.  For more stories on the theme of X-rays and broken bones click on the #Blogtober18 image below. 

#Blogtober18

 

“Children’s author tells children to learn how to lie”

#Blogtober18: Education #worldteachersday

MMWolfMulti-award winner, former Children’s Laureate, charity founder, OBE recipient for services to literature and supreme teller of tales, Michael Morpurgo suggested the title of this post himself.

Speaking at the Lincoln Drill Hall as part of the Lincoln Book Festival at the end of September, the author of more than 100 books was giving advice on becoming a writer in response to audience questions.

As well as joking about being good at lying – and that that would be the line that the local press would pick up on – Morpurgo also had other suggestions to share.

To live life, listen, learn, travel, meet new people and experience as much as you can was his most heartfelt guidance.

He also recommended keeping a diary or journal of sorts – not necessarily a detailed account of the day but just one or two sentences everyday about something, be it an event, a conversation or an image, that had left an impression.  And not to worry about spelling or grammar or punctuation, but to just get it down on the page.

MMFlamingoIt was advice I’d love my son to hear in future years.  Earlier the same day as the event he had referred to himself as an author and, whilst he may currently need extra support with literacy, it certainly hasn’t dampened his desire to tell stories – which, after all, was an oral tradition to begin with.

A former teacher, Morpurgo honed his talent in the classroom when he discovered that making up his own stories to tell to his pupils was an even more effective way of engaging them than reading those of other writers and clearly his storytelling prowess stretches to both page and spoken tales.

The sell out audience – which included a good smattering of those “dreaded Year 6s” – had bought their tickets on the basis of their love of his books and were rewarded by a spellbinding evening of verbal narration of the factual and fictional, embellished and merely hinted at, extraordinary and everyday that have been gleaned from his lifetime and the lifetimes of those he has encountered along the way.  He even further treated the theatre-goers to a closing rendition of Only Remembered from War Horse, encouraging them to sing-along too.

One of the first speakers to appear at the Lincoln Book Festival some years ago, let’s hope he’ll return to speak at a future event again even sooner.  I’d certainly like the minis to have the chance to hear him when they’re a little bit older.

Today is World Teachers’ Day and this year’s theme is “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher”.  “This theme was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), where education is recognised as a key fundamental right.  A right that cannot be fulfilled without qualified teachers.”  Hands up all those who would have liked to have been in Michael Morpurgo’s classroom!

#Blogtober18

 

Tale of treacherous travels is a theatrical treat

#Blogtober18: Ditty #NationalPoetryDay

“Stick Man lives in the family tree.
With his Stick Lady love and their stick children three.”

StickManTheatreJulia Donaldson’s perilous tale of a morning’s jog gone wrong leapt off the page on to the stage – and around the auditorium – to the delight of a rapt young audience.

Performed by Scamp Theatre at the Lincoln Drill Hall as part of the Lincoln Book Festival at the end of September, Stick Man saw the author’s rhythmic verse brought to life with inventive staging, puppetry and live music in a mix of styles with the space for the child’s own imagination to join in too.

My six year old enjoyed the chase scene around the auditorium as park warden followed dog followed Stick Man and loved the beach ball being thrown through the audience too and my three year old was thoroughly caught up in the drama of Stick Man’s every increasingly hazardous travels that include him being mistaken for a flag pole, a sword and kindling among many other things.

Advertised as “most suitable for children aged 3+ with their friends and families” I wasn’t sure the more darkly lit than most children’s theatre show would capture the attention of my one year old but she loved the sparkly light effects of the underwater and wintry scenes.

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme this year is Change which the tale of Stick Man certainly embodies so, if you have a copy of the rhyming story at home already, it would make perfect bedtime reading tonight!

 

Is Stick Man being performed near you? Click here to find out.

Would you like to see more Julia Donaldson tales adapted for the stage? 
Tall Stories will present The Snail and the Whale at the LPAC in Lincoln on Thursday, October 25th.
Freckle Productions will perform Tabby McTat at the New Theatre Royal in Lincoln on November 4th and 5th.

Has this traumatic celebration of the numerous ways a stick could be used fuelled your desire to go on a collecting spree on a walk through some trees?  My previous posts:
Stick Inspiration
The Stick Book
might give you further inspiration on what your woody haul can be magically transformed into – just make sure they’re just sticks and not Stick Men!

#Blogtober18

#30DaysWild Day 30 – Boris and Betty

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_30When Boris and Betty tweeted the blurb of the first installment of their escapades about a week ago it seemed the perfect book to be introduced to as we neared the end of this year’s #30DaysWild:

BorisBetty“Boris and Betty are spending too much time on their favourite computer game, much to Mummy Bear’s dismay!

“But Mummy Bear has a plan to get her children back outside!

“With some friends popping up along the way, will these twin bears rediscover their love for the great outdoors, or will they be forever glued to their favourite computer game?”

Written by Lee Harris and illustrated by Jordan Brown, the minis were lucky enough for the author to send them a copy to see what they thought of the ursine pair’s excursion into “the world outside our door” and it arrived just in time for the end of the month-long challenge.

BB1

I love the colour tone of the bold, simple illustrations and how Boris’s favourite toy rabbit, that he obviously can’t leave home without, soon spends more time in his mother’s paw than his.

A great importance is placed on rhythm and rhyme in developing early literacy skills but I also find that books written this way can immediately help the reader find an engaging voice for the story when sharing them aloud and, along with an occasional typesetting highlight, it works well in this instance too.

The author is a father of three who has years of bedtime reading experience and was inspired to write Boris and Betty after becoming “frustrated with the current trend of children spending most of their spare time with an electronic gadget in their hand”.  And it’s lovely to note that the twins don’t just find enjoyment in the countryside and active pursuits but also in finding friends to play with too as Daisy Deer and Henrietta Horse make cameo appearances.  (Who doesn’t love a little bit of alliteration too?!)

Fun with friends and camping, playgrounds and kites are definitely topics that meet with the approval of the minis – kite flying was even desperately requested on our last camping trip despite a distinct lack of wind.

“Today has been fab, with lots to explore.
This kite’s amazing – we want to see it soar!

The world is a wonderful, joyous place
We’ve learned to enjoy and start to embrace.”

But, whilst coaxing them outside away from screens isn’t too hard at the moment, I can see a time coming in the not too distant future where it will become more of an issue.  #30DaysWild has proved harder this year due to the demands of the school run which, due to the lack of local school places, sees us confined to the car for each trip as well as truncates our afternoons.  Fortunately Luke’s school has great grounds and takes part in The Daily Mile initiative and Willow’s nursery has lovely outdoor play areas and even animals that they can observe and help in looking after.  But it won’t be too many years before the classroom will swallow a significant part of their day and I don’t like that thought.

It will, however, give me plenty of reasons for keeping Boris and Betty as a staple part of our bedtime reading canon for years to come so we can ensure a yearning to head outdoors as much as possible during weekends and holidays.

And, whilst the bears realistically don’t give up their love for “tablets and gadgets galore” altogether, the tale’s closing couplet:

Now that the bears have begun to discover,
What future adventures will they uncover?

seems to suggest they might have further titles to add to it in the future too.

Find out more at www.borisandbetty.com

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#30DaysWild Day 16 – A stroll through the deep dark wood

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_16
Last year we made a point of reading of Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale as part of our #30DaysWild activities, a title that never ceases to inspire wanderlust in me and remind me of how big and wide and varied and awesome our planet Earth is.  And it’s a lovely reminder of how even the miniest of us can make a difference.

GruffaloThis year we chose her much loved character The Gruffalo to read about as part of June’s challenge.  I like to think of it as a vegetarian polemic as, in the end, only nuts were harmed in the writing of the story but my children probably just like its forest setting, rhyming and fun repetitous narrative, meeting animals such as mouse, fox, owl, snake and the imaginative Gruffalo and that, whilst the miniest creature in this wood probably isn’t really the scariest, it can definitely be the smartest.

It also reminded me of when We all went on a Gruffalo hunt during last year’s 30 Days Wild too.  If you’re looking for some off the page fun with Julia Donaldson’s characters this year then take a look at the Forestry Commission to see if one of their Highway Rat forest trails is taking place in a woods near you and then click on over to Eva’s review Alice Holt Forest – The Highway Rat Activity Trail on Captain Bobcat to find out what’s in store for you if there is.

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