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

#Blogtober18: Education #worldteachersday

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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.

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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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#30DaysWild Day 5 – A Busy Day For Birds

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_05Have you been doing the Bookstart Bird Boogie this week?

The chosen book for this year’s National Bookstart Week (June 4th-10th) is A Busy Day for Birds by Lucy Cousins and we picked one up this morning at a Children’s Centre group.

ABusyDayForBirdsSimilar to last year’s Everybunny Dance, the title has proved a hit with the minis this evening as it is extremely enactable.

Shouting cock-a-doodle-doo, flapping their wings, hopping, swooping and wiggling their feathers along with the story, they copied the illustrations of woodpeckers, swans, parrots, starlings, flamingos, penguins, ostriches, peacocks, owls and more.

If you’re a friend of the feathered then you might like to know that the first Swift Awareness Week (June 16th-23rd) is coming up.

And, if it’s a feather-based fun day out you’re looking for, take a look at Kayleigh’s Hawk Conservancy Trust Review on her blog Candyfloss & Dreams which featured vultures, owls and secretary birds as well as hawks. 

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The destination for your imagination this July

Newark Book Festival 2018

NBF1The fantastical tales we read as children often stay very real within our imaginations but isn’t it fabulous when they sometimes take actual 3D form too?

PlaceCalledHomeNewark Book Festival 2018 (July 13th-15th) will see knights, bookworms, the Gruffalo, very, very, very long dogs and fat cats, aliens, gardeners and much more popping out of the pages of a book into storytimes, dramatic presentations and character appearances.  And you can even transform yourself into a literary character too and take part in the fancy dress competition.

LongDogInteraction is always key in any children’s event but there are also dedicated workshops to make sure your mini one’s own imagination takes centre stage including a fantasy writing workshop with Gareth Baker (recommended ages 8-12) and the chance to make a concertina stand-up book (all ages).  Author and illustrator Julia Patton will also be helping Newark Library launch the Summer Reading Challenge (age 4-11) encouraging young readers to keep celebrating their love of stories long after the weekend is over.

LittleRedReadingAnd it’s not surprising that at a book festival the love of reading itself becomes the subject of events.  Little Red Reading Hood by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle sounds a perfect title for little literary lovers and, for us older ones who still hold fairytales close BookwormLMto our hearts, Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (among the many adults events on offer) will see the author and her interviewer Tina Bettison “take a trip down a rabbit hole and a visit to Narnia” as “she relives our best-loved books, their extraordinary creators and looks at the thousand subtle ways they shape our lives”.

Whether you’re cruising down the river on the Ship of Stories or exploring fairy trails in the Castle’s Enchanted Forest, Newark will be a very magical place for all literary lovers to visit in July.

Find out more at www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk and join in the conversation using #newarkbf.

Is it all about the journey rather than the destination for you?  Take a look at Mrs S of Otis & Us suggestions of 7 books and activities for kids to take on a road trip to ensure your mini ones’ imaginations are switched on from the very start of any visit.  

What the ladybird wore

World Book Day 2018

wbdlogoThe wintry weather experienced in the UK at the beginning of March threatened to make Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman the most popular costume for this year’s World Book Day celebrations.

However, the depth of the white stuff meant schools and nurseries were shut and the literary-inspired day postponed.

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My little ladybird in March 2017

Willow wasn’t attending her nursery on the day of their rescheduled Alice in Wonderland tea party although she’d previously helped to make some of the heart decorations.

Luke’s school saved their crumpets and hot chocolate for the following week too, highlighting the pleasure and importance of bedtime stories, but that meant he merely needed to don his pyjamas for the day rather than choose a costume even though I’d saved last year’s just in case.

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My little ladybird in March 2018

So it was left up to Faith on this occasion to fulfil mummy’s desire to dress up at least one of her children on a semi-regular basis.

And just look how much my little ladybird has grown!

On the verge of sitting independently, she still rocks a red and black outfit at any angle and I think Julia Donaldson’s rhyming tales will be a staple of storytimes in our house for many years to come.

But will I be able to find a ladybird costume in her size next year?