Putting the story into Easter

Literary family fun can be found throughout Lincolnshire this Easter with perfect events and activities to encourage your mini readers to celebrate stories off as well as on the page.

If your bookworms are keen to go down the rabbit hole then they have a choice of three venues to visit that are currently celebrating the curious world of Alice in Wonderland.

Castle1Follow the White Rabbit and solve the riddles to claim your chocolate reward at Lincoln Castle which is also currently hosting a first edition of the imaginative novel in its Magna Carta Vault.  A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Flamingo Croquet, An Audience with Lewis Carroll and Easter Weekend events are also planned in support of the exhibit and quest.

Events are also getting curiouser and curiouser at Rushmoor Farm Park and Falconry Centre near Louth.  Crafts, scavenger and egg hunts, small fluffy animal handling and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party are part of its Easter Special activities.

And, if you need reminding of the storyline of the fantastical tale, head down the rabbit hole to the Trinity Arts Centre in Gainsborough for a musical performance featuring the colourful characters.

It’s the turn of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to stand in for the Easter Bunny at Ark Wildlife Park in Stickney with a treasure trail and the chance to meet the long-eared children’s favourite in “Mr McGregor’s Tropical House Garden”.

WizardOzFantastical theatrics at the New Theatre Royal in Lincoln are taking L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz as inspiration for its Easter pantomime.  Follow the yellow brick road to the Clasketgate venue to join Dorothy, Toto, the Lion, Tin Man and the Scarecrow on their perilous journey to the Emerald City.

tigertea.jpgJudith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea is celebrating its 50th anniversary and having sold more than five million copies and National Trust property Gunby Hall near Spilsby is the latest stop for a touring exhibition that brings the story to life with a giant cuddly tiger and an interactive kitchen.

With a frog-themed storytime at Waterstone’s, High Street, Lincoln and interactive storytimes with Rhubarb Theatre at Tattershall Farm Park, there’s plenty of book-themed fun to be had during this school break.

Looking for other Easter holiday ideas?  Click on Lincoln Mums or Visit Lincoln for more events taking place across the county.

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Author school tours will launch Newark Book Festival 2019

NBF1Children’s authors are set to visit Newark’s schools as Newark Book Festival returns for 2019 with an even bigger programme of events for children.

This year’s theme, Home and Away, will be brought to life with tales from Newark and beyond, circus and carnival themed entertainment at Newark Castle, seaside fun, Paddington Bear crafts, stories from the moon and back, plus The Greatest Show in the centre of Newark to launch the festival which will take place from July 12th to 14th.

In 2018, the more than 30 authors, poets and illustrators that hosted talks and workshops attracted 3,500 avid readers and aspiring writers to visit the town.  This year, the festival will take over 12 venues across three packed days, including the Church of Mary Magdalene and the Buttermarket for the very first time, and includes an expanded children’s programme.

LincolnPeter & the Wolf will be performed at the popular Music for Market concert in the Church, while an 8ft tall living fruit and vegetable man named Froojamaflip and his friend, Fred the gardener, will be sharing stories of the spring-time garden.  Adambara and Zhim, an elephant and mouse duo, will tell the enchanting Indian Panchtantra tale in a puppet show for all ages. Both imaginative acts are the work of Lincoln-based theatre production company, Curious Creations.

The stories of people who have passed through Newark throughout history will be unpacked in a suitcase-themed show from Can Do Theatre at Newark Castle. “Roll up, roll up” tells the tales of the Ringling Bros. Circus, once billed as the greatest show on Earth, which came to the town from America during its travels. Visitors of all ages can also take part in a circus skills workshop with NSDC arts team.

Newark Book Festival Paddington SuitcaseCraft workshops dedicated to Darkest Peru’s most famous bear will be available for children who want to make and create, while a children’s 9-12 year-old panel highlighting the golden age of children’s literature will also give visitors a chance to hear more about the rise in popular fiction for younger audiences.

CWpic3NEWARK FESTIVALFor the first time, Newark Book Festival will hit the road ahead of the event.  Authors including Gareth Baker, Chris White, Ian Douglas, James Nicol and Thomas Taylor will be visiting local schools to work with the children through writing and art workshops, readings and inspiring a love of books and reading to all.

Sara Bullimore, organiser for Newark Book Festival, said: “We had an incredible turn out and response last year from local people and visitors from across the country.  This year, we’re building on that momentum to create a rich tapestry of events woven across the lovely town of Newark.  We’re partnering with more authors, local businesses and artists than ever before to make sure that happens.

9781406386288“From lively performances and spectacular children’s authors to calming craft workshops and storytelling, the festival is set to be an incredible celebration of the concept of home and away – no matter what that means to each individual person. We’d love for more local people to support the hard work of everyone involved by becoming a Friend of the Festival, visiting us or by sponsoring an event.”

For more information visit www.newarkbookfestival.org.uk or follow on Facebook www.facebook.com/newarkbookfest/ and on Twitter www.twitter.com/NewarkBookFest.

Finding yourself in books makes reading powerful

WBDLogoEncouraging “children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own” is the main aim of World Book Day.

As part of its 22nd event it has also introduced a Reading is Power Manifesto created “for and by young people” – it highlights the benefits of 1. Growth, 2. Choice, 3. Power and 4. Knowledge and challenges you to add or write your own. 

The explanation of point number one Growth: “When we find good books, we find ourselves” I find a particularly interesting one.  What if you can’t find yourself?

Children’s authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo conducted bookcase experiment The Ugly Truth of Children’s Books highlighting under-representation of female characters.  And last year the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) published their Reflecting Realities report a “study of ethnic representation in children’s literature” which found that only 4% of the children’s books published in the UK in 2017 featured BAME characters and only 1% had a BAME main character.

But what about children with disabilities, are they represented too?  Oscar-winner Rachel Shenton and The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson are just two people who this year are calling for more diversity in this area too.

And, whilst many of us can probably name a few titles that feature a disabled character giving a chance for all to gain greater understanding and/or a “this is me” moment for those with the same condition, how many titles are there simply featuring the adventures of children where one or two just happen to have a disability rather than it being central to the narrative?

The illustrations in the early Bookstart books are one place to look but another local author who’s proved herself forward thinking is Lesley Berrington.

HattieandFriends2

Following attending a course about the Disability Discrimination Act in 2004, the NNEB qualified former nurseries and kids’ clubs owner then began searching for story books featuring disability to use in her nurseries.

“It was very difficult to find any,” she writes.  “The ones that I did find used the story to explain the disability, which was not what I wanted.  I wanted the character with a disability to be part of the story, to introduce the disability to other children, but not draw attention to it.  After some further research I decided to create my own books to meet the growing demand for inclusive resources.

“Hattie and friends was born in 2005 with the first title A Day at the Zoo on sale from January 2006.”

Since then another three titles have been added to the series and more than 8,000 books have been sold.

HattieandFriends

“Disability is part of everyday life and I believe children, from a young age, should see characters with disabilities in their story books,” says Berrington.

“Inclusion means accepting everyone and the differences we have, therefore the character’s disability should be entirely incidental, in my opinion.  I didn’t want my characters to be special, have magic powers or appear different.

“If young children see positive images of disability and receive a consistent message of tolerance and acceptance I believe this would have many benefits to society.  Unfortunately people with disabilities face daily struggles with disrespectful attitudes towards them.  We can improve these attitudes, which have been developed over many years, be addressing how we present disability to our children.

“I regularly visit primary school to talk about my books and I don’t mention the disability aspect, intentionally, until the end.  When I ask the children if they can see anything different about my characters they often can’t see any differences which is exactly the point!

“The important message is that all children can be friends and have fun, abilities are not important.  All young children accept differences, their curiosity will raise questions and they develop attitudes from the answers they receive.

“We must show, through our attitudes and actions, that we value all children equally.”

Hattie and friends are celebrating World Book Day this year by showing off their newly released second editions which have an improved layout aiming to be even more inclusive – the text is now on a separate page to the illustration so it is very clear and easy to read for everyone.

Usually priced at £6.99 each or £24 for the set of four, to celebrate their new editions the set of four is available for £20 throughout March.  Email lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk to enquire about ordering.

Click here to find out more about World Book Day or here to find out more about Hattie and Friends.

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 

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