School visits

 

If you would like me to visit your school and talk with your pupils please do contact me via my Contact Page.

 

All the 'Ever So' books are great starting points for writing, making up stories or poems and working with rhyme.

 

I have various activities for children both Key Stage 1 & 2.

 

 

Sarah Newbury, headteacher of Cleeve Prior School, said :

 

'It was a lovely day and Julie was well received by the children. For them to see an author in the flesh who has actually published was very worthwhile for our students'.

 

 

World Book Day 2019

My first World Book Day visit was to my local school for sessions with preschool, reception, KS 1 and KS 2 classes. That kept me busy!

All the children shared their favourite stories with me and then listened really well to some of mine.

My book, 'Bears Don't Eat Egg Sandwiches', tells the story of a hungry bear who arrives one day at Jack's house looking for lunch. Class 2 used it as the starting point for their own stories. I left them busy writing what might happen if a lion came knocking at your door. I'm looking forward to reading their stories soon!

Class 3 are now busy creating poems for a national poetry competition - I wish them lots of luck!

 

I also visited Busy Bees Nursery in Leamington Spa. The children listened whilst I read a couple of stories - they weren't at all worried about the big, hungry bear! Then they coloured in pictures of Greedy Mrs MacCready and drew me plates full of their favourite sandwiches. Sausages seemed very popular!

 

My next visit was to Oakridge Parochial School in Gloucestershire. The children have recently taken on a village allotment, so it was here that we met and held our sessions. Fortunately the weather was kind to us and it didn't start raining until we had finished.

 

I worked with children from KS 1 first of all. We heard all about the farmer who planted a potato that grew...and grew...and grew to an ENORMOUS size. It seemed a good idea - we were on an allotment! Then we acted out the story.

 

After all that effort I read a couple of my books, then we set to designing plates and 'filling' them with food we could grow on the allotment.

The children from KS 2 arrived on the allotment with hands full of books. They'd brought their favourites to share with me -I came away with a long list of titles to explore.

 

After sharing our ideas we went on to think about poetry, before trying our hand at creating poems about things you might find on an allotment - and not just food!

I had a lovely time spending the morning with such an enthusiastic and talented group of children.

 

They sent me some of their poems, which they continued to work on after I left.

 

Thank you, Oakridge, for a fantastic time and such great work. 

  

And thanks, too, to Gill of Mouse About Town photography for the great photos.

 

Beds

 

Beds, beds, way better than sheds,

 

Soft and comfy, warm and lumpy,

 

Flower beds, sleeping beds,

 

Lots and lots of lovely beds.

 

By Amelia Y6

 

 

Earth worm

 

Earth worm, earth worm why so bright?

 

You look like a noodle that I could cook you tonight.

 

Earth worm earth worm why so wriggly?

 

If you smile you’ll make me giggly.

 

By Layla Y5

 

 

 

FOX

 

Quick  FOX, 

 

Orange  FOX,

 

Sneaky FOX,

 

Cheeky FOX,

 

Fluffy FOX,

 

Young FOX,

 

Cub .

 

BY Seb Y3

 

 

 

Potatoes and tomatoes

 

Potatoes potatoes

 

Tomatoes tomatoes

 

Make the best spaghetti

 

Even though they look like burnt courghetti

 

They help you grow all big and strong so let’s just hope that nothing goes wrong!

 

By Monty Y6

 

 

 

Raspberries are squishy

 

Raspberries are sweet

 

Raspberries make a lovely treat

 

Sometimes bitter, sometimes sharp

 

Nice with lots of cream.

 

 

 

Apples are crispy

 

Apples are crunchy

 

Apples are lovely to eat

 

Sometimes sour, sometimes sweet

 

Growing on the apple tree.

 

 

 

Blackberries are lovely

 

Blackberries are moist

 

Blackberries cover the bramble bushes

 

Sometimes mushy, sometimes tart

 

But delicious all the less.

 

 

 

Oranges are juicy

 

Oranges are yummy

 

Oranges are nice but can be hard to peel

 

Sometimes acidic,

 

Sometimes squished

 

But always really scrumptious

 

 

 

Pineapples are tropical

 

Pineapples are tasty

 

Pineapples are delicious if, you can get past the spikes

 

Sometimes tough, sometimes chewy

 

But usually go well with everything.

 

 

 

Mangos are mouth-watering

 

Mangos are healthy

 

Mangos are refreshing, amazing and sweet

 

Sometimes stringy, sometimes sloppy

 

But the really the best of most fruits.

 

 

 

Fruit is delicious

 

Totally fresh

 

Add in some peach, some strawberry and grape

 

And then you get…

 

A fruit salad, YUM!

 

Amelia C Y5

 

 

 

 

Red as a strawberry

 

Red as a strawberry with a green top hat,

 

Seeds inside fancy that,

 

Am I a vegetable or am I a fruit,

 

When I am small I   look quite cute.

 

What am I?

 

By Matilda Y5.

 

 

 

Sheds

 

Sheds, shed woodlice beds,

 

Made of wood and very wet,

 

Though they are still useful yet.

 

They keep our tools all safe and dry,

 

All throughout the cold wet night.

 

By Anouska Y6

 

Slimy slug:

Slippery slug

Lazy slug

Individual

Moist

Yucky

Squishy

Liquidy

Ugly

Greusome

What a beautiful sight!

Stan and Jenson Y5 and Y3

 

 

Spiders

 

Tiny spiders crawl around,

 

They crawl up and they crawl down.

 

Making webs all day long,

 

In the shed where they belong.

 

By Joly Y6

 

 

 

This is called little  worm !

 

little worm little worm under the ground,

little worm little worm put on your frown,

if you come to me then I’ll come to you

then you and me will be friends too!!!

 

 

My first ever Skype 'visit'.

I was invited to 'visit' the after school book club at Furzefield School in Surrey. They were going to read my book 'Bears Don't Eat Egg Sandwiches', then create their own dream sandwiches! I couldn't resist.

They were a lovely group of children. Each stepped up to the camera and introduced themselves to me. 

 

I hadn't realised I was on the 'big screen'. That's a scarily oversized head!

 

 

 

 

Then I read them my story.

 

They all listened really well...

 

...although it seems there were a few rather concerned faces. After all, Jack does have some problems with an egg-sandwich-disliking bear in the tale.

We chatted about the story and the children asked me questions. I think I managed to answer them all well enough - even the one about my own favourite sandwich filling. One very good question was, 'How long did it take to write the story?' It appeared my answer was quite a shock (I saw one or two heads drop into hands!) From my first idea to the finished product it took around eight months. From the first idea to the actual book being published was much longer!

Then we said our goodbyes and the children set to with their dream sandwich making. I went downstairs to my kitchen and made an egg sandwich.

 

The children sent me photos of the sandwiches they created. Yummy!!

Thank you, Furzefield, for such a great session and for sending me all those scrummy photos.

World Book Day and other fabulous book-themed visits....

I was invited to visit the children at Winchcombe Farm Day Nursery again this year, as part of their celebrations of World Book Day. There were some fabulous outfits - I loved this little Gruffalo. The children brought along their favourite books for me to see and I shared some of mine with them. They managed to find one I hadn't read before....not an easy thing to do! I had a fabulous time.......

 

Then, on World Book Day itself, I set off for Hollywood Primary School in Birmingham. The whole school dressed for the occasion and there were quite literally hundreds of fantastic costumes. I particularly enjoyed seeing a BFG, Willy Wonka, several Harry Potters, Hermione Granger and a plethora of Things 1 and 2! I felt seriously under-dressed.

 

The school had invited in several authors and illustrators. Planning the day must have taken some doing - well done Hollywood Primary! The children were all so enthusiastic and fired up about the day. It was great to witness.

 

I started with a hall full of KS2 children, all wanting to find out how I became a children's writer and what I actually do!! I think I enlightened them a little. 

 

Then I spent much of the rest of my visit with two year 3 classes, working on creating poems. They were excited to find out about a national competition with which I am involved, and set about writing poems to enter straight away.

 

(The competition is open to children aged 7 - 11 years, the closing date not until 5th May 2016. Why not give it a go or let someone who may be interested and of the right age know?  : www.poemsandpictures.co.uk/competition to find out more.)

 

 

The poems the children created were amazing - some fantastic rhyming and superb imaginations. I'd love to share some of them here, but as they're going to be entered in to the competition I can't.....maybe afterwards?!

 

I was whisked to the hall again for a short interlude of sing-a-long songs with KS1 children. We had great fun singing '1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive' and 'Daddy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow', before listening to the tale of Tabitha Posy who was ever so nosy....and finding out what happens to her when she visits the zoo.

Thank you Hollywood Primary for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

 

 

My third visit linked to World Book Day was to Upton Snodsbury First School.

 

I spoke to the whole school to begin with about being a writer. They had lots of extremely in depth questions to ask me, which made me exercise my brain a fair bit.

Then I worked with each class in turn, creating more poems and generally having great fun. There were so many brilliant ideas and the children's use of words was often outstanding.

 

 

 

I was delighted to find that, each pupil having been asked to create some work about their favourite author, one had designed a whole two page spread all about me - including a picture of me when I was first at school....I think my mother must have cut my fringe! There were even flaps to lift!

 

 

I finished my visit by signing lots of my books for the children....tiring, but fun!

 

I had a wonderful time with all the children at Upton Snodsbury - thank you all!

 

Chipping Campden Literary Festival school visits to St Catherine's and Ebrington.

I was invited to take part in this year's Chipping Campden Literary Festival by the wonderful Emily Dunn, proprietor of the new book shop 'Festival of Books' in the town. (It's a great shop packed with shelves of children's literature!)


Emily arranged for me to visit two schools - St Catherine's in Chipping Campden and Ebrington School.

 

I was bravely attempting my first ever workshop using a fair amount of technical skill (for me, anyway) I had a memory stick full of pictures and story spreads......just had to hope I could work out how to get it to play when I got to each school!

 


Hooray! It works! Mrs MacCready on the big screen....
Hooray! It works! Mrs MacCready on the big screen....

The children at St Catherine's were great. They listened carefully and answered questions well. When we got to the bit about creating our own poems there were some fantastic ideas.


I loved the fact that, when working on a poem about a tangerine, half the class said they loved them and the other half hated them. Having opposites like that makes for a really effective poem.


 

I even managed to write the children's ideas down on 'the big screen'..........!


We wrote about a pizza as well as a tangerine.....very popular! How many words can you think of to do with pizzas?
We wrote about a pizza as well as a tangerine.....very popular! How many words can you think of to do with pizzas?


Then came the signing of books - I promised to put the photos up here!

 

Then I popped over to Ebrington School - what a lovely place to visit.

 

The children were so wrapped up in their reading and books. They listened carefully to me, despite the fact that we couldn't get my power point to work for them. It didn't seem to matter, as they were happy just listening and coming up with some fantastic answers to my questions.

 

Their ideas for poetry were wonderful. I left them all working on some poems of their own and I hope to be able to share some on here once they have finished them.

 

I really enjoyed my visits to St Catherine's and Ebrington and would like to thank all the children and staff for making me feel so welcome.

 

 

 

Abbey C of E Infant & Nursery School, Nuneaton

Yesterday I visited this wonderful school in Nuneaton. 


The children were so excited, but they listened carefully, answered my questions brilliantly and joined in in all the right places!


I had great fun reading and talking about storytelling. Years 1 and 2 helped me create some poems too.


The year 1 children wrote about 'Squidger's Messy Breakfast' (I'm afraid Squidger is a little bear I own who is an incredibly messy eater!) 


The year 2 children were studying Space as their topic this term. Daniel O'Dowd was the perfect story for them. After we'd read the book, we worked on our own space poem called 'The Rocket'. The children came up with some fantastic words to describe it.


I also visited the Reception children and the nursery.


Thank you everyone at Abbey School. I really enjoyed my day with you - such a dynamic and friendly school.

Visiting Rigby Hall School in Bromsgrove

On World Book Day I made a visit to Rigby Hall School to read my stories to some of the children there. I had a fantastic time.

The children were so welcoming and seemed to like my stories! One class drew me some of their favourite food.....

.....after we'd heard the story of Mrs MacCready.


Another class listened carefully to the story of Tabitha Posy, with help from their teacher who was brilliant working all my props!



One class even managed to come up with a class poem about a bear who is a very messy eater. Great work!


Lots of the children had dressed up as their favourite book character for the day....

I had a wonderful time with a lot of very special children.


Thank you everyone at Rigby Hall School.

Invited back to Evesham Nursery!

This week I was invited to go back to Evesham Nursery to work with another group of children. Just like before, I had a lovely time.

 

We chatted about our favourite books and this time I think their favourite might have been the brilliant new story 'There Was A Wee Lassie Who Swallowed A Midgie' by Rebecca Colby. The children loved seeing all the creatures the little girl swallows make their way through her innards in the great pictures that accompany the text!

 

I'm pleased to say they enjoyed 'Tabitha Posy' as well, although one or two were a little worried about the tiger!

Then, as a special treat for me(!), I was let loose in their fantastic music garden. This is one of many designated areas of their grounds and is full of great things to rattle, crash and bash!

I sat and played my recorder, feeling more than a little like the Pied Piper(!), and before long several children came and joined me in the music garden. We played rhythm games and tried out various percussion instruments and then we sang a song about our favourite food - that seemed popular! One group were so good at playing the instruments I was even able to conduct them like a real orchestra!

 

Thank you Evesham Nursery for a great time again.

 

 

Visiting Evesham Nursery

Yesterday I was invited to visit the children at Evesham Nursery. I had a wonderful time chatting with them all and sharing some of my favourite books. I think 'Diary of a Wombat' by Jackie French was a particular favourite, although there was a lot of laughter when I read 'Tabitha Posy' too.

 

I was lucky enough to be shown around their gardens. There are some fantastic features, including a vegetable garden, cave, digging area, water wall, music wall and singing circle....and everything is made from sustainable or recycled materials where possible.

I'm looking forward to going back next week to meet some more of the children and having fun with music too!

 

 

On BBC Hereford & Worcester radio with Grove Primary.

Waiting to go in to the studio - with head teacher Mr Mark Ridlinton, Dylan, Kevin, Abi and Cathryn.
Waiting to go in to the studio - with head teacher Mr Mark Ridlinton, Dylan, Kevin, Abi and Cathryn.

On Wednesday 26th February I arrived at the Worcester studios of BBC H&W to meet up with head teacher Mark Ridlinton and some of the pupils from Grove Primary in Malvern. (If you read the following two reports you'll find out all about my work over the last half term with years 3 and 4 at Grove Primary in Malvern). 

 

It was incredibly exciting to have been invited to go on Tammy Gooding's afternoon show to tell her all about the work we had been doing.

 

The children spent last half term as 'Writers in Residence' at their school, learning all about the process of writing and creating stories on the theme of Wolves. The four children who came along to the studios brought with them extracts from their stories to read on air. They were all excellent - atmospheric and quite menacing in some cases! You can hear them read their work in the recording below.

 

It was quite an experience for everyone. We had to sit still and make sure we didn't make a sound when we went 'live' (not always easy when you've just been given a key fob as a present - they do jangle beautifully!) Then we had to give Tammy sensible answers when she asked us all about our work. The children responded brilliantly, as you will hear, and read their extracts like true professionals. I suspect there may be some future radio stars in the making.

 

Once the recording was finished the fun started!

 

Tammy showed us how to line up a track and the children had a go at introducing a song and pressing the button to set it going....

Then, of course, we couldn't resist having a bit of a dance - well, Kevin had just put on 'Happy'!

We all had a fantastic time. I know the opportunity to talk about their writing and read their stories on the radio inspired the children to work really hard - as did all their teachers in helping them achieve what they did.

 

Thank you Tammy and all at BBC Hereford & Worcester for supporting us all.

 

(The sound is a little quiet on the recording, so please feel free to up your volume!)

Grove Primary at BBC H&W
temp0 1.mp3
MP3 Audio File 13.5 MB

And while you're waiting for the recording to download, have a look through some more photos of the children having a great time!

From university to nursery to primary school in just a few days!

Over the last two weeks I have talked to people from the age of 2 to, well, certainly 42.

 

Worcester University humanities department run a Careers Fest each year and this year they approached me to ask if I would go and talk to the students about being a writer. Despite initial doubts (these were people above school age after all - normally outside my comfort zone!), I accepted and went along at the designated time. I needn't have worried. One of a 'panel' of five, made up of me, a poet, a former publisher, a writer who has penned many Dr Who stories for novels amongst other things (that got my interest!) and the departmental librarian, we each spoke about our own experiences of living and working in the world of books. I learnt some interesting and useful things and hope the students did too. Certainly, there were lots of questions asked of us all.


 

Just a couple of days later I was on my way to Winchcombe Farm Day Nursery to read some of the Ever So stories and chat with the children as part of their activities for National Story Telling week.

For such young listeners they were so good and sat still through all three books! They were even pretty good at guessing which of the two stories I tell about myself (one true, one made up) is actually the true one.

 

After we'd finished telling each other what our favourite things to eat were, they presented me with a lovely surprise present - scrummy jam tarts they'd made especially for me!

 

They are very lucky children. While I was there I was shown around the nursery and its fantastic grounds, in the middle of which is a massive tree house - it really is a house in a tree! It has a main room, kitchen, bathroom and all-round balcony. I hope to go back and read there when the weather is a little less wet and windy!


The very next day I was back at Grove Primary School in Malvern. The children I had worked with earlier in the term were having a special afternoon to read their finished wolf stories to each other. I was delighted to be able to go back and listen to all their hard work.

 

There were some great stories and lots of wonderful writing. The children had obviously been working hard and had thought carefully about what it takes to create a good story.

 

As I chatted with them, I began to realise just how much they had taken from this project. They told me how they had researched about wolves (lots of reading!), how they had chosen pictures to go with their stories, what aspects of writing they found hard, how much they had to edit their work to produce something they were happy with.....welcome to the world of writing kids! But, best of all, they were all rightly proud of what they had produced and I hope they take this experience with them into all their work.

 

I could quote several phrases from their writing that stick in my mind, but I think the one that struck me the most was this -

 

'The sun was shining as hard as it could.'

 

If that doesn't conjure up a blisteringly hot day I don't know what does. For me, it really created an atmosphere in which to tell a story.

 

The teachers must have worked incredibly hard with the children during the weeks of this project. All credit to them.

 

County School Advisor Julie Dark was there with her 'AfA' (Achievement for All) hat on, to hear the results of all the hard work. The AfA is a Government-backed charity which supports schools to improve the aspirations, access and achievement of learners and young people. I certainly think this project fulfilled those criteria. The children's achievement was obvious in their writing, they all had access to the tools and support that helped them produce their work (myself included, I suppose!) and several told me they now aspired to becoming writers! They had certainly all been working hard at being the school's 'Authors in Residence' during the term.

 

I will be going with a few of the children to BBC Hereford & Worcester after half term to be interviewed about all that they have done. We're all really excited about that!

 

In the meantime, here are some more photos from my visits.....have a good look at how well the children have presented their work too.

Mystery, adventure and wolves at Grove Primary School in Malvern

I was asked to visit this fantastic school by Worcester County Schools Advisor Julie Dark, to help Years 3/4 with their literacy topic - Mystery and adventure stories with the theme of Wolves.

 

I had a great time working with the classes.

They wanted to know all about being a writer, as that is exactly what they are all learning to be this term.

I thought really hard before I went to see them. What does a writer do? Where and when do we write? How do we go about writing?

I decided there were three stages of writing - for me, anyway.

 

1. READ!

 

It's so important to read loads of books before you write yourself. Why? To see how other writers do it. To pick up ideas. To find good words. To think about how the story has been laid out - particularly important for picture books. (Plus, I love to read, so any excuse!)

I took along a few of my favourite books and shared some of their crazy made-up creatures (Dr. Seuss) and fantastical words (Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll).....

 

scrumdiddlyumptious    frumious    mimsy    whiffly   seven-hump-wump

 

 

You can read anywhere.....

When you've done lots of reading, what next?

 

2. PREPARE.

 

At home, where I write, I have dictionaries, my notebook, scraps of paper covered in favourite words I might use, pictures of things I'm writing about (currently rockets and stars and planets!) - all to help inspire me and keep going as I write my story.

I was VERY impressed with the children at Grove Primary at this point, because they had already stuck useful words and pictures up on the walls of their classrooms to help them in their work. Excellent writing technique!

 

One major tip for preparation. Always carry a notebook around with you. You never know what you might see or hear or read that will give you an idea for a story. Write it down IMMEDIATELY before you forget it!

 

And finally....

 

3. WRITE.

 

We talked about not being put off by that blank sheet of paper waiting for all your great ideas that suddenly seem to have slipped from your mind. Just pick up your pen and write. Something, anything....me me me me you me me them me me One day Tom found a rocket in the garden shed. 'How did that get there?' he wondered.....

 

Once you start writing words the ideas will flow and a great story could be written!

No matter where you are, if an idea strikes, write it down in you trusty notebook.
No matter where you are, if an idea strikes, write it down in you trusty notebook.

Then came question time - and what a lot of well thought out questions the children had for me.

 

When do I write?

How can a writer make a villain scary?

Which is my favourite book?

Why do I like rhyming stories?

What happens if I find it difficult to write?

Do you need to be a good speller to write good stories? (That was a tricky one!)

 

There were plenty more. I hope I gave good answers, I certainly had to think a lot.

                              Question time - thinking hard!
Question time - thinking hard!

I am really looking forward to reading some of the finished stories the children are working on while they are the 'Writers in Residence' at Grove Primary School...

 

...and, hopefully, there will be more to report on the fantastic work the children and school are doing.

Visiting Cleeve Prior First School as part of Booktrust's Book Week

I visited Cleeve Prior First School a while ago, not long after Mrs MacCready was published. I had such a lovely time with Class One I made a return visit today. A new school year and so lots of new faces greeted me, all keen to see what I had in my book box.

 

This week is Booktrust's Book Week, so I'd taken along lots of my favourite stories to share with the children - Booktrust's main aim is to get everyone reading for fun!

 

We talked about how stories get in to books and who puts them there, where we can find books and which ones we love to read and look at.

Then I read my new story - Miss Dorothy-Jane was Ever So Vain. It was the first time I'd read it in a school, so it was very special for all of us.

Thank you everyone in Class One, and your teacher Mrs Newbury, for letting me come in and share my favourite books (and my own!) with you. I had a lovely time as the photos below show.....and apologies for some of the scary faces. I was telling a story, after all.

To find out more about Booktrust and their fantastic work in making books accessible for all children please visit :

 

www.booktrust.org.uk

 

 

Bewdley Book Week visits

I was invited to visit two schools in Bewdley as part of their Book Week. Bewdley Primary School and St. Anne's C of E Primary School both looked after me brilliantly and I had a great time introducing four reception classes to the fun of books.

 

The children were fantastic, considering they had all only been attending school for two days when I met them. They listened, answered my questions and laughed in all the right places!

One happy customer!
One happy customer!

We talked about what we can find in books, where we can find them and how all the words and pictures get inside them.

Then I told my two stories about when I was little - one is true, but the other is made up, just like the things we find in books can be.

The children were pretty good at guessing which story was the real one, but there were still some who were fooled by the made-up tale....

 

 

We had a look at some of my favourite books - Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish, Room on the Broom, The Worst Princess, Frances Facemaker amongst many others.

 

Then we listened to the tale of Mrs MacCready who was ever so greedy. You could have heard a pin drop the children were so good at listening to the story.

Of course, they loved looking at the wonderful illustrations by Jona Jung. There is so much to see in every single one of them!

Some of the classes wanted to hear the tale of Tabitha Posy too. They all listened just as well, although things got a little tense when Tabitha disappeared inside the tiger....but we all know the heroine of a story will be fine in the end.

 

A big thank you to both schools for welcoming me into their classrooms to do the thing I enjoy most - reading.

 

Also thank you to Bewdley Book Week for asking me to take part. Their theme this year was 'reading for pleasure', the best theme there could be.

 

I'll finish with a few more photos of the lovely children from both schools. I hope you like them Bewdley Primary and St. Anne's!

 

 

In the storytelling garden at Longney School

The photograph above shows me brandishing one of my all time favourite childhood reads - Dr Seuss' 'One Fish Two Fish' - to children aged 4-7 years at Longney School. They had invited me along for the afternoon to share my own picture books and my favourite stories by other authors too. It all took place in their amazing spiritual/healing/storytelling garden. As usual, outsized furniture is making me look as though I've just stepped out of JRR Tolkein's 'The Hobbit' - not one of my favourite reads, I have to admit.

I actually began the afternoon working with the school's older children (8-11 years). We shared our favourite books and I read the openings of a selection I had chosen. Then I asked them to listen to the beginning of my current Work In Progress - my middle grade novel Narrow Escape. Yes, I'm still busy honing it to.....perfection? At least I got a thumbs up from the children of Longney - phew.

Proving to the older children that I am a published author - my picture books tucked under an arm!
Proving to the older children that I am a published author - my picture books tucked under an arm!

It was also great to hear they agreed with me that you're never too old to enjoy a book with pictures in it!

A discussion on first lines followed - what makes a good first line? We listened to a few examples. I think the favourite had to be from 'The World Of Norm' by Jonathan Meres. You'll have to read it to find out what it is. Interestingly, most thought the first line of the very first Harry Potter wasn't that great - although the majority loved the books.

Then I asked the children to sit quietly with their eyes closed while I counted up to 60. They weren't allowed to have a nap, they had to come up with first lines of their own. They had loads of great ideas - stories I'd want to know all about. There were hints of danger, alien invasion, humour and the unexplained. The one that sticks in my mind was :

'It was 2 o'clock on a Saturday when it happened.'

I really hope the whole story gets written some time.

So many first lines to hear...
So many first lines to hear...

The younger children worked just as hard for me. I loved it when they all joined in with the rhymes on my second reading of Mrs MacCready - what a sound!

 

You can hear them finding all the rhymes as I read Mrs MacCready below...

 

how many can you find?

 

After that we had a go at making up our own rhyming verse.

It was great fun, especially thinking up a rhyme for giraffe.

Anyone any ideas?
Anyone any ideas?

I had such an enjoyable time working with the children at Longney. A big thank you to them, the staff and especially Jane who organised the event - even the good weather!

 

I'll finish with a couple more photos....hope you enjoy.

Bet you didn't know I could look that scary. (I was meant to be!)
Bet you didn't know I could look that scary. (I was meant to be!)

The Opening of Flyford Flavell First School's Library

I was delighted to be asked by the head teacher of Flyford Flavell First School, Sue Warmington, to attend a special assembly to celebrate the opening of their newly refurbished and extended library.

 

We all gathered in the hall - pupils, teachers, governers, parents, PTA members and invited sponsors of the library - to hear all about the stories the children had created as part of their work for World Book Day. I was very impressed!

 

Each class presented a short summary of their writing and topics covered included toys and the Second World War - a subject I was particularly interested to hear about as I'm busy editing my story set during 1944. Class 4 had written an exciting tale about an evacuee and produced a large book that's now on display in their library.

Then there were prizes - always a good thing! The children had also each written their own story, as part of a school competition, and the winners from each class received notebooks and pens. Excellent prizes for budding writers!

 

I was struck by the imagination shown in some of the book titles - I think there's a LOT of competition from some of these young writers! There were stories called :

 

How To Cure A Wolf's Sore Throat.

The Giant Who Was Afraid Of Heights.

Pet Shop Panic.

Not An Ordinary Zoo Keeper.....

 

...and many more.

 

After all that excitement it was time for me to talk a little about how much work goes in to creating a book - from the first idea, through lots and lots of editing, to getting published.

 

I started off, though, with the idea that stories can come from anywhere - real life or your imagination - and told two tales about me as a child, both where I had done something naughty (just a little bit). One was true, the other wasn't. The children (and adults!) had to decide which was which.

 

(A big thank you to fellow SCBWI author Juliet Clare Bell for this opener).

 

Needless to say, the true story is so bad most ignored it and decided the made-up tale must be the true one. And no, I'm not telling you about it here. You'll have to ask the children of Flyford Flavell.

 

Once I'd shown everyone all my scribbled notes, reworkings, Jona's early sketches and then the finished product, I read out the story of Mrs MacCready. It seemed to go down well - the adults laughed in all the right places as well as the children.

 

Then it was time for the grand opening. It was streamed live to the hall, so that all those who stayed there (the library space wasn't large enough for well over a hundred bodies) could see what was going on. Times have changed since I was at school!

                'Everyone wave to the camera!' With head teacher Sue Warmington.
'Everyone wave to the camera!' With head teacher Sue Warmington.
Getting ready to cut the ribbon.
Getting ready to cut the ribbon.
Cutting the first part with the youngest member of the school
Cutting the first part with the youngest member of the school

OK. You can't really see either of us! The youngest member was very short - obviously, he was very young. I am, once again, standing in the hole that persists in following me around. I am quite certain I am taller than five to nine year olds.

 

 

 

The oldest member of the school cutting the second part of the ribbon.
The oldest member of the school cutting the second part of the ribbon.

After that it was time for cake!

As well as the marvellous one you can see at the top of this report, the PTA had produced a cup cake for every pupil in the school. The children did Mrs MacCready proud and devoured the lot!

Reception enjoy their cakes.
Reception enjoy their cakes.

I just had time to pop around the classes to thank them for inviting me to open their library and to tell them how impressed I was by all their work.

My apologies to Class 4 though - the end of day bell beat me to it and I just missed out on seeing them.

 

Class 3 had also been learning about the Second World War. I especially liked the wartime monopoly games they had made - excellent!

 

Class 2 told me all about their visit to Warwick Museum and the stories they had written afterwards. They had even turned their classroom into a museum and the day before my visit had opened it up to the rest of the school.

They also took the opportunity to ask me lots of questions about writing while I was with them - I hope I answered them well enough!

With Class 2. How many funny faces can we pull?
With Class 2. How many funny faces can we pull?

I had such an enjoyable time with the pupils and staff of Flyford Flavell. Thank you so much for inviting me. I hope I can come back again one day!

 

 

 

Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival

This week I was invited to visit some schools in Stratford as part of their annual Literary Festival.

My first stop was at Broad Street Primary, where I worked with three different classes and some visiting children from Great Alne Primary School.

We listened to the tale of Mrs MacCready (who was ever so greedy) and then made up some story poems of our own. We had a lot of help from my friend Squidger Bear - the messiest eater on earth!

Squidger Bear enjoying his lunch!
Squidger Bear enjoying his lunch!

The children had some fantastic ideas. We thought about what Squidger might eat for breakfast and what mess he might make.

 

Crumble the toast

Splat the egg

Squelch the tomatoes

Slop the porridge

Squirt the ketchup

Spill the milk

Tip the juice

Squeeze the sausage.......     and lots more!

Busy thinking up a story at Bridgetown Primary.
Busy thinking up a story at Bridgetown Primary.

I had set up a competition for the children - ' Design your favourite meal on a plate'.

 

All the schools took part and I was blown away by the standard of work produced. Children are so imaginative!

 

There were three lucky winners of a Mrs MacCready jigsaw puzzle, one from each school. It was so hard to choose who should win I had to award runner-up prizes too!

Just some of the plates designed by children at Broad Street Primary.
Just some of the plates designed by children at Broad Street Primary.

I hope to have some more photos to display here soon - so watch this space!

 

I'd like to say a huge thank you to the staff and children at all the schools for making me feel so welcome.

 

Also to Annie Ashworth and Natasha Roderick-Jones for inviting me to take part in their festival - it's a wonderful event and they deserve much credit.

As well as author visits for schools there are workshops, readings and many other happenings throughout the two weeks. I managed to attend a poetry workshop with Simon Armitage this year!

If you are in the area during the next Festival period, make sure you search out what's going on!

 

Ravenshead C of E Primary School

On 23rd November I ventured up the M1 to visit Ravenshead School. The Year 4 classes were full of enthusiastic children who worked really hard for me.

We listened to the tale of Mrs MacCready first, then we learnt about some Victorian authors who wrote silly verse - the topic for the term being The Victorians.

Then we set to with the hard work!

 

Some of the children made up new animals, just like Lewis Carroll and the Jabberwocky. There were lots of great ideas drawn and written about. I was even told what noises the animals might make. They were all brilliant, but one I remember well was created by Finlay - very scary!

 

 

Thinking up that great idea.
Thinking up that great idea.

Some of the children decided to write a limerick, just like Edward Lear. We tried one as a class first -

It wasn't easy writing on one of those new-fangled white screens. Things have changed since I was a class teacher!
It wasn't easy writing on one of those new-fangled white screens. Things have changed since I was a class teacher!

Then the children produced the most fantastic examples of their own. I was really impressed!

 

Here are a few that one of the teachers, Miss Urban, sent to me.

 

There was an old lady who had so much hair

she couldn't be bothered to go anywhere.

She tried to get rid of it

and decided to chop it,

so now her whole head is completely bare.

 

By Isobel.

 

There once was a woman named Mandy

who went to the pub for a shandy.

She wiped up the froth

with a little red cloth

and the barman said, 'Wow! That's handy.'

 

By Charlie.

 

I've got a little sister called Poppy

and she is so very snotty.

She always falls down

which makes her knees brown.

Just like the bottom of her potty.

 

By Thomas (with apologies to Poppy, I imagine!)

 

If I'm being completely honest,

then I'd say that Nottingham Forest

are not the best,

they need a rest,

Notts County are better, I promise!

 

By Ellis (a Notts County fan and very brave boy, when you consider that his teacher supports Nottingham Forest!)

 

There was an old woman from China

who went for a cruise on a liner.

She slipped on the deck

and twisted her neck

and now she can see right behind her!

 

By Charlie - who I think is going to become the 21st century's Edward Lear!

The ideas kept coming.
The ideas kept coming.

I would like to say a big thank you to the children in Miss Urban's and Miss Burton's classes for making me feel so welcome in their school. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed reading all of their work.