Some of you may be aware of my unfolding Shoowaii project. I imagine, if you’ve been following the videos, that its all a bit confusing. But not for me!
Shoowaii is an environment that has it’s own internal logic, where I can play with ideas and stories to my heart’s content, all within a recognisable style.
With my latest video, I feel the alternative universe, and the world of Shoowaii within it, is all set up to my satisfaction and I’m ready to play. I know how it works. Others are free to speculate about any apparent gaps in logic. I’m happy that I know how it all fits together for my purposes. Also, I’m aware that Shoowaii will evolve, as will its laws and logic.
In my latest video, I’ am planting seeds -ideas and basic characters – who will begin to populate the stories and ideas to come.
Why am I doing this? It might just be megalomania, hubris or just plain vanity!
Over the last few years, I’ve been encouraged to write and draw for an older age range. Yet, when I visit schools, I find I’m so much happier working in the younger classes – reception to year 4 – that’s probably K-K4 in the US.
In the current climate, it would take me years to get a younger book published. Years to convince a publisher to let me do something different and then years to go through their publishing schedule.
By the time it comes to create artwork for a book these days it’s often many years since the original idea was proposed. It’s hard to keep the enthusiasm and original vision going that long.
So Shoowaii is there to play with, to allow ideas and characters develop in real time and to bring an audience along with it. I hope you will enjoy the ride.
I was childishly pleased when I came up with the series title, Little Horrors. They’re horror stories for small children, whom we often call little horrors themselves. Actually there’s no horror in them at all, just the suggestion. They are meant to be funny with moments of doubt… Shiver with fear.. shake with laughter, as the series slogan goes!
I love reading these stories to Key Stage 1 children. Some hug each other, some pose and pretend they aren’t scared, some burst into tears, but most laugh and join in with the noises and actions. Sadly the publishers, Orchard Books decided not to reprint. But that gave me the opportunity to bring the stories back to life again.
Online, print-on-demand publishing is an amazing thing. The first book in the series, The Swamp Man in now available in old fashioned print and as an ebook for the iPad. When I discovered the Open Dyslexic Font, I made it available as a Dyslexic font edition on the ipad too. The type is weighted so the letters behave themselves and sit on the line and the page colour is cream.
If you would like a signed copy of the Swamp Man, then click here
The Swamp Man – Little Horrors book. Signed Copies! [add_to_cart item=”5″ quantity=”user:1″ text=”Click for signed copies” ]
I love it when parents tell me that the first book their child read all on their own was one of mine. Often the book they mention is the Ginger Ninja. They tell me how reluctant the children were to read but, for some reason, this was the one that grabbed their attention.
I remember very well the first book I read on my own. Because my parents were in the army, I went to boarding school when I was five years old. I was the only full boarder in the school. There were one or two weekly boarders and kids who stayed while their parents were away.
On Sunday mornings I would wake on my own in a four bed dormitory in a beautiful Queen Anne mansion, and wait until I was told it was time to get up. The owners of the school were pillars of local society and often out late on Saturday night, so Sunday morning lie-ins could be quite extended!
I was desperate to learn how to read. I knew those book things were filled with wonderful stories. There was nothing I like better as a child, than listening to stories. I realised that if I could work out the trick of reading, I’d be able to have stories on tap.
I remember badgering my class teacher to do extra reading in break times and after-school. The Head Master or his wife would tuck me up in bed at night and do some more reading practice.
I don’t know why, but my father bought me stories from the Blackberry Farm series by Jane Pilgrim. Small Square books that were just right for small hands, they were maybe well marketed at the time and easily available where he went shopping. They had just the right amount of text on each page and lovely pictures of all the animals that I got to know and love. Walter Duck was my particular favourite in his rakish college scarf!
It was a sunny Sunday morning and, as usual, I looked through my little collection of books, telling the stories to myself by looking at the pictures.
I opened Christmas at Blackberry Farm, a warm and cosy tale in which Mr and Mrs Smiles, the perfect middle-class English couple, invite their animals in for a wonderful Christmas meal and presents.
I can remember to this day how a feeling come over me, and how I heard a little voice I’m my head saying, “you can read this – you can do it on your own!”
And I did, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until I reached the end of the book. I can also still remember the amazing feeling of success. I had done it! I had read a whole book all on my own – I had to do it again there and then! And so I did. I read another Blackberry Farm Book and another.
And that is how children get to be good readers and that’s why series of books, with strong characters and short, sharp, snappy stories, are so important at this stage of reading, when children have just learned the trick of reading all by themselves.
They need piles of books that they can recognise as being similar to the one they just managed to read all on their own. They need characters whom they get to know and love, characters that become friends and help them on their reading journey.
That Christmas my sister and brother hung up a sheet for a curtain in the sitting room and we put on an entertainment for my parents. I read Christmas at Blackberry Farm, all on my own, from beginning to end. I still remember that too, another wonderful staging post in my learning to read adventure.
What was the first book that you read? Which series helped you gain confidence reading on your own? Which characters helped you on your reading journey?