CHILDREN'S STORIES

  • SOME VERY APPY NEWS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's stories, Education, Screenwriting, Uncategorized

     

    tm_storytime_coverThere is now a Tee and Mo story live on the Cbeebies Storytime app.  And I wrote it!  Those lovely people at Plug-In Media asked me and I was more than happy to say yes.

    If you don’t know Tee and Mo, they are a delightful monkey mother and son combo who get up to all sorts of collaborative fun in the forest.  They collaborate together and also with you, the preschool child/care-giver in their Bafta nominated games (also found on the Cbeebies website).

    Narrated by BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Tee and Mo is the brainchild of Plug-In’s creative director Dominic Minns.  I love the way he and the other clever people at Plug-in have devised the games to encourage children and their adults to play the games together, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

    Who Did the Footprints is my first interactive story.  I want to say very clever things about extending the reading experience and kinesthetic learning but that would sound terribly dull and I’d much rather you and your Cbeebie went together and gave your Cbeebies Storytime app-watching device a good shake (You’ll understand once you’ve downloaded the story)  so I’ll just say that it was enormous fun writing it and I hope that you have enormous fun reading it.

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  • AND THE WINNER IS…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Media Campaign, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, Religion, Screenwriting, The Children's Media Foundation, Uncategorized

    Me!  I had a brilliant evening at the Sandford St Martin 2015 Awards last night.  OK so I didn’t win an award, but then I wasn’t up for one: I was a juror.   But I came away from Lambeth Palace feeling like a winner.  The evening had celebrated some of the best, most thought provoking, meaningful and, in some cases, uplifting media content of the past year: radio and TV documentaries, sit coms, murder mysteries, period dramas, bio-pics and everything in between.  Some of the programmes had flown under the mainstream radar – the winner of the children’s award for example (Fettle Animation’s ‘Children of the Holocaust’ BBC 2) had first been broadcast at 4 in the morning as a teaching aid for schools! – so there were loads of titles that I came home wanting to seek out, others that I wanted to watch again.

    The best thing though was being in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people.  Award ceremonies are always full of outstanding people, we’re there to celebrate the most talented after all.  But this room was full of people who were not only talented and not only nice but really rather wonderful:  men and women who clearly care about their work beyond personal ambition.

    The winners of the Sandford Awards are can be found at http://sandfordawards.org.uk/the-awards/2015-awards/2015-award-winners/ I think you can also view the programmes there.  Definitely worth it.

    So why did I feel like a winner myself?  Because:

    • I was privileged to meet  Trude Silman and her sister who not only survived the Holocaust but went on to achieve so much despite all that had happened to them.
    • I was thrilled to meet the BBC’s chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet and see the compassion she has for the people in the stories she has to cover.
    • I was delighted to be able to thank writer Peter Bowker in person for my favourite film of last year, ‘Marvellous’ and very pleased indeed to have the chance to shake the hand of the man at the heart of the story, Neil Baldwin.
    • And if you’ve seen the film you’ll understand how excited I was to see Neil get the Bishop of Leeds to sign his bible.

    But the best bit?

    The best bit, the bit I enjoyed most came right at the end when fellow juror Tim Herbert and the winners of the Children’s Award, Producer Kath Shackleton and Director Zane Whittingham of Fettle Animation and I were about to leave.  Standing in the hallowed hall, the home of the head of the Church of England, with its oak paneling and  Tudor fireplace, surrounded by oil paintings of all the Archbishops that have gone before,  surrounded by history and the host of unseen witnesses, the cry went up, “Anyone coming for a beer?”

    Like I said, I was in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people.

     

  • POSH FROCKS AT THE READY – I’VE BEEN ON JURY DUTY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Animation, Children's Media Campaign, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, The Children's Media Foundation

    Earlier this spring, the Children’s Media Foundation was invited to take part in the jury for a new Children’s Broadcast Award.  Having recently joined the CMF’s board, I took great pleasure in this my first official duty; as if I ever need an excuse to watch lots of children’s television programmes and discuss them over lunch.

    The organisation giving the award is the Sandford St Martin Trust, an independent and non-profit organisation that seeks to promote and encourage excellence in religious programming and religious literacy amongst policy makers, journalists and individuals. To this end it has been making annual awards for the best programmes about religion, ethics and spirituality since 1978.

    This year the trust has introduced a new award for children’s content. It was championed by Sandford trustee and broadcaster Roger Bolton who, like the Children’s Media Foundation, recognizes the importance of children having quality and variety in programming made especially for them: “It is critical that children and young people are exposed to imaginative works that open their eyes to the world they share and the beliefs people hold.”

    There were ten programmes on the shortlist. Submissions were for radio, television and online broadcasts and came from a range of producers; from broadcasting behemoths such as the BBC to small religious charities and producers of teaching material. As a writer of fiction, I usually gravitate to drama but there were some brilliant documentaries too. There were some programmes, both fiction and non-fiction, that left me cold: a little too preachy and putting the ‘die’ into didactic.   But the ones that really worked, that made me think and feel and consider in new ways, had one thing in common: people, real people’s experiences at their heart. Even the fictional ones. Their testimonies needed no explanation, no editorial interpretation.   Of course there was editorial input: duh! But the programmes that worked best were constructed to let the stories, the ideas, speak for themselves.

    But how can you compare a preschool radio show with a fluffy Christmas special or a hard-hitting teen documentary? That’s where children’s programming differs from the grown up stuff: it’s so much about the audience. Programmes have to be age appropriate; giving or considering a child’s perspective, and the best did just that.

    Having watched the shortlist and decided which was the most fabulous and worthy winner of the award, I hied me to Westminster to meet with the other jury members: independent producer and children’s author Hilary Robinson, National Geographic Kids editor Tim Herbert and Senior Lecturer in Media Practice at Salford University Beth Hewitt.

    It was a fascinating process: we each brought different perspectives and expertise and there were biscuits. We were pretty unanimous in the way we shortened the shortlist but then it got …difficult as we tried to tease out the best of the best. Like the Mole in The Wind in the Willows, we “scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then we scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped” until at last – “pop!” we had a runner up and a winner.

    And the Winner is….

    To be announced this evening at Lambeth Palace….

    You expect me to tell you now? I’m off to get ready for tonight’s ceremony!

     

  • SHAMELESS SELF PUBLICITY, TODAY “IT’S A BING THING”

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Animation, Books, Children's Media Campaign, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, The Children's Media Foundation

    Today, Friday 28th November, and Monday 1st December, I have episodes of “Bing” screening on CBeebies.  Today’s episode is called “Jingly Shoes” and goes out at 9.10am and 1.10pm.  If, like me you were doing something this morning and missed it, it will also be on BBC i-player.

    “Looking After Flop”, goes out at 9.10am on Monday and then repeated at 1.10pm (and then also on BBC i-player.

    I loved writing for these delightful characters; each one is full of raw emotion, wonder and real love, reflecting the lives of the very special people this show is aimed at, three to six year olds and their carers.  I hope you and more importantly, any little ones you know, enjoy watching them.  I’d love to hear what you think.

  • REMEMBERING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Education

     

     

    As I watch the setting sun,

    I see the shadows getting long.

    Shadows are like memories of the day we’ve had.

    Some shadows happy, some are sad:

    The things we did, the people we met,

    The ice cream van, the girl at the vet.

     

    I’m very little and my shadow is short.

    Yesterday is far away

    And I don’t remember before today.

    But when I climb on Grandad’s knee,

    It’s funny how much more I see.

    Grandad’s long shadow shows all sorts of things:

    People and places,

    And long ago faces.

    He shows them to me in photos and books.

    And in the pictures I’m surprised to see

    Some of the children look like me!

    Grandmas and aunties on a trip to the zoo,

    And my grandad’s grandad, and his grandad too.

     

    Grandad can tell me about long ago;

    His friends, his toys and the things he did.

    But Grandad is old and forgets things today,

    Like his glasses and the things I say.

    So I help him find the things he forgets

    And he helps me meet the people he met.

    He shares them in the stories he tells.

    And when my shadow’s longer, I’ll share them as well.

     

    You can hear this as well as my short story Poppy’s Day read by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston at www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio

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  • WRITING FOR PROKOFIEV

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, Music

    You thought Prokofiev’s famous Dance of the Knights was all about Lord Sugar and his apprentices didn’t you?  No?  Men in ballet tights?  Or maybe if you’re a Star Trek fan, Romulans in ballet tights?

    Well before you start parading round singing “Romulans and Capulets” let me put you straight because no no no.  As the lovely people at CBeebies Radio, a lot of children under the age of 6, Robert the Robot and I all know,  this piece of music is, in fact, all about a grumpy marmalade cat and a teeny tiny mouse… in the rain.

    Did you see the CBeebies Prom on television on August 25th?  (still on BBC i-player)  Those lovely people have  an extra special treat for you to freely download at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/prom/radio/cbeebies-prom-extra  Your little ones (and you) can do-si-do and round up imaginary cattle on  imaginary horses, thanks to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s special recording of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown before settling down to hear their recording of Prokofiev’s famous march and Robert The Robot’s beautiful telling of a story it inspired me to write; a thrilling tale of life and death excitement in the back garden: “Past the pond, round the rockery; round the rockery, past the pond.”

    Hear the cat “Slink and prow-wl,
    And pounce and grow-wl…” in the music.

    And can you hear the young mouse showing off?
    “I’m so fast,
    The orange thing
    With clawy paws
    Won’t catch me!…”

    While overhead a blackbird  cries in alarm “Run! Run! Run! Run!”

    Goodness I had fun writing this story.  I hope that you and your younglings have fun listening to it.

  • CBEEBIES RADIO: POPPY’S DAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Education, Politics

    My short story Poppy’s Day is available as a free download from CBeebies Radio today and for the next seven days.  Read by Falklands War veteran, Simon Weston,  and beautifully produced by John Leagas, the story marks the centenary of the First World War and introduces little listeners to bravery and the importance of remembering.

    I’ve just read the BBC press release, which says “is as powerful as it is poignant, a reminder about how important it is to remember not just the events of history, but the people.”  So that’s me feeling smug for the rest of the day.

    Follow the link above and if you don’t see a big picture of some poppies to click on.  Click on ‘Get This Week’s Podcasts’ and then again on ‘Download Radio Podcast’ and then on ‘CBeebies:Poppy’s Day’.

  • WHY I WENT TO AFRICA…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's stories, Education, Politics, Screenwriting, travel, Uncategorized

    No I didn’t go on safari and no I didn’t climb Kilimanjaro.

    Well I did sort of….

    Elephants

    I had the pleasure and privilege of staying on the border of the Arusha National Park and on the Masai Steppe in Tanzania with Kilimanjaro as my neighbour to research and write a screenplay for a new  initiative from Nature For Kids and the Sparkling Elephant Project: an exciting adventure film for children, working title…

    GOODWILL AND LIHWA AND THE TREASURE OF THE ELEPHANTS

    The African bush is full of dangers, especially if you’re only eleven years old and abandoned.  A boy and a young elephant both become victims of poaching. But just who is rescuing whom?

    My research included meeting with local children, Masai, rangers, farmers, ranchers, safari guides, tourists, government ministers and elephants and other wildlife. Obviously some I could get closer to than others.  It was both wonderful and awful and at times, like when I found these elephant remains, or watched a boy cut down another acacia tree for charcoal,  heartbreaking.

    Elephant Bones

    I’m not a trained conservationist or zoologist but having read and listened to people from all sides of the arguments, I truly believe that elephants play a more important role in our world wide ecology than we realise.  They may seem destructive but they are Africa’s gardeners, maintaining the rainforest (the planet’s lungs) – to be losing them at the unsustainable rate of one every fifteen minutes to ivory poachers is insanity: no elephants means no rainforest means no control over CO2 means no control over climate change means…  It is not just rhetoric but science-based knowledge when I say, “in saving the elephants we are saving ourselves”.

    The plan is for this film to be the backbone of a conservation initiative throughout Africa and China. Freely available to major conservation and tourism partners, there will be versions in multiple languages, English, Kiswahili, Mandarin for example but of course the beauty of film is that it tells a story visually and can go beyond words and their boundaries. It is hoped that the film will be the catalyst for everyone to rediscover elephants and bring the sparkle back to Africa before we lose them and ourselves forever.

  • 1ST CHILDREN AND MEDIA CONGRESS IN TURKEY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Media Campaign, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, Politics, Prix Jeunesse

    I’ve just returned from the 1.Turkiye Cocuk ve Medya Kongresi in Istanbul-not Contantinople.

    Oh look, I tried then to take myself seriously but couldn’t even manage a sentence.

    I did however take the Kongresi seriously.  On behalf of the Children’s Media Foundation, I was invited to speak at this new conference and share some of the lessons we’ve learned in the last few years.

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    Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc opens the Congress.

     

    The Kongresi was set up by the Turkish deputy prime minister to develop a strategy for children and media.

     

    The two day event brought together representatives from across Turkey, adults, children and young people as well as “esteemed overseas experts” (about twenty professors and me) in child development, media studies (and me) and was, from my perspective brilliant.  It was superb having lots of young people involved and at the heart of things.

    And despite the language barriers (some interesting translations – “Our children are so intelligent, so beautiful and so clean” ), there was a fantastic spirit of collaboration and fun.

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    2400 people of all ages attempting to get on stage for a ‘family photo’

    It was disappointing not to see a stronger presence from the Turkish kids’ media industry.  I think they were invited and there were a number of trade stands but the talks, other than mine, Sabrina Unterstell from Prix Jeunesse, and kiwi programme makers Robyn Scott Vincent and Tanya Black were more from the media studies and media literacy POV, with titles such as “Cultural functions of the Cartoons”, and lots of words like pedagogy’, ‘positioning’.  My title was also rather dry – “Children’s Media and Systems Related to Policy Issues”, but never fear, I spiced it up with some jokes and, I have to say quite a lot of triumphalism.  But nobody left my session or fell asleep…

    In essence I explained how the Children’s Media Foundation came to be and what it had achieved.  The jokes and triumphalism weren’t strained or shoehorned in – since 2006, we have done a lot: I was going to list it all but you can read all that stuff over at www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org

    It all went down rather well – there were genuinely interested questions, the moderator Prof. Dr Davut Dursun – head of the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council – said it was “A critical presentation for the congress” and that “Congress should study this [our] model.”  And that the Children’s Media Foundation “served as an example.”   Go us.

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    I had been in two minds about attending – of all the members of the Children’s Media Foundation executive, I have the least experience and the fewest letters after my name.  But I can tell the story of all that we have done and all that we want to do and who can argue with an airhead when she states that ‘children deserve the best media’?  So go me.

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    Volume 2 of Bildriler Kitabi – essays from the Kongressi ISBN-978-975-552-093-3

     Ooh and don’t you love that they made all the adult speakers submit photos of when they were children?

  • TODAY I GET TO SAY “MELLIFLUOUS” BECAUSE…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Media Campaign, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Education, Politics

    I’ve just remembered a brilliant thing someone said last Saturday.  Rather fascinated by bees at the moment.  As is everyone apparently.  Hating to follow the herd, I can smugly say that I’m not interested in keeping them because it’s trendy – my big sister inherited a hive and I like being like her.

    Whatever, the lovely ancient apiarist in Stroud market, advised me to wait a few years “When there will be lots of second hand equipment for sale as the herd move on.  First it was chickens…” he said.

    Then he said something else, and this is why I am writing before I forget it and fill my silly head with other chattery nonsense.

    He said, “My primary school teacher taught me to keep bees.”

    “Oh,” I gushed, picturing an Edwardian lady filling her country diary with bee keeping notes and thinking ‘how quaint, he must have grown up with Laurie Lee’.

    The elderly bee keeper clearly knew I was filling my head with bucollocks (that’s rustic nonsense) so added,  “She taught me to read.”

    She taught me to read.