You might not have been aware that it was #refugeeawarenessweek recently. No matter, the terrible situations that some people find themselves in sadly haven’t gone away so here are stories I wrote for #CBeebiesRadio
With some minor adjustments to protect both the kids in the stories and the kids in the audience, each is a true story.
You might want to rant that such subject matter is entirely inappropriate for young children but young children are living through these things. Stories are there to help us understand and find ways to deal with what is going on around us. These stories celebrate the resilience, courage and love of young people and nobody is too young to celebrate love.
If you have read this far, then (oops I didn’t ask permission but as I wrote it… bad me) have this:
Everyone needs a safe place to live,
Like a bird’s nest lined with warm feathers:
Full of kindness and love, it’s the place we call home,
A refuge from the world and the weather.
But storms can sometimes blow nests from the trees
And winter brings frost, ice and snow.
Birds have to fly south or else they would freeze;
To survive until spring, they must go.
Their journey can last for thousands of miles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest,
Flying across deserts and oceans and isles
With little food and no time to rest.
And people too must sometimes take flight,
Like birds they have to migrate
From the cruelty of rulers and armies that fight,
Blown by the ice winds of hate.
This journey can last for thousands of miles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest,
Crossing countries and deserts and oceans and isles
With little food and no time to rest.
But unlike the birds, these people have names:
They’re not just a crowd on TV,
They love and they laugh and they work and play games:
They are people like you and like me.
There’s Farah and Birhan, Hivi, Rafiq
With sisters and aunties and mothers,
Serbest, Amez, Natania, Sadiq
With fathers, granddads and brothers.
Refugee children love stories and art,
They love chasing and shouting and play.
They’re sporty, they’re funny, thoughtful and smart
And dream of being grown up one day.
Their journey can last thousands of miles,
With little food and no time to rest.
Crossing deserts and oceans with hope and with smiles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest.
Then after the winter, the birds fly away,
But not to wander or roam:
They fly back to rebuild the nests that they left,
To the safe places they once called home.
And refugees too love the land where they lived
And many hope to return there they say.
When summer brings the warm wind that forgives
There will be freedom and peace there, one day.
Now that is a journey of thousands of miles
And a daring and dangerous quest;
Bringing peace and forgiveness, laughter and smiles
But of all journeys, that one’s the best.
For everyone needs a safe place to live,
When we find it, there’s no need to roam.
There we can grow and learn and forgive,
Full of love, it’s the place we call home.
Children and parents and, well anyone else, can listen to my story and find out what happens when a boy brings the school guinea pigs home in Bohdan’s Beastly Allergy . OK so the title has given away a bit about what happens but, look it’s got guinea pigs! And pigeons. And a little boy who desperately loves animals and cuddles. And did I mention guinea pigs?
This was possibly my favourite story in this series because the research involved guinea pigs and learning a new technical term: ‘pet dander’. Jayne’s top tip: if dander ain’t dandy, then keep tissues handy… Dr Ranj has proper top tips for sufferers of pet allergies at the end of the podcast. But they don’t rhyme.
Sporty Imogen refuses to let her asthma get in the way of her having fun in this story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/imogen-takes-the-plunge
This story draws on some of my experiences teaching kayaking to school children. There always seemed to be at least one child with an inhaler in the class and if they were not reticent about trying something that might make them out of breath and/or falling in the river, their teachers often were.
In this story, I wanted to show that, as long as the right precautions are taken, there is no reason why a child with asthma can’t do fun stuff or go on to make their dreams come true. I was greatly inspired by stories of Olympic athletes like Rebecca Adlington OBE and hope that children listening to this story will be too and will go on to do amazing things.
Oh and thanks to the great people at my local sports centre #Dursleypool for explaining why we should shower before rather than after swimming and why widdling in the pool is such a really bad idea…
#DrRanj reads my story Jamil’s Food Challenge and shares top tips on what to do if you or someone you know has a #foodallergy https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/jamils-food-challenge
It’s not much fun not being able to share the same food as your friends and it’s not much fun having to spend your birthday in the hospital allergy clinic. But when the usual allergy tests suggest his body can now cope with eggs, Jamil has to decide whether to stay safe and only eat the food he already trusts or, with the help of his specialist nurse, expand his diet. Knowing how poorly eggs have made him in the past, it is a scary notion and Jamil has to be very brave. But maybe, just maybe, this year he won’t have to blow out the candles on a pretend birthday cake made of cardboard but will be able to have his first ever ‘proper’ birthday cake, and share it with all his friends!
Having known children with very restrictive diets, I have been in awe of their patience and resilience. From a distance, it can be easy to condemn them as ‘picky’ and to think they’re just being difficult. But often these children are incredibly brave, having to guard themselves against things the rest of us take for granted.
My thanks to #CBeebiesRadio for helping with the child testimonies and medical research. In the spirit of good public service broadcasting, I was happy to undertake the necessary research into birthday cakes and bouncy castles.
I’m so glad to have written the stories for this fantastic series helping kids across the UK who have allergies, while making others aware of how they can help. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Starting from 10th Jan with a new show every Wednesday until 7th February , this cracking series about allergies is not to be sniffed at.
I’ll stop right there with the puns because allergies are only funny until you have one yourself. Then it can be tiresome, disruptive, frightening, especially when you’re not yet even six. To be the odd one out, with special food, special gloves, special medicine, when you’re feeling poorly, doesn’t feel very special at all.
This series of five audio downloads explores different chronic conditions that some children may suffer: asthma, allergies to pet dander, nuts, dairy, pollen… what’s it like to suddenly react badly to something? What’s it like when it happens to your friend? What’s it like to have to guard what you eat or drink or touch? What’s it like to not be able to eat your own birthday cake?
When you put it like that, it’s all a bit grim.
So I didn’t put it like that.
After all, these stories are for CBeebies and CBeebies is never grim. So expect fun stories with nutty detectives, cub scouts, tennis aces, guinea pigs and pigeons, all read beautifully by the wonderfully reassuring Dr Ranj.
Of course the stories answer all of those questions above: I based them on patient testimony and the expertise of a specialist nurse. You can hear some of the children talking about their conditions in each episode as well. My lovely producers were pleased with the result. I hope that you and your little ones will be too.
Had to abandon several plans this summer because those lovely people at CBeebies Radio asked me to to write some stories and poems for them sharpish. Hopefully my friends, real and imaginary, didn’t feel too neglected and they, especially if they’re under six years old, will enjoy the results. You can hear them from today on the BBC iplayer radio app, just look for the Cbeebies bug! Then from next Monday 6th November you can download my story The Paintpots from the CBeebies website
The following Monday your little ones will be able to hear all about a quite magnificent Sock Drawer!
And in between listen out for poems about the sounds of colours – how do they sound to you?
Developing and writing these was a blast and an education. Here are some of the key things I learnt during this project:
– Yellow is an existential colour
– D.H. Lawrence has a lot to answer for
– Snail snot should never be underestimated
None of these conclusions found their way into the CBeebies material, you’ll no doubt be happy to learn. Instead, your preschoolers will enjoy discovering, for example that:
The colour yellow is a primary colour
But it’s a great mixer and go between.
If blue gets all flustered, yellow really cuts the mustard,
Shouting, “Bananas in custard!
Hey look: we’ve made green!”
And having too good a time to tweet about it.
This was on Wednesday, at the Broadcast Awards at Grosvenor House. I hope they had as good a time as me, although as nominees (or rather part of shows that had been nominated), they might not have been as relaxed as me, a judge, could be. I had done my bit watching and reviewing the programmes submitted for the Children’s 6-12 and 0-6 categories, then discussing with my fellow judges before voting. All I had to do now was enjoy the champagne and glitz.
There was quite a lot of glitz: dinner included some Sweet Pea Emulsion which I have only seen before on a Dulux colour chart, the bits of stem broccoli that usually fall through my colander, turnips the size of snowdrop bulbs and for pudding we had a dessert. That involved yuzo: Alison Moyet, what a great voice.
Jonathan Ross presided over the award ceremony which, despite him, seemed endless – about lots of programmes that I haven’t watched or did watch but have forgotten. But there was plenty of wine on the table and ooh, a bit of slate with some rather lovely petits fours that I was probably meant to pass round the table.
The older kids’ award went to My Life: The Boy on the Bicycle, a CBBC documentary (directed by Stefania Buonajuti) following a lad round one of the largest refugee camps in the world. If you are one of those people that talks about ‘these people’ then you need to see this.
The preschool award went to Topsy and Tim. An outstanding episode in an already excellent series. Written by Dave Ingham, the episode is about a pet dog dying. It is handled with such care, wit and honesty that it made me cry. I was genuinely moved by the story. I also cried because I still haven’t worked with producers Darrall Macqueen.
I didn’t stay until ‘Carriages at Three’ but left sensibly early, determined to get a good night’s sleep so that, with a new day, inspired by these great shows, I could work harder and write better. And find out when yuzu left the music industry and moved into citrus fruit based desserts.
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.
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.
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’.