We all know the importance of reading to our children. Not only does it build a parental connection with them and give them their first introduction into letters and words, but also how they can become part of a story’s characters world with their imagination. In a world flooded with visual images and games that do the work for them, a book is a treasure for their mind. This week we celebrate: National Tell a Story Day on 27th April.
Can you remember the first story you fell in love with?
I loved Hiawatha, Wind in the Willows, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
We also celebrate this week the end of poetry month with Poem in Your Pocket Day on 30th April.
As many of you know poetry isn’t my thing, however I do indulge on occasion and have submitted a couple for my writing groups annual poetry challenge this year. If my poems are approved they will be included in an anthology later this year.
Do you have a favourite poem?
When I was young I remember my mother reciting these two. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. When I grew older this one was recited in my English class. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth.
As spring arrives eventually in Alberta, we look to the signs of spring. Animals emerge from hibernation, green shoots are foraged and the green blush of new leaves makes the landscape so much more pleasant to look at.
As many of you know I wrote a children’s chapter book to educate, as well as inspire and generate fun. Ockleberries to the Rescue centers around two magical sprites helping their forest animal friends. Each chapter is the adventure of a different animal, or the sprites themselves. Easy to read independently or as a bedtime/vacation traveling story.
To accompany reading the book I created this word search to add to the fun. Feel free to use it.
We have three literary celebrations this week and they all have children in mind. The first is International Children’s Book Day. As we are all acutely aware, reading is the foundation of all learning and is, therefore, the most important skill for every child.
4/2 – International Children’s Book Day (Founded 1967)
4/2 – Hans Christian Anderson’s Birthday (1805-1875)
Andersen was a prolific writer and wrote two hundred and ten fairy tales in all, which were published over the course of his life. The tales were translated across Europe, then made their way around the world, making him the best-known Scandinavian writer of his age.
His most famous stories are: The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale” “The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Red Shoes, The Princess and the Pea, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, and Thumbelina. I think most children know these stories, I certainly remember having them read to me initially and then reading them for myself later on. There is an inherent magic to these stories that makes them timeless.
4/4 – National School Librarian Day.
To honor all school librarians, who serve young students in the local school libraries. These heroes of the school system ensure children find the joy of a story and encourage them to read.
There is always something magical about immersing ourselves into a story. We escape reality for a chapter or two, maybe even longer if time allows. Stories have been entertaining, educating and fascinating humans for eons. From campfire tales to fairy stories to modern literature, we have passed on these narratives from generation to generation. Beginning with word of mouth and traveling troubadours to parchment scripts to printed books and now to electronic devices.
Stories are a part of our culture, our locality and our history. Some may disappear, others stand the test of time. We have the ability to share them with future generations and keep them in the world.
I have a troubadour in my novella, The Rython Kingdom. He travels from feudal to feudal land (lands owned by the monarchy and gifted to Lords) and is invited to the King’s court. He knows this is a great honour and tells a tale over a couple of days, unaware there is a release spell within its words of an evil sorceress.
Celebrate storytelling week reciting your favorite stories to your children or grandchildren, pass on these generational tales so they may be forever told.
I write and produce picture books. I call them that because they are not necessarily for children. My slogan is ‘for kids aged between 6 & 99yrs old!” I’m interested in stimulating a dialogue between adults and children about their experience. I hope that’s what my books make the readers want to do. Talk and discuss and reflect on their own experience. I love art and literature so picture books are the perfect medium for me. Some of my books are not even ‘stories’ rather than concepts.
2. Do you draw from your English background and upbringing?
I guess I do, but almost inadvertently, so not directly. However, Spaceball uses the city of Manchester England as a theme for location and Old Trafford is mentioned. Perhaps in the way I express myself in the books. I do have another book planned which is based in London England.
3.Where did the idea for Spaceball come from?
I wanted to write an exciting book using the dynamic themes of soccer and space. I think all ideas just come from challenging your own understanding. i was reading about Einstein and gravity and i thought this might be a cool way of understanding an aspect of gravitational force, amongst other things. The book is actually about how we understand our own histories and the ‘forces’ that influence that aswell.
4. What message does the book give children?
See question 3 above. I’m interested in bringing the reader to a point where they want to consider their place in history and how their social history differs from other cultural perspectives. The whole book pivots on the expression ‘the history of everything’. The child telling the story stops to consider what that means.
5. How long did the process of writing Spaceball take?
About a month. Not long at all once I knew what I wanted to do. I let the planets guide me! The illustrations took longer but it was so much fun to do, and I wanted to create images that especially children would feel were organic, to encourage them to make their own books with collage and crayon and whatever they can get their hands on.
6.How does writing a book, short stories and writing poetry differ?
For me with picture books there’s always an idea you’re developing and revising constantly, editing while writing but also afterwards, going back to it again and again is important, checking for fluency, ‘sense’ and whether what you’ve done honours your intention. Projects can change a lot as well. The research phase is always very interesting and so much of the spontaneity of my writing happens when I’m reading around. I think it’s not so much genre but authors that have different processes. Books have personally taken me longer to produce though. A short story can be 500words. I don’t write much poetry but when I do it’s almost like a wave of energy, so it’s quite quick for me. Whether it’s any ‘good’ is another matter!
7.Where do you get ideas from?
From Walmart. 🙂 They have them on special right now. Just kidding. I think you can train your mind to be receptive. Ideas are everywhere I think, it’s not difficult for me. I have a to-do list on my wall of the next ten picture books I want to do, but there are loads of ideas on scraps and memos in various places. I think you have to have a type of curiosity that isn’t easily satisfied if that makes sense, and a willingness to take a ‘fact’ and explore what might have been or what another perspective might bring. I think the imagination is a way of connecting and exploring one’s understanding and associations from different perspectives and perhaps extending that understanding. I have ideas that are years old and I like to leave them in my head for a while, pickling and marinating! I think you can tell I like cooking 🙂
8.Do you have a project(s) in progress?
Yes I think I answered this in question 7 above. More specifically I’m just completing a picture book now called ‘What’s your favourite colour’ illustrated by Stella Avolio. Another project has been planned and will start soon called ‘Farewell’ with a different illustrator and I have a book I really want to do, the London-based one I referred to above, but I want to both write and illustrate that myself.
9.What is your view on reading and writing for children?
Reading for children is very important. I was read to as a child and I loved the experience. I haven’t done an audio book yet but I’d love to get round to it. It’s great to have a book animated by real voices.
As I said (if I understand your question) I don’t write for children necessarily, but more for the social interaction between generations, to generate discussion between adults and children.
10.Where can readers find you and your books?
All my books are online. Google Matthew Bennett Young and you will see!