Imagination and a book review

In this crazy world of lockdown, one thing that has blown and impressed my mind, is the children’s imagination. Pre-lockdown, I knew of course they had one. The time my now 3yo used a red wooden toy to draw some unapproved and uncommissioned artwork on the wall. When asked whodunnit “The gorilla mummy!” . Or the other day when my 5yo drew a picture of sun, sand and sea. It was a holiday we’d been on with grandparents. “Are you going to draw all of us and the buckets we used?” I asked. “No, we’ve all gone for a walk!”

Imagination helps eliviate the boredom, takes us to new places and helps us think beyond our four walls.

One thing I’m learning to do during lockdown is to relax a bit when it comes to play. As long as it’s not dangerous or harmful it’s fine. My “don’t touch this” or “don’t do that” or “get down from there” are starting to turn into “show me” , “don’t worry that’s what baths and washing machines are for!” and “that’s a great slide you’ve made out of the sofa cushions!” It’s by no means perfect. There are fab days with sunshine, books, successful home learning and skipping around feeling like Mary Poppins. Then there are the days of potty training toddlers leaving “deposits” in the kitchen, tantrums (I’d say split pretty evenly between them and me! 🙈) and dinners of fish fingers with a side serving of haribo and 10 billion hours of tv.

But whatever the day, there’s not one that goes by where I’m not impressed by the kids’ imagination! Even it’s the choice of insults when my eldest is shouting “YOU YOU YOU STINKY OLD RHODODENDRON!” in a fit of rage at his younger brother. Or when they make up their own games like “What time is it Mr Gopher? NIBBLE TIME!” or when my 3 year old tells people he had a lovely day and played cricket for most of it with his best friend from nursery….we hadn’t played with the forgotten cricket set in over a year and with social distancing certainly hadn’t been anywhere near his best friend. But imagination is a coping mechanism and gives us hope and alternatives.

Imagination comes in many forms and I’ll be writing a couple of blogs to explore this. As this article describes activities such as arts, crafts, science and messy play are important part of their creativity How To Nurture Your Child’s Imagination – Parents Magazine and I’m trying my best in lockdown to stick to 2 rules.

1. Mud and paint will come out in the wash

2. If it doesn’t, make sure you had lots of fun doing it!

Generally I’m relaxed when it comes to messy play, but even I struggle when at 8am one morning my 3yo son ran out sporting nothing but pants and wellies, got a watering can and started pouring water all over the lawn. To create muddy puddles. Cheers for that Peppa Pig. That said 3yo had a whale of a time. And it did in fact come out in the wash.

Another (not so messy!) way to develop young imaginations is guessing games.

Here are a few suggestions:

– Put things in a box, cover the box and the child can guess by touch or description what’s in there.

– gather some “noisy” objects eg. Pan and spoon, rice in a jar, and a half filled bottled of water. Get the child to guess what noise they’ll make.

– Put objects with different textures on a tray. Before touching them, ask the child to tell you what they think it will feel like.

– my love of books is no secret but read and read lots with them. Little Gym Chiswick suggested swapping the book character’s name with the child’s name. Eg instead of “Goldilocks sat on the chair” it could be “Megan sat on the chair”. This helps develop imagination and empathy.

– Play the “what happens next?” with stories so the child guesses before you turn the page.

– Ask questions about the book characters that might not be in the book. “What kind of a house do they live him?” Or “What’s their favourite colour?”

– Find a few objects in the house and ask children to create stories about them. If you like, write the stories down for them so they can just focus on the telling part. I tried something similar with my 5yo son and wrote it down for him and this was the result (though TBF his handwriting would probably have been better than mine 😆):

Would love to hear how you get on!

As mentioned earlier, imagination is such a huge topic it’s impossible to include everything in one blog (though looking at the length of this one, it would seem that I’ve tried 😆) so I’ll add a few more in the coming days.

In the meantime thank you so much for reading and please check out below for two completely different and highly imaginative books by the very talented Susannah Lloyd

Book Review

This Book Can Read Your Mind – by Susannah Lloyd and illustrated by Jacob Grant

Published by:  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Said it before and said it again. This book should come with an actual health warning. My 3yo laughed so hard he choked up a green bean. This was on the fourth time of reading it. On the day we got it. The first time we read it we were all snorting with laughter – I think the most we have laughed since lockdown. It’s a very sensible and well researched scientific experiment to see if the book can read your mind. Just don’t think of elephants. Or elephants in pants. And you’ll be fine. My 5yo tried to think of pink gophers and cottoned on quite quickly but has still requested me to read it over and over! 3yo even tried to “read” it himself and shouts of “PANTS” followed by lots of giggles could be heard from his room. Just brilliant. It’s a book that very much makes the children feel a part of the story and that they are the cause of the main character’s (a very sensible scientist’s) reactions.

But as Susannah herself said be sure to have only strictly sensible thoughts. It’s a VERY delicate book!

The Terribly Friendly Fox by Susannah Lloyd, illustrated by Ellie Snowdon

Published by: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK

The Terribly Friendly Fox is about a fox. Who is invited to the Annual Woodland Creatures Ball…oh please don’t worry! It’s fine! He’s turned vegetarian so no need to panic. The guests are having a fine time with all the party games and a magic performance. There don’t seem to be as many guests at the end of the book as there are the begin though. Perhaps they were just worn out by all the fun and went home…

This is one of my favourite picture books. The children love it too. It’s darkly humorous and interesting to see the children work out where the guests disappeared to. Cleverly written by Susannah Lloyd and ingeniously illustrated by Ellie Snowdon it’s definitely one for the bookshelves!

And now for a real treat – a Q&A with the very lovely Ellie and Susannah – the imaginative duo that created this foxy book !

Q1: If Gerald were to give his own dinner party which creature would be at the top of his menu…oops…sorry I meant guest list of course?

Ellie: That’s a good question! I think even though Gerald loves ALL animals equally, there’s no denying he has a fondness for rabbits…mostly because he loves nothing more than a lovely leftover rabbit stew on a Sunday!

Susannah: There is such a fine range of tasty treats on offer at this party, so it would be very hard for him to choose. But I think, if Gerald is anything like me, he would save the best for last, so I fear it would be the mouse, if he could only get his paws on him…

Q2: What is Gerald’s favourite go to party game to distract his guests?

Ellie: He has so many but I think musical chairs is Gerald’s cleverest distraction as things (*ahem* guests) can get lost so easily amongst the fun.

Susannah: I think it would have to be his dazzling display of conjuring tricks. Gerald is very talented at sleight of hand, and disappearing tricks are his particular speciality.

Q3: If you were able to understand each other, and you could invite any animal to a dinner party who would you invite and why?

Ellie: Mine would be a hare…mostly because the Mad March Hare in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland is one of my all time fictional characters. I think he would be a very bonkers and entertaining party guest! (plus he could run out of there very fast should a certain fox show up..!)

Susannah: My dream party guest would be a badger. I just love them so much. I am currently working on a new idea that features as many badgers as can possibly fit the pages. They are practically spilling out of it. I would love nothing more than to snuffle my way through a selection of cakes and pies with a very jolly badger for company.

Q4: What were your favourite books as a child?

Ellie: There are so many! I loved anything by Janet & Allan Ahlberg… ‘The Jolly Postman’ was a particular favourite. I’ve still got my original copy with all the postcards still intact and miraculously unharmed! Also ‘The true story of the 3 Little Pigs’ by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith was another favourite – a right old giggle!

Susannah: Oh yes! I loved the Albergs too, but my favourite was Burgler Bill. The best part was when he returned everything, including the policeman’s helmet and the stolen toothbrush.

The children’s books I loved the best were the ones where you got the feeling that the writer or illustrator was thoroughly enjoying themselves, being playful and having a marvellous time creating it. Picture books by William Steig, Russell Hoban, John Yeoman and Quentin Blake gave me that feeling. My favourites were The Wild Washerwomen and the How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, which cracked me up as a child and still do.

Growing up I really loved all the Beatrix Potter stories too, which I think has very much influenced my own writing. People often mistakenly think of her stories as being sweet, but she had a brilliant talent for thinly veiling nature tooth and claw in sentences cloaked in civility. Her beautifully dressed animals, sipping tea in patterned floral cups often had very sharp teeth! I especially like this understated line from Benjamin Bunny when his father discovers a cat is holding his son hostage under a basket: ‘Old Mr. Bunny had no opinion whatever of cats’, meaning the cat was in VERY imminent danger indeed. or this one, from The Tale of Ginger And Pickles, where Ginger the cat has trouble serving the mice customers of their shop because it makes his mouth water so much: ’It would never do to eat our customers, they would leave and go to Tabatha Twitchet’s,’ Pickles tells him.

Q5: Susannah, do you have more fabulous book writing plans?

Susannah: I have another picture book out now, called This Book Can Read Your Mind, with Jacob Grant. It is a book that can actually read your mind! One word of warning however…it is extremely delicate, so whatever you do, just please make sure you don’t think of anything silly. I’m sure I can trust you with that!

My third book is on its way next year, this time with illustrator Paddy Donnelly. I am very excited indeed about it. It features my second favourite sort of beast (after badgers) but I think it is still under wraps so I will have to keep you in suspense as to what that is for now!

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

Think my writing is being influenced by lock down🙈

Thanks for reading/watching and hope you’re safe and well 💖

The crazy mummy between kids’ snacks reading The (not so) Great Hamster Escape

The (not so) Great Hamster Escape – Kirsten Allen

The hamster, (his cheeks filled with food)

Looked through the cage bars and thought it was rude

That the humans had the run of the house,

So did the cat, the dog and the mouse.

“I’m going to escape!” He said

And plans started to clack like a wheel in his head.

He couldn’t squeeze through the gaps – they were narrow

And his bum was the size of a small wheel barrow.

When he tried to prise the metal apart

The only thing that escaped was a silent long fart.

He attempted a gnibble and attempted a gnaw

But all the chomping and chewing gave him a sore jaw

He paced up and down trying to think

Only stopping briefly for a quick drink

An idea suddenly hit him like a tank at full throttle –

He’d make a small hole in his drinking bottle!

The hamster carried out his devious plan

And the next day at breakfast over croissants and jam

The smallest human noticed the bottle was dry

And the little offspring let out a cry

“Oh mummy, oh daddy there’s not a drop spare!”

But the grown ups were too busy to care.

So the little girl decided to do it herself

And grabbed a new bottle from the pet food shelf.

She carefully put the new bottle in

Then put the old one in the bin.

The hamster’s excitement reached the highest peaks!

“She’s forgotten to shut the door!” He squeaked!

He cartwheeled and rubbed his paws with glee

Very soon he knew that he’d be free!

Lit by only the moon, the house was quiet once more,

He crept and creeped out of that door.

But oh no! Alas! Alack!

He never saw the puddy cat…..

Dragon Activities and a Scorching Hot Book Review

It’s a tricky time at the moment. Everyone seems to be in meltdown (at the supermarkets!) or lock down (with the kids at home) I’m currently prepping for some form of home-schooling for next week with a 5 year old and 3yo. 5yo loves trying to write, lego, board games and drawing maps. 3yo loves eating, climbing on every item of furniture, drawing (whether it’s on paper or walls) and finds things like headbutting me at full pelt hilarious. Then he gives me the most amazing cuddles. It should be interesting. Truthfully, I’m actually looking forward to spending time with them and hubby who typically works long hours. Also truthfully, ask me again in a week’s time:

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One thing both my boys love is DRAGONS. I’ve tried to think of a couple of dragon related activities to do with them (minus fire – health and safety first!) Hope you have fun with these activities!

TO DOWNLOAD AS PDF CLICK HERE: DRAGON ACTIVITIES

  • Pin the tail on the dragon:

Prep:  Draw a picture of a dragon minus the tail on some paper or card and make a tail out of card/paper separately. Put re-useable adhesive (eg. Blu-tack)  on the back of tail. Put picture of the dragon up on wall.

Game: Blindfold the first player, give them the tail and spin them round 3 times. Player then has to try and pin the tail on the dragon. Player who gets the tail the closest to wear it should be wins.

  • What time is it Firey Dragon:

OK (If it’s not obvious!) I’ve pinched this one from “What time is it Mr Wolf?” but used dragons instead. One person is the Firey Dragon.  The other players stand at other side of garden or room and shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” The dragon answers with a chosen a time eg. 2 o’clock. The other players then take that number of steps forward. Repeat until players are closer or Firey Dragon decides to chase. At that point the players shout “WHAT TIME IS IT FIREY DRAGON?” and firey dragon shouts back “BARBEQUE TIME!!!” and chases and the others try to run away. Whichever player the dragon catches, then becomes Firey Dragon.

  • Find the Dragon Egg – Hot and cold:

Make a dragon egg either use a rock and pretend, or if you’re feeling more creative make one out of Papier mâché or even draw an egg on a piece of card and cut out. One person is the knight and the others are the dragons.  The knight has to close his/her eyes or go in a different room while the dragons hide the egg somewhere (home or garden). The dragon has to look for it and the knights shout warm, warmer, hot and if the dragon is almost on the egg “boiling!” if the dragon moves further away then it gets colder until freezing! When the dragon finds an egg, it becomes a knight and someone takes their place.

And now for the book review…Dragon themed of course 🙂

BOOK REVIEW

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons – by Andy Shepherd and illustrations by Sarah Ogilvie. Published by Piccadilly Press

You’ve heard of dragon fruit right? But did you know that they are actual dragon plants? As in dragons grow from them… No? Well neither did Tomas. Until a dragon popped out one night. Much trickier than cucumbers! But for all the poo in the porridge and burnt rucksacks the dragons are definitely loveable trouble! Even if they are difficult to keep secret. My 5yo son adores this book – it’s funny, it’s imaginatively written, beautifully illustrated and IT’S GOT DRAGONS IN IT!!! What’s not to love?! And the special bond Tomas has with his grandfather is just incredible and makes me think of the lovely relationship that my boys have with their own grandparents. We can’t wait to read the other books in the series The Boy Who Lived With Dragons and The Boy Who Flew With Dragons which are out now. Very much recommend this book and am very excited to see that there are more books planned in the future (check out the Q&A below, with highly imaginative and very lovely author Andy Shepherd, for details!)

Thanks for reading the blog and review!

Q&A with Andy Shepherd

Q1: If Tomas were on Gardener’s Question Time what advice would he give
to anyone thinking of growing dragons?
A1: Keep your eyes open for a tree that looks like an upturned mop head, with
sprouty cactus leaves and a hairy knobbly trunk. Before any dragon fruit grow
you’ll see vivid yellow and orange tendrils, shooting out from the cactus
leaves, like a burst of flames. Next will come a moon-white flower, but if you
want to see it you’ll have to camp out in the garden because it only flowers at
night!
Once the fruits start to grow they change from green to red – now you can
start getting excited because a red fruit means the dragon is ready to hatch!
Top tips:
Don’t over water your dragon-fruit tree – like all cacti it doesn’t like soggy feet.
Invest in some good quality poly tunnels to protect your vegetables – once the
dragons start bursting out of the dragon fruits the first thing they look for is
nice tasty veg to give them fuel for their trip North.
Keep oven gloves and a hose at the ready to deal with the dragon poo they
leave behind – dragon poo has a nasty habit of exploding when it dries out!
Make sure you have a bench by the dragon-fruit tree. When the dragons start
hatching you will want to lay down your tools and watch the magic. You never
know what dragon might grow next – perhaps it will have scales that ripple
and shimmer like sunlight on the sea or breathe rainbow sparks that light up
your garden like tiny fireworks. Growing dragons is A LOT more trouble than
growing cucumbers, but there is also A LOT more magic in a dragon!
Happy dragon growing!
Q2: What is the best thing about having a dragon as a pet?
A2: When they are small and they sleep next to you, their warm scales are like a
hot water bottle. And when they settle on your shoulder, their tails curl round
your neck and their warm breath tickles your ear. Then when they get big you
can soar across the sky on their back, hollering to the stars, the whole world
stretching below you.
NB Dragons aren’t really pets. We grow dragons and they are our friends. We
look after them and the tree they grow from. But they don’t belong to us.
Dragons belong to themselves.
Q3: Any plans for more books?
A3: The fourth book ‘The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons’ is coming out in June
and then in January 2021 there will be a fifth book, ‘The Boy Who Sang With
Dragons’.
In the next part of the story Tomas meets some new friends, both human and
dragon. When Zing a sparky little dragon with oversized wings hatches there’s
a whole lot more trouble in the garden. Then when a new girl, Aura, arrives at
school declaring herself to be Queen of the Dragons, Tomas finds life
changing even more.
But as Grandad says ‘If nothing changed, nothing would grow. And things
need to grow. Even us.’

 

THE MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Hi all – I’ll be putting together a few activities for the stories. Here’s one I was supposed to take into schools.

Please feel free to print/download/colour in/read outloud . Would love to see pics and stories! Share them with @kidsstoryworld on Twitter and Instagram

Kids Storyworld – MAGIC BOOTS STORY AND ACTIVITIES

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me and thanks for reading!

THE MAGIC BOOTS – Kirsten Allen

 

Eve was enjoying her walk in the rain. She loved nothing more than hearing the pitter and the patter of the raindrops and jumping in big puddles. The muddier the better! Suddenly, she heard a voice shout “Help! Help!”. Eve looked around but couldn’t see anyone. “Here I am! Please help me!” the voice cried. She looked down and there on the grass, close to the edge of the village pond was a fish. It was very pale and gasping for breath. Without any hesitation, Eve quickly picked it up and as the fish plunged back into the water, Eve saw all the colours of the universe shimmering and shining. A long, long time ago a bright shooting star had fallen out of the sky and into the pond. When the star hit the water, it’s light shattered into a thousand pieces and swirled back together forming this magical fish.

“Thank you! Thank you!” the fish said. “It rained so heavily that the pond water over-flowed and I went with it! But how can I ever repay you?”

“There’s really no need.” said Eve “You’re more than welcome!”

“I insist!” said the fish “I know how much you love dancing and jumping in puddles. If you look in the reeds, you’ll find a pair of boots.”

Eve looked.

“Wow! Thank you so much! I love them!” she started to put them on.

“Wait!” said the fish. “They are magic boots. When you would like to play in the rain, you put them on and say the magic words ‘Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish’ and it will rain.”

“And how do I get it to stop?” asked Eve.

“Yes, that’s very important! When you’d like the rain to stop you must say ‘Splish, splash, splosh make the rain stop!’. Don’t forget!”

“I’ll remember” promised Eve. “And thank you again!”

One very dry morning Eve put on her boots and said the magic words. The rain came and Eve danced and jumped in the puddles until her parents called her inside for lunch. But what she didn’t know was that Barnaby, the mischievous boy from next door had been watching and listening. “I want those boots” he said to himself. Eve had left them on the doorstep to dry out and when no one was looking, he took them and ran off to a quiet spot in the park.

Barnaby put the boots on and remembered the words “Splosh, splash, splish! Rain is my greatest wish!”. The rain came and Barnaby joyfully danced and jumped in the puddles. He splashed about until the sun went down and the moon came up. “I’d better get back home for dinner!” he suddenly thought and tried to remember the words that would make the rain stop. “Drip Drip Drop! Make the rain stop!” But the rain didn’t stop. “Paddle, paddle, paddle! Make the rain skedaddle!”

But the rain didn’t stop. No matter how hard he tried he could not remember the words. Worried about what his parents would say he ran home and didn’t tell them about the boots. The rivers whooshed, the banks flooded and soon the water was flooding the village! When it started coming under the doors of the houses, Barnaby knew he must say something. He waded next door holding the boots and knocked on the door. “My boots!” said Eve.

With no time to lose, Eve put on the boots and said the magic words “Splish, splash, splosh, make the rain stop!” and the rain suddenly stopped.

“I’m sorry,” said Barnaby “I should have asked before I took them.”

“That’s ok.” said Eve kindly, “We all mistakes. You did the right thing in the end and brought them back.”

From that day on they became firm friends and whenever there was puddle jumping to be done, Eve would ask Barnaby to join her. And Barnaby never took anything without asking again.

© 2020 Kirsten Allen ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

THE SEED WHO BELIEVED #50PreciousWords Contest

There are many beautiful words in the dictionary so it’s not easy to choose just 50 or less! But I love a challenge and I love writing so when I saw the #50PreciousWords contest on author Vivian Kirkfield’s page I just had to give it a go.

If you enjoy it and have a minute please do like and comment on the competition page here: https://viviankirkfield.com/2020/02/29/50preciouswords-2020-contest-is-officially-open/#comment-147331

It’s entry 192 💖

Thanks for reading and your support!

The Seed Who Believed  – Kirsten Allen

Once a tiny seed doubted if it could grow.
“I’ll share my warmth” said Sun.
“I’ll protect you” said Soil.
“I’ll shower you with love” said Rain. “But you need to believe you can.”
With new confidence and determination, Seed pushed brown roots down and green shoots up and blossomed.

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Finding our way and Book Review…

Anyone  who knows me knows how bad my sense of direction is! My dad could pick up a map look at it once and know exactly where to drive on an 8hour journey. My husband studied Geography and is also has a phenomenal sense of direction and map reading skills.

By contrast:

– on a school geography trip a good friend said she never wanted to partner with me on an orientation exercise again. We’d got lost multiple times and didn’t complete the task after I was “certain it was this way”….

– Friends would rather use a taxi than walk with me on one of my short cuts

– my last short cut on a 10minute (local) car journey took on a 40min route

– when I first told my then boyfriend now husband I couldn’t read maps he, with a degree in geography and infinite patience, said he would teach me. We were on the way to the Lake District. 15min after he trustingly handed it to me, he pulled over in a lay-by and took it back off me. We were lost. He’s a pretty patient guy but I could feel the exasperation.

– once I wanted to surprise my husband for his birthday with a restaurant he’d not been to. After pretending I was misleading him so he couldn’t guess where we were going, I ended up having to come clean, tell him we were lost and hand over the details so he could find the way and we could make the table on time 🙈

So imagine my happiness and joy when my 5yo son started showing an interest in maps! He’s pretty good at drawing them too. Sometimes he even tells me if we’re going the wrong way somewhere. Thankfully it seems he’s inherited his father’s and my father’s skills.

There are so many ways to help children learn to navigate and create an interest in the world around them. I’ve been to the charity shop and bought old ordinance survey maps and A-Zs which we enjoy looking at. I point out rivers etc to him. In the car on the occasions I know where we’re going, I’ll sometimes ask him to guide me left or right etc. These are fun games and I’m learning too!  I also got him some map books which we do together.

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In a world of technology we can think “What’s the point?” (Though I’ve even been known to get lost using Google directions!!) Well according to this article, map reading can help with maths, spacial awareness and visual literacy:

The Importance Of Map Reading

Orienteering also a fun thing to do and a great outdoor activity and good for imagination. My son draws made up islands with palm trees and X marks the spot. And later in life it can save a fortune in taxis and apologies for being late…(ahem…)

Thanks as ever for reading my blog! 💖📚

BOOK REVIEW

The Cockatoo From Timbuktu – By William A.E Ford, Illustrated by Ramile M. Imac

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This is the charming book we were kindly sent by the author and it inspired the blog about directions and finding your way. It’s a beautifully illustrated rhyming book about Kian the cockatoo who escapes from the zoo to find his way back to his family in Timbuktu. As mentioned my son loves  maps (there’s a beautiful one at the beginning of the book) and learning about different countries. The story takes  you around the world  until Kian finds his way home. We really enjoyed reading about the animals in Australia and my youngest loves penguins so his favourite page was when Kian flew through Antartica. The book is a great conversation starter for young ones and there is a lot that children can learn from it including the fun facts at the end of the book! The perfect book for children who love animals and adventuring!

And now for a short Q&A with the lovely author William A E Ford!

Q1: Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to visit but haven’t yet?
A1: I love to travel and see new places. There are so many places I would like to go that I havent visited. I would say Japan, South Africa and Iceland are places on top of the wish list. I should also add Timbuktu in Mali to the list as well!

Q2: When you go there, if you could have any animal as a travelling companion, what would you choose and why?
A2: If I could choose any animal/bird to accompany me, I would have to go for a cockatoo. Failing that it would have to be a monkey to keep me entertained.

To read about more of William’s books and news please visit https://williamaeford.com/

THE STORY OF THE MOUSE WHO DID…

Alfred was in the garden trying to blow bubbles. The harder he blew, the less the bubbles came. His brother laughed loudly at his attempts. A very cross Alfred snatched up his bubbles and stomped inside.

“What’s the matter?” Grandpa asked Alfred.

“I’ll never be able to make a bubble. If I could, I’d blow the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world.”

“I see,” said Grandpa. “Come, sit with me and I’ll tell you a story.”

Alfred did not know how a story was going to help but sat down anyway.

“Once upon a time, there was a small mouse,” his Grandpa began.

“In fact, he was the smallest mouse in the village. One day, he said to his big brother ‘I’m going to be the first mouse in the village to row around the Great Big Lake.’ His brother laughed but the mouse ignored him. In the garden shed the mouse found a bucket and two sticks of wood.

His brother was fishing on the banks of the lake. ‘You silly little mouse! You’ll never get anywhere in that rusty old bucket!’ he said. The mouse ignored him, climbed into the bucket and started rowing with the sticks. He was still by the shore when the boat started sinking. There was a hole in the bucket!

His brother laughed even harder. But the mouse ignored him and returned to the shed.

This time he found a giant slipper. Back at the lake his brother was skimming stones. When he saw the mouse, he giggled.

‘That’s not going to get you around the lake you silly little mouse!’

This made the mouse even more determined, he got his oars, put the slipper on the lake and sat in it. Straight away water whooshed over the sides. And when the soggy slipper got tangled in the reeds, the mouse’s brother laughed until his sides almost split. ‘You might as well give up!’ he said. But the mouse ignored him. This time instead of going to the shed, he went to the kitchen. He looked everywhere for the best thing he could use as a boat. He even inspected a chunk of cheese and though it was very tasty, it wasn’t going to help him be the first mouse to row around the lake. Then he saw the giant half a walnut shell his grandma used for mixing cakes and cookies.

The mouse carried it to the lake where his brother was snoozing in a deckchair. He put the walnut shell in the water and sat in it. This time, his boat didn’t have a hole in it and the water didn’t whoosh over the sides. He started rowing only pausing to wave at the ducks and geese and say hello to the frogs. When he finally made it back to the riverbank, all the mice in the village had gathered to cheer him loudly. His brother was cheering the loudest!

‘I’m sorry I made fun of you and didn’t believe you. I’m so proud that you are the first mouse to row around the Great Big Lake!’ The mouse smiled. ‘I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a question of if but of how.’”

Grandpa looked down and smiled at Alfred. Alfred ran back into the garden. He stopped and thought. Not if he could blow a bubble but how. An idea came to him. He put his lips together and this time blew very gently. Alfred and his brother watched as the biggest shiniest bubble in the whole world floated up up up and away into the clouds.