Michelle Barber

All posts tagged Michelle Barber

The Adventure of Father Christmas’s Sack starring Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.

Published November 30, 2012 by loonyliterature

When Will Blyton is not busy solving cases and sending people back to the past, he hangs out with his friends.  One of his favourite friends is Father Christmas.  Will likes to share a mince pie with the dear old gentleman and sing some jolly Christmas songs.

Father Christmas and Will Blyton.

Will Blyton shares a festive mince pie with Father Christmas.

When Will has finished his mince pie, he goes outside to feed the reindeer as they are making an awful racket.  Unbeknown to him, The Stinking Shadow has been hiding behind the curtains and when Will goes outside he pops out 0f his hiding place.

Father Christmas and The Stinking Shadow

The Stinking Shadow offers Father Christmas a festive Clementine.

If Will Blyton could see The Stinking Shadow offering Father Christmas something to eat, he would instantly know that there was something greatly amiss.  The Stinking Shadow has one rule about food and that is to eat it himself.  When he time travelled from the 14th century to the 1970s, he thought he was in food wonderland and never misses an opportunity to taste anything he can.

The Stinking Shadow has Father Christmas's sack.s

The Stinking Shadow has managed to get hold of Father Christmas’s sack.

Oh dear!  The Stinking Shadow must have grabbed Father Christmas’s sack.  Does this mean the end of Christmas?  Watch the film clip below to find out what happens next.

Will Blyton makes sure that all’s well that ends well.  As you can see, Father Christmas has got his sack back.

Writing For Kids – Three Easy Steps to Help Kids Create Characters.

Published November 1, 2012 by loonyliterature

 

 

I see so many people who remind me of animals and I don’t mean that in a nasty way as I am a great animal lover, what I mean is if people remind us of animals in reality, why not get children to use animals as a way of helping them create characters when they write stories, act sketches or make their own comic books?   Using these three easy steps, we can give children the confidence to realise that they too can create story people.

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 Step One

 

This fun step shows children how people can actually remind us of animals and how  it actually works so that they get a full understanding of what we are trying to achieve.  I have given you  a choice of three different ways of doing this, you only need to pick the way which appeals to you the most   a) out in the field,  b )the internet or books   c) my chosen examples which are below.

 

a) Out in the  Field

 

For brave adults only, we have to play at being spies – we have to act as if we are invisible so that no-one will know what we are doing.  Sitting in busy places with a notebook offers up a glut of possibilities – train stations, bus stations, shopping centres and city centres have benches to sit upon with a notebook perched upon the knee.  The child has to remember  to keep quiet about their findings, notes can only be swapped later when safely away from the ears of the people we have written about. 

 

 b) The Internet or Books.

 

For the more sensible who don’t want to get chased by the dog walker or stressed out commuter , there is a treasure of photographs on the internet – Victorian ones tend to be very useful with all those whiskers, corsets and stern admonishing gazes.

 

 

 

c) Here are some ready made examples:

 

Boris Johnson

Is it a polar bear?

 

 Boris Johnson reminds me of a polar bear with his unruly blond mop, his big, clumsy body and his small, bear like eyes.

 

A male polar bear

A male polar bear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Winston Churchill.

Is it a bulldog?

 

Winston Churchill reminds me of a bulldog with his stocky body, very round face and matching round, bulging eyes.

bulldog

Meet our Winston.

 

 

Angelina Jolie

Is it a cat?

 

Angelina Jolie looks like a cat with her high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes and elegant body.

 

black cat face

Mildred or Angelina?

 

Ask the children to point out how the people in the photographs resemble specific animals.  This gives them the idea of how humans can remind us of creatures – doing this first exercise helps the children to get the hang of using animals to create human characters.  It helps them to see how it can work realistically.

 

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Step Two

 

Next, we need to  read how creating characters from animals works in a piece of fiction.  Below is an extract (page 21) from “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow” which demonstrates to the children how we can put animal or bird like humans into our own stories.  Ask the children to point out to you what parts of Ravensmite are actually like a raven.

 

 

 

extract from “Will Blyton and  The Stinking Shadow.”

 

I open the door and look out but there is no-one there.  The rain lashes down and a cold draught attacks my cheeks and then something appears.  

 

Standing on the path, by the front door is a tall, thin figure dressed in black.  One of his thigh length, leather boots rests on a stone gargoyle as he sharpens his curved fingernails on the back of a stone.   The nose is too large and hooked for the teenage boy he appears to be.  His coat is like bird’s feathers when they are wet and glistening.   He drops the stone and his hand disappears inside the feathered coat.  It emerges with a lump of something that I cannot identify but has a long, thin tail.   The boy crams the lump into his mouth and his tongue flicks out as he greedily gorges upon it.   He spits a small bone out, and sucks in the tail.   A harsh, watery belch follows and then he wipes his mouth with the back of his clawed hand. 

 

A hard lump lodges in my throat but I am drawn to the figure and the gargoyle as an invisible thread pulls me out into the cold rain.   The figure stops what he is doing and looks at me.   The large nose becomes a black dagger of a beak whilst the coat becomes feathers and the boots slicing talons.   It opens its weapon of a beak and caws.  Black, beady eyes glare directly at me.

 

“Watch out Blyton, Master Corpsehound has sent Ravensmite.”

 

The raven unfolds its large wingspan and flies at me.   A waft of air from its wings hits my face.   Its muscular legs shoot forward and its talons spread and point, ready to splice.   I beat it off with the pogo stick.  It veers over my head scraping my hair with its hook like talons.  I gasp as the claws scratch the side of my face.   My fingers automatically feel for the pain.  They are wet and sticky.  The raven disappears into the darkness. 

 

“Takest me back into thine abode for safety, Blyton, thou puppet.”  

 

Although I am shaking, I quickly put Hamnet into my pocket to muffle the sound of his shrill voice.  I bend down.  There is writing scraped out of the top of the gargoyle.  Before I read it, I look around for the raven, I shiver; it has gone for the time being.  The gargoyle says ‘How do we find the village?’  

^^^^^^^^^^

 

The idea of Ravensmite came from teenagers who dress in black from head to foot and even dye their hair the same colour.  They reminded me of the wonderful bird, the raven.  So this character was created by using the same exercise I am offering here.  From then on it was easy to create this shapeshifting boy as he had to have a large, beak like nose.  His nails had to be like a bird’s talons and as he was a menacing character I could use all the sharp parts of an actual raven to make him more so.

 

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Step Three

 

Once it is clear how it can work – choose an animal or bug or bird and take aspects of them which you can create a human character with.  It can be fun to use a family pet.  For instance, if I used Mildred, my sophisticated, black cat – she would  be a slim, elegant,  mysterious and beautiful character, probably a female spy.   I would take parts of her personality and put them into the character – for example, Mildred washes herself more than any other cat I have come across; she often forgets where she is going because she stops to have a wash so often.  My character then would be a spy who often got herself into trouble because of her obsessive need for cleanliness.  Mildred is also always falling off tables and chairs because when she sleeps she is completely floppy and she often rolls off things in her relaxed state.  So I would also have my spy as someone who is a bit dozy and falls asleep very easy.  As you can see, my character is already becoming quite interesting as the way she looks actually belies her personality – she is a spy but it would have to be a comic spy – I think she would get into too many scrapes to be a serious spy. 

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Main steps.

 

1) Find people or use the examples in this post to see how real people can remind us of animals..

 

2) Read the extract and discuss how a raven could be similar to a teenage boy.

 

3) Choose a specific animal and using parts of its physical appearance, create a physical appearance for a person.  Think about how these animals act e.g. bees are very busy and add personality traits to your character. 

 

 

 

At this point, the children will have created a character which they can use in a story, an acting sketch or even their own comic books.  They might not use the character straight away as the sub conscious needs to work out what to do with it.  However, I know the character will pop up in some future piece of creativity .  Have fun.

 

Will Blyton – Things To do – Using Bullying to Be Creative.

Published September 27, 2012 by loonyliterature
Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow

It’s not all bad times with The Stinking Shadow.

I think that it is wonderful for children to have a great time reading a book but even better if they do some fun interactive work with it also.  Below is a short piece from Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow (pages 2-3),  after the extract there are questions to discuss what has happened and then there is an activity to follow.  Have fun.

The door shuts heavily behind me as I pull on it and then run across the empty road to the deserted beach.  I try to remember my dream full of stripy clothes, fried onion smells and the tinkling circus music that makes the horses dance.

A sharp nip stings my cheek and my specs are gone.  All I can see is a head resembling a dead bat moving towards me; it has to be The Toad.  You can always tell him from the fake, leather jacket he wears.

Always watch your back; it will save you frantically sticking your hands out when you’ve been shoved. 

I know it is Snot who has pushed me; I can hear his whiny, nasal voice shouting. Snot is The Toad’s sidekick; a dried crust of mucous always covers his face, hence the name.

I ask them for my glasses back but my voice sounds weak and I feel like an ant before a shoe takes away the daylight.

My glasses hurtle over my head and I get a short, sharp pain in my back.  The Ferret cackles that he thought I was a football.  Ferret is the other sidekick of The Toad.  He is small with pointed teeth and omits a malodorous odour when excited.  I suspect he is very excited.  I swallow deeply to rid my throat of the lump in it.  I dream of being Robert the Bruce – the freedom fighter who beat his oppressors.  The sea rages in the background and I wish it was me with all that power and fury. I try to get up but Snot pulls my legs from beneath me and I hit the sand again.

My grandma believes in angels and when I hear the croaky voice of Toad’s mum shouting for her crumpets, I believe in them also.  

The Toad answers to the name of Elvis only to his mam, as he calls her.  I hear him shouting back to the croaky angel as if he too is sweet and heavenly.

The Ferret sniggers as he drops my specs in the sand.  My breath comes quickly and heavily through my lips as I watch their outlines saunter away.  My belly is determined to shoot my Weetabix out through my mouth and my legs want to give way beneath me.  I gulp down a sob and get on with the job of finding my specs.

 QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITY. 

The following questions are to springboard a discussion about the piece which will highlight a child’s understanding and also help them to explore the nature of bullying.

What happens to Will when he is on the beach?

 

How do you think he feels?

 

Why do you think that Toad, Ferret and Snot treat Will in the way that they do?

 

What do you imagine Toad looks like?  Do you like him?  Why?  Does Toad treat everyone like Will?  How does he act towards his mum?  Why do you think Toad seems to have two different types of character?

 

Why do you think that Will dreams of being Robert the Bruce?

Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

ACTIVITY – The activity is to give children confidence in their own creativity and writing – oh and to have fun, of course.

Now I want you to imagine that you are Will and you come upon Toad, Ferret and Snot on the beach.  Make up a conversation and act it out with your friends, brothers, sisters or mum and dad – in fact, get anyone to join in.  Anything can happen – it’s your scene.  Get other people to help you make up what happens – this is called improvisation and lots of actors, writers and directors use it to help explore and write scripts.  There are no wrong or right answers – it’s all about being creative.  If you have a camera, it is always fun to film your ideas to share with others.  Have fun.

Writing – How do you choose a setting?

Published August 21, 2012 by loonyliterature

 

 

English: Enid Blyton's former house "Old ...

English: Enid Blyton’s former house “Old Thatch” near Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At the moment, I am writing a free in between story for our willblyton.com website.  It is called” Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys” and I’m being either brave or stupid as the work in progress is being posted.  The Will Blyton books are aimed at 9-12 year olds and explore time travel and will be introducing William Shakespeare and his plays in the books and free stories.

 

The setting for Will Blyton and The Maggoty Motleys is a children’s literary festival in 2006.  This probably seems like a strange place to set a children’s story but around that time my family were going to a lot of children’s literary festivals and seeing a very mixed bag of children’s writers. This was one of the reasons I felt the urge to set a children’s story at a fictional festival.  Seeing such a range of different approaches is truly entertaining and the festivals are worth attending if it is just for that and nothing else.

 

Some of the writers embrace the idea of talking about their books as if they secretly wanted to be rock stars but it never happened.  Others dress elegantly but timidly tell of how they were told that they were a children’s writer and not a science fiction writer.  The variation is endless but I must not forget the ones who made me want to rush for the nearest exit as I wondered if it was the effort of their writing which had left the lifeless slugs drawling before me.  Forgive me for sounding wicked with the last lot but you try sitting through a session with one of them and I bet you could teach me a thing or two on evil thoughts.

 

The second reason I wanted to write a story set at a fictional festival is that I have seen the effect literary festivals have on children and their reading.  My teenage son told me recently that he believes that going to literary festivals when younger definitely spurred him on to read more.  More than that, however, I have seen and heard the excitement of children wriggling in their seats whilst they wait for a favourite author to take the chair on the stage.  The atmosphere buzzes and the air is filled with energy – yes we are talking about author appearances not football stadiums or rock concerts.  Unfortunately, only a small percentage of children get to them because not enough parents and teachers realise what excellent value for money they are – going to children’s literary festivals is not a very well-known activity, more so in certain areas than others.  It seemed then to be a good idea to set a story at a festival and hopefully it might put the idea of going to a festival to the actual children themselves.

 

This only leaves me to ask “how do you choose your settings?  Is it a desire to be in a certain time and place, something which echoes theme and plot or do you choose settings because you think they are popular with readers and will sell more books?  I would love to know your thoughts.

 

Things To Do – Writing by pretending to be a 14th century monk.

Published August 4, 2012 by loonyliterature

The wind tosses the waves about across the road.  If I stand to one side of the window, I can see the Floating Wreck Lighthouse which The Thunderous Mother runs as a museum in the summer months.  A force of electricity flashes behind the lighthouse in the shape of a fork, this eerily lights the white building up.  The huge waves slap angrily against the sea wall and the rain lashes down non-stop onto the pavements. 

I give my specs another quick clean on the bottom of my jumper and put them back on.  Standing under the yellow street light is a monk with his hood up; he goes down onto his knees and starts to pray.  The rain falls heavier as if whipping the ground but the monk does not seem to notice it. 

I open the window and stick my head out as far as it will go.  The window creaks open and the monk stops praying.  As he looks up at me, the rain hits his face.  His lips are cracked and thin under the street light.  He stares at me so strongly that my stomach churns; I can only imagine the rest of his face and I back away.

(page 14 Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow)

When two worlds meet! Oh dear, it doesn’t quite always go to plan.

 

Hamnet has mistakenly conjured up a 14th century monk and brought him to 1970s Groaningsea.  Problems or conflict, as it is often called, is what pushes the plot along.  A great way to cause conflict is to put a character into a situation she or he is not comfortable with.  In this case, we have got a character thrown into an utterly strange world.  In the book “Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow”, we can read how Will copes with discovering the monk is standing outside his home but we do not find out how the monk feels at that point in time. 

As an exercise to get that writing muscle flexing – why don’t you imagine that you are the boy monk, Thadeus and suddenly you are in this strange world? 

What do you see? 

What do you hear? 

What can you smell? 

What does this world feel like to touch? 

How does all this make Thadeus feel? Is he afraid or excited?

Remember, Thadeus will not recognise many of the things he encounters so he has to make sense of it by comparing it to what he knows.  Try to imagine how it feels to be Thadeus and then write a few paragraphs – you never know, once you get started, you might not be able to stop.  You could end up having a full story. 

Happy writing!

Things To Do – Hamnet’s Secret Code Quiz.

Published July 23, 2012 by loonyliterature

CAN YOU FIND THE MESSAGE?

Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow have something hidden in the trunk.

Hamnet the boy trapped in the stone cannot speak properly because the evil magician Master Corpsehound has put a spell on his tongue.  He needs to tell Will Blyton something but has to use a code.  Look up the answers to Hamnet’s clues and then work out the message.

 

CLUE 1.

Where was Ann Boleyn imprisoned?  Use the first two letters of the first word to make the first word of the message.

 

Ann Boleyn was Henry VIII’s second wife. Where did she end up?

CLUE 2.

This monk belongs to Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men.  Use the first two letters of the first word of his name.

 

It is said that he really liked his food.

CLUE 3.

An apple fell off one of these onto Sir Isaac Newton’s head.  Use the last two letters of this word and join them onto the two letters from clue number two.

 

Sir Isaac Newton gained clarity when an apple fell onto his head.

CLUE 4.

Another word for “I”.  This is the next word in the message.

 

CLUE 5.

Jack came across one of these when he got some magic beans.  Use the first letter of the word.

 

Well, he certainly ate all his vegetables.

CLUE 6.

If you look up the Moor of Venice, you will find the name of a very famous Shakespearean character.  Take the first letter of his name and attach it to clue number 5.  This will make the next word in the message.

 

The Moor of Venice – but what is he called?

CLUE 7.

A country in South Asia – Take the first two letters.

 

Bombay is a very famous place, but which country is it in?

CLUE 8.

Take the letters from clue number 1 and attach them to clue number 7 to form a word.

 

CLUE 9.

This famous Scottish queen was beheaded for allegedly planning to assassinate Elizabeth I.  Take the first and fourth letter of her name to form a word.

 

Who is this famous queen?

CLUE 10.

Mary Shelley wrote a very famous book about a man who made a monster.  Take the first letter from the name of the book.

 

Who created this monster?

CLUE 11.

What is Garfield?  Take the last two letters and attach them to clue number 10.

 

CLUE 12.

What do you have growing on your head?  Now change the word slightly so that it’s a female pronoun.  Attach it to clue number 10 and 11 to form a word.

What’s that stuff sticking up like a sore thumb?

CLUE 13.

In Greek mythology, Medusa had something in her hair.  Take the first letter of what was in her hair and attach it to the end of the word which you have made from clues 10, 11, and 12.  Put them all together to form a word.

 

Medusa by Caravaggio. And we think we have hair problems today!

CLUE 14.

William Shakespeare wrote many of these.  Use the full word.

 

Hey, that Shakespeare guy looks really suspicious – I’m beginning to wonder if he has something to do with all this stuff.

Well, Blytonians, if you’ve followed all the clues correctly – you should now have a secret coded message written by Hamnet for Will to follow.  What does it mean?  More will be revealed soon.

Things To Do – Creating and Acting – “The Finding of the Stone.”

Published July 19, 2012 by loonyliterature

 

The video goes into greater depth but just in case you need reminding here are the main pointers.

When I write a book or a play, I love to encourage my readers to be inspired by what I have written.  So to help you along, I will be making short films which suggest fun things for you to do.  Today’s activity uses the beginning of the book and is called “The Finding of the Stone.” 

 

Will Blyton has had his glasses ripped off and thrown onto the beach by the dreadful bullies, The Toad, Ferret and Snot.  Whilst feeling in the sand for them he hears a strange voice saying disturbing things to him.

 

Here are some of the things the voice says:

 

“Thine intestines wilt be mine!”

 

“Thou wilt regret this warty nose.”

 

“Leave me be, thou fetid old skanky breath.”

 

“Thou art nought but a worm eating corpse.”

 

Will finds that the voice is coming from a stone he picks up off the beach.  It is no ordinary stone, for the stone turns to glass and inside is:

 

A boy, the size of my palm, is in the stone and scowling up at me.  He is in a prison cell.  It has bars on it and there is a small bed at the far end, a desk and a chair.  There is a writing quill sitting on the desk.  The boy has long, dark hair with black piercing eyes.  He is dressed in a green knickerbocker suit with a frilly ruff around his neck.  Huge, shiny buckles sit on the front of his shoes.  I stare at him like a goldfish.

(p4-5 Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow.)

 

The whole of chapter one can be found under Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow here on willblyton.com

 

What would you do if this happened to you?

 

I think it would be great fun to get together with a friend and create a whole new scenario – here are some ideas for you to use as a springboard:

 

You go to a car boot sale/ jumble sale and buy a locked box which can’t be opened.  When you get it home there is a small boy/girl trapped in a pebble inside.

 

Your friend has been on holiday and has brought some stones back from the beach so that you can paint them.  Strange noises emerge from the box, you open it and guess what?

 

You are lying on the grass with your eyes closed dreaming of discovering a secret room in your home when your dog sits at your feet holding something in its mouth.  A small, shrieking voice can be heard – weirdly coming from the dog’s mouth. 

 

Okay, you get the idea.  You can use one of the scenarios from above or you can make up your own.

 

What do you need to find out?

 

How is the person in the stone dressed?  This will give us clues as to the time period they are from.

 

Is the person in the stone going to be nice or nasty?  Or even pretending to be nice but really nasty?

 

Why is the person trapped in the stone?  How did the person get there? 

 

When you have decided all this, you can start to improvise your scene.  This means acting it out without a script.  It can be really exciting because all sorts of creative ideas can emerge from you quite naturally as you pretend to be The Stone Finder and The Person in the Stone.  Of course, you can give your characters names.

 

If you are happy with what you do, you could try to get a friend or family member to film you.

 

Have fun.  Happy creating.

 

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