You’re a Funny Man Mr. Stanton!

The Cambridge Union Chamber with Mr Stanton

Mr Stanton was an animated middle aged man with a curly black beard, bright spectacled eyes and arms which flapped like an owl trapped in the House of Lords. He was an unexpected surprise who hated being serious or limited to reading one type of book. What he liked was acting the fool, reading books, twisting a tale, having the audience in hysterics, writing stories, being silly, taking the mickey, guzzling water, reading and eating pizza and… did I mention books?

Only those of you who have read You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum may recognise some distant similarities to that quirky introduction.

Mr Gum 1

I’ve just returned from an afternoon in Cambridge with my family having been thoroughly entertained by Andy Stanton, children’s author of the Mr Gum series (published by Egmont), as part of the line up for the Cambridge Literary Festival today. His zany approach was both refreshing and uplifting and cleverly appealed on many levels to both adults and children.

He began by reading various amusing excerpts from his childhood schoolwork followed by some story ideas he’d written for Mr Gum which never reached the final book. A great message I thought for all writers young and old, that even though not all ideas will come to fruition keep writing them down. You never know how they may be used in the future.

Mr Gum 2

Mr Stanton was able to mix the trivial with the serious and jump from wacky to informative in the flip of a coin and was almost lyrical about his expulsion from Oxford University. He said “picture a vast meadow where you might want to look at a tree, a stream and a patch of grass or a flower.” For him reading is like being able to look at each of these elements separately or combined but he felt the university was putting constraints and limitations on which elements he was allowed to focus on. I see an even greater message lurking here. One that says you should always follow your heart – or maybe I’m misinterpreting it when really Andy is saying that “the truth is a lemon meringue.” Friday from Mr Gum would understand.

Mr Gum 3

It was clear Mr Stanton enjoys performing. He was consistently engaging as he continued to tease and interact throughout. He even got those who don’t like putting their hands up to put their hands up. My youngest particularly loved the conversation between the crow and Old King Thunder Belly. Andy continued his light hearted pantomime approach right through to the grand finale of question time.  He is a true entertainer and it was hilarious to experience his personality.

If you liked the sound of this event, please follow me on Twitter Amanda Lonergan (@lonerganbooks) and Facebook to hear about other upcoming author events, book crafts, news on children’s book releases and much more.

CLICK TO BUY You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum!

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Who’s Got Hoo’s Doughnuts?

Hoo's Fest 9

Anyone fancy a doughnut?

We went to Hoo’s Kids Book Fest Summer Day yesterday and it was packed with doughnut munching antics but you’ll need to read Steve Antony’s book Please Mr Panda, (published 1 Jan 2015 by Hodder Children’s Books) if you want to find out who really ended up with all the doughnuts.

Hoo's Fest 11

Hoo's Fest 2In a plush marquee amidst the beautiful surroundings of Luton Hoo’s walled garden, Steve Antony helped us draw our very own doughnut loving panda, revealed his (not so) top secret (now) sketchbook and gave us all a hidden insight into the pandemonium (sorry couldn’t resist) the Queen has caused across the UK looking for her handbag! (The Queen’s Handbag, due to be published 1 Oct 2015 by Hodder Children’s Books).

Hoo's Fest Signature

Throughout the afternoon we bumped into several panda’s hidden around the garden as well as Professor Pango Mango, the wandering poet. We had a peek inside the storytelling caravan (run by the charity Beanstalk) then slipped into the creative tent with illustrators Livi Gosling and Josh Hurley for amazing maps and characters. Later we joined Vanessa Stone (Cut Paper Artist) in creating colourful pictures from sticky paper. A craft activity I would since highly recommend as I don’t think I’ve ever seen my boys so quiet before!

Hoo's Fest Paper Art

Oh and just in case there is any doubt, the character in the top right hand picture is Anakin Skywalker!

My eldest however had been waiting for the final event and luckily the spell bounding, interactive Harry Potter session packed with facts, games and songs and led by a lively, engaging entertainer, did not disappoint. He sat right on the edge of his seat for the full hour, clutching his much coveted, newly purchased Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince book by J. K. Rowling (new ed. published 1 Sept 2014 by Bloomsbury Children’s).

Hoo's Fest 4

Hoo's Fest 3

You cannot beat a good book festival event for encouraging reading and providing additional depth to a story. So, sorry if anyone reading this got accosted by my youngest asking if they’d like a doughnut. He was wholeheartedly joining in with the interactive spirit of the day!

If you liked the sound of this event, please follow me on Twitter Amanda Lonergan (@lonerganbooks) and Facebook to hear about other upcoming author events, book crafts, news on children’s book releases and much more.

CLICK TO BUY Please Mr Panda



CLICK TO BUY The Queen’s Handbag



CLICK TO BUY Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: 6/7 (Harry Potter 6)



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London Storytelling Events for May Half Term

Fun 1

Looking for ideas to keep the kids out of trouble this May half term? I thought I’d sneak in an extra blog this week to pull together some suggestions of exciting storytelling events (in no particular order) for those of you in and around London.

Paper Performances: Museum of London, Docklands

Monday 25th May 2015 – a free drop in session to design your own paper theatre to bring your stories to life.

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph: Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford

Saturday 30th May 2015 – An author, illustrator and book signing event from the winner of the Waterstones 2015 Children’s Book Prize.

Fulham Palace Fun Day: Fulham Palace SW6

Wednesday 29th May 2015 – Family drama, storytelling and dress up sessions.

A World of Stories: Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill, SE23

Every Sunday now until 31st May 2015 – interactive story session inspired by their exhibitions. Age 5+

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Southbank Centre, SE1

Wednesday 27th May and Thursday 28th May 2015 – An adaptation of the award winning book by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto.

Sam’s Pet Temper: Paddington Library, Westminster

Thursday 28th May 2015 – Canadian author, Sangeeta Bhadra tells the story of Sam’s Pet Temper followed by a craft session for 3-10 year olds.

Adventures in Wonderland: The Vaults, Waterloo

Permanent venue – step into Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and experience it for yourself! Ages 5+

The One Dollar Horse, Shaping Stories: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Saturday 23rd May 2015 – Meet Lauren St John, children’s author of The One Dollar Horse and create your own horse-inspired tales.

The Alice Look: V & A Museum of Childhood, E2

From now until 1 November 2015 – an exhibition of rare editions to inspired fashions showing how Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has changed, adapted and influenced many trends throughout the world.

Greenwich Book Festival: University of Greenwich, SE10

Friday 22nd May – Sunday 24th May 2015 – Many events, workshops and activities from designing your own book cover with artist Alexandra Antenopolou, meeting the award-winning children’s illustrator Axel Scheffler or Steven Butler with Dennis the Menace to a puppet adaptation of Polly Dunbar’s book Flyaway Kate. Plus so much more so follow the link above!

The Paper Dolls: Little Angel Theatre, N1

From now until Sunday 28th June 2015 – a performance based on the book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb and the Paper Dolls Crafty Day on Friday 29th May.

Roald Dahl’s The Twits: Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square

From now until Sunday 31st May 2015 – Theatrical performance of The Twits followed by a free storytelling workshop for 8-11 year olds.

There’s some great events there so let me know how you get on.

Are You Listening?

Man Not Listening

Image courtesy of artur84 at

I’m currently reading Their Name is Today (Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World) by Johann Christoph Arnold. Its psychological approach to parenting interests and challenges me. As the title implies, it poses the view that children today have lost their childhood to a fast paced, selfish and demanding world (there was me thinking that was life in general) and that we as parents should take responsibility to show our children how to be kids again and admit the part our parental short comings have played in taking their childhood away.

Apart from the book leaving me feeling vastly inadequate as a parent and my initial reaction is to dismiss it and crawl into my hermit shell singing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, the reason it is painful is because it does broach some home truths. One such topic is that of adult hypocrisy and how we should be more aware of practising what we preach. I often say, that by regularly reading yourself your children will also naturally adopt the same habit/interest/indoctrination (call it what you like but it does have an effect). Children naturally copy adults and as they haven’t fully figured out this whole right and wrong thing yet this will extend to the good and the bad habits we have adopted. One example that came up in the book was an adult’s fear of failing. Most adults in one form or another are scared of failing or not living up to their own or others expectations yet at the same time we continue to pass on this fear to our children by expecting them to achieve more and more, be better than us and laugh in the face of the very fear we hold. With this point of view it’s not hard to see how the pressure on children is intensifying over generations.

I’ve previously talked about the common fear of failing as a parent. One of my biggest parenting frustrations at the moment with my eldest is that he refuses or won’t (not quite sure which) listen to what I or my husband say to him. This can be anything from whirling around the house in La La land ignoring the repeated requests (turning to demands) of getting shoes and coat on for school to being totally distraught about something yet refusing to listen to reason, sympathy or advice and responding with a squeak. Although I’ve probably just described most children after a certain age, I’m really hoping he will come out the other side, eventually! When exactly did this transition happen? A child who used to be very vocal with his feelings and insistent with his questions now refuses to talk about anything other than stones or Minecraft. Help he’s nowhere near a teenager yet! Oh but at least he’s a good reader!!!

Seriously though, after reading this book I decided to look at this from a different angle and tentatively questioned (surely I can’t be making a mistake can I?) that just maybe it’s me that has stopped listening to my children and they are merely learning by observation. Oh no, this book could be onto something! Sometimes we do need to stop and evaluate our circumstances. Mine for example have changed. I am busier with work commitments which impacts on when I do household chores which………yep………..can I bring myself to say it……..impacts on the time I spend with my children and the time I spend listening to my children. I’ve also grumbled in the past to other parents about how I feel I’m constantly putting my children off by saying “yes we’ll do that later”, “I’d love to, but not right now”, “let me finish the ironing” etc. Well maybe that’s because I am putting them off? These are basically creative versions of “no.” Am I saying to my child that the ironing is more important than them?

Of course that’s not what I am intending to say. Believe me, I am not a lover of ironing, I’d much rather play dominoes but from a practical point of view these things need to be managed. Yet in a child’s world maybe this is not the message they receive. So last weekend, with a three and a half hour car journey to tackle and all of us in need of practising our listening skills, instead of sticking on the DVD player I decided to play a children’s audio book in the car. Ok we weren’t listening to each other but being late at night and with the kids tired I thought it the best solution for the time we had. I chose the BBC dramatisation of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A classic my husband and I remember from our childhoods.

Although it did feel like listening to an old episode of The Archers set to sinister music, it was enjoyable to the extent that it gave us something to think about and imagine and once your imagination kicks in, time seems to travel so much faster on a long journey. The BBC definitely needs to do something about the creepy music though. That element didn’t go down well with my boys and was askew to any memories I have of the character’s exciting discovery of the Secret Garden. I know the characters weren’t supposed to go into the garden but wasn’t that part of the adventure?

The conclusion to our audio book trial was that our children fell asleep, my husband, being an avid reader himself (well you’d have to be to cope with being married to the bonkers book lady!) has discovered some Terry Pratchett audio books to devour in his own time and we’re planning on embarking on some more audio book testing over the next couple of months. Maybe not so late at night and possibly a mixture of modern and classic children’s stories but I’ll let you know how it goes with some review suggestions for travelling during your summer holidays.

Actions Speak Louder than Words


RFH Sea Quest Day OutAny of you who have been following my blogs for a few months now I hope are beginning to understand where I’m coming from in trying to show how maintaining an interest in reading extends beyond the book itself. I often highlight here on this blog and my Facebook page any upcoming book related events which I think look interesting and exciting for young readers and in turn talk about the benefits and how attending these events aids their understanding and enthusiasm for reading. However so far I have not blogged about any of the actual events themselves! So today I thought I would let you know how my family and I got on at the Children’s Imagine Festival last Sunday at the Southbank Centre in London. Our first hand experience of what it was like and what each of us got out of it.

So we packed ourselves into the London bound train with tickets in hand heading for the Sea Quest family workshop. My eldest has read some of the books whereas my youngest hadn’t got a clue what they were all about but we still thought it was worth taking him as he usually likes to get stuck in with anything creative.

We arrived a little bit earlier to give us time to absorb the atmosphere of people bustling up and down the stairs, admire the early years vintage library corner and the preparations underway in the foyer for the Young Orchestra for London.

RFH Foyer

Once we’d weaved our way upwards through the crowds to the 5th floor we weren’t really sure what to expect next as the approachable staff ushered us into one of the practical function rooms at the Royal Festival Hall.

Each child gingerly located a comfy spot on the tarpaulin covered floor and the adults perched on chairs around the room whilst we were welcomed by an intrepid explorer; who at times I did feel was possibly being chased by one of the Beast Quest monsters judging by the rather overly rushed delivery of the presentation! None the less, he was enthusiastic and kept the children fully engaged and eager to demonstrate their impressive knowledge of weaponry and indestructible beasts.

RFH Hero Flip Chart

RFH Beast Quest BingoIn order to lead everyone into the world of Adam Blade and his torturous, terrifying monsters, a lively discussion was initiated about what would make a good hero followed by a bingo version of Beast Quest monsters and a bag of goodies thrust upon four lucky winners.

Next we saw the children participating in a group brainstorming session to design their own underwater battleship and creepy creature to combat. The children’s vivid and varied imaginations resulted in the Crab Destroyer being top trumped by the Undefeatable Defeater!

RFH Undefeatable DefeaterRFH Crab Destroyer

Therefore it is with reluctance that I say perhaps a slight anti-climax was felt on my part, possibly stemming from an unrealistic expectation of the event judging by the numbers attending but I had hoped for more individual participation and thought there was potential for the organisers to have expanded on the story creation idea before bundling us out clutching our free bookmark. As the workshop was hosted by the book publisher, anyone expecting to see Mr Blade himself would have been sorely disappointed too but on the whole it was very reasonably priced at £4 per child for such an entertaining and animated activity. Much had been crammed into the fifty short minutes and the event had achieved what it had set out to do. From our point of view the duration meant both boys interest was maintained throughout and we could easily combine our trip to London with meeting friends for dinner and breathing in the atmosphere of the Embankment with buskers by the river, onlookers milling around the skate park and tempting aromas engulfing the food market. 

RFH Beast Quest Pen BookmarkWe even succumbed to buying one of the Sea Quest books afterwards for our eldest which at the reduced price of £3 didn’t leave us feeling robbed in any way. The workshop has undoubtedly renewed my son’s interest in the books as he had already finished the new book by the time we had hopped off the train home. He has also since uncovered three more at our local library! So the publishers will be happy, the author should be very happy and as the parents of one happy reader, we too are happy and couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome. All in all amounting to the successful completion of our own compelling quest.

Beast Quest and Sea Quest Series by Adam Blade.

CLICK TO BUY Ferno the Fire Dragon: Book 1 (Beast Quest)



CLICK TO BUY Cephalox the Cyber Squid: Book 1 (Sea Quest)



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