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.

The Power of Words

Words can inspire quote

Before Christmas I put up this link on my Facebook page (Children’s Books by Amanda Lonergan) to the video of actor B. J. Novak reading his book titled “The Book with No Pictures” to a hall full of young school children. Their reactions were a delight to witness, the giggles; the anticipation and the captivation were clearly evident and a poignant demonstration of how words alone can entertain. As an aspiring children’s picture book author with relatively average drawing skills this is a comforting thought that the words can evoke such enthusiasm yet at the same time I feel a little apprehension creeping in as to the responsibility this entails.

We all know how one misplaced word or a poorly phrased sentence in an email can change the whole tone and lead to misinterpretation and even cause unintended offence. In the same way if a child takes a dislike to a story, the vocabulary is incomprehensible to them or it causes nightmares it could easily put them off reading for life! Every book that a child (or adult) reads is an experience. This may be an experience of new information, new emotions, a new understanding or a reinforcement of previous feelings and judgements. Yet the same book experience can be interpreted very differently by each individual so inevitably will shape each individual’s world in a unique way. Take the following example from an early English nursery rhyme:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.”

What would you interpret this to mean? “It doesn’t matter what others think of me” OR “I should not feel hurt by someone else’s cruel words.”

Initially you may think that both interpretations essentially mean the same thing but look again and you will see that the first is empowering the reader whilst the latter is implying the reader is weak if they feel hurt by verbal abuse; which we all know is undoubtedly hurtful and it certainly should not be considered weak to acknowledge such emotions. These two interpretations would likely go towards shaping two very different outlooks on life.

So if we all interpret things differently, how can an author possibly write a book which is loved and adored by every single child around the globe? The reality check is that it’s absolutely impossible, however ensuring that the vocabulary used offers a positive experience and influence for all, is possible.

Children’s books need to be fun and light-hearted in order to be enjoyable, a pleasure to read and act as a platform for them to learn through play. Sometimes the books may broach difficult topics but that shouldn’t stop them being written in such a way as to help the child become a glass half full type of person rather than a glass half empty type of person. Like anything, maintaining a positive outlook on life doesn’t always come naturally, especially if life insists on continually throwing lemons at you, it needs to be learnt and one way to show children how to do this is by the books that they read helping them deal with their emotions and think positively from an early age.

Read Newspaper Image

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So does this mean all words in children’s books should strictly adhere to dictionary perfection and be full of words like strength, individuality and inspiration? Far from it! Some of the words in B.J. Novak’s book were in fact nonsense words and it was because of this that they got a giggle due to their lack of meaning and his well timed delivery and tone opposed to any deep and meaningful message. In the same vein Dr Seuss’s “wocket” from There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and Roald Dahl’s “snozzberry” from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory are brilliant examples of this use of nonsensical humour being incorporated into their stories. I’m not saying we should get sloppy and misspell words or avoid popping the occasional bigger word in to challenge the reader, but adding in a make believe word can show children it is fun to play with words and encourage them to think and imagine beyond what is traditionally accepted as correct. Knowing what isn’t strictly correct often gives them a firmer grasp on what is. Reading traditionally written books can expand a child’s vocabulary for better communication whereas reading a book incorporating made up words can show them they are in control of their own expression through words and language rather than the words and language limiting and controlling their expression.

On that note I’d like to wish you all a happy, healthy and successful 2015 and some additional articles to read.

Words can change your brain by Therese J. Borchard

The Psychology of Words by M. Farouk Radwan MSc.