Dinosaur Adventures – an interview with Fran Bromage

It’s always fun when I come across a funny book with an important message and get the chance to ask the author a few questions. Well…not so much me asking the questions but the interested 7 and 8 year olds in my class.

This is what they wanted to find out:

Did you always want to be an author and how did you get into writing children’s books?

Yes, I always wanted to be an author and an editor.

I loved English at school and enjoyed writing little stories in my free time. I went to university to study journalism and publishing, and then joined BBC Magazines as a junior writer. I worked on lots of different children’s magazines there for many, many years until I joined Penguin Books as a Senior Editor, and then came to Miles Kelly in 2013.

Why did you choose to write about dinosaurs?

My son, who’s seven now, has loved dinosaurs since he was a baby. We have a ton of toy dinosaurs in our house, dinosaur duvet sets, a giant cardboard T rex head (don’t ask!) in our lounge and too many dino books and DVDs to count! I find dinosaurs just as fascinating as he does, and we love all their strange, mysterious names.

 

What’s your favourite dinosaur? 

Parasaurolophus! What an odd-looking dinosaur and did they use their crest to make that trumpeting noise for any other reason than scaring away predators? Did they actually talk to each other? My son and I also love that Granny can’t pronounce it!

 

When you were little, what was your favourite book?

I loved anything by Enid Blyton, and devoured C S Lewis’ books too. My absolute favourites were by Roald Dahl though – The BFG and The Witches especially.

 

What was the last book you read?

My son and I are just finishing Five Children and It (E Nesbit) and I’d forgotten how magical it is. Although the language comes across as quite old now, the idea of finding a sand fairy who grants wishes is timeless and some bits of it are really funny.

 

Have you written any other books? What were they about?

I wrote our Get Set Go Grammar books together with an educational consultant, and rewrote the eight fairy stories, which feature in our Get Set Go Reading Together series (helping children learn phonic sounds while listening to familiar stories). There are also two books about monsters sitting in my writing shed at home. I wrote them at university as part of my course, and really should revisit and edit them now.

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

The planning for a book takes the longest time. I like to have a plot structure in place before I start writing or I find I run out of ideas or don’t get to the end. The writing comes easily – the planning can take weeks or even months!

(I can already hear all the teachers shouting “Thank you so much for highlighting the importance of the planning stage!”)

Do you always finish your stories or do some of them end up in the rubbish? 

Lots of my stories haven’t worked out at all, but I never throw anything away. You never know when you can take one idea from a story that didn’t work and knit it into a new story. No idea is a bad idea, it just might not be in the right story!

 

If you could have a dinner party, which three guests would you invite (dead or alive, no limits here) and why would you choose them?

Sir David Attenborough because he’s my absolute hero, and probably my son and husband because they’d NEVER forgive me if I had dinner with Sir David and didn’t invite them!

 

We were also very lucky to get a ‘How to draw’ guide from Louise Forshaw, the fabulous illustrator of Dinosaur Adventures. Why not try drawing Vicky the Velociraptor at home?

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We all loved Velociraptor, a Speedy Tale, mostly because we often get ourselves into a bit of a pickle if we don’t take the time to stop and think about what we’re doing. A fantastic book that teaches us that rushing things without thinking them through is rarely a good idea.

The whole series of Adventure Dinosaurs in available in a bag including all four books, a puzzle and a colouring book. Perfect to keep little ones entertained over the summer holidays.

For a chance to win a Dinosaur Adventure bag, follow us on twitter @Magpie_That2 and retweet the blogtour image. Good luck!

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A BIG thank you to Fran for taking the time to answer our questions and to Louise for creating the ‘ How to draw’ guide.

Velociraptor, a Speedy Tale, written by Fran Bromage, illustrated by Louise Forshaw and published by MilesKelly Publishing.

https://www.mileskelly.net/products/vecociraptor-the-speedy-tale

https://www.mileskelly.net/products/dinosaur-adventures-5-book-bag

Luna and the Moon Rabbit, an interview with Camille Whitcher

My class was lucky to get a Q&A with Camille.  Read on to find out what my seven year olds wanted to know…

Where did you get the idea for the story from?

It’s based on the myth of the Rabbit in the Moon. Some people can see a man in the moon, others can see a rabbit.

Why is the story set in Japan?

Japan is one of the countries where the Rabbit in the Moon myth exists.  My mum is Japanese too so I thought it’d be nice to set it there.

Why did you choose a rabbit as the animal in the story?

Rabbits are awesome! They’re very interesting animals. They’re cute and seem vulnerable but they can also be strong and sometimes aggressive.

Which came first, the story or the pictures?

Definitely the pictures. I naturally think in pictures rather than words. I usually think of a nice picture I want to draw and then more picture ideas come from there, which then become a story.

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Have you always been fascinated by the moon?

Not particularly, but when I was a child some of my favourite TV programmes were based on the moon. Ask your teacher or another adult about “Button Moon” or the “Clangers” who lived on a planet that was just like our moon.

Have you ever looked through a telescope at the moon? If so, how did it make you feel?

What went through your head at the time?Yes, I have. It made me feel very small. I wondered whether one day it’ll be normal for humans to go and visit the moon, for a holiday or to live. I have also seen Jupiter through a telescope which is very impressive. I wouldn’t want to live there though – ask your teacher why!

Is this the first book you have published?

Yes, it is, and I hope to publish more one day.

Were you good at writing stories and drawing as a child?

I was pretty good at drawing as a child. I used to make up stories but I never really wrote them down. I much preferred drawing them. I don’t think it matters whether anyone is “good” at drawing or writing. If you enjoy it, you should do it. The more you do it, the better you’ll become.

What do you like about writing stories?

I have a lot of stories and other things in my head. If I write them down, it gives me room to think about even more!

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction books?

That’s a difficult question. I like non-fiction because I like learning about new things, but sometimes the things I learn about are scary because they’re real.

I like fiction because there are no rules, anything can happen. If you want to read about a boy whose feet are made of cheese, or a girl who has six tails, then you can go and find that book. If it doesn’t exist (I don’t think cheesy feet boy or six tail girl books exist!), then you can write it for others to read. If you can imagine it, it can be a story.

Did you study to become an artist? If so where did you study?

Yes, I did. I went to Cambridge School of Art and did a master’s degree that specialised in children’s book illustration.

How did you make the pictures -did you use paint, pencils or a computer?

I used Quink ink, which is supposed to really be just for writing, and I used watercolour paints, coloured pencils and some acrylic ink.

Do you have a pet?

Just imaginary ones at the moment! I’ve actually never had a pet before – not even a goldfish! I’d love to have a cat but I seem to be allergic to a lot of them. I also would like to have a rabbit or two, and maybe a dog. I also like guinea pigs!

If you weren’t working as an author/ illustrator, what would you do instead?

Hmmm, maybe I’d like to be a dressmaker. I like sewing, but I’m not very quick at making things.

Could we please get a picture of Camille’s workspace and some jottings?

You can have a picture of my workspace but please bear in mind Albert Einstein’s quote…“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”;-)

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Shahad: ” Miss, Camille’s desk is just as cluttered as yours!”

Gotta love the honesty and observation skills of children!

We would like to thank Camille for answering our questions and wish her good luck for her first book.

Luna and the Moon Rabbit written and illustrated by the wonderful Camille Whitcher and published by Scribblers, winner of the Stratford- Salariya Picture Book Prize, definitely worth a read.

 

What Do Animals Do All Day? by Wendy Hunt

We loved the first book ‘What Do Grown Ups Do All Day’ so it was no surprise that we love the animal version of the book just as much.

Embark on a journey through 14 different habitats and meet over a hundred different animals. On each page, we meet different animals, learn what they do all day and how they fit into the environment they live in. Beavers are described as architects, clownfish  as security guards and elephants as landscape gardeners- a great way to explain to children what animals do in the wild.

We especially enjoyed the ‘Tropical Island’ habitat and spotting the animals that live there.

If your littleone is interested in wildlife, they’ll love this book.

What Do Animals Do All Day, written by Wendy Hunt, illustrated by Muti and published by Wide Eyed Editions.

Look out, It’s a Dragon by Jonny Lambert

We love this book! The illustrations are fun and Saffi is simply the most lovable dragon in the world!

Saffi isn’t like other dragons. She is sweet and caring and doesn’t enjoy capturing princesses and crushing castles. So she decides to move to a more ‘suited’ neighbourhood. The only problem is, her new neighbours don’t quite believe that she is different to all the other fire-breathing, home squashing, lumbering beasts.

This heart-warming, funny story with its bold and beautiful illustrations is our new favourite bedtime story! A must read for young book worms.

Look Out, It’s a Dragon!, written and illustrated by Jonny Lambert and published by Little Tiger Group.

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Wild World by Angela McAllister

I rarely come across non-fiction poetry picture books especially ones that are so stunning! Hvass and Hannibal, the illustrators, capture the beautiful wilderness in all its diversity brilliantly.

Angela McAllister uses her powerful and moving poetry to describe the animals and plants of the various habitats, raising awareness of the dangers they face and our connections to them. Simply gorgeous!

We had fun playing ‘spot the animal’ on each double page spread and then learned about the specific problem threatening each habitat. We particularly liked the ‘Woodlands’ page because we have seen these animals in the wild around where we live. There are also very useful tips on what we can do to save the different ecosystems.

A real gem of a book and definitely worth a read.

Wild World, written by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Hvass & Hannibal and published by Wide Eyed Editions.

In the Woods by Thereza Rowe

Red, the fox, is getting married and everyone in the woods is excited and getting ready for the big event. Well… not everybody.

Olly, the horse, isn’t feeling too happy because he is the only one not to have turned into a unicorn. Lionel, the lion, has lost his pride and then the wedding cake gets stolen. The illustrations are fun, bold and colourful and really add to the happy storyline of this book.

A lovely tale highlighting the importance of friendship, helping each other and cheering each other up.

Be Happy Now! That’s certainly the feeling we were left with after we finished reading the book.

In The Woods, written and illustrated by Thereza Rowe, published by Thames & Hudson.

 

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A masterclass with Duncan Beedie

How can children be motivated to put down their tablet,  pick up a book and read?

A question many parents and teachers have often asked themselves. In our case the answer was simple – enter Duncan Beedie.

We were very lucky when Duncan agreed to visit our school to celebrate the launch of his latest book, The Last Chip. I am not sure who was more excited to meet a real life author and illustrator, the children or myself.

 

Duncan’s day started off in Key Stage 1, where around 150 5 -7 year olds hung on his every word.  I have rarely seen that many  children so engaged and listening so carefully  to a book; in this case, The Lumberjack’s Beard. The questions afterwards really showed that the children had been paying attention and were interested. They loved the story and have been looking for more Duncan Beedie books in the library ever  since.

Next stop, and a slightly more daunting task: motivate Key Stage 2 to read more. Much easier with a world premiere! The gasps of excitement echoing through the hall were clearly audible when Duncan explained that they were the first children to read the book ahead of the official book launch. One could have heard a pin drop while Duncan was reading The Last Chip. The children enjoyed spotting famous Bristolian landmarks and when Duncan showed everyone how to illustrate Percy, the pigeon, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘so cools’ were unstoppable. Later on in class, everyone had the chance to illustrate Percy. The results were amazing.

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From Key Stage 2 we headed over to reception and around 80 4-5 year olds. We were all very impressed with their listening and the children clearly enjoyed The Last Chip. They too had a go at illustrating and making up their own Percy stories.

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In the afternoon, Year 3 took part in an illustration masterclass. A step-by-step guide on how to draw Percy. Easy once you know who the inspiration for Percy was- Star Wars enthusiasts might have spotted a slight similarity with R2D2? Well, once the children knew that Duncan enjoyed Star Wars….

 

Duncan very kindly donated copies of his books to our school library, needless to say that since his visit, these books are the clear favourites. There is such a buzz in the library and not just about Duncan’s books but generally about books where children are comparing and talking about the books they have read.

It is thanks to people like Duncan, who give up their time and introduce children to new experiences and possibilities, that learning comes to life.  Meeting people with real jobs who are successful in what they do raises aspirations and opens possibilities; and meeting authors helps foster and develop a love of reading and this in turn gives children a firm foundation for success in life. Half my class have now decided they want to become illustrators and authors when they grow up (a profession that had never been mentioned prior to Duncan’s visit).

A huge THANK YOU to Duncan Beedie and everyone at Templar for making this all possible.

 

 

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