Monthly Archives: March 2014

Rob Lloyd-Jones on characters…

Rob has been encouraging students at Somerhill Juniors to get thinking about their favourite characters, and now it’s there turn to invent one! Here’s a selection of their creations (click the thumbnails to enlarge).


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LIVE manatees and rare leopards…

Take a peek at the latest email from Rudyard Kipling’s Y4 classes to Nicola Davies, complete with more fabulous Manatee posters!

Dear Nicola,

We are reading your fantastic book and were really proud of it as we know you have spent a lot of your time writing it!

This week we have made conservation posters that we are going to send to you when our teacher scans them in. We are learning lots about Manatee conservation, which has helped us with our posters. We have found a brilliant website that allows us to watch LIVE manatees everyday! The website is: The website has shown us real manatees in their homes. We have started to give them names because of their scars. Its brilliant! Here are some questions for you!

1. What was the favorite book of yours that you have written?

2. What was your favorite animal when you were in school?

3. Why did you want to write books?

4. Have you named any manatees in captivity yourself?

5. What has been your favorite adventure you have been on to research a book?

Oh and we hope you find that extremely rare specie of leopard. We all reeeeeeeeeally want to see one more of your books! Our teacher (Mr Scutt) has told us that you were very kind and sent us more books! Totally awesome! We are looking forward to finishing manatee baby and starting another one!

You are really the best author we have read, and we are all begging to see someone as skilled as you(which of course is going to be nearly impossible!

 We are dieing to meet you Nicola!!!!! Hope you can get more books and you can find that rare leopard!

From Ahdeek and Shada (The class names)

Best Wishes!

(Written by Aymen and Reece)

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Captain Ponkerton’s ‘How to make a Baddie’

Here’s Alex Milway’s latest email to Bevendean Primary’s Year 6 classes who he has set the challenge of designing their own baddies. Below his email is a brilliant selection of their imaginative responses!

Hello Team!
Excellent work on your Mythical 10th Divisions! The pictures and descriptions are brilliant – and they’re really shaping up into something special.
And now, you have a team and a badge, and your main characters, but there’s still one thing missing – a baddie. So for this week’s challenge, I want you to create the biggest meanest baddie you can, someone who your team will have to save the world against. There’s a lot to think about when creating the baddie in a book. First, they need a reason for being bad. What are they up to that threatens the world? 
Second, your baddie needs a super brilliant name. Sometimes alliteration helps to make them sound awesome. Give your baddie’s name two words that start with the same letter. Some examples: Dick Dastardly, Veronica Venom, Severus Snape. You get the idea! 
And third, your baddie needs a cool look. I’ve attached one of my first drawings of Balaclava, to show you how he started out. He didn’t change much – but key to it was that he was wearing a balaclava hood. Think about items of clothing that either look great, or carry some sort of history. Bank robbers or burglars often wear balaclavas, so you automatically associate the clothing with bad people. 
So, does your baddie wear an evil mask? Are they aliens with eighty eyeballs? Do they have cannons for arms? All these things make a baddie more exciting, and help them make a really great first impression. When your reader first meets a baddie, after all, you want them to be really memorable.
Lots to think about here, then Team. I can’t wait to see what you come up with! 
Over and Out!
Captain Ponkerton
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Mick Jackson on style and voice

BHASVIC creative writing students asked: ‘How would describe your style and how did you find it?’


I could probably spend the rest the day just answering this one.  ‘Finding one’s voice’ is quite possibly the trickiest part of writing.  I’d like to think that each book I start has a slightly different voice or style to the previous one, but after half a dozen books I can see that I’m drawn to particular material and have certain habits when I write. Like most writers, I imagine, I began by impersonating – to some degree or other – the writers I admired.  As I may have mentioned before, I’m a big fan or Richard Brautigan, so I suspect some of my very early (and very short) short stories sounded a little like him.  Also, writers like Salman Rushdie and Peter Carey (witty, clever writers of rich prose) loomed pretty large in my imagination in my twenties so I guess there was something of them in there too.  But even as I write that I want to rush to my own defence.  If I had their voices rattling round my head I would have hated to think that I was incorporating them into my own text.  And every writer has to feel that they’re doing something unique and original.  So the truth is probably that I was trying out all sorts of stories, and possibly different voices in each one and just seeing which ones worked and where the writing led me.
I’m a firm believer that each story has a voice to suit it, even if it’s written in the third person (ie: a ‘voice’ is not just for novels in which the protagonist talks directly to the reader).  My first novel, The Underground Man, was about an eccentric Victorian eccentric.  When I start developing the idea I knew nothing about the Victorian period and its literature, but it gradually dawned on me that I should probably read Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and some books by Rider Haggard and Wilkie Collins, etc to try and get an idea what happened in a Victorian novel and the various tones in which they written.  I also discovered these fabulous, crazy novels that encouraged me to write a rather crazy book of my own.  One of the best things I ever did while researching a novel was to just go into my local library and request some letters which had been written around the time my book was set (the mid-late 1800s).  I spent maybe a day reading through them – trying to get some sense of their syntax (the order of words in a sentence) and choice of vocabulary, etc.  On the one hand, it gave me some ideas how to work towards the voice of my protagonist, but just as importantly, it gave me confidence – and that, as you’re probably already finding out, is the key to good writing.  To put it another way, trying to write when you’re lacking confidence is incredibly hard.
So when I came to write my second novel, Five Boys, which is set in a different part of the country, in an entirely different period, I felt I was working in a very different direction.  It was only when I’d finished that I saw the odd similarity.  All my books have eccentricity in them somewhere … and a sense of grief/loss … which is hopefully leavened by wit or humour.  And I can’t deny that the gothic element keeps popping up.  So, better than most people, I can see the links between my books, but also how they’re different (or how I’ve tried to make them different, which isn’t quite the same thing).  But you’re reading ‘Ten Sorry Tales’, which when I look back at it now, feels like a sort of old-fashioned vinyl album.  Tom Waits was once asked how he came up with the ideas for songs for a particular record and he said something like, ‘I come up with a couple of ideas, put them in a biscuit tin and they have babies.’  That’s pretty much what happened with the stories in Ten Sorry Tales.

Somerhill’s favourite characters

Somerhill Juniors’ book group have been paired up with author Rob Lloyd-Jones to read his victorian tale ‘Wild Boy’. Here is his first challenge for them as writers. The fantastic response below is by Rudy (click the image to enlarge).

First off, can I just say how thrilled I am to be your ‘adopted author’, and how much I’m looking forward to chatting with you, answering questions about writing and Wild Boy, as well as suggesting some writing challenges that you could try to develop your own story-telling skills.

What is your favourite story, and why do you love it so much? A writer’s job is to think about how people feel, and to describe those feelings – so I’d like you to really think hard about how that favourite story makes you feel, and why you couldn’t stop reading it, and then try to describe those feelings as best as you can.


Rudyard Kipling are mad about manatees!

Year 4 at Rudyard Kipling School have been paired with author and environmentalist Nicola Davies and are reading her book ‘Manatee Baby’. Their first question for her was about the word ‘conservation’. Here’s a glimpse of her fantastic response:

You mentioned that the word ‘conservation’ was sometimes a really tricky thing to understand. You’re dead right – it’s hard to understand because it can mean so many different things. When I went to the Amazon to research Manatee Baby I learned something about that. One way that people work to the conservation of manatees is to persuade fishermen not to hunt them any more. Although manatee hunting is against the law, people still do it in places that are a long way from a police station – as many small villages on the river are! So to stop people hunting, they had to WANT to stop. The organisation Natutama with whom I worked in the Amazon told me that one of the ways they persuaded the fishermen was to always have a pot of coffee ready and something to eat in their kitchen, so that fishermen would pop in on their way home from the river. That way, the Natutama workers could just chat to the fishermen without trying to tell them off at all, but just to tell them things about manatees – such as how slowly they breed and how easily their numbers can fall. They could also ask the fishermen about the manatees they had seen, and remind the fishermen of all the traditional stories about manatees and how important they are in the local culture. Little by little, the fishermen started to say they didn’t want to catch manatees any more. And once they had started to think about how slowly manatees would recover from being hunted, they also began to think about other forms of life in the river, and how they could make sure that those animals too would be in the river for their grandchildren in the future.

So sometimes, conservation can be about making coffee and biscuits and having a chat!

Here are some pages from Bobby and Lubna’s manatee fact files…

Bobby - InsideLubna - Inside