Book review: If You Were Night

Title: If You Were Night

Written by: Mượn Thị Văn

Illustrated by: Kelly Pousette

Published by: Kids Can Press

This enchanting picture book asks the reader a series of questions like: “If you were night, what would you do?” It encourages the reader to walk into the night on an adventure to explore what they can find and to consider how they would act and respond to the breath-taking stimuli such as an otter splashing, a spider stitching by starlight or a slug munching.

There is a poetic, calm and lyrical feel to this beautiful picture book. It is certainly a unique and fantastical exploration of the natural world at night that engages all the readers senses. The illustrations are amazing paper-cut dioramas that brings the night alive with wildlife and magic – each one more evocative than the last. The children will spend hours examining the intricate cut-outs to spot the creatures and learn more about their world.

The ideal book for bedtime reading and to lull your small child into a sleep full of miraculous dreams about what happens outside when the sun goes down. It could be used in the classroom to support topics and discussion on nature and the natural environment and will help to encourage their observations skills and encourage curiosity.

A book to cherish.

An interview with… Sahar Mustafah

For the October 2020 edition of the national writing magazine, Writers’ Forum, I interview Palestinian-American author, Sahar Mustafah about the research she did to build her characters in her novel The Beauty of Your Face.

Sahar told me she was interested in addressing the immediate threat toward the Muslim American community, as well as tell an authentic story about where we come from and the forces that bring us to the present moment. For her, story always comes first. She typically begins writing the narrative before supplementing necessary research and she is particularly interested in the humanistic details of her characters.

Sahar explained research aids description and builds setting. She wanted to first have a sense of her characters’ inner lives then flesh out any pertinent factual elements. She did not want to depict flat, contrived characters so she limited her research so as not to be trapped by a profile.

“In my preliminary research, I was very moved by Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway. Though it’s a nonfiction, journalistic account, Seierstad offers a compelling narrative of the life of the murderer which doesn’t offer redemption or any sort of justification, as much as an understanding of how he had come to kill 69 young people and eight adults at a camp. It’s quite well-written though indelibly disturbing.”

Sahar Mustafah

Her protagonist, Afaf’s, storyline came, in part, from her personal background and the stories others have shared with her from her community. Her experience in Palestine allowed her to build that world when referenced in the novel in realistic ways, as well as having mostly lived and been raised in Illinois.

“After 9/11, my family and friends were experiencing near-daily incidents of harassment and discrimination at their local schools or on a trip to the grocery store.”

Sahar Mustafah

With every project, she begins a new journal or notebook in which I separate narrative notes from research questions/components. This allows Sahar to see her story arc clearly and flesh out characterization and outline plot without the distraction of technical, informational components. Sahar Mustafah’s tips to other writers when they are researching is to be wary of the rabbit-hole of research, i.e. clickbait and consumption of peripheral and supplementary information, which is presently so much more accessible via the internet.

“It’s easy to get caught up in informational or factual reading rather than the writing of story. I continue to find balance in my own writing practices. Research can be a quick and easy distraction for me so I limit its time. I tend to write in the morning so research in the latter part of the day is more productive for me.”

Sahar Mustafah
The beauty of your Face by Sahar Mustafah

As a lover of stories, Sahar explained she seeks out informal interviews with individuals relating to aspects of her research. She believes these help to preserve the humanity of the experience, in addition to providing technical facts and information. Her family members and friends who have provided time and interesting first hand accounts have been the seed of new stories.

You can find out more about Sahar Mustafah on her website www.saharmustafah.com or follow her on Twitter: @saharmustafah

An interview with… Peter James

In September 2009, I interviewed crime writer, Peter James, author of the international bestselling Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series, published in over 30 languages, spends a day a week out with the Police and has recently been made Patron of Sussex Crimestoppers.  He told me all about his research for, Dead Tomorrow, published by Macmillan, June 5th 2009. This was one of the most shocking and fascinating interviews I have ever undertaken.

Peter James 1 - Low Res

Peter told me that for him, research is as important an element in writing his novels as character and plot. He views each of these elements as an inseparable trinity.

“Each of my Roy Grace novels has its genesis in a true story or in research facts – as indeed do all of my previous novels.” (Peter James)

The central story of Dead Tomorrow is a single mother, Lynn Beckett, whose 15 year old daughter, Caitlin, is suffering liver failure.  Unless she gets a transplant within weeks she will not survive. Knowing the true fact that 3 people die every day in the UK waiting for a transplant, Lynn panics that the system will let her daughter down and goes on the internet. She discovers a German organ broker who can obtain a liver for her but at a terrible financial and human price.

He explained the spark for Dead Tomorrow came from a chance conversation at a dinner party, back in 1998. He was seated next to multi-award winning documentary film maker Kate Blewett – best known for the harrowing The Dying Rooms. She asked Peter how much he thought his body was worth as a soup of chemicals. Peter had no idea and Kate informed him it was worth about 50p. She then asked how much he thought he was worth in body parts as a reasonably healthy human being and stunned Peter by telling him the black market price for a healthy teenage or adult human is around $1m.

You can get up to $400k for your liver, the same again for your heart-lungs, $60k for each kidney, then your skin, eyes, bones, and a few other bits and pieces…. The reason being there is a world shortage of human organs, caused by improvements in transplant techniques, a reluctance for people to donate, and most ironic off all, by more people wearing car seat belts – which means they don’t die of head injuries so much any more, leaving their bodies – and internal organs – intact. As a result, three people die every day in the UK, waiting for a transplant. Around 20% of people on the liver transplant waiting lists will die before they get one – in the USA the figure is as high as 90%.

Dead Tomorrow

In the past decade a huge international market for human organs has evolved.  In some countries it is illegal in others, it openly goes on. China has been steadily lowering the threshold of the death penalty for several years running, executing prisoners with a single head-shot and selling their bodies to Taiwan. Manilla in the Philippines is now known as One Kidney Island. You can go there for an all-inclusive price of about £50k, and get a kidney transplant. In India, in some castes, women routinely sell one kidney before they get married, for their dowry, and are joyfully happy with the $250 they receive.  In Columbia, the mafia are making more money out of human organ trafficking in some parts of the country, than from drugs.

As a true example of the illicit trade, in 1990, eminent British kidney transplant surgeon, Dr Raymond Crockett, who Peter has interviewed, was struck off the medical register for nine years for illegally buying kidneys, for UK patients, from four students in Turkey.

James told me he wrote a story for HBO Television in the USA several years ago.  It was about an eight-year-old street kid called Juanita who was begging outside El Dorado Airport in Bogota, Columbia.  She was arrested by the police and handed to a care agency.  From there she was put in an orphanage, a beautiful home in the country, with other kids her age.  When she was fourteen, the parents of a teenage girl in the USA, desperate for a liver, paid the Columbian mafia $450,000.  Juanita, who was a match, was killed and all her organs were harvested. Peter said:

“I am sure you are think that as I write fiction, that story was fiction.  But sadly it wasn’t, it was true…” (Peter James)

For each novel, it is not just the lives of his villains and victims that he researches. Peter explained keeping current with the police and getting the correct police procedures right is absolutely crucial. Early in Dead Tomorrow, a dredger hauls up the body of a recently dead teenager from the seabed, just off the coast of Brighton. Peter needed to understand how a dredger works, and what it does, so he spent a day at sea on a working one, off Shoreham.  Then he needed to understand what the police would do in this instance, and was told a Police dive team – the Specialist Search Unit – would go out and search the seabed for clues. 

“The SSU kindly took me out to sea on a training exercise – and there I learned too much information…!!!  I always had a romantic notion that being a police diver must be a great gig – you get to swan around in scuba gear, getting paid to do what you love. Wrong! It was explained to me that the police almost always dive in zero visibility – in muddy canals full of barbed wire and rusting supermarket trolleys and jagged metal, or in sewers, or in weed-strewn lakes, or the bottom of the English Channel which is always churned up.” (Peter James)

In the interview Peter explained the procedure is to drop a weighted line down to the sea bed, then connected to the surface by a voice line and air line, they sink down, carrying a 200 metre cable over their shoulders, with a weight on each end of it – this is called a “jackstay”.  They then lay it out in a straight line on the sea or river bed, and swim back, holding the line in one hand and sweeping in the pitch darkness with the other.  If they find nothing, they move the weights a foot to the right or left, gridding out the bed.  When they find a body, under their strict procedures, they have to hug it, in case a current carries it away, and radio to the surface for a colleague to descend with an airbag to raise it to the surface.  They will have no way of knowing whether this body has been there for days, or weeks or months, and it is likely to be crawling with crabs.

Peter James next Roy Grace novel, Find Them Dead is due to be released July 2020.

Find out more about Peter James and his books on his website: www.peterjames.com

To read the complete feature you can purchase a copy of #95 Sept 2009 Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my latest Research Secrets or Writing 4 Children interviews you can invest in a subscription from the Writers’ Forum website, or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

Book Review: The Pirates are Coming!

Title: The Pirates are Coming!

Written by: John Condon

Illustrated by: Matt Hunt

Published by: Nosy Crow

The Pirates are Coming

The Pirates are Coming is a captivating tale about Tom who climbs the hill each morning to watch for pirates to arrive at the village. John Condon uses knowledge of eh classic story The Boy Who Cried Wolf to its advantage to set up a humorous and satisfying twist ending.

Unlike The Boy Who Cried Wolf story, Tom is not being naughty when he cries, “The Pirates are Coming!” as he really does believe he has spotted a pirate ship. Tom’s dad explains what a pirate ship looks like with patience and understanding, which gives the text a heart-warming feel.

I like the ingenious ways the villagers hide from the [pirates in the illustrations by Matt Hunt. Young readers can explore the pictures to see if they are able to find where each villager is hiding providing an interactive reading experience.

This book could be used to extend observation skills by looking at a selection of different silhouettes and asking the children to guess what the object is. An ideal book for stimulating discussion on families and relationships.

An interview with… Laura Wilson

In Oct 2009, I interviewed historical and psychological crime writer, Laura Wilson, about her research tips and techniques for my Research Secrets column in the national writing magazine Writers’ Forum #96.

Laura-Wilson-Freeway-300

Laura Wilson explained why for both historical and crime writers research is important. she said:

“There’s a standard piece of advice given to people who are starting to write fiction – write from your own experience. I would venture to suggest that if you are, like me, a writer of crime novels, it’s not very useful. What are you supposed to do? Go out and murder someone and then say, ‘Sorry, Officer, I was just doing it for research?’ It also rules out writing historical novels, science-fiction, fantasy, and quite a lot else besides.”

She explained that if you are not going to create a fictitious town or village, you can make your task easier by choosing to set your work in an area you know well. Laura often writes about the West End of London, as she lived and worked there for a number of years and is very familiar with it. However she did make it clear, a writer should always be allowed to take liberties. For example, she once moved a whole seaside town five miles down the Essex coast, although she pointed this out in the acknowledgements so the readers, if they choose to look at them, were forewarned and didn’t write her letters pointing out the ‘mistake’.

Another tip Laura gave in he feature to make life easier was give your protagonist a job you have done yourself. For example, Dick Francis, the ex-jockey, writes stories set in the world of horse-racing. Research for him must be comparatively simple, because he has both the knowledge and the contacts. Laura admitted sometimes too much knowledge can get in the way and hold up the action. The best piece of advice about writing she has ever come across is from Elmore Leonard, who says, ‘Leave out the boring bits’.

It’s always tempting to slip in factoids because you know them, forgetting that the reader wants a narrative, not a lot of information about coal-mining or dry-cleaning or how to put on a crinoline or whatever it happens to be.

She is adamant story-line must always be paramount, and don’t let anyone tell you different, as there’s a risk that research becomes a displacement activity that holds up the business of writing.  she explained there should be two main reasons for research: the first is to ensure that your story-line will stand up, and the second is to underpin your work with authenticity and truth.

she told me there are some practical steps one can take to find things out: the police and other experts are astonishingly helpful, provided that you are specific in your questions. Go to the library, do your homework, and work out exactly what it is you need to know first. Buying drinks or lunch usually pays dividends.

It’s important, too, to confirm things you think you already know – get it confirmed by another source. There’s a lot of debate about the efficacy of the internet as a research tool they need to be checked against something more reliable. People’s memories can be faulty, too. Nothing beats a spot of physical research – as Black Beauty said, ‘Feeling is believing’.

Research can bring your nearer to the characters. Laura said: 

“While writing my fifth novel, The Lover, I had great difficulty getting into the mind of the killer, Jim Rushton. The book is set during the Second World War and Rushton is a fighter pilot, so, after consulting the genuine articles, I booked myself a trip in the nearest machine I could get to a Spitfire, a Harvard Training plane which had been modified to seat two people.

I discovered for myself the amazing adrenaline rush other pilots had described to me.” (Laura Wilson)

T6harvard

To read the complete feature you can purchase a copy of #96 Oct 2009 Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my latest Research Secrets interview you can invest in a postal subscription from the Writers’ Forum website or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

For more information about Laura Wilson and her novels take a look at her website: www.laura-wilson.co.uk

Resolve the problem

In any story there will be a problem the character has to face and those problems have to be resolved by the end of the story. Often readers will be anticipating the ending they hope to see. They will have recognised the strengths and weaknesses in the characters and they will want them to overcome their problems and solve them in a satisfying way through their own resolve and intelligence.

problem solving2

A common mistake for many new writers, writing their first children’s novel is to have an adult whether it is a parent/carer or in some cases a total new character who is actually a stranger to the reader, storm in a save the day. This is not a satisfactory ending and in a lot of cases it feels as if the author has cheated, in the same way as waking up and finding it was all a dream. I know as a reader I want the resolution to be because of the actions of the hero of the story.

This resolution should be built up in a series of stages throughout your plot so it does not come out of the blue. It needs to make sense to the reader. Satisfying story endings use elements from the story’s beginning and middle. Here is one idea for a step by step approach, which I use in my own writing:

steps to solve the problem

Step One

Clearly describe what the problem is so it is clear to the reader and state why this is an issue for your protagonist. Make it clear to the reader why it is your hero’s problem not anyone else’s and why they are the only one able to solve it.

Step Two

Initially the problem is going to cause some anxiety or fear. Ensure you make it clear in your writing how your character feels about the problem. They may be frustrated or angry or need to employ techniques to help them calm down and think clearly. It should be clear to the reader why they feel upset, annoyed, scared, etc.

Step Three

Show your hero’s thought process as they work through the problem. As a writer, it is helpful to brainstorm as many different solutions to the character’s problem as possible. In your brainstorm write why each idea will or why it will not work. Remember effective story resolutions come from the protagonist’s actions. Not every solution will work and not every story has a happy ending but they do have to make sense.

problem solving

Step Four

Write short scenarios to describe what would happen if your character undertook each of the solutions you came up with. Think:

  • Was the solution safe? A safe solution means no one will be hurt or upset.
  • Was the solution fair? How do the other characters in your story feel about each idea for the solution.
  • Did the antagonist get his comeuppance? In children’s books especially the reader wants good to overcome evil and friendship to prevail.

Step Five

Have the problem escalate as the story progresses. Each time they attempt to solve the problem it either becomes worse, or they are confronted by another obstacle. They may think they have solved the problem then realise the effect it has had on others and need to fix this. A solution may create a totally new and larger problem.

Step Six

Finally your protagonist is able to resolve the problem by learning from their mistakes and through their own determination and intelligence. Your character should have grown in some way and the other characters should be satisfied with the way the problem was resolved and any loose ends are tied just like when knitting a jumper.

The ultimate aim is to have a happy reader.

happy reader

You want them to keep reading to find out if your protagonist solves the problem and most importantly your reader should feel something at the end of the story. I hope this helps.he problem.

An interview with… Michael Lawrence

For the #97 Sept 2009 issue of Writers’ Forum I interviewed children’s book writer Michaew Lawrence. Michael told me he does not like to specialise. His first book for children came out in 1995. Since then he has published around 50 more of various kinds, from first picture books to young adult novels.

Michael Lawrence

His most popular books are the Jiggy McCue novels, which include The Killer Underpants, the Toilet of Doom, The Meanest Genie and The Iron, the Switch and the Broom Cupboard. He publishes one of these a year.

Jiggy McCue books

Michael explained he does not research the Jiggy McCue stories at all, or even attempt to reflect the times the kids live in to any great extent. Mobile phones, DVDs, famous film stars and so on are mentioned, but Jiggy and Co’s school experiences are essentially his own from over half a century ago. He bases their lessons on the lessons that he still remembers so well, and some of their teachers were his actual teachers he even uses their real names. You might think this would date the books, but Micheal said that children can’t have changed as much as we imagine, because a great many of them write to him to say the books are so much like their world.

Ideas for books often come to Michael in unexpected ways and often in unlikely places. Michael told me that one very wet Sunday in August 2008, he was in Tintagel, Cornwall, walking up the hill to the site of an Arthurian battle re-enactment, when the thought came that Jiggy’s parents might be visiting or taking part in just such a show and Jiggy is either whisked back in time or a knight from the past comes forward into his time. But almost at once he dismissed this as too obvious.

Plenty of bizarre things happen in Jiggy’s world, but time travel seemed unlikely to be one of them. But then he thought, suppose someone very like Jiggy lived in a century when men wore armour, fought with swords and jousted, and by the time he got to the re-enactment the spin-off series idea was born. It will be called Jiggy’s Genes, and each book is about an ancestor of Jiggy’s who bears not only the same nickname as him, but has similar attitudes, in spite of the time he is attached to.

He bought himself a hefty hardback Le Morte d’Arthur, a new copy of Roger Lancelyn Green’s King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table (fondly remembered from childhood) plus various books and pamphlets about life and conditions in the 15th century and also trawled the Internet for alternative insights.

In the first book Jiggy’s Magic Balls, Thomas Malory has just escaped from gaol and has an idea for a saga about knights, great battles and quests. He asks for Jiggy’s help with ideas. The Arthur that Jiggy points out to Malory is a shifty little pickpocket, and Merlin is a shyster lawyer who specialises in divorce cases. Michael explained Malory uses their names but does something rather ambitious with their characters…

For the second book in the series,Jiggy and the Witchfinder, his 17th century hero meets Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, who wants to hang Jiggy’s Nan as a witch. Michael told me:

“Any Jiggy book must have a goodly quota of laughs, but the England of the period was beset by war, disease and poverty, and saw the execution of a great many innocent people at the hands of dreadful men like Hopkins, so it hasn’t been easy keeping the story light as well as realistic.” (Michael Lawrence)

Michael’s trilogy, The Aldous Lexicon (A Crack in the Line, Small Eternities and The Underwood See) and Juby’s Rook are all set in the ruined village of Rouklye, which is based on Tyneham in southern Dorset. He used his first house as the model for Withern Rise in Small Eternities: The Aldous Lexicon 2.

ML's first house (model for Withern Rise in The Aldous Lexicon) (2)

ML’s first house (model for Withern Rise in The Aldous Lexicon) (2)

“My research for the trilogy has been literally life-long, as the setting is the house and village I was born in. In the three years it took me to write the books I returned there constantly, and during the writing my desk was littered with photographs of the house, the stretch of river on whose bank it stands, and the village and attached market town.” (Michael Lawrence)

In 1943, Churchill’s War Office requisitioned the Tyneham Valley for troop training and weapons testing, evacuating everyone who lived there. They promised to return it when the war was over but never did, and today Tyneham. It is still ‘owned’ by The Ministry of Defence and is a sad, haunted ruin of a place. Juby’s Rook is set in 1999 and is about an elderly man (Juby Bench) who was a teenager in the village when everyone was turfed out.

jubys rook

He returns every August to take note of the extent of the decay and walk his old haunts. Michael has walked all of these haunts, during which, over several visits, he made extensive notes and took hundreds of photographs. Michael told me the completed book took about nine years to sell. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it sank without trace or a single review. Yet Juby’s Rook is one of the books he is most pleased to have got into print.

To read the complete feature you can purchase a copy of #97 Sept 2009 Writers’ Forum by ordering online from Select Magazines.

To read my latest Research Secrets or Writing 4 Children interviews you can invest in a subscription from the Writers’ Forum website or download Writers’ Forum to your iOS or Android device.

Creating suspense

Over the years of my writing career I have been on many courses and workshops for different aspects of writing by a wide variety of well known published writers not only those who write for children. Some of my favourite writing talks are crime ‘noir’ conferences where I have discovered a wide range of writing tips and techniques.

writing suspense

One of the main things I have realised is that suspense, tension and conflict are all finely linked. You create one by ramping up the other and have to balance these factors with the final resolution. Here are a few of the things I have learnt and have found useful, which may help you to achieve this.

  1. Make achieving their goal a race against time. There is nothing like a deadline for keeping the adrenaline pumping around the body. The greater the need to achieve the goal and the less time available to achieve this the higher the stakes, the tension and the suspense.
  2. Lull the reader into a false sense of security by using longer sentence just before you reveal the shock of the unexpected.
  3. In contrast, short, sharp sentences mimic the disjointed thought patterns of fear and urgency.
  4. Make your readers root for your characters safety by ramping up the danger.
  5. Using the present tense at the highest points of tension will make the narrative more immediate.
  6. Make the source of the fear a surprise to the reader.
  7. To make your readers care and worry about the main character make your protagonist vulnerable in some way.
  8. Use foreshadowing to rank up the danger by letting your readers know of these vulnerable attributes such as allergies or phobias early on in the story and then make it inevitable they have to face these situations later in the story.
  9. In a similar way, give your character a desire, wound or internal struggle your readers can identify with and then use your reader’s empathy and concern for the impending danger to escalate the tension.
  10. View the world though the protagonists eyes so the reader can identify with your main character and experience what they are feeling.
  11. Use all the senses to get your readers to hear, touch, smell and taste the action.
  12. Initially the less people who believe the protagonist and who do not understand their fear of the antagonist and the seriousness of the threat, the more suspense is created.
  13. As you progress through the story more people should become worried, afraid, sad or curious. This will increase the tension.
  14. Strip the protagonist of something essential to their safety.
  15. Use the power of three. Have small alarming things happen three times to reinforce the conflict, so the concern is mentioned, then it is reinforced and then people begin to realise there is a problem.
  16. Use familiar things, people and situations in different contexts to make your readers feel uneasy.
  17. Let the reader know more than your characters do. So they can see the villain metaphorically creeping up behind your main character before the main character is aware.
  18. Use superstitions even if your character is not superstitious to rank up the suspense and tension, such as making the meeting at number thirteen, accidentally walking under a ladder or a black cat crossing their path.
  19. Delay what is really happening by having a small worrying event which your character ponders and tries to fix this when something bigger happens they need to solve and then have a final climax at the end of the chapter. This will help keep the readers turning the pages to find out what happens next.
  20. Think carefully about your word choices. You can create a dark, spooky atmosphere by using gloomy and macabre words rather than happy, sunny words.

I hope these ideas help you and if you have any more ways of creating suspense, you would like to share, please leave a comment.

Keep it simple

Writers need to interest and entertain their readers. To do this, they have to make sure every word is understandable by using plain, simple language and concrete words. Obscure technical terms, foreign phrases, long unpronounceable names and jargon may make sense to those in the know but not to the majority. It puts up an unnecessary barriers that will deter your readers.

barrier brickwall

Inspiring some children to read is difficult enough as it is, so why make it more difficult for them? My advice is don’t hesitate to break the rules if the alternative is to write something that looks and sounds contrived or ugly. To avoid badly constructed sentences that grate on the ear read what you have written aloud. Record it if you have to and listen back.

ear

Your aim should be to get the meaning across directly without using artificial and over literary sentences. This will help your stories understand the turn of events and keep your readers turning the pages. To achieve this try to put yourself in the shoes of the readers. 

boy reading cartoon

Before putting your pen to paper ask yourself:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What images will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh and original enough to have an effect?

Choose precise words and invent your own images to make your meaning clearer. We have been told by countless people that the use of hackneyed similes, metaphors and other phrases is pure lazy writing. So when editing your work check if you are using original descriptions.

child editing

Metaphors like: ‘you win some, you lose some’, ‘a fish in troubled waters’, ‘hard as nails’ and ‘snow-white’ are over-used and dull. It is better to invent your own metaphors and similes to add colour and imagination to your writing.

Avoid using long words where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out then cut it. You can often find words that can be cut without losing meaning. The word ‘that’ is the ideal example. Cutting adverbs and adjectives can also strengthen your writing.

Book review: Farmer Falgu Stays at Home

Title: Farmer Falgu Stays at Home

Written by: Chitra Soundar

Illustrated by: Kanika Nair

Published by: Karadi Tales

Farmer Falgu Stays at Home

This superbly written story will help to encourage both children and adults to find fun things to do at home during the pandemic.

Farmer Falgu’s daughter, Eila, is fed up of staying indoors as she misses her friends and wants to play and explore outside. She doesn’t understand why everyone has to stay at home. Through a simple to read and easily relatable text, Chitra’s main character, Farmer Falgu, explains sensitively that staying home is the only way we can keep everyone safe.

I particularly like how Chitra has included the fact that sometimes the adults have no choice about going out, as in when they need to buy, or sell food. The book could be used to trigger discussion on why they can’t go with them. I know from experience this has been a difficult issue for lots of young children to understand when they are used to accompanying their parents to the shops and now they are not allowed.

I also like the message for children that we are also trying to avoid making other people ill too. In this way, Farmer Falgu Stays at Home promotes empathy and understanding of how we can all do our little bit to help and it does not need to be boring. Eila discovers there are fun and exciting things she can do at home without having to travel further than her front door. The final spread gives useful advice for parents to encourage their children to wash their hands, maintain social distancing and avoid getting ill.

The ideal book to read to your child during the current lock down. You can find details on how to get hold of this free e-book here