Book Week Scotland is next week! Here are 5 fuss-free ways of celebrating with your school or library.
Run a Book Quiz. Here are some ready-made PowerPoint quizzes about all things kid-lit which I made earlier. They even come with a wee Scottish twist. Quiz 1, Quiz 2 and Quiz 3 are ready to use and come with solutions and instructions.
Battle of the first paragraphs. Wrap ten books in brown paper or newspaper. Number them. Get your class ready to rate them from 1 (boring) to 10 (really intriguing) after listening. Read the opening paragraph out and give children a few seconds to rate the book’s start, then move onto the next one. Finally, establish which book scored the highest and do the big reveal, ripping the temporary covers dramatically from the books. Kids love doing this too. It’s a great way to enthuse young people about books they wouldn’t have picked up, and also offers a good creative writing discussion about what makes for a compelling opening.
Run a Blind Date with a Book show. All you need are some willing volunteers. Here is a script with instructions you can use. To this day, I think it’s the most successful book activity I have done.
Pitch contest. Get pupils to pitch books they have liked in a single tweet. For extra fun, cut out Bird-shapes out of white paper and mount them on a light blue background. Explain hashtags, hooks and compelling word choice and ask someone like the head teacher to judge the competition and if you can, offer a prize. Many pupils will be less daunted by writing concisely.
Book Comics. Here is how to turn a book into a comic. We may be more constrained with costumes just now, but you can add to the hilarity by handing the groups some newspaper they can use to create hats/weapons/whatever they need. Again, this can be a competition if you wish. Bottom line is: have fun. If pupils create three freeze frames per book, why not display them so that the others in the school can guess which book is represented? It can make for a memorable display.
Read your way around Scotland. This list is by no means exhaustive, but wherever you’re travelling, there is a kids’ book set there 🙂
Ceannabeinne near Durness, setting of Highland Clearances story Fir for Luck (ages 9-13) which is based on true events in 1814 and 1841.
2. Tarbat Ness and Portmahomack, setting of The Beast on the Broch, a Pictish adventure by John Fulton (age 8-12).
3. The fictional Isle of Skelsay in kids’ eco-thriller Wilderness Wars is based on the landscape of Harris and Taransay in the Outer Hebrides (age 8-13). Beautiful Harris is also the setting for Sam Wilding’s eco-thriller Windscape (8-12).
4. Aberdeen is the setting of The Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens, a pun-heavy, fun adventure by Alex McCall (age 8-12).
5. Inverness is the setting of the Victorian adventure story Punch, a tense adventure with a backdrop of travelling entertainers, puppetry and even a dancing bear. Based on true events in 1889 and shortlisted for the Crystal Kite Award (age 8-13).
6. Edinburgh and the Lothians are the settings for Annemarie Allan’s war-time refugee story Charlie’s Promise (8-12).
7. Dundee is the setting for two excellent WW1 books: The Wreck of the Argyll by John Fulton and The God of All Small Boys by Joseph Lamb (Both 8-12). It is also the setting of my favourite picture book: The Fourth Bonniest baby in Dundee by Michelle Sloan.
8. Dumfries and the Solway Firth is where the Robert-Burns-related smuggling novella Black Water takes place. Based on real events in 1791 (8-12).
9. Paisley is the setting for Lindsay Littleson’s Victorian novel A Pattern of Secrets (8-12).
10. Caerlaverock Castle is the setting for medieval adventure The Siege of Caerlaverock. It is based on a real life siege in July 1300 when 60+ castle dwellers attempted to hold out against the King of England and his 3000 knights and soldiers. Out 6th August 2020 (8-12).
11. North Berwick is the setting of Annemarie Allan’s eco-adventure Breaker (8-12).
12. Skara Brae in Orkney is the setting of time travel and stone age teen novel Silver Skin by Joan Lennon (12-16).
13. West Lothian is the setting of Laura Guthrie’s teen novel Anna, an uplifting account of a girl with Aspergers tackling life’s serious challenges with stubborn positivity (12-16).
14. The Isle of Skye (and a fictional island off it) features in Kerr Thomson’s The Rise of Wolves (10-14).
15. St. Kilda is the dramatic setting for Geraldine McCaughrean’s Carnegie winner Where the World Ends (10-14).
16. Stirling is the setting for Ross Sayers Scots YA novel Sonny and Me (12-16).
17. Victoria Williamson sets her topical refugee novel Fox Girl and the White Gazelle in Glasgow (8-12).
18. Perthshire is the setting for Elizabeth Wein’s atmospheric The Pearl Thief. This book regularly wins ‘best opening’ in my pupil surveys! (10-14)
19. Loch Ness is the setting for Lari Don’s The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster (7-11) and also Pauline Mackay’s popular Wee MacNessie (3-5) series.
20. Mairi Hedderwick’s Katie Morag stories are set on the fictional island of Struay which is based on the Isle of Coll (5-10).
21. The Borders are the setting for Janis Mackay’s The Accidental Time Traveller trilogy (8-12) and also for Theresa Breslin’s Remembrance (12-16), as well as the fantastic Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig (8-12).
22. Shetland features in Michelle Sloan’s War and present day story TheRevenge of Tirpitz (9-13) as well as Tumbling by Kim Karam (10-13).
23. Moray is the setting for Mary Rosambeau’s war-time thriller Secrets and Spies.
24. If you like your non-fiction set all over Scotland, try Kimberlie Hamilton’s Scotland’s Animal Superstars (7-12).
25. Aviemore and the Cairngorms are the setting of Can’t Dance Cameron by Emily Dodd (3-6).
26. Who wouldn’t recognise Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, setting of The Tobermory Cat by Debi Gliori (3-6).
27. The Falkirk Wheel is a popular tourist attraction – and the setting for Hamish McHaggis and the Wonderful Water Wheel (5-7).
28. Back to Edinburgh and a certain young detective called Artie Conan Doyle by Bob Harris (8-12). Edinburgh is also the last setting for Wojtek, War Hero Bear by Jenny Robertson, and there is a statue of the bear in Princes Street Gardens!
29. Beautiful and historic Ayr is the setting for the new Tam O’Shanter graphic novel by Richmond Clements and Inko (8-12).
30. Gorgeous Galloway is the setting of Gill Stewart’s Galloway Girls series, including first instalment Lily’s Just Fine (12-16).
31. BalmoralCastle in Royal Deeside is one of the memorable settings of Justin Davies’ funny Help! I Smell a Monster (7-11).
32. Sherrifmuir near Stirling is the bleak and atmospheric setting for Alex Nye’s kids’ horror novel Chill (8-12).
33. Argyll is the evocative backdrop to Alan McClure’s Callum and the Mountain (8-12).
34. A Scottish seaside village like Eyemouth is exactly the type of fishing village to feature in Captain Crankie and Seadog Steve by Vivien French (3-6).
35. Coo Clayton’s cute picture book Maggie’s Mittens takes you on a wee tour of the whole of Scotland (3-6). The same is true for Katie in Scotland by James Mayhew.
36. Historic Glenfinnan is the setting for Linda Strachan’s The Dangerous Lives of the Jacobites (6-10).
37. Edinburgh is the setting for Mike Nicholson’s Catscape (8-12).
38. The Isle of Cumbrae is the setting for Kelpies Prize winner The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean by Lindsay Littleson (8-12).
39. The Isle of Arran is the setting for witchy fun in A.H. Proctor’s Thumble Tumble series (7-11). The island is also home to the Corrie’s Capers series by Alison Page, including the cute The Westie Fest.
40. Tattiebogle Town where Alan Dapre’s Porridge the Tartan Cat lives is actually based on West Kilbride in Ayrshire (6-10).
41. The atmospheric Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis provide the setting for Gaelic story Granaidh Afraga by Morag Anna MacNeill.
42. Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh is an iconic tourist destination – and the setting of A Fast and Funny Guide to Mary Queen of Scots by Philip Ardagh.
43. One of my favourite places in the world: The Isle of Iona, setting of Allan Burnett’s Columba and All That (6-10). The island is also the setting for Edith Robson’s The Secret of the Stones which was suggested by a blog reader.
44. St. Andrews is the setting of Slug Boy Saves the World by Mark A. Smith.
45. The Isle of Lewis is the setting of this gorgeous picture book, An Island’s Tail by Steven Tod.
46. Fife is the setting of Moira McPartlin’s amazingly topical teen book The Incomers (14+). It is also the setting for the real-life-inspired Bertie the Buffalo by Wendy Jones (3-6).
47. Smoo Cave near Durness features in a dramatic scene in Storm Singingand Other Musical Mishaps by Lari Don, my favourite book in her Fabled Beast Chronicles.
48. EdinburghStatues take centre stage in The Calling by Philip Caveney.
49. The Edinburgh Tattoo at the castle is famous – and also the setting for The Tattoo Fox and its sequel by Alasdair Hutton.
50. Finally, we return to Loch Ness with Sara and Molly Sheridan’s picture book Monsters Unite, illustrated by Iain Carroll. Underground tunnels for monsters? I’m in!
I know I will have missed out some fantastic books and authors, and I’m sorry for that. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll sit down again and get to 100.
But for now, this will do. Happy reading. Where will you go?
As you can imagine, I’ve been spending lockdown at my desk, with no author visits on the horizon. But some young people are still reading my books! Pupils from Winchburgh Primary School in Broxburn asked me a whole bunch of questions about my eco-thriller Wilderness Wars. GREAT questions, so I thought I’d share my answers!
About the book – Wilderness Wars
What inspired you to write the book?
It goes back to a time when we went on a family holiday. A stone hit our windscreen, out of the blue, there were no other cars around! In an attempt to make light of it, we speculated that a gull had thrown it, and that nature didn’t want us to reach the holiday cottage. That was the start. I wrote into my notebook that night: What if nature fights back?
If you were Em, what would you have done to get the adults to believe in you about the nature fighting back?
I’m not sure I would have done any better than Em. It’s a bit of a crazy thing for people to believe 😊 I might have yelled a little more…
How did you come up with the name Skelsay?
I tried to find a name that sounded real, but with a huge number of islands around the Scottish Coast, most decent names were already taken. There are loads of islands that end in ‘say’ which was Old Norse for island, so I looked up Gaelic and Norse words and tried out different combination. Skelsay means Isle of shells, and there wasn’t one of those yet!
How long did it take you to write it?
The actual first draft – maybe around 6 months. But it needed a bit of work before the publishers were happy with it, so maybe another 3 months on top of that. I usually have several things on the go at any one time, so it can be hard to tell.
What is your favourite bit of the book?
I love the SCREE chapter!
What made you choose a Scottish Island?
I live in Scotland and I love going to the islands because they are a bit wild. Buying an island and building a hotel etc on it seemed to be possible.
Were the characters based on anyone you know in real life?
YES, all of them have bits of people I know. Struan is almost exclusively based on my son Duncan. When he was little, he was just like that!
Who’s the best character that you think that you created in the book?
Again, I like Struan best, but I like the others too. Ian Pratt was such good fun to write.
I would really want to know, What happens after the book is finished.
The postscript gives you a wee bit of an idea. Skelsay rewilds itself in any case 😊
Having written your book, is there anything you would change if you could re-write it?
Yes! I like the ending, but as a very smart kid pointed out at a school visit, Em ends up being a bit of a litterbug at the end, so I would maybe come up with something a bit better…
What made you come up with this kind of storylines?
I care about the environment, and once we lose our wild places, they are gone. We need to take better care of them!
Would you ever make the book into a film?
I’d love to see a film of Wilderness Wars, but as a writer, I have to wait until a studio or a production company takes an interest.
What was the hardest chapter to write?
My publishers asked me to delete the first three chapters of the original manuscript. I was gutted, but it is a better story as a result, I hope. Rewriting the beginning was really tough.
I have started to write my own book about a young boy on a quest and have so many ideas in my head I find it hard to organise them and pick the best to use. I really enjoyed the suspense created at the end of your chapters and all the questions I had before reading the next one. I would like to do the same in my book do you any advice on how I can plan my story ideas to create the same?
To be absolutely honest, I don’t always plan my stories out. I literally write as if I am telling myself a story. Then, at a point when I am excited to move on, I insert a chapter break. Keep asking the ‘what if’ questions. If the story gets a little too easy and boring, throw your characters into terrible jeopardy. It works for me!
About being an author in general
Do you enjoy reading?
Love it! I constantly have a book on the go and take it with me wherever I go. I also have as book in the car in case I have to wait somewhere. And when times are tricky, I absolutely need to read to give myself a break from real life!
When did you get in to writing books?
I wrote loads of stories when I was a kid. As an adult, I wrote plays first and performed them. I had a wee puppetry business for a few years, but I soon realised that the writing was what I loved best. I then wrote a short story, just to see if I could, and entered it into a competition, and I won! After that, I challenged myself in a New Year’s resolution – wonder if I could write a kids’ book. But I wasn’t published until I had written 6 books! It takes a long time 😊
Did anyone inspire you to become an author and if so, who?
Many people. But I loved Walter Farley’s books about the racehorse world and I remember thinking – creating stories for young people would be the coolest thing that anyone could do.
How many books have you written?
At least 11 full length manuscripts, but many shorter stories and plays too.
What inspired you to be an author?
I just think it’s total magic, how little black marks on paper get some sort of head-cinema going in a young reader’s imagination. I really, really wanted to be part of that and learn how to do that. If you offered me the chance to do real magic, I think I’d still choose this!
Can you talk to someone and if they were talking about a dream could you turn that into inspiration for a story?
I do that constantly! But I can’t write a story that I’m not excited about. I really have to care. If I’m not really invested in it, I can’t expect a reader to be either. So if you are wishing that there was a story about, I don’t know, sword-fighting dogs in Siberia, then your best bet is to write it yourself!
Looking for an easy, ready-to-run kidlit quiz (PPT) with solutions (Word Doc)
It’s ideal for upper primary or even S1 and features questions on classic and contemporary children’s books, from picture books to motion picture adaptations.
This one has ten slides per round. I trialled it with 28 kids, split into groups of four. The full thing may take up to 1.5 or 2 hours, depending how much thinking time you allow. They really enjoyed it!
A plain sheet with group name, round name and numbers down the side will suffice, and a clipboard definitely makes things easier.
I have found that kids stay most engaged if you give some answers throughout, rather than leaving a huge info-dump till the end. So, ask Rounds 1 and 2, offer answers/scores for Round 1, run Round 3, offer scores for Round 2 etc. But up to you really.
I think a break somewhere at the halfway stage helps!
Ideal for #Literacy #CreativeWriting #authorvisits
‘I don’t know what to write about!’ If I got paid for every time I heard a pupil complain about lack of ideas, I’d be very rich indeed.
So how about turning the whole thing into a game? I had seen fiction squares in writing magazines before, Would this work in schools?
Yes, I can confirm! It definitely does. I’ve tried it!
Step 1: On a whiteboard, create a blank table:
Step 2: Get kids to shout out interesting suggestions and fill the table in.
Step 3: Now comes the fun part. Get kids into pairs or groups and let them roll the dice twice for characters, twice for character traits and once each for a problem, an object and a location. I use a giant dice so the whole class can see.
Step 4: Give them 5-10 minutes to come up with a story incorporating these elements. I tend to allow them to ignore/discard whatever doesn’t fit their best idea – it’s about creating compelling stories, not contriving to squeeze the ingredients in at all cost. Remind pupils that the problem must be addressed and possibly overcome in the story. There must be an outcome. That will automatically result in a story arc.
Step 5: Once pupils have generated a story together, you could set them the individual task of drafting an exciting or intriguing opening for the story. This can later be developed into a longer piece of writing.
We all know Charles Dickens’ famous ‘A Christmas Carol’. Nothing beats a good ol’ Victorian Christmas, right?
Here is an instant, easy-to-use 3-page script adaptation which could not be simpler; you could do this in a day!
The flash-back and flash-forward sections are left open for devising. This allows flexibility to accommodate as many or as few pupils as you need, and it also means you can send a group of pupils off to sort out those scenes independently while you rehearse the main storyline with the others. Suitable P4 (keeping it simple) -S1 (with bells on).
Feel free to print the document below – the original is old enough to have no copyright, and I adapted it myself, so no issues there. Enjoy!
Stuck for what to do with youngsters during #BookWeekScotland?
I devised this QUIZ (suitable for upper primary/lower secondary school) based on classic and recent children’s titles.
It takes around an hour and a half to run (it helps to have another adult in the room to help with marking!). From The Hungry Caterpillar to The Hunger Games, this quiz should be accessible to all, while still challenging the most devoted of bookworms! The quiz itself is in Powerpoint format, while the solutions are a simple Word document.
I’d suggest handing each team of 4 pupils a sheet for each round. Get groups to think up a group name and nominate a scribe. After each round, collect them in and run through the answers (your helpers can mark the sheets) before issuing the paper for the next round.
Another Highland Clearances activity for teachers – this time it’s a game!
The eviction writ was considered legally binding if villagers had been touched by the document.
In Fir for Luck, the villagers go to great lengths not to touch it – and manage to force the sheriff officer to burn the writ instead. ‘Mind, that writ was never served’ snaps one of the villagers as the servant of the law is sent on his way.
Split the class into two teams. It’s best played in a sports hall or outside, but a cleared area in the classroom may well be fine. Pupils should sit on chairs or benches opposite each other in two lines.
Place a bucket with a rolled up piece of paper in the middle of the two rows, with at least a couple of metres in between.
Number each team, but start the count at opposite sides so that, say, the number 10s on both sides are diagonally across from each other, with the bucket (containing the writ) between them.
Now call out a number. The two pupils with that number will run to the middle, grab the writ and attempt to touch their opponent with it before he/she reaches their seat again. Discourage violence!!!
If successful, they gain a point for their team. If their opponent gets to the writ first and manages to touch them with it, the other team gets a point. Deduct points for not getting up at all.
Mix numbers up, and try to catch pupils out – that way it’s the most fun. Keep it fast-moving, taking care to always place the ‘writ’ back in the middle. I tend to play until the first team reaches 20 points or similar. Kids seem to really like this game.
It also works sitting on the floor, but ensure proper boundaries – in my experience there is a fair bit of bum-shuffling towards the writ! Not something the 18th century villagers would have done, I’m sure!