All posts by Kerry

Christmas Countdown!

Hi!

With just a few days to go until the 1st of December, I’m starting an exciting week visiting my local primary schools to read It’s A Kid’s Life – Christmas Countdown! After planning to take a break from school visits for a month, my marketing manager (aka my twelve-year old son!) had other plans and told me that I should go into schools to share his love of this book with other children.

How could I refuse?!

My sons have always loved reading a Christmassy book in December and even as they get older, they still love the tradition of starting Christmas Countdown together on the 1st December.

Keep reading for a sneak preview into the first chapter for you so you can see why it captured their hearts…

Ben Collins has always loved the month of December.

Chocolate advent calendars… dazzling tree lights… two whole weeks off school… and, in the words of his jealous little brother, two big presents on Christmas Day thanks to having two dads!

His favourite month of the year gets even more exciting when he hears about the local newspaper competition to write the best article ever and win the prize money! Now all he needs to do is come up with a unique idea. Just when he thinks there is nothing worthy of originality, he sees something that is sure to win him first place… or is it?

CHAPTER 1

It was December the 1st. The most exciting month of the year was upon us. The month where you get to eat chocolate from your advent calendar every morning before breakfast. The month where everyone forgets about the cost of electricity as they cover the front of their houses with dazzling lights. The month where instead of being told ‘No’ when you ask your parents for something, they tell you to ‘write it on your Christmas list.’ The month where everyone seems to be that little bit happier and friendlier than usual.

And let’s not forget, the very important issue of two whole weeks off school! The only downside of that was the six extra hours a day that I would have to endure my three younger brothers irritating me.

I have been known to describe my little brothers as being more annoying than an ant nibbling on my bottom cheek. And if you have ever had the misfortune of sitting on an ants’ nest, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!

I could hear all three of them right now in fact, next door in Pocket Rocket’s bedroom. Feeling suspicious as to why my eight-year-old brother had allowed the highly irritating younger two into his bedroom, without trapping them in a headlock or a double nelson, I paused outside his door to listen.

“Dear Spuds… that means you two,” I heard Pocket Rocket say to Big Spud and Little Spud. “I would love to put you on my nice list this year, but I’m afraid that you have been far too naughty lately.”

 I heard my two youngest brothers gasp in horror as he said this. I pressed my ear closer to the door as I eavesdropped on them.

“Don’t worry though, boys,” Pocket Rocket continued. “There is a way you can avoid getting a big, fat lump of coal in your stocking this Christmas Eve. You can guarantee a nice lot of presents instead by doing the following things…

  1.  Tell Mum that it was in fact you who ate half of the box of chocolates that Mum bought for her friend, and not Pocket Rocket.”

Now it was my turn to gasp in horror. It just wasn’t true! I had seen Pocket Rocket shove half of the box into his greedy mouth last week before resealing it. Poor Mum had looked mortified when her friend had opened her present to find a half empty box of chocolates.

I was about to burst into my brother’s room to demand to know what was going on when I heard Pocket Rocket announcing number two on the list.

“2. Do both of your big brothers’ chores for the whole of December.”

Hmm, I quite like the sound of that, I thought to myself.

“3. You must stop watching babyish cartoons, and instead, put on anything your brothers want to see.”

This was sounding better by the second.

“4. Tell your mum and dad that Pocket Rocket deserves to have the biggest present of all of you this Christmas, as he is their favourite son.”

Suddenly things weren’t sounding quite so appealing. I pulled on the door handle and burst into Pocket Rocket’s bedroom. He was sitting on his bed with a piece of paper in his hand. Big Spud and Little Spud were sitting silently on his rug, like obedient little school children listening to their teacher. They were gazing up at him with their big, innocent, blue eyes, taking in every word that he was saying. Pocket Rocket jumped when he saw me and hid the piece of paper behind his back whilst whispering, “Lots of love, Father Christmas,” to our little brothers.

The sneaky little thing! He had written a pretend letter from Father Christmas to trick our younger brothers into doing things for his benefit. I was about to spoil his cunning plan by telling Big Spud and Little Spud that it was actually Pocket Rocket who had written the letter and not Father Christmas, when I remembered the bit about doing ‘both of your big brother’s chores’. Maybe I should play along with Pocket Rocket after all. As much fun as it would be to expose him for the devious big brother he was, it would be even funnier to see my two younger brothers suffer.

I imagined them struggling up the stairs with the vacuum cleaner. I had always thought how unfair it was that I was repeatedly given this chore as they were ‘too little’ to carry it, according to Mum. It was about time those two started to pull their weight. Pocket Rocket looked at me, his eyes silently begging me to play along.

“Wow, that’s so exciting,” I said in a big, animated voice. “A real letter from Father Christmas! You two are so lucky. You had better make sure you do what he says, though. It would be horrible if you woke up to a lump of coal on Christmas morning rather than a stocking overflowing with presents.”

My two brothers looked at me like I had just told them they were going to have to eat cold porridge (with no syrup!) for the rest of their lives.

 They then turned to stare at each other before running out of the room shouting for Mum, presumably to take the blame for the chocolate incident.

Pocket Rocket and I grinned at each other like the cats who’d got the cream.

“Let me see that,” I said, swiping the letter from ‘Father Christmas’ from behind his back. The lazy thing hadn’t even bothered to write it properly. He had just put a load of squiggles instead, knowing that Big Spud and Little Spud couldn’t read very well yet.

“I like your style,” I said to my brother. “But there’s no way in the world that Mum and Dad will fall for your little plan to get the best present at Christmas. And if they are stupid enough to fall for it, I will make sure I tell them to do the exact opposite. Capiche?”

‘Capiche’ means ‘understand’ in Italian, and Dad was a big fan of saying this to us after giving us a lecture about something. I could see why he liked to say it now. It had a much better ring to it than ‘understand’.

Pocket Rocket rolled his eyes and mumbled “OK”, knowing that he had probably pushed his plan a bit too far with this request.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go and ask Mum if we can decorate the tree.”

Pocket Rocket didn’t need asking twice. He had always loved putting up the Christmas tree. All we had to do now was figure out a way to get Dad out of the house, so that we could actually enjoy doing it. Dad always spoiled it by shouting at us that we were doing it all wrong!

If your children would like to read the rest, get your signed copy now! Click here!

It’s A Kid’s Life -Sneak Preview!

Here is a sneak preview of the text from the first three chapters of the first book in the It’s A Kid’s Life series!

CHAPTER 1 

Hi, I’m Ben Collins. I’m just a nine year old boy muddling my way through being a kid. Grown-ups always tell us that these are the best years of our lives, but as all us kids know, this is just a reflection of how forgetful parents can be, as being a kid is hard.

Especially when you have three younger brothers to contend with like I do. I get the blame for EVERYTHING, just because I’m the oldest and ‘should know better’. If they aren’t trying to get me into trouble, then they are trying to wreck all my stuff. It drives me crazy.

I have recently come up with a solution to this problem though. I have this really cool intruder alarm on my door. I wanted a proper lock, but Mum told me that wasn’t going to happen, so this is the next best thing. If one of my brothers tries to enter my room uninvited, then a siren as loud as ten police cars fills the house. I get to run straight to my bedroom to catch the intruder red handed! The only problem is that I sometimes set the alarm before I go to bed, and when Mum comes to check on me she gets the fright of her life as the siren wails. She then has to spend the next hour getting my baby brother back to sleep, which she always blames me for of course.

Then there is school. Who on earth came up with the idea of sending all of us kids to school for five days every week? That is five days at school and two days at home. Who did the maths on that one? It is so not fair.

Anyway, that’s enough of me moaning. You will get the wrong idea if I carry on being negative. I’m actually quite a happy child, despite all the hardship that comes along with being a kid. So, I’m going to give you a list of my favourite things to let you see what I’m really like.

  1. Computer games – I absolutely could not live without playing them. Maybe I could even invent my own one day!

 

  1. My dog – the best dog in the world, Obi!

 

  1. Pyjama Days – why get dressed when you aren’t leaving the house? It makes getting ready for bed later a whole lot quicker!

 

  1. Chocolate – hey, what kid doesn’t like chocolate? The bigger the bar, the better!

 

  1. Salmon – ha, you weren’t expecting that one were you? Just checking you were paying attention. Of course I don’t like salmon – yuck!

 

  1. Play fighting with my brothers – ok, so they are good for something!

 

  1. Karate – Mum tells me that this is important for discipline. I think it’s great, as you get to punch the sensei’s big fat belly to practice your skills.

The ‘Sensei’ is the man in charge shouting all the orders. He pretends to be scary but his bark is worse than his bite as they say.

  1. Making money – I plan on being a millionaire by the time I am eighteen, and if you carry on reading this book you will find out how!

So there you have it. This is me, and this is my story. Only things are about to get even harder for me, as my mum and dad have made the crazy decision to move house, which means that I have to start a new school. Needless to say, I am NOT impressed!

CHAPTER 2

My mum says that I’m lucky to have three brothers. She says that having brothers means that you will always have someone to play with, someone to look out for you, and someone who will always be your friend. I’m not so sure she is right, but for now I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I’m not entirely sure what ‘benefit of the doubt’ means, but I think it means that I have to believe her until I can prove her otherwise.

I do try to prove her wrong at least once a week, but then she reminds me that I play Top Trumps with Pocket Rocket most nights before bed, and that Big Spud and Little Spud love taking it in turns to jump on my back and pretend that I am a horse.  I have to admit, it is quite good fun hearing them squeal as I bounce them up and down whilst charging round the house!

I should probably explain my brothers’ nicknames to you. Pocket Rocket is my seven year old brother. Dad started calling him this after he won his first ever race at the age of just two and a half at the preschool sports day. He ran so fast that the crowd gasped in shock as he flew over the finish line like a rocket. The pocket bit came from the fact that he was so tiny at the time that Dad said you could almost fit him in your pocket.

Big Spud is my four year old brother and Little Spud is my two year old brother. I’m not too sure where the ‘spud’ bit came from to be honest. Maybe they ate a lot of potatoes when they first started eating proper food, as ‘spud’ is a funny word for a potato. Or maybe they had faces like potatoes when they were born!

I really should ask Dad about this one. Dad nicknamed me Big Ben, as I am the oldest, but I prefer it if he just sticks to Ben these days, as it does get a bit annoying having to explain to everyone that I am not named after the bell of a giant clock!

Anyway, back to Mum telling me that I am lucky to have three brothers. She always reminds me about the time that she saw two older boys pushing her brother around in the school playground. She fearlessly ran at them, shouting her best war cry, and hit both of them with a plastic football cone that she found lying on the ground.

According to Mum, the boys ran off faster than Usain Bolt at the London Olympics. I expect that Mum exaggerates the facts somewhat. I have to admit though, I am a little bit impressed with this story, even though we must have all heard it about eighty six times by now!

Today is a day that I am glad to have my brothers though as we are starting a new school. At least I know that they too will be feeling my pain as we stand out like sore thumbs in a school where everyone else already knows each other.

It is so annoying when parents make grown up decisions without thinking how hard it is for us kids. So what if Dad has been offered a great new job with a brand new car. I was top of the class in maths, and saving up to buy a shiny new stunt scooter with my little business I had started in the school playground. I would buy packets of sweets in for 40p and sell them for 60p. I had built up a nice lot of regular customers. Now I would have to start from scratch. Did Mum and Dad not know that I planned on being a millionaire by the time I was eighteen?  

“COME ON BOYS, we can’t be late on your first day,” Mum shouted from downstairs. I was standing in my bedroom wearing just my pants. Thinking that this probably wouldn’t be a very good look to meet my new classmates in, I quickly pulled on the rest of my new uniform. I guess it could be worse. At least this one didn’t come with a tie like my last school. I never could get the hang of tying that thing. Shoe laces were far easier than ties.

Before I knew it, we were all sitting in the school office, waiting to be taken to our new classrooms. If you thought I was nervous, you should have seen Big Spud. He was sitting there, white as a sheet, holding on to Mum’s hand like he was glued to her. Mum didn’t stand a chance of getting him into his new classroom without her. I decided that, being the big brother, I would set a good example, even if I did wish that the ground would open up and swallow me whole. So when my new teacher, Mrs Ramsbottom, walked over smiling at us, I tried my best to smile back, only I think it came out as more of a lop sided grimace with a look of sheer terror in my eyes.

Suddenly, I wished that I was four again, and could grab onto my mum’s hand and scream, “Mummy, help me!” But I wasn’t four. I was nine. Next year I would be in double digits as I entered the exciting world of a ten year old. I had to act like a man and go to meet my new classmates.

CHAPTER 3

“Class, this is Ben!” shouted Mrs Ramsbottom as we walked into my new classroom. There was an eerie silence as every head turned to look at the new boy who had just walked in.

I could feel a warm rush of blood running to my cheeks as they turned as red as a big dollop of tomato ketchup. All I wanted to do was make a run for the open window on the other side of the classroom. If there was one thing I hated more than eating salmon, it was being looked at by a zillion eyes all at once.

With about thirty kids in the class there were probably only actually about sixty eyes, but right then, it felt like a zillion.

I mustered up a clumsy sort of wave which looked more like my arm had a floppy lettuce stuck to the end of it. My teacher then ushered me to a seat at the back of the classroom, not a moment too soon. The spare seat was next to a boy who was sitting chewing a pencil. He looked very bored.

“Ben, this is Tommy. He is going to be your buddy,” said Mrs Ramsbottom.

Tommy managed to look a little less bored for a minute as he muttered a very unenthusiastic ‘hello’.

“Anything you need to know, just ask Tommy,” continued Mrs Ramsbottom. “He is going to make sure you settle right in here at Summercroft School.”

“Right class, time to learn about some poems,” she shouted as she headed back to the front of the class. Thankfully, everyone’s eyes moved away from my tomato ketchup coloured cheeks as they busied themselves with their pens and writing books.

The teacher was rambling on about an acrostic poem, and seeing as I had recently learnt about this at my last school, it gave me a good opportunity to check out my fellow classmates.

Tommy didn’t really say an awful lot all morning, so I was undecided as to whether he would make a good friend or not. He seemed pretty clever though, so should make a good maths buddy if nothing else. Most kids thought I was crazy for liking maths, but it was my favourite subject, and it would come in very useful for managing my millions when I’m older. I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up and run my own little business, making lots of money.

Mum always tells me that money isn’t  important and it is love that makes the world go round.

I, on the other hand, would quite like to be rich when I’m older. As I said, by the time I am eighteen I will be a millionaire! I plan to have a big house with a swimming pool, a games room, and a TV the size of the wall to play computer games on. There will be a never ending supply of lemonade coming out of the kitchen tap too!

Awesome!

After what seemed like an eternity, the bell went to let us know that school had finished for the day. In my last school, I just walked out by myself to find Mum outside Pocket Rocket’s classroom. I kind of hoped that she would be waiting for me outside my classroom today though as my nerves from this morning hadn’t completely vanished yet.

I looked out of the classroom window and felt relieved to see my mum standing there waiting with a few of the other mums. My relief quickly turned to embarrassment though as she spotted me and started waving at me like a crazy mum with a big cheesy grin on her face. It reminded me of the time she had walked me into school, and instead of saying goodbye to me at the school gates she followed me all the way to my classroom. As I walked in the door she poked her head through and shouted in her most shrill voice, “Love you darling, bye!” I froze in horror as the entire class fell silent, and all of the kids turned to look at me. It was the worst thing Mum could have ever done to me, and I still haven’t forgiven her for it.

I should have expected it though as the day before, she told me that if I continued to walk off from her without so much as a, “see you later alligator,” then she would shout some kind of ‘embarrassing mum’ comment to me. I thought she was just bluffing. Mum always threatens us with things and then doesn’t go through with them. This time though, she called my bluff. I was called ‘darling’ by my classmates for an entire term.

Luckily for me, the kids soon forgot about teasing me when Billy Walsh was caught giving his mum a big kiss goodbye just before walking in the classroom door.

Surely he knew that it was a big no-no to kiss your mum in public after the age of five!

To find out what happens next, get your copy of the book here!

It’s A Kid’s Life – Lockdown

To entertain children during the lockdown, I have written a short story spin off from my It’s A Kid’s Life series and invited children to write their own ending! My message to them is…

“You may be stuck inside, but your imagination is as free as a bird, so let it fly!”

I regularly speak at schools, giving talks about my journey as an author and running creative writing workshops. Inspiring children with their reading and writing is incredibly important to me. I have written five books in my It’s A Kid’s Life series (which you can find here) and was a finalist in the 2018 IAN Children’s Book of the Year Awards. This particular short story is highly relatable to children right now and brings humour and hope through their amazing imaginations. It is completely free to read and use so please do enjoy it and if your children would like to send me the endings they write, I would love to read them! I have written some advice at the end of the story to get them started.

If you would prefer to read this as a pdf, please feel free to download it by clicking on the below picture.

Otherwise, please read on…

It’s A Kid’s Life – Lockdown

Chapter 1

Still dressed in my pyjamas, I lay on my bed stroking my dog, Obi. I had woken up about half an hour ago but was in no hurry to get up. Usually Mum would be nagging me to get my school clothes on by now, but today was different.
Reaching under my bed, I located my secret stash of essential food that I kept hidden in a box − I chose a chocolate biscuit. I was just about to tuck the box away again when Obi looked at me with puppy dog eyes. I never could resist them. I pulled out another chocolate biscuit and carefully scraped the chocolate layer off of the top of it with my teeth before popping it into Obi’s watering mouth. Lying back against my pillow, I thought back to a conversation I had had with my best friend, Tommy, a few weeks ago.

“Tommy, do you remember when I used to say how unfair it was that we had to go to school for five days every week and only had two days at home?” I had said to him with a glint in my eye.

“How could I forget, Ben,” he had replied, laughing. “You say it at least five times a day!”

“Well, what would you say if I told you that my dad reckons we won’t have to go to school at all this time next week?”

“I would say that you had eaten too much sugar from the secret school tuck shop and gone crazy,” had been his response. Little did we know then what was about to happen.

Chapter 2

The last day that we came home from school, Mum had made us all a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows and sat down with a very serious look on her face. I think it was about two weeks ago but I’m not sure. I don’t even know what day of the week it is at the moment as it really doesn’t matter right now anyway.

Whilst we sat enjoying our comfort drinks, Mum had told us that the problem we had all been hearing adults talk about lately had got worse. This meant that schools were now closing and we’d all need to stay at home with her for a while. My brothers and I all cheered like we’d just been told Christmas was coming early. The thought of spending all day doing whatever we wanted instead of going to school was the best feeling ever! The euphoria lasted for all of about two minutes though!

In the midst of imagining pyjama days and movie afternoons, I had caught the end of mum’s sentence… “so ‘Mum School’ starts every day at 9am, ok?”

“Mum School?” I had asked, perplexed. “What on earth is ‘Mum school’”?

It had become clear very quickly that this wasn’t going to be the easy life we had all imagined moments before. School were going to set us work to do every day and Mum was going to be our new teacher. She had looked far too excited about it for my liking!

Things got even stranger just days after Mum told us this as the whole country, and much of the world, went into something called lockdown, which meant we could only leave our house for one bit of exercise a day, or to get essential food and medicine. The government thought that this would be the best way to keep us all safe.

Chapter 3

Bringing my thoughts back to the present, I decided I’d better drag myself out of bed in time for 9am ‘Mum School’!

“Nice of you to join us, Ben,” said Mum, as I wandered into the kitchen.

Pocket Rocket, Big Spud and Little Spud were already sitting at the table eating their breakfast. I sat down and poured myself a bowl of cornflakes, yawning.

“OK, now we’re all here, let’s take a register,” announced Mum, cheerily. Big Spud and Little Spud giggled, finding it fun to be playing schools. Pocket Rocket and I just looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Mum was so embarrassing. If she thought I was going to play along, she had another thing coming. It might have been slightly amusing for the first few days, but how Big Spud and Little Spud still found it funny was beyond me.

“Can we do this later, Mum?” I interrupted. “I thought I’d go to see Tommy this morning.” Mum may have had plans for me to do school work today, but my ideal plans were somewhat different and mainly involved sitting in Tommy’s awesome tree house with him all day. I was far too bored of staying at home every day.

Mum looked at me with an apologetic smile. “We have spoken about this Ben. You’re not going to be able to see Tommy for a little while. I’m really sorry.”

I looked at her feeling frustrated. It wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation over the past few weeks.

“Everyone just has to stay with their families for a bit until things get back to normal,” Mum continued.

“But Tommy is family,” said Big Spud. “You always say he’s like your fifth son, so that means we can still see him. Right Ben?”

I nodded, hoping Mum would agree.

But she didn’t. Shaking her head, she looked at me with those same apologetic eyes. “Tommy is like family,” she said. “But he doesn’t live here. And right now, I’m afraid that you boys have to stay here with me and Dad, and Tommy has to stay at home with his parents.”

“But his parents are never there!” I argued. “Tommy is going to be all on his own with his housekeeper.”

“Trust me Ben, even Tommy’s parents will be home at the moment. It’s just the way life has to be for a little while.”

I let out a big breath of air, feeling sad. I had thought it would be great not having to go to school, but I hadn’t realised that this would mean not seeing my best friend either. Things definitely felt strange right now.

Chapter 4

After accepting that Mum wasn’t going to change her mind about me going to see Tommy, the rest of the morning actually went quite quickly. Mum made us all do some sort of PE class that was streaming live on YouTube. I did most of the exercises the guy running it told us to but drew the line at hopping up and down like a bunny rabbit and exploding out into a star jump like a shooting star. I mean really, come on! I’m ten, not four! Little Spud got beside himself with excitement when the fitness guy turned a boring stretch into a ‘spidey-move’. Instead of just stretching your arm across yourself, you had to shoot out a pretend Spiderman web with your fingertips. Between you and me, I did secretly enjoy this adaptation and may have even made a suspect ‘ptchew’ noise out of my lips as I did it to emphasise the web shooting out my wrist − but that was only to make it fun for Little Spud of course.

After the PE session, Mum told us it was time to do our school work. ‘Mum school’ pretty much meant leaving me and Pocket Rocket to our own devices to do our work set by the school, and Mum letting Big Spud shoot his nerf gun at a list of words she had stuck on the wall. Every time he hit a word, he had to read what it said to the sound of Mum cheering wildly whenever he got it right. Her initial enthusiasm did start to wane a little after he decided that instead of aiming at the words, he would aim at her bottom and say ‘bum, spelt b, u, m’ whenever the nerf bullet struck. According to Mum, Big Spud took advantage of her at this point as he wouldn’t dare do that to his actual teacher. Mum didn’t seem to appreciate my input that his real teacher wouldn’t be teaching him to read with the assistance of a nerf gun! Mum’s annoyance at Big Spud was diverted though as Pocket Rocket banged his hands down on the table in frustration.

“Oi,” I said, “You nearly knocked my drink over!”

“This is stupid,” he said. “I need to write the answers on the screen but my fingers are too podgy to write it properly!”

I totally understood his pain. I too had been struggling to use my fingertip to write the answers on my iPad. Suddenly, I had a light bulb moment.

“Let’s make some home-made touch screen pens,” I said. “I saw someone do it on YouTube once and it’s so easy!”

Pocket Rocket looked keen. “What do we need?” he asked enthusiastically.

I grabbed a couple of pens out of the Mum’s carefully arranged ‘mum school pot’ and emptied out the ink tubes and tips. “Just cotton buds and tin foil,” I said. “It couldn’t be easier!”

“I’ll get the cotton buds,” said Pocket Rocket, racing off to the bathroom with a new found spring in his step. I grabbed the tin foil out of the kitchen cupboard and ripped off two small squares. I knew not to use too much as Mum had told me how scarce everything was in the shops at the moment. She even restricted us to one sheet of toilet paper each when we went to the loo! We were allowed more if we needed a poo but I’m not too sure what we’ll do when it’s all gone. Maybe we’ll have to start wiping our bums with Little Spud’s old baby clothes. It was certainly better than using leaves from the garden!

Pocket Rocket appeared back with a handful of cotton buds. I took one and slotted it inside the now empty pen case, telling Pocket Rocket to do the same with the other one so that he could make his own. I pushed it down far enough so that just a tiny bit of the plastic was poking out of the pen with the soft cotton wool tip above it. Fastening it with a small strip of sticky tape, again from Mum’s highly organised pot, I then grabbed the tin foil. I wrapped it around the pen and the plastic so that it reached just to the base of the cotton wool. Pocket Rocket did the same.

“What now?” he asked.

“Now we just wet the cotton wool,” I said as I dipped my finger in my glass of water and dabbed it all over the cotton end. Typical bolshy Pocket Rocket literally dunked his whole pen in the water. Picking up my iPad, I tested out my new gadget. I was genuinely shocked when a line appeared clearly on the screen. It had actually worked to perfection.

“Mine doesn’t work,” snapped Pocket Rocket. “This is a rubbish idea.”

“You’ve just put too much water on it,” I told him. “Here, dab some off on this tissue and try again.”

Sure enough, as soon as the pen wasn’t soaked, it worked!

“Ben we could sell these!” he exclaimed.

I had been moaning to him yesterday about how the one downside of not being at school meant that I couldn’t run my secret school tuck shop. My little brother was on to something. I quickly saw a flaw in his idea though.

“We can’t leave the house to sell them to people though, you doughnut.” I said.

“Oh yeah,” he answered, deflated. “We could sell the idea though! We could make a website and give people half the idea and tell them if they want to know the rest then they need to pay £1 into our bank account. We could make thousands of pounds without even making any of them.”

Usually I would have jumped at the idea to make some money and Pocket Rocket was definitely showing some entrepreneurial flair that I was proud of. The nagging part of my brain that knew right from wrong wouldn’t turn a blind eye though. Lots of parents were out of work at the moment because of the crisis that had caused the lockdown. It didn’t seem fair to be charging for an idea that was so simple for people to do themselves. Mum looked at me and smiled when I told Pocket Rocket this. I took this as the mum look of approval… it was definitely better that the mum look of disappointment I had seen on previous occasions!

Chapter 5

One of the best bits about how things had changed in the world all of a sudden was that Dad also got to stay home. He spent most of his time working on his laptop and talking on the phone to other people from his office but it was great when he popped out to see us for a break.

After lunch, Mum said that we could have some free time to do what we wanted as she had some things she needed to do. Pocket Rocket went into the garden to film himself doing a keepy-uppy challenge with his favourite football, and Big Spud and Little Spud ran to get some dressing up clothes to put on our dogs, Obi and Lola. Seeing that everyone was nicely distracted, I ran upstairs to call Tommy. I chose to do a video call so we could see each other whilst we were talking. Tommy answered straight away.

“Hi Ben,” he said smiling into the lens. “What are you up to?”

I was about to tell him about Big Spud and his nerf gun when my eye caught sight of something behind Tommy. Bouncing around in the background was a rather large lady dressed in a leopard print leotard with florescent pink leg warmers.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“That is my mum,” Tommy answered in a tone that said something more like ‘I can’t actually believe that women is my mum. Someone please help me and call the fashion police whilst you’re at it.’

In all the time I had known Tommy, I had never met his parents. As rich millionaires, they were always out at some sort of event whilst Tommy was left at home in the care of his housekeeper. That was why he spent so much time at my house usually. Not wanting to cause himself any further embarrassment, Tommy angled his phone away from the women who was now bending her body to a level of contortion that was seriously questionable for a women of her age.

“So, what have you been doing?” he asked.

I filled him in on “Mum School” and how annoying it was being stuck inside with all my brothers. He looked green with envy though.

“You’re so lucky,” he said. “I’m going out of my mind with boredom here. I wish I could come and stay at your house.”

I wished he could to. My brothers would love that. So would Mum come to think of it. I knew it wasn’t possible right now though. Tommy and I chatted for a few more minutes until I heard Mum making a noise that sounded like a weird combination of shrieking and laughter. My curiosity got the better of me, so promising I’d call him later and let him talk to my brothers too, I hung up. Running to my younger brothers’ bedroom, I was met with the scene of Obi and Lola, looking somewhat different to the last time I had seen them. Obi had one of Dad’s ties hanging around his neck and one of mum’s hair bands on his paw with a yellow flower tucked in it. Lola stood there wearing a wedding veil on top of her head that fanned out across her entire body. Little sequins sparkled as the veil swished catching the light as she wagged her tail. Whereas Obi looked very disgruntled to be dressed up so smartly, Lola looked to be loving her little outfit.

“Would one of you please tell me why our dogs are dressed up like me and your dad on our wedding day?” said Mum, attempting to sound angry. She was trying very hard to hide the smile forming on her lips as she struggled to give my brothers the mum look of disappointment.

“They’re getting married,” said Little Spud innocently.

Now I had heard it all. Dogs getting married! My brothers had officially gone crazy. But at least I had brothers. They might be annoying but at least we had each other. With a new appreciation for my big and busy family after speaking to Tommy who sounded so lonely, I shouted “who’s up for some wrestling on the trampoline?” I heard three little voices shouting “me!” in unison followed by a charge of footsteps to the back door. I vaguely heard Mum’s voice shouting, “no, boys, you know it will end in tears,” but I chose to ignore that one as I too raced for the back door. She would be far too busy removing her veil from Lola’s head before Obi chewed it off her to worry about the chaos that was about to ensue. Maybe being in lockdown wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Chapter 6

I woke up the next morning, feeling energised after a good night’s sleep. I knew that Mum would be calling me down just before 9.00am and I’d have to do some exercise and some school work for a few hours. But, after that, the day was all mine. And I intended to make the most of it by…

 

NOW IT’S OVER TO YOU! CHAPTER 6 IS YOURS TO WRITE SO GET THOSE IMAGINATIONS WORKING!

A bit of advice…

Whenever I run creative writing workshops at schools, I always tell children this…
You may not get lots of ideas in your head straight away, but all you need is one! That idea will then trigger another idea in your brain which will then lead to another one, and so on. I often compare it to a snowball gaining momentum rolling down a hill.

A good tip is to always think about what you actually know already as a starting point and then to build on that with your imagination.

I tend to write funny books that have a bit of drama and suspense in them. But you don’t necessarily need to write a funny story, you could write a dramatic one, or one with a good moral message to teach people right from wrong, or one with mystery in it, or one that is very emotional. It is entirely up to you what you write as writing is a fantastic way to express yourself, and your individuality.

A little help to get you started…

We have come up with a few ideas that you could let your imagination run away with, or you could come up with something entirely your own!

Idea 1 (Sci-Fi)… An alien lands in Ben’s garden and he keeps him hidden in his bedroom…

Idea 2 (Mystery)… Ben plays a game of hide and seek with his brothers and one of them literally disappears. Try as they might, they can’t find him anywhere…

Idea 3 (Adventure)… Ben’s house is really old, and when they go exploring, they find a hidden cave underneath it….

Idea 4 (Fantasy)… Ben and his brothers fall down a hole in their garden and end up in an enchanted forest…

Idea 5 (Comedy)… Ben and his brothers make a YouTube channel to keep other kids entertained during lockdown…

Idea 6… Come up with something completely different that we haven’t mentioned here as there is nothing better than your own imagination!

YOU MAY BE STUCK INSIDE, BUT YOUR IMAGINATION IS AS FREE AS A BIRD, SO LET IT FLY!

I would love to see all your stories so if you would like me to read them, please ask your parents to take a photo of them and send them to kerry@kerrygibb.com. I will put some of the stories I receive on my website for others to see too! www.kerrygibb.com

Top Tip – if you would actually like to make a home-made touch screen pen, we have uploaded a video with how to do it on YouTube. Click here to see it!

You can also see me reading It’s A Kid’s Life – Lockdown on YouTube – click here!

The It’s A Kid’s Life series…

If you haven’t yet discovered the It’s A Kid’s Life series, they are aimed at children aged roughly seven to eleven years old. There are five books in the series which should keep you busy for a while! Click on the links below to order them.

It’s A Kid’s Life
Paperback
Kindle

Sneak Preview!

It’s A Kid’s Life – Arch-Enemies
Paperback
Kindle

It’s A Kid’s Life – Double Digits
Paperback
Kindle

It’s A Kid’s Life – Christmas Countdown
Paperback
Kindle

It’s A Kid’s Life – Camp Chaos
Paperback
Kindle

It’s A Kid’s Life – Camp Chaos

IAN Children’s Book of the Year Finalist 2018, Kerry Gibb, brings you the latest book in her popular series for children aged 7 to 11 – IT’S A KID’S LIFE – CAMP CHAOS.

Ben Collins is finally escaping his annoying little brothers for the week! Join him and his friends on their much anticipated Year Six camp to the Isle of Wight. Be prepared for fearless ‘truth or dare’ escapades and exhilarating tests of courage that push the boundaries of trust to the limit. Throw into the mix a thunderstorm, an accident that could have ended in tragedy and a brave display of true loyalty, and you have a school camp that will go down in history!

Order your copy here now!

 

Kids Need to Pick up a Book Now More Than Ever!

Lately, we hear more and more how children are losing their love of reading. Some apparently never had it in the first place. Others lost it along the way. There are a number of reasons being blamed for this. The heavy emphasis of education on grammar and punctuation… the attitude that it’s not ‘cool’ to read… the barrage of media that our kids can effortlessly access via gazing at a phone screen.

However, these are all reasons that children should be picking up a book.

SATs are overflowing our children’s brains with the belief that you have to give a perfect answer to everything. They are sapping creativity. The desire to do great things in life is enhanced by one’s ability to take a risk… to think outside the box… to dare to be different. Not to conform to an exact formula of how to do things. Reading a book allows children to escape from this rigidity. To go on adventures and escape the pressure of life. Or in the words of George R.R Martin, as Game of Thrones fans may recognise, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” As a child, I travelled many a night to The Faraway Tree or joined the girls at Malory Towers. Let’s give our children the chance to do this.

Then following this barrage of testing at the end of primary school, secondary school teachers wonder why they are struggling to recapture their kids’ love of the written word as they hand them a copy of Shakespeare to study! If I was a Year Seven English teacher, every child in my class would be given a copy of Wonder by R. J Palacio to reignite their interest in reading. A current book highlighting significant issues in today’s difficult world – what could be more important than teaching our kids to be kind I ask you?

And as for other kids ridiculing others into thinking reading isn’t cool, maybe they should google ‘images of celebrities reading’ to see that this is just propaganda. My point will be proved if you just tap a search into Google images of ‘Emma Watson reading’. You will be inundated! And she, my friends, rated number one on the coolness survey conducted by Buzzfeed recently – all based purely on the views of our future generation. I rest my case! And if that hasn’t convinced you enough, try telling footballers, Theo Walcott and Tim Cahill, that they aren’t cool for promoting reading to children through the ‘Reading Stars’ campaign. Or, Frank Lampard, for not only reading, but actually writing a book series for kids too.

In an age where our children progress into their teenage years via social media, they should be losing themselves in a book every night. Unwinding from the barrage of fake pictures of everyone looking perfect and living their best life. The characters in a book aren’t going to judge them. They will be there for them night after night, until the book has finished. And you know a book is a good one when you feel sad to see it come to an end and a little piece of your favourite character is left with you. You can identify with characters, not based on how they look or what they wear, but by how they act and speak. An imaginary person that is probably more real than a lot of what they see on their social media.

So, if you are reading this after having succumbed to the view that kids just don’t like to read anymore and accepted that this is just the way it is, think again!

Written by Kerry Gibb, author of the popular children’s book series, It’s A Kid’s Life, and finalist in the IAN Children’s Book of the Year Awards. She is passionate about giving author talks at schools to promote a love of reading and writing in children.

National Read To Your Sibling Day – 20th May 2021

National Read To Your Sibling Day was created by children’s author Kerry Gibb, to encourage brothers and sisters to read to each other.

Kerry has witnessed first-hand the amazing benefits of her own children reading to one another and wants to urge children everywhere to do the same.

“Older children get a fabulous sense of responsibility and make wonderful role models for their younger siblings. Snuggling up reading a book together is fantastic for bonding and seeing their older siblings read to them will encourage the younger ones to follow suit.

Reading aloud to each other helps children enhance their communication skills and comprehension, as well as boosting their speech, vocabulary and language.”

Schools can get involved by asking children to read to their siblings at home. Children can then report back to school the next day and discuss the books they read to their sibling and how they reacted to it. Did they laugh? Did they seem calm? Did they enjoy it? They can even be encouraged to take photos of them reading together to share with the class.

Younger siblings can be encouraged to read to older siblings too. Some of them find reading their school books to their parents a chore as it is labelled ‘homework’. Reading their school book to their older brother or sister instead, can bring a whole new level of enjoyment to it. They could even read their favourite bedtime story and take it in turns to read a page each.

National Read To Your Sibling Day takes place on the 20th May. Please do join other parents and teachers and encourage your children to take part.

Use the hashtag #nationalreadtoyoursiblingday on social media to show your support!

 

 

 

Too Cool For Books, Hey Boys?

There is nothing that bugs me more as an ‘author mum’ than boys saying, as they get older, that they don’t like reading because ‘it’s not cool,’ or ‘it’s for nerds’.

Boys, you are so wrong on every level!

My husband overheard my ten year old telling his best friend earlier that he hated reading.

What would his friend say if he I told him that every night at bedtime, we read three or four chapters of a book from his favourite series together, and every night he asks for just one more chapter when I try to leave?

Does enjoying a book mean that he will no longer be the great little football player he has become?

Does enjoying a book mean that he won’t be such a good duo partner on Fortnite anymore?

Absolutely not!

It is time to squash this image of being one thing or another. A cool kid, or a nerd. A sporty kid, or an academic kid. A book lover, or a book hater.

My son didn’t click with reading. He found it hard and didn’t particularly enjoy the books recommended by school. He never got the hype about Harry Potter, and if a book didn’t grab him in the first chapter then it quickly went in the ‘hand me down pile.’ He is a sporty kid, and is never happier than when he is kicking a football around.

But, I never gave up on him. I knew that there would be a book out there for him. A book that would capture his heart, and make him realise the amazing place a book can take you to. A place away from the electronic bubble our children cannot escape in this modern world. A place where their minds can relax from the hectic interaction on Xbox live or Playstation.

You don’t have to love reading to enjoy a good book. But when you do discover that ‘good book’ you will love spending time reading it. And once you find ‘that book’, you will realise that there are others out there too. Thousands and thousands of books are just waiting to be discovered.

For my son, it was the Jamie Johnson series by Dan Freedman that did it for him. A series about his number one love – football. But, not only did he enjoy the football aspects of the book, he was drawn into the emotional journey of the character too.

Books teach us so much without us even realising, as we absorb them into our sponge-like minds.

It is a common bugbear amongst authors today when celebrities write a book that becomes a best seller just because they are famous. However, there are celebrities out there who have done wonders for promoting reading amongst children. Alesha Dixon has inspired countless young girls with her recent Lightning Girl series. Frank Lampard grabbed the attention of many a reluctant reader with his Frankie’s Magic Football series. And we all know how loved the David Walliams books are. All of these celebrities are living proof that we are not defined by one role in life. We can have many strings to our bow.

As boys grow up they will be influenced by their friends. Even more so thanks to social media. So let’s change this attitude that you either like books or you don’t. Let’s change this attitude of older boys that reading is for nerds.

Would you tell Frank Lampard he is a nerd for enjoying books boys?

If you agree with me, leave a comment to inspire boys out there to pick up a book!

This article was written by Kerry Gibb, a children’s author and mum to four boys. Her, It’s A Kid’s Life, series aimed at children aged 7 – 11, has grabbed the hearts of many reluctant readers. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also join her Kids Books Chit Chat social media groups.

Our Kids’ Mental Health

Parents who follow my Facebook page will know that I was outraged a few months ago when a prominent figure in education declared to a room full of parents that there was ‘no such thing as anxiety’.

This was the head of a school, addressing parents of eleven year olds who were about to embark on the most daunting phase of their education yet – the transition to secondary school.

Some children will cope absolutely fine throughout life. Others may find things more difficult. To some children, it is ‘just butterflies’ when they are feeling nervous. To other children, feelings of anxiety can overwhelm them. It can be for a reason, or they can just appear out of nowhere and they can’t explain why… they just feel anxious.

Unfamiliar situations such as a transition to a new school or a change in family circumstances can heighten these feelings immensely. Even something which is meant to be enjoyable, such as going on holiday, can make anxiety worse as it is unfamiliar.

The worst thing you can do is tell a child to ignore the way they feel and belittle it. You need to help them understand these feelings of anxiety so they can take control of them. Tell them it is ok to feel this way but they have to stand up to these feelings and not let them get the better of them. Anxiety can be overcome if dealt with correctly. It may never go away but you can learn to cope with it better.

I remember secondary school being hard enough when I was a child. Imagine growing up in the world we live in today. A world where you practise drills in school in case of a terrorist attack. A world where you constantly have social media telling you that everyone else has a perfect life. A world where, instead of hanging out with your friends, you now chat to them over a set of head phones whilst playing a game where, nine times out of ten, there will be guns involved.

The modern world is bringing anxiety with it and it is unavoidable. Sure, you could be the parent who makes a stand and stops your children playing these games. You could be the parent who stops your child having a phone. But, as they grow up in this modern world, if they are to fit in, this is unrealistic. This then subjects them to the isolation they feel when they are not part of what everyone else has. It is a no win situation.

The best thing we can do as parents is talk to our kids. Be open with them. Let them know that it is okay to feel anxious at times, it is okay to feel overwhelmed by everything, and you’re there to help them process these feelings and cope with them. Ignoring something that is very real will not help anyone. Understanding and talking is how to help.

The worst thing you can do is make an absurd statement such as ‘there is no such thing as anxiety’ just because it’s easier to ignore it than deal with it.

Kerry Gibb is the Author of the It’s A Kid’s Life series – humourous, fictional books for children aged seven to eleven. As well as being a mum to four boys, she has a degree in Social Psychology and regularly visits schools to inspire children with their reading and writing. Visit her website at www.kerrygibb.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

It’s A Kid’s Life – Double Digits

After nine long months of hard work, I am excited to announce the arrival of It’s A Kid’s Life – Double Digits!

book 3 cover draft 4

It seems like only yesterday that my mini focus group and I sat around my kitchen table in our pj’s, brainstorming our third book together.  And next week I will have the actual print copy of it in my hands.  Seeing the finished book for the first time never fails to disappoint.  But as next week is a whole lot of days away yet, I thought I would give you a sneak preview of the first two chapters.

Just click here to take a look and click on ‘Look inside’ above the picture of the book!  (Please note this is the kindle version of the book which you are of course welcome to buy, but I would always recommend children read a print copy of a book as there’s nothing like reading with the feel of a book in your hands.)

The new book will be added to my Amazon author page when it is released next week and you will be able to purchase a paperback copy here.

I hope you enjoy your sneak preview!

Kerry

 

 

 

How could you not like Roald Dahl books?

Last week I was asked by a child what my least favourite book was when I was in school. I thought for a moment as I felt my brain struggle with the dilemma I was about to face. Did I tell the truth and risk losing the respect of my audience of two hundred children, or did I avoid the truth in order to stay in their favour?  The truth was, my least favourite book as a child was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

A book by an amazing author whose books have been sold in the millions worldwide. An author who has brought joy to children for many years. An author who has the ability to capture the imagination of children as he depicts the world through a child’s eyes. Roald Dahl has made such an impression on the world of books that schools even celebrate ‘Roald Dahl’ day once a year.

So how can it be that I don’t like a book by Roald Dahl? How can I dare to consider criticising such a great author?

Since becoming an author myself three years ago, I haven’t dared. When asked at school author talks who my favourite author is, I have even been known to reply ‘Roald Dahl’, as I know that all of the children will know who he is, and most will have enjoyed at least one of his books.

In truth, the Roald Dahl books that I read as a child have haunted me for many years. Whereas other children have sat enjoying his books, the darkness hidden within is what I remember. I found Willy Wonka himself to be a haunting character who made me feel anxious, a feeling exasperated upon watching the movie that it became. The mere mention of an umpa lumpa makes me feel agitated and tense. I made the mistake of telling my sons this once who now find it hilarious to sing the umpa lumpa song as I have to retreat to another room with my fingers in my ears!

I thought that I was the only person in the world to feel this way as I have listened to Roald Dahl being celebrated for many years.   My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I admitted to him that I wasn’t a fan, as he showed me his collection of Roald Dahl books that he still had from when he was a child. I felt myself tense as he gave his collection to my sons, worrying that they too would end up having nightmares about a girl blowing up into a giant blueberry! My eldest son proved that I was right to be concerned as he read The Witches. He had nightmares for two years upon reading this… two years!

One day I confessed to a friend over a cup of tea that I was probably the only person in the world who didn’t like Roald Dahl books. To my amazement she then told me that she had never liked them either and they also left her feeling uneasy as a child. This got me to thinking that maybe I wasn’t so strange after all. If we didn’t like Roald Dahl books, perhaps there were other people out there who felt the same.

As children we are encouraged by teachers and parents to read certain books. We are told that these are great books that we should enjoy. So what happens if we don’t enjoy these books? Do we then make the assumption that we don’t like reading? Are we missing the point of what everyone else sees in these books and therefore concluding that reading isn’t actually our thing? I fear that this may be the case for many children. And this is why I decided to be brave last week and tell the truth.

As I told my audience that my least favourite book as a child was a Roald Dahl book, I literally heard a couple of children gasp as they couldn’t believe what I had just said. But then I elaborated, and I saw two hundred pairs of eyes looking at me intently as they listened to every word. I told them that Roald Dahl was an author I massively respected. He was a great writer and captured the hearts of many children. But that didn’t mean that I personally had to like reading his books. Just because other children liked reading them, that didn’t mean that I had to. I told them that this was the same for each and every one of them. Just because all of their friends liked a particular book, that didn’t mean that they had to like it too. I always say to children that there is no such thing as a child who doesn’t like to read, they just haven’t found the right book yet. We are all unique and our love of reading is no different to this. You can appreciate that a book is well written, or that an author is a great inspiration with amazing talent without actually ‘liking’ their books yourself. As I said this to the children, I felt a huge weight lift off me as I saw a couple nodding as if they understood. Maybe they secretly didn’t like some of the books their friends and teachers told them they should like and had assumed that this must mean that they don’t like reading. Maybe now they will realise that there is a book out there that they will enjoy.

The number of books out there for children to read these days is immense. There is truly something for everyone. So if your child is one who hasn’t yet taken to reading, maybe try them with something they just haven’t discovered yet. Whilst appreciating the greatness of our historical authors who will stand the test of time, we can also celebrate the new authors that are exploding onto the scene of the children’s book world, opening children’s eyes to the endless possibilities that are the world of books.

Kerry Gibb is the author of the It’s A Kid’s Life series: It’s A Kid’s Life,  It’s A Kid’s Life Arch-Enemies, It’s A Kid’s Life – Double Digits, It’s A Kid’s Life – Christmas Countdown It’s A Kid’s Life – Camp Chaos, The Elephant Squad. They are laugh out loud, true to life books for children aged seven to eleven.  Kerry was a Finalist in the 2018 IAN Children’s Book of the Year Awards and regularly visits schools to promote reading and writing to children. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Visit www.kerrygibb.com to buy personalised, signed copies for your kids!