Sunday, 4 December 2016

Ready Steady Mo! – Mo Farah, Kes Gray & Marta Kissi – Biography Story Sack



 Over the past few weeks here on SOTB we have explored and the concept of Story Sacks to prove them to be an exciting resource which can inspire a wider audience of readers. We have looked at creating story sacks for different ages of readers from key stage one pupil’s right through to young adults, proving that they are adaptable and versatile. But now we are stretching the concept further and we give you is our first Biography Story Sack.

It has become apparent to us SOTB contributors that publishers seem to no-longer publish exciting biographies/ autobiographies for children, akin to; Roald Dahl’s Boy, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell or When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. This is a shame as biographies can be an excellent way to introduce children to reading non-fiction but in an understandable narrative form. With this in mind, we set ourselves a challenge to assemble a Biography Story Sack based on someone who children are aware of and who is both a passive and inspiring role model. Therefore we thought very hard and picked the formidable Mo Farah.



So we have picked the vibrant and picture book Ready Steady Mo! By Mo himself along with Kes Gray and Marta Kissi, as central core to build the story sack around. Ready Steady Mo!, is a funny, vibrant beautifully illustrated picture book, following Mo, as he runs through extraordinary settings inspiring others to get active too. We have paired this up with Where’s Mo, a fun Where’s Wally style spotting books full of puzzles and based around London 2012.



For the obligatory non-fiction book element of the story sack, we have included Roy Apps, short biography ‘Dream to Win; Mo Farah’ which concentrates on Mo’s story from when he was a boy and his extraordinary journey from Somalia to the UK and young sportsman to Olympic champion. The book is told in narrative form and is interjected by lovely illustrations by Chris King. In addition to this we have included another non-fiction, Richard Brassey’s fully illustrated picture book of ‘The Story Of The Olympics,’ to help put Mo achievement into perspective to young readers.



However the essential soft toy element of the story sack was problematic, as after searching toy shops, the internet and even charity shops, it became apparent that it is near on impossible to by a soft toy/ rag doll or plush of a person unless you want a white blonde haired girl. Therefore our Mo, has been homemade, and we have tried very hard to make the likeness as close as possible to Marta Kissi’s illustrations of Mo in Ready Steady Mo!

For the game part we have chosen the Top Trumps GOLD 30 Legend of London 2012, which includes a Mo Farah card, and we also included a god medal so children can pretend to be a gold medallist too.



So here we bring another adaptation of the Story Sack, a biography, hopefully this will excite children and hopefully inspire them to read and run! I much hoping that it would meet Mo’s approval.







Thursday, 1 December 2016

Tinder – Sally Gardner & David Roberts – Young Adults Story Sack




Another day, another post, another Story Sack, but todays isn’t the usual story sack; yes it’s constructed around a picture book, but it’s not for Key Stage One children, but for Young Adults, and older adults too! Continuing on our features on stretching the scope, and challenging the pre-conceptions, of Story Sacks we bring you a story sack inspired by Sally Gardner and David Roberts’s beautiful re-imagined fairy tale yarn, Tinder.

Tinder was penned by the hugely talented Sally Gardner who took come the Carnegie medal in 2013 for her novel Maggot Moon, and was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Tinder Box. It’s is a touching story for older YA readers and is beautiful accompanied by David Roberts monotone and atmospheric illustrations, and it was also shortlisted for the Carnegie in 2015, for a full review press here.



I chose Tinder to be the basis for a YA Story Sack for a few reasons; firstly because it’s a wonderful book, and secondly because it is one of a few (but ever increasing) number of highly illustrated books for young adults, and lastly due to the current debates about the changing of Fairy Tales that have recently been in the news, (for find out more press here), my use of Tinder illustrating my opinion that Fairy tales should and have to evolve in order to remain relevant to society and therefore survive.

So as you may know from our previous post story sacks usually have: a picture books, a non-fiction book, a soft toy and a game, that are all to be related to the story in the picture book.



As Tinder was inspire by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Tinder Box, it seemed right to also include a copy of The Tinder box, for comparison, and to see how fairy tales have changed across time and generations. For the non-fiction element I picked Jack Zipes’s What Dreams Come True, which explores the history, eviloution and social life of fairy tales from the sixteenth century to current day, including The Tinder Box. However, being a YA Story Sack I thought it’d be fine to include more than non-fiction books, so if What Dreams Come True looks a little heavy there is also a lighter biographical book about Hans Christian Anderson, and his work.



Adapting the concept of a story sack for young adult readers, has meant that the soft toy and games, can be replaced with alternatives like the little wooden Tinder Box that can be decorated, and the sketchpad and pen, so the reader can try their hand at both penning and illustrating their own fairy tale. Thereby not being childish, but still incorporating the educational element and inspiring imaginative flow.




I believe this show one way that a story sack can be assembled to inspire and interest Young Adults, but there are many more books which would produce equally lovely story sack, like Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls or Marcus Sedgwick’s Ghost of Heaven to name but a few.


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Beetle Boy – M. G. Leonard - Middle Grade Story Sack




Today we are continuing our Story Sack feature with a story sack complied especially for Middle Grade readers, and constructed around M.G. Leonard’s hugely successful Beetle Boy. Being for older readers, we have consciously played with the traditional format of the Story Sack to make it appeal to more mature children, and also endeavoured to make it exciting for boys in particular. This is made really very easy because the novel Beetle Boy is such a riveting read, with so many themes running through, that it is really a very easy book to base a story sack around. 



So firstly a very quick blurb about Beetle Boy supplied by my ten year old son:

Beetle Boy is a fantastic and exciting book all about a boy called Darkus who discovers huge beetles that have had experiments done on them, and learns that a creepy lady is trying to capture them. Darkus’s father has gone missing so he goes and lives with his uncle and together with his two friends and his new pet rhinoceros beetle they join forces to save the beetles and find his dad.

So for this story sack, we picked a non-fiction book Explore Natures: Beetles and BUG, which does exactly what it says on the tin, with lots of beautifully full colour photographs and illustrations. 



Traditionally story sacks come with soft toys, but with this one being for Middle Grade readers, we decided that they would require something a bit more grown up, so the soft toy has been replaced by a beetle in resin, and a bug hunting book plus a kit comprising of scrapbook, looking glass, compass and binoculars to assist with the finding of bugs in the local area, identifying them and recording the findings. 



Another must for story sacks is a game, so with this one, I’ve opted for the beautiful and educational Bug Bingo, BUT there are many different games which would also be very appropriate, plus fit smaller budgets such as: Bug Top Trumps, or the vintage classic Beetles, or the more recent strategy game Hive.



This displays that story sack can be utilised to inspire older children to read, and are not exclusive to Key Stage One. This Beetle Boy story sack has a blend of fiction, exciting and educational activities and non-fiction reading, all of which are things that appeal to middle grade children and to boys in particular. Why not try compiling one your self or even seeing if you can turn a young reader into a Beetle Boy or even a Beetle Queen!



Thank you for stopping by, and please drop by again for more Story Stack ideas, coming up in the next few weeks we have; YA Story Sacks, Story Sacks on a budget and Biography Story Sacks.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Grandpa was an Astronaut by Jonathan Meres and Hannah Coulson – Story Sack – Barrington Stoke



Continuing our features on Story Sacks, we bring you a space themed Story Sack inspired by Grandpa was an Astronaut by Jonathan Meres and Hannah Coulson. From the moment I opened up the padded envelope (with the tell-tale Barrington Stoke squirrel on the front), and laid my eyes on the vibrantly illustrated front cover of Grandpa was an Astronaut I wanted to not only review it but make it the central component for a Story Sack.

The story it’s self is beautifully simple, exploring the tender and joyful relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Where two generations of the same family bond through play and make-believe, utilising every child’s favourite toy, a cardboard box. In a cardboard-box-rocket, Sherman and Grandpa, a former astronaut, go on an expedition to the moon. The story is told in a way that will engage young readers and bring a wave of nostalgia to adults. The story is further brought to life by the wonderfully colourful and energetic illustrations by Hannah Coulson. All in all, it’s is an ideal story to be shared by the whole family at story time.



With the story being so captivating, and being to the back drop of space I went about creating a Story Sack around it. As you may know, Story Sacks are designed to get children excited about reading. A story sack is a bag and inside there is a good quality fiction book (usually a picture book) and a non-fiction book which is related. There are also soft toys a game and sometimes an activity sheet. All the contents of the sack relate to the story in the fiction book, and are designed to explore the story in other ways, and to ignite the child’s imagination.

So when putting together story sacks I firstly look for the soft toys, for the Grandpa was an Astronaut Story Sack, I opted for finger puppets for Sherman, Grandpa and Mum (which are inexpensive and readily available on online), and a small dog figurine to represent Luna, Sherman’s pet.

Once the soft toys were in the bag (literally), I looked for a game, and found a lovely Rocket Game by Orchard Toys, and paired this with the fully illustrated Biggest and Best Universe Guide to be the non-fiction and educational elements of the sack. 



To further enhance the imaginative play, there is a crocheted moon, and a paper box rocket.

The completed Story Sack is colourful and fun looking, and should be enticing for children, furthermore, it was inexpensive as both the game and non-fiction books were sourced second-hand, and the puppets cost less than £1.50, making the whole thing cost less that £10.00, proving that Story Sacks can also be complied on a budget!

Thank you for stopping by and please drop by again!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Poo at the Zoo by Steve Smallman and Ada Grey - Story Sacks – DIY - Poo Bags

Getting children engaged in stories from an early age can be the cornerstone to them developing a love for reading. There are many ways to accomplish this but one of the most fun ways, which is adopted by schools and pre-school and can also be easily adapted for the home, is to use Story Sacks, (press here to read our last Story Sack DIY guide).



Over the next few post, we at space on the bookshelf will be exploring the concept of story sacks; looking at how to create them, how to put-together story sacks for older readers like Middle Grade and Young Adults, and looking at creating Story Sacks on a frugal budget. But to start off our Story Sack features, we shall begin with; Poo Bags. It is pretty universally acknowledged that children find poo funny, so why not use their amusement to both engage them in stories, and slipping in a bit of education on the way?

What’s a story sack?

Story sacks are another way of getting children excited about reading. A story sack is a bag and inside there is a good quality fiction book (usually a picture book) and a non-fiction book which is related. There are also soft toys a game and sometimes an activity sheet. All the contents of the sack relates to the story in the fiction book, and are designed to explore the story in other ways, and to ignite the child’s imagination.


Tips to make best use out of your story sacks...

Teaching assistance and story sack creator Janice Markey (whose been making story sacks for over ten years) shares some tips for making story sacks and how to use them best to excite children about reading.


  • Don’t forget the toys -There MUST be a soft toy and a game in the sack!
  • Fewer are better - We keep four to five story sacks in the class room at any one time allowing the children to borrow them on a rota system. A child can take them home for a week and read them together with their families. The rota system means they look forward to their turn the children often ask when their turn is to take home a story sack.
  • Keep them Fresh- I’m always keeping them fresh and making news ones and keeping up with trends. I did an Olympic one and a queen’s jubilee one last year. If they get tired I take them out of circulation and remake them. Keeping them fresh means they are always exciting for the children.
  • Scrounge – Story sacks cost to compile, so scrounge funds wherever you can!


Poo Bag #1 Poo in the Zoo by Steve Smallman and Ada Grey


Poo in Zoo is a funny and vibrantly coloured picture book following the adventures of Little Bob McGrew the keeper at the zoo, whose job mainly consists of shovelling up – you’ve guest it - poo! The illustrations of the differing type of poo from varying creatures are amusing, and you feel a little sorry for Bob McGrew, but it’s when the naughty Iguana starts greedily guzzling everything he can find, and then deposits it in a glowing smelly plop, which is when the keepers job becomes really horrible.



Poor Bob doesn’t know what to do with glowing poo, but it soon becomes the main attraction, with people flocking to see it, so much so that Hector Gloop for his Amazing Poo Museum, meaning that Bob can buy an automatic Poo picker-up-er!



I chose this book for the basis of the Story Sack not only because it is funny and beautifully illustrated, but because when I was a teenager I had a pet – you’ve guest it – iguana! And indeed iguanas do have the smelliest most horrendous poo, on account that they only do a move every few months! My iguana’s poo was so bad that it will smell out the whole house, for days even after it had been cleared up!

My very Smelly Iguana  - Iggy.


The Other aspect of the book that I thought was quite topical was the Poo Museum, as earlier this year an actual Poo Museum; The National Poo Museum, opened up on the Sandown Zoo on the Isle of White.



Of course a Story scam need to be educational as well as funny, so I’ve paired Poo at the Zoo up with the factual ‘Animal Sciences; Poo a Natural History of the Unmentionable’ which is an interesting picture filled book full of interesting poo facts.



To make the Story Sack educational and fun, there are an array of soft Zoo Animals, plus a hand-puppet Little Bob-McGrew Zoo Keeper and of course a cuddly iguana, a pretend poo, and lastly a game of Plop Trumps!




This Story Sack should cause lots of fun and laughter, and maybe even slip a bit of education in without children even noticing! But if maybe Iguana’s aren’t your thing, then you could always try one utilising the classic ‘The Mole who knew it was None of His Business!’

Poo Bag #2 The Mole who knew it was None of His Business - Werner Holzwarth & Wolf Erlbuch






I hope you've enjoyed this Story Sack post, and please come back and visit for more Story Sack inspiration!












Sunday, 3 July 2016

3D Review - A Lottie Lipton Adventure - The Egyptian Enchantment - Author Interview with Dan Metcalf

3D Review -  Lottie Lipton  -  Author Interview with Dan Metcalf




Dan Metcalf is a writer and author of children's books such as The Lottie Lipton Adventures. He lives in Devon with his wife and two sons. He enjoys books, films, comics and making up stories. He has so far absolutely refused to grow up.

What was your favourite children’s book as a child? 

I remember reading the BFG by Roald Dahl and being amazed by the world that he created and the way that he described all the giants, the land in which they lived and of course the food they ate. It helped that my headteacher at the time had read the book in assembly to the whole school, giving the characters fantastic voices and acting out every scene.




What is your favourite children’s book as an adult?

I think my favourite author is Philip Reeve, but I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite by him. Mortal Engines was the first book that got me into his writing, so I'd have to say that, but Here Lies Arthur is masterful.


What do you think makes children’s books so inspirational?

Children’s imaginations are absolutely limitless and I think the best books tap into that. The author takes the vast aircraft hangar that is a child's mind and fills it with amazing characters, out-of-this-world landscapes and compelling plots. An author is just a director, filling the stage in the child's mind with actors and sets, but the stage is infinite and the budget unlimited! Adult books might tend to stick with what the adult knows, occasionally throwing a tasty crime or two, but the best ones stretch the reader's mind and get them to imagine something outside of their own experience.


Why did you start writing for children?

I started out writing scripts for radio and TV, but I was swept away with inspiration after working in a bookshop and discovering the books of Philip Pullman, Tim Bowler, JK Rowling and David Almond. I soon realised that I was able to achieve everything I wanted to do as a writer by writing children's books. I wanted to inspire, educate and entertain. Hopefully I've managed to do some of those!

What made you want to write this book?

I love adventures and wanted to create a book that would get the reader using their puzzle-solving skills as well. I also wanted a girl to be at the centre as I felt there was lots of adventures involving boys.



What is your favourite aspect of writing for children?

Getting out to meet them! I do a lot of events at schools, festivals and libraries and it is great (and a little scary) to stand in front students and hear them talk about reading, writing and their favourite books. I love the activity of writing as well, which is good as that's what I spend a lot of time doing, but I can often look up from my notebook at the end of the day and realise I haven't spoken to anyone all day! I think it's important that I get out and talk to children as I think I might go mad if I didn't (some might say that's already happened...)

Do have to do much research for the Lottie Lipton Adventures?

A fair bit, yes. Most of the artefacts mentioned in the books can actually be found in the British Museum (a few aren't, like the legendary Trident of Neptune and the magical Cairo Cat) I used a lot of books that were written by the British Museum staff to find them. I also ended up using the British Museum website, which everyone should take a look at; they've a great educational section called Young Explorers which was a great help when writing The Lottie Lipton Adventures!

Questions from Lilianna our child reviewer:

Did you visit the British Museum when you were writing this book?

I've only visited twice in my life; once when I was ten and again twenty years later! I wrote the first Lottie Lipton story soon after that second visit but I haven't had a chance to revisit it recently. Maybe I'll only visit it again in twenty years time, and again twenty years after that? That's the great thing with museums, they'll always preserve history while the rest of us get older and older!

Do you do adult puzzles like Sudoku all the time?

Not all the time, no. I love doing them but I'm not that good at them! I spend most of my time writing books but I find that if I ever get stuck then if I do a puzzle or two it keeps my mind turning over without distracting me. I stick to the paper ones, because if I used a phone app or internet games I'd be too tempted to sit and waste time on websites like Facebook and YouTube!




Saturday, 2 July 2016

3D Review - A Lottie Lipton Adventure - The Egyptian Enchantment by Dan Metcalf - Adults Review




Adult Review

Have you ever visited a museum and wondered what it’d be like to live there? Imaging what it would feel like, to slide along the polished wooden floors in the empty galleries and see artefacts up-close? Well, wonder no more, this is exactly the life of nine year old Lottie Lipton, who lives with her great Uncle Bert in an apartment with the museum he works at; The British Museum London.

Being Home-educated Lottie spends times doing what she loves: solving puzzles and riddles, and she has proved herself quite the detective in other stories in the series which have seen her outwitting master criminals and finding hidden priceless artefacts.

With the assistance of her Uncle Bert and the museum caretaker Reg, she time and time again outwits the mean museum curator Sir Trevelyan who is constantly scheming to get Uncle Burt sacked form his job and both him and Lottie evicted from the museum. 

In Lottie latest adventure The Egyptian Enchantment, the team strive to control a group of mischievous enchanted Egyptian Shabti Dolls before they destroy the museum and cost Reg his job. Lottie must use all her skills of deduction to solve the puzzles to regain control of the Shabti Dolls, before Sir Trevelyan finally gets his way.


Lottie Lipton adventures always fun packed fast moving adventures penned for younger readers. Dan Metcalf masterfully creates a balance of humour, adventure along with bring in an educational element by including puzzles and riddles for the reader to solve alongside Lottie. The books are further enhanced by vibrant illustration by Rachel Panagarry. 

Come back tomorrow to read an interview with Lottie's creator Dan Metcalf!