School Visits

On 11th October Michael and I were kindly invited to lunch at St. Pius X when I met your headteacher, Miss Banks and Jane Bentley and your very special own class teacher, Mrs. Wilson. Afterwards I met you in the hall above and we started our reading and question and answer session at 1.30 and then we did an exercise in writing about animals, to get you all thinking about animal senses and also so that I might get some ideas from you for my new book Magnificat.

I really was hugely impressed by your enthusiasm, your imagination and your thoughts and am simply scribbling below some of the extracts that moved me. I split the essays into your school years, where you remembered to write what year you were from! Other than being in years they are in no particular order – I wonder if you will be able to pick out your own writings?

These are all from Year Four (I think):

  • “The lovely flowing fish was fed French fries” the glorious first alliterative line from The Fish and the Canary. What a sad story and I loved the detail of the the ring number on the canary’s leg
  • “One day Twilight the horse had escaped from Pinhollow stable and Maddy and Imogen were worried sick because the best that there was were racing tomorrow”. A gripping beginning to this tale
  • “There was once a cat called Twilight. She was white as snow and had the sweetest voice” and “she peered through the cat flap her eyes shining in the moon’s reflection” exceptional atmosphere and beautiful use of moonlight
  • The first story about a cheetah who “was hungry and lonely. He was lonely because he had no friends or family. He had no family because they were killed by poachers”. Oooh, sad.
  • The Beast was an epic tale of horror, here is a small excerpt: “The zebra put on 30 eyes and the beast lost his eyes. The squirrel put on 29 more legs and the beast’s legs were lost. The crab put on 28 arms and the beast was killed” much care was taken not to repeat the same phrases – cool!
  • “He whispers some nonsense to his mum. She sends him to bed with no supper. A barn owl flies to his window and is almost saying ‘you’re lucky, you don’t have to hunt – I do. Be happy’ Whoa, whoa is an owl talking to me?” Oh wow, so many things are coming together in this story – it felt as if this author was drawing from a deep well.
  • Then we had a tale about a cat who had a scary encounter with a tiger and who was then left alone for five days until a boy called Sam took him to his house. “Sam was a cool boy and he was good at school” !
  • And then I read my first Llama story which began “One day there was a Lama called Wilson” and there was a drawing of Wilson just so I could be sure
  • Next up a great opening line “It was a very snowy day, everyone was asleep except Fluffy. My pet kitten is called Fluffy. She is always very sad.”
  • “He was bounding towards the cottage, leaping over twigs and skimming the grass. It all started when Jasper saw a daddy-long-legs”… It certainly left me wanting more!
  • “Nibbles the woodland rabbit used to be a pet to the Jones family. One night someone in a shadowy mask went into the back garden, and opened Nibbles’ hutch.” Frightening use of tense in “used to be”!
  • And this produced in me empathetic feelings “she grabbed the hideous spider and gobbled it up in one whole munch, but that was not enough for a cat that had starved for three days and nights”…
  • The following is extracted from an astonishingly inventive adventure: “She had a hook on the window…she had a rope in the back of her cupboard. She took it out and wrapped it on the hook and swung down it. Then she brought the kitten up again”…
  • And here is an awesome twist: “As the robber walked away to take off his black dark shoes and walked away into the kitchen a girl named Katie crept down the stairs. She opened her Dad’s big black sack and saw Fluffy trembling with fear” – actually perhaps I misread this one. Perhaps Katie’s Dad wasn’t the robber, maybe the robber was just using Katie’s Dad’s sack!! Now here was atodo! “The rat was called Fatima and she was very scared! White Chin started to chase Fatima” – so I loved the idea of White Chin chasing a rat called Fatima but this story was followed by: A long story about a mouse and a cat called Maxie and Hania! It was very sad and then suddenly it had a happy ending – so I think there was some cross pollination going on here perhaps?
  • This story is about a mouse called Cheese. “He was very lonely and his eyes were big and cute. His grey skin shimmered in the moonlight. He lay down and his green eyes closed ….The wizard came to get his lunch. The cook came in and gave him pasta. The wizard wanted cheese on it. ‘Uh, uh’, thought Cheese”… [Well he would wouldn’t he?] anyway I was left wanting more!
  • “But when the rabbit saw his big white wet teeth he ran as fast as his small legs could carry him” – a stunning reversal of what you expect as the reader. We have here a love affairs between a tiger called Jake and a nameless white rabbit.
  • “Angel Cat goes to sleep outside a house. .. In the morning his owner Maddy goes looking for him. She only brought her umbrella and gloves” I loved that touch, only her umbrella and gloves, it really makes you think!
  • Meg the dog has lots of adventures through the hail and gets badly frightened by a fierce wolf
  • Henry the dog meets a fox. And the fox meets Henry. What happens next? A clue might lie in the words “colourful feather” which are written at the top, but the author never got that far!
  • Some completely explosive sentences of joy burst forth from Bethny when she receives her wonderful owl present for Christmas called Fluffy
  • Terrific atmosphere created by creaking wood and rustling bushes “Then in the morning the deer found himself in a fox’s den all scared. He took one silent sniff of the air and could tell ‘if I am going to live, I should run now’. He scampered away quickly”. [Only thing is he would have to be a very very small deer or the fox would have to be a giant fox, but all things are possible in a story and this author thought about smells and sounds!]

And these from Year Five:

  • “Moments later a small red car turned up. At first Amy was scared as the short old woman climbed slowly out of the car, but then she curled up into a ball. The woman came closer to pick her up. The smell of something scrumptious came from the woman as she bent closer” great atmosphere, we are intrigued. I was left really wanting more, more.
  • “The sun was shining. The sky was clear and blue. There were at least five other rabbits in the field and not one of them had seen the sly eye of the big dog hiding behind the overgrown rushes.” Brilliant use of adjectives and the story overall has a strong sense of speed and sounds, great build up of tension. Well done.
  • Again good tension here: “The shark smelt the scent of blood, faster than lighting he swam to the dead fish. …..”
  • And again, here, great tension: “As Shama arrived at the light she heard a loud shout. A giant roar. Then nothing. Everything stopped. No noise”.
  • “The horse looked around, curiously, for grass to eat”
  • And here we have a second Llama but this time with a different name. “Today I got a lama from the wild pet shop. I named him Lenny” and the story ends with great tension when the author says “My mum was still in bed. ‘I will speak to you later Georgia’”, oo err! And there was a drawing of Lenny as well.
  • And now we have another lonely cheetah. “One day there was a cheetah in the jungle. He was hungry and lonely because he had no friends and because his parents and grandfather and grandmother died when he was 14 years old”. Sad L
  • Georgia and Jimmy are taking Blaze the dog for a walk. “They let Blaze off the lead to run in the field, as soon as they did he dashed off” yup, that’s dogs for you, that’s what they do!
  • This is a story about a fox which is very atmospheric but I was struck about this simile. It is unusual. Does it work? You judge… “Late at night at the cliffs of Dover the moon shone like a bead on a bracelet” – good stuff anyway
  • Scar the Bat – this was special. “As the hand picked him up Scar unleashed his deadly fangs and bit the hand which had him in its grasp, but to Scar’s surprise nothing happened. He was slowly taken outside into the open world”…and then later “but as the door closed on him at that very moment Scar realised he must face the fears of his life”.
  • The Lost Treasure. Great atmosphere “She looked up for a second and realised that none of the trees or the peaceful environment was at all familiar. She sat down and curled her tail up. She thought for a moment. She got up and wandered around in a circle. She was lost!”
  • "An adventure begins for three super cats called Whisker, Fluffy and Ginger but I needed to know more of what was going to happen."
  • Great build up and use of dialogue. A playwright or novelist in the making? “Katherine, Katherine!” she heard her mother call. “Coming Mother” called Katherine. She opened the door, went out, slammed the door and thundered downstairs. She couldn’t wait till tomorrow because it was her birthday. As she dawdled her way to school she dreaded the thought of her swimming gala ahead of her.” Dawdled, brilliant word!
  • And another great user of dialogue: “Kate! Wake up”, Mrs. Greenwood shouted suddenly. “What? What happened?” Katie replied. “What is 6 x 4?” groaned the teacher. Katie said: “12, err…14, err.20. Oh I don’t know miss”. It was the last day of the term and the Christmas holidays were a day away.” Oh those dreams of the puppy. So did she or didn’t she?

And these from Year Six:

  • This whole story is quite special. I select two paras only, but could have selected the whole thing: “I stared intently at the shoal of fish passing above me. I was the King of the Ocean, Champion of the Seas. Lunging forwards, I gulped down the fish. Down below me, jellyfish swam in total unison. Sweeping forward powerfully I stared through the murky waters letting the world pass me by .” Astonishing stuff.
  • And another llama story but one with yet another name. “So the next day they went to get the lama and they called it Betty. They took it home to show their mum”
  • Sad moving account of a young elephant: “He stood at the back of the metal cage, scared he would be whipped like all the others. All he could see was the mournful face of the old beaten elephant across the way.”
  • A dark knight on his horse passes by an injured cat who tries to rise up over 20 times. It makes Sam very angry
  • “As a white and grey patched horse known as Blanke was out cantering in the field he heard a deafening gunshot and headed the other way in a hurry. He leaped over the gate on to the road but to his surprise the hunters had spotted him. Blanke paused with big frightened eyes…..” lots of powerful narrative here
  • Penguin Alone. “With the guns still firing, I started to swim in the direction that my mum went in, but she was nowhere to be seen. My ears were covered with freezing water as I chirped as loud as I could. But there was no reply…” sooo sad!
  • Great descriptive powers at work here: “My rabbit had big blue eyes, long white ears and he was wild. He was known as Jimmy. He was looking for someone to play with.”
  • “The lost cat looked around him curiously looking for somewhere to go. He spotted a speck of light flashing in the wild wood.”… “So he found some courage in himself and set off in search of food…” the scene is set here for a big feline adventure
  • “An atmosphere of danger hung in the city air that night. A solitary grey car pulled up on the more or less empty road….A man, probably in his thirties, opened the door at the traffic light. He picked up an old sack and turned it upside down. A young cat fell out with a thud” – love the thud, wish I had said that!
  • “It was a cold night and the rain thudded on Joe’s bedroom window. It was one of those nights you wish you were never born. He just couldn’t sleep and he was a bit scared because he had just watched the scariest/funniest movie of the century. Suddenly he heard a massive howl as if a werewolf had just howled….” Read on, dear reader, read on…
  • A complex tale about a kitten called Eclipse and a bat called Twilight and Eclipse gets blamed for Twilight’s bad behaviour but the story end with “But then Twilight and Eclipse made friends with each other. Later when Eclipse was older he betrayed Twilight and ate him, fully. With no bits left on the floor…” Eclipse is an awesome name for a kitten and I rather like Twilight for a bat too
  • A short but promising tale which begins “It was 6.30 as I woke up seasick. As I ran outside to throw up overboard I heard my four friends talking to each other.”
  • A tale of a dolphin with every sign that it would make a great story which begins: “He glided through the clear, blue water which was like crystal, not knowing which part of the North Sea he was in”.
  • Great scene setting here: “Molly, the wild dog, was wandering through a back alley when she found somewhere to sleep. It was dark and very late. Molly was awfully tired. She had had a long day.”
  • “One year there was an argument between the Speasals and the animals. The animals were from earth and the Speasals were from a planet called SQUARZ.”
  • The story of a wild rabbit called Crystal. “One day I was hopping along and I could smell a hot blueberry pie so I hopped through the rustling leaves and at that very moment I saw a fox. It started running at me and I ran and ran and I couldn’t stop. My heart was racing. I thought I was going to die.”
  • Story about a cat who eats a dead rat in desperation but that’s not all. “Unfortunately for me something managed to smell me out. I saw a big shadow come sprawling across the backstreet wall. I ran. I ran as fast as I could because I heard growling and snarling coming up behind me. Then, suddenly, I caught my foot in something and came tumbling to the ground. The creature loomed up behind me and….”
  • “As Dobby ran through the silent and spooky woods, his powerful cat senses told him that he had been here before. He smelt the rotting dead animals. He saw the massive, bare trees that were so small all those years ago.” Tremendous atmosphere
  • Wookler the wolf cub opens very dramatically: “Wookler let out an agonising cry as he watched his mother’s limp body breathe its last breaths. He knew this could have happened sooner or later, but he had hoped it would be later. How was he going to hunt for himself? He hadn’t even started. He would starve!” Well done.
  • And another sad lonely cheetah, this time with no name. “One day there was a cheetah who lived in the forest. He was lonely because he had no friends or family since they had all died. He was really hungry and suddenly spotted some food and leaped for it and ate it, but it was poisoned and he fell asleep. He was being taken away to a zoo.” Oh oh L
  • And in Spy Animals “We were racing down the hill. The evil genius was on our tails. We were dying to stop running but we couldn’t”….
  • Some good scene setting but it was too short: “Once there were four dogs. Oscar the Huskey; Butch the Rottweiler;Fernandez, the Doberman and Franco, the Great Dane. Franco and Fernandez were from Mexico and Oscar and Butch were from Canada. They met in Washington, D.C. America on a holiday.”!!!!!
  • And last but very much not least a long and terrifying tale about a dog with no gender which was what was special about him who travels to France with Sarah and her cat and they all get hit by a tsunami and Sarah’s mother is killed but Sarah and the cat and the dog live and eventually everything is fine.
  • Apart from the fact that llama was misspelled, well I know it is a really difficult word, but you were the ones who chose to have llamas in your stories, they were really great pieces of writing. Oh and yes, what is it with the lonely cheetah whose entire family has been killed? And the spelling of cheetah flummoxed some of you a little bit.

    Thank you so much for sharing your writing with me and trusting me to read them, and if you want them back just tell me. These were very special stories and I feel privileged to have them by me. Thank you. I will definitely acknowledge your school and your years in my new book.

    Septi and Otto

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    Author, illustrators and houses

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    Fannie, Titus, Pushkin and Gilly

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