How a Dead Man’s Hand Inspired Me!. Time and time again, my personal life experiences pop up in my writing – this is a short account of one of those times.
Category Archives: For children
I love family history, I get to be the detective, I couldn’t be in reality. I have been doing it with my son since he was about nine. He is now fourteen and does it without me as he is crazy about history and has got a deep interest in particular families he has discovered we are descended from. This isn’t a post about how to do family history – there are many great books and articles out there to help. This is a post which explains a few of the reasons why it is good to share it with our children.
History becomes a reality. When our children do history at school, it is always other people’s history. It might be about monarchy, political leaders or wars. It is nearly always about the folks who are known by many but actually connected to a few. When anything is covered about the ordinary folks it can seem as bland as my cooking. Growing up in Lancashire, we covered the cotton industry in history at school. I remember wishing aliens would come and cause chaos as Mr Hall droned on about the warp and the weft. Oh how that man knew how to kill any interest in The Industrial Revolution – that in itself was a talent. However, much as I would love to indulge myself in remembering Mr Hall’s secret educational weapons, I won’t. When we look at our ancestor’s lives during these periods, we truly get a sense of reality, especially in periods which cover the censuses. For instance, finding out that your great grandmother shared one room with ten other people and had to go into the street to get drinking water, really makes us think about the reality and hardships of their lives. Family history brings history to life for children because it is about folks they are directly connected to, people whom they share DNA with. It doesn’t get more personal than that.
Research skills. Whilst having lunch with a teacher friend of mine, we decided that one of the most important skills a child can learn is to be able to research well. Family history is a productive way of doing this. Children love to discover something about their ancestors and then grandly announce it to their parents. When my son discovered that he had a 10X great grandmother called Frances Poo, he adored breaking the news. Of course, I thought he was joking and had to check it. He was right, of course. The point is that family history makes children feel like real live detectives. The more they find, the deeper they wish to go. It is amazing how much this aids their research skills whilst having fun.
England, Marriages, 1538–1973
Bonding process. In this day and age, it is all too easy for families to be in the same house and yet not really be connecting with each other. A lot of the time, families are all doing their own thing, even watching television programmes is done in separate rooms these days. This is where family history really helps us bond with our children. There is something really powerful about the moment your child and yourself discover something fantastic or heart breaking about a shared relative. It is potent and strange and something which they could not get with friends, neighbours or anyone except the family. When I first discovered that a great grandfather of mine had spent the last twenty years of his life in a lunatic asylum –I was totally shocked. I was new to family history and it was the first of many sad or brilliant shocks which were to come. The only people I could share it with, initially, were my son and my mother – both of whom were from the same ancestor.
Days Out. Sometimes, it is hard to think of something new to do with our kids or even somewhere different to go. We often seem to do the same activities and visit the same places. We’ve had some great days out though visiting the places where our ancestors lived. It can be good fun to take photos of the children in front of the church where their ancestors got married two hundred years earlier or even just discovering a market town which your ancestors lived in but you haven’t been to before. I found a fabulous pair of Punch and Judy doorstops for £5 in an antique shop whilst visiting one of the market towns my ancestors once lived. in Although saying that, it can sometimes backfire. We visited some record offices in Ashton Under Lyne in Lancashire – that was fine. We then planned to find an address where some of our ancestors had lived in the early 1800s. It had turned into a monstrously busy road with huge trucks zooming up and down it. It made me totally stressed so I really do not know what my 4X great grandfather and grandmother would have made of it if they had travelled forward in time.
Meeting Wonderful New Relatives. We all have an amazing number of ancestors, so logically that means we are related to an amazing number of people whom we have never met. We were lucky enough to be found by a wonderful Australian lady whose great grandmother was sister to my great grandmother. When she came to England, she brought her husband and children to meet us and we all had a rare old knees up together. My son found lovely new cousins whom he bonded with immediately. It makes family history become real for children when they get to meet the descendants of people who are simply names and numbers on family trees.
Logic and Maths. When children do family history, they have to do lots of mathematical calculations and estimates. It isn’t the hardest maths in the world but it means lots of practise with basic maths in a productive way instead of filling in one maths worksheet after another. In the same way, they have to work in a logical manner. Finding out about our ancestors means working methodically backwards and making sure all the facts fit. We cannot start in the middle, we have to be systematic and it becomes a habit. Children who take part in family history projects become adept at careful note-taking and fact checking. They have to do the maths to make sure that what they have discovered is both logical and correct.
- Family history through the alphabet – F is for Fecund Forebears (genealyn.wordpress.com)
- Tuesday’s Tip – Read a Book (sortyourstory.wordpress.com)
- Michelle Obama’s White Ancestors Revealed (theroot.com)
- KHOU Anchor Len Cannon does genealogy search to find lost family history (khou.com)
- My Interview with Nick Barratt (eogn.com)
- Need to Read: Has Jack Daniel’s original recipe been found in Wales? (walesonline.co.uk)
- ireland ancestor search (augustinehuntle.typepad.com)
- Updated: My Family History (myprivatestory.wordpress.com)
Will (the fourteen year old) and I are exploring comedy in Shakespeare this summer. To begin with we are watching three different versions of “Much Ado About Nothing.” We viewed the one which was staged at the Wyndham Theatre last July on Digital Theatre, a few days ago.
The title of this post is Turning Teenagers Onto Shakespeare. The reason for the title is that I believe that this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”, will get your teenager loving Shakespeare. It might not seem important for teenagers to enjoy Shakespeare but it is on the curriculum and studying something which you enjoy is a whole lot better than having to put up with a subject which you detest. I highly recommend buying a download of this and watching it with your teenager. It is excellent. I have no association with Digital Theatre whatsoever, this post is written purely from the Loony Literature point of view of encouraging others to enjoy literature. In this post I explain why I believe teenagers will enjoy it.
Why would teenagers like this version of “Much Ado About Nothing”? For a start, David Tennant plays Benedick and Catherine Tate is Beatrice. At first glance, this can seem like a couple of very popular television actors from Doctor Who being hired to draw the crowds in. However, I have to say that David Tennant is an accomplished Shakespearean actor. (His Hamlet is inspirational.) He is so loved by the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) that £5,000 has been raised so that one of the seats in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon is to be named after him. Catherine Tate has done a fair bit of theatre also and has appeared in Goldoni’s “A Servant to Two Masters”, for the RSC.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy about love winning out in the end. When we add that its main theme is deception then it starts to sound interesting. This interpretation is set in 1980’s Gibraltar. Most of the chaps are navy officers and are in a post Falklands party mood. The plot is set around two couples. We have Hero and Claudio who are getting married but there is skulduggery afoot and Claudio is wrongly led to believe that Hero has been unfaithful to him. He makes a public spectacle of her at their wedding. Also, we have Beatrice and Benedick who seem to be constantly sparring. Benedick’s navy chums decide to bamboozle the pair of them into falling in love.
Josie Rourke directed this and she deserves the heartiest slap on the back for getting it right. By this, I mean taking the text and utilising it fully to demonstrate how approachable and contemporary Shakespeare can be. Tennant is a master of comedy. He gets covered in paint whilst eavesdropping which sounds rather clownish. It isn’t. It is done so well that we can’t help but hoot with laughter. In Benedick’s monologues, there are moments when Tennant’s whole persona cries out that he is having the time of his life and that is infectious – we as an audience feel that way too.
Catherine Tate plays Beatrice as a “don’t mess with me” type of gal. I loved it. The reason for this is that today’s girls will be able to identify with her. It is often hard for teenagers (I am speaking here as an ex teenager) to get to grips with the way women have been forced to be historically. As a teenager, I would often have problems truly sympathising, let alone empathising, with women in literature for the way in which they acted. I wanted them to speak out and to act more. I could turn blue at times urging some of them on to get more agency. Sometimes I found them impossible to identify with. It was only through years of both literary study and historical study that I could come to understand them and their motives. So watching Tate as Beatrice truly felt like a breakthrough in getting more teenage girls to identify with Shakespeare’s female characters.
When we are in our teens, because of raging hormones, we can often feel truly unattractive. It seems as if everybody in the world is fancied by someone, except us. We turn to fiction and film and often it is the handsomest, bravest hero who gets the chocolate box looking girl. It can be soul destroying and do nothing for our confidence. This performance of Much Ado About Nothing is the champion of the plain best friend. Benedick dresses in drag and gets covered in paint –he certainly is no-one’s dark, silent hero. Beatrice dresses as a man for a party and ends up flying in the air with the grace of a fairy elephant. She is no gorgeous femme fatale or pale interesting type. Yet she gets the boy. The message is simply be yourself, no matter how clumsy and plain you feel , one day, someone will love you for you. What teenager could resist that?
- Much Ado About Nothing – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Theatre review: Mingled passions in Stratford’s Much Ado About Nothing (arts.nationalpost.com)
Here at Loony Literature, we believe that children should be introduced to classic Literature at a primary school age. We know that if children are au fait with the plot and characters of the text, they are more likely to understand the actual text when starting to study it later at secondary school or with other educators.
“Frankenstein’s Revenge” is a play to introduce children to the novel Frankenstein. It is a comedy which looks at what happens when Victor Frankenstein meets his creator Mary Shelley, thus it introduces the children also to Mary and Percy Shelley. The main theme of “Frankenstein’s Revenge” is prejudice.
“Frankenstein’s Revenge” is written with three goals in mind. The first is to get children involved in acting, directing, creating sets and making or finding costumes. All of these activities encourage both confidence and team effort in children. About a month ago, I had a friend and her daughters over for lunch. When I asked the two girls if they would like to come over another time and help me change the costumes of the mannequins and move The Laboratory around, their eyes lit up and I was greeted with the most enthusiastic “yes”. I truly believe that children learn so much when they are actually “doing”.
The second goal is to get children discussing what is meant by the play. I have thought about how much preparation teachers and home educators have to do and I know how time expensive that it. This has led me to believe that I will publish the play alone but I am also going to publish an educator’s resource. This will have the play in it but will also be accompanied by the questions which an educator needs to ask on the interpretation of the play, improvisation exercises, creative writing exercises and persuasive writing exercises, amongst other things.
The third goal is that “Frankenstein’s Revenge” is used as a springboard for the children’s own creativity. This is why the educator’s resource will have creative exercises in it. Obviously, educators and children alike can come up with their own creative ideas but they will not need to. There will be plenty in the educator’s resource to keep them going.
It is extremely important to me that I succeed in achieving all three goals. This project is not simply about my writing, it is about encouraging others and I think that is where the true satisfaction lies. If I can inspire children whom I might never get to meet then I will be glowing with happiness.
The play “Frankenstein’s Revenge” will be published shortly. The educator’s resource is work in progress, so whilst I am finishing it off, I will be posting some of the ideas here for feedback. I would love to hear from you.
- My Frankenstein Dairy (9) – Can an author inspire us? (loonyliterature.com)
- Analyze frankenstein and industrial revolution (auberongriswold.typepad.com)
- An Open Letter to Victor Frankenstein [The World's Fair] (scienceblogs.com)
- ArtsBeat: ‘Frankenstein’ Comes Alive in the App Store (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 Review (oldgamereviewer.com)
- Frankenstein criticism free (mauriceboettch1.typepad.com)
Please help Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow FREE on Kindle today.
My novel for children Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow is FREE on Kindle today and tomorrow.. We have all had that sickness bug and I haven’t been able to do much promotion. So if you know any children from about 9-12 who might enjoy it please pass the above link on.
When Hamnet, a tiny boy trapped in a stone, promises Will Blyton time travel, he thinks his problems are over. When a 14th century monks becomes his Stinking Shadow, he realises the trouble has just begun. Find out how Will stops the malicious shapeshifter, Ravensmite from returning Hamnet to his cursed existence whilst plotting to get rid of The Stinking Shadow. Although, Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow is an hilarious comedy, it explores one boy’s journey from being bullied to learning a precious lesson about both himself and his tormentors. Step back in time to the 1970s and the strange seaside town of Groaningsea. There you will join Will in the adventure of a lifetime and find out how he becomes The Alternative Detective.
This book has great insults in it using Tudor type insults. Subsequently, this is a wonderful stepping stone to introducing children to Shakespeare by insults.
Thank you so much for your help. It is truly appreciated.
- Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow. (excerpt) (willblyton.com)
- Get Your Revenge! Want To Blow Off Steam? Get Your Good Quality Insults Here! (willblyton.com)
- Inspiration and Us – Childhood Books – Shakespeare’s Stories. (loonyliterature.com)
- About Will Blyton – The Alternative Detective. (willblyton.com)
- My Frankenstein Diary 6 – A Creative Writing Journal. (loonyliterature.com)
- Will Blyton – The Alternative Detective’s Video Diary 1. (willblyton.com)
- Introducing children to Shakespeare by using insults. (loonyliterature.com)
- My Frankenstein Journey 7 – A Creative Writing Journal (loonyliterature.com)
- Will Blyton – The Alternative Detective’s Video Diary 2 (willblyton.com)
Before you decide you have never heard as much rubbish in your life – lend me your ear and I will explain. I am positive that children can really enjoy Shakespeare if they are primed properly for it before they are thrown head first into the text in their teens. Acting out monologues can be a useful starting point. However, to get our wisdom across we have to have laughter and lots of it. If we tell children they have to do it badly, they lose all their fear – they cannot get it wrong. As confidence affects every decision we make, trying to be good at something as odd as Shakespeare when you are ten means that you want to disappear. When you are told you have to be as terrible as possible at it, it doesn’t matter if your peers laugh at you – they is what they are supposed to do. The bigger the laughs, the more successful you are.
Okay, so that deals with the confidence factor, now we can move onto actually teaching them something about the monologue and how it is meant to be performed. I have added a Loony Literature video here to demonstrate what I am talking about. The main actor is fourteen years old and is auditioning for Richard III. The young actor in question is extremely serious about acting and can do a very convincing Richard III. So much so, that when he performed the same monologue for a LAMDA exam, he got a distinction. However, do you think he enjoyed filming this? Indeed he did, he was in his element and he’s fourteen. Younger children, therefore, will positively love being told to do something badly.
You can use the video to demonstrate how utterly badly it can be done. Ask your child or group what is wrong with the way Horace Gaup is standing and delivering the text. In fact, you can be sure that they will want to have a go too after seeing that! If the children are particularly enjoying themselves, you could film it. Playing it back would cause more hilarity and enhance discussion greatly.
Once the terrible deed has been done and the young thespians have done their worst, you can talk about the way they moved and held themselves. We can ask them what they think is wrong with it. How could they do it better?
We can talk about the manner of the delivery – would it be better if it was louder, quieter, slower or speeded up. Why would that sound better?
We can talk about what the text means and what is the best way to say it – for instance when Richard III is saying that he is so deformed dogs bark at him – what sort of voice would he say that in? He would he be feeling whilst saying those words?
I hope this is helpful,l but above all I hope that you have as much fun as we had whilst making the video. Happy acting.
Find out what happens when Will Blyton, The Alternative Detective, and his friend, Bongo try to take a photograph of the ghoul at Boris Death’s old house.