Tag Archives: Children’s Story

Bedtimes Stories #1

As a bit of light relief in your adult lives, here’s the latest story I’ve been telling Sebastian at bedtime. He seems to love it. It doesn’t send him to sleep, but he seems to love it. You can probably imagine the tickling and actions which go with it; if only I could also illustrate, there’d be pictures too.

Sebastian the Mouse

Once upon a time, there was a little mouse called Sebastian, and he lived in a house with two cats, three dogs, four children, and Mummy and Daddy.

Every night, Sebastian climbed out of his hole, ran across the kitchen floor, climbed up the fridge, and stole some cheese. Then he climbed down the fridge, scampered back across the floor and popped into his hole.

Now, in the house, there also lived two cats, called Pepsi and Max. They slept upstairs, curled up on Mummy and Daddy’s bed. But sometimes, in the middle of the night, they would come downstairs to see what was going on. And if they came downstairs when Sebastian the mouse was out of his hole, they would chase after him. Pounce! Pounce!

And Sebastian would have to run down the fridge, scamper across the kitchen floor and pop into his hole as fast as he could!

Now, in the house, there also lived three dogs, called Roger and Rover and Ralph. They slept in the basement, curled up in their baskets. But sometimes, in the middle of the night, they would come upstairs to see what was going on. And if they came upstairs when Pepsi and Max the cats were there, and if that was when Sebastian the mouse was out of his hole, Roger and Rover and Ralph would chase after Pepsi and Max. Woof! Woof! Woof!

And Pepsi and Max would chase after Sebastian. Pounce! Pounce!

And Sebastian would have to run down the fridge, scamper across the kitchen floor and pop into his hole as fast as he could!

Now, in the house, there also lived four children, called Amy, Billy, Charlie and Dan. They slept upstairs, in their own bedrooms. But at Christmas, in the middle of the night, they would come downstairs to see if Santa had left them any presents. And if they came downstairs when Roger and Rover and Ralph the dogs were there, and if that was when Pepsi and Max the cats were there, and if that was when Sebastian the mouse was out of his hole, they would laugh at Roger and Rover and Ralph. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

And Roger and Rover and Ralph would chase after Pepsi and Max. Woof! Woof! Woof!

And Pepsi and Max would chase after Sebastian. Pounce! Pounce!

And Sebastian would have to run down the fridge, scamper across the kitchen floor and pop into his hole as fast as he could!

Well! With all that noise, Mummy and Daddy were sure to wake up. And Daddy would come storming down the stairs, and see everyone out of bed and crashing about in the kitchen.

“Go to sleep!”

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Friday Fictioneers – Far Afield

This week’s picture comes from Maggie Duncan, on Madison Woods’ site. There is something very British about the photo, but I have a feeling that’s more nostalgia in me than accurate geographical identification. I’d love to know where it’s taken though. It’s another landscape, and for me those are always harder than the close ups of something, so I thought I’d give you a taste of the longish story I’ve been wanting to write since the idea popped into my head recently. With luck, sometime I’ll have a chance to write the rest!

By way of background, you need to know that Piccolo is a cat who is trying to get home to his family. Which is another reason this picture made me want to write about him, because, as Maggie mentioned in her post, fog comes on little cat feet.

Far Afield

Piccolo batted a damp leaf from his nose and sniffed the air. He’d been dreaming of chasing the string bird around the bedroom with Dad, and the cold damp air around him came as a shock. It smelt strange – like spring and grass.

Peeking out from the bush, he felt a pang of loneliness. This place was nothing like home. There were no houses, no roads and the only sound was birds, too high to catch, in the branches above him. Ahead, the ground was invisible, blanketed in thick fog, dotted only with more trees, ghostly in their silhouettes.

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Updates and bragging and shout outs!

A Link-Back

First things first, for those who read last week’s post about Children’s Stories, I posted my attempt on Thursday, and I’d love to hear what you think about it. Please take a look and let me know.

Even if you saw Thursday’s post when it first popped up, I would strongly recommend you nip back and look at it again. My friend, Sam Agro, heard about the story and created some original artwork to bring Sally to life. He’s very modest, but this picture was knocked together in less than 10 minutes and I personally think it’s fantastic! You can get a link to Sam’s blog from the post, and see more of his artwork and illustrations too.

Publication – success and failure

In Canada, Reader’s Digest’s August edition has hit the shelves, complete with the “Quick Fix” article, which features two of my Friday Fiction stories. I’m so excited to see my name in print.

And I’ve had two more rejections – both of them personal and ending with encouragement to submit again. Little Fiction said: “Your story was close to making our shortlist, if that’s any consolation — our decision was more or less based on how it was fitting with the rest of the pieces making up the compilation.”

Narrative Magazine commented: “We found many strengths to recommend your work and, overall, much to admire. We
regret, however, that [your story] is not quite right for us.”

Although I’m aware that a rejection is ultimately not a success, emails like that go a long way to making me feel like I’m getting somewhere with my writing and hopefully someday will have more acceptances to brag about.

Booker’s Seven – Progress report

I’ve once again knuckled down to editing the great Booker’s Seven project. I’m working on Brothers at the moment, a story of adventure and discovery. It’s off to my wonderful writing group, Moosemeat on Thursday to see what they think. Wish me luck!

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Inspiration Monday / Monday’s Challenge

A tough one this week – why do I set myself these challenges?! I’m going to try to write a children’s story as promised in Monday’s post AND use one of BeKindRewrite‘s prompts. Let me know what you think!

UPDATE: Huge thank you to Sam Agro, who heard about Sally Duck and sketched me the amazing illustration you see below. I am constantly amazed by the talents of my friends. Do check out his blog to see what else he can do!

What Are You Going To Do With It?

Sally Duck liked to watch the river from her nest. One day, something exciting bobbed past on the river. It was square and brown. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and soft. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s bread,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Eat it!” said Sally. She shared the piece of bread with all the ducklings. It was very tasty.

The next day, something exciting bobbed past on the river again. It was long and thin and white. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and light. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s a feather,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Line the nest with it!” said Sally. She dried the feather in the sun and lined the nest with it. It was very warm.

The next day, something exciting bobbed past on the river again. It looked like a silver circle. Sally Duck jumped out of the nest. She chased the something as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she tried to pick it up in her beak. It was big. It was not soft like the bread. It was not light like the feather. It was hard to pick up.

By the time Sally got it back to the nest, she was very tired.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s a can,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“I don’t know!” said Sally Duck. “It is no good to eat. It will not help to keep us warm.”

The ducklings tried to eat the can but it tasted bad. They tried to sleep against it but it was cold and hard. Sally put the can at the edge of the nest and went to sleep. The next day, it was still there.

Sally put the can outside the nest on the ground. Then she heard a voice. It was a little girl.

“Look, Mummy,” said the girl. “That duck is drinking from a can!”

“Cans are not good for ducks,” said Mummy. “Let’s take it and throw it away properly.”

The Mummy bent down and picked up the can.

“Would you like to feed the duck a bit of your sandwich?” Mummy asked the girl.

“Yes please. Here you go, duck.” The little girl threw a piece of bread into the river.

Sally Duck chased it as fast as she could. She paddled with her feet. She flapped with her wings. She quacked with her beak. When Sally caught it, she picked it up in her beak. It was big and soft. Sally Duck carried it back to the nest.

“What is it?” asked the ducklings.

“It’s bread,” said Sally Duck.

“What are you going to do with it?” asked the ducklings.

“Eat it!” said Sally Duck. She shared the piece of bread with the ducklings. It was very tasty.

“From now on, I will only chase bread and feathers,” said Sally Duck.

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Not just for kids

A friend of mine writes the Eager Little Bookworm blog and when I went to visit her – along with the little bookworms – this week, I very much enjoyed exploring their library, including old favourites like “Where’s Spot?” and new (to me) treasures such as “Winnie the Witch”. But it got me to thinking, so this week I’ve decided to set myself – and anyone who feels like joining in – a challenge: to write a children’s story. Not for publication or because I think we should all because children’s authors, but as an exercise to make us write outside our usual pattern and to focus on other aspects of writing, such as:

1. Plot: The plot has to be simple, but also interesting. You don’t need much by way of twists and turns, but you do need a clear and fun story. Spot is hiding, Sally (his Mum) wants him to come for tea, so she looks for him and finds lots of other animals along the way. That’s a plot.

2. Length: A children’s story can easily be longer, like the Narnia books, but a book for children to read themselves, or have read to them in the first few years, will often be one which can be completed in just a few minutes – for example as a bedtime story. As such, it might only be 100 words long, or even less.

3. Language: The language needs to be simple enough for children to understand the story without having to investigate the meaning of every (or even almost every) word. Many focus on a particular word sound, word or grammar principle, repeated throughout the book or on a particular page. And dealing with any of those aspects would be good discipline for any writer to focus on in an exercise like this.

4. Characters: Lots of children’s books end up being series and lots of children’s characters end up being hugely popular outside book form (just think of all the Mr Men toys, lunchboxes, dvds etc you can buy). So there are definitely bonus points for creating a loveable character or set of characters.

5. Theme: Many children’s books deal with a particular theme. They are educational and deal with colours, or numbers, or vehicles, or whatever. Or they are educational in other ways, for example dealing with important subjects like potty training or adoption or getting a little sibling.

6. Illustrations: Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you illustrate your story (unless you want to). In fact, this is a bit of a false point, because although children’s books are invariably brightened and brought alive by the illustrations, these will usually have been added long after the story was written, by an illustrator selected by the publisher without the author’s input, and that’s only going to happen if the story is good enough in itself. Nevertheless, it’s worth thinking about vivid images (although probably not describing them in words), colourful characters and vibrant scenes … everything that makes a good book for any age really!

Are there other aspects you think make a children’s book special or challenging? Let me know in a comment below, or have a go at writing a children’s story bearing some of these points in mind and let us know how you get on!

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The Castle in the Woods

As promised in my previous post about Dana’s Dice (http://wp.me/p1PeVl-2W), here is a short story based on the picture posted there. I used each die in order and stuck with my initial impression of this beign a Famous Five-type tale. I hope you enjoy – i’d love to hear your thoughts, as ever.

Off to read other people’s stories now. If you want to add your own, do link to it in the comments here, or on the original post.

The Castle in the Woods

Lois bounded into her brothers’ room that morning with a look on her face that foretold adventure and excitement.

“Get up! Get up!” She dragged the covers off them both and wrestled briefly with John when he resisted. “I’ve got us a boat!”

Adrian sat up quickly. “Where?”

“Never mind where, get up, we can go to the castle at last.”

The children had been looking at the castle for days. It nestled in the woods across the narrow creek and they were convinced it must hold magic or mystery. Dad said they had been reading too many Famous Five books and refused to take them over there, but now they could go see for themselves.

Not wanting to be left behind, John pulled on his clothes and raced down the garden after his older siblings, calling to them to wait.

“Shut up!” said Adrian in a loud whisper. “If Dad catches us we’ll never get there.”

“Did you steal this boat?” John asked Lois as he climbed in.

“It was in the neighbour’s boathouse. He hasn’t used it since we got here, I’m sure he won’t miss it for a day!”

She pulled hard at the oars until they were free of the bank and then settled into a careful scull. The creek was narrow here and flowed quickly, but by aiming slightly upstream, she managed to manoeuvre their craft across and land a little south of the castle. They tied the boat to a tree and walked up the sand.

Suddenly, Adrian stopped, blocking his sister with an outstretched arm. “Look!”

They could see what he was pointing at. A single bare footprint in the sand. It seemed to have nothing around it, as if someone had hopped out of the trees and landed there, then disappeared. They searched around, but there were no other prints, so they pushed their way into the trees in the direction of the castle.

“That was weird,” said John after a while.

“Super weird,” Adrian agreed.

They stopped briefly to eat some sandwiches Lois had packed for them, then pushed their way through the thick trees, keeping the sound of the creek on their right as they travelled. After a long walk, the trees gave way to a crumbling stone wall, crawling with green tendrils of ivy.

“This is it!” said Lois in barely a whisper.

The boys came up on either side of her and felt the stonework until John let out a little yelp of surprise. “There’s a hole here!” he said when he could breathe again.

It was just wide enough for one of them to squeeze through at a time, and dark inside. The children looked at each other.

“You found it, John,” said Adrian, “You can go through first.”

But John had peered into the hole and he knew that you couldn’t see the other side. What if it was a dead end, or worse, full of spiders and earwigs and nasty things ready to chew off his arms and legs?

“Lois is the eldest,” Jon replied, trying to stop his teeth from chattering.

“I got the boat,” Lois replied, as if that let her off the hook.

Adrian sighed. “Good job I brought Mum’s decision die along,” he said.

The children had been making decisions with the decision die for as long as they could remember – who sat in the middle seat of the car, who got the first piece of cake – good or bad, the die decided their fate. He pulled it out of his pocket and threw it onto the ground. It teetered on a rock, then fell beside it with 1 showing clearly on the top.

John gulped, but didn’t wait to see Adrian pick the die up. Instead he put an arm into the hole and crept inside. There was a twist and then he was out of the wall and found himself in a small courtyard. Lying on the ground in front of him was an old man’s walking stick and towering above him, the castle they had seen from their cottage. Really, it was more of a fort than a full castle, just one round turret, standing tall in the tiny courtyard, and accompanied there by a small shack, which seemed to be much newer.

Lois and Adrian pushed through the hole in the wall, and joined him.

“Maybe that explains the single footprint,” said Adrian, pointing to the stick in John’s hand.

“A one legged-man!” gasped Lois.

They all knew it didn’t really explain the footprint at all, where had the one legged man gone? And why hadn’t he taken his stick? But it was a better explanation than they had had before.

 “Let’s go in the castle,” said Adrian. He pulled the torch from his backpack and headed for the door. The others were quick to follow.

The castle was as dilapidated as the surrounding wall. Flowers grew through the floorboards and streams of sunlight burst in where the walls had crumbled. But to the children it was a place of wonder and excitement. As they explored the castle, they forgot their initial nervousness, and ran up and down the stairs calling to each other and exploring each room in turn.

When they reached the very top, they burst out into the fresh air like conquering heroes. The bright sunshine was blinding and Lois, who was first through the door stopped suddenly enough for her brothers to collide with her as they emerged.

When their eyes grew accustomed to the light, they walked to the edge of the battlements. The view was spectacular – in two directions entirely blocked by the forest, but to the North they could see the creek snaking away from the island, and overhead, as they eyes grew accustomed to the daylight, the pastel light of a crescent moon against the blue summer sky.

But John was looking East, towards their holiday cottage with its green lawn sloping down to the bank. “Who is that talking to Dad?” he asked, shielding his eyes to see more clearly.

“I think it might be Mr Jennings,” said Lois slowly.

“Mr Jennings who owns the boathouse?” asked Adrian.

She nodded, “We are in so much trouble.”

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