The (self proclaimed) most beautiful book shop in the world. Venice, 2013
Yesterday in my ‘Writing for Children’ seminar we discussed and read picture books. We looked at all kinds of texts – The Tiger Who Came To Tea, Rosie’s Walk, Voices In The Park – and discussed what elements make them so pleasurable for people who can’t really read yet and the adults that are reading with them. We discussed rhyme, humour and story lines enriched by subplots hidden in the pictures. But most of all, it was interesting to think about the importance of structuring the plot in order to facilitate ‘the drama of the turn of the page’. It was interesting to realise that, while adult books often cover the ‘big’ topics of adulthood such as love, death and heartbreak, picture books provide stories about the dramas of being small. A trip to the park; being sent to your room; the first day of school.
For homework, we were asked to write something from the perspective of a child we knew when we were small. After starting off somewhere close to reality, I ended up with a piece inspired more by the picture books we’d been reading that day. Below is the piece I wrote, which I imagined as a picture book for slightly older children – more of an illustrated story for 7 to 8 year olds. I had lots of fun thinking about the images that could enrich the story and where the page turns might be.
p.s. Using my own name feels egotistical but it’s just the most assonant three syllable name I could think of.
Joey: The Fooball Superstar!
Ever since I was small, my top talent was football. I’ve been playing it since I was three.
Now every single Tuesday, we play some football. It’s our topic this term in P.E. Mrs Cole – the P.E. teacher – makes us get into teams, and tries to split us up fairly. She picks a boy and a girl and they get to choose, which isn’t fair if you ask me. But whoever she chooses, whoever she picks first, the person they always pick is me. They let me play any position I want – striker or defence or goalie. I’ve got a reputation, you see.
Yesterday was Tuesday and so we played football: Miss chose Susie and Billy McGhee. Then she said ‘Susie, you choose who you want’ and who did she choose? Well, me.
I was striker, a champion, scoring goal after goal. My team cheered them all: one, two, three! Two tall boys – Rick and Nick – lifted me up on their shoulders and held me as high as a tree. They chanted ‘HAT TRICK!’ and spun me around and said I was the best striker in form 5B. Mrs Cole told my mum when she came to the school gates to meet me at quarter past three. She was proud too and told dad, who ruffled my hair. I got second helpings and cake for my tea.
It’s great being a footballer: all the other boys say so. My future’s as bright as can be. Career wise, I’ve got my pick of the local youth teams: Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Dad says if I focus and keep trying hard, one day, I could play at Wembley.
Also, everyone wants to get picked first. Having friends is dead easy for me. I’m never left out when I’m in the canteen or in group work in I.C.T. I’ve always got someone to talk to or joke with. In fact, it’s never just lonely old me.
Except at night time, I suppose, when it’s just before bed. In my room I get some privacy. I get some pillows and a torch and hide under the covers and – briefly – I’m only with me.
And to be honest, that quiet time, I like it the best. That time that I have just with me. I get a book out and read and I’m alone in my head, just the characters in the story and me.
I used to like picture books and books with pop-ups but apparently they’re just for babies. Now that I’m grown up – nearly ten years old – I try to read more maturely. Now I read about pirates and sailors and mermaids and creatures from under the sea. Sometimes I read books set in outer space or books about wizardry. I like getting scared by ghosts and vampires. I like romances too, honestly. I like joke books and poems, cliff hangers and riddles. And all kinds of mystery.
It’s hard at lunch time to find a spare minute to get my books from the library. ‘Cause I’m stuck in the canteen with Nick and Rick, Susie and Billy McGhee. But this is where my football skills come in – I can sprint as fast as can be. So I dodge them and hide until they’re out of sight – who knows what they’d do if they could see. I speak to the librarian quick as a flash and she checks all the books out for me. Then I saunter into the corridor and my friends are there waiting. “Hey Joey, quick game of footie?”
But today it was different, as I dove through the aisles, to find my book – a medieval fantasy. I was racing so fast that I knocked some girl over. She didn’t seem angry. “Hi, I’m Emily, I’m in 4C.”
She was reading a book when I raced down the aisle, utterly oblivious to me. The book she was reading was one I’d just finished so I decided to be friendly.
It turns out she knew nothing about football at all – not about strikers, defence or goalies. But she liked wizards and sailors and outer space too. AND creatures from under the sea.
Emily knew a secret place at the back of the library: it was hidden and warm and cosy. So we sat there and I forgot about my other friends, until the bell went at one twenty. It was nice to imagine, just for half an hour, that football wasn’t all there was to me. To be honest, if I never played it again, I wouldn’t mind actually.
So now I hide every lunchtime, between the bookshelves, reading quietly with Emily.