Tag Archives: summer reading challenge

Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief #dennis2018

I am pleased to announce that I will be telling Nigel Auchterlounie’s Dennis and the Chamber of Mischief this summer.  This isn’t just exciting because it’s Dennis the Menace but because it’s a brand new title being released by Beano Studios and Templar Books in May 2018 and they are entrusting it to me.

Below is a list of presentations which includes libraries and literature festivals.  The eagle eyed will notice that this year I’ll be doing a full week in London with further dates in the East Midlands and more work than ever in the North West.

I am also pleased to announce that Joseph Attenborough will be creating another original composition for the story and I’ll be sharing a poster for the summer created by Dan White on this website soon.

We are still three months away from the first date and there is still a lot of work to be done but I’m hoping that we can deliver something very special for the summer.  To keep up to date on how I get on use the hashtag #dennis2018 when searching for the project.

The Big Malarkey in Hull –  24/6/18

Manchester Libraries – 27-28/6/18

Oldham Libraries – 4/7/18

Sefton Libraries – 5-6/7/18

Wirral Libraries – 9/7/18

St Helens Libraries – 10/7/18

Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival 2018 – 24/7/18

Thurrock Libraries – 25/7/18

Southend Libraries – 25/7/18

Derby City Libraries – 31/7/18

Redbridge Libraries – 2/8/18

Westminster Libraries – 3/8/18

Hackney Libraries – 7/8/18

Brent Libraries – 8-9/8/18

Kensington Libraries – 10/8/18

Cheshire East Libraries – 13-14/8/18

Cheshire West Libraries – 15-16/8/18

Rutland Libraries – 21/8/18

Nottingham City Libraries – 22/8/18

Luton Libraries – 23/8/18

Bexley Libraries – 28/8/18

Trafford Libraries – 15/9/18

Bolton Libraries – 6/10/18

2017:the summer that zipped by at 100mph

So the six week holidays are coming to an end and another Summer Reading Challenge is drawing to its conclusion.  Once again thousands of young people have participated as readers and volunteers in libraries across Britain and once again I have played my small part in launching, enhancing and celebrating the challenge through storytelling.

This year my major project was Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog”, a silly story about one boy’s efforts to train his chaotic pet.  I first presented the story in libraries in June and by the end of the summer between myself and Dan McGarry will have presented it over 80 times to just over 2500 people.  I have also been presenting Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.

I have had a very good summer and a lot of people have said a lot of very nice things about my work (I’ve met lots of lovely people, worked in a couple of new areas and for the first time I have been receiving reviews on Facebook).  This has been very flattering but I feel it’s really me that needs to thank people for their contributions to what must be classed as a successful project.

Lauren and Verity – I love you both and I’m looking forward to a family holiday; you deserve it.

Jeremy Strong and David Higham Associates – the author of this fantastically silly story and his agents has been a very active supporters of the project and their encouragement and flexibility has been important.

Dan McGarry – I can’t take credit for all the presentations.  In Northamptonshire sessions were delivered at all but two libraries and Dan brought his unique twist to the presentation of the story.

Joseph Attenborough – this is the fourth project where Joey supplied an original soundtrack for me to work with.  Whilst some would say music is unnecessary I say the music is a vital contribution, setting the tone of the story and the atmosphere at key moments.

Dan White – another valued contributor, Dan’s image of Streaker at full speed has appeared in libraries across the country (at one stage it dominated my twitter timeline almostly entirely!) and has really helped to attract an audience to the project.

The Libraries – we can have the best project ever but without library staff support nobody would come.  This year more than any other it has become clear just how crucial good library staff and their relationship with service users is in building a suitable audience for events.  I have discussed advertising in this blog before and once again word of mouth proved the best way of drawing a crowd.

The service users – my style of storytelling relies upon interaction and participation (if you come to my event I’m going to spray you with water and stick a silly wig on your head).  It has been brilliant to see young people at my events up and down the country willing to get involved in my madness with good humour.  It has also been great to see so many people who I met in 2016 whilst doing Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” returning to hear about Streaker.  As one storyteller said to me, this is the ultimate compliment.

One of the privileges and pleasures of this year’s Reading Challenge for me has been talking to people about stories and books and recommending new and old stories to children.  It is quite easy to become consumed by the logistics of delivering events at multiple venues (believe me, it’s a mammoth task) and lose sight of what it’s all about; the pleasure of reading.

I’m not going to lie, there have been mornings when my body has told me that I’m no longer in my twenties and there have been late nights when I have felt desperately guilty for leaving Lauren literally holding the baby but I have enjoyed it and have already started work on next year’s challenge.

For now though I’m preparing for the new school year.  I do have some more reading challenge dates into the autumn and then some more public appearances into the winter including a couple of small festivals.  Keep an eye on my website and I’ll look forward to continuing to share my work and any developments with you here soon.   For now though, Streaker and I are off to pick out a sun lounger on a Spanish beach!

#100mphdog @Library_Plus Northamptonshire

This summer storytellers John Kirk and Dan McGarry are presenting Jeremy Strong’s The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog in Northamptonshire libraries.

Streaker is a mixed up kind of a dog.  She’s part greyhound, part Ferrari and unless Trevor and Tina can train her before the end of the holidays arch pain Charlie Smugg is going to throw them both into a bath full of frog spawn!  Come along and see if Trevor and Tina can avoid their early bath in an action packed story that just gets sillier and sillier.

 

On the 18th August see John Kirk at..

10am Rushden Library, 12.30pm Raunds Library, 2.30pm Higham Ferrers Library

On the 21st August see Dan McGarry at..

10.30am Wellingborough Library, 2.15pm Irthlingborough Library, 4pm Wollaston Library

On the 25th August see John Kirk at..

11.30am Long Buckby Library, 2pm Brackley Library, 4pm Middleton Cheney Library

 

On the 1st September see John Kirk at..

10am Desborough Library, 1pm Oundle Library, 3.30pm Thrapston Library

On the 4th September see Dan McGarry at..

10am Hunsbury Library, 12.30pm Duston Library, 3pm St James Library

This presentation lasts 40 minutes and is suitable for families with children age 6+.

#100mphdog

NB: John will also visit Nottingham City (17th and 22nd Aug) and Barking and Dagenham Libraries (31st Aug) during the summer holidays with this presentation.

The Hundred mile an hour Dog is up and running! #100mphdog

The summer holidays are here and my retelling of Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog” is up and running.  Literally.  Although I have been working with mainly school groups I have already met over 1200 children and families.  This is all the more staggering when I think that I still have 70 presentations to do.

This is a story about pace told at pace which presents me with a variety of challenges.  Firstly there’s loads to remember; over the course of the story I introduce lots of different characters including Streaker the Super Dog.  There are elements of participation, water pistols (of course) and every time I tell it, the story just seems to get faster and faster.  At points it  feels like a ginormous tongue twister which falls out of my mouth three times a day.  Its great for my articulation but with names like Tina, Trevor and Streaker being regularly repeated its more than a mouthful.  It isn’t just a verbal challenge.  At 36 I am not getting any younger and in the 30+ degree heat we’ve been experiencing in the south east of England I am sweating up a storm as I tell the tale.

Sometimes I think maybe its too fast but then this isn’t the book, its a story.  In Jeremy’s book he throws in loads of lovely jokes, witty observations and one liners which in a 40 minute presentation I simply do not have time to deliver.  This story is a bit like a situation comedy; that much of the humour comes from things getting worse and worse for the characters involved.  Its in all this mania that I find my task for even when the story seems to be out of control I have to be master of its rhythms for there to be any kind of momentum.  As crazy as what I’m doing might seem, most of the time I’ve got these rhythms on a tight leash and as a result when I do slow down, pauses have real impact and key bits of narrative can be easily stressed.

For all the challenges I am really enjoying myself and when I get the rhythms right the story feels right.  So what would I say to you about my retelling of “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog”?  Well in a nut shell its big, its brash and its a lot of fun that I can’t wait to share this summer.  Follow my summer on social media; search for the hashtag #100mphdog.

#100mphdog

Things are coming together nicely for the summer tour of Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog” and today I thought I’d share the poster image.

We are doing 99 presentations of  the story (I say we because these days its a team effort; Joseph Attenborough has agreed to create the soundtrack, the poster image for the project was created by Dan White and Dan McGarry is doing some presentations for me this summer so that I can have some time with my new family).  The dates are now up on the website so have a nose through and see if we’ll be passing your neck of the woods.

To keep in touch with what we get up to I’ll be using the hashtag #100mphdog on social media between June and October 2017.  I look forward to seeing you this summer!

Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog”

Its my pleasure to announce that this summer I’ll be touring Jeremy Strong’s “The Hundred Mile an Hour Dog” to libraries across the UK to coincide with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story its all about a boy who has a dog called Streaker.  Streaker is a mixed up dog; part whippet, part Ferrari and unless he can train her by the end of the Easter holidays there could be some pretty nasty consequences!

Like Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” the story is a huge slice of silly fun for families with children age 6+.  It also feels appropriate for me to tell it what with Lauren (my wife) being a vet.  The story is presented with kind permission from David Higham Associates and although not all the dates are in yet I can tell you that I am visiting Wakefield, Derby, Nottingham, east Cheshire and Northamptonshire this summer.

I’m looking forward to it but watch this space for an even more special announcement due in the next fortnight (eek!)

What a summer!

The Mad Hatter in HullAs we reach the end of the summer holidays I find I have a couple of minutes to myself and that its time to begin reflecting on a very busy time.

Over the past seven or so weeks I have met a lot of people, visited a lot of new places and had a generally wonderful time.  I’d like to thank all the libraries (and festivals) who made me so welcome this summer.  I got booked up very early this year and so there were a few regular haunts that I didn’t make it to (Hackney and Brent) but I hope we can arrange a visit later in the year.

In 2015 audiences were generally up on previous years.  This may be because I offered a selection of stories; Terry Deary’s The Sea Monsters, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!, Arabian Nights, Superlative Tales and The Elephant’s Child and other Just So StoriesLibraries were able to choose a story to suit their audience and I saw a lot of people at more than one session (ie they came to two or more different stories).  In one instance a mother and daughter travelled from Westminster to Feltham to see me again (get a map out, that’s a long way)!

StickersAs I went along I handed out business cards and stickers and have seen the reaction to my work on this website, my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I also used my tour to promote the work of Grace House and to date have raised just over £300.00 (to donate visit my Justgiving page).

Its been a fantastic summer and it seems strange that on Friday I’ll finish up in Walthamstow – it doesn’t seem five minutes since I visited Kingston to help launch their reading challenge!  Once the last dates are honoured I will look to the future and how I can continue to build audiences and offer high quality storytelling to libraries and library users.

If you joined me this summer and supported an event – thank you, it was appreciated.

Wanted: Children’s Author for SRC 2015

DraculaI am currently searching for an author to work with or a story to tell as part of the Summer Reading Challenge (SRC) 2015.  As well as consulting librarians and scouring book shelves I am publishing this blog as part of my search.  The reason I am publishing this post is to find the right story for the project but also to offer an opportunity to aspiring authors of children’s books.  If you are reading this and are already thinking “I know a story” or “I have a story” or “I know somebody who might have a story” then please read on…

This is the criteria for stories I am considering:

– It must be suitable for children age between 4 and 11 years old.

– It must fit the Summer Reading Challenge theme “Record Breakers” (so stories about extraordinary achievements, world firsts or races would be perfect).

– The author/publisher must be prepared to sanction my storytellings between June and October 2015 (if you are just suggesting a possible title – you aren’t the author or publisher – then I will make the necessary approaches).

– It would be an advantage if the work is published and available for the audience to borrow/buy.

As I say, this post is part of a wider consultation that I am running until the end of February 2015.  I cannot guarantee that your suggestion will be taken on as the final project but if you know a story or know somebody who might have a story then contact me.

Thanks for your support.

The Merits of a Narrative Poem

John Kirk specialises in drama workshops and theatre for young people.When I was younger I didn’t think that I liked poetry.  Outside Shakespeare I rarely read verse for pleasure.  Last year though, I was introduced to Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman” and it changed my view of poetry completely.  Since then I have been reading other narrative poems including the “The Ballad of the Fleet” (Tennyson) and “The Walrus and the Carpenter” (Carroll) and incorporating them into my work.

A narrative poem tells us a story but it is set out in stanzas with the rhythms and rhyming patterns familiar in other types of poem.  It will contain a skilfully woven story packed with wonderful imagery and metaphors which compels its audience.

In my opinion the narrative poem offers so much that I have even used them in pieces for Birthday Parties!  Here are what I see as the merits of working with narrative poetry.

The narrative poem is perhaps one of the most ancient form of storytelling (The Iliad and Beowulf are both story poems).  As a Drama Facilitator I believe they are a fantastic way of introducing complex text to young audiences which demonstrates the breadth and depth of our literary heritage beyond Shakespeare.

It offers a whole story.  A chapter of a book or a scene from a play wouldn’t offer the beginning middle and end in this way.  If I want to guarantee that a group have heard the material a narrative poem is a concise way of quickly offering an entire story.

The narrative poem will capture the imaginations of boys and girls as it often recalls and romanticises some kind of adventure.

John Kirk is a storyteller and drama facilitator specialising in drama workshops and theatre for young people.Investigating narrative poetry through drama is a lot of fun and once a group has a story they are better positioned to explore the author’s imagery and language choices.  The poems I am talking about were mostly written in the 19th and 20th Century and whilst the language is certainly complex it is not impenetrable.  Accessing it allows young  participants to make their own judgements about themes, events and characters (perhaps physically characterising or hot seating characters about their decisions in the story or making up scenes based upon their deductions).

I have also found that exploring a narrative poem can become a catalyst for exploring rhythm, rhyme and meter and getting groups to write in poetry.

_ _ _ _

“The wind was a rushing train, dodging every tree

The moon was a shiny banana ripe and ready for me.

The road was a lonely wanderer, under an ongoing spell

and Mr Highwayman came riding, riding, riding

Josh Highwayman came riding, up to the Grand Hotel.”

_ _ _ _

“The snow was a breeze of coldness coating the leafy bush,

The sun was a ball of fire, gleaming upon rushing waves

The field was a soft green carpet, over the earthy road

And the Highwayman came skating, skating, skating

The Highwayman came skating up to the big mansion’s door.”

_ _ _ _

As well as getting excited about narrative poetry I have discovered narrative songs.  My taste in story song is eclectic ranging from Benny Hill (The Fastest Milkman in the West) to Charles Daniels (The Devil Went Down to Georgia) and Chris Wood (Hollow Point).  You could easily laugh some narrative songs off as being novelties but constructing an effective narrative within a poem or a song is a great skill.  Tennyson and Noyes might not be matched for their poetry’s beautiful imagery  but Hollow Point particularly is (in my view) a powerful piece of modern verse based storytelling.

Up to now narrative poems have formed the basis of workshops or featured within other work that I have presented but this summer to coincide with The Summer Reading Challenge 2014 I am taking my new found love of the narrative poem to a whole new level as I reinterpret Homer’s “Odyssey” for a young audience.

My final reinterpretation is unlikely to be a narrative poem but one thing is certain – it’s going to be epic!

Special thanks to the children of South Malling Primary School for sharing their “modern” takes on “The Highwayman”.