Year 5/6 Author Visit – Julia Edwards 

We had a special visitor in school on Thursday 12th January, a real-life author, called Julia Edwards. She told us all about her newest book, called Unlucky for Some. It is a collection of short nasty stories, sometimes scary stories, which Julia wrote in Lockdown, mainly to entertain herself as she wrote them! She has published it as she thought children would enjoy stories where nasty characters get punished! The book is great for children who aren’t so keen on long books, a collection of short stories you can dip in and out of. 

Julia then went on to talk about her most famous series of books, seven books in total, called The Scar Gatherer series. The main character, Joe travels in time in each book, to a different era in history over the last two thousand years, and always meets Lucy, the other main character! Julia said the Slaves of Isabella is the book she wishes every 10/11year old child in this country would read, as it is about the slave trade and has some important lessons for us all. Julia’s own favourite period of history is the Tudors, and she would love to travel back to that time, as Joe did in the book The Falconer’s Quarry. The children also contributed many facts to the discussion about the Great Fire of London, which is where the book The Demon in the Embers is set. 

Finally, Julia answered many questions from the children about actually being an author. She said her favourite part about being a writer is doing the research before beginning to write a book, and she said she usually spend about three months researching! Julia finds the editing part the hardest, and she showed us an A4 page of typing from one of her previous books, which was covered in writing – sentences she was changing and improving. Julia told us she may write a sentence over and over and over, before she is happy with it. One child asked a question about how the front covers of her books are created, and Julia explained she uses a talented illustrator. She tells him about the story of the book and gives him her ideas, and he creates some pictures. Julia said her favourite cover is the Slaves of Isabella, as she loves the eyes in the background. 

The children gained a fantastic insight into the life of an author, and later in the day, Julia carried out some workshops in some classes. 

Visit from Matt Oldfield – Wednesday 12th January 2022

Year 5 were very lucky to have Matt Oldfield come to visit Toftwood Junior School today. He is an author of a series of football books. He found that some of our children had already read some of them.

He explained that it was his passion and knowledge that inspired him to write about football as well as his desire to learn more. He also acknowledged that maybe not all the children were inspired by football so he asked them what their passions might be; the children suggested gymnastics, music, motocross, gaming etc. Matt told them, “If we are writing about what we love, it is going to be fun.”

Matt also showed famous male and female footballers with their favourite books of the football-themed genre, thereby encouraging wider reading around the topic. Max in SJ5 impressed Matt with his quiz knowledge.

He made reference to “Reading is Cool. Books are cool” an inspirational quote by Marcus Rashford.

Matt reflected on his supportive family in Southampton and Brother Tom (who now lives in Canada) with whom he has written some of his books.

Matt discussed how we can make non-fiction books more fun so they are not just an overload of facts; you need to consider design, content and style.

We looked at old-fashioned book covers, Sam in SJ5 reflected that the characters seemed to lack emotion and others said they looked old fashioned and lacked bright colours. We looked at the new series by Matt Oldfield and the children could appreciate the importance of illustrations and covers, which were more exciting, realistic, detailed and in action poses. The title also is short and snappy.

“Do we judge a book by its cover? No. Matt explained that the content is important and requires research and planning. Research is not boring if it is a topic that we are interested in. Matt prompted the children to think about the kinds of facts that the children might need to research, which will be very useful as Year 5 are about to write biographies in their current writing unit.

He showed us two versions of some facts and asked the children to reflect on which one they preferred and why. They unanimously chose the second version because it was more descriptive and exciting to read.

Each class had an individual workshop led by Matt and he recommended in order to succeed in non-fiction writing, the children need to tell it in an interesting way. The children focused on two main components; setting and emotion. This makes good reference to our Alma writing before Christmas. After a class discussion, they planned a non-fiction story. Matt heard some being read aloud and commented on the enthusiasm that the children displayed.

Everybody in Year 5 had an enjoyable experience and produced some exceptional stories.

James Campbell – Author Visit Autumn 1 2019

As part of our work on inspiring children to read more and extend their reading choices, we had a visit from the writer, author, story teller and comedian James Campbell. He told all of us about being a writer, about the things we may find tricky and how to get our ideas down.  He asked us where ideas come from and we discussed the world around us, stories and books, and ideas that just come to us. He encouraged us to use our imagination, such as what if we could take the stripes of a zebra.

He also showed us his book Boy Face. He asked where did the idea for stripy super powers come from?  Back to taking the stripes off

The children came up with some really interesting questions:

How long to finish writing a book? Sometimes up to a year! Sometimes only 3 hours (but editing might take a bit longer!).

What was your first book? The pale blue egg.

James then introduced his new book, “Funny Pets” and gave us some anecdotes from the new book.

He did sessions with all of the children from Year 1 to Year 6 across the federation, and in the afternoon some of the children from Years 1, 2, 3, 4 were lucky enough to take part in a writing workshop with him where he talked about using a picture as a starting point for a story. The children designed their own machine like the boy face book to design some wonderful machines. One child designed a machine that did your hair for you, and another designed one that created sausages.

The children then used verbs and adjectives to describe their machines and then finally started to write the beginning of their story where there was a problem with the machine.

Speaking to the children, they were excited to read some of his books. There was a chance to buy some after school, but we have purchased sets of the books for all children to borrow and enjoy from our library in Juniors and in classes in KS1.

Some of the children wrote this report on the visit.

‘’On Friday, the whole school was lucky enough to take part in an author visit from James Campbell who calls himself a comedian, a lollypop lady and an author. James Campbell is currently selling his funny books named Boy face (including the magnetic banana on the cover), the funny life of pets including the hamster conspiracy theory. He was really funny with his presentation.

The children at Toftwood Junior School watched his amazing performance, the Infant children came as well to a session where James, showed them how to improve their writing, and brought the funny side into writing for them. The children came back to class full of ideas and excitement. James Campbell achieved his ideas for Boy face by making an image in everybody’s minds which made them laugh so hard some of them cried. Our favourite parts of the show was when he said about the wild lollypop lady’s and the funny life of pets especially the hamster in the cupboard eating crisps. Everyone enjoyed the visit, because he was so funny and made everyone laugh lots.’’

-Isabel WS6 and Amelia WS6.

You can visit James’ website