Celebrating Stories and Libraries

The first week of February is special for two reasons – it is the National Storytelling Week and the end of the week was the National Libraries Day. I usually mark these dates with tweets and Facebook posts of cute quotes.

But this year, I had a fantastic opportunity to celebrate both with bells on. I was recommended by the charming and gracious Jan Blake to CLPE as one of the storytellers at their Wonderful World of Stories event. What a joy it was. The amazing Ann Lazim and her team had put together three of us – June Peters and Patrick Ryan and the newbie me to tell stories to school children across London.

Sat in the Julia Donaldson room at CLPE, I told stories from India – from tricksters to creation stories, from animal stories to stories filled with food. We had crocodiles and turtles, crows and cockerels. We had Birbal walk the floor with the great Emperor Akbar. One class surprised me and asked me gory stories and how lucky I had been reading a few to find some Halloween ones.

The sweetest joy was also that June and Ann had a free slot in the last session and they came to listen to my stories.


On 6th February, I was invited to Hillingdon to tell stories from my books – it was the celebration of National Libraries Day and what better way to spend the day. My dad was visiting and I took him with me too. I was going to tell stories from my books – and we got an instant audience when the carpet was unfurled and a real drumbeat started.

Botwell Green Library - 1

We had kids from three years old to twelve and everyone joining in. I had my drums and cow bells and the kids started to play some of them and we had a noisy session. Even the shy ones who pretended who were not listening were actually listening. And then they came to me when I finished to ask me if I would come again. Aawww! What better compliment could I get.

A big thank you to Helene Roome and CWISL of course for making this happen. We were in this library as part of CWISL’s Shoutwest festival a year ago. Then Helene kept in touch and asked me to visit once before too. There are many kids from Asian families in the neighbourhood  and she was keen to bring me to tell stories from India to them.

All in all, a special February so far with my finger in the story-pie. Check out my events on the website to find out where I would be visiting next.

My first story workshop at Blue Anchor

I volunteered recently with Southwark Libraries to do some creative writing and story workshops at the Blue Anchor Library.


Blue Anchor Library is small and cosy and not far from where I live.  It has a newly refurbished building and staff who are committed to literacy and reading. For a library this size, it has an array of events that are suitable for the community they serve.

Today was the first workshop and as an ode to the Mythical Monsters Summer Reading Challenge, my story woranansikshop was to help the kids write an Anansi story of their own.

Not sure lot of parents were thinking about workshops for this week as it was term start – but the valiant librarians encouraged the children reading and finishing up homework (new term after all) to come and participate.

Two girls who came early and sat and read the Anansi books that the librarian had put out for the event. Then two sisters who had done their homework wanted to join. Then another boy who came to the event seeing the poster. So we had a good group to start us off.

We started off with an Anansi story – I told the story of How Anansi got the box of Stories and realized many visitors were keenly listening to it too. I could see parents hovering by the video section that was closest to the workshop space and listening.Blue_Anchor_children_s_library_for_web

A boy who was doing homework took off his headphones and turned around, but he was too shy to come down and actually participate.

After I told the story, we analysed it. We figured out jointly the structure of an Anansi story. Then I read them a story that I had written a few years ago at Jane Yolen’s workshop – an original trickster tale about Anansi, not from Anansi’s box of stories.

The kids then analysed the story I had written and matched the structure. Now they were ready to create their own. By this time, we had lost two of the participants as their ride had come early.

But the other three were undeterred. They had three different plots and we discussed each plot. By the end of the plotting, we jointly decided one plot wasn’t going to work. Then the children started writing their own stories with it.

I could see the enthusiasm in their eyes. They weren’t shouting and jumping about with joy – but they were seriously working on their stories. I had three converts on my hands – kids who wanted to write stories and read more.

The parents were absolutely thrilled that the kids had sat down and written a story. Other parents came to ask if there was another session. So all in all a good workshop. I always think – if I can I instill the joy of stories and writing in one kid – that’s reward enough for each event I do.

peagreenboatNext week I am in Dulwich, at Rosendale Primary School with Peagreen Boat Books at their Mini Hay Festival telling stories to Reception and Year 1 kids all day long. I can’t wait.


World Book Day event at HippoCampus Chennai with Tulika Books

I celebrated World Book Day event with Hippo Campus, Chennai and Tulika Publishers. A hoard of kids were ready to listen to stories, sing with me and absolutely ready to spring with answers to any questions I had for them.

I read from Balu’s Basket and Where is Gola’s Home? and we had a great time singing all sorts of things and drawing everything from house to basket to an eagle when we finished reading and listening to the stories.

I met a lot of young people growing up in Chennai today as I grew up here many decades ago. I got to meet some of my friends and family with their little ones.


My mum and Dad came with me too, proudly commenting on which parts of the session elicited more response and how smart today’s kids are.