What I found particularly interesting also is that these children, who are all good readers and don't struggle with books or words, absolutely love my reluctant reader books - the high-low books which are intended for teenage children who have a much younger reading age. It's really all credit to the publisher, Badger Learning for making these books so appealing to the eye.
The very high low titles, ie aimed at 12-16 year olds with a reading age of 6-7 are fully illustrated. And I've been very fortunate to have worked with two brilliant illustrators, Kev Hopgood and Amit Tayal. Also the team at Badger Learning have a knack for creating wonderful book covers.
Some months back, the children and some of the staff and I went up onto the roof of the school, from where you have an amazing view of Coventry. They have a walled roof garden up there, which was something I didn't know about. So that was a new experience for me.
I've written two books involving Coventry. The Illustrated Children's History of Coventry - a colourful non fiction book, published by Hometown World, which is suitable and enjoyed (I've since discovered) by all ages - from 4 year olds to great grandparents. My other 'Coventry' book is Celeste, which is a YA time-slip thriller set in Coventry, with links to Lady Godiva and the Old Cathedral.
Like Lynda, I always try to encourage children to write - both fiction and non-fiction, and a few months back we set the pupils of Sidney Stringer a short story writing competition. I provided an opening sentence, and then it was up to them.
The 3rd place went to Nadira, 2nd place went to Wardah and I'm delighted to print the winning story here which was a joint effort by Aaeshah and Shuhara.
He'd been told never to go in there, only they didn't know what he knew. And now he was about to break all of the rules… it was a matter of life or death….
Some time ago…
Felix constantly traced over the photo, the crumpled photo which was slowly causing him to lose his mind. His heart was heavy with guilt. He sat staring at his uniform in shame. Strong gusts of wind stung his cheeks, slowly it began to drizzle. He held back tears; he was a man, a Nazi, he would not cry. He sat upon he stone cold floor of Berlin in a dimly lit alleyway, watching people walk by, they didn't look at him, nobody ever looked at him, and he was just a non-existent ghost in the great Germany. His trembling hands held the solitary photo he had of Esther, flooding back exquisite memories which he had not seen in years, since that very horrific day when life had turned upside down.
From the end of the alley, he heard a familiar shout which shattered his illusion by his uptight father abruptly snatching and ripping his precious photo to shreds and leaning over him like he was inferior. The only thing Felix or anyone else for that matter didn't know that the next day would change everything and their lives forever.
At home, his dad continued to lecture him about how great a job they were doing killing off the Jews and dehumanising them, only caring about his reputation. “Where were you today? You scared me, don't you know we are leaving with the next set of Jews tomorrow morning?”
Felix looked away, only 19 and he was responsible for the death of many innocent Jews, he didn't choose the Nazi life, the Nazi life chose him. Felix felt trapped in a recurring nightmare he couldn't escape from.
Felix sat on his first class seat, the carriage behind tightly packed with Jews ready to be transported to their death. All he could think about was Esther, the girl who would have sacrificed her world for the sake of Felix. His best friend. The girl he lured to her own death. He betrayed her; it was him that told the Nazis where she was hiding. He had no choice. He was Nazi and she was Jew, it was like his father said, Nazis should never ever mix with Jews. So then why did Felix feel so bad? Why did he feel like he'd ripped out his own heart and soul?
Upon arrival at the concentration camp, Felix decided to elope with Esther. Gas chamber running, she was in there dying before his own eyes. He was adamant to save her, she would have done the same, even if it meant his death…
He'd been told never to go in there, only they didn't know what he knew. And now he was about to break all of the rules – it was a matter of life or death.
BY AASHAH AND SHUHARA SIDNEY STRINGER ACADEMY 2016.