Regulars to the blog will know I’m a huge fan of illustrated, young fiction so I’m excited to share with you a brand new series, ‘The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat,’ written by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Rob Biddulph. Featuring the fabulous feline, Furry Purry Beancat who likes nothing better than a catnap. Now that’s not too extraordinary you will be thinking, except this particularly purry cat is slightly different than your average kitty. When she wakes up she finds herself in a different one of her nine lives. In the first adventure, ‘The Pirate Captain’s Cat we join her on the high seas, where she must help the Captain and his crew in an epic battle. Can she use all her cunning to save the day? ‘The Railway Cat,’ finds her caught up in an intriguing mystery featuring spies and secrets, can she find out what is happening before it’s too late? Lively and entertaining these are the perfect reads for independent readers looking to get stuck into marvellous adventures. Rob’s fabulously, fun illustrations capture all the drama and excitement of the adventures brilliantly. I predict these will be a big hit at school!
To celebrate the release of this new series, I have a special guest post from their author Philip Ardagh…
The Importance of Sharing Stories – Philip Ardagh
Ever since people could talk, they’ve been sharing stories. Maybe even before then. Maybe they drew pictures in the earth with sticks or made shadow puppets with their hands from the light of a fire thrown up on a cave wall. Stories are a way of sharing the images in your head.
In the thousands of years before the invention of writing, stories (and pictures) were an ideal way of sharing information, giving warnings, and offering advice for a whole variety of situations. Of trying to make sense of the Sun in the sky and of death and disasters.
Fall into a snake pit and survive and your tips on how you saved yourself may come in handy for someone else one day. Turn the event into a memorable and exciting story and people will tell it and tell it and tell it and the story will spread far and wide.
And stories told this way can change with each telling.
Every storyteller can add their own style to a tale, a dash of humour, a flash of the dramatic, or even by introducing their familiar signature character who, in the mouth of another storyteller, may take on a life of their own. Tales of bravery can be attributed to one hero, not many; can be unified as quests of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table or to Norse Gods or Irish heroes, or even become a tale told on one of the thousand-and-one Arabian nights. Add a rhyme or a once-upon-a-time, and the stories themselves can become familiar friends as they trip off the tongue.
Stories can bring people together. Give them a sense of belonging. Stories can give hope to the oppressed in hard times. They can strengthen bonds and create culture.
In the days before gas or electric light, the length of days were dictated by daylight hours, and firelight. After sundown, there was little more one could do than sit around a fire and eat and drink and talk or tell tales. Storytelling was a way of coming together and, in the hands – or mouth – of a good storyteller, looking forward the next adventure or the continuation of the previous night’s. Fires became guttering candles, then oil lamps.
Stories were a way of expressing what was usually never expressed, by putting evil thoughts into the mouths of monsters rather than, humans or expressing fears that ‘brave men’ felt but were too afraid to express for fear of showing weakness, but which heroes could speak and still be seen as godlike.
Then came writing.
Today, a story can be shared by someone who’s never even met the storyteller. In fact, the storyteller may well live thousands of miles away or may even have died hundreds of years before their story comes alive in your hands as you take in each word off the page. No wonder people saw the alphabet – these marks on the papyrus, velum or parchment – as something magical and full of power. Reading and writing really IS magic.
And written-down stories don’t change with the telling. They are what they are: carefully shaped and reshaped by the author – with our without assistance – until they finally appear on the printed page. And today we can sit in front of a fire roaring in the hearth, or by a radiator to keep warm and a light on overhead, and take in a tale at the pace we want, going back when we want to, pausing at the pictures…
…and being read TO is so precious, too. It’s a pleasure we should never have to grow out of; be EXPECTED to grow out of. Someone else holding the book and reading out the words while you listen is one of the great pleasures in life: a very personal and sharing moment. You’re never too old to be read to.
I love to write, to share stories. I love to read to share stories, and I love being read to to share stories. This way we can all see the world through other people’s eyes; walk in other people’s shoes; look at the world from different perspectives; to find ourselves in books or who we’d like to be; to face fears; share laughter; to enter words of pure imagination or startling realism.
Books and stories really are wormholes to everywhere, and we should all be ready and eager to jump in
(c) Philip Ardagh, September 2020 All Rights Reserved.
Thanks to Philip for this really thoughtful guest post on the importance of sharing stories, something that is very important to my heart.
The first two books in, ‘The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat,’ are available to buy now online or from any good bookshop. If you can please support your local independent bookshop, you can find your nearest one here. Thanks to Eve and Simon and Schuster for inviting me to host this guest post and for sending me gifted copies of these books.