Justin Saban Plays Harmonica for Barney The Rock Show Audio Book

As with the other fantastically talented people who have helped me produce graphics and audio book versions of my Gwubbins the Witch stories, I was thrilled to have the input of Justin Saban.

Justin is a very talented all round musician who offered to help when it became apparent that I had written a story about a chicken who played the harmonica, without thinking it through.

When it transpired that Justin had a harmonica it was a godsend, and he generously agreed to come and play it for me so that it could be recorded for the story ‘Barney the Rock Show’.

Justin Saban, all round musician

Justin plays guitar and harmonica, recording for Barney the Rock Show Audio Version

We had a brief meeting where I showed him a simple blues song I had lifted from an album that was lent to me when I was sixteen. I think I had rewritten some of the lyrics as a search on YouTube did not match my version. Thus we worked on a song called ‘Travellin Man’, although it was based on the song ‘Hear me Talking To You’.

I had been shown how to play the blues two days before Justin arrived to help out. So I knew that I could not really handle the guitar part, as, to my surprise, if you haven’t truly mastered bar chords, playing the blues is very painful.

Justin instantly understood my predicament, took over the guitar part, allowed me to sing him the song unimpeded by finger pain, and recorded the guitar part for me.

Justin was able to picture my story and give life to the character called Daphne (the blind lemon chicken) who plays the part of a diva performer on her harmonica – flashing the diamonds in her beak as she plays the blues from her perch on the stage.

It was inspiring to have such a clever musician pay attention to my work and help bring about the audio version of Barney the Rock Show. This project will continue over the winter months of 2015, and I would like to thank Justin for taking the trouble to create excellent material which has kicked us off with a bang!

Justin Saban is the brains behind Latent Lemon Studios, based in Luton, UK where he is a Producer, Recording Engineer and designer of Audio Effects. He likes dogs, beetroot and making music.

https://www.facebook.com/latentlemon/

Making a Children’s Audio Book #4

In this post I discuss writing for children and it’s wider implications for society.

I do not approach this subject as a mother, but as a commentator of what is at stake for society. If humans wish to evolve, we should expect that our children will live in improved societies of the future. But it is today’s children who will create the future, so it follows that what is fed into their minds is going to ultimately affect the culture of future society.

Simply put, parents need to raise a happy child who has the tools to contribute to society when they are an adult. I realize that many parents don’t have time to look at the long view as they rush about in the present world. I am bashing this system, but am willing to explain why.

I believe that childhood experience/exposure affects child and adult behaviour. Violence in the media makes a good example. It is damaging and has unconscious long-term effects. I believe that parents must have a hard time protecting their children from harmless looking media that promotes violence (not to mention guns). Virtual characters in video/computer games playing out violent scenarios seems wrong to me. The human brain still computes the violence whether animated, on screen or real. Kids are sensitive, they need monitoring.

So when I find that a Lit Agent wants stories full of ‘action’ with intense writing designed to grip the child my reaction is to turn away. Kids who thrive on this genre will read a comic. In my opinion a book is for savouring.

Remember that lovely moment when you have read a paragraph that flows so beautifully, rolling with rhythm and revelation that you have to read it again. That is so delicious. Better than Lemon Meringue (or equal to it!).

Why encourage children to steam through action packed throw away material? It implies to me that the literary world wants kids to chew up material as fast as possible, the shallower the story the better, just so that the book will be finished and the parents will have to buy another one. (Consume little air head, stuff yourself full and tell yourself how clever you are to get through the story so fast).

Sorry, but that is not my way. Adult skills can be learned in childhood. One incredibly subtle, but important tool is self discipline. Children who do not learn self discipline face difficulties in adulthood. Reading is an excellent tool for learning self discipline.First of all you have to actually learn to read. Then you have to concentrate on understanding what you are reading, not to mention ordering your life to allow you the space to sit and read. Quieting the mind and making an effort as well as processing the information that you have read, all takes self discipline. Reading can be a challenge that is relished as a good writer reveals an alternative universe.

The writers who helped me escape from the reality of my childhood offered me a passage to their world, built especially to entertain me. What a privilege. Life was slower then. Even Blue Peter was broadcast in muted colours. Children’s media today seems fast and gaudy. The senses are flooded repeatedly. And the result seems to desensitize the viewer or reader. The next treat has to be bigger, then bigger again. Disappointment is ultimately inevitable, surely?

So I am unafraid to add descriptions and to bring out the poetry of a piece of writing. I will not be panicked about building up the plot, keeping the reader engaged and entertained with the flow of the story. I trust the self discipline of my reader to engage with the world I have built and follow the path through it to the end.

Part of the fun should be discovering the characters, learning new ideas and relishing the ending.

So shove your modern consumerist ideas about children’s writing. I will do it my way. My wish is to write stories that stand the test of time. I want children to enjoy my stories when the system has changed and there is time to read to your child and spend time with your child instead of sitting for hours on a train or in a traffic jam, wondering if your child’s asthma will be worse when you get home.

My writing is a protest to our present system. But instead of hand wringing and chirping along with the multitudes mantra of ‘ain’t it awful’ I want to create something for the future to benefit mankind. They are only stories, but that is my contribution. They are designed to harmlessly entertain kids after a hard day of rocket science.

Evolution has given us the capacity to think and processes and enquire. Instead of using our imaginations to plot a downfall or plan a petty victory, why not positively create? We all loved stories when we were kids and that wont change, the world can go to shit but the children still need a bedtime story. Its a form of nourishment like food. The lit agent who wants action probably feeds her kids chips with everything. I suppose its a matter of taste. I propose children’s literature should entertain and stretch a child, surely that is better for our children and ultimately the future of society?

Making A Children’s Audio Book #1

Children’s Audio Books #1
Having spent a good deal of my life as a singer songwriter and author, I am about to break into the world of Children’s Audio Books.

The problem with music is getting people to listen to it. The problem with e books is getting people to read them. But Audio Books seem like a totally different animal. The quest to find a safe medium in which to placate and safely entertain your child seems like a major issue for some parents. I don’t know – I am not a parent, but my research shows that parents are concerned about their kids in that they want to entertain them and educate them, and audio books fall into both these categories.

Audio Books link here

I began to research what I was getting myself into when it became apparent that my audio version of ‘Barney the Musical’ has the potential of becoming a huge hit with kids. With the help from my producer, Spon, we brought the story alive with some very entertaining sound effects.

As I have mentioned before, I write stories that I think I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and as a kid I loved funny noises. I have an enduring memory from childhood, and that is of myself and my sister sticking a finger in one ear and pretending to be folk singers. We were not immune to the comedy of this lark, and others, that involved silly noises.

Research on the net took me to many sites for parenting. Some were better than others. The best site I found in the limited time I gave myself was mumsnet.com – Sensible parents discussing sensible topics.

I was able to compile a list of recommended audio stories from mumsnet and other sites. Best of all I found conversations which showed how important audio books are for children who are reluctant to read. I also identified the environments that kids like to listen to audio books.

Other research showed me how disappointed customers could be when their CD audio books were poor quality or wrongly packed. I read a lot of criticism; from dislike for the accent of the narrator to the irritation of having to change a CD half way through a story. I also noticed that just about every children’s story ever written had at least one criticism. Not everyone is going to like my story, or my accent.

From this research I am able to get a measure of my own caliber. I am able to see where I may fit into the market and how to manage this product. The research has left me feeling quite confident as I believe that the story is good – it is politically correct (!), it is well paced and entertaining. My English accent is obviously not BBC – I think my slight cockney twang may become my trademark. I think I nailed the voices of the characters and the sound effects have animated the story. In short I think Barney The Musical can stand proudly with other children’s audio book products!

Gwubbins the Witch Stories For Children by Ella Jo Street

Aside

Ella Jo talks about her series of Children’s Books, A Witch Called Gwubbins.

“My latest project is writing children’s fiction about a witch called Gwubbins. I wanted to write stories that I would have enjoyed reading as a child, and created a character who makes mistakes and embarks upon adventures!

I have enjoyed writing and honing the story-telling skills that even simple children’s tales require. Four stories are now available, and I am presently working on another.

I am delighted to collaborate with illustrator Mary Lou Springstead who has supplied the artwork for the first three e book covers. A gallery has been set up on line for children to send in their pictures relating to the Gwubbins stories.”

Three stories about Gwubbins the Witch

Three stories about Gwubbins The Witch by Ella Jo Street

Click below for the link to Gwubbins The Witch Website!

GWUBBINS THE WITCH WEB SITE IS HERE!

“The Exploding Birthday Cake” is an introduction to the world where Gwubbins lives and the reader meets her closest friends, the Pirate Twins and the Wonky Wizard. An audio version is planned with accompanying music and songsBirthday Cake link

“Gwubbins Winter Adventure” is for older children – of up to about twelve. I envisage this story as a sparkly Christmas movie and plan a part two where the characters have another adventure in a magical underground ice world.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, The Iceman, The Rover Raven Winter Adventure link

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

Gwubbins has a Winter Adventure

“Barney the Musical” was really fun to write – the epitome of Gwubbins magic going awry and the comedy effects this has on the musical. The tale of Gwubbins sister, Alidusta, and her celebrity dog Barney, really comes alive in the audio book version and I am planning another story to feature them in the future.
Characters in this story: Gwubbins, The Wonky Wizard, The Pirate Twins, Mittens the Sheep, Alidusta (Gwubbins’ sister), Barney the celebrity dog, Barney The Musical link

“The Zombie Pirate Children” is for older children. The story features Blackbeard the Pirate and was written to explain where the Pirate Twins came from. It is a fast moving plot through time and space – the fiction is magical, but the truth behind the 16th century slave trade is revealed as Gwubbins must save the Pirate Children from that unforgiving world.
This story will make a fantastic adventure film, as it deals with many different levels. There are issues of trust, bravery, cleverness, cruelty, and friendship, as well as magic. Even though they are provided with clues, the characters have to trust in fate to lead them to their destination.

The settings are clearly identified, and easy to relate to, (Shambala – a utopian world where they go to find wisdom, then Liverpool in the year 1717, followed by a sea voyage and a remote island). Journeys between worlds and through time are provided by the Time Turtle and they witness space through the turtles eyes.

The plot involves other strong characters such as the escaped slave called Nebulous, and figures from history such as Sir Isaac Newton. Interspersed with magical creatures and events, the ending is a literary soup of pirate speak and zombie threats.

Children with fair reading ability will enjoy this edgy story and learn some history from it. The shanties and pirate language are based on authentic material. Also, nobody dies.

Characters in this story include: Gwubbins, Wonky Wizard, Pirate Children, Mittens the Sheep, Professor Rowrick, Nebulous the escaped slave and master mariner, Sir Isaac Newton, Blackbeard and his pirate crew. Magical creatures:- The Hairy Hand, The Rover Raven and Ethel the Dragon.  Zombie Pirate Children link

The Zombie Pirate Children

A Gwubbins the Witch Story called The Zombie Pirate Children

FIND THE ZOMBIE PIRATE CHILDREN E-BOOK HERE!

MORE ABOUT GWUBBINS THE WITCH STORIES BY ELLA JO STREET

The Exploding Birthday Cake – This story can be enjoyed by children as young as four and as old as ten.
This is the first story (and the shortest) about Gwubbins the witch, and her long standing friend the Wonky Wizard. The tale is set in Gwubbins house where she is hosting a Birthday Party for her good friends and neighbours, the Pirate Twins.

The story is related by a little mouse who lives under Gwubbins’ stairs and he tells us what it is like in Gwubbins world. This story illustrates Gwubbins personality, how she means well, but sometimes makes magical mistakes.

At the Birthday Party, Gwubbins’ friends notice that the cake she has baked for the Pirate Twin’s birthday is behaving strangely. There is a huge explosion and the aftermath is messy. Gwubbins must do some magic to clean up, then find out why her cake exploded. The Pirate Twins are very forgiving and all is revealed in the end.

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Gwubbins makes a Birthday Cake

Find the Exploding Birthday Cake HERE!

Gwubbins Winter Adventure should appeal to children between the ages of 8 and 13 years.
All seems safe as Gwubbins sets off into the wintery forest with her sledge to look for firewood with her friends. But when the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse a snow storm prevents them from finding their way home.

Gwubbins uses her special intuition, and follows her twitchy witch’s nose through the snowing woods until she makes a stunning discovery. Deep in the ice is a cave where the companions take shelter, but this is the domain of a mysterious being. While the friends sleep they are studied by this being who sails into the cave across an underground lake.

The friends are already suspicious as this lake does not reflect peoples noses. But when they wake up a breakfast has been provided, and despite being rather peculiar the friends think this is an act of kindness.

When the mysterious figure appears again from the lake they wonder if the encounter is dangerous. In the depths of the ice all will be revealed.

This story is a fast paced and includes dialogue, allowing the children’s characters to ask questions. Thus the story provides smart explanations interspersed with humour, an entertaining combination for inquisitive children. Find The Winter Adventure Here!

Barney The Musical – for children aged four to eleven
In this humorous story, Gwubbins is invited to see her sister star in a musical with her celebrity dog, Barney. At the theater Gwubbins is seated in the audience with her friends, the Pirate Twins, the Wonky Wizard and Mittens the Sheep.

Gwubbins tries to magically improve the show, with disastrous effects. The singing becomes yodeling, the music becomes jazzy and the dogs all misbehave and forget that they are celebrities for a while. The actors keep dancing, but Barney loses his spots and tries to run away in embarrassment.

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theatre

Barney The Musical about a celebrity dog who sings at the theater

Find Barney the Musical HERE!

The show becomes a terrible mess, and Gwubbins and the Wonky Wizard need to put things right before the end. The audience is unsure whether it likes the unusual music and peculiar singing – only at the very end will the reader know if the show is a success or a terrible flop.

This story provides an insight into the world of theater, and allows children to grasp the concepts of acting and performing whilst enjoying an entertaining storyline.

The audio book is a delight (1 hour duration).

Find Barney the Musical AUDIO BOOK here
Beware – Barney the Musical contains some growling!

Zombie Pirate Children – For older children – eight to twelve years
Accompanied by the Wonky Wizard, Gwubbins searches for the Pirate Children who are marooned on a remote island.

Gwubbins must learn her destiny and find clues to locate the Pirate Children. She visits a wise Professor in the magical land of Shambala who directs her to planet Earth in the year 1717. The friends arrive in a dangerous world where they meet Nebulous, an escaped slave, who takes them to Liverpool.The Wonky Wizard finds them a boat and they prepare for a sea journey.

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Zombie Pirate Children by Ella Jo Street

Find the Zombie Pirate Children ebook Here!!!

Once at sea Nebulous discloses the dark truths of slavery in the sixteenth century, and reveals some magic of his own. They encounter a terrifying sea monster but are assisted by magical beings – a strange hand and a special bird.

With the help of these creatures and Nebulous, who is also a master mariner, they find the Pirate Children, but all does not go to plan. There is an out of control dragon on the island and the children’s trust needs to be won over. Then, just as things begin to work out, the pirates appear on the horizon. Blackbeard, the most fearsome pirate of all, is returning to claim the children and his treasure – and he needs to be stopped.

When the pirates land on the island there is much pirate talk and singing of shanties. The Pirate Children bide their time, then give Blackbeard the scariest night of his life. The story reaches a gripping climax as Gwubbins and her friends use all their powers to scare away Blackbeard and set the Pirate Children free, which is no easy task.

The pirates are fearless, but the Wonky Wizard hatches a plan, if they can just pull it off!

This story includes words from original sea shanties and authentic pirate talk. There is a section at the end where the reader can look up the meanings of words spoken by real pirates. Also at the end there is a list of people in this story who really lived – with an explanation of what they did and what happened to them – especially Blackbeard and other pirates that are mentioned in the story.
The illustrations for the first three Gwubbins stories by Mary Lou Springstead are subject to copyright. Please see the Gwubbins website for more information.

The Gwubbins website has a picture gallery enabling children to exhibit their own pictures inspired from the Gwubbins stories.