Two inspiring children’s authors reveal their passion for sharing stories with Caroline Lindsay
Bedtime stories were one of the highlights of author Grant Koper’s childhood and now he’s reading aloud to thousands of children to share his passion for books and stories.
Over August and September he’ll be offering primary schools across Scotland, including some in Courier Country, free readings of his book The Day Granny’s Knickers Blew Away!, a humorous tale following a pair of Granny Moon’s knickers as they fly off her washing line and become part of an exciting and unexpected adventure.
“I love making people laugh, and I love reading funny stories,” reveals Grant, 28. “Maybe it’s because I’m quite cheeky! I just wanted to write an entertaining story that would, hopefully, make children want to pick up a book and laugh along with the story.”
Only available as a paperback and as an audiobook, Grant explains: “I didn’t release a digital ebook because I want to encourage children away from their tablet screens to enjoy the thrill of picking up a book and physically turning the pages, something I think is getting lost in this digital age.”
Grant can’t wait to visit Scotland and says: “Seeing children’s faces light up at a story you have created is just magical. Speaking to them and letting me ask questions is always interesting.
“Children have the most wonderful imaginations and can come up with some questions that, even after reading to well over 80,000 children, still amaze me.
“The true response comes after my visits when I really see what affect my time has had on them,” he reflects. “Pictures come flooding in of the children sitting together reading my book, or making their own pair of Granny’s Knickers to use as a parachute, like the mouse in my book.”
During his reading Grant also encourages children to write their own stories which he publishes on his website or turns into videos for YouTube.
“Not only does it seem to be inspiring children to write in their own time but it has been a fantastic tool for teachers to use in the classroom,” says Grant.
Grant hopes to visit as many schools as he can while he’s in Scotland.
“I’ll be in Fife, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Perth, Kinross and Angus. There are slots still available so if you’d like a visit at your school, show this to a teacher and they can get in touch on my website www.GrantKoper.com”
Another children’s author who loves live storytelling is Mara Menzies, who wrote her first picture book Koko the Crocodile while expecting daughter Imani.
“I wanted her to identify with her African heritage, and it was one of my favourite stories growing up in Kenya,” says Mara, who lives in Edinburgh.
“I found an amazing illustrator called Camilla Adams, and set up a publishing company called Toto Tales, but in order to sell the first 1000 copies, I had to hire halls and told the story to young audiences in order to promote the book.
“It was through this process that I discovered the world of storytelling and here I am, 12 years later,” she smiles.
Mara’s second picture book, Starbird, was inspired by a sentence she read in one of Booker prize winning author Ben Okri’s novels.
“It tells the story of the Starbird, a beautiful, magical bird who is captured by a hunter and how her chicks were only able to save her by working together,” Mara explains.
As well as being a publishing company, Toto Tales is also a conduit to creating storytelling shows that showcase the beauty of African cultural folklore.
“I love the audience’s reaction and the way they participate in the telling of the story, each one to the best of their ability,” says Mara, who has recently completed a tour in Welsh schools with the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour, run by Scottish Book Trust.
“We reach an average of 6,000 children every year in a vast range of different communities,” she says.
“I always try to appeal to the childish part of us, that creative, imaginative part, the side that believes anything is possible as it really allows us to step into other worlds.”
Inspired by how Scotland makes use of its stories, Mara is establishing a sculpture park and heritage trail rooted in Kenyan stories in Kwale, the village her grandmother lived in and where she visited frequently as a child.
“It draws on history, legend and folklore as inspiration and I visit regularly to share stories of Scotland as well as demonstrate the importance and value that stories have on a society,” she says.
It’s a busy year for the author as she recently received Made in Scotland funding for a theatrical storytelling show at the Edinburgh Fringe, before heading back to Kenya for an artist’s residency in November.
“The Fringe show is aimed at an older audience as it explores the legacy of colonialism and slavery through legend and myth,” she explains.