Firework makers


In Philip Pullman’s magic novel, The Firework Maker’s Daughter, Lila, the daughter in question, learns to invent and make fireworks herself. When she does so, her father encourages her to name them. She makes Golden SneezesCrackle DragonsTumbling DemonsShimmering CoinsJava LightsLeaping Monkeys. Invent some names for your own fireworks. Make a list. Choose one and describe … Continue reading Firework makers

Look up!

Writers notice things. The more we write the more we are likely to take note of. Sometimes we should change our viewpoint. When I was at school in Chester, I learned the value to the historian of looking up. Above modern shop fronts you could – and still can – see evidence of the older … Continue reading Look up!

Q & A

I was daydreaming, this morning, about the kind of things that children really love to write.  I thought that there is nothing like a clip board -and a list of names. For very young children, writing out a register is the best fun. Then you can go around the class asking an important question like ‘crisps … Continue reading Q & A


In the nineteenth century, women were allowed to go out cycling. It became a popular pastime.  It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Women were expected to behave themselves and certainly not act in an unladylike way. . The New Times published a list of ‘Don’ts for women riders’.  Here are some examples from the list: Don’t … Continue reading Don’t!


Non-fiction has a terrible reputation in schools. I have to say it has earned it -all that endless, pointless, writing of instructions, the torture of an explanation and the dreariness of a recount or a balanced argument, painstakingly written within the spiky scaffolding of a writing frame; the convoluted excuses - or the, more honest, … Continue reading Non-fiction