What a great time I had at the Boswell Children’s Book Festival at Dumfries House in Ayrshire. It was a perfect sunny day and the gardens, where the book festival was held, were looking great.
We had lots of fun talking about memories, making our own memories and creating a senses memory book to take home. There was lots of storytelling too. Check out the pictures from the event and some of the drawings.
There is still a chance for your child’s school or nursery to enjoy the session ‘JoJo Gnome Makes Memories’ for free. You can sign up to watch the session as part of the Boswell Online Schools Book Festival. The content is free to use until the end of June. There are lots of different authors to enjoy for all ages. Check it out for yourself.
I am delighted to be producing JoJo Gnome’s STEAM maths story resources for families and children in 2022. This was something I couldn’t have imagined doing at one time. I was never very good at maths at school. I was always better at writing stories and doing art. It didn’t help that my memories of numbers are focused on a primary school experience where we all had to stand up every morning and had a times table sum fired at you. If you got it right you sat down. If you were not great at ‘mental arithmetic’, like me, you were left standing for quite a while. So panic, embarrassment and numbers all seemed to be tied up with each other. Numbers were no friend to me.
Luckily in schools now, maths and numbers aren’t taught like that. When working for the BBC doing research in a primary school on whiteboards, one class had me join in their maths quiz. I was terrified but calmed down when I saw how engaged with maths they were, not only was there no panic there was excitement and enthusiasm. The children were supported by a teacher who gave them the confidence to guesstimate, confer with each other (in my day that was cheating) and even get the answer wrong with no shame attached, then go on to explore how they could get the right answer. That’s the way learning should be and I wished I had experienced that when I was much younger.
So, knowing my maths background, if you had told me a couple of years ago that I would be about to start a STEAM (Science/ Technology/Engineering /Arts & Maths) story project with the main theme being around maths and numbers I wouldn’t have believed you. It was an unexpected conversation in 2021,with a couple of passionate maths education professionals that got me thinking about what, as a storyteller, I could do to engage early years children with maths. Also to start thinking about the way that numbers and maths stories could be used as a starting point to facilitate creative experiences and learning journeys for children and families.
So I pitched the idea of JoJo Gnome’s STEAM Story Workshop to Creative Scotland and I was delighted to get funding from them to make this creative project happen. In 2022 I will be facilitating 12 early years creative story workshops across Scotland encouraging early years pupils to create their own number stories. I will also be making the main JoJo Gnome story, used in the workshop, available to families and schools as a video (free through the JoJo Gnome website and YouTube channel). The story will be available in BSL and Makaton versions too.
In the workshops the children will be working with me to create their own short number stories based around counting. We will be using the children’s drawings and voices to help tell those stories. Their films will be able to be watched at home, in nurseries and schools to stimulate ideas for others to make up their own ‘new’ stories.
An especially exciting aspect of this project is that in conjunction with Hamilton School For the Deaf, we will be creating a new character that will appear in the JoJo Gnome Story Podcast. The only thing I know about this character at the moment is that they will have hearing challenges. The first workshop happens next week and I’ll let you know how that goes and introduce you to the new character. I’ll also let you know if that character likes maths and numbers!
So 2022 looks like an exciting, creative and number filled year. I look forward to taking you on that journey with me and sharing the exciting content and discoveries we make along the way.
Meanwhile catch up with the most recent JoJo Gnome Story Podcast all about food.
Christmas Story Workshops
It’s October and for me that means one thing … Christmas! I know it seems really early but I have to start telling schools and nurseries about JoJo Gnome’s Christmas Stocking Story Workshop. In school they too are planning what they are doing with the pupils in December and I would like to be part of their seasonal mix.
Last year my only option was to have a Christmas video offering (which is still available online) but this year I am going for an online and ‘in person approach’. So if you have a nursery of Primary 1 class I can deliver a mix of stories, rhymes, games, quizzes and lots more to your class. Of course the JoJo Gnome puppet will be along and I’ll draw a Christmas JoJo Gnome for your class.
In person workshops can be delivered in Central Scotland any further afield and you can go for an online option. The online option is a bit cheaper and can be delivered on the platform of your choice. You will find more information about what to expect on the workshop page. Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for available dates and prices. Book early as dates in December are limited and going fast.
Boswell Book Festival – a second bite
I was delighted to be part of the Boswell Children and schools book festival this year. It was decided that all of the festival would be online. My offering for ages 3-6 was JoJo Gnome’s Story Flower. The festival is all about memoir and biography, so JoJo Gnome’s story was all about different kinds of families. Schools can sign up and see the sessions again for free …including JoJo Gnome. This is available till 31st October so don’t miss out. You can even make your own story flower … a perfect Christmas gift for someone. Sign up here.
Halloween and Ghastly Ghosts
A few years ago I write and narrated a story for BBC Scotland Learning called the Ghastly Ghost. It’s a funny Halloween children’s story all about dressing up and going out to do trick or treat. I’m delighted to say it is part of a Halloween collection of short stories the BBC has put together. All free and available to use at home or in class. Check out the Ghastly Ghost story here. The lovely illustration above is by Anna Miles.
JoJo Gnome Book Nook (January 2021)
Book recommendations for ages 3-6
Children love stories also teachers and parents love bringing their children the best tales they can find. I’m often asked what stories or books that I would recommend for younger children … so I have decided to have a section in JoJo Gnome’s Story Podcast called JoJo Gnome’s Book Nook.
JoJo Gnome’s Story Podcast is made for children age 3-6 to listen to in the classroom, at home, outside in the car … in fact anywhere, as stories are beautifully portable. I know that adults listen along with their wee ones so I’ve decided to have 5 minutes at the end of the podcast just for the grown ups – JoJo Gnome’s Book Nook. I will be including a range of books from new books just published, to classics that have stood the test of time. There will be stories from mainstream publishers and also small independent companies. This isn’t a literary critique, just me bringing books I’ve enjoyed to share with you with your wee ones.
In podcast #25 JoJo Gnome’s Noisy Walk the books chosen all use sound in an interesting way.
“We’re Going On A Bear Hunt” written by Michael Rosen and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, published by Simon & Schuster.
My Big Shouting Day written and Illustrated by Rebecca Patterson, published by Jonathan Cape.
JoJo Gnome and the Sound Machine is written and illustrated by Jo Hall, sold online site.
Tune into the first Book Nook in podcast #25 and find out why these books are creating a bit of noise and worth picking up.
Next time I’ll be looking at some books with numbers in them.
This has been such a strange year for everyone. In March I was all ready to hit the road and visit several Scottish primary schools and nurseries with JoJo Gnome’s ‘Sow & Grow Workshop’. Sadly, as with so many things this year, everything had to be cancelled. So I put aside all plans, thinking things would be ‘back to normal’ by Christmas. So here we are in October and things aren’t anywhere near normal yet. There is little chance of things returning to normal in Scottish schools (and elsewhere) this Christmas, so no visits from outsiders into school and no school trips to the pantomime or Christmas shows.
However in the hot days of July I started planning what I could do this Christmas to keep working and linking with my audience. For the last 25 years I have worked a producer for the BBC and for the last 20 years or so I have worked in Learning/ Education. For the last 10 of these years I have taught young people in schools to make videos and films for themselves. So it was time to use that expertise to make my own JoJo Christmas Cracker Story Workshop video. I am lucky in my family to have many talented photographers/ video makers on hand (sadly no one can put up a shelf!). So Martin Shields, my husband, got out the camera and we started making the Christmas workshop video.
The garden shed studio, that I use for my Story Podcast, was reinvented for Christmas decked out with tinsel and many Christmas drawings. Can I tell you how hot it was in layers of fleece not to mention the fleecy story telling hat. I also set to work producing animations to work with the videos. So many of the characters in the books and stories come to life and join in the story fun. The final result was not one but two JoJo Gnome videos.
The first is JoJo Gnome’s Christmas Cracker Story Workshop – a mix of storytelling, poetry, dancing and games. The second is JoJo Gnome’s Christmas Extra, which includes how to draw JoJo Gnome, Christmas Crafts and a story for you to finish off and of course dancing snowmen!
The workshop based videos are as interactive as I can make them and there are lots of opportunities for joining in the fun. They are ideal for ages 3-6 …and probably a wee bit older too.
There are two packages available
Extra Special package (£38.99)
The Extra Special package, which has the two videos ‘JoJo Gnome Christmas Cracker Story Workshop’ (19 mins) and ‘JoJo Gnome’s Christmas Extra’ (14 mins). Also the opportunity to have a personalised JoJo Gnome Drawing sent to your school/ nursery/ home. This is the drawing you see being demonstrated in the video.
Regular package (£19.99)
The regular JoJo Gnome Christmas Cracker Story Workshop, which has the one 19 minute video for you to enjoy. (£19.99)
These packages can be bought through Gumroad.com. They go on sale from 25th October but can be pre ordered. Read terms and conditions here.
Nothing is as good as working with the children in person but here’s hoping that the videos are enjoyed by young folk and the folk who look after them. An added bonus is that children outside the Central Belt of Scotland get to enjoy JoJo’s Christma s fun too. If you want to get in touch or find out more don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Please spread the word and tell others who enjoy stories – Christmas will happen!
It’s been a very exciting couple of months after the launch of the new podcast Jo’s 5 Minute Creative Corner. The podcast is for ages 6-9 and filled with ideas and challenges to get those creative juices flowing. You can catch up with podcast #4 and also check out the others, which are archived. There’s something for everyone from star jump challenges to thumbprint animals. In every podcast too there is the chance to create a story or a piece of art. These are short listens with a big impact.
I’ve worked with Scottish Creative Crews so far in Mosspark Haldane and also Strathblane, look out for more in the future as the podcast has lots of kids voices in it.
It’s fun and free to listen to on the site or you can subscribe and not miss a single episode. Catch us on Spotify and Apple Podcast too.
Don’t forget JoJo Gnome Story Podcast for younger brothers and sisters too. This too is free to download and there are lots of fun activities to catch up with on the podcast page for each episode.
Go on have a listen!
I love this time of year. We live in the countryside and the fields around us are filled with lambs just now. It always brings a smile to my face to see the wee lambs with their plastic coats the farmers put them in. As Spring can be quite a cold affair here in Scotland they need their coats trust me! The field at the back of the house the other night had a few very curious cows in it too, which resulted in one in particular spending a good ten minutes checking us out. I’m sure she felt sorry for us being cooped up inside!
JoJo Gnome Story Podcast #11 – Springtime Stories
The story podcast (# 11) this month is all about Spring too. There’s the story of ‘Zack and the Beanstalk” complete with giant vegetable seeds. Also the story starter is all about magic seeds. Check out the wee film of Elmvale Primary 1’s drawings and suggestions for what they would grow with their magic seeds. My favourite suggestion was “a bush with statues of my friends on it” …I so want one of those in my garden. If you don’t want to plant seeds but fancy a bit colouring there are a couple of new pictures for you to print off and colour in. One’s an Easter egg picture and the other is spring flowers.
If you enjoy the podcast please tell your friends with younger children about it. The podcast is free to download (no catches) from the website, iTunes and Spotify. I wanted to be able to give something back for all the help I’ve had and the joy I’ve had from stories over the years.
This weekend I’ve been indulging in one of my favourite pass times…flying and making kites. Well more making actually as I am planning a kite story soon and wanted to make a Mrs Dragon kite to go along with it. This time I tried a Rokkaku kite…. and yes it flies. I’ll do a kite post soon and let you see more of Mrs Dragon in the air!
2018 has been a fantastic year for JoJo Gnome and myself. We have visited so many places and met so many wonderful children who are packed full of imagination and stories. So as not to go on too long I’m going to pick 3 particular highlights.
1. JoJo Gnome’s Story Podcast
This has to be my top highlight of the year and probably the hardest work. It was on 8th September last year I released the first JoJo Gnome Story Podcast. The idea was that in each podcast there would be a story and a story starter, which would allow children listening to join in with the story and add their own ending. My reason for starting this was quite simple. I know that when I go into schools, nurseries and libraries to do workshops the children I meet love the stories. However not all the parents can afford books … so I wanted to be able to leave them with some stories. So hence the story podcast, which is free to download.
My background is in radio production as well as writing but I hadn’t realised how much work would to go into the podcast. It’s not the making of the podcast as such (that’s the joyful bit). It is the telling people it’s there that takes the time and effort. Sometimes I think there is a bit of suspicion when a thing is free … where’s the catch? With JoJo Gnome’s Story Podcast there’s not one. So I keep spreading the word in person and on social media. Is it a success and worth it? In my opinion yes. One download means that a whole class will enjoy the story. The feedback from teachers and parents has been great. It’s good for children to hear their own accent in media too. So if you’re reading this and know someone who has a 3-6 year old please tell them about it.
One of my biggest hidden allies in the project is Al Fleming, a very talented musician and friend, who brings to life dragons dancing, squeaking mice racing about and story starters with his imaginative music.
I’ve also had new talent, like writer and poet Anna Miles, appear on the podcast. So next year more stories poems and surprises.
I also love the drawings and story suggestions that come from the children. Strathblane Primary’s Christmas trees this year were a joy and Our Lady of Peace’s JoJo portrait drawings make me smile.
Yes I do still record the podcast in my garden shed! Even if I do have to wrap up warmly recently.
Remember to listen to the first episode in the New Year, which is all about challenges and not being afraid of making mistakes.
2. JoJo Gnome and The Presents
This is the third JoJo Gnome book published and although I say it myself, my current favourite. Publishing is a long process from start to finish. I’m an ‘ideas and people person’ so the concentration and staying power of publishing a book is real work! Apart from my family (who are long suffering) the person who gets me through is Mary (Queen of Commas) who makes me pay attention to all the details. She’s a real talent and very creative (also quite strict!). Love you Mary!
3. The Weans (A Glasgow word for children …in case you weren’t sure)
This is perhaps what gives me most pleasure from JoJo Gnome. I love meeting and working with children across Scotland. They are funny, they are talented, they join in and they are honest. Trust me a four year old will just get up and leave if the story isn’t good enough (what a critic!).
(3b. Kites…an extra one)
This one is pure indulgence. I love kites, I can’t explain the simple pleasure I get from flying kites and mix in the elation of when you make your own kite and it actually soars into the air. Last year after visiting a kite festival I was given advice as to how to fix my home made JoJo Gnome kite and get it to fly. I took it to Tiree and it soared! Joyful!!!. Look out for the 2019 kite which I hope will be a bit bigger and will also fly. It too will feature JoJo Gnome of course.
I wish you and your’s an interesting New Year. May you have health, peace of mind and a bit of ‘what ever floats your boat”….or flies your kite!
love Jo & JoJo Gnome xx
I’m delighted to tell you that the latest JoJo Gnome book is now on sale in JoJo’s Easy shop. Everyone in Sound Town is feeling upset, the dragons are roaring, the Fairies are in a flap and the mice have no cheese. Will JoJo Gnome’s home-made presents sort everything out? YES!
This is a story filled with great sounds, rich vocabulary and lots of fun. There is also a wee mouse hiding on every page waiting to be found.
You can buy the book from JoJo’s Etsy shop for £6.50 (free postage and packing for mainland UK). There is a free exclusive JoJo badge for the first 50 books sold. A perfect stocking filler or bedtime story book.
Coming up to National Poetry Day is always a great opportunity to get young people to start writing their own poems and rhymes. I’ve always loved playing with words and when the opportunity came to work with the P1/2 in Fintry Primary I was delighted.
The theme for this year’s National Poetry Day, which is on 4th October, is ‘Change’. So I packed up my poetry ‘changing kit’ and headed off. Most of the rhymes and poetry I’ve been involved with have involved quilts. I know the first thing most people would reach for is paper but not me! Since I first found a beautiful book about story quilts years ago I was hooked. I make up my own with appliqué, drawing on fabric, quilting and beading. I think it’s a pretty special way to share poems with young people.
The quilt I decided to take in was ‘The Burping Frog” quilt. The tale of a rude and wee bit scary frog who eats everything and anything that rhymes. He burps them back up and then eats them again. It’s a great story to play around with as the children can make their own rhymes to fit into the poem. Fintry is a lovely wee school and P1/2 only have 12 pupils in it. They all contributed to the poem and came up with some very inventive ideas “a cheetah near a heater” for e example.
Have a listen to the Rhyme Time podcast (JoJo Gnome Story Podcast #4) . You can also check out below the full poem with their pictures. The Rhyme Time podcast is free to down load and there is another great joining in poem featured, My ABC. Download from the podcast page or on iTunes. I would love to hear from you and see your little one’s pictures of what their rhymes are. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. So go on have a go …what you’ll come up with, you never know ( Is that a rhyme…where’s my needle and thread?).