Teacher, Writer, Thief: writing challenges with Jenny Pearson

Published on: 24 June 2020

Teacher Jenny Pearson found inspiration for her book, The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates, in the magic of seeing a good story being read to a class of children - and by writing their quirky personalities into her own characters! She's set some writing challenges for you to try, too. Why not give them a go?

I love children. In fact, most of my favourite people are children so it is no surprise that I became a primary school teacher. It is a job that gives me so much satisfaction, lots of joy and most recently, mountains of material for writing!

I never thought I’d be a writer when I was at school. I was always the ‘sporty-one’. I didn’t even think I’d be a writer as a grown-up. Well, not until very recently. I cannot remember the first time I sat down and decided to try and write a children’s book. I think maybe it was an impulse born from witnessing the effect of a good book. Story time is one of my favourite parts of the school day (along with lunch). There is something very special about sharing a story with a class. Watching their reactions – gasps of shock, peals of laughter and tears of empathy – as you journey through another world and join characters on their adventures. It is a wonderful experience and one I am privileged to have.

I often get asked if being a teacher has helped with my writing and the answer is, absolutely. When I began writing for children, I also began stealing from them. Not their lunch money – that is frowned upon at school – but their characters. If you’re writing for children, it helps to know them. Not only to know what they like but also what they’re like. How they think, their worries, what they find funny, how they speak, how they interact with each other.  And I also think it helps to like them! I think you can tell when you’re reading a book written by someone who knows kids and likes them.

The characters I write are based on the many children I have taught over the years.

I don’t tend to base one character solely on one particular child, but I smoosh lots of bits together. The relationships I write are also based on the friendships I have seen among kids at school. There are a lot of ‘bullies’ in children’s books and, unfortunately, they do exist but what I mostly see in the classroom is kids who look out for each other, kids who are understanding and kind. That’s what I want to portray in my characters – the truth, and the truth is that kids are great!

Now, I have been tasked with setting some super fun writing challenges based on my book, The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates which is great because I love a challenge. I love giving things ago and I honestly don’t mind if I fail. Many of my school reports said Jenny is a real trier or what she lacks in ability she makes up for in ambition and I’m proud of that.

My sister says I’m the only person she knows who can get a question staggeringly wrong in Trivial Pursuit and still congratulate themselves for being on the right lines. I told her teachers call that growth mindset these days. She tells me she calls it an alarming detachment from reality. That might be so, but sometimes you simply have to have a bash at things.

I’d definitely enter the onion eating competition with my book characters, Freddie, Ben and Charlie. I’d also give one of Phyllis’s weird marmite and marmalade sandwiches a go, I’d even try to cycle a tandem across Wales in inappropriate clothing and very little forward planning. And I’d definitely give the following three writing challenges a try. I hope you will too because it took me a little while to come up with them and I don’t want that brain power to have been wasted.

Try Jenny Pearson's super fun writing challenges below!

Okay, Challenge One: FACTFUL FICTION

Freddie Yates loves facts and there are lots of facts in the book. I would like you to write a story based on one of these facts (or a fact of your own). For example, there’s a great fact in the back that was sent to me by Layla at Stanley Primary school, that you once could POST kids to their grandparents! I think that would make a great journey story. What can you come up with?

Challenge Two: READ ALL ABOUT IT

Put your journalist head on and write (or even video yourself giving) a news report on the miraculous happenings witnessed at St Giles’ church (see chapters 20-22 in The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates). Can you exaggerate the events to make your report a headliner?

Challenge Three: PROUD OF YOU

Freddie writes down things he’s done in a book called ‘Things I have done which would have made my mum proud’. Can you come up with five things you have done which make you proud? Of course you can! I bet you have loads!

If you are hungry for more challenges you can head over to the Usborne YouTube site where you can design your own underpants, try to say the longest word ever to win a book (I’m as optimistic as anybody but I don’t fancy your chances), learn how to draw a sheep with Rob Biddulph and make up your own super-hero costume.

Topics: Features

Read our review

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates

Author: Jenny Pearson Illustrator: Rob Biddulph

Do miracles really happen? Freddie Yates isn’t convinced. Until the summer he goes on an unexpected journey with his two best friends.

Read more about The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates

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