On Saturday we held a book event for Beyond the Forest in Sheffield, hosted by The Hubb. With some 60-70 attendees and a whole host of children, it was a very enjoyable day. Along with an interview and book reading for parents, children and youth workers, there was also an activity for the children afterwards. I had expected a group of 6-10 year olds, but was enthused to see an entire variety of kids, the oldest being 13 and the youngest 3 years old! More surprising, all of them, even the pre-schoolers were fully engaged, asking all about the creative writing process, advice on reading and creating their own stories, more technical questions on the particulars of publishing and even leading into some profound discussion on spirituality and our purpose (when did kids get so philosophical??). Here are some highlights:

During an activity where we went around the room, making up the next line of an improvised story, some excellent sentences were given ranging from ‘the wind howled sending a cry through the trees’ by a 12 year old boy, to ‘suddenly a shriek came from the darkness, breaking the deafening silence’ by a 10 year old girl. It evoked such an atmosphere, and was followed by a series of descriptions as ‘the wolves were howling, the snow was falling, the air was freezing’ to which twin 4 year olds added ‘the doors were squeaking’ and ‘the flowers were growing.’

A 7 year old said: ‘I feel like I can hear a call around me, a voice calling me to something. How can I know what this is? Do I follow it?’ This led into a little talk about the Nafs al-Rahman, the echo of primordial memories, and resulted in smiles and exclamations bursting all around the room as the children eagerly started talking about their feelings and inner thoughts.

An astonishingly-literary 3 year old asked: ‘Have you read Gangsta Granny by David Walliams?’ followed by ‘what Roald Dahl books do you like?’ I am pleased to report that I have read it and was able to list many classic Dahl books!

My thanks to the organisers, the attendees and to the children themselves! Here are some pictures of the day.



Beyond the Forest is available at www.nooryusuf.com