We’re keeping ourselves busy here at One Third Stories putting the finishing touches on next month’s Story Box Club and getting everything ready to be sent out to you all. To get you as excited as we are about March’s Story Box, we’re delighted to share a sneak preview of some of the wonderful things you’ll find inside.
To do that, we’ve been speaking to Co-Founder and Creative Director of One Third Stories, Jonny Pryn. Jonny is the creative genius behind all of our stories and activity books. Each month, he writes a new original story for the Story Box Club and oversees all of the illustration and design work that goes into our resources. Essentially, all of the goodies you find in your Story Box each month will have crossed Jonny’s desk at some point or another.
So, Jonny, who is the main character in this month’s Story Box?
“This month we’ve got a classic hero vs. villain story. Our hero is a young prince who just loves dressing up. It’s how he relaxes after long days of being a fantastic prince who works very hard. But opposing the prince, we have a sneaky, villainous character called Artie Thistle. The prince hires him to create a new set of clothes, but Artie’s got other plans.”
Sounds intriguing! What’s the meaning behind the name Artie Thistle?
“Well, Artie Thistle is a really trickster; he’s pretending to be a lot of things that he’s not. I’ve always believed that giving a character the right name helps you to get under their skin and trigger different ideas about what they’re like. I wanted a name that reflected his characteristics, so settled on Artie Thistle. The name sounds pointy, spiky and nasty. Also when you put the names together it sounds like the world ‘artificial’, meaning fake – which is exactly what Artie is.”
What can parents expect their children to learn from this month’s Story Box?
“As this is a vague re-telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes, one of the key areas of language we cover is clothing. A big part of the Key Stage 2 language curriculum is being able to describe people, places and things, so clothing was very important to go over. That naturally also led us onto talking about parts of the body, which is a great continuation of the vocabulary we covered in last month’s Story Box where we looked at the parts of the face. Lastly, in this month’s story we look at the days of the week. Those are the three main topics, but, as ever, there’s plenty of other bits of useful vocabulary included.
Outside of language, like all good fairy tales there’s a moral to the story. The prince learns that he should believe in his own value, rather than what people perceive his value to be. We also always make a conscious effort to ensure that there’s diversity in all of our books. We want to make sure that kids from anywhere, with any kind of background and personal identity, can look at our stories and see themselves being represented as heroes.”
There was a lot of positive feedback after last month’s Story Box Club about the modern re-telling of classic fairy tales. Where do you get your ideas for doing this from?
“Whenever I read a fairy tale, I always enjoy the basic story but wonder what little tweaks I could make to bring to up to date and make it more relevant to kids today. I begin by looking for that little twist in the tale that changes the whole thing. With Ruby Red, our last Story Box book, the picture I had in my head was of the wolf actually getting really into playing the part of Granny and wanting to do it every day for the rest of his life.
The image I had in my head with this book was of the prince standing in front of a whole crowd, wearing only his pants. Almost like that bit of advice about imagining the crowd wearing their underwear if you’re nervous about public speaking, except in reverse. Once I’ve got that one scene in my head, I’ll ask our illustrator to draw it and I’ll work backwards from there.”
What is the most important aspect for you that children take away from this story?
“The most important thing for me is that the kids are really enjoying the vocabulary they’re learning. We like to make activities where children are using a whole set of skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening – but that also gaining practical knowledge. I’m really excited by this month’s activity pack! There’s a paper doll and some paper clothes which parents and children can cut out and use to practice clothing vocabulary.”
As a writer, what’s your big literary dream for these books?
“One of my dreams has already been achieved. When I first started writing, I went to this amazing bookstore in Paris, called Shakespeare and Company. It was just the most fantastic place I’d ever been to and I said to myself that I was determined that one of my books would be sold there one day. The Great Français Wordsearch is stocked there now, so that’s been ticked off my bucket list.
So now the big goal is just to keep creating stories that make kids feel like languages are not only accessible but also fun to learn. I think a lot of that is going to come down to creating the right kind of characters who kids can really identify with – that’s what’s going to help us keep spreading a love of language learning!”
We hope you’ve enjoyed getting an insight into Jonny’s writing process and some snippets of what you can expect from this month’s Story Box. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can get your hands on next month’s storybook and activities by signing up now.