Mr Biggles – from Hook to Book

Mr Biggles started as an idea – as a storyteller, I have been lots of books as part of my research into the history of folk tales. Many of the European stories feature bears, especially those from Germanic areas. Those of that have read my blogs before will be familiar with the peculiar story of The Turnip Princess, in which a small bear is a witch’s familiar, although this is a bit of a red herring (if you pardon the pun). I have been slowly creating a Storytelling Gang of characters that I use as focus objects during sessions, so it became obvious that a bear was necessary.

But how to make a bear?

Well, I have made a few characters now and most of them have come from the crochet pattern books of Kerry Lord from TOFT, an alpaca wool manufacturer. Her patterns are brilliant and make fabulously lovable and tactile, appealing creatures. They have a definite ‘look’ about them and they easily be given a personality all of their own.  On finding the pattern for the bear I wanted, I looked for suitable materials and colours. I went for bamboo cotton for its durability (it will be handled by many times and in different conditions, weather etc) and shades of brown, to keep an edge of realism. Once I had completed all the parts of the bear, the face posed the most difficult part of the puzzle, as this is the most important piece. Needless to say, it took ages to get this right. The shape of the eyes, the nose, to smile or not, the shape of the smile and the size of it – all almost impossible! Somehow, the face suddenly revealed itself. Almost like a carving coming out of stone. And wow, what a lovely little face too!

Mr Biggles

Mr Biggles came out of the Storytelling Gang bag for the first time the next day, and barely had his nose poked out, when I heard a little boy proclaim that he knew his name was Mr Biggles, and that was that. I had been struggling to name him, so it is always wise to consult the experts on these matters. The eight and nine year olds (and their parallel class) given the job of naming Mr Oggy Boggles in January are still buzzing with excitement over that ceremony, five months later.

What happened next…

The shaping of the character of Mr Biggles pretty much at the same time as he did. The process of crochet and pattern I followed involves a great of shaping and creation, thinking about the general shape of the character, his face, how his body will work and move, all contribute to how he will be. More than that, as a storyteller, I think about what he might get up to, think about the stories he will get involved in, the stories that he knows. Of course, there will be elements of my personality going into his personality. He is, after all, my creation, and that is bound to be inevitable in some way.  Once a character has met children and I talk about them, things can change as this when they really come to life, especially when I hear my responses to questions that I never thought I’d be able to answer.

And then, of course, there’s writing a story about them… but that really is a whole other story!


Embla xxx

PS Don’t forget

Competition information is here…

The EmblaBee May Competition – Who Is It?

Announcing the first ever EmblaBee competition

Competition information is here…

I’d love to hear from whenever you can send me an entry, just make sure that it gets to me before the end of May. All entries will be judged by a set of creative and experienced judges and winners will be notified by the end of the first week of June, so if you have not heard anything by then, please know that you can always try again in another competition in the future. The judges are lovely, but their decision is final and may eat you if you want to argue with them (not really). They are looking for originality, exciting and with personality.

The winners will receive their prizes as soon as EmmisMakes (that’s me, too) can make them, add the magic (about this much) and can make arrangements to get them to you safely.

Draw a Character – Hints and Clues

Members of the Storytelling Gang so far look a bit like this…

The Storytelling Gang love spending time together, telling tales and making up games. Which is your favourite?

Find out more about them on the Meet the Team Page

This page might give you some clues about how to create your character and what they might look like. We’re really interested in what they like and what they get up to, so add that information too, if you can.


Create a Story – Hints and Clues

If you have been reading any of the blogs about Oggy Boggles and his book about storywriting, there are hints there about the kind of thing we are looking for the create a story part of the competition.

There are lots of things that you can do to start thinking about writing a story, and this exactly what I do when I put a story together. When I start writing or thinking up a tale on the spot to tell children, very often I start off with  choosing a character,  deciding where they are going, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. They might meet someone to have fun with that makes the story exciting, or something might happen that stops what they were hoping to do and they have to do a brave thing or use a special tool or magical gift to help them get out of trouble.

Send us five ideas for a story that get us excited about the story we could make out of them, like:

Princess, bear, prince, cave, turnip (sounds crazy, but there is a very old story about those five things… you can read my version of it here: The Turnip Princess)

Three bears, little girl, porridge, broken things, asleep – bet you can guess the story from those clues. But what other story could you create from the key words?

Boy called George, Girl called Rosie-Mae, mountain bike, pony, magic key

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

If you’d like to add some illustrations to your story ideas, we’d love that too.

A quick reminder of the prizes!


Good luck everybody! Looking forward to all your entries!

Character of the Week #3 Mr Biggles

Say hello to this week’s brand new character of the week…

Just Saying Hello!

Mr Biggles is a lovely, friendly bear, that lives in a wood and knows a great deal about the countryside and our world. He can help you find out about animals, birds and trees in the forests he loves in Britain, and every other living thing on Earth. An expert on what makes the planet as wonderful and powerful as it is, he can tell you about rivers and mountains, skies and seas, earthquakes and volcanoes,  tiny streams and mighty moving floods of water and soil. Also a believer in being a responsible member of the world, Mr Biggles can talk to you about recycling, using electricity and water wisely and how to take care of our environment.

Mr Biggles’ Book

Like every self respecting member of the Storytelling Gang, Mr Biggles has his own book that travels around with him when he meets children in different classroom and storytelling sessions. This one is full of ideas about his friends, the environment, and woodlands in particular. There’s a story about some bears his friend, Bob, met in woods and what they got up to as well. Take a look at some of the pages from the book.

Busy Biggles

Mr Biggles was born only a couple of months ago and has been one of my most popular characters. He was named not by me, but by a pupil I was teaching at one of the schools I visit regularly as a supply teacher. Barely (if you pardon the pun) had his nose poked out of the storytelling bag, when the little burst out with “I know what his name is. It’s Mr Biggles.” Up until that moment I had been thinking of a few different names, and nothing had really seemed right. Well, Mr Biggles it was and it has suited him ever since. There was a brief foray into Mr Biggle, though it didn’t last. Always trust children on these things.

For the past two weeks, Mr Biggles has been working his big strong paws off in Reception classes at a number of schools.  The children have learnt to sequence pictures from a story, to use relative positional language (not in those words), to draw different animal homes and to understand how an acorn grows into an oak tree. For one little boy, he learnt that acorns are called acorns, not oakanuts, which was a hard won contest. Acorns, pine cones, sticks and other outdoor materials were used on one particularly cold and miserable afternoon to create ephemeral art in the classroom, and the pictures were fantastic. The bark rubbing collages totally made by the children were unexpectedly delicious, as they were far more imaginative with their use of shape and colour than I anticipated them to be, which just go to illustrate my earlier point of trusting children of these things.

Anyway, TTFN, and I’ll be back soon!

Embla x

P.S. I will posting news about a competition on Tuesday, so look out for that!

More information coming on Tuesday 1st May


Character of the Week #2 continued!

My favourite alien, Mr Oggy Boggles, is back for another turn as Character of the Week!

Available for sessions in schools and at parties, Mr Oggy Boggles loves telling stories and helping children to write their own. He even has his own book to share with children.

Today, we have been working on adding some illustrations to his story, and we have something to show you. Take a few minutes to enjoy highlights from his life story so far, and then click on the links below to read the full story.

To read Mr Oggy Boggles’ full Origin Story, read on MacDuff:

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

Shakespeare’s Birthday – 23rd April

To mark Shakespeare’s birthday on Monday, 23rd April, how about doing some of the Witches’ Spell activities I have placed FREE to download on TES resources? Based on the Witches’ Spell from Macbeth, there are sequence of lessons and activities, with lesson plans (with aims and success criteria included), worksheets, presentations, resource lists and all you need to get going on great sessions with children from EYFS to LSK2. There’s a little taste of everything there, from Drama (of course), to Maths, Science, Music, Art, Craft, PE… plus extension ideas too.

These have all been revised since they were first published and new additions have been made, so are well worth a second look if you have the time.

Lessons based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Clink on the links here for more information and the links to the TES resources:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 1

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 2

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 3

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 4

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Set 5

And for those with more money than time, a bundle of all them that you can pay cash monies for:

The Witches’ Spell Lesson Plans – Bundle


Character of the Week #2

This week’s featured character is…

Mr Oggy Boggles comes from the moon, and loves to hear stories. He helps children to develop story writing skills, through his own handmade book

Arriving on Earth after a freak incident on the Moon shook him loose in his little Moon Rock house, Oggy is now on an ongoing mission to seek out new stories and new poetry sessions, to go boldly where one stripey little alien has never before gone (or something like that anyway).

This week, Oggy and I have held high powered talks over cups of tea and packets of Malteasers (what with Moon Cheese being so rare and all, down here on Earth), and we have continued to develop his Go Bananas! Do Stories! Book and series of lesson plans.

As part of that, with his guidance of course, I produced a set of illustrations for Oggy’s book, that can help take writers through the different elements needed to write simple stories.

Mr Oggy Boggles and I are available to come to schools to share his book and discuss the storytelling strategies we’ve come up with together, and may be a story or two with pupils and teachers too, as we both love stories. Follow-up lesson plans and teachers’ packs are available. If you are interested, have a look for more information on booking us here: Storytelling – Information and Fees 

To read Mr Oggy Boggles’ own Origin Story, read on MacDuff:

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part One

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

Character of the Week #1

Meet the brand new character to be part of the gang with Bob and the animals and creatures in the EmblaBee storytelling bag.

Mr Wolfgang Eriksen

An expert in traditional tales, Mr Wolfgang Eriksen is especially keen on stories about wolves (obviously), but can spin you are a yarn about adventurous girls and brave boys, sneaky animals and clever fairies, wicked witches, and more about magical turnips than you will ever want to hear.

Bob and the Very Rainy Day

NB Bob is lovelilicious but has his own idiosyncratic way of speakaling. It is infectious. All spelling mistooks are his fault, not that of the author. EM


Bob and the Very Rainy Day

Bob decided that it was going to be one of those dumbtwiddling days. He looked out of his window in his home at the base of an ancient hollowed out oak tree, and all he could see was big wetty gobbley droppers pourling down and making hugelymungiously soggy puddly muddles on the ground. On dumbtwiddling days like this, he knew there was only one thing that you could do. Sit in front of a warm fire with a hot chocolate, marshilymallowsqueezies and cake, and thunkle up stories. The problem today was that it was so cold and miseryshiverable that it was making him hard of thunking and coming up with a story of his own was making his brainynoggin do hurting.

When this kind of thing happened, and when you are a little acorn of huge lovelybugness, but little brainynoggin, it is good to look for help. So Bob did just that. He went to his shelf of huge books for little hands and took one that he loved the most. It said GRIMM TALES on the front cover, and Bob knew why it said that, because most of the tales were quite grim. Sitting by the cosy fire, but not too close, as Bob is wood mostly after all, he read for a little while, before he found his head doing nodding and dreaming…


Bob’s Grim Dream

Once upon a timey-wimey, there was a brave little acorn called Bob. He lived in a biggle huge castle with a wickedly beautilicious step-Queen, Nepetitious, and her two mugly pine-conely sons, Stinky and Squashy. They were all mega mean to Bob and made him do all their homework and never let him eat cake, not even on Sundays or chocolate Fridays. Bob was sadly thunking, but not miserigrumpilicious, because he could never be that.

One day there was an announcement from a neighbouring land that the Very Lovely Princess Anna to her handsome Prince, Arthur. There was going to be hugelymungous party and everyone for miles and miles and lands and lands around was invited. Best of all, Monsieur Fancy Cakes was going to be making the cake. This made Bob VERY happy and excited, and he couldn’t wait to go. But then… OH NO! Bob made specially gorgeous cake gobbling-up and smartling looking outfits for him and his family when that mean lot took all their clothes, and left him in a high tower with no door and only one window so high high high up his brainynoggin went squirrly and his tummy went flippy floppy when he looked out of it.

Poor Bob. He sat alone in his scary tower and started to cry. For the first time ever, he really did feel miserilicious and he didn’t like it one bit. To cheer himself up, he started to sing a little song, a song that he’d always loved, perhaps you know it…but I don’t. And when I asked him, he couldn’t remember, so I can’t tell you now. He danced and he sang, and it worked! He was soon much happier.

And then something miraculicious happenated. Outside there was a shuffling and bumping and moaning and arguing noise. Bob felt brave, and stuck his little head out of the window. He couldn’t believe what he saw. Seven little acorns, just like him, were climbing up a ladder! They were soon in the tower with him. They explainated that they had been given the job of seeking those in trouble by an old, old man with reindeer long, long ago, and when they had heard Bob’s singing they thought there was someone in a lot of painisufferin’. Bob was a bit upset that his singing must’ve sounded that bad but was happy that they were rescuing him. They asked him what he was doing there and they were sad and angry about what happenated to him, and wanted to get revenge on the evil step-family of pine-cones. One of them, who was known for extree goodly thunking, smiled a special smile and told them all that she had a plan, and not to worry, it was all sorted.

Bob’s new friends were excited about the party at the palace when he told them about it, so if they rushied up quickly they’d still make it in time for the cake. The seven little acorns helped Bob down the ladder and on to their dwarf horses and they raced to the party on the other side of Blue Shimmer Lake.

Arriving at the woods, just outside the palace, the acorns changed into their best party outfits and went into the palace and looked very handsome and beautiful. They were very relieved to find out that they hadn’t missed the cake and dancing but had missed the singing (Bob was confused about why they were relieved about that, but guessed they had their reasons).

Bob was just about to have a big bite of delicious Malteasers chocolate wedding cake, when out of the corner of his eye he saw his evil step family approaching… His little legs started to tremble with fear, his hands started to shake so much that he nearly dropped his dessert fork, and tears sprang to his eyes. Then his rescuing acorns’ plan swung into action. They encircled the evil family and presented them with a beautiful spinning wheel, dancing around and saying things like it was magic and if they didn’t take it, they’d regret it and it was special and fabulous, and so on. His evil family were greedy for money and magic, and very, very silly, so they snatched the spinning wheel, but as soon as they did, they fell to the floor. It was magic. It was enchanted with a spell that made anyone unkind and selfish go to sleep for one hundred years and dream about yukky things like maths homework the whole time.

The Very Lovely Queen Anna and the Handsome King Arthur came over to see what all the fuss was about and when they heard Bob explainate everything that had happenated to him, they fell in love with him. They ordered that his evil family to be taken to a dark and dank dungeon to sleep for their hundred years with a sign outside saying ‘no kissing allowed’, just in case anyone was tempted to wake them up early. Bob stayed with the Very Lovely Queen and Handsome King Arthur, and they all lived happily ever after.


Bob woke up, stretched and had a sip from his hot chocolate, and was happy that it was still warm. Outside, the rain had stopped a little and a beautiful rainbow was stretching out of the woods into the sky, carrying dreams and light into the sky. Rainy days aren’t so miserilicious, thought Bob.


The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part Two

The Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles – Part 2

In the last part of the Curious Tale of Mr Oggy Boggles, we learnt that he was a little alien, all alone on the moon… until his moon rock house broke loose from the moon and started to float through space…

Floating through space was a strange and unusual experience for Oggy and he wasn’t he sure he liked it. Broken bits of cheese plates and his Bob Acorn-Seen mug floated past his head. And his feet tumbled around, and his arms and his antenna felt squirly and whirly. But then the little moon house started to slow down, and his movements started to feel less floaty and more bumpy, as he landed on the floor with a bit of a crash. When he thought about it though, Oggy realised that he wasn’t so much on the floor as on the wall. On the ceiling was his door and windows and his actual floor and ceiling were doing the job of walls. The little moon house began speeding downwards and Oggy held on to what he could as it jolted and banged, and then splashed with an almighty splash, into something cold and wet looking.

Bobbing about for what seemed liked ages, the little moon house was safe and sound, and so was, I am happy to say, Mr Oggy Boggles. Clambering to his feet, he soon gained his sea legs, as his big feet helped him walk about on the wobbly watery boaty like little moon house without even falling over once or feeling smallest bit seasick, which was lucky. Opening the door of his house as if were a hatch of a submarine, Oggy climbed out on to the top and was able to see the sea all around him, and, far off into the distance, something far more interesting… what looked like land.

There were hills and a small town with white painted houses looking back at him. There was a long prom with blue metal rails, and people walking up and down in coats and hats and scarves, eating ice creams and carrying buckets and spades, because it was August and they were meant to be having a good time. Going up the left-hand side of the town was a special train that only went up and down, not along, and tended to make men go a bit pale, children want more ice cream, and women want to close their eyes. There was a short pier with another white building on it, that was full of noises and smells that Mr Oggy Boggles had never heard before, but was sure were very exciting, if you were a bit bigger and braver than him. He was most excited about seeing the beach, an expanse of dark sand and large grey, black stones. If he could reach that beach, he could finally meet actual people and have friends of his own, hear stories and watch the lips that are telling them, and actually find out if marshmallows taste as good as he believes them to be.