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

Embla the Bunny Story Detectives

A simple to use powerpoint presentation for primary aged children, and has ENGLISH subject tasks, requiring reading comprehension, and a understanding of plot, character and setting. The powerpoint can be used for group work, class work or guided reading activities, so is versatile and easy to adapt for individual classes. Basic lesson objectives and success criteria are included, as well as handy hints and notes along the slides. The Story Detectives resource bank uses entirely original stories written by Emma Middlemiss (that’s me) about a bunny, facing new beginnings and changes, with a hint of Nordic mythology and history, as well as other characters to draw out the best of children’s imaginations and interests.

Be a History Detective – teaching investigation skills

I’ve just created two easy to use lesson plans based around the concept of asking and answering simple historical questions – why, when, where, what, who, how, can, do. Designed to get Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 children thinking about the key questions they should be asking when carrying out investigations about the past, these two lessons take the children, step-by-step through the process of thinking about why we need to ask questions, how to ask questions and how to answer them based on evidence. They aren’t period specific, so please feel free to adapt them to your circumstances.

Aims and success criteria are included, as are downloadable resources to help you construct a lesson, worksheets and interactive wall displays and further resources. All you need is here to get you going and start being creative with your thinking.

Download for FREE from TES resources by clicking on this link:

History Detectives – Questioning skills

EmblaBee can run these lessons as a workshop in your school. Please contact her directly for more information:

Character Packs

Character Packs – a soft toy designed and handmade by EmmisMakes, with a party or class pack for children, to inspire storytelling, drama games and arty activities. All come with a specially written story for the character, written by EmblaBee. Bespoke editions available upon request.

Image by Jack Moreh

How Bob Came To Be And Other Strange Things


How Bob Came To Be and Other Strange Things

This is the story of a little creature called Bob and how he came to be. He is small and brown and looks a bit like an acorn, only a bit bigger and he has a very happy face. His favourite things are cake and chocolate and he’s very excited when they come together in the same thing such as chocolate cake. But this story isn’t about cake or chocolate; it is about him. You see, he wasn’t always. There was a time when there wasn’t a Bob, as hard as that may seem, but thankfully, now there is and I, for one, am very glad of that.

One snowy Christmas evening, many years ago, an old, old man was out in the woods looking for lichen to feed his reindeer. They had been busy all night and all day, flying all over the world, giving presents to good children and their grown-ups (even some of the naughty ones, if they said sorry and really, really meant it), so the old, old man decided that the reindeer definitely deserved a treat and they loved to lichen more than anything, even more than mince pies and carrots and sherry.

However, the old, old man had a problem. In fact, it was a big problem. I’d almost go so far as to say that it was big, big problem or an even a big, big, big problem. Do you remember me saying it was snowy evening? It was a very snowy evening and was rapidly becoming an extremely snowy night and the old, old man was getting colder and colder and older and older and more and more tired. He could really do with some help. If you or I had been there, I’m sure we would have given him a hand and looked for some, or something else nice that those reindeer would have liked as a treat after all their hard work. But it was a long time ago and neither you or I were around then, so what could be done?

Well, let me tell you… The old, old man was special and always, always kept a bit of magic in his pocket. You can’t see magic, so sometimes fairies and the magical folk add a bit of glitter or sparkle to help you see it all happen. On that snowy, cold night he took the magic from his pocket, which in those days looked little pouch tied to his belt, and ten particularly handsome acorns he found when he was looking for the lichen. Can you guess what he did? He sprinkled the magic all over the acorns and they came to life when he touched them and named them. He called them awake: “Wake-up Abigail, wake-up Bob, wake-up Carla, wake-up David, wake-up Evie, wake-up Frankie, wake-up Grace, wake-up Harry, wake-up Ieuan and wake-up Jemima.”

“Hello,” they all said, apart from Bob, who was still half-asleep and only managed a yawn.

“You are my special wood elves,” said the old, old man, “and I would like you to help me find some lichen for my reindeer. Will you please help me? We are very tired, and my reindeer have worked hard this night and I would like to reward them for being so good.”

“Of course, we will, yes, of course!” said all of the wood elves, apart from Bob, who said “pardon?” and ate a leaf, spat it out and scratched his ear.

The wood elves ran about searching for lichen and were off hither and thither in their pursuit. Bob fell over in the snow, made a snow angel, threw a snowball at a grumpy red-nosed reindeer who told him off, built a snow reindeer and ate some juicy berries that some hippity-hoppity birds said were lovely. But he didn’t find any lichen.

The old, old man sat down on a log and looked tired. Bob noticed and went and sat down next to him. “Yous alright?” asked Bob.

“I love my job,” said the old, old man, “but I do get a bit tired sometimes.”

“What yous bin doin’ then? Lots of stuff wiv them reindeer?”

“We’ve been travelling the world and giving presents to everyone who deserves one.”

“What? The wholes world? Is it bigger than the wholes wood?”

“Much, much bigger, yes, so huge, little Acorn, that you couldn’t see it if you were the mightiest Oak tree that there ever was in all of time.”

“Ooooh. And all them peoples that gets presents, is that just the goods ones then, that can’t be very many.”

“It is everyone.”

“Do you get the presents from a shop? I hear the hoomens talkin’ abouts them as they do walkin’ hereabouts.”

“Some of them. Some of them are extra special.”

“That must tek yous ages long to get everyones everything.”

“It does. A whole year, nearly. The Mrs and I have a little holiday about Easter time.”

“Do you has anyone to helps you, but grumpy reindeer?”

“Oh yes, I have all my elves at the North Pole, and the Mrs, of course.”

“Elves like us?” Bob was quite excited by the thought of there being more elves somewhere else. He was new to the world and everything is amazing when you are new to the world.

“Not quite like you, no,” said the old, old man. It wasn’t clear by the way he said that if he meant the wood elves he’d just created or Bob in particular, but I suspect he meant Bob. There really is nothing quite like Bob.

“Ooooh.” Bob was thoughtful for a moment. This was an achievement. It was the first time in his life he had ever actually done such a thing. Eventually, he said “I bin sleeping on the ground for ages and it was borin’, but all the time I knows I was gunna to grow and be summat brill n that. There was times I’d bins thunking I’d be a mouse’s lunchburger and that was scaretwizzling, I tells yer. When there’s something horrorlurking or just dullsville, there’s alus summat good coming, in’t there? E’en if it you dun’t know what it’ll be. I didn’t know I was gunna be snowsplayin’ today, but I is right now. I dun’t know why or how much lunger it’s be lasting n that, but it ain’t haf grand. Sems to me, whateves yer do is wuf doing if it meks yer feel gud or meks someone else heppy”.

The old, old man and Bob looked at their feet, or in Bob’s case, what were almost feet, for a moment.

“Whats can I be doing for yous?” asked Bob. The old, old man realised two things at this point. First, that Bob had up until that point had totally missed the point of what he was meant to be doing. He hadn’t collected any lichen and didn’t even know he was meant to looking for it. Second, that the other wood elves hadn’t seen how wonderful the world was around them or chosen to offer their help, they just did what they were told, but Bob, as maddeningly distractable as he was, had a heart full of wonder and wanted to live and grow.

“Little Acorn Bob,” said the old, old man, “I want you to do two things for me. You seem to know these woods very well for such a small fellow, can you find me some lichen for my reindeer? They are grumpy because they are tired too after a busy day and I think they deserve a treat. When you come back, I will tell you the second thing I want you to do for me.”

“I wills do all that rights aways, I wills,” said Bob, and he did.




A little while later, all the wood elves gathered back by the old, old man and the reindeer. The old, old man had built a beautiful, big fire and had brewed a lovely pot of tea for himself and warmed some ice and snow to make a drink for his reindeer. The wood elves piled up their lichen proudly, and the old, old man was just about to thank them politely for their efforts when one of them pointed out that Bob was nowhere to be seen. All of the other wood elves started to laugh and say that Bob was probably off playing somewhere again. The old, old man said nothing; he had faith in his little friend. With that a huge pile of lichen seemed to stagger towards them and collapse in heap, next to the much smaller collection made by the wood elves. “Hellos there,” said Bob, suddenly appearing from behind it all. “I found a bit for yer, but excuse me, I’lls be back in mo,” and promptly disappeared, leaving everyone aghast, everyone but the old, old man, of course, of course.

Two minutes later, another staggering heap appeared with two tiny little brown legs underneath. Bob had brought another huge pile of lichen. The reindeer licked their lips and it was a bit of struggle for the old, old man to hold back them back from eating it all up there and then, and possibly Bob too.

“Well, goodness me,” said the old, old man, “fantastic work! Well done all of you, but especially well done Bob! I thank you, and my reindeer thank you. I am sure they will really enjoy this lovely treat. However did you manage to find so much Bob?”

“I asked the tweetie hippity-hoppers, they knows everything,” said Bob, with authority.

“Right, my fine little acorns,” the old, old man announced, “it is time for you to go back to sleep, settle down now, back to where you belong. May all of nature protect and guard you so that you will become fine, fine oak trees, growing strong and tall, proud and beautiful, giving shelter and life to all.” The wood elves found their places back in the wood, here and there, high and low, settling down snug in the earth, deep beneath the blanket of white, white snow, and slowly turned back into the fantastical seeds they had once been. All of them that is, except, of course, guess who? Bob.

Bob got a bit lost at first, but he’d found his place, which was close to the old, old man’s camp for the night, and he’d started to snuggle down into the earth. Then he realised that his elven brothers and sisters were changing, and he, well, wasn’t.

“’Cuse mes, Mr Old Man, sirs,” asked Bob, rather bemused “I was listenin’ n all, and I think I was doing it all right and that, but how come I is still here and talkin’ and they all isn’t and are all lyin’ there like there was afore.”

“You have forgotten one thing Bob, haven’t you?” the old, old man said.

“No, I ain’t. I listened right hard wiv both me ears and l looked wiv both of me eyes and I used my thunkiling brain n all. You told us to back to where we was and go to slep, and I did what yous said and watched the others to mek sure n everythink.” Bob was getting really upset by now. There were big tears appearing his acorny eyes. The old, old man bent down and picked him up and stroked him to make him feel better. “Oh Bob, good Bob, best little Acorn Bob, you have done all that could ever want you to do. I asked you much earlier to do me two favours, one was to collect lichen for my reindeer, which you did marvellously. Going to sleep was my request for the other wood elves, not for you. I have one other favour I ask of you, my dear little friend.”

“Oh, well, that’s alright then,” Bob sniffed a big sniff and gave the old, old man and huge, if a bit snotty, “what tis it?”

“I’d like you to live, Bob.”


“Just as you have today. Enjoy life and do all you can. See the fun when there’s grey skies. Help other people when you can. Seek out adventures and take other people with you, if they are only a step away. Can you do that, Bob?”

“Living is easy, it’s jus’ breathing in and out.”

“There’s more to it than that, you know.”

“Oh, I knows that, there’s the thunking and stuff. But breathing is the most importantest bit.”

And that is how one old, old man gave his last gift one dark snowy Christmas night. And how Bob came to be.