Readers in Residence: Lone Wolves

Category: Reading

A story is like a cat – it finds you, jumps into your lap, curls up and starts to purr.

I remember having stories read to me every night as a child and this was my reason for writing 10 stories from both the German and the British perspective for my latest WW1 project, Lone Wolves. Based on historical accounts of sailors and submarines, I have woven Greek myth, traditional Scottish folk tales and Grimm’s fairy stories into each story, and there are also 10 cats!

As Reader in Residence in Falkirk Libraries, this project is with a lively class of P7 pupils from Grange Primary in Bo’ness. Introduced as ‘reluctant readers,’ they spent the autumn term having regular visits to Bo’ness Library, where head librarian Gavin Johnstone introduced them to the art of the graphic novel.

I knew P7 students would like to imagine life on board a submarine

I met them early in the autumn term to seed the project and showed them a fantastic image from the Falkirk Archives of German Submarines awaiting recycling in the Firth of Forth right outside the library in 1919. I was lucky enough to work with Falkirk Community Trust last year on their Our Area in the First World War project, so I knew P7 students would engage with both their maritime heritage and the current recycling industry and might like to imagine life on board a submarine.

To reflect the make-up of the class I also wanted to discuss multiculturalism, as many of the mariners on both sides had met, worked with and come to respect each other on merchant ships in the years leading up to August 1914.

By asking the P7’s to think about how it would feel to face danger on and under the sea we have - I hope - embedded empathy, and as I am a collaborative artist we have also spent time illustrating their favourite parts of the stories during each session.

We are now in week 4 - halfway through the project - and this week they have written their own story, set in Bo’ness in 1919, which we will be turning into a comic ‘novella’ over the next 3 weeks. I can’t wait to hear what they have come up with and to see their new images.

Below are a few of my favourites from the past few weeks…

Jan Bee Brown

Jan Bee Brown is currently Scottish Book Trust Reader in Residence for Falkirk Libraries.

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