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Nura and the Immortal Palace
Nura and the Immortal Palace

BOOK OF THE MONTH - This gripping, magical middle-grade adventure is rooted in Muslim culture and tradition and follows a young girl's journey from modern-day Pakistan into the world of the jinn. Written by debut author M. T. Khan.

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Guest blog from Joshua Davidson creator of the Night Zookeeper series

Test

The Night Zookeeper books are exciting stories for readers 6+ about a magical portal into the mysterious world of the Night Zoo.

Toppsta readers love the series:

"There wasn't anything I didn't like about the book. I can't wait to read the next one in this series of books."
Anthony.h16, aged 9 The Elephant of Tusk Temple 

"It is a lovely book. It is really magical."
KatH aged 8 The Lioness of Fire Desert

"We absolutely love these books! They are perfect for lower key stage 2. The children in my class are massive fans of this series and are so excited to continue with this one."
misswynnreads_  The Penguins of Igloo City

"Just loved this book, great characters and fantastic story. I have to read the other books in the series"
Ad575, aged 11 The Lioness of Fire Desert

The gripping stories about Will and his friends' adventures and the weird and wonderful creatures that live in the Night Zoo, are written by the creators of Nightzookeeper.com – a website that promotes creative writing, storytelling and literacy. The magical story books introduce children to a world of endless possibilities, inspiring creativity and encouraging them to write their own stories.

We asked author Joshua Davidson to tell us more about how he writes the books, interactive storytelling and the unique way he has gone about writing the fifth book - The Bear of Flying Mountain.

Check out his guest blog below to find out more.

Toppsta
2021-06-30
Guest blog from Joshua Davidson creator of the Night Zookeeper series

how i wrote the bear of flying mountain

By JoshUA Davidson


Night Zookeeper is more than just a book series. It is also a website with a creative community of children storytellers. During the pandemic our community has blossomed, with tens of thousands of children finding their voice and publishing amazing pieces of writing every day. 

At the back of the Night Zookeeper storybooks we print fantastic examples of their stories for readers around the world to enjoy. However, with The Bear of Flying Mountain, the fifth book in my Night Zookeeper series, we wanted to go one step further and have children co-write the main story. Before I go into more detail, I need to hop on the back of Maji, our resident Time-Travelling Elephant, so I can give you some more context.

Twenty years ago, one of the initial sparks that led me to establishing Night Zookeeper, was the huge community of fan fiction writers that the Harry Potter series inspired. At the time, there were already over nine million pieces written and I was so impressed with the level of creative effort the stories had inspired. I wondered how much more people would have written if, rather than just creating ‘fan fiction’, they felt they were actually helping to build the canon of the world.

In 2019, we went beyond our website and book series and launched the Night Zookeeper animated show. We are not a traditional children’s brand so I didn’t want to do a traditional animated series. Instead we endeavoured to work with thousands of children to co-create the show. We ran workshops in over sixty schools, PictureHouse Cinemas, zoos, and even BAFTA’s HQ in Piccadilly Circus.


Toppsta
2021-06-30
Guest blog from Joshua Davidson creator of the Night Zookeeper series

We had already established a world with core characters that many children were familiar with. Now our job was to invite children into the storytelling process. To think about new characters that Will, Riya and Sam could meet, as well as new adventures they could go on, including places they could visit and items they could find. 

In the early workshops, I asked children a question designed to get their creativity flowing: If the colours in the Night Zoo are being stolen, what are the consequences? 

Their answers (“If yellow is stolen then monkeys will be upset because they won’t have bananas!”) helped establish a story structure around which future sessions could be built. We started to create more specific challenges and even constructed a microsite in partnership with Sky TV, our broadcast partner. We invited both Sky’s audiences, as well as our own, to contribute suggestions.

We asked for songs, sound effects and dialogue, for plants, props and plot twists. With this, we built specific drawing, writing and acting challenges where we explained the context and asked for creative solutions. 

In total, we received over 150,000 submissions for the series and many thousands of the ideas made it through into the final series of 10 animated shorts. 

You can watch a video all about the animated series project here.


Toppsta
2021-06-30
Guest blog from Joshua Davidson creator of the Night Zookeeper series

It was with these learnings in mind that I approached writing The Bear of Flying Mountain. As with the TV show, I have a plan with the Night Zookeeper storybooks. I know where the overall story is going, but that means that there is still a huge scope for twists and turns, new characters and new directions. That is what I’ve set out to the community of young authors on the Night Zookeeper website. 

We have started story relays, where children help write new chapters of evolving stories, global writing competitions, where children all take the same starting inspiration (either prompted by an image, poem or scenario) and much more on the website. I set this particular opportunity up within the ‘Projects’ area of our website. 

‘Projects’ is a part of the Night Zookeeper website that we use for kids to co-write stories together, rally around topics of interest and help us come up with ideas for new games and features. Projects can be divided into Topics and children can then submit Ideas made up of drawings and writings, to each topic. Once published by our team of teachers and tutors, kids' ideas can then be featured and commented on by others. It’s a fantastically collaborative way to build a story together. 

For The Bear of Flying Mountain, I had created approximately fifty challenges to spark kids' imaginations and I uploaded these as topics in batches of ten over the course of the story writing process. The unpredictability of a child's imagination powered the story. It also has inspired children to improve their English by writing millions of words within our educational system, as all stories are checked for spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary and tutors suggest improvements. I think it’s led to the most exciting Night Zookeeper adventure yet! 

It’s sometimes difficult for English people to blow their own trumpet, but perhaps I’ll ask Maji to blow hers because if you want your children to fall in love with learning and, in particular start writing for fun, I definitely recommend getting them on the nightzookeeper.com website. I feel I can do this because although I’m the creator, there is a huge team of incredibly talented and passionate people working on the website to make it as fun and engaging as possible. The only thing that can make the website better is if you read the books, as well! (Thanks Maji!).


Toppsta
2021-06-30
Guest blog from Joshua Davidson creator of the Night Zookeeper series
Book pages Placeholder Book

The Bear of Flying Mountain

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24th June 2021

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Featured Book
Nura and the Immortal Palace
Nura and the Immortal Palace

BOOK OF THE MONTH - This gripping, magical middle-grade adventure is rooted in Muslim culture and tradition and follows a young girl's journey from modern-day Pakistan into the world of the jinn. Written by debut author M. T. Khan.

View book
Featured Books