All About Ali Sparkes
Here is Ali in her own words:
‘If you like your author visits lively and interactive, we will get along well! I could stand up and yak for 45 minutes but I much prefer to get some fun rolling with games and props. For younger classes I have some fab drawing sheets created by Scholastic to go along with the Monster Makers series (years 3 to 5, ideally) which I can send before I arrive, to see what characters have already been created when I get there – and what we might do with them. The sessions – for all age groups – tend to be lively, occasionally very noisy. I love to make up stories with classes as well as talk about the whole weird business of being an author (and I don’t shy away from audacious questions).
My Shapeshifter Series (OUP) books are fantasy adventures, with a fair bit of humour but also a lot of intense emotion and danger. (9+ readership, but with quite a few teen and adult fans).
The Monster Makers series (Scholastic) are much more comedy romp, although also definitely fantasy adventure. (6+ readership, but with parent/teacher friendly humour too).
Frozen In Time is a sci-fi/comedy/drama adventure exploring what happens when two children from the 1950’s find themselves in 2009. With much affectionate spoofing of the Famous Five, this is one which will strike chords with many grown ups too – and the research! Oh! Don’t get me started… Can’t wait to bring along my box of stuff…
Humour and scariness usually play an equal part in my sessions.
I can show you fear in a handful of Tellytubby…’
Ali’s School Visits
Presentations or workshops usually last around an hour (give or take) and I am happy to sign books afterwards or between sessions. I usually bring postcards and/or mini posters, usually pre-signed, so every child can take something away whether they buy a book or not.
My Wonky Path to Authordom
My most requested session combines a talk on how I got to be an author with some fun and games with the audience (pupils and teachers). This is most suited to year 3 upwards – but I frequently perform it for primary schools and can adapt it slightly to entertain Y1 upwards. But you know your children best – this is something to chat through beforehand.
Fantastic Master Fox
New for summer 2016 – a presentation about me and Dax Jones. To mark the tenth anniversary of Dax’s first adventure getting published, this is all about the background and the research for my most successful character, across The Shapeshifter and Unleashed series, up to his brand new adventure, Feather & Fang. Featuring weird wildlife facts, dangerous childhood memories, a bit of hypnotism, a lot of comedy and some very dodgy recorder playing…
Car-jacked: Are You a Genious?(& is your mother a monster?)
Year 5 upwards. This session features lots of live quizzing and discussion about whether being a child genius – like Jack in CarJacked – is all it’s cracked up to be. In the story, Jack is accidentally abducted by a bank robber who steals his parents’ car while he’s in it. He’s going to need all 170 of his IQ points to get out of this jam… We also meet Leonie, Jack’s mother, who is obsessed with her son’s genius. Discussion points about the upsides and downsides of cleverness, and loving but overbearing parents…
Switch (Oxford Children’s Books).
This series, about twin brothers who encounter a genius scientist who turns them into bugs (repeatedly!) and then amphibians and eventually reptiles, is going down very well with 7+ readers all over the world and in many languages. I have some creepy crawly related fun and games which work well with any sized audience (as long as someone is prepared to be converted into a spider or a fly…). This can work well in tandem with natural history projects. See www.switch-books.co.uk for more info on the series and great teaching resources. Ideal for year 1-4 (& younger infants by summer term in summer term).
THE FROZEN IN TIME SPECIAL
To date my bestseller, Frozen In Time (the one which won the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award 2010) provides oodles of material for a 1950s funfest. If you’d like to focus on this book I have some additional teaching materials and a Jolly Fun Quiz all ready to go. This can fit very well with social history topics. And there’s a chance for some lucky lucky person to win a tin of spam! (signed)
Fur, Feathers & Fiction
Wildlife features a lot in my books… from foxes to spiders, from falcons to geckos. Switch is jam packed with creepy crawlies, amphibians, reptiles, very clever rats and a dog called Piddle. And in September 2014 my first non fiction book – Scratch’s Bad Reputations – was published by Oxford. It’s narrated by Scratch the Rat (whom we first meet in the Switchseries) and covers the Truth about all those poor creatures that humans love to hate… wasps, cockroaches, snakes and spiders… even rats. Step Away From the Kitten came out in April 2015 and continues the fun. The Fur, Feathers & Fiction presentation requires good technical facilities – a reliable PC/laptop and overhead screen for PowerPoint slides. This is not one I can do low tech.
If you’re keen for more of a workshop approach I’m happy to work with smaller groups (ideally in a large space). As my list of published books grows I use elements of various stories to have a lot of fun with. If you want your children to get writing on the day we can do X Factor! This is a fun challenge to get the best title, blurb and first line of a story they can come up with, working in groups. It’s amazing what can happen in just 20 minutes with big flipchart pages, marker pens and excited groups of young writers… Maximum 60 children. Or we can do Be In A Story (focusing on research and story starting). Or Rhyme Crime (fun with verse!) or Naked Paragraph (dressing up with descriptive). I can do editing and character workshops too, for older or more advanced young writers. These work very well as a lively group effort followed by children working together in twos or threes. And they can work for larger groups, with appropriate teacher support and maybe feed in to subsequent lessons. And for boys only, ask me about Game Story which is uses video gaming as a kick off point for top writing (see additional notes). Really only suitable for all boy groups. Perfect for Y7 upwards. I’ve found, over time, that the best combination seems to be a large group presentation followed by a workshop with up to 60 who have seen the presentation. This way we’re all nicely warmed up and can hit the ground running. It’s my favourite set up! These are all things which I’ve found work very well – but I’m always happy to talk over other ideas you may have and connect with your projects if I can.
I don’t carry my own stock of books to sell (apart from my charity book, The Man In The Water) but am always delighted if you get some in. Some schools ask a local bookshop to set this up in school for them – others go directly to my publishers (Oxford University Press) who will be delighted to send books on a sale or return basis. The downside, though, is that unsold books need to be sent back. You may find that a local bookshop will be willing to let you collect a boxful to sell and then return the remainder with the takings. Please note that I cannot take money on the day, as I will be occupied with signing and chatting. I usually have postcards or mini posters to sign for children who aren’t buying books – but I’ve lost count of the number of times teachers have said they wished they’d got books in. It takes some organising, of course; letters home to parents regarding money in envelopes etc. I never mind if you don’t – but it’s very much worth considering.
What Do I Need On The Day?
I can get by with a flipchart and a table – but for some presentations I really do need an audio visual set upto run PowerPoint visuals. If it’s a very large group and you have a reliable PA system with a lapel microphone available, I’d appreciate that too. Aside from this, a location which isn’t interrupted by other classes is also much appreciated. And I really love it when lots of teachers get involved. Parking space too please – I have a big case of props with me.
Ali has written a number of books:
Frozen In Time
Monster Makers: Rockataur
Monster Makers: Bashertaur
Monster Makers: Stinkermite
Monster Makers: Electrotaur & Slashermite
The Shapeshifter 5: Stirring The Storm
The Shapeshifter 4: Dowsing The Dead
The Shapeshifter 3: Going To Ground
The Shapeshifter 2: Running The Risk
The Shapeshifter: Finding The Fox
To purchase Ali’s books, click here.
Recommendations & Reviews
“We all had a fabulous day and everyone has said how much they enjoyed your engaging talks. I enjoyed all three! For homework, Years 3 and 4 were asked to talk to a parent for five minutes about your talk and two parents have told me how surprised they were by their children’s reactions. The parent of a boy who struggles with reading and is not at all keen talked about how surprised he was that you struggled at school but then became a writer – she felt he had learned a valuable lesson. The other parent has a son who is an able reader but is not always engaged and she was amazed that he talked non-stop for five minutes giving a full account of your talk from beginning to end. Suffice to say that not one of your books is on the library shelves at the moment and several children have ordered their own copies – the whirly whirly hypnosis really does work!” Phillipa Moyle, the Hawthorns School, Bletchingly
“The extravaganza continued throughout the day! Several boys came up to me and thanked me for organising such a fun author visit… a success I feel!” Helen at Shrewsbury House School, Surrey
“Just a quick e-mail to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ for such a wonderfully stimulating and interesting visit for the boys. I’ve forwarded an e-mail from a parent (see below).
Excerpt: “Many thanks Linda. For some months our son has lost interest in reading but the presentation by the two authors has really got him fired up, esp Ali. He is enjoying the first book we bought and for the first time in months, I caught him in bed this morning at 6.50 am reading! Fingers crossed.”
The staff here have been full of praise too and have noticed little groups of boys everywhere busy designing monsters and writing stories!” Linda at Rokeby School, Surrey
“I just wanted to thank you again for Thursday. Many of the boys went home and wrote stories and the number of boys who had their noses stuck deep into one of your books on Friday, was phenomenal. I’ve had some fabulous feedback from boys and staff alike. Year 3 and 4, have planned ‘Monsters’ into their work for next week.” Belinda at QEGS, Wakefield.
“Just to thank you again so much for coming to our bookshop last week. You gave the children such an interesting and enjoyable session and, as we said at the time, quite a few teachers were taking note of your excellent ideas. Several came in afterwards to send their thanks to you.” Sara Bowers, Steyning Literary Festival
“At last, it has been a real pleasure to have someone in who was as entertaining in person as they were in their books! Thanks so much. Kids loved it. We did too!” – Caroline, Fleur & Joy (the Library Lovelies) at Bay House School, Hants
If you would like us to put you in touch with any of the schools that Ali has recently visited, please don’t hesitate to ask us for contact details.
To Make a Booking
To make an enquiry about Ali Sparkes, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org