20 February 2020

Birkenhead School was delighted to welcome Konnie Huq as the latest speaker in the Inspiring Talks Series, in partnership with Linghams Booksellers. Konnie is a television presenter and writer, and the longest-serving female presenter of Blue Peter. Konnie visited the School to promote her first novel which she has written and illustrated: ‘Cookie and the Most Annoying Boy in the World.’

With an audience of over 400 with prep pupils from Birkenhead School, The Firs, Oxton St. Saviours and St. Bridget's West Kirby, Konnie began by asking the audience to raise their hand if they knew someone who is annoying. 400 hands immediately shot into the air. Konnie explained that she asked this question to demonstrate that you should write about what you know; when she was a child she knew the ‘most annoying boy in the world.’
Konnie then asked the audience ‘What are the elements that make a really good story?’. Again a flurry of hands shot into the air. The first response was: ‘good characters.’ Konnie smiled, delighted with the great answer. Konnie said ‘good characters have good character traits.’ Konnie explained that Cookie, the main character from her new novel, is quite stubborn, funny and smiley, and that she uses these traits to help guide how she writes the character and how she responds to in situations in the book.  Konnie then went on to explain that all stories need a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. Konnie gave a top tip to the pupils to help improve their written skills; she said ‘you should write about what you know as it makes your writing more realistic and authentic.’  Konnie asked the audience how they could make the middle of a story more interesting. The audience responded with answers such as: ‘add an adventure’, ‘have a good story line’ and ‘add a problem or a twist’ Konnie said adding a twist is a crucial element in story writing, as it makes the reader want to solve it, which ultimately encourages the reader to turn the page. Konnie explained you should write the title of your story once you have finished writing, as you have a better understanding what your story is about.

Konnie then told the audience to memorise these ingredients of what makes a good story, because now they were going to write a comic book style story, which she would draw on the big screen. Konnie began the story by asking the audience ‘What are you going to do when you get home today?'. ‘Go on my Nintendo Switch’ was loudly blurted out from the audience. Whilst drawing the story, Konnie explained that she never thought of herself as a good artist, but through practice and little tips she has now illustrated her very own novel. Konnie passed on some of her tips, such as: ‘put stuff in a box and write where the character is’ to help position the scene of the story. She said to ‘use speech bubbles to show what the character is thinking.' The children thoroughly enjoyed helping to write the comic story with Konnie, and they were brilliant at giving answers to Konnie’s questions.
Konnie then did a brain buster quiz with the pupils. Dividing the audience into two teams, Konnie took turns asking the two teams a range of difficult science questions, which the children answered very well. The quiz ended in a draw, with both teams getting a big round of applause.
Konnie then chose two pupils to help her do a science experiment on stage. Using a bottle of lemonade and some Mentos she got the pupils to drop the sweets as quickly as they could into the lemonade, which resulted in an eruption from the bottles, and an eruption of excitement from the audience. Konnie explained that this is because the roughness on the Mentos reacts with the carbonated drink causing it to fizz rapidly.
Konnie’s penultimate activity was to do a Q&A with the audience, where a variety of questions were asked, such as what inspired her to write her book, and how long did it take to write the book She concluded her talk by reading an extract from her novel, in which a pupil catches a teacher stealing from a shop.
The children thoroughly enjoyed the morning with Konnie Huq and the range of activities that she put on. They were delighted to receive books personally signed by Konnie at the end of the talk.
Konnie is the latest speaker in the School’s Inspiring Talks Series, which sees high-profile individuals visit the School to speak to students and the wider community.  Recent guests have included George Alagiah, Nikki Henderson, Joe Wicks and Old Birkonian and former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones.