Once Upon A Children's Book

Caroline Armstrong, Independent Usborne Organiser

The House with Chicken Legs travels to Germany

4th April 2018

Our Organisers arrange thousands of events with schools every year, helping to share a love of reading with thousands of students, as well as a real buzz around all the different books that Usborne has to offer.

This year though, Organiser Nicky Powell did something extra special with some of the schools that she works with - she gave them proof copies of a brand new book that won't be published until May 2018! 

Here's Nicky's story:

'Last November, I won 30 proof copies of The House with Chicken Legs to give to a school to study. 

I took most of the books to an International school I already work with, and I met one afternoon in the library with the librarian and a group of Grade 5 students. There was a lot of suspense as I told them how they would have the opportunity to read an unpublished book, write a review and perhaps make contact with the author. We discussed what a proof copy actually meant, and how the cover is different to the real cover. They compared the proof cover and the real cover and discussed what the story might be about. They made connections with other books and worked out that it might have something to do with the folktale Baba Yaga. Someone also noticed that on the real cover of the book (we had a picture of it), that the girl had white legs and that seemed ghostly...

It was great when we handed out the books, which were greedily grabbed and immediately began to be read!

I also shared some of the books with another International school that used it to start the Grade 5 Bookclub. This was great timing, as the librarian told me that she had a group of keen readers who were looking to start a bookclub but needed something inspirational.

Both schools have an embedded culture of reading, and the book was used in library lessons and as a lunchtime activity. The teachers and librarians were really pleased that they had this opportunity to share a new book with the students.

Both schools made contact with the author Sophie Anderson as per my suggestion. I explained that I had already told her I had won copies of her book and I was sharing it in Germany. The students really enjoyed the author contact, and I know they would like to meet her! She kindly sent signed bookplates, pins and postcards. The copies have been shared among students who didn't take part in the group studies as there was so much enthusiasm for the book.

I was recently at one of the schools selling books and I had asked for any book reviews to come to me. The students came and found me with their reviews and one girl in particular was so excited and enthused by the book, she is desperate to read a sequel - and meet the author!

Reading a proof copy of a book really is a fabulous opportunity for students to read new fiction from new authors and feel that they are part of the process. It opens their eyes to a genre that they may not necessarily have chosen and provides valuable experience in book discussion.

Usborne publishes some wonderful fiction from new authors and The House with Chicken Legs is no exception. A novel with depth and vast potential for discussion. I have loved this opportunity that Usborne has given me. As a primary school teacher in my previous life, it was great being able to share the love of reading in a manner that I felt comfortable with and love. The students saw me as more than the 'Book Lady' and are keen for more new titles!

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing this with students, and if I had the opportunity again, I would love to run a book club for kids with proof copies, either in or out of school.'

Here's what the students thought of it:

'I really like this book. Sophie Anderson did a great job to adapt a Russian fairy tale. She made sure that the suspense continued until the end. It's a book that makes you have mixed feelings; I hope Sophie makes a sequel.' Marie (MIS Grade 5)

'A novel that you can't put down! Only thrills and lots and lots of surprises.' Prajwal age 10

'The House with Chicken Legs is an amazing, interesting, but also sad story. A girl lives in a house with chicken legs, but two or three times a year, it walks away from where they've been living. So Marinka always lives at one place and just when she starts feeling at home, they move on. But one day. when they move, their next stop is near a forest. There, Marinka soon becomes friends with a boy from a nearby village. So when the house suddenly moves on, Marinka desperately wants to go back. It is an exciting story of what someone would risk for friendship.' Adela (BIS 5T)

'I absolutely love this book; it has a really nice plot and it makes you have mixed feelings. I hope that Sophie Andersen makes a sequel.' Adriana (MIS Grade 5)

'This book is amazing! It is a book for all ages. You should write a sequel. I was hooked from the first page. It told me a lot about friendships. I kept getting mad at her when she thought she was doing the right thing. It made me cry and made me ecstatic!' Phaedra (BIS 5L)

'I think it is a sad, but also an amazing book. I could not stop reading it as I was so curious.' Claudia (MIS Grade 5)

'This book was interesting in many ways. Before you read the book, don't judge it or reject it - take a chance.' Amelia (MIS Grade 5)

'Amazing and beyond! This book led me to unstoppable bittersweet tears and curiosity that can't be regained.' Euphie (MIS Grade 5)

'Amazing, unique book which I couldn't stop reading! Very descriptive which makes it feel real.' Amir (BIS 5L)