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Bother, Trouble and an RAF childhood

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SusanImgrund main 210x276We’re delighted to welcome children’s author S.P. Moss as our first guest blogger of 2017!

In Susan's books, The Bother in Burmeon and Trouble in Teutonia, Billy slips back in time to the mid-20th century to have adventures with his RAF pilot granddad. These exciting and fast-paced stories were inspired by Susan’s father’s RAF life (she’s even included a glossary of RAF slang in both books).

Read Susan’s blog, below, about her memories of life as an RAF child, and how she came to turn her father’s adventures into children’s stories: 

Bother, Trouble and an RAF childhood

Flying and travel are in my blood – as the daughter of an RAF officer and a Canadian teacher, I visited four of the world’s continents before starting school. My dad was stationed in Aden long, long ago in the 1960s, and my very earliest memories are of this exotic, magical but sadly so troubled place. 

Slides that were made of wood as metal in that heat would have given your backside a nasty shock! Goats and camels wandering through the streets. The shark nets at the beach. And, best of all, a two week holiday in Kenya, where the sands were silver and the monkeys cheeky enough to steal a banana from your pocket!

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When we returned to the UK my parents took the decision to stop the moving around – they had done plenty of that when my brother and I were little. We settled in Camberley, and my mum held the fort while my dad was posted here, there and everywhere around the country. We only got to see him at weekends, and not every weekend, either. In those distant days before mobile phones and FaceTime, it meant making the most of what time we had together as a family. Looking back, I think I must have subconsciously soaked up my dad’s RAF ways and expressions, so that I could keep him with me at all times.

SusanImgrund siblings 220x220My childhood was full of books. I read avidly and wrote determinedly in between plotting to become a spy and building brother-proof camps.

Once he’d retired from flying, my dad worked as a tutor at the Staff College, Bracknell, where he ‘...wrestled to impart some respect for the English language in our future leaders of the Royal Air Force,’ as one of his colleagues put it. He’d always planned to write his memoirs, but events took another course and, armed with logbooks, sepia-tinted photos and a few addresses of old chums, I set about the task that my dad never had a chance to start. 

I was fascinated by what lay behind the hours in the logbooks and what happened before and after the black and white snapshots. And, while I was writing my dad’s biography, my young son asked what his granddad was like. A delightful "what if" question flitted into my mind, and with it a lost world, full of danger, dirty deeds and derring-do. My publisher described it as ‘a long-forgotten beauty – not fantasy, not ancient history, but something you and I had forgotten was magic: a Britain where country roads were bright and welcoming, where cars, motorbikes and aeroplanes – not to mention their pilots – still had an aura of adventure about them.’

What if a 21st century boy, used to Pause Buttons and Play Agains from his adventures in a virtual world, could go back in time to the days where his granddad had adventures for real? Back to 1962 and South East Asia in The Bother in Burmeon and 1957, the Cold War and a country not unlike Germany in Trouble in Teutonia?

I got scribbling, unlocked those childhood memories, brought the black and white snapshots to life, sprinkled in a few of my favourite books from my childhood, from Biggles to A Wrinkle in Time, and distilled all the RAF banter and expressions into the character of Grandpop. Before I knew it, I had a finished novel, and plans for more in the series. 

SusanImgrund Bother cover150x210SusanImgrund Trouble cover150x210For a taste of the characters and adventures, have a look at the books’ websites and, and the YouTube trailer

Young Billy and Grandpop have visited South East Asia, and central Europe, so where next? Danger in Denmark? The Mess in Mesopotamia?

Well, do you remember the shark nets and camels?

Watch this space!

A huge thank you to Reading Force for having me.

Toodle pip!

S.P. Moss



Diaries are full of memories

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Blog Emma Diaries300x225pixelsHello Reading Force families!  I'm Emma, I'm a Pad Brat and I will be writing a monthly blog about reading and Forces life. 

School has been back in session for a month now and I’m sure there’s been some good times (friends, lunch time, home time) and some challenging times (teachers, lessons, homework!) so I thought I’d bring you a list of books to get you through it. 

When I was at school my Year 9 form tutor decided we should all keep a diary – at the same time I was enjoying reading The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. 

Blog Emma Diaries2 books250x176So, in honour of my favourite series I of course created The Supa* Diaries! (Not Superstar, Supa*, because that was the logical way to write things back in 2003!).

The diaries are full of memories of my experiences as a teenager and the way the world was back then before Facebook and Selfies existed. The terrible handwriting aside, I can decipher the writing as I shared ‘youth club gossip’, my current crushes, friendship dilemmas and school stresses. I remember the diaries being a great outlet too when I had no one else to turn to. I definitely recommend starting a diary yourself.

If you’re not sure how to write one, read one first and here are some of the best ones out there:Notebooks Middle School Princess175x160

1) Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot 

Meg Cabot’s spin-off series from The Princess Diaries, Mia Thermopolis from the first series whisks Olivia Grace to New York City as it turns out she is descended from the Prince of Genovia! Definitely a great read that is just as good as the original Princess Diaries series.

2) Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

I saw the film of the series first and really laughed at the Cheese Touch game! I later read the books and they were just as funny – it’s the illustrations that really make this book an great read.

3) Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell dork diaries 9bks180x180

Nikki Maxwell would get along with Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley, I’m sure. They are both funny in their observations of school life and their illustrations are always entertaining. I hope a Dork Diaries movie will come out some day, but until then there’s lots of time to read all the books!

4) Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson

The obvious Jacqueline Wilson book to mention would have been The Diary of Tracy Beaker, but I’ve decided to recommend Secrets as it’s a twist on the diary tale – there are two diaries! India and Treasure meet one another and despite their different backgrounds, they are able to help one another. The story is like The Prince and the Pauper meets The Diary of Anne Frank and the style of book is one you could try yourself through your Reading Force scrapbook. You can write a diary entry and your parent could write the next one.

KillerCat140x1955) Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine

Written from the perspective of Tuffy the cat who doesn’t understand why everyone gets so mad when he brings home dead presents. A very funny book great for younger readers to share. 

That’s all for now – I’m off to write my own diary!


Picture credit for
The Princess Diaries


Where are you from?

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Emma3 210x265Hi! I'm Emma, I'm 27, a Pad Brat and I will be writing a monthly blog about reading and Forces life. To tell you a bit about my background: my Dad was in the Army, he joined the Light Infantry for almost thirteen years before joining The Royal Logistic Corps in 1995. Currently he's working at 237 Bde Sp Sqn RLC. My Mum and brother work for West Midland Reserve Forces & Cadets Association and I've spent some time in Cadets as a teen and later worked at the RFCA also! So we're still pretty embedded in Forces life!

My main passion has always been with literature. I did my undergrad degree in English and Theatre, my Masters in Writing for Children and currently I work as a School Librarian. In this blog I hope to marry up the two halves of my life: my Forces background and my love of reading for the awesome charity Reading Force

But where am I from? That's a tricky question I imagine many of you are familiar with.

Growing up in the Forces with my brother (now 21) and sister (now 28) I never really got asked "where are you from?”. I don't even remember asking other people. I suppose in our lifestyle we just assume that everyone is from somewhere else and that's all. When my Dad left the Army and my family and I returned to civvy life, I soon discovered that this is a more frequent question.

So, I would respond with, "Do you want the long version or the short version?" The long version: "I'm was born in Germany but then moved to Winchester, Tidworth, Cyprus, Colchester, back to Germany (but a different place), Wiltshire, Germany again (another new place), Preston, York, Birmingham and finally settling (though maybe not forever) in Stourbridge." Short version: "I'm from the internet" (probably the place I spend the most time!).

My response created some interesting discussions about why I'd travelled so much and what my life was like, though sometimes it's hard being a "third-culture kid" and feeling like an immigrant in your own country. Luckily, books don't judge. I've always been a reader and in this blog I intend to talk about the books that I read growing up (and still read now) that helped me with the constant moves, separation from parents, adjusting to civvy life and books which I generally enjoyed and recommend.

Today though, I will round off my blog premiere with a bit more about me, so here are a few favourites:Emma1 150x200

Book Genres: Children's Literature and Horror
Books:  Up on Cloud Nine by Anne Fine, and Sammy Keyes Mysteries by Wendelin Van Draanen
Song: At Last by Etta James
Colour: Purple
Film: Uptown Girls
TV Show: Dance Moms
Cuisine: Mexican
Holiday destination: Anywhere hot
Forces Barracks: Anyone with a PX!
Place I've lived: Wiltshire, Harsewinkel and Preston


Reading Across the World - Miriam Moss

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StorySession3 250x190The Reading Force team asked me if I’d be available to work with forces children at Hornbill School in Brunei in March this year. As a forces child myself, I was delighted to hear more about Reading Force; how it encourages families to read together, talk about books and fill in scrapbooks about the books they’ve shared. Families do this together at home and when a parent is away on deployment or exercise.

After our 16-hour flight to Brunei, we - Alison Baverstock and Elaine Boorman from Reading Force and I - were met at the airport and whisked off to our hotel by Terri Turton, the trip’s organiser at Hornbill School. The next day she returned to take us on a boat trip. We visited the floating village in Bandar and searched up river in mangrove swamps for crocodiles and proboscis monkeys. Tom Palmer, the other UK-based author, flew in that evening.

Hornbill School (OFSTED outstanding) is in the centre of the HQ Brunei Garrison community, BFPO 11. It caters for a wonderful mix of children, as it is the result of a very successful merger in 2003 of the Seria Service Children’s School and the Gurkha Children’s English School. While we were visiting, many of the fathers were away on exercise in Kenya.

The school day at Hornbill starts early and finishes at 1.30pm before it gets too hot. Teapot 160x178So we were collected at 7am each morning, and driven past white egrets hunting for frogs on grass verges, past the teapot roundabout, to Hornbill School.

On the first day, we were greeted royally by being given a bindi and a Nepalese silk scarf, and entertained by a wonderful drumming session. WelcomePeaceGarden 450x162Then we were shown round the stunning school grounds which included the ‘Peace Garden’ full of palm trees, cloud-shaped bougainvillea and frangipani bushes. 

My role as a picture book author was to inspire the children from Nursery to Year 2 with interactive reading sessions including songs and roleplay, and writing workshops.

Miriam Hornbill Childdrawing 200x151

Miriam Hornbill BareBear 200x150

In this class, the children drew their own story, following the pattern in my Bare Bear story that we had just shared.

In another class I shared a story about Billy Bear and his favourite toy rabbit. As you can see, on that day the teachers and children were all dressed up as characters from books! After the story the children designed their own rabbits.

Miriam Hornbill makingRabbits 625x243 







Miriam Hornbill JungleSong 300x195I finished the week with a percussion extravaganza in the hall with the whole of Year 2, based around my book Junglesong
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By the end of the week, every child in the school had had two sessions with either Tom Palmer or me, and had also been given one of our books by Reading Force. Here are some children reading Doctor Molly’s Magic Medicine Case

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My days at Hornbill were both full and colourful, and I had an amazing time working with all the wonderful children and the warm, dedicated staff.

Thank you so much for asking me to come with you Reading Force!

Miriam Moss

Miriam Moss is an award winning author of over 75 books, including 30 picture books, poetry and short stories, with wide experience of working creatively with children and adults throughout the UK and abroad. Miriam's latest picture book is 'Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case' (Walker Books).

Picture above: Miriam Moss (far right) standing next to Alison Baverstock (Reading Force founder), RF team member Elaine Boorman, and children's author, Tom Palmer.


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