Today, I have the absolute priviledge of hosting author Stewart Foster as part of his blog tour for his new book Check Mates. Check Mates has gone down an absolute treat with the children in my class and I absolutely can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it and love it as much as we have!
Some people think that I’m a problem child, that I’m lazy and never pay attention in lessons. But the thing is, I’m not a problem child at all. I’m just a child with a problem.
Felix is struggling at school. His ADHD makes it hard for him to concentrate and his grades are slipping. Everyone keeps telling him to try harder, but no one seems to understand just how hard he finds it. When Mum suggests Felix spends time with his grandfather, Felix can’t think of anything worse. Granddad hasn’t been the same since Grandma died. Plus he’s always trying to teach Felix boring chess. But sometimes the best lessons come in the most unexpected of places, and Granddad soon shows Felix that there’s everything to play for.
The question which brought this blog post actually came from one of my children. One of my boys asked me: “Miss, do you know where he came up with the idea because I think it’s an amazing idea”. So, I asked Stewart to tell us all about his inspiration!
No Broomsticks or Unicorns.
A question I often get asked in schools, is ‘What was the inspiration behind the story?’ And for Bubble Boy, I say that I wanted to explore loneliness, and what it’s like to live in isolation. For All the Things, I reply that I wanted to write a book that confronted mental health and the issue of bullying, head-on. And I often look at the child who posed the question, and I find myself, saying, ‘Yeah, I write about serious things, sorry if you’re expecting, aliens, broomsticks, or unicorns.’
The answer to what inspired Check Mates, is down to my daughter. We were travelling back to Bath from her Uni, in Nottingham, and we were re-living a funny story, a funny event that had happened with her Granddad, when she was little. It involved him hiding a wet sponge under a garden seat cushion, which she had sat on, squeezing water out and into a bucket below. Yep, basically making it look like she’d pee’d herself! So, we were both laughing in the car, then my daughter sighed and said, ‘Aww, I do love my Granddad.’ Her voice, and the sentiment, just stuck in my head, especially as her Granddad, my Dad, was very ill at the time.
I think the relationship between children and their Grandparents can be such a beautiful thing. As parents, we can get ourselves, stupidly stressed and busy, so busy we can’t spend as much time with our kids as we like. So, it’s often down to grandparents to pick up from school, or provide evening meals, or in Felix’s case sit in a dark room whilst his Granddad watched the weather channel in Germany! It reminded me of my own childhood, sitting with my Granddad while he polished a silver trophy, he’d won for a sailing race in the Merchant Navy. It also reminded me of the smell of tea in a pot, and home-made pasties. Ha, it’s weird the things that stay with us.
So, Check Mates became a story about a boy and his Granddad. All the events are made up, of course, but I hope that when readers read the book, it will remind them of their own relationships with their grandparents. Children are surrounded with exam stress, computer games, and social media. I’d just love it, that on finishing Check Mates, the next time they visited their grandparents, instead of burying their heads in their phones, they look up and chat to these wonderful people instead.
A massive thank you to Stewart Foster for this fascinating blog post – I know my kids will be thrilled to read this!
If you’re interested in Check Mates, or Stew’s other books, you can get them all NOW. Check out my reviews of Bubble Boy and All The Things That Could Go Wrong. I would wholeheartedly recommend Stew’s books: they’re amazing!