Gidea Park author’s storybook cat helps children fit in and accept cultural differences
- Credit: Archant
An illustrator has taken her first published book on a tour of primary schools to share her story about bullying and accepting cultural differences.
Michelle Hird, 31, of Carlton Road, Gidea Park, published her first novel, Binx the Jinx in August 2017.
The children’s book tells the story of a black cat who is finding it hard to make new friends after moving into a new town.
Other cats judge Binx on the colour of his fur and tell him that black cats are unlucky and cursed.
Michelle told the Recorder: “[Binx the Jinx] is about cultural beliefs, racism and making new friends.
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“There’s another, friendly cat who comes in and defends Binx – she’s the heroine of the story.”
Like Binx, Michelle also travelled from one town to another when she moved from Liverpool to Gidea Park.
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She now hopes the story will encourage children who have moved from other countries and locations. “I focused on the bullying aspect because I think, with social networks and children as young as five or six having phones, it’s important for children to learn at an early age to befriend people.
“It also touches a little bit on depression, when Binx is having a hard time from the cats who are bullying him.
“I see the book as an onion, it’s got quite a few layers, and hopefully the children can relate to a lot of the layers.”
For the past two months, Michelle has been touring schools to bring the story of Binx to the classroom.
Her book tour began on World Book Day, March 1 at Hill View Primary School in Runcorn, Cheshire and ended on Tuesday May 8 at Tilbury Pioneer Academy in Tilbury, Thurrock.
She also visited schools in Merseyside and Camden.
Lisa Seddon, deputy headteacher at Prescot Primary School, Merseyside, said: “We were so happy to welcome a local author, illustrator to our school.
“Our children were left feeling incredibly inspired and eager to read all about Binx.
“We value visits such as these – they raise aspirations and can help to shape our children’s futures.”
Colette McLoughlin, a teacher Evelyn Community Primary School, also Merseyside, added: “Through its enchanting illustrations and lovable characters Michelle’s book is a story of celebrating differences – it taught the children how having a friend can help you achieve anything.
“She really helped inspire some budding illustrators.”
Michelle not only spoke about her book but gave presentations on the writing process and how she went from a student who struggled with English at school to become a published author.
“I wanted to show how important education is.
“I’m from a quite a small village in Rainhill, Merseyside, and I remember learning about London and all of the opportunties there,” said Michelle.
“I have accomplished a massive goal to be working in London as an illustrator and designer and to have published a novel.
“I had to stay behind in school because my English was quite poor, but being held back has helped me.
“[Touring] was a very rewarding and satisfying experience.”
Kerri Fennell, a teacher at Hill View Primary School in Runcorn, said: “The presentations were catered for children of all ages, they gave the children an insight into Michelle’s background, what routes she took to become an author and some of her illustration work.
“Michelle also showed the children how she creates a story including illustrations which the children loved.
“I would definitely recommend Michelle to all schools, we will be arranging for her to visit our school again when she has released her next book.”
Michelle’s next book will be a Binx the Jinx sequel will be released in April next year.
Binx the Jinx is available to buy from Amazon. online only from Waterstones, various bookshops and at matthewjamespublishing.com.