Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 28 Sep 2023

Ten-Word Tiny Tales by Joseph Coelho and Friends

The current Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, Joseph Coelho, has masterminded a wonderfully creative project which he’s called Ten-Word Tiny Tales. Each double page of this book contains a provocative ten-word opening sentence to a story that could go absolutely anywhere. However, it’s not Coelho who is going to take that journey – it’s you, the reader who will become the writer.

And to help you along the creative path are the ‘friends’ – children’s book illustrators who are at the top of their game. Shaun Tan, Alex T. Smith, Júlia Sardà, Reggie Brown and lots more give each ten-word tale a flying start with an arresting image.

At the start of the book, Coelho tells us that:

“These stories are short because only the shortest of tales can survive the cosmic journeys between dimensions, and they have lost their winding paragraphs, twists and turns, inspiring heroes and beastly villains….With your help, they can return to their full glory.”

There are twenty tales to sample here and so I’d be hugely surprised if there isn’t one that takes the fancy of any youngster reading the book. 

But, you might object, not everyone is confident enough to take on the task of writing a story – won’t some children just feel a bit lost about how to make a start? Well, Coelho has thought about that too and at the end of the twenty tiny tales there are useful tips and challenges that even the most timid might feel emboldened to try.

This is – like all good brainwaves – such a simple idea. And because it’s simple it opens a creative door that anyone can walk through. This book will work perfectly in a classroom setting and at home and doesn’t depend on all those deadening strictures about phonics and composition. This is all about making reading and writing a fun proposition – it’s a world in which ‘correct’ spelling, punctuation and grammar can go hang as long as the story is an exciting one. As Coelho himself warns:

“… these are not cutesy tales – these are tales with teeth and claws.!”

I keep changing my mind about which of the tiny tales I’d most like to continue and finish but I keep coming back to the one that opens like this:

“The X-rays reveal writing etched onto all of my bones.”

How could anyone not be thrilled to pick that story up.

Actually, I’m going to finish this review here and go off to discover just how that writing got there………

Available now from Walker Books, you will be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on their shelves.


Terry Potter

September 2023