Chocolate – the international language of friendship!
My latest book is called ‘DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE?’ You’d be forgiven for asking: ‘What does it even mean?’ and ‘Who gives a book a bizarre title like that?’ Well, I did! And I’ll tell you why . . .
The story is about a friendship between two Year 7 girls, one of whom is a Syrian refugee, who are determined to become friends even though they don't speak the same language. It’s about diversity and inclusion and about celebrating our similarities rather than our differences.
So what’s that go to do with chocolate? I hear you ask. Well . . . chocolate is the international language of friendship. Seriously, it is.
Think about it. How do you make friends with someone if you can’t even talk to each other? In the book, when British schoolgirl Jaz realizes Nadima doesn’t speak English, or French or German so she can’t even talk to her at all . . . she rootles around in her school bag, offers Nadima some chocolate and asks: ‘Do you speak chocolate?’ It’s the start of a wonderful friendship.
Interestingly, the two girls then start to communicate via texts using emojis. I heard a linguist argue that emojis might be considered to be an important international language. And indeed it might be. But I reckon chocolate could well be the international language of friendship!
The book was inspired by a true story about a friendship between two real girls who were determined to become friends even though they didn't speak each other’s language. They featured in a BBC children’s documentary I was cutting down into clips to use in classrooms. Their friendship started with a smile - not a chunk of chocolate. I do a lot of school visits and often ask children what they might use to break down any language barrier to start a friendship. And I love their answers: a game of football, a packet of crisps, offering to share music on their phones, sharing their packed lunch . . . I still reckon chocolate would do it for me!
But then I’m a bit of a chocoholic, especially when I’m working. I keep a (not very) secret stash of it in my office. I think it would be fair to say that the story was inspired by chocolate, and the writing of it was powered by chocolate.
Before I started writing children’s books I worked for CBBC drama making shows like ‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’, and putting books on screen e.g. in ‘Jackanory’ and ‘Jackanory Junior’. Then CBBC moved to Manchester and, since I had four children happily settled in Oxfordshire, sadly CBBC and I parted company. Cut to seven years later and I now have nine books in print. I write the NIXIE THE BAD, BAD FAIRY books - about a mischievous, tomboy fairy who’s better at DIY than she is at magic. (She keeps her wand in one of her boots and a spanner in the other.) My first series of books featured HARVEY DREW AND THE BIN MEN FROM OUTER SPACE - comedy sci-fi about space trash.
DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE? is my latest book. I’m absolutely thrilled that it has been translated into five languages including French, German and Dutch.
DO YOU SPEAK CHOCOLATE? is published by Piccadilly Press and has been nominated for the Redbridge Book Award and selected for the Summer Reading Challenge 2018.