Everyone has a lockdown tale to tell – and that was exactly the case for Natalie Newman and her nine-year-old son, Henry.
In fact, the mum and son teamed up to tell a shark tale and have had such success that their first book has gone global. Young people and parents as far as New Zealand, New York, South Africa and France have access to their book.
The story of Lark the Shark tackles the issue of water pollution and is set to be in all 10 Havering libraries.
It tells the story of a friendly shark who helps local residents to clean up their beach. In doing so, he helps to counter the scary and negative perceptions sometimes associated with sharks.
Natalie, a hairdresser from Collier Row, said the idea came about after her son Henry, then seven, came home from school and said he’d been learning about water pollution and they talked about what could be done about it.
They came up with the idea of the book and began their research. They spent the next few weeks writing the book, Googled a publisher and sent it to the first one that came up – Austin Macauley.
“They were the first one to come up, so it was a bit of pot luck as we sent it to them, went away on a trip and when we returned they’d accepted it,” said Natalie.
The pair continued to work on the final version throughout lockdown and worked with the designers on the graphics and all the finer details.
The book, which is aimed at two-to-eight-year-olds, is now one in a series, as the pair have been busy writing four more books.
Natalie said: “Henry Googled his name and he was ecstatic to know that he is an author. He loves literature and I have always ensured it plays a big part in our lives. He has followed my love for it.”
Councillor Viddy Persaud, Havering’s Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, said:
“This is an amazing achievement and yet another wonderful example of how our community, especially young people, have shown their creativity and resilience throughout lockdown.
“Lark the Shark is one of many new books we’ll be introducing to our libraries over the coming weeks and we hope to see an increase in people returning to our libraries as well as pursuing literacy.”
Natalie says she will continue her hairdressing, otherwise she would upset a few clients. However, she is hoping to carry out book readings in schools later this year.