Author Natalie Savvides tells us how she went from writing for the Huffington Post to creating children’s book Meet Henrietta Heartbeat, which promotes kindness and empathy…
What made you decide to write Meet Henrietta Heartbeat?
Following the birth of my children, I began observing children's behaviour more deeply and felt a strong desire to try and educate kindness and how to action it, in a fun and enjoyable way. I noticed a big change from nursery to school, where the emphasis on kindness wasn't altogether abandoned but it certainly took a back seat. I could see some difficulty amongst children in how to relate, and how to behave towards each other when things didn't go their way and I wanted to try and help. I believe the education of how to act with kindness and manage emotion needs to be addressed at the very earliest stage, with parent and child at home, at nursery and importantly through school. This is why I created characters that appeal to young children with stories that evolve in accordance to age. The first book Meet Henrietta Heartbeat, an introduction to one of the two main characters, has so far surpassed my expectation in its appeal by being enjoyed by a far wider age group than expected.
What is your background in writing?
I have written diaries all my life – well since I was 13. It has always been my most comfortable way of expressing myself, solving problems, working through and understanding life. Thus the skill of writing has been developing subconsciously for some time. When I found the conclusion to a lot of the chaos I used to write about, I got my first book published – aimed as a kind of self-help, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel book for girls. It was then that I realised I'd like to take the writing more seriously and I began writing for the Huffington Post and other publications. I also love writing in rhyme, transmitting messages simply and harmoniously. So that, together with a strong desire to educate the youngest generation in kindness, led me to branch out into children's books.
Who illustrated the book?
I created the characters Henry & Henrietta Heartbeat hoping for them to not only be strong children's book characters but also mascots for kindness and anti-bullying, tied in with the tag line and hashtag #itscooltobekind.
The publisher Austin Macauley then created very basic drawings around the characters to illustrate the story. The book is not fussy, it is very simple with a strong use of primary colours and little detail to keep the message clear and simple.
How can children with social and emotional difficulties benefit from the book?
The stories and pictures are easy to understand, encouraging openness and discussion, whilst the topic and image of hearts is something we can all relate to so is incredibly uniting. The books make children happy, often a feeling suppressed in children with social/emotional difficulties. It is the combination of colour, images and wording that is upbeat and fun, engaging children without complication that would attract the most confused or suffering mind. The books simplify a way of being happy and kind demonstrating how we all benefit from this kind of behaviour. They are feel-good factor books and simple to grasp, so help socially or emotionally awkward children to relate themselves, feel connected, included and equal.
How can teachers plan lessons around Henrietta Heartbeat?
So far where trialled the book has grasped the children’s attention easily with its simplicity in format, colour, wording and message and has naturally led to discussions on kindness and happiness and how we can all benefit from being kind to each other. It led to discussions on the heart, the shape, colour, where it was in the body and its function. It has led to talks of emotion and feelings.
One Nursery teacher of 2-3 year olds said:
"The book was a great tool for introducing the children to the concept o being kind to others and how we look after each other.”
Another Key Stage 1 teacher of 5-6 year olds said:
“The children really enjoyed the story and it was a great stimulus for a circle time discussion about kindness.”
Kindness workshops would be a natural lesson plan, where through role play and conversation children can act out situations they commonly find themselves in with others, demonstrating what they believe to be the kindest way to act in each situation and the effect.
Do you have plans to write any more children’s books?
Yes! I currently have 10 stories in total for Henry and Henrietta Heartbeat. I currently have a publishing contract with Meet Henrietta Heartbeat and the aim is to get the rest of the series published as soon as possible. I will then continue to write more!