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Of animals & spooky stories

Children had a date with a flying fox, a python and orang-utans, through the eyes of Australian author Christopher Cheng who held a string of interactive sessions in city schools.

Cheng told his young audience the story of his life, how he had opted for teaching as a profession before deciding to start writing. “I write stories that really interest me. The stories are written for me. I now have the best job in the world,” said the award-winning author, who spent some time working at a zoo.

At The Heritage School, Cheng talked about how he “mothered” a baby flying fox, feeding it with a dropper, teaching it toilet habits and how to fly, and rocked baby orang-utans. With the help of role-play, he taught the students how a python — his favourite animal after the flying fox — catches its prey.

“I wanted to write the story of my flying fox but some lady in England had already written about it. So I decided to write about my second favourite animal,” said Cheng about his picture book, Python.

“I loved the session with Cheng. The way he imitated the python was the funniest,” said Ankit Maity, a member of the school’s creative writing club.

Cheng also gave the children a peek into Sounds Spooky, a book inspired by night-time sounds. “Sounds Spooky took me 10 years to write while Python was written over a weekend,” he explained.

At La Martiniere for Girls (LMG) the next day, Cheng spoke about the importance of having an imaginative mind. “I write my books using my imagination. Always let your imagination run wild,” he said before creating a short imaginative story on the spot.

“Story ideas can come out of anywhere,” the author explained to his young audience. He told the girls how he admired C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Cheng has 200 editions of the book and reads at least one of them every year. Elena Mathew, Class V, found the author, who prefers writing for kids as “adults and young adults are boring”, amusing.

Cheng also conducted workshops at Calcutta Boys’ School and Apeejay School, Park Street. “He is an amazing storyteller,” said Duke Pandey, a Class IX student at Apeejay.