How Charlie Higson Helped Me Bond With My Son

Has your child ever called you a zombie? And would he save you if you were sick with a Zombie Disease? As part of Scottish Book Trust's Meet Our Authors Flagship Schools project, parent Julie Miller writes about the effects Charlie Higson's event had on both her and her son.

 

Reading Opportunity for a Parent

So I’ve been asked to do a blog for the Meet Our Authors programme and I thought it was going to be quite difficult, but my son is making it so easy for me.

Let me explain my situation. My name is Julie and my son, Robert, is 12. It can be really hard to relate to any child at that age, but Robert has Aspergers Syndrome, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He finds social situations difficult, takes things very literally and if a subject doesn’t interest him, then forget it. 

I learned early on that reading with Robert was going to be difficult. Everything needed to be visual so books were a problem.  He wouldn’t stay on a page long enough for me to read the text, just flicked from picture to picture. 

I used Disney books and videos to try to get him to focus on the storylines, trying to match what was happening in the book to the movie to give him a sense that you needed to take time with books to understand the story. But not all books have pictures or movies to refer to and trying to spend time reading with Robert became harder as his reading level improved. I needed to find books that would pique his interest past the Horrid Henry stages.

Robert’s school, Kaimes, was picked as a Flagship School for the “Meet Our Authors” programme, and I was intrigued to discover Charlie Higson had started writing a horror series for boys. I knew of Charlie Higson’s involvement with music and television but had absolutely no idea that he wrote children’s books. I had never been a James Bond fan so the Young Bond series had completely passed me by but The Enemy? Now that was more like it!!! 

 

Horror Reading Fiends

I have been a horror book/movie fiend for years and there is very little that Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert have written that I have not read, but obviously my son is far too young for these types of books. He has, however, started to get interested in sci-fi and anything that is advertised as “grossing out your mother” material. 

So from the links on the Meet Our Authors Facebook page I found the extracts from The Enemy and The Dead. I loved them and when Robert came home from school that day, I read them to him. He got so excited, speculating about what might happen in the swimming pool after the extract ended... and so did I.

The Enemy arrived on Tuesday while Robert was at school. When he returned I showed him the book and we decided to start it that evening. For the first time in years, we huddled together with a book. 

We read the first three chapters and discovered exactly what happened in that swimming pool! 

Robert was off sick on Wednesday so we sat together and read another 5 chapters before lunch, then we discussed some of what we read. “What’s Waitrose?” he asked. So I explained that Waitrose was the “posh” supermarket compared to Morrisons. “We’d be in the Morrisons’ Crew” I told him! “No mum”, he says smirking. “I’d be in the Morrisons’ Crew, you’d be a zombie.... or a burster!” No much I could say to that, was there?

 

Sharing the Meet Our Authors Event

The Charlie Higson Meet Our Authors Event was on the Thursday. Robert watched at school and I watched at home. (You can still watch it online or by downloading it if you click on the link above.)

As soon as he got home he started to talk about it and wanted to read more of the book. When one of the big characters in the book was killed, he immediately referred to what Charlie had said during the live event about not knowing who would live or die. 

We read a little every day, having discussions before and after reading about what we thought would happen next or how he would deal with the situation if it was real.  Kids on the Autistic Spectrum have difficulty expressing emotion so some of our conversations were real eye-openers: 

“If you were a zombie trying to eat me, I still wouldn’t kill you. You might not have the brains left to love, but I would and you would still be my mum!”

 

Next Stop: The Dead

We've now read the last few chapters of the book. It’s taken us just under two weeks and we have probably spent more time interacting in those two weeks than we have in the last two years! 

So now what?? Well, as soon as the book was done, we threw on our shoes and jackets and headed to Cameron Toll Shopping Centre, into WH Smith and bought a copy of The Dead... and it’s even signed by Charlie Higson! Robert is over the moon.... but he is desperate for me to get off the computer so we can start reading!!