“Very silly and daft,” is how 18-year Lantau resident James Lambert describes his children’s book, The Almost True Story of Sandy Primary School, which was published by Austin Macauley (UK) on April 30. It’s a hilarious yarn about a school located right on a beach, and its slightly bonkers teachers, students and parents. When the school is flattened by Hurricane Soft and Fluffy, the children of Mr Bell’s class are asked to redesign it, and hilarity ensues.
The book is aimed at kids aged eight to 12 years, an age group that James, as vice-principal of Lantau International School (LIS) is very familiar with. “I have taught upper primary for a long time now,” he says. “I’ve been at LIS for 18 years, so it made sense to write about what I know!
“I make notes when funny things happen at school, then try to sit down and expand the ideas in short stories,” James says, adding that the book took him over two years to write.
The big question, of course, is how closely Sandy Primary School is based on LIS. Are the calamitous school fairs, perilous bus journeys and parent warfare that we read about based on fact? “There is a small nugget of truth in all my chapters,” James says with a grin. “But, to protect the innocent (and guilty) and avoid legal action, I can’t say too much. Sports Day has been eventful for sure, usually during the parents’ race!
“I love our school as we are so close to nature and the beach, that was a big influence in how the book turned out,” he adds.
Gluey guinea-pigs, a local artist’s big plastic windy bottom and daft doctors are all part of the usual ebb and flow of Sandy Primary School. And it’s clear that James knows exactly what makes kids laugh. But what’s also great about the book, is that it’s an entertaining read for parents. “I try to write things that make me laugh,” James says. “There’s lots of silly stuff for kids in my book but also plenty of jokes aimed at adults.”
Speaking of gluey guinea pigs, James shares his home with a longhaired guinea pig called George… and his wife, Suzy; daughter, Eleanor; and son, Joe. And he is not the only writer in the family. Eleanor Lambert was a finalist in the Around DB and Life on Lantau Young Writers Competition last year. “I obviously taught her everything she knows,” James quips.
James launched The Almost True Story of Sandy Primary School at LIS in April and not surprisingly it went down well. “A friendly audience, but they loved it,” he says. “I may have mentioned this already but it’s really funny!” James has also read the book “to a great bunch of kids” at Hong Kong International Learning Academy in Discovery Bay North Plaza and at Vibe bookstore in Mui Wo. He hopes to go to other schools after the summer.
Ask him about his favourite children’s authors now and when he was growing up, and James says, “I wasn’t a big reader when I was young, but Roald Dahl just caught my imagination. Today, David Walliams is superb, his books are great for adults to read to kids. But my favourite kids’ book is Wayside School by Louis Sacher. It’s funny, slightly surreal and I love reading it to my class. If you want to buy a child a book, buy that one. Actually, don’t… buy mine instead, then go to the library and get Wayside School. I need the money!”
The Almost True Story of Sandy Primary School, published by
Austin Macauley UK, is available on Amazon, at Vibe in Mui Wo and
also at Bookazine in Discovery Bay.
Tags: author, The Almost True Story of Sandy Primary School, james lambert