Sparking story ideas and superpowers with Sir Lenny Henry

Primary Times speaks to actor, author, presenter and comedy legend Sir Lenny Henry about creating magical worlds, characters with wings and writing for children

As one of Britain’s best-known comedians and a strong advocate for diversity, representation, and charitable causes, Sir Lenny Henry is also a successful children’s author. His newest thrilling title ‘The Boy with Wings: Clash of the Superkids’ is aimed at readers 9-12 and illustrated throughout by Keenon Ferrell. The story follows the first in the series and is a hilarious new adventure featuring a dangerous mission and lots of spectacular superpowers, as well as true bravery and friendship. To find out more about Sir Lenny’s thoughts on the book and about creativity, the imagination, and how to invent exciting stories for children, read on…

Where do you get story ideas and inspiration from?
My imagination! When I’m building a character, I ask myself questions about them - where they live, their favourite food (like biscuits), if they are amazingly good at something (like telling jokes!), what their superpower might be. This helps me spark story ideas. I also use ‘What If?’ as a prompt. What if I could teleport myself anywhere? Where would I go?

Who are your favourite characters and why?
In the story, Tunde meets other kids with superpowers. I had so much fun creating these characters with their out-of-this-world abilities. Tunde is an ordinary boy who has wings, then there’s Simul8 who can copy anyone, Klara-Phill who is a tree with a face, Yetie grows and grows, Tai-phoon controls the weather, and Backflash can go back in time. I think it’s really hard to pick one, but I’ll go for Tunde.

What do you most enjoy about writing for children?
I love building magical worlds and plotting fantastic adventures. Reading helps you to escape into your imagination, and it’s wonderful to think that my stories are giving kids joy and an idea of what is possible to achieve beyond their everyday lives. I’ve always loved to make people laugh too - my characters often tell silly jokes in my books!

Would you have been excited to read this book as a child?
Yes! When I was younger, I rarely saw anyone that looked like me in books. It’s important that children see themselves in books. I would have loved reading about Tunde and his adventures. I always wanted to be like Superman, who has cool superpowers. Tunde can also fly - he has wings!

Can you sum up ‘The Boy With Wings: Clash of the Superkids’ in just one sentence?
An action-packed, brilliantly exciting, laugh-out-loud, and page-turning adventure story involving Tunde the boy with wings, lots of kids with superpowers, plenty of jokes, a top-secret testing facility, and an impossible mission to save the world from a very evil enemy!

Are there any new stories or ideas in progress that children and families should look out for?
I’ve been writing my next story, a picture book called ‘Tyrone’s Cool Crown’ which is out in August and illustrated by the brilliant Salomey Doku. I think that a lot of children will see themselves in Tyrone! I can’t wait to share Tyrone’s story - I love talking to kids and families at my events, reading from my books, swapping jokes, talking about my characters and then meeting everyone at the signings afterwards.


The Boy with Wings: Clash of the Superkids’ by Lenny Henry and illustrated by Keenon Ferrell is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, £7.99.


Photography © Jack Lawson / Johnny Hathaway

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