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Dr Wendy O'Shea Messour

Dr Wendy O'Shea Meddour

Author and Creative Writing academic sees latest book, Peggy the Always Sorry Pigeon, being read by Louis Theroux on CBeebies

The latest book from an internationally best-selling author is set to be aired as part of the popular CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories series this week.

Peggy the Always Sorry Pigeon, written by Dr Wendy O’Shea Meddour, will be read to the nation by television documentarian Louis Theroux on Friday (2 December: 6:50pm).

The story, published earlier this year, is the 25th in Dr O’Shea Meddour’s career, in which she has established herself as an award-winning writer whose work has been translated into 22 languages.

“In the world of children’s books, CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories is the pinnacle!” says Dr O’Shea Meddour, a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Department of English and Creative Writing. “I found out it was being read by Louis Theroux shortly after I’d watched his brilliant interview with Stormzy, but I had to keep it to myself as the news was embargoed. Obviously, I was delighted. I love Louis Theroux – who doesn’t?! – and apparently, he does a wonderful pigeon.”

Dr O’Shea Meddour, a specialist in critical theory and contemporary children’s literature, has earned international acclaim for the way her books promote child wellbeing. Her debut story in 2012, A Hen in the Wardrobe, was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Outstanding First Novel Award, selected as one of The Guardian’s ‘Best 50 diverse Children’s Books since the 1950s’ and won the John C Laurence Award for ‘improving relations between the races’.

In 2020, her book Lubna and Pebble was awarded the Margaret Wise Brown Prize for Children’s Literature and was listed as one of Time Magazine's Best 10 Children's YA and Children’s Books of the Year.

Peggy the Always Sorry Pigeon is the middle story in her latest trilogy with Oxford University Press, which she says represents her “attempts to support child wellbeing through humour”. The first in this series, Howard the Average Gecko, champions the merits of being average in a world full of pressure to excel, while the third book, Cleo the Completely Fine Camel, set to be published next year, encourages children to talk about their real feelings. Peggy, meanwhile, owes a debt of inspiration to her own experiences in academia. Dr O’Shea Meddour says:

“The book was inspired by two female professors – my former PhD supervisor, Professor Kate Belsey, and former University of Exeter Dean, Professor Jo Gill – who both picked up on my tendency to be too apologetic and advised a better way. I have had a bit of fun with this in the book – they never taught me to shout out random nouns as Peggy does!”

It is the second time that one of Dr O’Shea Meddour’s books has been featured on the CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories, after actress Emma Watson read How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel, which was picked as ‘CBeebies World Book Day Choice’ in 2018. She has also featured on CBBC Newsround and Woman’s Hour and undertakes regular public engagements – from speaking at literary festivals to holding creative writing workshops and talks in primary schools and libraries, both in the UK and abroad, particularly focusing on venues in deprived areas.

“My writing and research are inseparable from each other,” Dr O’Shea Meddour adds. “Creative writing has always been the way I respond to my research. I wrote my debut children’s book as a direct result of a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, and I am constantly trying to find new ways to address challenging topics or offer platforms for tricky conversations with my children’s books.”

Date: 28 November 2022

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