Wellingborough IT man's vision of football-playing chicken inspires children's book

Could Bert be the next David Beak-ham, Robbie Fowl-er or Jordan Hen-derson?

Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 7:05 am

A Little Harrowden dad-of-two has fulfilled his ambition by publishing his first book - Fowl - all about a farmyard hen who loves to play sport.

Shaun McMahon, 38, who works as an IT technician at Park Road Junior School in Wellingborough, was waiting for an app to work when a vision of a football-mad chicken flashed into his mind.

But it was more than eight years after he first hatched the idea that he sat down to complete the children's story that will be published at the end of this month.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Shaun said: "I get lots of ideas while I'm working at school and I got a flash of a chicken that wanted to play football.

"Then six years ago I turned it into three lines. I have been writing scripts for school assemblies and nativity plays and somebody said that I should sell them.

"I uploaded them on to the TES website and sold them. I've used the money to fund the book."

Fowl tells the adventures of soccer-mad Bert who dreams of being a professional footballer for his local side West Farthing F.C. There is just one problem. Bert is a chicken.

Shaun McMahon

Aimed at children between the ages of eight and 13, the mini-novel was given the thumbs up by pupils at the school where Shaun works, and the school's librarian, Anita Patel.

Shaun said: "The book sort of wrote itself quite quickly with the story flowing nicely. I would sometimes lay in bed worrying about the plot and think it through.

"The manuscript was finished in June last year and Mrs Patel the librarian read an early draft. We printed off a few copies and some of the children at school read it.

"The children didn't know it was by me. They gave it some postive reviews."

The front cover

After using a copy editor to help perfect his prose, Shaun chose publisher Troubador to print the book as one of their Matador children's titles.

Through a mutual friend, illustrator Julie Mackey was asked to bring Bert to life for the front cover art work.

It wasn't until a parcel containing copies of the first print run arrived at their Little Harrowden home that Shaun's wife Jennifer, who also works at Park Junior School, got to her hands on the paperback. Sons Charlie, seven and two-year-old William have it on their 'to read' list.

She said: "I'm really proud of what he's achieved. It's something he's been doing for a long time. The story is very relateable and I think it will go down well.

Shaun with his books

"I'll definitely be reading this to my Year Six class."

Shaun said: "It's exciting. I looked on Amazon and Fowl was in the top ten hot new releases. My project is now out there and it's amazing to think I could make a sale in Brazil.

"We can't have a big book launch because of Covid restrictions but we are hoping to do something."

Shaun has already started on the sequel with Bert hoping to work his way up the pecking order and earn himself a place the World Cup Finals.

England supporter Shaun said: "I have written 16,000 words at the moment. Who knows there might be an animated series or even Bert cuddly toys.

"It would be nice to think of children dressing up as Bert the chicken for World Book Day."

Bert the chicken - one of the illustrations by Julie Mackey

Retailing at £7.99, Fowl by Shaun McMahon can be purchased direct from publisher Troubador, and from other stockists including Amazon, and WHSmith.

Message from the editor: Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the highest standards in the world. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Shaun with sons Charlie, 7, and William, 2.