by LAUREN CODLING
FORMER Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq has revealed she consulted her two children while writing her new book which centres on a young British-Bangladeshi girl.
Cookie!…and the Most Annoying Boy in the World explores the world of Cookie Haque – a nine-year-old girl obsessed with science and the world.
Described as “quirky with a touch of geek,” Cookie is said to be loosely based on Huq’s childhood. While writing the series, Huq said she asked her two children, Covey and Huxley, for advice on certain aspects of the narrative.
A stand-out nugget suggestion from her older son was when she was tempted to erase the origins of Cookie’s name. In the introductory pages, Cookie explains that her nickname is short for a Bengali name ‘Kanak’.
Although she is commonly known as Konnie, ‘Kanak’ is actually Huq’s first name.
“When I used to have register at primary school, I would cringe every time at the teacher saying my Bangladeshi name,” Huq told Eastern Eye. “I would put my hand up and explain the pronunciation.”
From a young age, it became second nature for Huq that her forename was ‘Konnie’. Although she was hesitant to explain Cookie’s nickname in the book, her son insisted that she include it.
“My son said, ‘Mummy, you mustn’t get rid of it’ and it was true – it is interesting in that I didn’t have a name that any of the other kids had at school when I was growing up,” she said. “I wasn’t Sarah or Jane or whatever. That is part of diversity because there are other languages and other names, so I kept it as it was in the book.”
Huq is aware that there is a lack of diversity in children’s literature, so she was keen to “reflect society” while writing the series.
But although Cookie is from an ethnic background, she emphasised it is not her primary attribute.
“Yes, Cookie’s parents came over from Bangladesh, but this isn’t what the story is about,” she stressed. “It is secondary – just like if you have blue eyes. It isn’t your defining thing.”
The books are part of a series, which will all have an educational theme. The first in the series has a focus on STEM subjects, the second is set to explore climate change, while the third will concentrate on computers and coding.
Cookie will be at the heart of all of them.
It was crucial to Huq to include STEM learning within the book. Science can seem like a foreign language to some, she said, and hoped the series could help children to see it in a different light.
She was eager for it to be fun, and not seem like a school assignment. For instance, there is an entire chapter dedicated to easy experiments for children – including instructions on how to make a lemonade fountain and a ‘potato clock’.
“There is science in there, but hopefully in a subtle way – like hidden vegetables in a pasta sauce that you feed your kids,” Huq, who graduated from Cambridge, joked.
She grew up in Ealing, west London, with her parents and two elder siblings. As a child, she remembered feeling slightly anxious about some aspects of her British-Bangladeshi heritage.
“As a kid, there were definitely times when I was like ‘oh mum and dad, don’t eat with your hands if we’ve got a playdate coming over’,” she recalled. “They were things that you might be embarrassed of because you think you don’t fit in.”
But fitting in is something that all people struggle with, she said. It can happen regardless of whether you are an ethnic minority or not. If people weren’t so judgemental and became aware of the multi-cultural melting pot in the UK, she said, then it would make society a more inclusive and understanding place.
The 44-year-old is arguably best known for her role as a television presenter. Notable for her time on the iconic children’s show, Blue Peter, she is its longest serving female presenter. However, she hasn’t had a regular presenting job since reality series King of the Nerds in 2015.
Does she have any plans to return to our screens anytime soon?
“I love live presenting, (but) as a mum, it isn’t that easy when your kids are young unless you get a nanny or whatever,” Huq, who is married to Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, admitted. “Going forward, as my kids get more independent and don’t have to be ferried around, then yeah, maybe I’ll go back to it (if the right project comes along).”
And although she has found a new career for herself in writing, Huq is adamant that there are certain other professions that she would prefer to avoid.
Her sister Rupa is a Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton. Amid the on-going debate on Brexit, her sister’s working life is arguably at her busiest. Huq, on the other hand, is keen to rule out any potential career for herself in politics.
“I’d be a dreadful politician,” she laughed. “People ask me my political views and I think, ‘but that is just my view’. I’m one of 60 million other people in the UK. Being an MP is a tough
job. It wouldn’t be right for me.”
Cookie!…and the Most Annoying Boy in the World by Konnie Huq is available now.