A Good Friend by Gemma Hunt
Ahoy there! The well-known British TV presenter and children’s entertainer, Gemma Hunt, was interviewed by Rev. Canon Nick Davies at the Literature Day of Cheltenham Christian Arts festival about her first ever book, ‘A Good Friend’. Gemma loves working with children and has spent many years working in entertainment on TV, stage, radio and pantomime.
Gemma rose to fame in 2003 when she graduated from her degree in Media Performance and started work at CBBC. Since then, she has been a familiar face on Children’s BBC TV. Gemma is probably best known by families for her cheerful and exuberant role as Gem in the BAFTA-award-winning CBeebies Swashbuckle, which is the pirate game show series where the children aim to win the jewels back from the pirates and make them walk the plank. As well as Swashbuckle, she has had a star studded career including guest presentations for Smile and Blue Peter. Since the pandemic, she has joined the presenting team of Songs of Praise.
As well as her TV career, she is a practicing Christian and she has also hosted live festivals such as Big Church Day Out, Spring Harvest and also run children’s events at New Wine and Soul Survivor. She is also one of the lead hosts of the Alpha course film series, which discusses the basics of the Christian faith.
At the Literature Day, Gemma talked about how she had poured all this experience into her new book. The book has five truly wonderful stories inspired by parables or stories of Jesus’ life, looking at these stories and day to day experiences and encouraging young children to think about what makes ‘A Good Friend’.
Each of the five fun stories features a mixed-race modern family and endeavours to show an image of Jesus which isn’t the “stereotypical, blond-haired and blue-eyed Jesus so many of us grew up with”. Gemma is mixed-race and her daughter has a white father, black grandmother and a white grandfather. “We couldn’t find any children’s books which represented a family like ours”, said Gemma, “While there is more diversity in kids stories these days, there was nothing which truly reflected my own child’s experience of home life. I wrote these stories because it is so important for children to see themselves represented in the literature and media they consume – I want my daughter to look at this book and feel like she’s looking in a mirror”.
The book is accompanied by colourful and amusing illustrations by Charlotte Cooke. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, enthuses: “A delight to read. Gemma Hunt brings the Bible stories to life in a new way, engaging young minds.”
The book was published in 2022 by Lion Children’s Books and is available in hardback from St Andrew’s Bookshop or from the website A Good Friend | St Andrews Bookshop. More information about Gemma Hunt can be found at her website: www.gemmahunt.com
Review by Valmae Young