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Mary Feely: How 'airhead' Halliwell sneaked in to become my little girls' hero

I'VE always thought she was an airhead. So how did Geri Halliwell end up in my little girls' bedroom when they've never even heard of the Spice Girls?

It was one of those storybook CDs the kids put on before they go to bed. I was passing the room last night and recognised a voice. Kinda chirpy, kinda cockney. Good-natured but maybe slightly irritating.

"Is that Geri Halliwell?" I asked, poking my head in the door.

"Who?" they said.

"The Spice Girl."

"What's a Spice Girl?"

"She was just on X Factor as a guest judge."

Blank faces.

"She wrote the Ugenia Lavender story you're listening to right now."

Beaming delight.

"So THAT'S why she was on X Factor. Cool!"

I didn't have the heart to disillusion them. These days, what endears Geri Halliwell to my youngsters is not the fact that she's beautiful, rich and formerly a world-famous pop star.

Instead, the Geri they've taken to their hearts is an author. Yes, she's slipped right under my radar and into my children's bedroom ... and become their new hero! My daughters adore her stories about a stroppy young girl who stirs things up no end at home and at school.

Anyone who can dream up characters and plots that appeal to both a five-year-old and a nine-year-old has something special.



Sniggered

Geri, it seems, has pulled off that amazing feat. Who'd have thought?

I admit it, I may have sniggered unkindly when Halliwell announced she was turning her hand to writing children's books. Prince Charles did it. So did Sarah Ferguson. Madonna likewise churned out a few books aimed at little girls.

So when Geri joined the gang, I shrugged. The way I saw it, some celebrities liked a bookish reputation the way other celebrities liked miniature dogs.

The last thing I ever expected to emerge from her career change was books I'd have around the house, or CDs I'd hear playing over and over again. Well, I was wrong. Geri's no airhead.

Granted, her previous fame as a singer would have helped land her a contract. But it wouldn't make kids actually like the books. It's not easy, coming up with books that appeal to children. They're the most honest critics in the world.

If they like a book, it's only because the writer has somehow found a way to talk to them without, crucially, talking down to them.

Geri Halliwell's pulled it off, in my house at least, which makes her very clever indeed. So I'm sorry I ever dismissed her as a lightweight.

I'm glad she switched to writing. Anyone who can lull my children to sleep is OK by me.


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