I feel so excited to have been invited to contribute a foreword to the latest edition of Pip Seymour’s excellent guide to pigments for painters, The Artist’s Handbook (published by Lee Press, 2020). Pip is the renowned artisan paintmaker who, along with Rebecca Seymour, is responsible for the stunning range of fine art materials produced in Yorkshire by Wallace Seymour.
The Artist’s Handbook provides artists with in-depth, practical information on the materials, equipment and skills necessary for all areas of artistic practice. Topics covered include advice on how to select appropriate art materials, including paints, brushes, canvases and drawing materials; techniques for making your own paints, glue, varnishes and paper; advice on how to achieve the best results from both manufactured and hand-made materials; the best methods of storing and preserving finished artworks, and health and safety precautions.
I had the wonderful honour of presenting Axel Sheffler’s famous Pip & Posy stories to an amazing audience of 150 children in the stately Guildhall at Bath Children’s Literature Festival. The publishers, Nosy Crow, arranged for the children to meet a larger-than-life-sized Posy character, while I drew them into the story world through music, movement and mime.
Pip is very proud of his big red balloon. But when he lets the balloon go and it pops, he is inconsolable. Luckily, Posy has a clever idea to cheer up her friend and soon they are having fun again!
Amazing and inspiring! Thank you so much!” – Rachael Grinyer, Head of English
As part of Bath Children’s Literature Festival I had opportunity to spend a day at the excellent Paragon School.
I started with a performance of Scribble & Scrunch for the Nursery children. My characters Tiger Louie and Dash & Doodle visited the Reception children to inspire them in storying and illustration.
Then with Year 1 we made monster pop-ups tied in with my Monsters Love Words picture book that features rhythm, rhyme and onomatopoeia. I shared my Night Walk story and worked with them to produce their own journey narratives using maths language. They produced a beautifully illustrated concertina book with glow-in-the-dark features for the class to keep.
Today was our Book Launch Day, the climax of our fantastic collaborative Storybook Project at Higher Openshaw Community School in Manchester. We started with a whole school assembly in which we shared a video documenting the creative process that resulted in four fabulous original picturebooks. Then we read each story in turn, projecting the artwork, and presented the teachers with a class copy for the school library. There was such a buzz in the air as every child in YR1 & YR2 received a copy of their very own book:
It’s the best book I’ve ever read!” – Ruby, YR2
My book is fantastic!” – Myah, YR1
It was magic to get my monster in the book!” – Abigail, YR1
It has been wonderful working with you! The children have had an amazing experience to create and make and have their own book.” – Miss Meddick, YR1
The books are amazing and the kid’s reaction to them was fantastic! You had every one of them engaged and that is so rare – I love it!” – Mrs Hughes, YR2
We had a wonderful treat during the event when we were able to share a specially recorded video message from the Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child, creator of Charlie & Lola!!!
Our very own message from Lauren Child – so lucky! We are so pleased to say our work with Pippa will continue next year as she’ll be our Patron of Reading.” – Miss Mort, YR2
Would children at your school love to become authors and illustrators in a Storybook Project?
This Celebration Day will be the culmination of a fantastic project with four classes from YR1/YR2 that has spanned the Summer Term. The children have learned to develop characters, structure their stories, and create fantastic illustrations to convey emotion and complement the written narrative.
As a group we shared storybooks: listening, responding, and discussing the ideas and what we liked about them. We created characters and scenarios and developed them through role-play and story-mapping. We played with language, decoding the tangle of words, and discovering the joy of mixing up the 26 letters of the alphabet to create magical sounds and shapes!
Children gained an understanding of simple story structures, planning exciting ways to combine words and pictures into dynamic storyboard layouts. They explored a variety of fun and engaging illustration approaches, developing visual literacy skills, as they worked together to produce lovely pieces of art to complement their story.
Tomorrow, July 11th, at the end of the project, the school will host a Book Launch event at which every child who participated will be given a copy of their very own book – in front of friends, family, the local press, and the whole school!
I know the children will all be so excited when they each receive their very own copy of the book they have worked so hard to create. We’ve also planned a very special surprise for the day – tip top secret at the moment!
A fab project. Every school should do this!” – Dawn Robertson, blogger for Madeleine Lindley
No misnomer – making this picturebook has been mission impossible! Mrs Heald’s Y2 class at Higher Openshaw Community School were full of ideas; so many, and so good, that we had to come up with a story that could include as many as possible. The result is a real rollercoaster ride of a tale, a rhyming adventure that whisks the reader through a series of wildly different worlds: under the sea, a digital games world, a ghostly zone, an alien place, etc. Linking these different environments, the rollercoaster rails spiral and loop, rise and fall, requiring language to match.
Early in the process we all went to the school hall and marked out a circular route on the floor using masking tape to represent the tracks. This was punctuated by large areas of paper, a separate zone for each themed world on the ride, where the children could sketch out their wild ideas. They were encouraged to write descriptive words next to their characters that could form the basis of the text. The result was a neatly circular story structure, with all the disparate ideas linked by the same main characters journeying through them along the rollercoaster rails.
Next the children set to work creating the backgrounds, using ink washes and bold crayons. Then they drew the characters in pencil and cut them out.
Everything was scanned into my Mac back at the studio, and arranged in InDesign to produce a proof copy of The Ultimate Test. I think we passed!
Perhaps we should have called this book “Outta Space” because that’s what it is all about! Miss Mort’s Y2 class at Higher Openshaw Community School have come up with a science fiction storybook that sends a team of brave astronauts on a mission to fix mankind’s chronic space shortage . . . by vacuuming up a precious cargo of the stuff which outer space is made of!
We had some serious brainstorming sessions to generate lots of ideas about how different aspects of life and the environment would be affected if all the space disappeared: no spaces between words, no parking spaces, no personal space! What about wildlife? What would towns and cities look like?
Children also spent time roleplaying scenarios aboard the spaceship and back on Earth, using mini whiteboards and markers to make their own speech bubbles and dialogue. This story would have a journey/return structure, a knowing narrator voice, and plenty of quips between the main characters: Astrogirl, Astroboy, Astrodog & the Queen, of course!
The class were inspired by the work of illustrator Anna Llenas, having recently admired one of her gorgeous collage-style picturebooks, so we decided that the artwork for our book would feature cool cardboard bits and cut-out elements. The team set to work designing rocket components, aliens and asteroids. They also used ink and watercolours to create crowded scenes of people, birds and sea life that would be relayed to the space crew on their cardboard computer screens as they sped to the rescue . . .
All these elements were photoshopped and layered together back at base, and arranged into the series of stunning spreads that make up S P A C E. Only one book to go and it will be Mission Complete!
The second picturebook from my project with Higher Openshaw Community School is looking great! Miss Meddick’s Y1 class had already selected a monster theme and started to come up with story ideas, so I was able to work with them to develop the plot and produce a classic problem/resolution narrative structure. In all the best fairytales things come in threes (3 is the magic number) so we invented three meany monsters of increasing scariness for our little hero to encounter while out for a walk.
The class wanted their book to convey a clear message about how to deal with life’s challenges – even if you are only quite little. This lent itself to a rhyming story with a powerful and memorable repeat refrain expressing the determination of the main character, The Littlest Monster, not to give up. I worked with the children to brainstorm descriptive words for each character and setting that we could then group into rhyming pairs and use within our story text.
Miss Meddick’s class was full of excellent illustrators, so we had brilliant versions of the four monsters, displaying a wide range of expressions, that we could fit into the page layouts. The children painted tissue paper to produce highly textured bodies – cut out and collaged in different poses – and accessorised with wool and feathers. Our budding artists also used watercolours to paint scenery; crayons to scribble clouds and shadows; and buttons to make pretty flowers.
This delightful picturebook is now ready for printing, and each child will get their own copy at the launch event on the 11th July – I can hardly wait!
This is the first of four picturebook collaborations with KS1 classes at Higher Openshaw Community school to reach proofing stage.
I worked with the children and teaching staff over four weeks to help them to generate their own story ideas, words and pictures. In Miss Butterworth’s Y1 class we quickly settled on Monsters as a theme, and devised a concept celebrating the kind of words that monsters love – oozingly onomatopoeic & awesomely alliterative!
To gain inspiration we set up stations around the classroom where the children could try out some monstrously messy activities, such as squishing dough, crunching pasta, and mucking about with goo. This serious research helped us to come up with some truly truly authentic monster words which then went into the mix – along with a dash of rhythm and rhyme, and a little twist to finish – to produce our story text.
The artwork would be kept simple, with each contributor providing at least one original monster illustration that could be cut out, scanned, and arranged to complement the text. The children drew, painted, snipped, and collaged their creations, unifying the eclectic work by using black & white sticky dots to add the eyes as a finishing touch. Back at the studio we fed all the words and pictures into InDesign, added some simple backgrounds and pleasing typography, and now Monsters Love Words is ready to send to the printers!
In this exciting new project I’m collaborating with four KS1 classes to create four original picturebooks. The children have already brainstormed ideas, selected key characters, produced story maps, and are now busy working on the words and pictures.
Their working titles are:
Monsters Love Words
The Littlest Monster
S P A C E
The Ultimate Test
As the project progresses I’ll share more news about how each storybook is developing…
This rhyming picturebook follows two modern schoolkids as they embark on an amazing time-travelling adventure into the grimy world of the Rochdale of 1844. Before making it back to the future they meet some of the original Rochdale Pioneers and witness the opening of their first co-op shop. Along the way they explore the stinky streets, strict classrooms and dangerous workplaces of a Victorian mill town and discover what life was like for many children in the past.
The book is packed with historical facts and includes a glossary, reading comprehension questions and a set of activities ideal for use with KS1 children.
The first book in The Little Pioneers series has reached print proof stage which is fantastic!
It features Charlie, a four-year-old who loves to join in and play with his friends at nursery. He is based on one of the existing mascot characters used by Co-operative Childcare to promote their core values. Charlie is joined in this rhyming picturebook by four friends – Ping, Ela, Alice & Ebo – and they have fun as they create some amazing things together!
Each of Charlie’s Little Pioneer friends represents one of the organisation’s DOES values: Democracy, Openness, Equality & Social Responsibility. I’m already busy working on the next book in the series which features a girl called Ping and introduces concepts of democracy for children in the Early Years.
I had a wonderful day with the children at the Co-operative Childcare nursery at Littlehampton. I have been commissioned by The Midcounties Co-operative to produce five little picturebooks to feature each of their existing Little Pioneer characters. Yesterday the children worked with me to build stories for the first in the series – about Charlie, a boy who loves to co-operate with others!
I was also filmed and interviewed throughout the day. The film will be screened at the organisation’s AGM next month . . .
Thank you to everyone who attended and joined in with my workshop today at the The Schools Co-operative Society’s Annual Conference in Birmingham. The three Harmony the Honey Bee storybooks were launched at the same event, and I had opportunity to share the Foundation Stage Activity Pack which is still in development. It was very exciting for me because the third book in the series, Harmony & the Waggledance, only arrived back from the printers a few hours before the conference!
My sketches of Mouse & Rabbit simply begged to be brought to life as three-dimensional characters! It was so exciting to see them emerge from from my sewing area so full of personality and ready for adventures – they love dressing up, going places, doing things and being creative!
Hot off the press is this colourful and creative look at the language of comicbook culture that I produced with Key Stage 1 children at Hollinsclough Cof E (VA) Primary School in the Peak District.
I really enjoyed working in a lovely rural setting with a small class that included children from Reception through to Year 2. They were already in the middle of a topic about superheroes. We had great fun running around in capes and masks as we came up with lots of alliteration, onomatopoeia, and exclamatory punctuation!!!
The children created challenges to overcome including a crazy lego robot, a prehistoric plasticine monster and a massive meteor headed straight for earth. They used the ComicLife app for iPad to make their own strip designs and starred in action trailer we made using iMovie. Then their hand-drawn callouts and captions were combined with photographs of their roleplay to make the finished book.
I’ve just unwrapped the fabulous-looking proof copy of Exciting Writing: Approaches to Mark-Making!
This book documents a project in which I was invited to Whitegate Centre to help children grow in confidence and ability as emergent writers. It is packed with lovely images from the project and quotations from the children who joined in the sessions. It considers approaches to early writing by examining the underlying thought processes and the physical skills required. It also explores how to embed learning about writing within the context of imaginative play and storytelling, presenting several case studies of successful guided activities. The chapters feature tried & tested tips for improved learning outcomes across all seven areas of the revised EYFS, along with examples of how well-planned continuous provision of resources for mark-making supports children’s development.
Thanks to The Lancashire Evening Telegraph for the photo above of the Reception & Year 1 children of Padiham Primary School receiving copies of The Travel Writers. I worked with them over the winter on a project aimed at advancing early writing skills, and together we made an original storybook about the power of the written word to transport the reader to different places. All the children featured in the illustrations which were created by montaging photographs of them engaged in role-play with fantastic backgrounds and real writing. Learn more about my storybook projects for schools here…
The Padiham Green Primary School writing project has culminated in this gorgeous comic style storybook. The children had a great time bringing their tale to life through roleplay as they restored all the signs and labels erased by their arch enemy, The Evil Eraser!!! It was wonderful to see so many parents attend the celebration assembly and book launch today, and I was so glad that every child involved was able to take home a copy of their own book! Parent comments included:
Very inventive and a brilliant experience for all the children. I love all the concepts and the writing is perfect for the age group. Very well done!”
The children have really enjoyed it. Thomas always came home to tell me how much he enjoyed spending time and doing the book. Thank you!”
The children have had a brilliant time doing this and the books are fantastic! The children have been very excited and haven’t stopped talking about what a great experience they have had. Thank you!”
My current obsession isturning farmyard animals into loveable storybook characters for a children’s storybook series I’m working on. It’s totally top secret still, but I can reveal that the stories each use language and scenarios suitable for introducing maths concepts to children in the Early Years age group.
This beautiful creature is part of a small herd I can see from my studio window – I couldn’t resist the chance to make some quick sketches and get some reference photos. I’ll reveal more about this project when I’ve got a publication date…