Archives for the month of: August, 2011

When my sister and I were about five and seven, a distant relative gave us a very special gift. It was a big china doll that she had owned when she was a child. In the picture above you can see what Cousin Bernice looked like as a girl. It’s a really old photograph from Victorian times, so it is a bit faded and stained. (That mark on her face is just a grease spot!)

By the time she gave us Big Doll, Cousin Bernice (who was a cousin of my grandmother’s) was a very old lady. We thought the doll was beautiful with its smooth porcelain face and big brown eyes. Her hair felt like real hair, and her clothes were lacy and elegant.

As well as the clothes she was wearing, the doll had a big trunk full of things a kind couple had made just for her. The man was a tailor and he sewed a heavy winter coat and hat for her, and a white cotton nightgown with pink ribbons. You can see the hat (with a pink flower on it) and the nightgown in the open trunk. The kind lady knitted sweet pink mittens and a scarf for the doll. They must have been good friends of Bernice’s parents. I wonder if the doll and all her clothes were a birthday or Christmas present for Bernice.

I don’t know if Bernice played a lot with Big Doll. We found her so heavy to lift (because she is entirely made of china) that we were rather afraid of breaking her! So she has spent much of her time sitting in the blue rocking chair watching the world go by. She seems happy enough!

When I was about eleven years old I saw another antique doll in a flea market. I was desperate to have her and my Mum agreed to buy her for me. (I don’t think she was very expensive back then.) This little German doll is much smaller and has a soft body so she is easier to play with. Her golden hair is done up in two braids at the back, and her painted face is made of papier mach√©. This makes her very light and quite delicate. Because she had no shoes when we bought her, I sewed a special pair of black felt booties for her feet. I couldn’t make her any clothes, though, because she is quite firmly sewn into these ones!

Do you have any special toys that you will keep forever? Why not write and tell me about them?

Summer is nearly over and already the children in Scotland have gone back to school! Wednesday the 17th of August was the first day of school for lots of Scottish children. I hope they enjoyed seeing their friends again, meeting their new teachers and comparing notes about the holidays. In the picture above, Patrick the pink penguin is telling his classmates all about a trip he took to Africa.

When I was at school I remember being very excited about the first day back. I loved the feel of a clean, new notebook and couldn’t wait to try out my brand new pens and coloured pencils! It was a little bit scary, too, and I hoped that my teacher would be nice and the other children would like me.

When I was very small I had to wear a scratchy wool uniform which I hated! It had a tartan pinafore (dark green and black, the Black Watch tartan), itchy green tights and a white blouse and tie. I think my mum must have tied the tie for me because I was much too little to manage! It’s hard to see in this dark photo but I’m also wearing a black cardigan.

These days uniforms are much more comfortable. Lots of schools have grey skirts or trousers and a lovely soft sweatshirt in the school colour. I wish I’d been allowed to wear that instead!

In my book, I Win, the illustrator Melanie Williamson has put the twins in purple sweatshirts for their uniform. In this picture they are doing their homework after school (with a nice healthy snack and some juice). I remember having a peanut butter and honey sandwich when I got home from school. That was my favourite thing to eat when I was small! (I grew up in Canada where peanut butter is very popular.)

I hope you all have a great time back at school, whether it’s in August or September. Good luck and have fun!

On a very wet Thursday morning I made my way to the Kingdom of Fife, where a lovely bunch of children were waiting for me to read them stories. This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is on the theme of Circus Stars, so my book about a puffin who becomes a circus clown was perfect for the occasion!

I started at Kirkcaldy Library, where I read Lewis Clowns Around, Pink!, Jacob O’Reilly Wants a Pet and I Do Not Eat the Colour Green. My audience was very attentive and we had a great time!

While I was there I was delighted to meet Jacqueline, the little girl who sent me a great letter with a picture of her two pink penguins (see the entry below). She arrived with her big and little penguins as well as a new puffin toy that looked just like Lewis!

In the afternoon I went to Rothes Halls Library in Glenrothes and read all my stories to a new group of children. They all squashed onto a big colourful rug, and after I read Pink! everyone got up for a little break and had a penguin-waddle around the library! At the end we all had a special treat – chocolate biscuits and juice!

Thanks very much to Maggie Gray and Sharron Brown and her team who made me feel very welcome. It was lovely to meet everyone and I hope the children had as much fun as I did!

My new book, Lewis Clowns Around, will soon be published (on 22 September) and I am very pleased to be giving a small group of children a little sneak preview! On Thursday, 11 August I will be reading a special copy of the book at Kirkcaldy Library in the morning, and at Rothes Halls Library in Glenrothes in the afternoon.

I am especially looking forward to meeting one little girl who has written me a letter. Her name is Jacqueline and she is a keen reader, but I will let her speak for herself:

Jacqueline is a big fan of Pink! and she has two pink penguin toys that look just like Patrick. I do hope she likes Lewis just as much. Perhaps she can find a little puffin soft toy for her collection… Thank you, Jacqueline, for your lovely letter which made my day!

When I was on holiday recently in Norfolk I came across this clever sculpture of two puffins made of wood and metal. It looks just like Lewis and his brother Harris! I was very tempted to buy it, but it was a bit too expensive. Perhaps I can make my own sculpture, as I do enjoy making things.

I’ll write again soon to tell you all about my Lewis Launch in Fife. I’ll try and get some new pictures to show you. Maybe I’ll see some of you there!