When I visit schools and book festivals, the children often ask me where I get my story ideas. I usually say my own children inspire me, and sometimes it’s a special toy that will spark an idea.

One of my earliest books, Jack’s Bed, was inspired by my son when he was about four. He often used to wake up in the night and come clambering into our bed for warmth and comfort. We decided a nice cuddly hot water bottle might help him to feel safe in his own bed so he could sleep through the night. So we bought him this leopard with shiny amber eyes and wiry black whiskers. It was a big success, and that is what Jack’s Bed is all about.

Sometimes the soft toy comes after the book. If I want to have a special toy to use in schools and nurseries when I’m reading my books, I will buy something that looks like one of my characters.

In the case of Patrick the pink penguin, I made him a tiny blue backpack and sewed pink fuzz on his head. Then I decided he needed some friends, so I got two black-and-white penguins (Arthur and Lulu) and made little backpacks for them too! You can see Lulu is the one with a yellow bow in her hair and a flowery backpack.

Here is a picture that Margaret Chamberlain did of the three friends. Can you see which one is Lulu? Children love it when I bring Patrick and his two best friends to read Pink!

My newest book has some more black-and-white birds called puffins. Lewis Clowns Around is a story about a puffin who wants more than anything to be a circus clown. He gets his wish of course, but his circus life doesn’t always go smoothly.

I couldn’t resist these two little puffins who look just like Lewis and his brother Harris. They sit on my desk and help to give me more story ideas!