Archives for the month of: January, 2012

I have developed book bags for three of my picture books, which include lots of fun activities for kids like quizzes, word searches and unusual projects (Build Your Own Snail Hotel, for example). Now that I have a new book, Lewis Clowns Around, I decided it was high time I put together some fun stuff for Lewis too!

Lewis Clowns Around is a story about a misfit puffin who longs to be something else. He hates fish and is frightened of heights, so he decides to follow his dreams and become a circus clown. He works really hard, learning how to juggle and do flips and cartwheels, and then he gets his very own clown costume: stripy socks, enormous shoes, a pointy green hat and some red pompons down his front. His first performance is a big success, until the final trick when something goes wrong and he has to find the courage to save the day. In the end, Lewis the clown is a big hero!

I have decided to put all the Lewis goodies into a sturdy, A4 plastic box that can stand on a shelf. I call it the Puffin Pack. The first thing you find inside the box is a signed copy of Lewis Clowns Around. Next there’s a letter from Lewis in a shiny blue envelope. (If you look closely, you can see Lewis on the stamp, too!) Lewis is travelling with the circus, so he has borrowed some circus writing paper from the Ringmaster, Phineas Fox. As you can see here, the Puffin Pack also includes some Lewis bookmarks and a Picture Kelpies postcard.

The Puffin Pack has lots of information about seabirds and their habitat, including a detailed list of Fabulous Puffin Facts and four illustrated fact sheets for colouring. There is also a Quiz based on the book, and some great Activities for kids to do at home or in the classroom. The colouring sheets and activity pages are designed to be copied for everyone in the class. Draw your own Crazy Circus Characters, find all the words in the Seabird Word Search, write a letter back to Lewis, design a circus poster and learn some circus tricks in the playground!

Last but not least is an A4 size poster of Lewis you can put up on the wall. And all this costs only £20 plus postage!

This is the poster of Lewis the clown.

The Puffin Pack is ideal for primary teachers and after school clubs. For more information or to order your Puffin Pack, contact me here.

Something reminded me recently of a recipe I used to have for gorgeously golden cheesy muffins. I haven’t made them for years, but yesterday I was determined to track down a similar recipe and try again!

Thanks to Google I quickly found a new one, and I can tell you now that these are just as delicious as the ones I used to make. They are extra golden because they have cornmeal in them. I love cornbread and these muffins are like cornbread with cheese. Mmmmm!

I started by gathering up all the things I would need, including two mixing bowls, a grater, two muffin tins, paper muffin cups, measuring spoons, flour, butter, baking powder and an egg. Oh, and cheese! Before you start it’s a good idea to wash your hands, too.

Here is a list of the ingredients:

3/4 cup plain flour

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

The first thing to do is put all the DRY ingredients into a big mixing bowl. (It looks like I was working in a very dark kitchen, doesn’t it?) I could see fine, really! Once these are all mixed together you grate the cheese into a measuring cup and add that to the dry ingredients.

The milk, melted butter and egg must all be beaten together in a smaller mixing bowl, then poured into the dry ingredients and stirred just until the whole mixture is moistened (no beating until your arm is sore or anything like that).

Fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full with the mixture, which looks rather like scrambled eggs at this point. The recipe says it makes twelve muffins, but I found it made only ten. Perhaps my muffin tins were bigger than normal, or I was filling them too much.

Bake the muffins at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit, Gas Mark 4) for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get too toasty on top! Mine turned out very well, and straight out of the oven they tasted fabulous! I found they were hard to get out of the paper cups when they were warm (a lot of muffin stuck to the paper) but once they had cooled that problem disappeared. To avoid this whole issue, just rub butter or oil in the muffin tins and forget the paper cups altogether.

These muffins use Cheddar cheese, but the ones I used to make had Gouda instead. You can experiment with different cheeses if you have a particular favourite. It should work fine if you keep to the same measurements.

Good luck and happy baking!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine went to visit the Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford, Essex. It is a fantastic bookshop which runs lots of author and illustrator events, craft workshops and even story-themed parties for children! My friend sent me a photo of the Alphabet Wall where my letter G stands proudly with letters painted by lots of amazing illustrators. I have written about my G before (with the little troll popping up) but I thought you might like to see some of the other letters too. Perhaps you can recognise the painting styles of some of your favourite illustrators?

It may be a bit hard for you to see the detail in this picture. I can see that the letter X is painted by Anthony Browne (it’s Willy in a funny pose). The letter S is done by Sue Eves and you can read more about her letter on her blog here. The letter Z is by Axel Scheffler (who illustrates many of Julia Donaldson’s stories).

My friend took another photo to let me see my G more clearly, so here is a closer look at just a few of the letters:

I have discovered that the owl flying through the letter O is the work of Emily Gravett. Can you guess some of the others? The letter F seems to be covered in bats, and the H has a cat playing guitar and a knife and fork chasing a sausage! I love the pirate P with its moonlit galleon and scull-and-crossbones flag. Do you know who those artists might be? I think there is a guide to all the artists at the Just Imagine Story Centre, so I really must get there some day and see for myself!

Letters of the alphabet have long been a source of artistic inspiration. In medieval times, about 700 years ago, monks would spend hours carefully writing out books (there were no printers back then!) Some of them were very talented because they produced beautiful illustrations like the ones you can see here:

This is a letter P decorated with flowers and real gold!

This page from a choir book shows St Stephen inside a letter H. Those funny squares are musical notes!

In Victorian times, about 150 years ago, children’s ABC books were full of detailed drawings. (You can tell they are Victorian children by the way they are dressed). Not only were these books meant to teach children about the alphabet, but they also had strong messages about how children should behave. Here is an example (I chose the letter L because my name is Lynne). It describes Lads and Lasses who Learn their Letters and Lessons! (I think the Lazy ones and Laughing ones probably got in trouble…)

I have written before about the beautiful letters drawn by Jakub Konvica. His pencil drawings are so realistic you almost expect the little bird perched on a branch to move! This letter A is part of a whole alphabet Jakub has drawn. You can see more of his letters here. His letters spell out a whole poem about the month of May.

If you would like to illustrate your own letter, I have found a website called Colouring Printables where you can choose any letter you like and print it out. You could print all the letters of your name, then fill them with drawings or magazine clippings of things you like. When they’re all finished you can cut the letters out and put them on your bedroom door, or on the fridge.

Time to get creative!