Archives for category: author appearances

I will let you in on a little secret. That photo I use at the top of my blog was taken some years ago on the isle of Iona. It’s a beautiful place which I have visited several times, and each visit is special.

Lynne and Anna IonaNow you can see the whole picture, including my daughter who was about eight at the time. She is now almost twenty and a few inches taller than I am!

I use another photo of Iona on my Twitter account. This one shows my son (now seventeen) walking along the road across the island to a big beach on the western side.

Cam on IonaRecently I was invited to come back to Iona as part of the Summer Gala Fun Day on the island. Apparently my puffin picture books are very popular there, so the people who run the Martyrs Bay Shop kindly asked me to do some storytelling and book signing for them. Naturally I had to accept!

Photo ©Lindsey Fraser

Photo ©Lindsey Fraser

In the run-up to the event I was delighted to see a poster up in the shop window, kindly supplied by my publisher, Floris Books. The shop has a special puffin corner, and this was where my three puffin books were prominently displayed!

Photo ©Lindsey Fraser

Photo ©Lindsey Fraser

On Saturday I read stories with a lovely little girl from Cork, Ireland. She was full of story ideas of her own, too! Then I spoke to a number of tourists from England, Australia and America, and signed books for all their grandchildren.

Iona book signingOn Sunday I had a very enthusiastic crowd of small children, parents, grandparents and a few dogs! We read all three books and then the children were each allowed to choose one. It was interesting to see which book appealed to which child. Some already had Harris the Hero at home, and many were surprised to hear that Lewis Clowns Around was the first book.

I had a lovely time meeting people from all over the world, and I think the children enjoyed it too. The warm and friendly staff at Martyrs Bay Shop made the whole experience a great pleasure, so many thanks to all of them!

Iona rowboatIn between storytelling sessions, my husband and I wandered around the island taking photos of the beautiful scenery. We walked the same road as my son to the other side of the island, and my husband actually went swimming in that clear but c-c-c-cold water!

Iona footpathI preferred to stay on dry land, and while I was sitting on the beach I saw a long black animal run past across the sand. (I thought it was a weasel or a stoat or something, but then I heard a woman say, “Did you see that mink?”) I’m always spotting weird wildlife when I go on holiday…

Iona east beachThe beach was beautiful, and almost deserted. When we got back to our hotel (the Argyll) we enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine out in their garden. It looks out on the water between Iona and Mull and has lots of wooden benches bleached by the sun.

Iona boatsSuch a lovely view to look out on! It’s hard to imagine a more relaxing holiday. I do hope they’ll invite us back next year!

Iona LandM

 

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March 3rd 2016 is World Book Day, and in schools and libraries across the country everyone is getting involved in the celebrations! To get kids reading, National Book Tokens have teamed up with publishers and booksellers to give everyone in school a free book of their choice. The £1 book token can be used in bookshops to buy any of the following excellent options, or you can use it to get £1 off another full-price book or audio book.

2016 book titles from the World Book Day website

The 2016 £1 book titles from the World Book Day website

On Thursday the 3rd, lots of people will also be dressing up as their favourite book character and donating funds to Book Aid International to send much-needed books to libraries in Africa. If you’re looking for last-minute dress-up ideas, check out their World Book Day Dress-Up webpage. Over the past 60 years, Book Aid International has sent 31 million books to African countries. Here’s a great video they have created called The Journey of a Book which shows every stage, from the initial printing of a book to its arrival in African schools, libraries and universities.

Book-related activities are happening all this week, and lots of children’s authors like myself are visiting schools and libraries to share their stories. I had a great time on Tuesday visiting the P3 and P4 classes at Darnley Primary School. I brought Lewis, Harris and Skye for a fun puffin-themed writing workshop. The puffin toys got a great reception (lots of ooos and ahhhs) and the children enjoyed a sneak preview of Skye the Puffling which comes out in a week or two.

puffin holiday plan

On Thursday I’ll be visiting Holy Cross Primary School, where authors and other interesting characters (such as North American hockey players and Scottish movie stars) are invited every World Book Day to share their favourite children’s book with a class. I’m going to read Gabrielle and Selena by Peter Desbarats, first published in 1968. The illustrations are in black and white and the text is quite long, so it’s very different from picture books you see nowadays. But the story is clever and very funny, so I’m sure the children will enjoy it!

A friend of mine works in a nursery, and she has invited me to come on Friday and read to the three- and four-year-olds she looks after. I’ll choose my simpler books, like One Potato, Clementine’s Smile and Never Bite a Tiger on the Nose to entertain the little ones. It’s lovely to have a chance to nurture a love of books with very small children. The sooner they discover the joys of reading a story, the better their chances of reading for pleasure when they grow up.

If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate books this year, have a look at the Big Book Off on the World Book Day website where you’ll find suggestions like making a book-based game, discovering a new author or illustrator, creating a picture of your favourite scene from a book, or acting it out for an audience! There are also lots of online games on the Play and Win page, where you can answer questions about Harry Potter or go on a Young Bond secret agent mission, among many other games. Time to get reading! Happy World Book Day!

Photo © Rob McDougall

The Scottish Seabird Centre Puffin Fest is launched! Photo © Rob McDougall

I’ve just had a lovely day in sunny North Berwick, a pretty seaside town northeast of Edinburgh on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. I had been invited as one of the “opening acts” at the first Puffin Fest celebrating all things puffin at the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Arriving by train from Edinburgh, I strolled along towards the harbour admiring the town’s charming stone cottages and handsome Victorian houses. When I reached the harbour I was impressed by the long sweep of the bay and the striking view of several rocky islands offshore.

From North Berwick you can see the Bass Rock, Fidra, Craigleith and The Lamb. These are ancient volcanic islands that are home to thousands of seabirds including puffins, gannets, razorbills, cormorants, shags, guillemots, eider ducks and various types of gull.

The island of Craigleith from the East Bay, North Berwick.

The island of Craigleith from the East Bay, North Berwick.

Craigleith is the nearest island to North Berwick, and for many years it was home to one of the largest puffin colonies in the UK with 28,000 breeding pairs. By 1999 the puffins had become endangered because of a plant called tree mallow that grew rapidly and choked the areas where puffins made their burrows. Unable to raise their pufflings, the birds started to abandon Craigleith. It was the sharp observational skills of one Scottish Seabird Centre volunteer, Maggie Sheddon, that alerted people to the dwindling population of puffins, and SOS Puffin was launched. Since 2007 hundreds of volunteers have gone out by ferry in the winter months while the puffins are at sea to “weed” the island’s invasive tree mallow. This has helped the puffin colony reestablish itself on Craigleith.

The Bass Rock from North Berwick.

The Bass Rock from North Berwick.

The other well-known island in this group is the Bass Rock, which is distinctive in appearance because it is white with 150,000 gannets and their droppings! The lighthouse you can see in the photo above is the only human habitation now, but around it you can see the ruins of a castle from the 15th century which was later used by various Scottish kings as a prison for their enemies.

The Scottish Seabird Centre invited me to take part in their very first Puffin Fest because I have written two books about puffins: Lewis Clowns Around and Harris the Hero. I had a great time sharing these two stories of heroic puffins with a lovely audience of children who had lots to contribute to our discussion.

Lewis and Harris

My storytelling event was only one of a long list of exciting activities for the whole family that make up the Puffin Fest programme between 16 and 26 May. Click HERE to see all the events planned, which include puffin trails, boat cruises to the islands, expert wildlife talks, puffin parties, a puffin-themed art exhibition and the chance to see puffins in action on the Scottish Seabird Centre’s live interactive cameras. If you love puffins as much as I do, this is a festival not to be missed!

As I have already mentioned, Book Week Scotland brought me all sorts of invitations to visit primary schools recently. Two of those schools were in Linlithgow, a lovely town half-way between Glasgow and Edinburgh. It has a distinctive church with a spiky metal spire, and next to that is a medieval palace! I always see these two impressive buildings from the train as I pass, but it’s a rare treat to be able to stop and have a look around.

This handsome and distinctive building is St Michael's Church.

This handsome and distinctive building is St Michael’s Church.

St Michael’s Church dates from the 15th century and is the largest surviving late Medieval  “burgh kirk” in Scotland. The aluminium spire replaces a stone crown similar to the one atop St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and it wasn’t universally popular with the locals when it was added in 1964.

Linlithgow palace

Next to St Michael’s is Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Scottish King James V and his daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. It is also a late Medieval building and stands in beautiful grounds. A fire destroyed the roof of the palace and the interiors in 1746. The palace is open to the public and the “peel” or park surrounding it runs down to the shores of Linlithgow Loch, where you can go sailing in summer.

Linlithgow Loch in summer.

Linlithgow Loch in summer.

Doesn’t it look inviting? Sadly, it wasn’t looking quite so pretty in December. I’ll just have to make another trip when it gets warm again!

Mary Queen of Scots

Just along from the palace on the High Street is the Annet House Museum, where a bronze statue of Mary, Queen of Scots stands in the terraced garden. The High Street has lots of historic buildings, including Annet House which was built in 1787 as a wealthy merchant’s family home.

Madding Crowd logo

When I arrived in Linlithgow for a recent school visit I walked down from the train station to the High Street. My first port of call was a lovely bookshop called Far from the Madding Crowd (named after a Thomas Hardy novel). Its owner, Jill Pattle, showed me all around the shop (full of beautiful crafts as well as books) and we went downstairs to the children’s section where I signed a beam on the ceiling with a gold pen! She has asked lots of children’s authors to do the same, so I felt very important!

Low Port Primary

Next we went to Low Port Primary School, which is an impressive Victorian building that used to be a senior grammar school. It has pointy turrets and handsome stonework, making it seem very like something out of Harry Potter! I was ushered to a modern addition at the back of the school which looks out onto Linlithgow Loch. There in a big, comfortable classroom I read stories to 62 pupils (P2 and P3) and then shared some videos of Pink the Musical on their interactive white board. By the end, they were singing along!

I’ve now visited Low Port, Linlithgow Bridge and Springfield Primary Schools, and they are all fantastic! Many thanks to Jill for suggesting me for Book Week Scotland this year. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope to be back in Linlithgow before too long!

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Book Week Scotland (25 November to 1 December 2013) is only in its second year, but already it is a hugely popular fixture in the literary calendar. This year over 600 events have been taking place in schools, libraries and community centres across Scotland, with author visits, competitions, book launches and art projects celebrating the joys of reading and writing.

Like many authors, I’ve been having a great week visiting schools and sharing my books with lots of enthusiastic children! On Monday I travelled to Kirknewton Primary in West Lothian. I spent a brilliant day reading all my picture books to nursery and P1 children in the morning, and then more nursery and P2 children in the afternoon. They were all so well behaved and had lots of great questions for me! Kirknewton is a fantastic school and Mrs Fletcher was a very kind and thoughtful host.

blog CD cover

On Tuesday I spent the afternoon with all the lower primary pupils (P1 to P4) at Flora Stevenson Primary School in Edinburgh. It was the first time I had used high-tech sound equipment and a computer connected to a big screen, so we had a few technical hiccups at the beginning! Luckily there were expert teachers on hand and the children were very patient. Flora Stevenson has a strong emphasis on musical education, so I was asked to help inspire the children to write in verse and set their poems to music. This is something I enjoy very much, so it was a great pleasure to share two of my songs from Pink! the Musical and teach them the actions for “It’s Fun to be a Penguin.” Many thanks to Mrs Broadley and Mrs Brennan for inviting me!

Four children were dressed as the main characters from the stories: Officer Tod, Gallus the craw, Hooley the hoolet and a little old lady.

Four children from Comely Park Primary dressed as the main characters from their own books: Officer Tod, Gallus the craw, Hooley the hoolet and a little old lady.

On Wednesday I took part in the P4 Big Book Bash Book Launch at Comely Park Primary in Falkirk. Comely Park is my Patron of Reading school, and I had been involved early on in the creation of two Gallus and Hooley adventures with the P4 classes. You can read more about the development of both stories, written in English and Scots and beautifully illustrated by the children, HERE. The book launch was a brilliant success, attended by parents, grandparents and friends. Chris Leslie from the Scottish Book Trust, Elaine Webster from Scottish Language Dictionaries, Yvonne Manning from Falkirk Libraries and Tony Bragg, Falkirk’s Quality Improvement Officer were all there to help celebrate the children’s achievement.

My next Book Week Scotland event is a visit to Low Port Primary School in Linlithgow. I’m looking forward to meeting the P2 and P3 pupils and having a fun-filled morning talking about pink penguins, pet walruses, heroic puffins and crocodile toothaches!