Archives for category: school visits


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!

Comely Park PS

Recently I had my inaugural visit to Comely Park Primary School, where I was introduced to pupils and staff as their new Patron of Reading. A huge hall with over 400 children greeted me, and it was at this final whole-school assembly that I was able to say how honoured I was to be “adopted” by the school to encourage a love of reading and writing.

My first task as Patron was to announce the winner of the School Makar, an honorary post for one lucky pupil who will write poems about school events. The winner was Ruby in P5/1, and she will have her work published in the school newsletter and here on my blog.

Following our presentation, Yvonne Manning of Falkirk Libraries told everyone about the Summer Reading Challenge and encouraged pupils to choose six books on this year’s Creepy House theme to read over the holidays. Children can also design their own scary monster, get ideas for books they might try and enter competitions HERE.

Once the assembly was over I went round a number of classes to chat with the children and read them stories. My able guides Kelsey and Logan took me round the whole school and looked after me very well!

At the end of my visit I was presented with two amazing gifts from Miss Lucas’s P4 class! One was a set of coasters which were illustrated with drawings of Gallus the Craw, a character they have developed and hope to incorporate into a picture book (with a little help from me!)

Gallus coasters2

You can see that the little rhyming verses are written in the Scots Leid which is something I am not an expert in at all! I understood the first three: Gallus the crow is golfing with his dad; Gallus the crow doesn’t like insects at all; Gallus the crow is chatting with his mum; but the last one had me stumped! It had a new Scots word I’d never seen before: tapsalteerie. As you can guess from the picture, it means upside-down. Gallus the crow is upside-down on the wall.

Wee Bannock story

The other lovely gift Miss Lucas presented me with was a bilingual picture book created by her P4 class. It’s called The Wee Bannock and is written in both English and Scots. It’s a really fun story about a bannock (a bun made with raisins and sultanas) who escapes all sorts of people who want to eat him. Here’s Kelsey’s illustration showing the bannock getting caught by a fish hook in a river:

Wee Bannock page

I’m looking forward to the new school term when I can go back to Comely Park Primary and work with the children on a wide range of exciting projects! In the meantime, have a great holiday, everyone!

PINK! logo

After many months of planning and preparation, Pink! the Musical set off on a 12-week tour around Scottish primary schools at the beginning of March. The yellow Hopscotch Theatre van is now zipping across the land, perhaps to park up in a playground near you!

Hopscotch yellow van

There are three delightful actors who play all the parts in the show. Craig Anthony-Ralston plays Patrick, the central character who is very upset when he wakes up one morning to discover he has turned pink. Craig has a lot of songs to sing, and he always wows the audience when he walks across the stage on his hands! (Or should I say flippers?)

happy Patrick

photo © Deirdre Hannon

Patrick’s Mum is played by Louise Montgomery, who sings a sweet lullabye to send Patrick to sleep. You can see in the picture below she is singing about the stars twinkling up high in the sky. Louise also plays Patrick’s best friend Arthur who tries to comfort Patrick about his terrible predicament.

louise lullabye

Lucy Avison has to be three different penguins! She plays Patrick’s Dad, his other best friend Lulu and Doctor Black who can’t figure out how to fix Patrick’s mysterious pinkness. To show the difference between all of Lucy’s characters, the designer Socks Rolland looked at the illustrations of Pink! by Margaret Chamberlain and chose some simple props to give each one. So the Dad has big round glasses, a bow tie and a newspaper, the doctor has 1950s glasses and a stethoscope, and Lulu wears a bright yellow bow on her head and carries a school satchel.

photo © Deirdre Hannon

photo © Deirdre Hannon

Here is Lucy as the Dad. You can see how simply the character can be changed with just a few little adjustments. Here she is again as Doctor Black, tending to poor worried Patrick:

photo © Deirdre Hannon

photo © Deirdre Hannon

The other challenge for Socks the designer was how to create a flock of flamingos. With only three actors to work with, this would prove rather tricky… Because he is pink, Patrick decides to swim to the southern tip of Africa where he thinks he might fit in better with other pink birds. The flamingos are perfectly polite, but poor Patrick struggles to do anything they can do.

meeting flamingos

Here is Patrick meeting the flamingos for the first time. Socks has made their long necks and curvy beaks beautifully, and they look very much like the illustrations in the book. The little pink tutus give an impression of the flamingos’ bodies, and Lucy and Louise move the heads around as though there are four birds talking to Patrick.

flamingo dance

As you can see, Patrick is very frustrated that he can’t do anything flamingos can do, so he decides to leave Africa behind and swim back home again. His friends are delighted to see him, and he gets to tell the whole class about his adventures.

Pink finale

In the end, Patrick discovers that being different is okay, and that his friends love him no matter what. The three penguins lead the children in a final rendition of the Fun to be a Penguin song with actions. Most schools are able to listen to the song in advance so that the children already know it when the show comes to their school.

song with actions

At today’s performance at Bearsden Primary School the children really enjoyed singing along and waving their arms with Patrick and his friends. After every show, the schools fill in feedback forms to help us make improvements and identify our strong points. Here are some of the comments we’ve had so far:

Just a few of the brilliant comments we've had so far!

Just a few of the brilliant comments we’ve had so far!

Each school that books the show also receives a Pink Resource Box with lots of goodies inside. These include a copy of Pink!, a CD of all the songs with the lyrics, fifteen resource sheets for classroom activities on a diversity theme, and a little beanbag fish to use in Circle Time as the “speaking toy.”

Pink cover blog

speaking fish

Click HERE to go to the Hopscotch Theatre website. There is also a short video on YouTube about the show produced by actor and filmmaker David Goodall, which you can see HERE.

Finally, I must thank Creative Scotland for the generous grant that made Pink! the Musical possible, as well as Sense Over Sectarianism and the Robertson Trust who have each funded an extra four weeks of touring to bring the musical to thousands more children this spring. The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust has also funded performances in ten primary schools in Inverclyde. With all this support we are reaching out to children across the country to help them learn to respect difference and celebrate diversity. I hope one day we can make bullying of all kinds a thing of the past.

photo © Deirdre Hannon

photo © Deirdre Hannon

rainbow puffin

After receiving 48 lovely letters inviting me to visit their school, I had a wonderful day with the P2 children at St Matthew’s Primary in Bishopbriggs. From the moment I arrived I was surrounded by eager faces, and their teachers Mrs Hannah and Miss Lochhead were warm and welcoming. I felt like a pop star!

Once I was in my chair-of-honour and the children were all sitting around me, Mrs Hannah picked up her guitar and led them in a spirited sing-song about the circus! They all sang gustily about The Girl on the Flying Trapeze and The Funny Circus Clown, and I was very impressed indeed. They sang beautifully and Mrs Hannah was a real expert on the guitar! Next to us on one wall was a huge audience made up of very individual characters:

Circus audience

When the songs were done, all eyes turned to me. I had brought several of my picture books to share with the children, and they had lots of questions for me as we went along. We talked about crazy pets and fussy eaters, and because they had spent so much time working with Lewis Clowns Around in class, they were especially keen to hear the new story all about Lewis’s brother, Harris the Hero.

Mrs Hannah showed me around her very colourful classroom, and I must say the children’s work was quite amazing! They had used Lewis Clowns Around to make circus programmes, circus drawings and circus poems, and they even had a Lewis counting wall!

circus programmes

The programmes were all very different, and inside they listed all the events happening at the circus and their starting times. I liked the way they were displayed on the wall at a jaunty angle. Very stylish!

Lewis counting wall

The Lewis counting wall helped the children learn the different combinations of numbers adding up to 5 or 7 or 9 and so on. The number 7 Lewis was juggling balls that read 0/7, 1/6, 2/5 and 3/4. What a clever way to make maths colourful and fun!

letter to Lynne

On another wall I spotted a letter addressed to me from Alyssa. It said, “Dear Lynne – If I was in the circus I would like to be a clown because they play tricks on people. Yours sincerely, Alyssa.” I thought she might like to keep the letter up on the wall at school rather than give it to me, so I took a picture of it instead.

Lewis reading corner

Later the children sat in their reading corner with copies of Lewis Clowns Around. You can see them all reading very intently! I think they all love the beautiful illustrations by Gabby Grant (and so do I!) I can’t wait for Harris the Hero to come out so I can send them a special signed copy.

Harris the Hero cover

At the end of my visit the class presented me with a big bag of goodies! They had looked on the About Me page on my website to find out more about the kinds of things I like. I happened to mention the fact that I love crunchy carrots, Bramley apple crumble and very dark chocolate. And look what they gave me!

thoughtful gift

Visiting St Matthew’s was an absolute joy, and I was so impressed by Mrs Hannah and all the P2 children. I hope they are reading this: THANK YOU, EVERYONE!

Lewis Clowns cover

Every once in a while I get a little reminder of why I have the best job in the world. Today I received three lovely packages in the post. The first two were addressed to Lynne Rickards (author) and were decorated all over with whimsical puffins. Inside I found 48 letters and 15 fantastic drawings from the P2 classes at St Matthew’s Primary School in Bishopbriggs! Their teacher Mrs Hannah explained in a note that they had been reading Lewis Clowns Around and using my Puffin Pack to learn all about the circus.

Lewis drawing

Here is one of the fabulous puffins the children drew on the outside of those two manilla envelopes. As you can see, there are some talented artists at St Matthew’s Primary! The children all wrote to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, and many of them asked me if I would come and visit their school. How can I possibly resist?

Grace's letter

All the children’s letters were beautifully illustrated with so much imagination! I was also very impressed with their handwriting, as they are all only six years old. They told me about their favourite part of the story (such as when Lewis flies up to rescue Karla koala at the top of the tent). I was very pleased to learn that not only is there a Lewis in the class, but there is also a Carla! She told me her favourite part was when she saw her name in the book.

Eran's puffin

Eran sent me this brilliant drawing of Lewis the clown, with his pompom buttons and colourful beak. I think it looks just like him. He’s clearly in a hurry, but he’d better watch where he’s going or he’ll trip over those big clown shoes!

Olivia's circus tent

Olivia decided to draw the stripy circus tent. She has cleverly remembered to add the ropes that hold the tent up, so it won’t fall over or fly off in the wind.

I sat for a long time looking at all the children’s letters and drawings, thinking how lucky I was to be a picture book author. Who else gets such wonderful surprises in the post? And then I remembered the third envelope. It was from my publisher, and inside was a copy of my new book, Harris the Hero. This story follows on from Lewis Clowns Around, and is all about Lewis’s brother who sets off on an adventure of his own.

Harris the Hero cover

This is another rhyming story and it’s beautifully illustrated by Gabby Grant. In the last book she had to draw all sorts of circus animals, from flying blue monkeys to balancing pandas, but this time she has drawn the many birds and animals that live on the east coast of Scotland. These include puffins, guillemots and seagulls that perch on the rocky cliffs.

birds on cliff

Gabby has also drawn seals, otters, dolphins, fish and one eider duck! All of these creatures come to Harris’s aid when he finds a little lost seal who is stuck in Anstruther Harbour. When Harris and the little seal start to struggle against giant waves, the other friends all come together to help bring the seal home again.

Harris and seal

I can’t wait to share my new book with all the children who have enjoyed Lewis Clowns Around, starting with the P2 pupils at St Matthew’s Primary School! I wonder if there’s a Harris in the class…

Harris in flight