Comely Park Primary School in Falkirk, Scotland, where I am a proud Patron of Reading, has a special mascot bear called Parker. As you can imagine, Parker has been very lonely in school since the lockdown, and he is looking forward to the day when the children will return. In the meantime, he has painted a rainbow for his window, and he’s been thinking about how to help everyone feel more positive about the future.

Parker is quite a creative bear, and he has been writing some poetry. It made him feel better to think about the colours of the rainbow and all the things he is looking forward to doing with the children when they come back to school. You can read his poem here:

Parker was so pleased with his poem that he thought he would challenge all his Comely Park friends to write one too! And that’s where I come in. As Comely Park Patron of Reading, it’s my job to launch this exciting new writing challenge: Parker’s Positive Poetry.

So what can you write about, I hear you ask. Well, Parker has provided a few ideas to get you started. You can write about all the things you like about being at home instead of at school. You can talk about all the things you are looking forward to once school starts again. You can describe how the world has changed, like the cleaner air and all the animals and birds coming out of hiding. You can imagine what the future will be like – will we all just go back to the way we were, or will things change for the better?

Your poem can be in any form and any length, from a short haiku to a kenning or acrostic poem. It can rhyme or not rhyme – it’s entirely up to you!

Every poem submitted to your teacher will be posted on this page. I’m hoping there will be lots of brilliant work added here over the next few weeks! Good luck and happy writing!

And here are the first entries – some crackers already!

Lucian P7

Macy P6

Katie P1

Gregor P6

Emma P7

Ekua P7 1

Ekua P7 2

Ekua P7 3

Lilly P6

Joshua P4

Malak P4

Finlay P6

Eve P6

Wiktoria P6

Amy P3M

          Alistair P3M

Orrin P3

Amelia P6

Hannah P5

Luke P5

Aleena P7

Holly P7

Leia P7

Alexander P6

Beau P6

Lily P1

Amelia P1

Stella P5

Magnus P4

Andrew P2

Eylulnaz P6

Leo P2

Emmy P3

Mishal P3

Emma P3

Hayden P3

Madeline P7

Evie P7

Cairn P7

Coco P2

Lewis P5

Ryan P6

Daniel P7

Katie P7

Lewis P7

Louise P7

Emily P4

Alexandra P4

Finlay P4

Hamish P4

Holly P4

Imogen P4

Nina P4

Fawn P1

Eleanor P1

Tugrul P1

Luke P4

Roddy P5

Turgut P5

Ryan P6

Emme P6

Lauren P6

Charlotte P6

Logan P1

Isla P1

Eva P6

Molly P6

Fayaaz P7

Joe P6

Cara P7

Orla P7

Sophie P4

Zander P4

Penny P4

Leila P3

Raife P1

Poppy P6

Melek P3

Emma2 P3

Christopher P5

Rory P2

Ava P3

Ava P7

Josie P7

Christian P6

Lucia P5

Ryan3 P6

Bailey P5

Vinnie P5

Christopher P5

James P5

Rory P5

Amelie P5

Marcus P5

Robbie P5

Hannah P7

Olivia P7

Hollie P2

Lily P2

Ewan P2

Emma P2

Jamie P5

Rosie P1

Amy P3

Issy P2

Angus P7

Ellis P7

Ben P1

Aanya P1

April P1

Andrew P1

Alistair P4

Harris P4

Isla P4

Jack P4

Keeva P4

Lewis P4

Millie P4

Freya P4

Eva P1

Emily P6

Matthew P4

Alexander P3

Isabella P3

Eva P3

Aashif P3

Ghulam P4

Mikey P3

Jacob P3

Noah P3

Abigail P4

Georgia P2

Lucy P7

Rosa P2

Scottish wildcat

Wildcats used to wander the whole of the UK, having first come across from Europe thousands of years ago when southern England was connected by land to the Netherlands and parts of Germany. Over the centuries, through hunting and loss of habitat these cats became more rare in England, and by the early 1900s they could only be found in the sparsely populated Highlands of Scotland. Today, even here they have become an endangered species, with only about 300 animals living in the wild.

Kendra and kitten

Scottish wildcats look quite like domestic tabby cats, but their heads are broader, their tails thicker with distinctive black stripes, and they have no white on their paws or chest. The photos above were taken by Peter Trimming at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, which has a group of wildcats in captivity. In Scotland, the wild ones are much harder to spot, as they keep themselves hidden and only come out at dusk to hunt.

The Highland Wildlife Park is just south of Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. Staff there are working together with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to build up a population of wildcats that can be released into the wild. This project is being supported by an EU LIFE grant of £3.2 million, with additional funding and support from a range of wildlife trusts. The Saving Wildcats project will work to breed a healthy community of wildcats from British and European stock over the next six years, with the aim to release some into the wild in 2022. These may be released in the Cairngorms to begin with, and then perhaps in other parts of Scotland in future.

Willow cover

After writing stories about Scottish puffins and red squirrels for the Picture Kelpies series published by Floris Books, my next book is Willow the Wildcat. Willow and her brother Corrie are full of energy and love to wrestle, but when their den is destroyed by a curious sheepdog, they have to work together to help their mum find a new home. This is no easy task, especially as they have to watch out for some scary creatures along the way.

corrie and fish

The illustrator Kirsteen Harris-Jones captures the playful kittens very well.

willow and corrie

Let’s hope Scottish wildcats will continue to live and thrive in the Highlands of Scotland for many more years to come.

Greta_Thunberg_au_parlement_européen_(33744056508),_recadré

Most people around the world recognise this famous young climate change activist from Sweden. When Greta Thunberg was only eight years old, she learned that the air pollution we humans create by burning fossil fuels is causing terrible damage to our planet.

masks in China

Many cities are choking with coal smoke and car exhaust. In China, sometimes the air is so polluted that children have to stay indoors. All this pollution is building up in the atmosphere, and causing temperatures to rise around the world. This has brought about dramatic changes in the weather, with serious floods and hurricanes in some places, and hot, dry weather leading to terrible wildfires in others. These higher temperatures also affect the habitats of many animals, birds, sea creatures and insects. When a food source dies out because of these changes, the survival of many other creatures is at risk:

food chain

Greta was shocked by all of this information, but what she found most upsetting was the fact that no one was doing anything about it. How could people just carry on as if everything was fine? The science was clear: we would have to act now to stop climate change, or the young people of today would have no future.

In August 2018 when she was 15, Greta decided to go on strike. Every Friday she sat outside the Swedish parliament building in Stockholm with a sign: School Strike for the Climate. She handed out flyers with a list of facts about the climate crisis, explaining why she was striking. At first she was alone, but soon other climate activists shared photos and news about her online, and many more people heard her message. Other young people who cared about the future joined her Friday strikes, and in time there were marches and demonstrations happening all over the world.

climate strike

Greta has been invited to speak at many international conferences, and has received awards for her environmental work. Her message is stark, and it is aimed at all politicians who have the power to make the changes that are needed. All her speeches so far have been collected in a book called No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.

Greta Thunberg book

Her speeches are direct and powerful. She is proud to have Asperger’s, which she describes as her superpower, because it allows her to see the simple ‘black-and-white’ of issues. She is criticised by rich white men and told she should go back to school. This is what she says to them:

“You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to your children. But I don’t care about being popular; I care about climate justice and the living planet. We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue to make enormous amounts of money. We are about to sacrifice the biosphere so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.”

Greta Thunberg, Unpopular, UN Climate Change Conference, Katowice, Poland, 12.12.2018

Greta is an inspiration for millions of young people, and lots of older ones too! We can’t all be dedicated climate change activists, but no one is too small to make a difference. Here are a few ideas for how we can all do something to help:

• Air travel causes huge amounts of air pollution. While it’s not easy for everyone to sail across the Atlantic like Greta, it is possible to reduce how much we fly, and think about using trains and other public transport whenever we can.

• Animal agriculture is another major cause of pollution and environmental damage. If we eat less meat, we can help the planet and improve our health at the same time.

• Mass production of plastics, electronic gadgets and clothing is clogging up our environment. This Christmas, give a gift you’ve made yourself, forget the wasteful wrapping paper, and instead of sending cards, why not give them a call?

• Importing food from across the world produces lots of pollution, since most of it has to be flown in. Try and choose foods that are grown more locally whenever possible, and remember to avoid all the plastic packaging.

• Energy companies that use renewable sources like solar, wind and tidal power are becoming more common now. In time, we should all get rid of gas boilers and petrol cars and switch to renewable electricity for all our power needs.

• What else do you think we can do?

cute boy scowling

Recently my son moved to his own flat, and he asked me to paint something to brighten up one of the many bare, white walls. I hadn’t actually picked up a paintbrush for years, so I was a bit nervous about the idea! Luckily I had a spare canvas lying around from an earlier creative period, and I had a few ideas of what I could paint. At first I thought some abstract stripes would be easy, and look striking on a white wall. I was inspired by the work of Sean Scully, having seen a documentary about him a few months ago.

scully landscapes

The blues and blacks of Scully’s horizontal stripes remind me of a landscape, and the colours in the painting above instantly brought back a memory of a poster I had in art school. It was from a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1984 called The Mystic North, featuring both Canadian artists and Scandinavian painters such as the Norwegian Harald Sohlberg.

blue landscape

The poster from the exhibition was a detail from Sohlberg’s Night, painted in 1904. I just loved the deep blues of the evening sky and the tiny golden light in the church window:

Night H Sohlberg

But much as I would like to paint compelling landscapes or cool abstract stripes, I am not that kind of artist. My little blank canvas was only 40 x 50cm, so it could never have the impact of a full-sized Scully. What I love to paint most is a portrait. So that’s what I did. And for my boy, now grown up and decorating his first flat, I gave him a little reminder of the kid he used to be.

DSC00658

Lynne Rickards Pink Day

I first heard about the International Day of Pink ten years ago when I was busy visiting schools and book festivals dressed in a fuchsia coat to promote my latest book, Pink! The Day of Pink began with a story that hit the Canadian media in 2007, when two senior high school students, David Sheppard and Travis Price, saw a new boy at school being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They decided to mobilise the whole school, and the next day almost everyone was wearing pink in solidarity. The boy was overwhelmed by so much support, and those bullies saw they were hugely outnumbered. David and Travis became local heroes, and grassroots support for an anti-bullying campaign began to spring up all over Canada.

Soon the idea was picked up in other countries too, and the wearing of pink has become a symbol widely recognised as a way to combat bullying and discrimination against minorities of all kinds in society. Because it has been adopted in so many different places, there are several official days for wearing pink.

In 2012, the United Nations declared May 4th to be Anti-bullying Day. In Canada, Pink Shirt Day is held on the last Wednesday in February, and the same date is anti-bullying day in Australia, New Zealand, France, Lebanon, the UK and the US. In addition, the International Day of Pink is held on the second Wednesday in April, which is today. I guess you can’t have too many days of the year to stand up against bullying!

By pure coincidence, my book (first published in 2008) was all about a young boy penguin who got teased at school for being pink. The idea for the book (a penguin who turns pink overnight) had come from my young daughter. I had the kernel of a story, but I needed to establish a problem to be solved (key to every picture book text). If this were a girl penguin, she would probably be delighted, showing off her pink feathers to all her jealous friends. A boy penguin, on the other hand, would be horrified, as “BOYS CAN”T BE PINK!” I had my story.

PINK cover UK 2019 Sm RGB

Pink! was illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain and has had several publishers over the years. This month it has hit the shelves with a brand new cover and a new shape, thanks to Wacky Bee Books.

Poor Patrick hates being pink, but the doctor can’t fix him so he has to put up with a lot of pointing, whispering and teasing from his friends. When his dad shows him a photo of beautiful pink flamingos, he decides he will try to fit in with them instead. He swims for seven days and seven nights, all the way to South Africa where everything is very different. The flamingos invite him for lunch, but he struggles to do any of the things they can do. He can’t eat what they eat, or stand on one leg to take a nap. Finally, all the flamingos fly off to the nesting ground, leaving him behind. Patrick decides to swim home again, where the water is lovely and cold and he can eat his favourite krill breakfast. His friends are delighted to have him back, and he tells the whole class about his travels to Africa. They are all very impressed! Patrick is glad to be back where he belongs, and he decides that being pink is just who he is.

I really didn’t plan to write a book about bullying or celebrating diversity. I just started with Patrick and it grew from there. Since it was first published, Pink! has been used in schools and nurseries across Scotland to teach young children about accepting others who are “different.” When the book went out of print in 2012, I had a new idea: Pink the Musical!

Today, 10 April 2019 is International Day of Pink. I’ll be getting my bright pink coat out of the closet to show solidarity and stand up to bullying of all kinds. What will you be wearing?

stop bullying