April 2014

We were all sad to see the wonderful Miss Lucas leave the school temporarily to work with Education Scotland in February. I really enjoyed working with her and the P4 classes on the Gallus stories, and I am thrilled that one of the stories I wrote for a P4 pupil (at his suggestion) is going to be published this year.

As Patron of Reading at Comely Park, I need a teacher to be my link to the school, and now I have the lovely Miss McGrow who has gamely stepped into the role! She is a P2 teacher and recently her class were writing stories about a dragon. They were also learning all about the 1960s (When Gran Was a Girl), and so I was invited to come along in April to share my memories of being a kid in the 1960s.

As you can see in a separate post on this blog, I decided to collect pictures of all the toys and games I remember from those days, including Silly Putty and Barbie’s little sister Skipper and a Slinky. Not everything started with S – I also brought in a toy Troll with bright orange hair, and a book I particularly loved by Gene Zion and illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham called Harry the Dirty Dog.

I had a fantastic afternoon visiting as many classes as I could! I read stories with the P1s and talked about toys with the P2s. Miss McGrow’s class shared their dragon story with me and I had a lovely visit with the P4 classes as well. It was great to be able to tell them about my new book, One Potato, which was inspired by two boys in the class, Kofi and Adam. Thanks, guys!

To top off my afternoon, I had a nice chat with Ruby the School Makar, who has written lots of poems to celebrate special events during the school year. Her term is nearly up now, so I wonder if there will be a new competition for next year’s School Makar?


November 2013

Both P4 classes have been working hard on their Gallus stories, writing first in English and then in Scots, and creating some amazing illustrations for the final books. They are going to have an official launch of both titles, Castle Catastrophe and Trouble Bruin, on Wednesday 27 November, but I can give you a sneak preview of both stories here!

In each case, the story begins with four crows waiting on a wall for their brother Gallus. They wait and they wait, but Gallus is nowhere to be seen…

Castle Catastrophe 1


Castle Catastrophe 2


Castle Catastrophe 3


Castle Catastrophe 4

The rest of the story involves Gallus looking everywhere for Hooley, and getting into lots of trouble in the process! Officer Tod the fox policeman is soon after Gallus, and Hooley gets shot out of a cannon with unfortunate consequences!

In Trouble Bruin, Gallus and Hooley want to start up their own soft drink company so they visit an Irn Bru factory to see how it’s done. When Hooley goes missing again, Gallus flies from room to room looking for him, and ends up in some sticky situations. This is the Scots version of the story:

Trouble Bruin 1


Trouble Bruin 2


Trouble Bruin 3


Trouble Bruin 4

As you can see, both books are full of fun and beautifully illustrated by the amazing P4 children at Comely Park Primary. I can’t wait to see the finished books next time I visit the school. Watch this space, as I’ll report more soon!

September 2013

The new term has begun and the children at Comely Park Primary are all set for another exciting year of reading and writing! I was delighted that Miss Lucas and the P4 pupils were keen for me to come in September and help them write a story together about a very special character.

Gallus display

Gallus the Craw is a cheeky, clever, funny crow who does NOT like to play by the rules. His best friend is Hooley the hoolet, a little owl who is flighty and fun-loving (hooley is Scots for “party” and hoolet means “owl”). Hooley and Gallus (which means “cheeky”) couldn’t be more different. Gallus is black and Hooley is white; Gallus is awake in the daytime and Hooley is up hunting all night; and Gallus is mischievous while Hooley tries his best to be good.

I was pleased that the P4s had thought so much about their two main characters, as this is a great way to write a picture book. Most of my books have begun that way, with the idea of a miserable pink penguin, a wild red-haired girl who hates vegetables or a little boy desperate to have a pet.

Miss Lucas and Gallus

Miss Lucas’s class also have some actual toys to help bring these characters to life. Gallus is a big, hairy crow puppet with a giant yellow beak. Sometimes he looks quite scary when his fuzzy brow gives him angry eyes! Little Hooley is very soft and white, and about a quarter of the size of Gallus. It was great to be able to use the two toys in class to get the children to tell me all about their personalities.

The children had done lots of work before my visit, thinking up all sorts of naughty things Gallus and Hooley could get up to. We talked through some really fun ideas, such as:

Gallus rides off on an old lady’s mobility scooter while she is in the shops, and he rolls down a hill and the scooter falls into the canal!

Hooley wants a present for his mum’s birthday so he steals the Crown Jewels from Edinburgh Castle and poor Gallus gets blamed for the crime!

Hooley and Gallus rob a bank but Hooley is worried about being recognised so he makes himself an owl costume (Hooley the owl is not too bright!)

Hooley sees something in a shop window that he wants so he flies right at it and knocks himself out!

As you can see, the P4 pupils at Comely Park are full of imagination! The next thing we did was give everyone a big A3 sheet of paper with six squares on it (like comic book cells). The children all set about drawing their stories and adding lines of text and speech bubbles to fill in the details. Miss Lucas gave them some tips on how to draw a crow and an owl, using very simple designs.

Gallus and Hooley

This is how the children drew the two characters, and the stories all looked fantastic! Eventually all the stories can be put together in a little book that the children can share with friends and family. I’m really looking forward to getting my copy too!

Here are some character sketches the children have done of Officer Tod and the little old lady from Edinburgh:

Officer Tod one

As you can see, Officer Tod is a fox, as the Scots word for fox is “tod”.

Officer Tod two

Officer Tod is sensible, fair and kind, and always has his eye on Gallus.

Old lady one

The little old lady is cross and is not a fan of Gallus or Hooley. We’ll have to wait for the story to find out why…