Archives for posts with tag: diversity

EdBookFest logo

I had a great time at the Edinburgh Book Festival this summer, reading Pink! to a big audience of pre-schoolers and their families with the help of three very talented singers. While I read the story, Sophie Williams, Hugh McKay and Anna Cooper entertained the audience with all the songs from Pink! the Musical.

Pink 2

My three brilliant penguins all study at St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. Not only are they excellent singers, they also play instruments (Sophie plays violin and Hugh and Anna play cello). As you can see, they wore penguin hats for our show, and Hugh was dressed in pink as the central character in the story. They all did a fantastic job, so I want to say a big THANK YOU to Sophie, Hugh and Anna!

We had lots of fun singing all the Pink! songs, and at the end everyone in the audience joined in with the Fun to be a Penguin song!

Pink cover blog

Pink! is the story of a little penguin called Patrick who is very upset when he wakes up one morning to find he has turned pink overnight. His friends all tease him and the doctor can’t fix him so he goes on a journey to see if he’s better off living with pink flamingos in Africa. As it turns out, penguins and flamingos couldn’t be more different, so he swims home again to a big welcome from all his friends and family. In the end, Patrick decides that being pink is okay after all.

Birlinn logo

Recently Pink! has been republished by a small London publisher called Wacky Bee Books. They are a great group of people who have been really supportive of all my books. If you visit their website you will see an activity page dedicated to Pink! which includes video clips of the story and fun games and puzzles to download.

signing tent

After our show, Sophie, Anna, Hugh and I made our way to the signing tent, where I sat and signed books and the singers posed for photos with members of the audience. It was lovely to meet lots of children and ask them if they enjoyed singing the penguin song. They were pleased to discover both the book and the CD in the Children’s Bookshop at the festival! It was great to think that lots of children would be singing along with Patrick in the car on the way home!

blog CD cover

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


For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a Left-Hander’s Calendar. On each day of the year, it tells a fascinating story about someone left-handed, as well as listing a few famous lefties born on that day. (I’m not famous enough to be in it, but if I were, you would find me on January 20th!)

The 20th of January is a very important date in America, as every four years it is the day the President is inaugurated (or officially sworn in). This year, President Barack Obama chose to hold his public inauguration ceremony on Monday, January 21st, a very special day for all African Americans because it celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1950s and ’60s, Martin Luther King spoke out in defence of equal rights for all Americans, black or white, and he gave a famous speech, from which these words are taken:


Excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s speech of 1963.

President Obama chose this day for his inauguration ceremony to show that Martin Luther King’s dream had indeed become a reality. For those of us who share the dream of a world where all people are treated with respect, this is a hugely hopeful step!

And on a far less important note, both Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama are left-handed! Now, on to a few more interesting lefty facts…


Did you know that Lady Gaga is also left-handed? I have chosen her amongst my famous lefties because of her Born this Way Foundation, an organisation that is working to encourage young people to be themselves and accept others for who they are. They hope to provide advice on how kids can join forces and make a difference in their communities. I think it’s a great idea and I really hope they succeed!


There are many great historical figures who were left-handed. One of these was Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance artist who drew the self-portrait above when he was very old. The paper is all speckled now because the drawing was done almost exactly 500 years ago! Leonardo is most famous for his painting of the Mona Lisa, but I want to show you another of his paintings which is called the Virgin of the Rocks. It shows Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and an angel, and is one of two very similar paintings.


Leonardo was an amazing artist, but he was also a clever scientist and inventor who was enormously curious about the world and how things worked. He studied anatomy by drawing living people and animals and dissecting cadavers. He experimented with new painting techniques and materials (which didn’t always work, and this is why there are only  15 of his paintings left to us now.) He studied birds in flight and tried to invent an airplane long before the Wright brothers. Here is a video from Dr Diana all about Leonardo’s study of flight and other inventions.


Another surprising thing about Leonardo was that he wrote in backwards mirror-writing. (The sample above is of course in Italian, since that’s what Leonardo spoke.)

If you’re left-handed you will know how annoying it is to smudge all your writing as you go along. Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and wrote a lot, and back then you had to use a quill pen dipped in ink (a bit like using a fountain pen). You can imagine how smudgy that was for him! So he decided to write from right to left instead. Problem solved!

When I first heard about this as a kid, I tried it myself and found I could do it too! If you’re left-handed, give it a try: just put your pen on the right of the page and write as you would, only backwards.

I found the sample of mirror-writing above on a great website called Artsology. It’s got lots of games and puzzles all about art and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci. It’s well worth checking out!

Finally, I will just give you a few more famous lefties in case you want to do a bit more research into this fascinating topic:

HRH Prince William

Albert Einstein


Julius Caesar

Winston Churchill

Neil Armstrong

Marie Curie

Helen Keller

Sir Paul McCartney

A while back my friend Lari Don mentioned me in her blog called The Next Big Thing. This is a sort of game invented by another author, in which we each take a turn answering a set of questions about our next book or creative project, and then we list five other authors whose work we admire.

Each of those five authors does the same thing, linking to the blogs of five more authors, and all of them link to five more authors… and before you know it, there are thousands of us talking about the Next Big Thing! At some point we’ll run out of authors, but in the meantime, here are my answers to those Next Big Questions:

What is the working title of your next creative endeavour?

I’m currently working on Pink! the Musical, based on my best-known picture book (illustrated by the talented Margaret Chamberlain).

Where did the idea come from?

The original book was inspired by my daughter, who came up with the concept of a penguin who turns pink. She had no more story than that, but I thought Pink! was a brilliant title for a book and set about writing it immediately. The idea of turning it into a musical came when I was listening to an interview with Sir Tim Rice (lyricist for many celebrated musicals). He said that not many people were writing original musicals these days, and I suddenly thought, WHY NOT?

Give a synopsis of the story.

Patrick the penguin, teased and taunted for being pink, swims all the way to Africa in search of other pink birds. He soon discovers that he can’t do anything flamingos can do and that penguins, whatever their colour, belong at the south pole. He gets a hero’s welcome from his friends who have missed him and are amazed to hear about his exotic travels. His pinkness long forgotten, Patrick is home at last.

How will Pink! the Musical be produced?

Thanks to a generous grant from Creative Scotland, the musical will be produced by the Hopscotch Theatre Company which has been bringing high quality pantomimes and children’s theatre to schools across Scotland for over 20 years. I have been working with their expert manager Susan McGregor, experienced director Ross Stenhouse and talented musical director Alan Orr to create a 40-minute show for children aged 4-7. Professional set and costume designers will soon get working on puffy penguin suits and antarctic scenery. The show will be toured in 80 primary schools across Scotland starting in April 2013.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters?

This production will have three actors, two male and one female, to play six parts: Patrick, his two friends Arthur and Lulu, his Mum and Dad and Doctor Black. Hopscotch Theatre have all sorts of talented Scottish actors to choose from, and I’m sure they will have brilliant singing voices. If Pink were a West End or Broadway musical I would choose Marcus Brigstocke to play Patrick!

How long did it take you to write the manuscript?

The original picture book took several weeks of thought and redrafting, and the musical script will go through three drafts before it is ready to go to rehearsal. Transferring the picture book text to drama dialogue has been easier than I imagined. It was hugely helpful to go through the first draft with Ross Stenhouse and Lynsey Murdoch to get a sense of how the story could be best transferred to the stage. I have been really impressed by the talent and professionalism of the Hopscotch team, so I’m delighted that they agreed to embark on this project with me!

What else about the project might pique your reader’s interest?

The main purpose of Pink! the Musical is to bring an important message to young children (in a fun and entertaining way) that we are all “different” in one way or another and that we should treat each other with kindness and respect.

Now, here are a few more authors of note:

Teresa Flavin began as a fine artist and picture book illustrator, but recently discovered she has a brilliant talent for telling a gripping story! Her first book, The Blackhope Enigma, and its sequel The Crimson Shard are both published by Templar Books (UK) and Candlewick Press (US) and have been hugely popular. Watch for a third book in the series very soon…

Sara Pinto is another brilliant author/illustrator with a distinctive style and lots of quirky ideas. After publishing a number of beautiful ABC and counting books, she collaborated with Beatrice Colin to write a comical chapter book, My Invisible Sister, and produced a series of animated shorts called Quiet Is… for Disney Kids.

Janis Mackay is a Scottish writer and storyteller whose first book Magnus Fin and the Ocean Quest won the Floris Books Kelpies Prize in 2009. Two further Magnus Fin books followed and she has a new book coming out this spring called The Accidental Time Traveller. But I should let her tell you about that!

Cathy MacPhail is a force of nature. Her boundless imagination and huge enthusiasm for sharing stories makes her a big hit at her many school visits and festival appearances. She is particularly drawn to ghostly and suspenseful plots, and her Tyler Lawless series, about a girl who sees dead people, is excellent. She is an inspiration!

Theresa Breslin is another brilliant writer of award-winning historical fiction for teens. She’s written over 30 books, including Divided City which was adapted for the stage and performed to huge acclaim at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Her first book, Simon’s Challenge, was filmed for television, and Whispers in the Graveyard won the highest honour in the UK for children’s writing, a Carnegie Medal. To top it all, (like all the other writers on my list) she is a fantastic lady!

A few years ago, a teenage boy went to school wearing a pink T-shirt, and he got teased and bullied for it. Two other boys in the school decided they wanted to send a message to those bullies, so they got lots of pink shirts and talked to their friends about their plan. A few days later, the whole school was a SEA OF PINK, with lots of kids wearing pink shirts. The bullies got the message loud and clear!

Since then, the second Wednesday in April every year is the Day of Pink, when kids and grown-ups all over North America wear pink to show that they are standing up against bullying. It’s not too late for you to get involved!

Here is a brilliant YouTube video showing lots of kids from schools in Canada and the US dancing in their pink “Acceptance” T-shirts. They have chosen Lady Gaga’s song Born This Way which is perfect for celebrating diversity: VIEW VIDEO HERE.

A young man called Jeremy Dias founded the Day of Pink in Canada and his organisation continues to fight against bullying and discrimination all year round. Check out their website HERE to find out more about what they do.

This amazing pink movement was happening at the same time that my book Pink! was published. It was a total coincidence, but my book is all about a penguin being bullied because he is different! The message in Pink! is the same: everyone is different and we all deserve respect.

When Pink! was published in Canada, I got a message from a lady in Vancouver who used my book in her daughter’s classroom to talk to the children about being different. She said it was a great tool for getting kids to think about how they treated each other, and it really helped her daughter feel more accepted in the class. That gave me an idea…

Pink! is just one of many books for kids that help explore issues of diversity and acceptance. Check out the website Healthy Books for books about bullying, disability and self-esteem/being different. On this Day of Pink, maybe you can look at some of these in your school and get talking about how they share the same anti-bullying message. And see what you’ve got in your closet at home that’s pink. It’s time for a PINK CELEBRATION!