Archives for posts with tag: Patron of Reading
The Old English Beowulf manuscript is believed to date from the 11th century, making it 1,000 years old.

The Old English Beowulf manuscript is believed to date from the 11th century, making it 1,000 years old.

I learned a new word today: kenning. This is an ancient Anglo-Saxon poetic device that describes an object or person in a round-about way which sometimes takes the form of a puzzle. The epic poem Beowulf is one source of these intriguing word-pairs that describe something quite simple in a clever way. For example, a ship is described as a “wave floater” while the sea is a “whale road.” The word body becomes “bone house” and a sword is a “battle light.” Each of these paired images is far more evocative than the simple noun they replace. I particularly like “battle light” as I instantly imagine the flash of sun on a metal blade.

At my Patron of Reading school, Comely Park Primary, the P2 classes have been writing kenning poems. Today Miss Lucas sent me eight of them, and I thought they were so good I wanted to share them here. Instead of telling you what they are about, I think in the true tradition of a kenning poem, you must puzzle it out for yourselves:

Kenning 123Have you figured it out yet? I particularly like the images of a “web dangler” and a “banana hider.” Enough to give one nightmares! Here are three more poems to give you further clues:

Kenning 456Clearly Mr Colvin and Miss Meyrick are not fans of this particular creature! I can quite understand, as I’m getting the jitters thinking about a “carpet crawler” and a “house scamperer“! I quite like the image of the “bath slider” too, as you can picture the helpless beastie slipping down the shiny porcelain…

Kenning 78I like Ava’s “web weaver” and Tegan’s dramatic “people poisoner“! I think by now you must have guessed that these kenning poems are all about a spider. I wish they had sent me some drawings to go with the poems, but instead I will provide this failed banana hider:

banana spider

Comely Park Primary class P3/10 have sent me a new kenning poem they wrote together, inspired by the P2 spider poems and by a particular film trailer. See if you can guess what the film might be:

BFG kenning poemIt sounds like a pretty scary film! Here’s a link to the trailer on YouTube: The BFG trailer

Did you guess?

End of Term 2016

On the last day of school, the pupils of P3/10 presented Mrs Roy with a special poem they had written for her. It’s another kenning poem and celebrates all the wonderful things she did for them during her time as Support for Learning Assistant at Comely Park Primary:

Mrs Roy poem

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Patrick for invoice

The best thing about being a picture book writer is seeing your ideas come alive in the hands of a talented illustrator. Two of my stories are in the process of being illustrated just now, and it’s very exciting for me to see the way they are going to look!

Most of my stories start with a central character, and that was certainly true of Pink! which was illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. She cleverly captured the personality of a little penguin called Patrick who woke up one morning to discover he had turned bright pink.

Patrick and pals

Margaret has also illustrated another of my picture books, I Do Not Eat the Colour Green. In that story I imagined a determined little girl called Marlene with curly red hair (I’m not sure why) and this is what Margaret came up with:

Marlene McKean

She does look very stroppy, doesn’t she? Luckily the story ends with a smile as she discovers she does like green things after all.

Another illustrator whose work has been the perfect complement to my stories is Gabby Grant, who illustrated my two puffin books, Lewis Clowns Around and Harris the Hero. She is brilliant at drawing animals, so she was the right choice for these two books!

cute acrobats.jpg

Lewis and Harris are puffin brothers, but Lewis decides he belongs in the circus. Here you can see him performing with his fellow clown Karla the Koala. When Lewis flies off to town, his brother Harris is left all alone. Feeling lonely without a friend, Harris decides to go on his own adventure, which of course ends happily!

Harris on his own

Gabby has managed to show Harris looking sad here, which is no mean feat when it’s a stripy-beaked puffin! She is also very good at painting water and clouds, and I especially like her bird’s-eye-view angles.

Another book whose illustrations I was very pleased with is Jacob O’Reilly Wants a Pet. I didn’t really have an idea of what Jacob should look like, but this story was also full of animals (a whole range of pets) which illustrator Lee Wildish has drawn with lots of humour.

Jacob O'Reilly

The publisher decided the cover should have a walrus in the bathtub (one of the pets Jacob asks for) and it’s quite a good choice I think!

Authors don’t often get a say in who the illustrator will be. Sometimes if we’re lucky we get to see a few sample drawings and say which style we prefer. As the book is being illustrated, we can usually see the rough pencil sketches of each page and help check the text to make sure no mistakes have crept in. Later we get to see the colour “proofs” and at that point it’s pretty much too late to make any changes.

Last week I was sent rough sketches for two of my books, which was very exciting! The first is a book all about healthy eating which is called Never Bite a Tiger on the Nose. The illustrator is Eilidh Muldoon and she has done some lovely things with all my characters who are trying to eat tigers and alligators and elephants!

Abigail and Crocodile

I love the way Eilidh creates sweeping curves in her illustrations. Here we have a little girl called Abigail who wants to eat an alligator’s tail. There are also children called Emmylou, Humperdink, Lola Rose and Leopold.

veg and fruit baskets

As you can see, Eilidh has done some charming sketches of all the healthy food these children should be eating, and I think the book is going to look great when it’s done! Take a look at this clever little monkey:

monkey with banana

Once the book is finished it will be given out to preschool children across Scotland as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s Bookbug scheme. I can’t wait!

The other book that’s in the works is called One Potato. This was inspired both by the healthy eating theme and by a special request from a boy in P4 at Comely Park Primary School where I am Patron of Reading. One afternoon when I was visiting the school, Kofi put up his hand and told me that he and his friend Adam were writing a story about a runaway potato and an eagle. He asked me to write one too, and I agreed, thinking it would be a good exercise.

When I finally got down to writing my potato story, I decided to start with the rhyme, One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four. When the story was finished I sent it to Kofi’s teacher and the whole P4 year group spent some time doing illustrations for me!

One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Nice and cosy underground, they don't know what's in store...

One potato, two potato, three potato, four.
Nice and cosy underground, they don’t know what’s in store…

Suddenly a farmer's fork comes down to dig them out. They roll around upon the ground - what can this be about?

Suddenly a farmer’s fork comes down to dig them out.
They roll around upon the ground – what can this be about?

Then one by one they're tossed inside a bucket made of tin. Clatter, clang, bump and bang, we hear them going in.

Then one by one they’re tossed inside a bucket made of tin.
Clatter, clang, bump and bang, we hear them going in.

Thanks to Willow Reed, Olivia Kinloch and Abby Reid for providing those three illustrations. (There were lots more, so I’m sorry not to have room for them all here. I keep them all in my special Comely Park Primary folder).

The potato decides he does not want to go into the soup pot, and he rolls into the garden and tells the farmer’s wife she should put some other vegetables in her soup instead. She chases him all around the garden but he is too quick for her, and as he rolls down the road he says, “Nobody’s cooking me!”

I was delighted when my potato story was picked up for the Collins Big Cat series, so I have Kofi and Adam to thank for that! The preliminary sketches for One Potato are looking great, so I’ll let you know when that one comes out. The illustrator they have chosen is brilliant, but more about that later…

There are so many wonderful children’s illustrators out there that I could write about it all day! Maybe the next blog post will be about all the artists I would like to illustrate my stories. Seeing these two books come alive has certainly inspired me to get writing more!

bws-partners-index

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!

An exciting new initiative has recently been launched by Tim Redgrave, Head Teacher at a small primary school, Ysgol Esgob Morgan in north Wales. After taking his P6 pupils to a talk by author Helena Pielichaty, he was inspired to establish the Patron of Reading scheme, inviting Helena to be the very first Patron of Reading at his school.

Helena was delighted with the idea, and if you look closely you can see her amidst all the happy P6 faces in the photo above! She and Mr Redgrave have worked together to establish a clear vision of what a Patron of Reading can bring to a school, and you can read about her experiences so far in her blog HERE.

Mr Redgrave’s primary aim was to inspire a passion for reading amongst his pupils. He believed that a special personal connection could be formed between a school and an author that would motivate children to engage with reading. The author could foster an interest in books through personal visits to the school, a termly newsletter written for the pupils about books and reading, an exchange of letters, poems and other creative work between pupils and the author, and an acknowledgement and celebration of pupil successes in reading and writing by the author herself.

It seems this experiment has proved to be a resounding success, and Mr Redgrave is now recruiting both schools and authors to take part in the Patron of Reading scheme. If you’re a Head Teacher looking for an author who would like to become your Patron, visit the Ysgol Esgob Morgan website and sign up! Likewise, if you’re an author (like me) excited about this brilliant idea, you can do the same. Read more about what’s involved in being a Patron HERE. Let’s make the Patron of Reading a UK-wide phenomenon!