Pirates Ahoy!

I was invited to hold a workshop session at Evesham's Festival of Words this weekend. It was great! The children who came along were so enthusiastic and attentive.

 

After listening to the story of Bossy Jonathan Fossy (and how a bunch of pirates manage to make him see the error of his ways), they created some fantastic pirate hats before penning some even more fabulous poems. We heard about hairy pirates and scary pirates, lazy pirates and crazy pirates, even boring pirates and snoring pirates - so much original rhyming from them all I was worried there was too much competition!

 

To finish off we sang all about Ten Brave Pirates Sailing on a Ship (Think Ten Green Bottles and you're there).

 

Well done everyone...

 

Making the pirate hats.

 

Still hard at work...

 

...Fred my talking parrot was rather a distraction!

 

 

Arrr! Five of the brave pirates getting ready to sing.

A Grand Picnic in the Park

 

On Sunday The Valley in Evesham held a Picnic in the Park, a fun afternoon for all the family including storytelling, songs, pony rides, a fancy dress competition and a train to ride on. It was a huge success, not in the least helped by the fact the sun managed to shine and the rain held off until we had finished...phew!

 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading my story about Bossy Jonathan Fossy and his run-in with a band of pirates, plus I got to help judge the fancy dress competition too. There were some brilliant costumes, ranging from Dorothy and the lion through Pocahontas to Snow White and Captain America - something for everyone.

 

I'd taken along a treasure map and invited the children to guess where the pirates had hidden their loot. Each marking their chosen spot with an X, it wasn't long before the map was covered. The lion guessed correctly....obviously good at sniffing out the gold coins!

 

There were more stories from a fellow writer and some songs too. A great afternoon which we all hope will become an annual event....watch this space!

Return to The Valley

This week I was invited back to The Valley and so I decided to share some of my favourite books with the children who came along.

 

In each session we found out all about 'Green Eggs and Ham' (Dr Seuss), watched 'Preposterous Rhinoceros' (Tracy Gunaratnam) try to learn to read and listened very carefully to 'Open Very Carefully, A Book With Bite' (Nick Bromley & Nicola O'Byrne)....I think we are all keeping a careful lookout for any more crocodiles that may be lurking inside our stories!

 

Then I read my favourite 'Ever So' story. This changes frequently, but on this day it was 'Nosy Tabitha Posy'. 




Then there was plenty of time for drawing the rather sleepy tiger from the story....

Thank you everyone who came along - and staff at The Valley - another great day!

BlestFest 2015

I was thrilled to be asked to deliver a session for children at Bampton's BlestFest last weekend. This Oxfordshire village is one which took the decision to keep their library open, following the cuts of 2010, by holding fund raising events to make sure they retained both the library itself and their professional librarians.

The village is stunning - real Cotswold fare. Small wonder it was chosen as the setting for much of Downton Abbey's exterior filming.


The library itself doubles as the cottage hospital in the series......

                                                   

Blest is actually the acronym for Bampton Library Events Support Team. When the library was threatened with closure, this voluntary group got together to try and keep it a professional and vibrant place. They certainly seem to have achieved their aim. The place is welcoming and full to the brim with everything you would expect from a library. Blest continue to support their professional library manager, Loraine Hall, by staging additional talks and events such as this festival, to raise both funds and the profile of the library itself within the community.     


The County Librarian was on hand throughout this festival weekend. Chatting to him I discovered that Oxford had managed to keep open ALL its libraries, many of them continuing to be professionally run. Just shows what can be done with determination and spirit.


I arrived quite early, so had a look round the village and festival stalls before my event. Then I settled down in the library and spent a happy half hour or so sharing my favourite books with children (and their parents!), plus heard all about some of their favourite stories too. Then we listened to the tales of Mrs MacCready and Tabitha Posy, which went down well.... though no one seemed to like the thought of Mrs MacCready eating worms!


I thoroughly enjoyed being a small part of this festival and wish Bampton Library all the best for their future.....and I'll end with a few photos of this beautiful village.



Fun with poems at The Valley

I had a really good time at The Valley (formerly Evesham Country Park) when I went along to share some of my favourite funny poems. 


Two groups of enthusiastic children came along to listen and join in. They laughed in all the right places.....I think Spike Milligan's 'Today I Saw A Little Worm' may have been their favourite!



I read the children some limericks too. I'd decided (goodness knows why, given I have an amazing illustrator who creates the pictures in my books, for which there is very good reason) that I should draw a couple of pictures to go with the limericks. I think it may be possible that these drew the biggest laugh of the day, though the children had promised me they wouldn't!!


Then we listened to the story of Mrs MacCready (who was ever so greedy!).....

....followed up with lashings of funny food poems and then.....


                                               .....the children created a food poem of their very own.


After lots of suggestions as to what food we should write about, the first group chose jelly. Much thought went in to words to describe jelly and this is the poem we came up with...


The second group chose chocolate cake! There were some fantastic words used including 'gooey' and 'ginormous'.....a child after my own heart there!


All that hard work just left time for the children to either draw their favourite foods or write their own poem. Even more hard work went on....


...until time was up. The children were treated to an Ever So book as part of the event. Seem to have had some happy customers!


I'd like to say a big thank you to the children and parents who came along. I hope you all enjoyed yourselves as much as I did! Also to the staff at The Valley....I didn't have to carry a thing in or out....all seen to for me! Plus a perfect venue. Hope to be back again......



Stratford-on-Avon Literary Festival 2015

I'm just back from a lovely morning spent reading my 'Ever So' stories to children at The Artshouse in Stratford-on-Avon.

 

The festival committee had organised 'drop-in' sessions for preschoolers and their parents each morning this week, with storytelling and activities for the children. 

 

I was astounded to see several mums and their children arriving at 9.30am - I thought it might be rather quiet to start with!


Then, a bit later, a group arrived from Cygnets Nursery...so more storytelling needed!

 

Everyone listened really well to the crazy tales about the characters from Hamilton Shady and lots of colouring in and drawing of favourite foods on paper plates took place....

Apparently, the chair they gave me to sit on for the reading sessions came from the RSC. It's possible some well-known actors' bottoms may have graced it at some points in its history......shame I had to sit on it, really.

I'd like to thank everyone at the festival for looking after me so well - especially Gail, who can work wonders with blu-tac!


Also, the lovely Lydia from Stratford Waterstones - ever ready to sell books!

                             

                                                  Here's to next year!




Warwick Words Festival

I've just returned from a pleasant Sunday morning helping to deliver a 'Tabitha Posy' storytelling & craft workshop for young readers as part of Warwick Words Summer Festival. It was great fun. I say I was helping - it was a workshop hosted by myself and fellow children's writers from Storyvine, the Warwick-based writing group which we formed back in 2012. Terri and Jenny and her daughter, Kitty, all worked hard presenting, sharing their favourite books and making some very tricky masks. I had the easy task of simply chatting about my favourite books to the children and telling them some stories.

 

Refreshments were gratefully received, especially by the hard-working adults who seemed to be roped in to quite a bit of mask making!

 

I'd like to thank Helen Meeke and her helpers from Warwick Words for inviting us and looking after us so well.

 

To finish, some photos of the day.....

Wychwood Kidlitfest 2014

This year Booktrust were at the Wychwood Festival. Hooray! Waterstones (who run the Kidlitfest) are founding partners of Booktrust's Children's Reading Fund and nominated Booktrust as their charity partner to raise funds for this excellent cause. The Children's Reading Fund is all about improving the life chances for disadvantaged children in the UK - those in care, those with additional needs and those in families where economic exclusion is a barrier to reading and writing. Specifically targeted at children aged between 4 and 11, the Fund uses books, e-books, CDs, games and performance to inspire children to engage more with reading and writing. As I've said many times before, Booktrust's research has shown just what a difference a love of books at an early age can make to a person's life.

So, I was particularly happy to find I was holding my event at the Booktrust tent. Several children wandered over to listen to me chat about my favourite books. They were especially good at guessing which of my two tall tales was the true one! They listened well to the story of Tabitha Posy and then made some fantastic masks of both Tabitha and the tiger.

There were some brilliant sneezes (snake) and snores (tiger) as I read the story again while the children joined in with their masks.

Who can snore the loudest?
Who can snore the loudest?

Thank you Waterstones, for inviting me to take part in the festival again - and all the best to Booktrust and their Children's Reading Fund.

 

If anyone would like to find out more about Booktrust and their amazing work please go to www.booktrust.org.uk 

Bardstown Writers' Group

Yesterday I spent a large percentage of the day practising what I was going to say to this group of active writers in Stratford-on-Avon that evening. They had invited me along to talk about my experiences as a picture book writer. I was thrilled, but just a little nervous. I usually talk to and interact with children, in schools or at festivals or book store events. That's fine and I love it, but I had never delivered a talk to adults before, let alone adults who write.

 

I needn't have worried. What a lovely and welcoming group of people, who listened to what I had to say and asked questions and looked at all the items I'd taken along - my early scribblings and examples of how much a text changes before publication; my illustrator's first character sketches, original paintings and, of course, the finished books.

 

I think I managed to make sense when I tried to explain what it takes to create a picture book and some of the accepted 'rules' for writing them (which are always there to be broken!). I think they enjoyed it when I read excerpts from 'Room on the Broom' to demonstrate some points. I know I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would be quite happy to talk to adults again!

 

Thank you, everyone at Bardstown, for inviting me and giving me such a relaxed and interesting evening. Good luck with all your writing.

Mrs MacCready & Tabitha Posy at Soho Coffee Co in Cheltenham

Soho Coffee Company are running a 'summer of stories' through August, with staff reading one of four specially chosen picture books each Tuesday in their stores around the country. I was astounded and delighted to discover that 'Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy' had been chosen as one of those books and when marketing director Gill Bream contacted me to see if I would consider reading at my nearest store I jumped at the chance.

As well as providing craft activities after the story telling (and also giving each child a goody bag complete with their own gingerbread man to devour just like Mrs M!), the staff are raising money through donations at each event for the leukaemia charity LINC.

I had a wonderful time reading Mrs M and Tabitha Posy - you can't stop me once I start - to a great crowd of children.....

There were a few gasps of horror when Tabitha was swallowed by the tiger!
There were a few gasps of horror when Tabitha was swallowed by the tiger!

...several of whom came along on an outing from Tyler's Tiny Tots. I loved their t-shirts (see above). Made me think of 'The Cat in the Hat' and Thing 1 & Thing 2!

Tyler's Tiny Tots plus one!
Tyler's Tiny Tots plus one!

A big thank you to Gill Bream, Kelly and all the staff. I hope the rest of the events go as well and lots more is added to today's donations.

Wychwood Festival 2013

I had the pleasure of taking part in the Wychwood Festival's Kids' Literature event this year. Set up and run by Cheltenham Waterstone's (huge praise and thanks to Barbara and her team for an amazing programme of events & a fantastic book store in a tent!), I was positioned in front of the main store to read to all interested parties and create as much mess as possible with my 'craft your favourite food on a plate'.

All set and ready to go. It was hot!!
All set and ready to go. It was hot!!

Prior to starting I had my first surreal moment of the day. Whilst chatting to Amanda, staff member who was helping me, another lady walked up and asked if 'The Mrs MacCready Lady was definitely going to be appearing.' I waved my hand at her in a suitably daft fashion, thinking she was another member of staff, only to discover she was a genuine fan (or, more correctly, her daughter was) and they were looking forward to meeting me. Her daughter was great. Although not quite reading yet, she recited the whole book for me and went on to produce a wonderful plate of sparkly 'food'!

Anna telling me the entire sorry tale of Mrs MacCready.
Anna telling me the entire sorry tale of Mrs MacCready.

More people stopped by and listened to the story. Lots more delicious looking (and very colourful) plates of food were made.

That glue can be very sticky!
That glue can be very sticky!

You can never be quite sure if you've completely filled your plate -

Yep, that's enough.

I think I can see some yummy spaghetti and meatballs there.
I think I can see some yummy spaghetti and meatballs there.

I had a great time and met some lovely young book lovers. I hope all their plates of food made it home safely!

Tabitha Posy at Stratford-on-Avon Waterstone's

I had a great time back in Stratford on Saturday, meeting new young readers and even some who had been to hear me read Mrs MacCready last year and were back for more!

Enjoying listening to the story again!
Enjoying listening to the story again!

Children from 2 to 8 enjoyed the story of Tabitha and her encounter with a rather large cat. Some even read it to me!

 

I was delighted when a 'real' Tabitha Posy sat down to tell the tale.

You can hear the whole story read by her on my Home page - she does it brilliantly. I think I may have to work harder when I read in future!

A big thank you to Jenn and all the staff at Stratford-on-Avon Waterstone's - great store!

Redditch Waterstone's

What a fantastic couple of hours I spent in Waterstone's Redditch today! I didn't have a minute to sit still - there were so many people wanting to hear the tale of Mrs MacCready and do some colouring in and drawing.

One of the many crowds who came to listen.
One of the many crowds who came to listen.

One dad even read the story for me - with a brilliant variety of voices!

Thank you to all the staff at Redditch - I will definitely come back in the summer!

Waterstone's in Solihull

I had a great time reading my book 'Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy' at Waterstone's in Solihull. The staff were helpful and friendly and there were loads of children ready to listen to the story and do lots of colouring in for me.

The sweets provided by the store went down well too!

Mrs Hunter - a teacher dedicated to books!
Mrs Hunter - a teacher dedicated to books!

I met some lovely people. Mrs Hunter (above with me) was so enthusiastic about reading and books. It's fantastic to know there are such people out there encouraging new readers. I hope her class - 3F - will enjoy the story of Mrs MacCready.

Thank you Waterstone's Solihull and all the people I met there - especially the little boy who, after listening to Mrs M and asking to buy the book, then asked me to read Julia Donaldson's 'The Gruffalo's Child'. I was happy to - it's one of my favourites!

NEC Christmas Gift Fair

Before the onslaught!
Before the onslaught!

Today I was at the NEC Christmas Gift Fair with my publishers Maverick Books. What a day! There was festive music - live and 'canned' - food, drink, Santa himself and rows upon rows of booths selling everything conceivable for christmas decorating, eating and giving.

The books seemed to fly off the shelves on our stand once the morning got going. There were so many people! I had a great time signing and chatting with people. I even managed to do a spot of shopping myself - have you ever tried to carry a 5 foot snowman onto a bus and then get it home? Not easy. I'm pleased to say he is now happily creating a christmas atmosphere in our lounge having arrived home safely.

Hopefully Mrs MacCready will be filling up a few Christmas stockings this year and entertaining lots of children!

 

One happy snowman.
One happy snowman.

Laughing in Leamington

We had a great time listening to the tale of Mrs MacCready in Waterstone's Leamington Spa. The idea of eating worms seemed to draw different responses....

Eventually, we all decided it wasn't a good idea.

Lots of hard work was carried out .....

.....and we did so well we've been invited back for Christmas!

Lighthorne Heath Children's Centre

Everyone joined in.
Everyone joined in.

Lighthorne Heath Children's Centre is a wonderful place to visit. Light and bright and full of enthusiastic people it was a pleasure to go and read 'Mrs MacCready's' tale to them all. We had a great time listening and colouring in or drawing food on plates.....

Busy, busy, busy!
Busy, busy, busy!

And being caught unawares by the person in charge of the camera!

Are you pointing that at me?
Are you pointing that at me?

I'd like to say a huge thank you for my welcome and time spent with you all.

Story Session at Evesham Library

What a talented bunch of artists came along to hear 'Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy' at Evesham Library today!

All our favourite food.
All our favourite food.

They even created some plates of magical food - sausages that dance, peas that sing and some really noisy pizza!

Plates full of chocolate cake, pizza, broccoli, grapes, strawberries, peas, ham........
Plates full of chocolate cake, pizza, broccoli, grapes, strawberries, peas, ham........

Leeds book signing

Saturday afternoon on May 28th saw me in Waterstone's in Leeds reading and signing copies of my book 'Mrs MacCready Was Ever So Greedy'.

 

I had a great time meeting all the children. They listened brilliantly to the story and did some wonderful colouring-in and designed excellent meals on plates!

 

Here are some pictures of the event -

What colour next?
What colour next?
Hard at work.
Hard at work.
How much did she eat?!
How much did she eat?!
All ages welcome!
All ages welcome!