• The Enormous Pineapple

    ‘The Enormous Pineapple’, published by Oxford University Press, is ENORMOUSLY exciting for me.  Why?  Because it’s my first educational picture book. OK, obviously I have a bit of explaining to do.   A bit of background. I write picture books for ‘trade’ publishers.  And I write pupil books, or readers for ‘educational’ publishers.  ‘Trade’ books are generally sold in bookshops and online.   You might have certain books in a series, but they generally exist on their own.   You usually submit an original idea to a trade publisher. ‘Educational’ reading schemes are normally sold directly from the publishers to schools.  They usually consist of lots of small books, all carefully levelled within…

  • Very Little chalkings

    I’m lucky enough to live near Florence Park.  It’s a beautiful park and dear to my heart.  I’ve spent many happy hours in its playgrounds with our children when they were little, or going to baby groups in the children’s centre (now the fabulous Flo’s) and pushing them round in buggies when they were very little.   It has a long avenue of horse chestnut trees that’s one of my favourite places in the world.  I never lose an opportunity to go down it.  It always makes me feel calmer, and opens out my head. But recently Florence Park has become even more special to me.  My hugely talented friend Jane Gallagher has been chalking amazing pictures…

  • The Wonder Tree: the first acorn

    A couple of years ago, I got really interested in trees.  One tree in particular.   I’d half-fallen asleep on the sofa when a wonderful BBC4 documentary came on TV.  It was about a year in the life of an oak tree. George McGavin spent a night up in the branches of this tree, along with a host of animals, and talked about how the extraordinary changes which an oak tree has to go through in order to survive the seasons.  He told us how oak has been used throughout history, making everything from ships to churches to whiskey barrels. The programme’s not currently available on iPlayer, but you can still see a trailer…

  • The real Stripy Ted

    Loved to Bits is a very personal story for me.  It’s about a very special bear.   Yes, that ‘bear’ up there is the real Stripy Ted – and, like the bear in Loved to Bits, Stripy once was a super, somersaulting ted, all golden stripes from foot to head. We all have a favourite old, shabby toy. Something – someone – who is tattered, battered, and not quite the same colour they originally were. Who has been played with, dragged along the floor, cried over, hugged tight, lost and found. Mine was called ‘Panda’ (imaginative, I know!), who was given to me by my Grandpa. He’s satisfyingly solid to hold,…

  • Writing ‘The Marvellous Moon Map’

    The Marvellous Moon Map is a very exciting book for me – and not just because the fantabulous David Litchfield has done the stunning illustrations for it! It’s because it’s a story which came wholly out of my head, without the structure of a fairy tale to steady my hand.   My own Moon Map to show me the way was made of lots of different things: songs, stories, a play, some advice, and something my daughter once said… It began with just one thought, on hearing the beautiful song ‘Fuel Up’ by Oxford band Stornoway, about travelling on through your life -sometimes losing your way, but keeping on going…

  • Twisting Fairy Tales

    I’ve been doing lots of school visits recently and it’s been so amazing seeing so many children making up their own characters, developing new plots and lit up by the power of stories. I had a wonderful World Book Day week, visiting schools in Rainham, Romford, Bedford and Norwich, and before that in Ambrosden and many others.   I’ve even had someone dressing up as Very Little Red Riding Hood for World Book Day – doesn’t she look brilliant?! I start by making sure we all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel. What are the key events in those stories? Who are the main characters? For…

  • ALCS Educational Writers’ Award

    Yesterday I was here… Yes, the Houses of Parliament! I was there to attend the ceremony for the Educational Writers’ Award for my book Who Eats Who.  This award is the ONLY UK award for educational writing, so it was a real honour to be on the shortlist. Who Eats Who is a non-fiction book for 6-7 year olds about food chains – and how we’re all part of them!  It’s included in Oxford University Press’s fantastic InFact series which also features books about space, the deep sea, making comics and puppets and the top ten worst ever jobs for children.  Check it out! Who Eats Who had strong competition! The very brilliant…

  • Oxfordshire Book Awards, 2015

    Yesterday, Sue Heap and I had the honour of attending the 2015 Oxfordshire Book Awards where – very wonderfully – Very Little Red Riding Hood won the award for Best Picture Book. I grew up in Oxford (my old Middle School was a stone’s throw from the Oxford High School, where the ceremony was held), and I still live here, so to win this award – voted for entirely by children from 30 schools in Oxfordshire – is a real honour for me. My parents and my family (who have all inspired me to write in so many ways) all came along, so it was a particularly special afternoon. We…

  • Cake, celebrations…and cracking creations!

    What a few weeks it’s been!  Sue Heap and I launched Very Little Cinderella at the magical Story Museum in Oxford with a proper picture book party. It was a delicious celebration, complete with balloons, cake…and the creation of a picture of the Very Big Woods, to which EVERYONE contributed!   Sue and I then had ANOTHER party (well, you can never have too many) in Blackwell’s Bookshop in Broad Street, Oxford. There was more reading, drawing, signing – and a Very Big Cake! (We also got to have a cuppatea in the ‘Gaffer’s’ old, perfectly preserved room, and sign the Big Blackwell Book, autographed by everyone from Maurice Sendak to Seamus Heaney…

  • Once Upon a Time

    Last week I went to see Into the Woods at the cinema.  This was not just a normal night out at the pictures. No, this was a Big Deal. Let me come clean. I’ve loved this fairy-tale musical with a proper ache for years and years and years. It was one of the Wood-y touchstones for Sue Heap and I on the day we met, thinking about where the Very Littles might live. I know the songs so well that it was like having a personal secret revealed when I heard Red Riding Hood singing ‘I Know Things Now’ on the radio the other day. If you don’t know it,…