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 in the Park during Lockdown to give people some playful fun and light relief. She’s done dinosaurs, games, robots, sharks, puzzles, Alice in Wonderland… She’s left chalk for other people to have a go (there was a massive long hopscotch done by children the other day!)
And now….Jane’s done the ‘Very Littles’!
If you don’t know them, the ‘Very Littles’ are four picture books about twisted fairy tales with determined, brave toddler heroines, written by me and illustrated by the brilliant Sue Heap. ‘Very Little Red Riding Hood’ was the first picture book I ever wrote.
The stories were inspired by my daughter when she was very little (and I was running around with her in Florence Park!)
Jane’s fantastic chalkings were inspired by Sue’s wonderful drawings and typography. We both feel very honoured indeed to have had our characters running round Florence Park over the last sunny fortnight!
Here’s Very Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf giving each other high fives…
Very Little Cinderella racing around near the park gates…
Very Little Sleeping Beauty basking in the sunshine by the bandstand…
and Very Little Rapunzel and I hanging out near the playground.
Lots of people stopped to talk to Jane as she chalked. Children read the stories beside the drawings. People even bought some books online there and then!
It’s made me so happy to hear children talking about the characters, and also how they met me as Patron of Reading at Larkrise Primary, our local school, when I went in to do readings and recommend books. It reminds you of the power of stories. It’s a wonderful way to be connected to people during this strange time.
The chalk pictures have now washed away with the rain, and although that’s a bit sad, I’ve also found there’s a joy to their transient nature. It echoes the feeling I get as the seasons move on and everything changes; as I walk down the horse chestnut avenue, remembering our walks there as our children grew up. It reminds me how grateful I am to the people who planted those trees all those years ago. And of the excitement and delight of new paths ahead.