Welcome to my homepage! See news and updates here and through the blog. You can find out more about me (and my availability to come to a school or event), or get in touch through the pages to the right. All the best!
Just a reminder to get in touch sooner rather than later if you’d like me to visit your school this March. Every year I have to disappoint people wanting a session to celebrate Book Week, since the week, and March in general, always fill up very quickly. I already have several visits lined up, so please don’t leave it too late!
I’ve just spent a couple of idyllic weeks in Cuba and have had a lot to think about since then. I was touched by the friendliness and the courteousness of everyone and by the unspoilt, uncommercialised honesty of the place. At the same time I was amazed at how little people had to survive on and how resourceful that made them. I saw ropes being fabricated on an ingenious machine, home-made from old video tapes; the irrigation system on a farm I visited consisted of old tyres split to form drains, and used the water left over from washing. Just to give you an idea.
From wielding my rudimentary Spanish on the unsuspecting-but-accommodating fruit seller (and marvelling at the variety of fresh produce on his stall), to scrambling over sparse hillsides in search of exciting new plant life, I found Cuba to be an eye-opening experience. As I’m contemplating a sequel to The Tribe, I was particularly pleased to be able to fit in some research at the Taino museum and reconstructed village. Jokes about it taking our visit to end the decades-old US stand-off aside, I hope the newfound dialogue will have positive results for Cuba and her warm populace. Let’s hope both will keep their unsullied openess amidst the opportunities that political changes promise.
On 27 November I had the privilege of working with Roger McGough on a BBC Scotland live recording, Rhymes and Rhythms. We had a brilliant time sharing our poetry with an enthusiastic audience of 5-7 year-old pupils, and the organisers, the Scottish Book Trust have created a set of learning resources for teachers. These are available on their website free of charge; and I’ve linked to a couple below.
Wishing everyone a peaceful run-up to the end-of-year break!
From handbags to kitchen appliances our family has taken great pleasure in perusing the Guardian’s “50 Best” feature over the years. So I was delighted to discover not only that their latest edition looks at such an important topic as culturally diverse children’s literature, but to see one of my own books make it into the list!
The Guardian’s Diverse Voices: the 50 best culturally diverse children’s books looks at the best children’s and teenagers’ books celebrating cultural and ethnic diversity since 1950. My picture book, Fruits is the second in the list, in the “Early Years” section. Celebrating Children’s Book week, the article sits among various features exploring children’s literature and diversity.
Speaking of the latter, it was good to see a wide array of cultures featured, albeit what one would expect!
Have a read, and maybe discover an old treasure from your childhood, or a new one to share! What books would you have added to the list?
October 17th has lots of good memories; a family birthday, a neice’s anniversary, a trip to Kenya three years back. This year, however, the day afforded an experience I don’t often enjoy; performing to royalty! As part of a school visit I gave a performance and writing workshop to a group of schoolchildren as lovely and enthusiastic as ever. Or perhaps slightly more excited than usual, as these young people had another visitor in the form of HRH Princess Beatrice!
The workshop took place at St Peter’s School in Farnham, and was organised by the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week. Princess Beatrice is Patron of the Centre, and knows personally what it takes to achieve academically in spite of the condition. It was lovely meeting both HRH and Helen Arkell herself. The Princess seemed to enjoy the workshop, and the children were certainly pleased to have her join them for it!
Always a pleasure to meet such interesting and accomplished people as part of my work. Till next time!
It has been a while since I last posted and I’m so sorry. I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of a technophobe, so I do the minimum I can get away with on my computer. But I’m attempting to overcome this and will try to be more punctual with my updates in future. If only I could remember my passwords!
Since last time I’ve been to China and thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the British School of Guangzhou. Lovely children, a great staff and brilliant book week activities. I even managed a bit of writing while I was there, which is rare on tours as I’m usually brain dead at the end of a school day. I was surprised to see so many tropical plants growing in Guangzhou, and got very excited when I saw the little stalls groaning under the weight of mangoes, pineapples etc. Took me right back to Jamaica.
I was also in Israel where I did the Bibleland tour. An awesome experience. The most poignant moment was when I stepped into the empty tomb where Jesus was laid. Now, when I read the Bible, so many things are clearer than they were before.
I took a break to Majorca in April when Britain was in the clutches of persistent winter, and the balmy weather did wonders for the flow of my creative juices. This little time to write has made me realise how much the writing has suffered because of the travelling and performing, so I’ve decided to cut back on the gallivanting and will now be spending more time at my desk, though I’m off to Malaysia later in the year.
Just talking about writing has lit the fire in my veins and my notebook is calling – urgently. Until next time.
It’s here; after a month of writing, editing, re-writing, and running poems-in-the-making past my family, my latest collection is finally out! Jaws and Claws and Things with Wings is a collection of animal-inspired poems for children, illustrated by Matt Robertson. (I had one month to write and deliver this one, making it the fastest book I’ve ever written!)
Publishers Collins Educational said about the collection,
Imaginative, clever and often humorous, this beautifully illustrated poetry collection…is inspired by the strange and wonderful creatures of the natural world.
Jaws and Claws (I’m taking the liberty of shortening the title for the rest of this post!) is part of their Collins Big Cat series, a range of fiction and non-fiction books designed to help primary school children develop their reading skills.
You can find out more about Collins Big Cat at their website.
Just to give you a taste of what’s under the covers of Jaws and Claws, I’m including a taster poem from the collection below. (This is one of my grown-up daughter’s favourites; imagine her singing it in delighted, child-like tones!)
The Mouse’s Song
If there is a mouse you are longing to please
Give him cheese, give him cheese,
If you want to put a small mouse at his ease,
Give him cheese, give him cheese,
Don’t hug him, don’t kiss him, don’t give him a squeeze,
Don’t tickle his nose it will just make him sneeze,
Don’t feed him on parsnips, or porridge, or peas,
Give him cheese, give him cheese, give him cheese!
If you’ve been bought a copy, been given one as a gift, or used it with your class, let me know what you thought!
With the winter getting into full swing, I’m looking forward with a degree of eagerness to my trips abroad this year; first to Israel and then to China. This will be the second trip to China but to a new area. I was in Beijing last time and was completely bowled over by the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, among other things. This time I’ll be further south and can’t wait to see what cultural treasures this area has to offer.
It will be the first time I visit Israel, and this will be more of a spiritual journey. In both places I hope the creative juices will be flowing in torrents. I love coming back to an empty hotel room, Knowing the phone won’t ring, the washing machine and dishwasher won’t be yelling for attention, and no delivery persons will be knocking on the door interrupting just as I’m in the middle of a perfect thought. A few my fellow writers bemoan the loneliness of those empty hotel rooms. Me? I adore them.
Can’t believe 2012 is finished already – I haven’t even started all the plans I made in January! That blockbuster novel, that mega-collection of poetry, that book of short stories…not yet done. Did manage a collection of animal poems for children, though; and did some travelling. Or was that 2011? Time’s going so fast, I don’t know where I am any more!
If I don’t want a repeat, I’d better get cracking on this book I’m writing. So, talk to you all soon!