Thursday, 30 July 2009

Another good review!

It's always great reading reviews of your work - well it is if they're good ones. It's a bit of a heart-sink thing if you get a real stinker and you can't help but take it personally. But - fingers crossed - that hasn't happened with 'The Extremely Very Scrambled Up World of Little Doogs' - yet! (Talk about tempting fate...!)

It's especially rewarding when I get reviews from children because after all they are who I write for. The one below is from Cicely Norman who attends Wimbledon 12th Brownie pack and is 10 years old. Big cheers to her for being so articulate. And she sent it to me printed out in a funky font on a background of Schnoops characters, as you can see above. She's an all-round classy girl is Cicely!

"I really enjoyed reading this book and found it very funny. The story line is a very good and creative one about a family of animals who are always on the move.

One of my favourite parts is when Littls Doogs goes to the caravan, which is shaking, and it turns out to be Jezza snoring! I like the way it is set out e.g. when Little Doogs writes in his Special Notepad there is a picture of a notepad. Also, at the beginning "Meet The Schnoops" is a very good feature.

Joe Baglow's illustrations are really excellent and represent the character/text very well. It is nice that when Schnoss or another character is talking, there is usually a picture of him. I really like the way you can see the colouring-in lines.

The five characters are really ingenious inventions. They each have their own personalities and funny sides to them.
Jezza is a 'rubbish artist' (in more ways than one!) and sleep-loving giraffe.
Honey is a shopaholic and fashion-crazy celebrity-loving rabbit with a quick, fiery temper and a love of Triple Caramel Mochachoccoccinos with extra froth.
Schnoss is a sausage dog who always has fantastic business ideas...but they do not always go according to plan.
Last of all is Trevor, a cooking- football- and music-loving elephant from Holland.

I would say this book is best for 6-10-year olds. It is funny and is about animals which appeals to all ages. Also the text is clear and big so it is easy to read for younger children.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


I know what you're thinking! Strange title for the photos! Am I right?

Well to be honest they haven't got anything to do with todays few words but I thought the blog needed sprucing up a little ...!

Today I met up with someone special who I hadn't seen for 12 years. 12 years!

I met Val when I had almost given up my dream of being a writer. I'd been writing for myself, sending off my scribblings to agents and publishers and getting rejection after rejection. I was so despondent that I decided enough was enough and I would train to be a teacher. I went in to help Val in the reception class at Cottenham Park Primary School as it then was - and Val was one of the most inspiring people I'd ever met. She's fun, she's kind, she's encouraging and unfailingly supportive and she is a brilliant brilliant teacher.

Around that time, when I was sending off application forms for PGCE courses, Stephen Thraves came into the picture and that of course is another story. My writing took off and I can't honestly say that I'm much of a loss to the teaching profession.

I always say that Stephen is my mentor. But Val is pretty special in that way too.

Today when we met again, she hadn't changed at all - seriously. Her daughter Emily who in my head was still 5 is a beautiful, confident 17-year old who is bright and fun like her parents.

We inevitably talked about writing and the importance of stories and Val told me stories which took me back to her classroom - all the children spell-bound with eyes like saucers. She is a perfect story-teller, a rare thing indeed these days. I told her how lucky all the children she has taught over the years have been to have someone as inspirational as her as their first teacher. I meant it. I hope she believed me.

Monday, 27 July 2009


I've got that strange sense of being a bit in limbo at the moment: I feel as though I've packed The Schnoops off on holiday and I'm taking a breath before sitting down to write 'On the Flipside' again. And oh how I've missed that - the writing, the planning, the routine of sitting at my desk and working all day.

However today I have read a little bit, answered emails, gone on to Facebook and did the 'My life according to Queen' thingybob (whereby you answer questions with the song titles of just one band/artist). And that in turn made me look at all my Queen albums (they are indeed all on vinyl, including a rare one which my lovely Em chose for my Easter present last year) and realise that I hadn't heard them in ages but I still know most of the lyrics....and the afternoon is almost over....and my head is full of 'Fat-bottom Girls' and 'Seven Seas of Rhye'....!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Schnoops on Tour

I really must get my act together. I've been into 6 schools in just over a week and do I have any photographs to share? Nope, not one! How useless am I?

The thing is that I'd love you to meet every single last child and teacher I've had the privilege of meeting because they have all been wonderful and enthusiastic and really made everything so much fun.

We had a Q&A session at the end of my time with Mrs Haig and Year 2 at Cliffe Hill School in Lightcliffe and I was asked 'What's it like being a writer?' and my honest answer was ,
Going into schools has really confirmed that to me. Virtually all the children contributed to the sessions and the teachers and support assistants were never anything but supportive, enthusiastic and appreciative. My admiration for them all is enduring.

So, highlights?

BARKISLAND - When we were discussing Little Doogs' characteristics by looking at a pitcture of him, Ben said 'he's just himself...' Fantastic answer, could he explain what he meant a little more?
"Well, he's just himself. He's not pretending to be something he's not..."
General 'Ahhhhs' all round. Ben is 6!

SAVILE PARK - brilliant session, enthusiasm and eloquence in abundance and the one place I did get involved in the writing. And what amazing stories they created. I also came home with a poem which one girl had written 'because she couldn't sleep'! (And I'm going to check her name because it's important to get that just right!) Inspiring all round.

OLD EARTH PRIMARY SCHOOL - I'd planned sessions for all day but actually I was in two Year 1 classes and two Year 2 classes for 30 minutes each....cue lots of thinking on feet! Amazingly I did manage to cover most of the things I'd planned and everyone was enthusiastic.
Highlight - Mia putting up her hand to ask a question.
"Yes Mia."
" look SOOOOOOOO beautiful!"

NORTHOWRAM - Two Year 2 classes, two completely different vibes but again lots of really thoughtful contributions. I had a lot of positive feedback from the Class 4 teacher Mrs Michalowski(tricky name, lovely person!)which gave me a big boost. It's good to hear good stuff from teachers as well as from the children.

CLIFFE HILL - Last session in Yorkshire and one of the most rewarding. Everyone was really keen to find out more about the characters, they did a great job at describing their own characteristics and I felt that they really had got a lot out of it. Mrs Haig was a star too, taking lots of photographs and sitting with the children on the carpet to participate. (Hmmm must tap her for some of those photos to share!)

And last but not least...

A journey to the coast yesterday and a whole school to talk to! I must admit that I was a little bit intimidated by 60 reception class children as they are a bit of an unknown quantity and in retrospect I would do things differently for them. HOWEVER as we had the main hall we acted out the characters and they were really splendid. In fact all the Year groups were. My timing is terrible and I had intended to do so much more with Years 1 and 2 as I had a little more time with them but we expanded on certain things and talked more about the characters' movement before doing 'the drama bit' and the time flew.

So a big thank you to you ALL for making me so welcome ....AND I HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL AGAIN SOON!