Posted in fun resources

We’re loving limericks!

After last week’s National Poetry Day, we still haven’t managed to get away from the addictive nature of writing poems. They are creations that Holly and I both like and, even if you think they’re difficult to write (like I do!), there’s still something quite irresistible about them when you get going.

Holly and I have been using a special educational book called Practise Writing and Punctuation, produced by WHSmith. The idea is to supplement what Holly is doing at school, particularly with punctuation, which can be quite hard to crack sometimes.


The first activity that we tried out the other day was entitled: Write a Poem (more specifically, a limerick). The book told us that Edward Lear was a great writer of limericks, so we had a look at a few. Here are a couple of favourites:


There was an old man of Tobago,
Who lived on rice, gruel and sago
Till, much to his bliss,
His physician said this –
To a leg, sir, of mutton you may go.

Limerick and illustration courtesy of



Anyway, Holly and I decided it was time to try our hand at limericks. These are our results:


Holly’s limerick

There was a young girl called Lila

Who ate a Twirl* with Delila

It made her feel sicker

So she ate liquor

Which pleased so the young girl Lila.

(* Twirls are chocolate bars in the UK)


Sam’s limerick

There once was a man named Nanoo

Who feared that he’d fall down the loo

Every time he sat down

He’d shake like a clown

And fall down the loo, old Nanoo.


We’d love to hear your attempts. If you are feeling brave, please send us a limerick!

Posted in fun resources, Holly's fun corner

Holly’s essential guide to holiday French

Image courtesy of


Guess what? Me, my mum and my dad are going to France this year and I need to start learning my French.

At the moment I know how to say hello and bye. I also know how to say:

Can I have a chocolate ice cream, please?

Je voudrais une glace au chocolat, s’il vous plaît.

I wrote this because it’s nice to know how to speak another language and I wanted to share this with you. So I expect soon your French will be better than mine!

We are going to France for a week and a day. Hopefully we will escape this English weather: nasty I can tell you.

To read our phrasebook (which we can hopefully add to and format when we work out how!) please click on the link below. Merci et au revoir!


image courtesy of

July 16: we have updated the file to include phonetic pronunciations too!

Posted in fun resources, general and welcome, other news and reviews

Words for Life – Come rain or shine

image courtesy of


My new feature for Words for Life is out: literacy ideas for families, come rain or shine. And, if you’re in the UK, you just know it’s going to be rain! Well, at the rate we’ve been going at recently, anyway.


  • Beating the Forecasters
  • Vocabulary Booster
  • Film Reviewer Challenge
  • Mind-boggling board games…

and more. Check it out! Words for Life – Come rain or shine.

But if the sun does shine, you have my permission to run around like a mad thing…

Image courtesy of

Posted in blogs by other authors, fun resources, parents' and adults' corner

2 new and exclusive minibooks from Clara Vulliamy to inspire seaside storytelling!

This is a great post on Playing By the Book – check it out for some fun ideas on how to create mini-books with your children. 

A free, exclusive illustrated mini book full of story prompts on the theme of the seaside (inc beaches and oceans) by author/illustrator Clara Vulliamy

via 2 new and exclusive minibooks from Clara Vulliamy to inspire seaside storytelling!.

Posted in fun resources, poetry, You Tube uploads

Poetry please…

There’s been a lot of talk about shaking up literacy education in primary schools over here in the UK, as this article in the Independent shows, and one of the recommendations is that children as young as five should be able to learn and recite poetry. I don’t think we’re talking The Rime of the Ancient Mariner here or Don Juan but simple, short poems that are memorable.

I actually think it’s a good idea. With a lot of emphasis on systemic phonics these days, it can be difficult for children to get into the rhythm of English as they robotically spell out each sound. Most children love poetry, which is why many picture books are written in rhyme, so why not exploit this natural interest?

Holly and I intend to do some poetry reviews but, in order to be topical and newsworthy, we had some fun pulling together this little gem. Last week, we visited one of the Oxfam bookshops in Oxford, which have some lovely old books as well as more modern second-hand titles. Amongst the children’s books was this version of The Hums of Pooh by A.A. Milne.

The Hums of Pooh, by A.A. Milne, as adored by Holly

Holly listens to an audiobook of Winnie the Pooh every night after storytime, to help her go to sleep, so she knows all the poems or ‘hums’ in here off by heart. However, she selected one of her favourites to share with you! You have to go onto You Tube to see this but hopefully you’ll think it’s worth it!



Posted in Author talk, fun resources, humour, Links we love, other news and reviews, picture books

Illustrator talk: Sarah McIntyre

This is part two of my author/illustrator review from the Bookfeast Festival, held in Oxford last week. You can read the first – a talk by Ali Sparkes – here.

It was another hot day. Children in years 3 and 4 from primary schools around Oxford had gathered in the non-ventilated, non-air-conditioned lecture hall at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History to hear illustrator Sarah McIntyre talk about her career and do a reading from one of her books. Everyone gasped in pleasure and concern when Ms McIntyre strode into the hall wearing a full pirate uniform, with impressive coat, skirt, stripey leggings, boots and a massive pirate hat. ‘Won’t she be hot in that, mummy?’ Holly asked me worriedly. Since I was on the verge of passing out in cool, loose linen, I agreed.


Photo of Sarah McIntyre from her website, taken at the Museum during the Bookfeast.

Not a haaarrrrd act to follow

Ms McIntyre had definite stage presence. She didn’t need a gimmicky pirate parrot on her shoulder to draw in her audience, who were keen to discover who this excitedly dressed lady was. The reason behind her maritime attire was because she was going to read from one of her books – You Can’t Scare a Princess – which she illustrated alongside the text of Gillian Rogerson. As she read through the story, she involved the children in looking at the drawings, asking them questions about what pirates were like, and getting them to shout a very impressive pirate ‘AAAARRRR!’ at key points during the story, which is about a group of pirates who don’t take orders from a princess… or do they?

Illustration piracy

One of the highlights for the children was a guided talk on how to draw a pirate in the style of Ms McIntyre. As the Bookfeast people handed out pencils and paper, children excitedly prepared themselves for their task. It was so quiet as she took us through the various stages of drawing eyes, nose, mouth, beard (with disgusting bits in it), whiskers, hat and anything else we felt like adding.


Pirate ahoy! An example of Sarah McIntyre’s drawing before you see our attempts.


Holly did this one at home as her attempt during the day is at school. But she’s not stopped drawing pirates since!
This was my attempt on the day, in ink, as there weren’t enough pencils. This is the most human thing I have ever drawn (which says a lot about my illustration skills!).

The creative process

Ms McIntyre shared with us how she goes about illustrating a children’s book. It looked incredibly complicated to a lay person – if someone handed me several pieces of A4 types with a few lines per page I wouldn’t know where to start. Mind you, I can’t draw. This  is her process:

1. She reads the manuscipt over and over.

2. Then the doodling starts as well as other ways of drawing.

3. In You Can’t Scare a Princess  she started with pencil drawings, which then were brought to life with watercolours.

4. Adding the little details is great fun!

5. She sends in her artwork on watercolour paper to the publisher.

6. The publisher scans in the documents and then emails them to a massive printing house in China.

7. Once printed, the books are shipped back to the UK.

8. The books are ready for selling!

This was an excellent talk, activity session and guide to how to illustrate picture books and everyone (adults included) came away keen to keep trying to draw pirates. Ms McIntyre should beware… there may be mutiny afoot!

Check out Sarah McIntyre’s web page here: