Tag Archives: Polly Dunbar

Picking picture books

I have a nice and varied pile of picture books here. I’ll start with Nick Sharratt’s Fancy Dress Farmyard, which is precisely what it sounds like. Pig and Donkey and the others dress up and cover their faces with masks. And then they have a party. Lovely illustrations as ever.

Picture books

And – in no particular order – we have The Snorgh and the Sailor by Will Buckingham and Thomas Docherty. The illustrations will appeal to the adults who end up reading this to their little ones. It’s about putting up with new ideas and not being a stick-in-the-mud, and to look for friendship in unlikely places.

The magic word pops up in Never say NO to a Princess, by Tracey Corderoy and Kate Leake. The princess takes a while, but she gets it in the end, with the help of her friend the dragon.

Ben Blathwayt tells a lovely tale in Minnow and the Bear. Minnow may be small, but he can do things, too. He ‘grows up’ and he makes a new friend and he saves the day. Eventually.

Arthur has a dream in Polly Dunbar’s Arthur’s Dream Boat, but no one will listen. So he has to insist on telling them what happened. Lovely Dunbar-ish illustrations as you’d expect.

Finally, we have Jez Alborough’s Six Little Chicks, because it’s almost Easter. There is a most disturbing picture of the innocent little chicks and a great big fox peering in at them. How will it end?

Yes, how will it end? Not necessarily as you’d expect.


Writing for children

I can’t believe it’s almost five years since my Arvon course. It was one of those things I very much wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t use up funds while there was no money coming in. But I felt it so very strongly that in the end I signed up anyway, when there was just the one place left at Lumb Bank.

Arvon, Lumb Bank

Of course, I didn’t do writing for children. Mine was a sort of non-fiction, general course, which suited me just fine. I see that in this year’s programme they have something for people wanting to get started on blogs and other online writing.

In 2007 I think they offered one, possibly two, weeks for hopeful children’s writers. This year I was impressed to see they do four, and that’s before I discovered it’s actually six weeks. Three of writing for children, two for young adults and one for young people. That’s a lot. It must be due to popular demand, and why wouldn’t people want to come and spend a week in the company of real children’s authors tutoring a group of likeminded budding writers?

I heard about Arvon when Caroline Lawrence reported on having just taught at one of their centres. And I believe she had previously done one of their courses herself. That seems to be the way it is. Lots of current authors have been, and many are now taking up tutoring as the next step.

Just look at who you could rub shoulders with in a kitchen in some beautiful countryside setting; Julia Golding and Marcus Sedgwick, with Mary Hoffman as the midweek special. Or there’s Malachy Doyle and Polly Dunbar, with guest star Anthony Browne. It’s not everywhere you get to hobnob with Children’s Laureates, ex- or otherwise. The two MBs, Malorie Blackman and Melvin Burgess, with Aussie special Simmone Howell. Now that one would be really interesting!

You could have Joan Lennon and Paul Magrs, with yet another Laureate, Julia Donaldson. Martyn Bedford with Celia Rees, and Bali Rai doing the star turn. And finally Gillian Cross and Steve Voake, with guest dramatist Christopher William Hill.

If laureates are your thing, there is always the hope of a week with Carol Ann Duffy, but then you really have to be good. At poetry, I mean. That one is decided on the quality of your poems. Which is not going to be me.

Plus any other kind of writing. All with people who know their stuff. It isn’t cheap, but there are schemes for financial assistance. No internet, and you have to cook your own dinner in groups, so better hope for budding writers who can peel potatoes.

Ms M at Lumb Bank

(We had our own laureate connection – on wall, above – during my week. That’s as well as the house having belonged to a former Poet Laureate.)

Looking After Louis

I wouldn’t have found this picture book about Louis, who is autistic, without the suggestion from Julia Jarman a few months ago. Lesley Ely and Polly Dunbar have come up with a simple story about a boy and his school, and it really praises the role of the classroom assistant, whose importance is so often overlooked.

Nothing much happens in the book, except we slowly see how Louis spends his time at school, and what he is good at. But it’s the help he receives, which matters most. The other children need to learn that Louis can’t or won’t do certain things, but he can do other stuff instead.

Might be a very useful book to read in pre-school groups or in primary schools where they have children on the autistic spectrum.