Friday Favourites – The Big Animal Mix-Up

As part of Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo) in April, we were invited to share a favourite rhyming picture book every Friday. The month is over, but I have one more book I want to share. “The Big Animal Mix-Up”, by Gareth Edwards, and illustrated by Kanako Usui is a fantastic, fun story, perfect for a wide age range of young children, from 2 to 6.

Little Bear’s dad tries to teach him all the animals he ought to know, but the problem is they are a little mixed up! What would happen if a bird was mixed up with a cat? Would it purr? Would it have fur?

What would happen if a cat was mixed up with a bird? Would it fly in air? Would it have feathers not hair?

Turn the page and discover the hilarious results in this fantastic rhyming story

I’ve been reading a lot about “mentor texts” lately, ie texts that demonstrate a particular writing technique well. For me, this does an amazing job of getting the right mix of humour for both adults and children, setting up hooks for the page turns that beg for the child to join in, and has a great refrain that the reader can have some fun with too: “Hang on a minute!”

“This is a fish
It has very soft fur
If you give it a cuddle you’ll hear it go purr.
Hang on a minute!
A fish can’t do that
If it’s furry and purry it must be a …

It’s a simple idea, beautifully executed. I could read this over and over again, and my boys could listen to it just as often. Recommended!


A to Z Blog Challenge – Reflections

During the month of April, I took part in three separate challenges – RhyPiBoMo, NaPoWriMo, and the A to Z Blog Challenge (see links in the sidebar). Apologies to anyone who tires of these endless, silly acronyms always ending in “-mo”, but they serve a purpose, and give budding poets/bloggers such as myself a challenge to rise to, and community to engage with, for a whole month (and hopefully beyond). As part of the A to Z Challenge, they invite you to post a blog reflecting on the month (, hence this post.

I combined NaPoWriMo and the A to Z Challenge into one, setting myself the task of writing a new poem each day on each successive letter of the alphabet. I only stumbled across both challenges at the end of March, so had no time to stockpile any poems or content. Everything would have to be done “on the day”. Now, the alphabet being what it is, some days were significantly harder than others. What sadistic idiot designed the alphabet anyway? Who really needs the letter X? Or Z?

(If you’ve ever read a kids ABC book, these letters have always proved problematic… and I have a real bugbear about Dr Seuss and his “zizzer-zazzer-zuzz” effort)

On the other hand, I guess that’s where the “challenge” element comes into it!

So, what are my reflections on the month as a whole?

– I know now that I can write pretty much a poem a day, if I make the time for it. (Having enough of that time is a different matter!)

– My creativity is at its most… err… creative when backed into a corner. (For example, I was really struggling with J until I came up with this: – the poem is pretty autobiographical of this moment)

– I’ve tried a few different styles and themes, but my default is always rhyming (comic) verse. I would like to spend some time trying other poetic styles, just for my own entertainment and development, but I can’t help but think that more complicated structures are just not “for me”. (I always start with the idea, and shape the poem around that, rather than starting with a poetic form in mind and making an idea fit around it – this is why I couldn’t engage with the NaPoWriMo prompts, although have great respect for those that did.)

– I don’t like talking about number of visitors to my blog (more from embarrassment about the low numbers than through modesty, sadly), but I was hoping for a bigger spike in visitors than occurred. In the first half of the month, I did see an increase, and gained some new followers, but my visitor numbers at the end of the month are the same as for March. Perhaps this was because people found, as I did, that there are just so many blogs out there, that (a) finding the ones that fit my particular tastes and interests, and then (b) engaging with them, just takes time… more hours than are in the day, sadly!

– Numbers may not have changed much, but those that did come to visit have been amazing! One of them even wrote a poem in reply to one of my poems (see – and Jesi’s awesome reply at Others have taken the time to leave warm/ supportive/appreciative comments on a regular basis – thank you everyone! I dedicated my final themed post to all of these:

Would I do it again?

It has felt like a bit of a slog on some days, but I am glad that I’ve done it… and already have a “theme” in mind for next year’s challenge! So that’s a YES! ( – which is hopefully right about the secret of success!)

So, how was it for you? What were your thoughts on the month? Any great discoveries, either internal or on others’ blogs?


This Is My Freedom, Tell Me Yours (poem)

Freedom to fly, on wings made of dreams
Freedom to believe life’s more than it seems

Freedom to walk, toes squelched in the earth
Freedom to rise above our own birth

Freedom to dance, with smiles on our hips
Freedom to write and rewrite life’s script

Freedom to stand and lead the applause
Freedom to choose to heed our heart’s call

Freedom to fail, and flourish, and thrive,
Freedom to do more than simply survive

Freedom is knowing that one day we’ll die,
But living before, with heads held up high


Friday Favourites – Jumblebum

I am taking part in Rhyming Picture Book Month, aka RhyPiBoMo (, and as part of this we are asked to share our favourite rhyming picture books every Friday. This week’s choice is Jumblebum, by Chae Strathie and Ben Cort.

“This is the story of Johnny McNess,
Whose room was an eye-popping, tum-churning mess!”

Nothing will make Johnny tidy his bedroom – but then Johnny has never met the Jumblebum (a “beast” made out of the mess in his room)… And this snuffling, snorty monster is looking to fill his big jumble tum!

This is a really lively, fun story, with a simple bouncy rhythm. If you are looking for a mentor text for great use of alliteration and assonance, then this fits the bill too – it’s full of wonderful lines such as “the horribly slobbery Jumblebum beast” and “later that night, as he snoozled and snored, Something was stirring down there on the floor”. Throw in some onomatopoeia (“hurrumph, harroo!”) for good measure, and you’ve got a great mixture!

On a more personal level, this is also the book that ensured that my son kept his room tidy for over a year… he took the idea of the Jumblebum beast very literally! You may not want to encourage that, but if you are having trouble getting your child to keep their room in some vague sense of order, remember the Jumblebum Beast!


Friday Favourites – Giraffes Can’t Dance

I am taking part in Rhyming Picture Book Month, aka RhyPiBoMo (, and as part of this we are asked to share our favourite rhyming picture books every Friday. This week’s choice is very special one to me – Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.  

Gerald was a tall giraffe

Whose neck was long and slim,

But his knees were awfully bandy

And his legs were rather thin…

Every year Gerald dreads the great Jungle Dance, and feels ashamed that he cannot tango and two-step with the rest of the jungle animals. But then one day he realises that it doesn’t matter that he is different from everyone else–its just that he needs a different tune to dance to… “We all can dance, When we find music that we love”

This is a great picture book – it has a heart, great rhythm, warmth and humour. It will leave you feeling uplifted; possibly with a tear in your eye…

It is one of the few books that I can actually tell you exactly where I first read it too. When my (now 5 years old… wow, how did that happen!) son was 9 months old, we went on our first “family” holiday down to Cornwall. We stayed in a beautiful converted barn, that my son would crawl up and down endlessly, testing every door handle and cupboard within reach, rearranging the pots and pans, emptying the washing machine…!

Giraffes Can’t Dance was one of the books left for families to borrow during their visit. I remember lying on the bed, with my son lying perfectly still next to, as I held the book above us and read that story, over and over. As soon as we got home, I ordered our own copy. Wonderful memories, wonderful book.




RhyPiBoMo 2015 – Friday Favourites (blog)

I’ve been participating in the Rhyming Picture Book Month, and have really enjoyed the blog posts on rhyme and poetry to date. Many have been bookmarked to develop at a later date! In return (not that this is much of an exchange), we’re asked to share a favourite picture book every Friday.

This week, I would like to share my love of “Aliens Love Underpants”, by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. I don’t know if this has been released in the US, but it’s been absolutely huge here in the UK, with numerous sequels, and even a touring musical production.

(On typing the word “aliens” into, the very first suggestion is “aliens love underpants”, which is quite an endorsement!)

Aliens Love Underpants is not going to win any prizes for changing the way that we view the world (although it could explain where your undies disappear to in the laundry), but what it does is to tell a simple, fun story, in simple, fun language (some of the rhymes are hilarious), using a simple, fun rhythm. Sounds simple and fun, right? As someone who has tried to write a few picture book stories, capturing “simple and fun” is fiendishly hard… it’s definitely not been “simple and fun” for me!

“Aliens love underpants,
In every shape and size,
But there are no underpants in space,
So here’s a big surprise…”

An example of how this has been a great mentor text for me is that, after I wrote my first “full” rhyming story, I realised that I had accidentally borrowed the meter from Aliens Love Underpants. I’d even used one of the same lines! If a story can burrow into your subconsciousness like that, then it must be doing something right. Recommended 🙂


April is Three-Challenge Month… (blog)

I am taking part in three different challenges this month. NaPoWriMo – National Poetry Writing Month – has the aim of writing a poem a day throughout April. The A to Z Challenge – – is to blog about all 26 letters of the alphabet over the month. I am combining these two, setting myself the quite daunting challenge of writing a poem each day following the alphabet theme… Nothing like a bit of pressure! It would be great if you’d follow my efforts over the month.

Running separate to this is RhyPiBoMo, Rhyming Picture Book Month – This has loads of great blog posts and tips on writing rhyming verse for picture books, aiming to help you to write your own story during the month… and there are prizes too! Rhyming picture books are really important to me, as this is where my writing journey began, and where I’m trying to focus my time now. I’ve heard all the warnings about publishers reactions to rhymers, and how they can be a tough/impossible sell. I don’t care. I’ve tried writing non-rhyming picture books, but it just doesn’t feel right … Like something’s missing. It’s just not me. So, for good or ill, I’m going to try my hardest to write a bunch of rhyming stories that I’m proud of, and hopefully that others like too.

As part of RhyPiBoMo, we’re asked to share a rhyming picture book we’ve read and loved this week. For me, one writer stands head and shoulders above the others, in terms of the quality of story, and the personal impact in inspiring me to try and recreate some of that magic in my own style… It’s Julia Donaldson – . I could choose half a dozen different stories of hers, but for me Room on the Broom is pretty-near perfect, complemented by the amazing illustrations of Axel Scheffler. If you ever get a chance to see the animated version, I’d recommend that too – the little touches in that, without adding a word to the text, help to emphasise just how rich the story is. Enjoy 🙂