Tag Archives: Clara Vulliamy

World Book Day celebrations

5 Mar

So now that exciting announcement is off my chest and I’ve done a little happy dance, let’s get down to World Book Day business.

World BookDay isn’t all about dressing up as your favourite book character, or for us parents, desperately trying to cope with a last minute costume change. It is about celebrating books and fostering and encouraging reading for pleasure.

So for WBD this year I am:

Buying some books
What a hardship!!
I have ordered some books from my wishlist via Hive.co.uk. A brilliant website that supports indie bookshops and doesn’t rip off publishers and authors. My books will be delivered for free and a percentage of the money from my order will go to my nominated independent bookshop. Hurrah for hive!

Gifting some books
Mollie will get her WBD voucher today from school and she will be so excited by the idea of choosing her book. But in the meantime, this awaits her…

And for those of you who are zooming in to try and see through the paper (I know who you are)…

Mollie is inhaling books at the moment. She has read a Claude book a night this week and has exhausted her current supplies. I want to encourage her love for reading so here’s the next few nights sorted.

Donating to book charities
Take a #bookselfie and text Read98£2 to 70070 for Readwell, a charity gifting quality books to hospitals and getting them into the hands of ill children. Then nominate 3 mates to do it.
Here’s mine:


Or how about watching a book den being built from the ground up? Head over to @playbythebook on twitter and watch her transform her kitchen into an enormous book den, all for BookAid. Donate here to support Zoe’s efforts and cheer her on. BookAid increases access to books to support literacy, education and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and they really do deserve your support.
Zoe’s doing a grand job so far:


Celebrating books
For the rest of today I’m going to be racing through my review piles and my bookshelves, posting pictures on twitter and writing reviews of books that I love and that I think children will love. Have a look through… maybe you will see something just right for that World Book Day voucher?

Reading books!
Because that’s what it’s all about!
Happy World Book Day, folks! Enjoy!

Happy Birthday Rainbow Library!!

14 Feb

Woooo! One year old! The Rainbow Library was created a year ago today for International Book Giving Day 2013. And now there are 4 of them!!!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement – and books – along the way. It means a huge amount to me. And most importantly, to the children who use the Rainbow Libraries.

For IBGD this year, Rainbow Library 1 has had a bit of a makeover and lots of new books.

I’m also releasing a secret weapon over there. More about that in a mo’.

The second Rainbow Library is still receiving parcels from you lovely lot, so didn’t need any extra books from me. Thank you everyone! But I’m not leaving Rainbow Library 2 out. For their IBGD celebrations I have finally finished some story sacks which will be going straight to Gem’s library for her children to enjoy when they get back from half term.

Rainbow Library 3 – the community library – has had a stack of new books delivered and I’ll be taking a big folder of colouring and activity sheets down there for half term.

The biggest project has been creating library number 4


In action for just over a week now, it is being used every day and by more and more families. I think it’s going to be a real success.

Thank you to @cjfriess, @chaletfan, @Claravulliamy, @patrickgeorge, @hodderchildrens, and Helen and Thomas Docherty for their generous donations for International Book Giving Day today. They are hugely appreciated and will make lots of children very happy!

What’s next?
I’ve been plotting. I’ve been looking at the existing libraries and figuring out how to improve them.

What I’ve learnt
(This is the bit where I bang on about books. Again.)
Books make a difference.
A massive difference. Children’s lives can genuinely be changed by having access to books. The research is indisputable. Children who have access to books have a better chance in life. It’s that simple.
Children NEED books.

But putting books in a box in a space where children can access them isn’t enough. No matter how beautiful the books are, the kids who really NEED those books need help getting to them. For all sorts of reasons. Their parents or carers. Their confidence. Their interest. Their knowledge. Their ability. Their concentration. Whether they had breakfast or not. Whether they’ve ever held a book before or not.

A library needs a librarian.
Someone who can take the kids by the hand, crouch down at their level and show them the books. Someone who can talk to the parents, take away any fear or resentment. Someone who can encourage. Support. Smile. Laugh.

The Rainbow Library that is flourishing is the library that has Gem at the helm. I want to learn from what she does so well and so naturally and share it out to the other libraries. So for IBGD this year I have been recruiting. And that’s where Lauren comes in. She is one of the superstars at the nursery where the first Rainbow Library is based. I’ve been talking to her about the library and I’m hoping that she can be the bridge between the books and the children/parents. I’ll be working with her to make sure that all the children are accessing the books and that I’m providing the books that the children want and need. Because what is the point of books in a box? Books in the hands and hearts of children is much more important!

So Rainbow Library 1 has Lauren, Rainbow Library 2 has Gem and Rainbow Libraries 3 and 4 are stuck with me. At least until the summer when I will be handing over Rainbow Library 4 to one of the staff at the school. I think it’s important that the libraries become self sufficient. I will always help with new books and resources but I can’t be there at every library every week to make sure the children are getting the most from it. I have learnt that it is only part of my role to get a library up and running. The much more important part is to help the staff there to support children’s access to it.

With that in mind, I want to build a network of Rainbow Librarians who can share ideas and resources with each other. Initially that might just look like me taking Gem and Lauren out to the pub and chatting about books for an evening. But I’m hoping that it will build to an email group and Dropbox account where resources can be stored and shared, where book requests can be managed, questions asked and problems shared.

What you can do
Join in! Celebrate International Book Giving Day. Give a book. Simple as.

It’s half term next week. Go and get a book for a child you know to help keep them entertained during a week that will probably be made entirely of rain and wind.

Maybe you have a stash of books that your children have grown out of, or could spare a few pounds spent on books at a charity shop. I bet there is a school or nursery near you that would chew your arm off for those books. Ask them. Perhaps you could help them start their own Rainbow Library!

Of course, you could always send a book to The Rainbow Libraries. Just give me a shout and I’ll let you know how.

Give a book. It’ll make you smile.

Reluctant readers and early chapter books

10 Feb

There are some children who don’t like to read. It’s not that they can’t, they just don’t *want* to. Sometimes there may be underlying issues around ability, confidence, or peer pressure, but sometimes they just don’t fancy it. They think books are boring, or for other kids, or for school. These children often get lumped together into a group labelled ‘reluctant readers’. Often they just haven’t had the right role model, or have been put off by an enforced school reading scheme and haven’t found a book to bring the fun back in. Non-fiction books can work wonders with these children. As can books that are short, interactive, fun and easy to engage with.

Enter Dixie O’Day, Mortimer Keene and Squishy McFluff, three wonderful early chapter books, to save the day.


I love the format of these books. They work beautifully for children who are making the transition from picture books to chapter books and are perfect for enticing reluctant readers. And there’s something here for everyone.

Dixie O’Day – In the Fast Lane is a modern masterpiece by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy.

The story is broken up into seven bite-sized fast-paced chapters, making it easily accessible for children who are just starting to read independently – for whatever reason – and perfect for a chapter a night. A wacky races style tale of friendship and acts of kindness, it grabs you, pops you in the sidecar with a biscuit and whips you along for the ride.

There is so much to love about this book. Written by literary royalty, you are in extremely safe story hands. The design is gorgeous with a delicious colour scheme and a retro look. The illustrations bring the book to life and give Dixie and his sidekick Percy so much personality. Nobody does ‘shocked dog’ like Clara Vulliamy, and I will never come across a happier sight than the otters in their bath-car. Genius!


The beauty of this book is its accessibility. Hughes and Vulliamy have placed it brilliantly with joint appeal for boys and girls across a wide age range. My four year old sucked it up in one excited sitting and the year six pupils I’m working with are slowly savouring it. The extras in this book give it a huge amount of kid appeal and make it even more attractive to those reluctant readers. I love the interview-style introduction to the characters and the maps that book-end the story, subtly altered at the end to reflect the story’s developments. The reader is also given a brief introduction to the author and illustrator and then encouraged to get in touch – children (and their grown ups) are invited to design their own marvellous motor, which they can then send in to Dixie and his creators! A beautiful touch.

Once you have devoured this one, get ready for the next book in the series – Dixie O’Day and the Great Diamond Robbery, coming soon. I can’t wait!

Dixie O’Day kindly sent for review by Random House.

Mortimer Keene
For something in the same early chapter book format, but a bit zanier, try the Mortimer Keene series by Tim Healey and Chris Mould. It is school-based madness with added goo. Think an early reader Lemony Snicket or Osbert the Avenger.

The first book, Attack of the Slime introduces the reader to Mortimer Keene, a science-mad young school boy who likes to put his brains to serious mischief-making. His slime generator is burying the school in stinky slime and the teachers must send a special task force to stop him. The second book, Mortimer Keene – Ghosts on the Loose, sees him return to his antics with a Phantom-machine that is filling the school with ghouls.

Both books are split into four short parts and written in fast paced rhyme with a four-line verse to a page. The text is large enough for new readers to cope with but the vocabulary is exciting and will stretch them with words like ‘sinister’ ‘consigning’ ‘torrents’ and ‘intrinsically’.

Chris Mould is the perfect illustrator for this series, catching the character of the teachers perfectly and giving the books a zany sinister edge. Brilliant!


Attack of the Slime is perhaps more suited to a younger reader as the story doesn’t require any existing knowledge and never gets too scary. Ghosts on the Loose however, definitely contains some mild peril and deals with plague victims and a Victorian hangman- brilliant for holding the interest of an older reader. Although I’m assuming the publishers are marketing this more towards boys, I think the story and illustrations will appeal to both genders.

Again, a host of extras will coax in those reluctant readers, with top trumps style introductions to the characters and an A-Z around the topic. I particularly love the labelled machine designs and tips for telling your own ghost story or making your own slime. A great way to keep their interest and get them interacting with the stories.

I’m looking forward to the next in the series – Mortimer Keene- Alien Abduction coming soon.

Source: kindly sent for review by Hodder Children’s Books.

Squishy McFluff
For a more magical twist on the early chapter book, Squishy McFluff the Invisible Cat by Pip Jones and Ella Okstad is a stunner.

‘Can you see him? My kitten?
Close your eyes tight.
His fur is so soft
and all silvery white.
Imagine him quick!
Have you imagined enough?
Oh, good! You can see him!
It’s Squishy McFluff!’

With three chapters of rhyming verse, this is perfect for bedtime stories as well as for new readers. Its gentle comical story about Ava’s mischievous imaginary cat makes for a wonderful transition from picture books to early chapter books. Its reassuring familiarity bridges the gap beautifully.

I love the design of this book. Its blue and red colour scheme sets it apart from the early readers usually pitched at girls. The illustrations have a strong Nordic influence and more than a hint of Alex T. Smith and Sam Lloyd. The illustrations support the text beautifully, aiding young children’s comprehension as they show Squishy McFluff there but not quite there.


A delicious book for inspiring young imaginations and celebrating family relationships, Squishy McFluff may encourage your little ones to create their own jungle in the bath tub. I hope you’ve got a special Grandad at hand to save the day.

This is the first in a series, and one of the first picture books released by Faber and Faber. Having had a sneak peek at their new list, I’m excited about the quality of works they are producing. Watch this space!

Source: kindly sent for review by Faber and Faber.

The Rainbow Library – looking ahead to the next 6 months

26 Jul

The Rainbow Library has come back to the Rhino Reading Room for a well deserved rest and repair during the summer holidays. By the time it goes back to the nursery in September it will have been running for six months. In that time I have seen such generosity and support. People have sent me loads of brilliant books for the library, and I have had wonderful advice, support and encouragement along the way. Thank you to everyone who has helped in these important first six months. It has made a real difference to the children. Special thanks to Kerry Haselup, Clara Vulliamy, Letterbox Library and ChildsPlay.

A big thanks to the nursery staff too, who have worked tirelessly for the children and never once moaned about lugging a heavy box of books out of the cupboard everyday. I’ve had the opportunity to watch them in action over the last six months and they really are a dream team. They know and understand every child and are there for every child, no matter what home life they come from or what extra support they may need. No child is turned away and every single one leaves as a happier, healthier and more confident individual. They truly inspire me when it all feels a bit pointless and making a difference seems unachievable.

Caitlin Moran wrote an awesome letter to her 13 year old daughter in the Times a couple of weeks ago. In it she said ‘always believe you can change the world-even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there.’ I love that! So I’m using the summer holidays to take stock, say thank you to all the wonderful people who have helped in the first six months and to plan how to change the world in the next six.

I spent some time last week sorting through the books that were in the library box, with my sticky labels and book bandages at the ready. When I set up the library I made a point of explaining to all the grown ups that I didn’t want them to be precious about the books, that I wanted the children to enjoy them and use them, and if that meant that a few books got sucked and ripped and eaten by the dog, then so be it. Some of the adults were wary of borrowing the books, nervous of the responsibility of having someone else’s book in their home. It took some convincing but the book box has been used regularly by about a third of the children and dipped into every now and again by more. I was expecting to have a big repair job on my hands. I was expecting rips and scribbles and missing pages and lost books. However, a bit of tape was needed here and there but only one book was beyond help. Even that one is going to be recycled into badges and activity sheets for the children. Part of not being precious about the books means that I haven’t kept track of how many I have added in along the way, so a few books might have flown the Rainbow nest and been adopted. I like that.

I’m feeling very proud of all the Rainbow Library children and their grown ups. They have embraced the library and helped make the first six months a success. My aim was to get books into the hands of the kids that most needed them and I feel that I have achieved that. They all have access to the library every day. Their daily story time session is enriched by the staff dipping into the library books, and I read with them once every few weeks. One of the best things I’ve been able to achieve is to give each child a book to take home and keep for World Book Day, thanks to the amazing generosity of ChildsPlay. Even now in the summer holidays children are still asking for books when they see me and the Rainbow Library has become a bit of a mobile unit!

But I think I can do more.

So what’s next?

First I want to get better.
When I take the library back to the nursery in September I will read with the children more frequently and for longer. I never quite managed to do it once a week and I often left the children wanting more because I had to go after an hour or two. That’s not really good enough. I want to be more organised and make sure I can give them more quality time.

I want to print or make activity sheets to go with the books I take in, for the staff to use or to keep in the library for the children to take home.

Sites like Playing By the Book are a wonderful source of book-related activities. I hope to be able to share these ideas with the staff at the nursery to support them with linking books and stories into their everyday adventures with the children.

Story sacks! I love story sacks! With help from Loll of Storyseekers fame, I’ve started work on a Martha and the Bunny Brothers I Heart School story sack to use with the children. I want to make puppets and toys and games and fun resources to enhance the books. I want to work with dual language friends and make a Polish one and a French one. I want the staff to be able to use them during the day and the children to be able to take them home and play with them with their families.

I’d love to organise a trip to the local library. The children’s librarian is wonderful and inspiring and I think the children would really benefit from seeing the ‘real’ library and all the joy it holds. Maybe it could encourage the adults to join the library for their children.

I want to work harder to catch the children who are falling through the net. There will always be children whose adults wont want them to use the library, for whatever reason. When I go in to read I want to try and have time to read one-to-one with those children and help them learn to love books.

Then I want to get bigger.
A friend is working on an exciting project to create a new child-focused community space in Brighton. I hope to be able to set up and maintain a branch of the Rainbow Library there. I’m thinking author and illustrator visits, book-inspired art sessions, story times, children’s creative writing sessions.

I have Ideas and Plans. But I’m open to more. If you have any links to activity sheets, printables or websites that could help then please add them in the comments box or give me a shout on twitter. If you have any great ideas that I can steal, please share.

If you are an artist or illustrator who would be interested in becoming a friend of the Rainbow Library and supporting it in any way- visits, activity sheets, or ideas to link with your books- I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you to everyone who has helped in the Rainbow Library’s first six months. Here’s to the next six and to changing the world a tiny bit at a time.

Female animal characters in picture books

6 May

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted about the lack of female animal main characters in children’s picture books. Since then, I have been pondering the impact that gap might have on children. I’m beginning to think that portraying an overwhelming majority of animal main characters as male is more damaging than the more explicit gendered marketing of picture books. At least when books are explicitly marketed at a particular gender you are going into that book with open eyes and the awareness that you are being marketed to as a girl or boy. With animal characters the gender is often not visually obvious and relies on the text. The gendering here is more insidious. The overwhelming majority of animal main characters are male so children are subconsciously learning that male characters are more frequent, more normal, more important. Am I reading too much into this? Possibly. But take any child to the zoo or the farm. Do they automatically call the animals she or he? If they spot a mini-beast or bird in the park do they assume it is a girl or a boy? And is their reaction different depending on the type of animal? Are cats girls and dogs boys? Are all mini beasts male apart from ladybirds who are all female? Do you unconsciously confirm those gender associations with your use of language? Try it, it’s an eye opener.

In this respect, picture books are (unconsciously) reinforcing dated social stereotypes about gender roles and values. But it doesn’t have to be like this and things are slowly changing. There are great books with female animal leads out there. It is possible to even it out a bit by being aware of what you are reading to children and ensuring you include some books with female main characters. And not books that have an animal’s mum or sister in, or a female main character that reinforces negative gender stereotypes, but books that really celebrate their female characters and portray them in a positive light. Over the last two weeks I have been collecting examples of great books that put female animal characters in the limelight or play with traditional gender stereotypes. Here are a few of my favourites.

Ella by Alex T. Smith

Ella is a strong and self assured ladybird who knows how to rock her dots and stand up for herself. Ella is a feminist twist on the traditional Cinderella story, full of positive role models and affirming images for children. This is one of the books that I buy again and again to give to children for birthday pressies. I think every child should have a copy of this book because Ella is such a strong and empowering character. The Cinderella story can often reinforce negative gender stereotypes, but not in the hands of Alex T. Smith. Oh no.

Martha and the Bunny Brothers – I Heart School and I Heart Bedtime by Clara Vulliamy

Martha is a wonderful role model for children because of her immensely positive attitude. She is strong, exuberant and imaginative and inspires children to see the world and their place in it in a positive light. Clara Vulliamy has a real talent for portraying childhood and her Martha books give children a strong sense of seeing their lives represented, and therefore their potential through role models like Martha.

The Maisy books by Lucy Cousins

I love the Maisy books for their primary coloured, gender-stereotype-free happiness. Maisy is a female mouse but in these books gender is, as it should be, largely irrelevant. The characters are far too busy being friends and having adventures together to worry about traditional gender roles. They all wear primary colours, with no particular colours being linked to gender. They all play together, sharing and swapping roles and responsibilities, completely regardless of gender. Hooray! Very young children don’t care about gender, they just want to play. It’s only when they begin to pick up on and absorb society’s view of gender that they start to include it in their play and their thinking. What better way to teach children about everyday experiences than to reflect the way they play – everyone in together, wearing what they want and playing how they want. Lucy Cousins, I salute you.

Doodle Bites by Polly Dunbar

A FEMALE CROCODILE! Who is allowed to flip the prescribed gender roles and be loud and boisterous.
And a male pig who wears pink and is quiet and sensitive. The traditional gender roles have been well and truly swapped around. Interestingly, at 3 and 4 years old, the children I have read this book with sometimes try and reverse the genders back. They are sure Hector is a girl and Doodle is a boy, isn’t she? How quickly the gender programming takes hold! All hail Polly Dunbar for challenging it and showing children that gender stereotypes can be messed with and swapped about happily.

Copy Cat by Mark Birchall

I gave this book a special mention in my original blog post because Mark Birchall has a female dog as the main character and a male cat as her friend. Yes it’s a small thing to have a female dog but it feels subversive and progressive in comparison to the other animal books on the market. He has turned traditional gender assumptions on their head and you can see the power of this when you read it with children. They initially assume that the dog is male and the cat is female. Mark Birchall has illustrated his characters with clothes which helps children visually associate the characters’ gender. I find it sad that they need to reprogram their minds and learn that dog characters can be female and cats male, but hooray for finding a great book that addresses that.

I’m very fond of lists and have started one on this topic. If you can think of any books with a strong female animal character, please leave a comment below, I’d love to add your suggestions.

The Rainbow Library week 1

25 Feb

Tomorrow the Rainbow library will reopen after half term week. I will be taking in a haul of new books for the children to explore and borrow and I’ll be organising my first reading session.
Look at the treasures that await them!


I can’t wait to see their faces!

The library was only open for two days before the half term holidays but in those two days, seven children took home eleven books. Not bad! I also had my first mini-breakthrough. A wary mum admitted that she was worried about her child ruining or losing a library book and I was able to convince her to take a risk and take a book. It might not come back but thanks to all the generous donations received I could tell her it didn’t matter.

In the two days of library fun the children were straight in and exploring the books. They were immediately attracted to the TV tie-in books – Fireman Sam, Toy Story and Bob the Builder. They also chose books with animals on the cover – Sylvia and Bird, Ouch in the Pouch, Blue.

Grandparents seemed more interested and involved in the children’s choices than the parents were. Perhaps they have more time to spend playing with and reading to their grandchildren, more time to linger at nursery at drop off time or more respect for books and their value? It will be interesting to see how that develops.

There were quite a lot of parents that looked down their noses at the books, pushed their children past and were generally dismissive. Although it was disheartening, I was interested to notice that sometimes their children tried to pull back and look. It confirmed that the children are attracted to books despite their parents’ attitudes, that it’s never too late to interest them.

There are so many reasons that the parents might not be interested in books. Some of them might be uncomfortable with their own reading abilities, some may have been taught by their parents or peers to view books as elitist and ‘other’. The fact that the children show an innate interest and have a natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge gives me hope. I hope that I can use my volunteering time in the nursery to share books with them and show them the pleasure, fun and comfort that can be gained from books. I’ve bought some rainbow monster reward stickers to give to the children and I’ve got some specific books on order that I hope will attract, encourage and support the children who need it most.

Maybe the Rainbow library can convert a few children to the joys of books, words and pictures. Perhaps it might challenge or even change the attitude of some of the adults. We shall see.

I have been amazed and humbled by the response to my initial blog post about setting up the library. I have received books, donations, advice, inspiration, retweets and support and I am so grateful to all of you. The success of the Rainbow library will be down to all of you. Thank you.

Special thanks, and cake, are due to Team Rainbow:
Kerry Haselup for her enthusiasm and support, for her charity shopping prowess and for putting up with the piles of books taking over the house.
Clara Vulliamy for offering her long term support and for sending a wonderful selection of her books for the library. Also for creating my Rainbow Book Fairy rosette, of which I am ridiculously proud.
And ReaditDaddy for all his inspiration and support and for answering all my silly questions with kindness and patience.

On to week two. May it bring more books, smiles and breakthroughs! I’ll keep you all posted.

The Rainbow Library

13 Feb

ReaditDaddy’s wonderful campaign encouraging parents to read to their children has really caught the book blogging community’s imagination. The basic premise is to support and encourage people to read aloud to their children, and to work with other agencies to raise awareness. ReaditDaddy is busy blogging, reviewing and spreading the word and twitter seems full of positivity and commitment for the project.

I spent yesterday pondering how best to join in and support the campaign. I already read (a lot) to little miss rhino and we visit the library every week. I am passionate about the power of language and a strong believer in the importance of positive, quality books in childhood but I didn’t know what I could offer to the project other than a blog of support. I spent a lovely morning browsing blogs and reading around the project. I got learning and I got inspired.

Here are a few of the things that chimed with me when I read them.

The lovely Clara Vulliamy said:
“And if you hang onto only one thing:
of course they will love the books, they love the person reading them!”
And “Books aren’t ‘good for you’ like vegetables – they’re wild creatures you’re letting loose.”

I love that! ‘Wild creatures you’re letting loose.’ That really caught my imagination… and so began my cunning plan.

Catherine from Story Snug commented that
“My only New Year’s resolution (which I haven’t managed as much as I would have liked!) is also to read more in front of my daughter, I want to be a better role model so that she knows that I also enjoy reading and it is not something that I just do with her.”
Sold! Any excuse! I will read more in front of little miss rhino. That is something I can actively change.

And then I found this blog from Library Mice
“But I can’t help thinking that if each newborn had a book fairy, we wouldn’t face the dreadful reality of children not being able to read, and not being able to enjoy books.”

What a perfect point. So many children don’t have a bookcase of their own, don’t get read to every day, don’t get taken to the library, don’t have access to brilliant books that teach them about the world and their potential in it. What a better place the world would be if all children did have a book fairy who could perhaps resolve some of that. How could I set some books wild and become a book fairy???

So my pledge for readitdaddy’s campaign is to set up a book box library at the local nursery where children can borrow a book and take it home to read. It just so happens that tomorrow is International Book Giving Day and I’ve already bought a few Catherine Rayner books to give to the nursery. Yesterday I ran the idea past the nursery and today I raided the shops.


The nursery has a catchment area that reaches into local deprived areas. The majority of children don’t have access to a wide range of books outside of the nursery. They don’t have great language skills and they don’t have great role models. This is where Readitdaddy’s campaign needs to be reaching. It also means there were a few things to think about when putting it all together.

• The books might not get returned.
Hey ho. I’m setting books loose into this library and if they don’t come back then a child has a book in their home that they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. I’m all fine with that prospect.

• The books might make it home but there might not be someone there who is willing, or able, to read it to them.
To counter this I have tried to include lots of books with pictures that tell a story and board books that children can explore independently.


• The children (or parents) might not be interested.
I’ve tried to include really great books that will give children and adults a taste of wonderful language and illustration.


But I’m very aware that these will be far removed from the day to day experience of a lot of the children. I’ve included some tv tie-in books to appeal to what they know and encourage the children to have a look. They might not have books at home but they’ll certainly know who Fireman Sam is.


I have labelled all the books to say they belong to the Rainbow library and added a little notebook where staff and parents can keep a record of the books they take home. And now, the Rainbow Library is ready to rock.



I’ve made a long-term commitment to the nursery to supply books for the library and support the running and use of it. In addition, I plan to monitor the books and see which children aren’t using the library, then I will go in to the nursery for an hour a week and read with those children.

Mission on!

How can you help?
Perhaps you could donate a book? Are you a children’s author or illustrator? Maybe you could donate one of your books. A book blogger? Maybe you could donate a review book? A publisher? Maybe you could send some review books this way. I promise that all review copies will be donated to Rainbow Library. A parent? Maybe you could sort out some books your child has grown out of and donate them?
Or… Perhaps you could become a book fairy and start your own book box library?
Perhaps you’ve done something similar and can offer me any advice or words of wisdom?

Tomorrow I will take the books to the nursery and set them loose. I’ll keep you posted!

See author and illustrator superstar and lady of loveliness, Clara Vulliamy’s blog of support for the Rainbow Library on her website here!

Martha and the Bunny Brothers – I Heart School

23 Jan

Today is a very special day – it’s Martha’s first day at school and she is SO excited! But first there are clothes to choose and a brand new bag to pack. But…what about Martha’s bunny brothers? How will she stop them from missing her while she’s gone? Could a Happy Bunny Club be just the answer?


I heart Martha! And I heart Clara Vulliamy for creating such a positive book for little people. The book’s blurb describes it as ‘beautifully sunny and positive’ and it is exactly that. And more!

It is so refreshing to find a book about starting school that is packed with positive experiences. There are no nerves, no tears, no imagined scenarios of school trauma here. Not on Clara’s watch! In this book Martha can’t wait to go to school and is full of the excitement of the morning’s preparations.

And what fun she has! There are so many favourite things to choose from and so much to do to get ready. Each page is like a little party, bursting with colour and collage and pattern, celebrating the things that young children hold dear. Their favourite toys, their favourite clothes, the adventure of breakfast and the dreams of the future.


I love the way Martha talks. She waves out and chats directly to you about her crazy day. The speech beautifully emulates children’s speech, without going over the top or becoming patronising, so you get the energy and excitement and character bouncing out at you from page one.

I think the key to the success of this book is Clara Vulliamy’s ability to absolutely get children. Martha and the Bunny Brothers is testament to her ability to put herself right into their shoes (or spotty wellies) and portray their thoughts, characters and imaginings through her text and illustrations. When Martha finally makes it to school she can’t imagine the bunny brothers going about their day without her. Instead she freeze frames them waiting for her return. How true to life! Children really do live in the moment. And what a perfect way to show Martha’s character.


So a big rhino hurrah from me for a book bursting with colour, energy and fun that portrays children positively and perfectly.

In honour of Clara’s genius book and Martha’s sunshine approach to life, I have made a mini Martha to remind me to always look on the sunny side.


Clara’s website is just as sunshiny as her books. Check it out here.

Source: Our bookshelves.