A special guest

Tracy Lowe

In our last workshop we had a guest speaker join us. Tracy Lowe is an Early Years Trainer from the Scottish Book Trust. Normally she speaks to childcare and early education professionals about how to lead Bookbug sessions and get the most out of sharing picture books with babies and young children. On this occasion we were lucky to get some professional training ourselves!


Tracy started with a book by Ed Vere called Banana. It’s a story about two monkeys, one of which is holding a banana that the other one wants. The whole book uses only two words: “banana” and “please”. This gives the reader a considerable challenge to make the book interesting for the child listening. Tracy encouraged us to say the word “banana” with as much emotion and in as many different ways as possible. It’s amazing how the expression you put into a word will change the meaning!

Orange Pear

Next, Tracy showed us another very simple book with few words, Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett. The beautiful watercolour illustrations complement the text, which plays with the four words in a different order on each spread. When something as simple as a comma is removed, the bear becomes an orange bear or a pear bear (greenish). The rhyme and rhythm of the book, along with repetition of the four words, give it a gentle charm that works well for small children. At the end, the bear eats all the fruit, which gives the book a healthy eating message!

It was great having Tracy join our group, and we will try and apply what she has highlighted in her talk to our own writing. Sometimes simplicity is best!

Here is a video showing Tracy in action: Reading Aloud with Confidence


Checking out the competition

Eating alph blog

The main goal of this project is to come up with a brilliant picture book text that will be published and shared with every preschool child in Scotland. To make it the best it can be, we spent a session looking at all sorts of picture books about food, to get inspiration and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. From a stack of 30 picture books, everyone chose one and noted down the author, illustrator and the main storyline. We then took turns telling each other about our book, describing the illustrations and talking about the message in the book. Here is what we found:

Never use

Lisa looked at Never Use a Knife and Fork by Neil Goddard and Nick Sharratt. It has a fun, rhyming text and is all about the terrible things children can do with food! There’s a wide range of different foods so they aren’t all healthy choices, but it’s silly and surprising with bright, cartoonish illustrations that really engage a young audience. We wondered whether the message of the book would produce chaos at mealtimes, but most people thought kids would know that it was just for fun.

Don't Dip

Demi chose Don’t Dip Your Chips in Your Drink, Kate by Caryl Hart and Leigh Hodgkinson. This is another rhyming story all about table manners, and it involves the central character being sent to the Queen to learn how to behave. As it turns out, the Queen is quite a rebel herself! Demi thought it might not be ideal for teaching children about eating at the table, but at least the book comes with a parental warning on the cover: “This book has a seriously cheeky ending!”

cap green cover

Stacy chose Lynne’s book, I Do Not Eat the Colour Green, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain. She liked the rhyming text and the message that you need to try new foods before deciding that you just don’t like them. In this case the foods that the little girl character doesn’t like are healthy ones, so it has a similar aim to the book we will be trying to write. Everyone agreed that the illustrations make all the green vegetables look very appealing.

Wild Boars Cook

Kay reviewed Wild Boars Cook by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall. She described the hairy, dirty, greedy boars with great relish, and told the group the story of Boris, Morris, Horace and Doris who set about making a truly disgusting Massive Pudding. When it came out of the oven, the four boars devoured it messily in ten seconds flat. At the end of the story, Doris finds another recipe, this time for a Massive Cookie, and readers can follow the recipe and make it. So much for healthy eating!

Eat Your Peas

Eileen read us Eat Your Peas by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt. It’s another story about a fussy eater who will not eat her peas no matter what her mother promises in return. By the end of the story Mum is promising to buy the moon and stars, let Daisy stay up all night and never tidy her room ever again, but nothing works. When Mum admits she doesn’t like Brussels sprouts either, Daisy wins the argument. We didn’t think this sort of message would be right for our book, as neither the mother nor the daughter is a healthy eater!


Pauline chose Nora, the Girl Who Ate and Ate by Andrew Weale and Ben Cort. This is a crazy story about a girl who eats everything in her house, making a big sandwich with the mattress of her bed! At the end of the book she has a huge burp and everything she has eaten reappears. The illustrations are bright and colourful and the story is silly and fun, but it certainly doesn’t have a healthy eating message!

Tasty Poems

Michaela chose a collection of poems all about food by authors like Judith Nicholls, John Kitching, Grace Nichols and Arnold Adoff, and illustrated by Nick Sharratt. Tasty Poems are silly and short, and the subjects range from healthy mangos, grapes and cabbages to not-so-healthy sugarcake and chocolate milk. Although she liked the illustrations, Michaela wasn’t too impressed by the poems. Perhaps they’re a bit dated as the collection was published in 1992.

Chocolate Mousse

Finally, Paula chose Chocolate Mousse for Greedy Goose by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt. (It seems Nick Sharratt has a lot of books about food!) This one has a fun rhyming text with all sorts of animals eating  different foods. On each spread you can see a bit of the previous animal and the one to come, so the reader can guess what will be next. Paula thought the rhymes worked well, even if chocolate mousse is not the healthiest option! We are hoping to make our book a silly rhyming one too.

Playing with our food

As part of our creative writing sessions on the topic of healthy eating, Lynne was inspired by the amazing food art of Hong Yi, and suggested we could try playing with fruit and vegetables too. Since the book we are hoping to produce together will be full of colourful illustrations, our Food Art session was a way of exploring different story ideas. We started at our local grocer and bought up almost everything in the shop! Then it was time to get chopping…

Paula's garden

Paula created a sunny broccoli garden with carrot wildlife. Lynne had to stand on a chair to get the photo just right (the same way Hong Yi does.)

Vicky's dachshund

Vicky was inspired by the Play With Your Food calendars and made her own little banana dachshund eating a bowl of raisins.

Lisa's monkey

Lisa also made a 3-D fruity creature, a monkey made of all sorts of things. Thank goodness  Kay remembered kebab sticks for holding everything together!

Demi's palm trees Nicola's palm trees

Demi and Nikki both made gorgeous tropical palm trees, and as soon as the photos were taken we made short work of them!

Pauline's caterpillar

Pauline decided to make a caterpillar and spent ages cutting grapes in half. Does it remind you of the Very Hungry Caterpillar?

Michaela's cheeky face

Michaela made a cheeky fruity face with luscious tomato lips.

Stacy's clown

Stacy created a clown face with lettuce hair and a cherry tomato for a nose. As you can see we had a very successful (and delicious) afternoon!

The Methil Makars at work!

The Methil Makars at work!