Books and my inner child

When I transferred from the School of Geography to the Medical School in Aberdeen, it was with a new plan in mind. It was to not be a Geography teacher, but instead to become a Community Education worker (as it was known at the time). I hoped to get my degree in Health Promotion, then do my postgraduate diploma after graduation.

So I didn’t look into any courses other than Community Learning and Development ones when I applied for graduate school last summer. It wasn’t until I met my roommate in Germany that I knew there was a Graduate course at Glasgow university on Children’s Literature and Literacy. I love hearing about the things my friend is studying, and am geeky enough to want to read her dissertation when it’s done!



As I’ve mentioned, a friend and I would like to write a book for children. Specifically we want to write books that will widen the breadth of knowledge and understanding of other cultures from a young age so children are not hearing a single story of stereotyped cultures. I saw my roommate post on facebook about a conference being organised by some of the Children’s Literature postgraduates at Glasgow, and discovered I could go. They graciously allowed me to come despite only being able to attend for one of the two days (I was gutted I couldn’t go to both) even though I was not a librarian, copy editor, illustrator or author (yet).



I got learn about editing, publishing, writing and designing books for children, how children can interpret and learn from picturebooks and discovered a couple of books I wasn’t aware of and now wish I had more book tokens! (Christmas?).

The first workshop was a children’s author called Jane Blatt and it was fascinating to learn about the research she has done on how babies and toddlers interact with books and how it inspired her book ‘Books Always Everywhere’. I hope Carrie, Kathy and Jenni know their babies may be getting some random gifts in the form of treasure baskets this Christmas! The book was published by Nosy Crow whose presentation I missed (it sounded like I really did miss out!)

I learned about editing from a lovely editor called Morven who recommended some great resources that I should probably use more often. I’m terrible when it comes to blogging for just writing and hitting publish without any proof reading whatsoever. Just so you know – I don’t do that with my university essay or with any work publications!

And then a librarian from Glasgow Life had brought all these books pictured above which we marked to what topics they could be used for to start discussion with children. Folks – for me this was like being in a sweetie shop. I love, love, love books for young children.

And then we heard more about the research being done on Picturebooks from some researchers at Glasgow University. This is where I discovered the most hilarious and thought provoking book called Mr Wuffles which is all about some aliens in a spaceship have a terrible experience with a cat, escape and meet a tribe of ants who have also had some problems with the same cat and how they find friendship through shared experiences and overcome language barriers.

The other books that were introduced to me by fellow attendees which I urge you to check out are The Arrival by Shaun Tan which tells the story of many immigrants with beautiful illustrations. And It’s A Book! by Lane Smith which is all about a tech savvy jackass donkey who has never seen a book before and has to have the concept of a book made with paper explained to him.

I’m hoping that next year I might get the chance to audit some of the MEd Children’s Literature courses so I can learn more. It’s definitely an area of life that I love and feel very passionate about. Something probably (ok, I know) my friends’ kids have picked up on. :)


A (belated) post on World Book Day

On Thursday it was World Book Day. I’ve been a long time book worm – totally my mother’s fault for teaching me to read when I was 3. I consumed books like they might go extinct. University has probably had a negative effect on my love of reading and how much I read, but there are few things I enjoy more than perusing books in a book shop.

One thing that hasn’t disappeared is my love of children’s literature, and it is a dream of mine to do the CBeebies bedtime hour and to write books for children. I’m going to be very sad when my friends’ kids grow up because I love finding new fun books for them to enjoy!

I was lucky enough to be brought up by my Nana while my Mum worked full-time (how on earth she found the time and energy to teach me to read too is beyond me). If ever we went up town I would be allowed to choose a Puddle Lane book which you could get in the small supermarket that was in the St James’ Centre for less than £1. It says a lot that when my friend and I went to the Edinburgh Vintage Fair earlier in the year, in a room full of funky clothes, trinkets and jewellery I got most excited on discovering a pile of the Ladybird books from the 70s and 80s. Apparently my excitement was so amusing Jenny had to take a picture of the moment…

vintage books


My friend Andy tagged me in one of those facebook memes. My brother bemoans that I post too much on facebook, but as Andy so rarely participates in things like that I couldn’t not. And in celebration of World Book Day I thought I would share what I wrote here. The idea was to list 10 of your favourite books.
10. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Yes, it is no secret that I’m a huge AMS fan. I wish I was more like Mma Ramotswe, but probably Mma Potokwani (the bossiness)/Mma Makutsi (those glasses and shoes!) is more accurate. And I love reading books set in Southern Africa – we need more diversity in the arts of film, drama and literature to combat the danger of the single story…

9. Harry Potter (the whole series) by J.K. Rowling. Thanks uni friends for dragging me to see the film which give me the encouragement to give the books another go. I started reading them on trains around Europe and ended uni by graduating with their author.

8. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. Used this book for my Higher English Specialist Study. And I still like to read it. Miraculous

7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The only book I was MADE to read in high school and actually liked. Well done old sport.

6. Maisie the Cat books by Aileen Patterson. I still love finding these in the children’s section of bookstores around Edinburgh. Blackwells even has a Maisie the Cat puzzle to mark the anniversary of James Thins this year.

5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Pretty much the only book on the weirdness of trying to explain faith and belief in God I identify with.

4. Dinosaurs Love Underpants by someone called Claire I think (I can’t remember). I came across this book helping a friend who was trying to find a present for his nephew one year, and so glad I did. My honourary nephews love this book and their sequels!

3. The Bible. To be fair, more of a series than one book. And some of the books are not my favourites. But the Book of Proverbs is good for some wisdom and Song of Songs is the ancient version of Mills and Boon making for some amusing reading…

2. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I love the way Jodi writes from different character’s perspectives showing how life’s decisions are not necessarily black and white ‘right or wrong’ but often far more complex.

1. Tully by Paullina Simons. My favourite book since my friend lent me a copy when we were about 15 – I soon got my own copy and it is without a doubt one of the tattiest looking books on my shelf now it has been re-read so many times.

Of course, as soon as I posted it I realised that I’d missed an important one off the list: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m not sure how to fix that, so I’ll just make it a bonus 11.

One thing I’m hoping for is that we get another summer like 2013. As I walked passed Princes Street Gardens seeing flowers in bloom already, it made me think of putting a book and a jumper to use as a blanket in my bag to sit in the sunshine after work reading Fitzgerald or a bit of Alexander McCall Smith…and to the Edinburgh book festival in August…

I’ve already got a pile of books waiting for me to finish my final uni assignment of this school year… :)

What are your favourite books?

The perks of being a wallflower…


I’m still in denial about being back at uni and work. So with a free evening, which if I’m honest should probably be used for reading very tedious books about education, I am sitting on my laptop writing while watching Perks of Being A Wallflower. Again.

I found a copy of Stephen Chbosky’s book last year in London. It is probably the first book I’ve read that has been set in a high school  context that has any reflection or relation to my own teenage experience. There’s always that worrying moment that you think a film will ruin your love of a book. But as the film script was written by the author, the cast chosen by him –  the whole atmosphere is there.

From being friends with people older than you, to having friends experimenting with drugs, having the one teacher that believed in you, and all the other teachers that didn’t really care, to open conversations about sex, to anxiety, panic attacks and depression, being dragged to rugby matches because my friend fancied one of the players, to fights in school, to knowing that an incident has brought up a whole host of history between people you had no idea of, to abortion, to trying to turn it around to get into university after spending a year off the rails…

I even remember a bunch of us dancing and singing to ‘Come on Eileen’ in the pub that I used to frequent with the sixth years when I was in fourth year every Thursday night. The only thing missing was the soundtrack of Krezip and Oasis. And making oh so many mixtapes. Some of them I still have.

Of course I’m British so we didn’t have cars when we were in high school – unless we got lucky by passing our test super quick if we had a March/April birthday so we didn’t have a pick up truck to fly through a tunnel too. We just had running through the streets late at night – sometimes barefoot (which is in itself precarious and mental given our Scottish climate).

I really get why so many teens have written to him to say that the book had saved their lives. I think if I’d been reading and watching this at 14, 15, 16, 17…I’d have been writing to say the same thing.

Blogember: Day 27 – A book that changed my life

I don’t even pause when someone asks me this question. I was 15, in holiday in Corfu with my friend Jennifer. I think it was the first year that I moved on from ‘children’s books’ to ‘adult fiction’. I can’t remember which books I took, but I do remember Jennifer lending me one she brought when she had finished it called ‘Red Leaves’ by Paullina Simons.

When I came home, I searched out for more of her books. It was a girl in my music and English class that lent me her copy of ‘Tully’.

It changed my life. It was the first book where I really identified with the characters. And at this point in my life I was really messed up struggling to understand and feeling a great deal of despair. What I loved about Tully is that she survived – she did not come out a saint or perfect, but she eventually found her way and discovered a will to live on. And so did her best friend Julie.

In the book, Tully ends up being a social worker – it’s a surprise to her, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone who has known her since she was a teenager.

I’m pretty sure (although I can’t be certain) that the folks that I have known me since I was a teenager don’t find it a shock that I do what I do now either.

I vividly remember being curled up on my bed, listening to this song and the rest of that particular album, reading Paullina Simons’ words.

I realise that many may expect to me have answered this question with ‘The Bible’, and where it is true that I would say God changed my life when I was 17 it was God that changed me not the bible…I don’t think I would have got to that point of being able to question my non-belief, apply to university, attend church and try praying without having read Tully first.


I love the summer

Photo on 2013-07-09 at 18.12


I can’t believe we’re getting a summer. This is the first ‘summer’ I remember since 2006. No, really – I’m not kidding. And I’m doing everything I can to make the most of it – because who knows when the next time we get a summer will be?

Sunshine just brings out the best in me. I love being less like the colour of milk. I love all the fruit and veg that is coming into season. I love walking to and from work. I love driving a car with the windows down blasting out Noah and The Whale. I love sitting in the sunshine reading a book. All the books I’ve not finished I’m now working onThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, Stephen Fry in America and catching up on Corduroy Mansions and 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith. I’ve got a pile of books on my to-read list. Some in a pile on my shelf. Some tormenting my wallet as I fight the temptation to purchase them. My current ‘handbag’ book is a series of essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Cruise of the Rolling Junk.

I’d heard a new Mimi’s had opened not far from where I work, and so with the sun still in the sky and the centre bizarrely quiet (we’re usually quiet in June-August, but June was insanely busy for some reason) I left work at 4 p.m. and went to investigate. A chocolate raspberry brownie purchased, I went to get the airlink bus home but decided to make a detour. A detour into the South end of Princes Street Gardens, sit on the grassy slope and eat my brownie and read Rolling Junk. I ended up having a wee power nap in the evening sunshine.

It did my soul good.

Yes, life is still busy and crazy. I’m making new friends, and catching up with old connections. I collected my Fringe tickets today as well. People keep asking where I’m going on holiday. The truth is I have no plans as I try to save pennies – but then I guess my ‘holiday’ will be enjoying everything Edinburgh has to offer this summer.

I realise the summer is flying by. Almost 2 weeks down already. There’s so much to do until then – not least of which getting this open college course completed.

And I still need to pick a Quote for this week!

Bedtime stories…

Me on the storytelling sofa (photo by Elastaboy on my camera)

Me on the storytelling sofa (photo by Elastaboy on my camera)

One of the things I’m missing most about my friends now living in Eyemouth is the fact I don’t get to see them as much anymore. My favourite thing when visiting the boys (Elastaboy & Mr Teapot) was reading with them. When my friends asked me if I’d be godmother and told me that I was going be allowed to be ‘Auntie’ to them, I was determined of three things.

1. To make sure I prayed for them and be real about my faith with them (please note my friends are Christians and I took vows as a godmother to pray for Elastaboy. I didn’t take vows for Mr Teapot, but I love him just the same and do the same for him vows or not!)

2. That they would be subjected to good music and the best Disney/Pixar movies

3. That I would encourage them to read.

I loved reading when I was a kid, and part of what made that fun was story tapes. Even though I could read the book myself, it was so much more fun to be read to and hear someone articulating the tone of the moment. My friends have filled the boys life with books which I love and from a very early age, being read to was part of Elastaboy’s pre-bedtime routine. I loved getting to babysit when I got to be part of that routine. Even during afternoons when the boys got a bit rowdy I’d get them to sit in the sofa and Elastaboy and later on Mr Teapot would pull a book off ‘their’ shelf in the living room and bring it over so we could read it together.

At the weekend, I went down for a birthday party, and finally got to give the boys their Christmas presents (and Mr Teapot’s birthday presents). One of the books that I discovered while helping my friend Gavin find a present for his nephew a few years ago was Dinosaurs Love Underpants. As soon as I opened it and read it I was giggling and told Gavin on no uncertain terms that he HAD to buy this book for his nephew. I just couldn’t imagine a child (especially a little boy) not finding the story fun! As soon as Elastaboy was old enough I bought a copy for him, and then along came Aliens Love Underpants (E & Mr T’s favourite book apparently). In October I found out another one had been done with Pirates so I bought a copy to give to one of the boys for Christmas or birthday. When Mr Teapot opened it, Elastaboy exclaimed in regret ‘Awww! I’ve been wanting that book!‘ I love that he wanted a book! We explained that we were sure Mr Teapot would share the book with him – the best part of reading books is that it can be a shared experience…

It makes me sad when I hear of parents who don’t read with their children. Last summer on my Mum’s birthday we went for lunch and afterwards popped into Waterstone’s to browse the books (I do this a lot). I dragged her to the children’s section to show her a book I’d found during the Jubilee about the Queen’s royal knickers getting lost. Jokingly my Mum had sat on a seat in the kids section and asked me to read it to her (Do other people do this role reversal game with their parents?). My Mum was tutting and laughing at me putting on the dramatic posh voice as the discovery of the mix up between the picnic hamper and the Queen’s knickers hamper was made. Soon a little girl started watching us, and nervously edged closer and closer to me clearly wanting to join our reading. She looked up at me with big wide eyes and I smiled at her and carried on. When the story was finished I asked her if she’d like to see the book and she shyly nodded and at this point the Mum noticed me and I could tell was about to tell her not to bother me. I smiled at her Mum and said “I think she’d like to hear this story” and handed the little girl the book. The girl burst into a smile as her Mum asked “do you want to read it?” and climbed up next to her Mum to be read to.

That, and the fact that I still quite happily entertain children with imaginary tea and cakes, making stuffed toys ‘talk’, racing Jesus against a camper van across a kitchen floor and  all that joyful silliness I guess is why presenting CBeebies  is on my bucket list. My Mum’s actually suggested that I try and volunteer somehow to do a storytime for children in a library or bookshop. I’m quite tempted to do that (this is clearly why I fail to get jobs that pay me…I like having fun work way too much)!

What was your favourite book as a child, and are there any new favourites you’ve discovered recently?

24 days of Christmas: Ye never see daylicht on Ne’erday (by Fran)

Fran Brady was born in Dundee and is a graduate of St Andrews University. After a varied career in the voluntary sector, she turned from charity management to creative writing. In five years, she has written three novels, a book of short stories, a children’s book and recently – to her surprise – some poetry.  She has three daughters, a stepson, six grandchildren, lots of pals of all ages – and a dog. She lives with her husband in a village in West Lothian

A Fife Mining Community 1954

New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay, was the time for free-range “first-footing”, an unpredictable affair with every house set up for a full- scale party. It was a lottery as to which ones would end up with crowds big enough to do justice to the groaning tables of food and drink. There might be a great party, a horrible fight, a great deal of vomiting or just a gaggle of maudlin mutterers and snorers. Or you might have very few people and be left eating black bun and shortbread for weeks. You just never knew. But every house must be prepared. It was unthinkable disgrace not to be provisioned as if for an army.

New Year’s Day was quite different, having a formal structure. It did not begin until late afternoon, since no-one had gone to bed until dawn once Hogmanay had been finally declared over. Whilst the men snored on, the women and children would be up just in time to catch the winter sunset. Ye never see daylicht on Ne’erday was considered a fitting accolade to a good Hogmanay.

Once the mess from the night before had been cleaned up, it was time to start preparing Ne’erday Denner. This was when as many of your extended family as you could squeeze round your table would be invited to share in Steak Pie and Trifle – the menu was the same in every house and was washed down by copious amounts of that well-known beverage, the hair o’ the dog.

The first guests would be encouraged to burst in on the foul-breathed snoring of the man of the house, dragging him out of bed, declaring:

That must hae been a richt skinfu’ ye had last nicht!Get yersel’ a wash an’ shave, man, an’ get yersel’ through fur yer Ne’erday denner!

Mid-evening, the party would begin. No false modesty was allowed: songs, recitations, even short dramatic sketches made up the programme, repeated year in, year out with almost no variation.

Apart from the returning war heroes, who had proudly brought back their rousing, regimental choruses, few people were ever allowed to introduce new material.

As more and more of the younger generation left to seek their fortune across the Atlantic or Down Under, a new poignancy had been added to the old emigrant laments and there was never a dry eye in the house when everyone joined in “It’s oh! But I’m longin’ for my ain folk. . .

Some better-off families might book a few minutes on the telephone to faraway sons and daughters and everyone would crowd round and shout to be heard, marvelling at the time difference.

The party would once again last well into the next day. Men starting at six o’clock on the early shift would fortify themselves with plates of stovies or tripe and onions and head straight from the party to do a seven hour shift down the pit.

This is an excerpt from:

 Available as an e-book from

or from in their Kindle Store.

Fran’s post is the first in a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on the excerpt from Fran’s latest book (and let us know if you buy it and read the whole thing!), and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

LFS Introduces… Nicola Hulks, Author of Stars in Unexpected Places

Today I’m very excited to introduce you to one of my most lovely of friends – Nicola Hulks!  So now I hand you over to her…


Laura Anne has very kindly asked me to come along and write a guest post on her blog. I’m a big fan of this blog so it’s an honour indeed. I think I enjoy it so much because La is such an honest story teller of the stories that are all around us. Got to love a bit of honesty!

So the reason Laura Anne has asked me to come along is to talk about my new short story collection, Stars in Unexpected Places. This was released a couple of weeks ago now and is being sold in aid of the aid and development charity Tearfund in Paperback and E-book format. The stories in the collection are really just about people’s lives, little snapshots that tell bigger tales. Some are old stories, familiar stories from the bible but rewritten from a different perspective. Some are about romance, holding hands in the rain. Some are about freedom, quitting a job you can’t stand and battling with yourself when you think better of it. Some are funny. Some are sad. A bit like life really! And that’s the thing with short stories and is the reason why I wrote them and why I write anything at all. They can capture so much in so few words. Through simple things that life is made up of, a picture, a conversation, they say something bigger than just the moment told.

I started writing more seriously when I went to Zambia with Tearfund to visit some of the partners working on the ground for the organisation. Partners are local people who see a need in their community and work tirelessly to see it met. This means that money raised by Tearfund goes direct to the people who need it most and is administered by people who live in the community and know it best. It was in Zambia that I realised how much meaning can be in those little moments. I travelled around Zambia meeting people who had benefited from the support of the charity and the things that I saw really stayed with me. One day we were driving through a desperately poor area, our tyres bouncing in and out of the potholes, when I saw a sign sprayed in thick black paint on the wall of a market stall saying ‘God Knows’. This spoke more to me than hours of conversations about economics and the route out of poverty because yes, he does know and I think it quite breaks his heart.

Some of my experiences in Zambia feature in Stars in Unexpected Places and these stories are ultimately about hope because that’s how I left, feeling hopeful. And I feel hopeful now, that this little collection of stories might do a bit more of the wonderful work I saw started. You can have a read of some sample stories on my website and I’m currently doing a blog tour of the book, telling the stories behind the stories and giving a sneak peak of what you can expect from it. I hope you like it.


For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of being in Nicola’s company, you are indeed missing out – but you can catch Nicola over on her website and on twitter @nicolahulks.

BK’s Guide to Children’s Books – Part 1

Yes of course this will be a completely biased series of posts because well, these are my favourite children’s books, and you might not agree. Though it has to be said that for the most part I’ve been pretty good at picking out children’s books that have been a hit. Unless their parents (and said children) are lying. :(

But here I go introducing some of the books I think are just fabulous, and I hope that if you read them you’ll love them too!

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

We must begin with a book I still remember discovering at nursery (preschool) when I was probably about 4 years old. I loved lifting the flaps to discover what animal had been sent.

To me this is a necessity for any child’s book collection. Especially as not only is it fun for the interaction of lifting flaps, you can also practice and learn about the different noises animals make. :)

Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort

I discovered this book a couple of years ago when my friend asked me to help him shop for his nephew’s Christmas present. Monsters? Underpants? General silliness? This is the bread and butter of books for any 3-6 year old…particularly if he’s a boy!

The book is written in rhyme and explains how dinosaurs became extinct because they were fighting over a limited resource of underpants. Duh! Why did you think they became extinct?! ;)

The Large Family Collection by Jill Murphy

Or any preschool book by Jill Murphy really. My lil bro LOVED them when he was wee (and memorised them so you never got away with skipping bits at bedtime). He like the Large Family ones mainly I think because the wee girl elephant was called Laura. Just like his biggest sister! Awww.

Dear Greenpeace by Simon James

This book I found in a wee shop in Morningside while looking for a present for Elastababy. I ended up getting it for Miss S’s 4th birthday as I was sure that her Mummy & Daddy would approve of a book where a little girl called Emily writes to Greenpeace to tell them about the whale in her garden. They do write very polite letters back to her too. A great book for introducing your children to eco-warriorhood. :)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

If you have never seen this book, seriously, you had a very deprived and sheltered childhood. This one has been around for 40 years and the illustration is still well cool! Plus all the pages with holes from the hungry caterpillar eating his way through until…the grand finale ending.

What are your favourite children’s books?

Flower of Scotland Friday: The Lamplighter

So the more observant of you may have noticed a few changes to my header. Includes one of my favourite pics taken with the Simunye kids in Bhekuwandle but also a picture of one of the flagstones outside the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh with a quote from one of my favourite childhood authors, Robert Louis Stevenson.


There were a few books, mostly hand-me-downs of my Mum’s and my cousin’s that stayed in my Nana’s house. The three books I remember…Laura’s Summer Ballet (a prize my Mum got for good attendance at Sunday School); The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

In the last, there was a poem called The Lamplighter.

I loved that poem. Perhaps because I could imagine it all, my Nana living round the corner and up the hill from where RLS had been born, lived and gone to school as a child.

I knew it off by heart.

And if I ever read it aloud, I think it’s the only thing (apart from being angered about something) that makes my accent at it’s most Scottish! :)

My tea is nearly ready, and the sun has left the sky;

It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;

For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,

With lantern, and with ladder, he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver, and Maria go to sea,

And my Papa’s a banker, and as rich as he can be;

But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do;

O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky with a lamp before the door,

And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;

And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;

O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!

The Lamplighter by Robert Louis Stevenson © A Child’s Garden of Verses – 1913