Monday, July 28

South London Press article about Mabel.

Couldn't post this before because I was away. But great to see this .....

A lovely article in South London Press.

Half a page - the kids did well!

Sunday, June 22

The launch!

Finally, the launch party for Nurse Mabel and her Amazing Fleas!

It was such a success. Better than any other launch party I have ever attended - none had the energy, excitement and sense of fun of this.   The kids were so excited, so proud and so pleased with their book. A photographer from the South London Press came along and took pictures of them, which made them even more excited.

And several mums and carers took time off work to attend as well.

This trio offered to pose for their photo!

and the children didn't have to be told to read the books.


They were pleased to see themselves and their friends in the back pages, and to recognise the parts of the text that they themselves had written.

After the children had taken a first look at the book, Vanessa talked through it with them, and they heard for the first time the story that they had all written and put together, read aloud.


We also had a cake with a Red Cross on it, and a big M for Mabel

And red party bags to finish off with, including medical themed gifts and sweets, and some pencils from the Wellcome Trust.  What a worthwhile project. I start to realise some of the feelings that teachers can get out of their job.

I really enjoyed it, and so did Vanessa and Tony, and their teacher Miss Clifford - and, most certainly, so did the kids!

Friday, June 6

Party Bags?

So what should we put in the party bags for the launch on 19 June? Most inexpensive gifts with a medical theme are a teeny bit weird (rubber gloves, anyone?)  Or they are gruesome - not that children seem to mind that.  But with 28 of them to buy for, the cost of individual gifts adds up.

I've had a look on Etsy for some ideas.... hmmm....

There's an aspirin pendant

 heartbeat trace bracelet
 brooch in the shape of an anatomical heart

and my favourite, soap in the shape of pills.  I'd get that - except that for all the kids to have a bar,  it would cost over £80.

Back to the party shop, then..

Tuesday, May 27

Kids, Upheavals and Challenges

Some children have faced great upheavals. Some come from war zones or have families facing difficult times in other countries. In an earlier post, our kids wrote about the fleas' feelings on going away with Mabel to the war. Here's the completed page that covers how the different fleas deal with this big change in their lives.  Hope you love it as much as I do.

A few people have asked how they can buy the book, and so we've put Paypal buttons in the right hand column.  Any profits go towards more writing projects with the school, so I hope you'll consider buying the book for any kids you know who have to face challenges and upheavals, who are getting dragged along with adults doing things that will change their lives ....

... or, of course, who are just interested in the idea of being a nurse in wartime, or what fleas might think about going away on a big adventure  :)


Thursday, May 8

Yay! Nearly Ready!

The book is almost ready for printing. We're having our launch on 19 June.  Here's the proof copy - doesn't it look good?

We've done a lot of work since we got the proofs so the final copies will be even better, now the typos are sorted out.

Sunday, March 9

Choosing an Illustrator

Here's Russell, our illustrator, at work on a poster for Mabel's flea circus.  Working with Russell made everything easier than I'd thought it might be.  I once did an article that involved talking to children's book editors, and so I already knew that publishers are really desperate to find good artists who can draw what they're asked in a lively, entertaining way.  I'd also had two children's book texts optioned and paid for by publishers who then couldn't find artists to make the ideas work. 

So when Frank had to pull out, we needed another illustrator,  and I became quite fed up as I googled and searched through countless illustration websites. Apart from the already-famous (and eye wateringly expensive) ones, I seemed only to be finding static, stylised or cute work, which didn't really suit our needs.   
Finally, Vanessa put out a Twitter alert to her many creative followers, and Russell was either recommended by someone or responded himself - I forget which.  We loved the lively work on his website, and the fact that he's into graphic novels, but what really helped was how he quickly entered into the fantastical spirit of the children's world.  And he could sketch anything, it seemed.   Here, the six-limbed Edwardian flea called Scary Simon is seen doing a "wall of death" routine on a bike, in a teacup.Not something most illustrators are used to drawing, but we felt Russell got just the right lively look. 

As the pictures came in, we saw that he'd added extra touches of his own.  Some of these came in handy when we broke up blocks of text with details taken from the illustrations. Here is one of the flies paying a visit to Mabel's flea circus in Bermondsey. The children thought the flies ought to pay by bringing crumbs of food as payment for the show - like this.  

 At the end of the book, we've put a photo of all the children in the class. Russell decided to add some
life sized fleas into the group, as co-authors. It took me a while to notice, but I'm sure the kids will spot their new "classmates" immediately. 

I'll certainly use Twitter again for finding creative people, and we already have another project in mind that we'd like to use Russell for. But first of course we have to get Mabel on the road. The launch party is in  May.  All the production is now complete, and we're now waiting for the proofs - exciting!  

We don't plan to print very many paper books, as colour printing is so expensive. The children will each have their own copy, and we will sell some to the public, but we plan to make the whole thing downloadable, including the pictures, and it will also include Vanessa's instructions and advice for parents and educators who want to encourage their own kids to write creatively too. We really hope that some home educators and teachers will be interested enough to check it out.   Will keep the blog updated so you know what's going on.

Monday, February 3

Teaching Children How To Think

One of the exciting things about this project has been how it's got the kids thinking.   I've already described one session when they decided whether or not to go to war.  And they were fascinated by the idea of nurses and doctors helping "enemies" - in other words, was their training to heal more important than their political beliefs?  Quite big ideas for ten year olds, but discussing the subject with the Irish nurse, Deirdre, absorbed them.

The children sometimes wanted to discuss issues which bothered them. Some had to deal with difficult issues every day.  Drugs, parents who cannot cope, gangs, violence. But in school, though, teachers must give a moral lead to encourage kids to think along the "right" lines.  True -  but unless you can discuss an issue in a truly non judgmental way, many of the harder issues get pushed under the carpet and not dealt with at all.

A way around this is to teach children how to think.  That's why I'm interested in Philosophy for Children, or P4C. which produces resources to help kids to think in an organised way.   I'm glad my grammar-school education taught me how to think critically.  It's so important, when information zings around about everything, but few people seem to know whether that information is true, or sensible or not.

Years ago Penguin Education put out a wonderful series of books called "Connexions" which dealt with issues of interest to kids.  They're long out of print, although you can find second hand copies around.

There were lots of different topics in a lively, extensively illustrated and readable format,  beautifully visually designed.  I still think they are wonderful - if only someone would update and reissue them.