Monday, 20 June 2016

Thesaurus Addict by Jane Clarke

When I’m beginning to think about a picture book story, I go straight to a thesaurus and look up the main words that have popped into my mind. It will often send me off in a totally different direction, or give an extra depth to a story. 

It’s my version of what Michelle does:

I do use an online thesaurus, but my favourite is still my old Collin’s thesaurus that I bought when I started writing 20 years ago. Yes, it is mine, borrowed by my son when he was studying English for the International Baccalaureate.

I also love The Usbourne Illustrated Thesaurus for children - I bought it for me, not for my sons... 

It has fab, often inspirational illustrated entries, like this one on fire. Some, like for ‘fantasy’, ‘pirates’ and ‘space’ have full page illustrations.

In a great article called “ Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes,” Stephen King has, as his rule number 5 

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft

Yep! I’d agree, I only use reference books during the thinking, brain storming, note-making process. I don’t stop to check anything while writing a first draft.

But Stephen King also advises 

"Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket." 

Nooo-ooo! I think that would be a terrible  

What do you think?

 Jane's new book is the fifth in the Dr KittyCat series, artwork by Richard Byrne and Shutterstock.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Picture books and trying to help instil greater empathy, taking responsibility and understanding of consent from a young age. Thoughts in the wake of the Stanford sexual assault case by Juliet Clare Bell

“Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up,” she said. “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”

I’m going out on a limb a bit today. I will bring it back to picture books at the end, because

"Reading fiction... gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin," Ann Patchett

but I want to talk about something  I’ve been thinking about a lot this week: the powerful impact statement written and read out by a woman at the sentencing hearing  for a young man in the US who sexually assaulted her. Found guilty of three serious offences and never admitting his guilt, the perpetrator was given a six-month sentence.

This is my attempt at speaking even louder, bearing in mind that this is a picture book site…

The story surrounding this case has really struck a chord with me. There were definitely some similarities between the woman’s story and my own. I too was subjected to “twenty minutes of action” (as the father referred to his son’s behaviour in the current case) which also turned my whole world upside down; I was rescued by two strangers who chased after and caught/helped the police catch the perpetrator even before I was picked up and taken off to The Rape Suite for a night of invasive examinations, blood tests, injections and endless questioning. And my attacker also claimed not to have any recollection of the incident (having been high on drugs). But the similarities end there.

People of my age can probably remember the Chris Morris Brass Eye black comedy sketch about ‘Good Aids’ (those who contracted HIV through infected blood transfusions) and ‘Bad Aids’ (from homosexual sex). Well, so it seems that for some people there’s ‘Good Rape/Assault’ and ‘Bad Rape/Assault’. ‘Good’ involves a stranger, the victim wearing dowdy clothes and having drunk no alcohol and taken no drugs. Oh, and definitely not being a prostitute. ‘Bad’, on the other hand, involves a woman having drunk alcohol/taken drugs, knowing or having at least met the perpetrator, the woman wearing ‘provocative’ clothes, and/or quite possibly, being sexual promiscuous or even a prostitute. But both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ involve a man raping/assaulting a woman (or man)...

My experience definitely fell into the ‘good’ category. Even whilst I was in shock and being examined by the police doctor that night, I was aware of the unfairness of the system as the doctor reassured me that it was a very good thing –as long as the tests backed up my statement, of course- as I’d not drunk any alcohol or taken any drugs. And I’d clearly been wearing dowdy clothes (including my great aunt’s unfashionable, but warm, coat) as I walked home –I could see they believed I hadn’t been ‘asking for it’. “Most of the women I examine are prostitutes,” said the doctor, conspiratorially. Even then, I felt the unfairness of being treated with a respect that other women probably weren’t getting.

Why should it have mattered if I had been drinking? (I might well have drunk –I’d been at a social event, but for some reason I can’t remember I happen not to have drunk anything that night.) Why should it have changed anything if I’d been dressed up? And why should someone attacking me have been less serious if I had been a prostitute?

Although my attacker entered a plea of not guilty whilst on remand (because he claimed he couldn’t remember the event), he changed his plea on the day of the court case. As a result, the judge reduced his sentence (for not putting me through the trauma of a court case -and also because of the defendant’s own traumatic childhood), from about nine years, to five. This is the judge for whom the police had a nickname because he was so lenient (they warned me in court when they saw who it was that the sentence would probably be much shorter than they’d predicted). So a substantially reduced sentence by a judge deemed to be lenient, of five years -compared with six months in the Stanford case. There were no family members arguing the case for my attacker (on the contrary, his step family came to the initial hearing and told my then boyfriend that he should ‘do him over’ for them, and at the final hearing, they clapped when he was sentenced), and he wasn't at university or a strong athlete (he was of no fixed abode and not athletic).

I could talk about the difference in our cases in terms of closure for me, and lack of closure for the woman in the current case –where I wrote to my perpetrator in prison (as did my brother) and he wrote back absolutely accepting full responsibility, saying ‘I was nothing more than an animal and I should have been put down for what I did to you’ and that he’d never cried till he read my letter, and how he’d since decided to take anger management courses in prison even though it meant he’d stay in longer; and how he’d requested to go to a half-way house on his release so he would be supervised. And that he promised that he’d never come back to the city in which he had attacked me so that I could be confident I would never bump into him. This, compared with the current case where the attacker has not accepted any guilt. The turn of events after the attack for me, down to my treatment by the police, the judge, even the defence barrister, as well as the perpetrator admitting full responsibility and being extremely remorseful, made it all much easier to move on from. 
But that’s not what this post is about.

I wanted to say something about consent, which is what so much of this boils down to. No one was ever going to argue over whether I had consented –I was followed home by a stranger and he was caught literally red-handed (with mostly his own blood from the weapon he’d been holding). I had been asked loads of questions about my sexual history but as they’d established this was never going to be a case of whether I’d given consent or not, I’d not felt worried about those questions being used against me in court. But how grim that the same answers might have been used against another woman where consent could be questioned.

I know many women who have been sexually assaulted by men –almost all of them men that they knew –boyfriends, acquaintances, family members. As far as I know, I am the only one who actually went to the police –out of all the people I know who have been assaulted. And as well as fear, this has a lot to do with knowing how incredibly hard it is to get a conviction for someone when lack of consent may be questioned.

So, consent. There’s a great video used by Thames Valley police about consent

Animation courtesy of Emmeline May at and Blue Seat Studios. Copyright © 2015

But this is not a video to show to young children. So what can we do as picture book authors and illustrators to help children understand about consent and taking responsibility, and empathy from a young age? (And I’m not saying that the man in question in the current case would have done anything differently had he read certain picture books as a child –I don’t know the man and I’m not going to comment on his family here.)

Research is clear that reading stories helps children become more empathic.

Here's an article from the Guardian on the benefits of reading for empathy:

"Fiction is not just a simulator of a social experience, it is a social experience," writes psychologist  David Comer Kidd, whose paper, Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind was published in Science in 2013.

And again:

"Reading fiction... gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin," Ann Patchett.

We need picture books with diverse characters so that all people can see themselves in some books and all people can get a sense of how it might be to be someone else in other books.

So Much (c) Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury

Siddarth and Rinki (c) Addy Farmer and Karin Littlewood

We need strong female characters

That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown (c) Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton

(A video showing a reading of Emily Brown...)

The Kite Princess (c) Juliet Clare Bell and Laura-Kate Chapman

and strong male characters
Oliver Who Was Small But Mighty (c) Mara Bergman and Nick Maland

including ones who do not conform to male stereotypes

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School (c) David Mackintosh

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress (c) Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant

We need good picture books about friendship and compassion;


That's What Friends Do (c) Kathryn Cave and Nick Maland

(and a video reading of it)

about compromise

Best Friends or Not? (c) Paeony Lewis and Gaby Hansen

Simple kindness

Extra Yarn (c) Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Charlie is My Darling (c) Malachy Doyle and Stephen Lambert

How Kind! (c) Mary Murphy

(and a fab reading of How Kind!)

about unconditional love

No Matter What (c) Debi Gliori

and about accepting people for who they are.

Dandylion (c) Lizzie Finlay

We need picture books with LGBT characters

King and King (c) Linda de Haan  and Stern Nijland

And Tango Makes Three (c) Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole

And see this Guardian article for more LGBT picture books

We need books with children with disabilities that aren’t about their disabilities

The Unstoppable Maggie McGee (c) Juliet Clare Bell and Dave Gray

We need picture books about bullies and people who are being bullied; standing up to bullies and taking responsibility for your own bad behaviour towards other people...

Little Rabbit Foo Foo (c) Michael Rosen and Arthur Robins

(and a video of it)

Something Else (c) Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell

(and a video of it)

and about doing the right thing even when it’s not the easy option

Those Shoes (c) Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z Jones

and about never taking advantage of your greater physical strength to get something from someone without their consent or permission...

only I can't think of a book that does this. Does anyone know of one I can add in here? Please let me know in the comments, below...

And we need books that show how even the small actions of one person can have big consequences for another person, good or bad (humorous over the top books that make us think about cause and effect are really valuable)...

Mouse Creeps (c) Peter Harris and Reg Cartwright

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (c) Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond

There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight (c) Penny Parker Klosterman and Ben Mantle

There Was a Wee Lassie Who Swallowed a Midgie (c) Rebecca Colby and Kate McLelland

And we need books that show the folly of a misguided sense of entitlement.

Louis I King of Sheep (c) Olivier Tallac

The Tiger Who Would be King (c) James Thurber and Jodhee Yoon

We need books that show children that teasing that is not actively being enjoyed by the subject of the teasing is neither funny nor ok –whether it’s coming from adults or other children. It is categorically not funny if the person in question does not find it funny. This is a really important lesson for understanding consent (can anyone think of a picture book that touches on this?).  And we need books about inspirational people. In my author visits for Two Brothers and a Chocolate Factory: the Remarkable Story of Richard and George Cadbury (illustrated by Jess Mikhail), we look at what George and Richard did to improve the lives of other people in the community and we discuss what we can do, individually and collectively, to have a positive impact on the people around us.

Two Brothers and a Chocolate Factory: The Remarkable Story of Richard and George Cadbury (c) Juliet Clare Bell and Jess Mikhail.

There are many, many picture books that help children to empathise with others, and see the consequences of their actions -and see these posts for more recommendations, and this one, this one from Scholastic,  and this excellent list from Book Trust,

-but let's keep making more. Moreover, we need for them to be read by people who may not be picking up these messages from their own environments. So we need our libraries and our librarians and our enthusiastic teachers and educators.

Books alone aren’t going to stop all terrible things happening to people at the hands of other people. But we can play our small part in helping children become more empathic, have more personal responsibility and understand that no means no.

Which picture books would you recommend for encouraging empathy/compassion/respect in the reader? Please leave any recommended books in the comments section below.

Thank you.

Juliet Clare Bell 

Monday, 6 June 2016

WHAT LIES WITHIN: Cross sections and cutaways in picture books • Jonathan Emmett

Two types of pictures that were guaranteed to hold my attention as a child were cross sections and cutaways. These revealing illustrations offered readers a god-like omniscience allowing them to peek at things that were usually hidden and imparting an understanding of how individual parts or spaces fitted together to form a more complex whole.

If you’re not clear on what the difference is, a cross section is a drawing which shows the view revealed by an imaginary straight line slice through an object, while a cutaway is a drawing in which some external parts have been removed (or ‘cut away’) to reveal the interior. Many of the drawings featured in “cross section” books are actually cutaways.

One illustrator who did a great deal to popularise cutaways was Leslie Ashwell Wood. Although perhaps best know for the hundreds of cutaways he created for the Eagle comic in the 1950s and 60s, Wood also produced a series of Inside Information books including this one featuring cutaways of space craft, which I spent many hours poring over as a child.

Inside Information on Space Travel was part of a series of twelve
Inside Information cutaway books illustrated by Leslie Ashwell Wood 

There was a quite a craze for cross sections and cutaway books in the 1990s*, perhaps most notably the Incredible Cross Section series illustrated by Stephen Biesty.

Stephen Biesty’s intricately detailed exploded cutaway through the Colosseum from
Rome in Spectacular Cross-Section with text by Andrew Solway.  

While Biesty’s drawings revealed the hidden intricacies of the real world, past and present, other illustrators began to produce equally detailed cross sections and cutaways based on the fictional worlds of films and TV shows. In 1998 Dorling Kindersley published Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections, illustrated by Hans Jensen and Richard Chasemore and written by David West Reynolds. 


Hans Jenssen’s Millennium Falcon cutaway from Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections. 

Since then everything from the Thunderbirds' rescue craft to Wallace and Gromit’s motorbike and sidecar has been laid bare in cutaway or cross section form.

An amusing variation on the genre is Alan Snow’s How Things Really Work series which purports to show the mechanical interior workings of familiar creatures.

 A cross section though a Stegosaurus from Alan Snow’s How Dinosuars Really Work

Although some of the books featured above contain fictional content, none of them are story books, so I thought I’d finish off by looking at some picture books that incorporate cross-sections and cutaways into a narrative.

Now that you know what a fan I am, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that cross sections and cutaways occasionally pop up in the picture books I've written, such as this wonderfully detailed crocodile-submarine gatefold that Steve Cox created for The Treasure of Captain Claw.

Captain Claw's crocodile-like submarine (click here to see a larger version).

Chris Riddell’s cutaway drawing for Pirate Diary, written by Richard Platt, allows readers to explore the ship on which the story is set … 

… as does this Noah’s Ark cross section (made from plasticine!) by Barbara Reid for her picture book Two By Two.

But no post about cross sections and cutaways in picture books would be complete without a mention of the two Full Moon books – Full Moon Soup and Full Moon Afloat – by Alistair Graham. These are both wordless picture books in which the story is told in a sequence of twelve comically detailed cross sections populated by a cast of increasingly weird and wonderful characters. In Full Moon Soup the eponymous magical potion results in a Fawlty-Towers-like hotel going from this at the start of the book … 

… to this by the end. 

I hope you've enjoyed this 'slice' of some of my favourite picture book cross sections and cutaways. If you have any favourites of your own, I’d love to hear about them in the comments box below. 

* Fellow Picture Book Den author Moira Butterfield wrote the text for several of them!

The submarine cross section featured above is taken from The Treasure of Captain Claw, by Jonathan Emmett and Steve Cox and published by Orchard Books.

Find out more about Jonathan and his books at his Scribble Street web site or his blogYou can also follow Jonathan on Facebook and Twitter @scribblestreet.

See all of Jonathan's posts for Picture Book Den.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Creation or Promotion? Is there time for both? by Abie Longstaff

I've been really busy with work recently. But not with writing; with events.

I love doing author events: school visits, literary festivals and bookshop readings. It gives me a buzz to meet children, hear their ideas, share stories and help them with their creative writing. But it takes its toll. It’s exhausting. There's the panic of
Will my train be on time?
Will the school’s technology be compatible with mine?
Will anyone come to the bookshop?
(see Michelle Robinson’s excellent list of other things to panic about - here)

In day-long school events I might run up to six sessions for Reception to Y6. So when I finally make it home I tend to crumple on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

There’s been a lot of talk about author events in the book world recently, including a fantastic post on author fees by Nicola Morgan, and an article in the Guardian on the budgeting pressures faced by literature festivals.

Pay is an important issue. Events are hard work and we should be compensated fairly for our time. But some events don’t pay (eg bookshop events); while others pay but not quite enough to reflect the work you put in (lit fests). Then there’s the wider question of promotion in general – hours spent (unpaid) on social media, blog posts, press articles.

As authors, how do we balance promotion and creation? How much time should we spend selling the product rather than making it?

Some authors see promotion as very much part of their role. I know a writer who does lots of free events, puts her own money and time into marketing her books and works incredibly hard on promotion. I know another writer who hates promotion – she devotes all her time to writing and, for her, the best way to sell books is simply to write more (and better) books.

There are a growing number of lit fests across the country, umpteen bookshops keen to have an author visit and oodles of book blogs to post on. A writer could spend the entire year doing shows, bookshop readings, articles and guest blogs - but every day spent doing promotion is one fewer in which we could be writing.

How do we know if the time we spend promoting is worth it? And what does ‘worth it’ even mean? There’s the financial angle: selling books, promoting your brand. There’s the enjoyment angle: connecting with children, seeing the impact of your book on the world. There’s also a doing-good factor: maybe you’ll help a child learn to love books, or help a library stay open.

A very wise person, author Liz Kessler, devised a clever 'is it worth it?' formula (her post about it is here). She’s listed the upsides and downsides of events, and devised a scoring system to weigh the pluses against the minuses.
You score the following (each has a different maximum value):
Sales (S) – out of 10
Payment (P) – out of 5
Word of mouth W) – out of 3
Time (T) – out of 10
Cost (C) – out of 3
Enjoyment (E)– out of 3
Good cause (G), ie where it’s for charity – out of 3

Then her formula goes:
(S + P + W) must be greater or equal to (T + C – E – G)

I like Liz’s formula and I often use it when considering doing an event. But of course, it’s just a guide and you have to factor in your personal preferences - for example, because I love doing events I allow myself to score the enjoyment out of a higher number than 3. And I might consider the good cause to be particularly worthy, thus worthy of being allotted more than 3 points. Also - sometimes the value of the event isn’t apparent until after it’s over. A few weeks after one of my lower-selling events I got a letter from a little girl saying how much she loved the book she had bought that day. That alone made it worthwhile.

But the scoring system is a useful guideline and I’ve never come up with a better one.

What about you?
How much of your time do you want to devote to promotion?

How do you decide which events, paid or unpaid, to give time to?

Monday, 23 May 2016


by Michelle Robinson

I was busy minding my own business when I found myself copied in on a (non-publishing) person’s question to an illustrator: “Do you think we could just make books without writers now?” The illustrator was just as astonished as me.

Talk about putting the twit in Twitter. Zero marks for knowing your audience, minus ten for understanding picture book chemistry, straight to hell for underestimating the art of the author. That's right, ART. 

A few snippets from my notebooks.
Just because the writing process doesn't lend itself so readily to showboating, doesn't mean we're not crafting away like billy-o. A snapshot of a scribbly, crosshatched notebook may not be as visually pleasing as a sketchbook, neither is it as simple to interpret, but us writers have some serious skills. It's harder to prove it, but then we shouldn't have to.

We create heroes - and not just on the page. Read our words aloud and you become a joy conjurer, memory maker, child whisperer. We weave the words whispered into waiting ears. "We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams." Perhaps the Twitter twit could do without the likes of O'Shaughnessy, but I'd rather not.

'Please don't mock my rock.'

So anyway, I thought I'd lay myself bare to ridicule and failure and attempt to showboat.

Finding a story is a bit like finding a gem. In order to dig one out, you must first dig your way through a lot crappy rock. But us writers can't find that gem, can't weave the magic words, without first creating the crappy rock. All of it. From scratch. So here I am, starting from scratch, brainstorming 100 different ways with just one word: ROCK. 

Rockabilly & Rockabenny
  1. Rock on (Tommy).
  2. Rock 'n' roll. Rollin' rock. Gathers pace and just can't stop.
  3. Rock music.
  4. Rock around the clock.
  5. Rockabilly.
  6. Rockabetty.
  7. Rockabenny, too. I like a rockabilly band, how about you?
  8. Rockabilly goats gruff.
  9. Rockabye baby, on the treetop. Call social services, this must stop.
  10. Rocks in your socks.
  11. Stick of rock. Stuck of rock. Stack of rock. Rock stock.
  12. Crocodile rock.
  13. Rockodile.
  14. Get your rocks off. (What an odd phrase, honey. Write it down now, need a hundred, wow.)
  15. Rocks in your head, heavy as lead. Rocks on your head instead? SPLAT. You're dead.
  16. Rock hard.
  17. Rock solid.
  18. Rock steady crew.
  19. Rock teddy in your beddy, god bless you.
  20. On the rocks. Off the rocks. Over the rocks and far away.
  21. Rock buns. Mmm.
  22. Sit down, you’re rocking the boat.
    Rocking horse.
  23. Rocking horse.
  24. Rocking chair.
  25. Rocking stocking.
  26. Rocky road.
  27. Precious rock.
  28. Rock layer.
  29. Solid rock.
  30. Tick, tock, get ready to rock.
  31. Rick.
  32. Rock, paper, scissors.
  33. Rockstar.
  34. Rock hammer.
  35. Rock climber.
  36. Dashed upon the rocks.
  37. Rock pool.
  38. With rocks on her fingers and rocks on her toes, she shall have blisters wherever she goes.
  39. Rock of ages and ages and ages. And ages.
  40. Rocky Mountain High.
  41. Rocky Horror Show.
  42. A rock and a hard place.
  43. Glam rock.
  44. Rock bottom.
  45. Rocky Balboa.
  46. Jailhouse rock.
  47. You’re my rock.
  48. 100 ways with one word? I must be off my rocker.
  49. Rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay, all bound for morning town, many miles away.
  50. Hard Rock Cafe.
  51. Roxanne.
  52. Rocky Raccoon.
    Rocky Raccoon
  53. It's hard, being a rock.
  54. The Rock stars in "Another Bad Movie".
  55. Rock up.
  56. Rock god.
  57. Rock me, Amadeus.
  58. How much rock would Woodstock stock if Woodstock could stock rock?
  59. A flock of rocks.
  60. Rock, stone, pebble, grit, gravel, sand.
  61. Bedrock.
  62. Shamrock.
  63. Mary Mary, quite contrary, how is your garden rockery? With silver bells and cockle shells and a splendid set of crockery.
  64. Did stone age women wear f-rocks?
  65. Do rockhopper penguins wear clodhopper shoes? 
  66. Get your rocks off, get your rocks off, honey. 20% off rocks today.
  67. Rocket.
  68. Rocketeer… rocket there. Ride a rocket, everywhere.
  69. Rock slide.
  70. You call that rock? What a crock. 
  71. Why did you set yourself this challenge? It’s almost impossible. But you can do this. You’re an author. You set yourself difficult word challenges every day, and you rise to them with tricks like added alliteration and internal rhyme all the time, so come on. Keep going. Don’t forget to think catchy. Think commercial. Think great to read aloud, like rolling a sweet around your mouth. You can do this. You rock.
  72. Rockin’ Robin.
  73. Is this even how you spell ‘rock’? It’s starting to look weird and between you and me I’m beginning to doubt my own existence. Rok? Rokk? Wrock? 
  74. Throw a rock upon the ground. Hit a number, hop around. What am I…? Hopscotch.
  75. If you hide a rock in that snowball, I’ll hide my fist in your face.
  76. What rock did you crawl out from under?
  77. Ayer’s Rock, actually, sport.
    Red rock.
  78. I am a rock, I am an island.
  79. Rock dweller.
  80. Number 80? What rock have you been hiding under?
  81. School of hard rocks.
  82. Chock-a-block, full of rocks: a giant’s hole-y walking socks.
  83. River bed rocks, so slimy and wet. Off with your socks, paddle in, go get.
  84. Michelle, meet enormous house spider. Enormous house spider, meet heavy rock. True story.
  85. ‘Hey, big human - that’s my home. Leave my rock, go find your own.’
  86. Rough rock. Tough rock. Made of stronger stuff rock.
  87. Rock carving.
  88. Does a statue have a heart of stone? (Okay, that didn’t contain ‘rock’ but I love it so I’ll go to 101).
  89. Curl up your fingers. What have you got? A fist that’s hard and round as a rock.
  90. I named my dog Rock. He won’t shift. I should’ve called him Rover.
  91. Moon rock. Space rock. Space ROCKS.
  92. Saw this sign at a car boot sale: ‘RARE ROCK, FIFTY QUID’. Thought, ‘Can’t fail.’ Traded rare rock for my cow. Hope to grow a beanstalk now.
    A stone.
  93. 'Who threw that rock? Was it you?' 'No, I threw a kangaroo.'
  94. Holding a rock is like holding a piece of history. A really boring, grey piece when nothing much happened.
  95. If mum won’t let you keep a pet, keep a rock, the best pet yet. Rocks are quiet, rocks are cheap. Rocks spend all their time asleep.
  96. They puts rocks in boats, but dem boats still floats.
  97. What’s big, red and eats rocks? The big, red rock eater.
  98. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but rocks will really squish me.
  99. Race you to the rock and back. Which rock? The big grey one. They’re all big and grey. GO!
  100. Take a rock and draw on eyes. Instantly the rock looks wise.
  101. Bonus rock! Free rock with every 100 nonsensical rock word plays created! Enjoy your free rock.
This is just stage one, where stories and books start, all thanks to some story chasing, idea hunting, thesaurus loving buffoon who just cannot help mucking about with words, glorious words. Go ahead, try making all books without writers. Meanwhile, I think I'll just carry on digging.

★ Michelle Robinson's latest book, 'Goodnight Spaceman', illustrated by Nick East and published by Puffin, will be read from space by ESA astronaut, Tim Peake on CBeebies at 6.50pm, Monday 30th June 

Find out more about Michelle and her books at