We were lucky enough to visit friends in Wyoming in the summer. The state is huge, beautiful and very different from London, with very few people living there. They call it “Big sky country” and I can see why – you can stand on a hill and see for miles and miles with not a house or car in sight. I loved the wide open spaces and the peace and quiet after living in a city. The wildlife was also fascinating – not all moose and buffalo, as you can see from this tiny hummingbird that buzzed around the garden.
Whilst we were there, my son, Gabriel, and I visited a town called Thermopolis, which sounds a bit like a science fiction film but is in fact a town literally in the middle of nowhere. It took us about five hours to drive to it through canyons, mountains and desert. It’s a kind of weird place but it is worth a visit for two things: the world’s largest mineral hot springs – very relaxing if you like your hot baths smelling of eggs – and one of the best dinosaur museums anywhere – well the museum, like the town, was a bit weird but the dinosaurs they had there, and I’m talking bones not resin copies, were outstanding – both well worth the long drive. It made me want to make yet another book on dinosaurs (you can never have too many).
But now, back to school. It’s funny, I can sit down and work out the contents of an early learning book – working out how to combine the text and images together in a way that makes it clear for a child to understand, when it needs to be put together so that it is printed on time – but when it comes to getting the kids back to school with all the right kit on the right days… I’m still struggling. Trying to juggle school drop offs/pick ups/homework/sports kit/what to have for supper etc. is a very complicated thing, I don’t know how you mums do it – it’s much easier making books.
I was very proud to have found out that our Hello Baby range has been shortlisted for the British Book Production and Design awards, and our Wipe Clean Workbooks have been shortlisted for the Progressive Preschool Awards. Very exciting, but still not as impressive as juggling those kids through a school week!
One of the nice things about making children’s books is that you get to meet people who are doing great things to help children in all sorts of ways. I recently visited Small Steps, a wonderful charity set up to help parents whose children have Cerebral Palsy and other forms of motor and sensory impairment. I was arranging to donate some more of our books to them when Anita Coppola, the Head of Service and Small Steps, said that they would show me what they do and how our books are used by the classes. I have to say that I came away completely in awe of what these guys do – with no Government funding, just relying on donations – to help families all over London. The thing that hit home, as a parent, was how valuable the services that Small Steps provide are to parents and children – having somewhere to go, and being able to meet other families with similar issues is really important. Plus, our books – with their big strong colours, touch-and-feel and noisy elements – are brilliant for the kids. It wasn’t something that I thought about when we made the books, but it makes me very proud that they are so useful to Small Steps.
So go to their website, see the work that they do, and make a donation – the money is put to such a good cause.