Every picture tells a (different) story

I had great fun this morning, visiting the super-creative Year 3 children at St Thomas of Canterbury R C Primary School. They have been finding out about the benefits of darkness, so they invited me into their class to share my book Jacob Starke Loves The Dark, and work with them to develop narrative through illustrations. What a clever bunch they are!

We used two lines from the book:

The Dark then whispered: ‘Don’t you see:
All living things depend on me?’

The children were challenged to illustrate the lines but also tell me something the words don’t say. We ended up with some really fantastic illustrations, extending the story in all kinds of unexpected directions! From bunnies and black panthers afraid of the dark, to martians  holidaying in the moon! The children were full of ideas! The illustrations will make fantastic starting-points from which to write their own stories.

The visit was part of an initiative by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) on the Isle of Wight to highlight the importance of Dark Skies. The CPRE gave a copy of Jacob Starke Loves The Dark as a Christmas present to every primary school on the Isle of Wight, and I am supporting this initiative by giving FREE, YES FREE, author visits to Isle of Wight primary schools between now and the end of February 2019. I still have a few slots left! So to claim a visit, please email me at petarainford@gmail.com. 


Free school visits until end of February!

Press coverage of recent visit to Nine Acres Primary

Last month, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) gave a copy of Jacob Starke Loves The Darkas a Christmas present, to every primary school on the Isle of Wight. To support that initiative, I am pleased to be able to offer FREE, YES FREE, author visits to Isle of Wight primary schools between now and the end of February 2019.

To claim a visit, please email me at petarainford@gmail.com. 

From 1 March, I will be charging for school visits again as usual – though watch out for some special offers around World Book Day on Thursday 7 March. Find out more about my school visits here.

Free sessions on Jacob Starke available now!

Sharing Jacob with help from CPRE

Lovely day today! Thanks to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), I got to share my dark skies rhyming picture book, Jacob Starke Loves The Dark, with the very receptive and super-polite year 3 and 4 children at Nine Acres Community Primary School.

‘How come?’ I hear you ask. Well, at the end of last year, the CPRE very kindly bought 42 copies of my Jacob Starke Loves The Dark and gave one as a Christmas present to every primary school on the Isle of Wight. My visit today was part of that initiative; the first visit to a primary school with the CPRE, highlighting the importance of dark skies and the issue of light pollution.

With Dawn Haig-Thomas of CPRE

So pleased with the reception from the Nine Acres children (nothing like a spontaneous round of applause to raise the spirits!) – and particularly pleased by their plans to explore the book’s themes in more detail in their story sessions which now close each school day.

I was inspired to write Jacob Starke Loves the Dark by the work of groups such as CPRE, Vectis Astronomical Society (VAS) and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to win International Dark Sky status for an area on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight, near where I live. So it’s exciting to be working with them to take the message about the dangers of light pollution into local schools.

Pleased to see the initiative has also been covered by the Isle of Wight County Press.

With aspiring author

New beginnings at the end of the year

I have fallen into an accidental pattern of working over the last few years: I have published a book in October or November, spent the remainder of the year promoting it, and then started the new year with a new project.

But 2018 has been slightly different. Perhaps because I published my latest rhyming picture book – Jacob Starke Loves The Dark – a few weeks early, in September, but I am coming to the end of the year having already written an 800 word rhyming text for my next book and started the sketches for the main characters. There’s even a chance I will have mapped out some of the pages before Christmas lunch hits the table.

Which is all very un-me. Having been a journalist for many, many years (yes, I know, my looks belie my great age), I can’t usually do so much as put my socks on in the morning without a deadline (even a self-imposed one). But I have to say, I am liking the feel of being ‘ahead of the game’ – especially as I have a second story I want to start in the new year.

In fact, I hope to work on the two books simultaneously. It’s not something I’ve done before, but when I took part in the author’s panel at the Isle of Wight Literacy Festival Youth Zone in October, I heard from the other authors that this is a way that many of them prefer to work. I can see the potential benefits. When I work on writing and illustrations at the same time, the two things feed off each other. I am hoping that developing two stories simultaneously will have similar benefits.

Of course, I could just end up getting horribly confused…


My new on-line shop is open!

Hurrah! Just in time for Christmas, my new on-line shop is open! Yippee! And I’m offering 10% off everything for the next 10 days!

This means, if you live in the UK, you can buy my books, book bags and T-shirts direct from me. All books come signed – and you can request a personal dedication too!

To welcome customers to my new shop, I am offering a 10% discount plus free postage on all orders placed in the next 10 days. Just add coupon reference ‘10 for 10’ when you place your order. (The ‘10 for 10’ offer is available for UK sales only. Offer ends 15/12/18.)

Please, come on in and take a look.



‘Just buy it’ advises Linda’s Book Blog!

So totally thrilled by the wonderful review on the lovely Linda’s Book Bag Blog! You can read the full review on the blog here, but I can’t resist reproducing some of the (many) highlights below:

“It’s absolutely brilliant and a must read with any child who is afraid of the dark.”

“The quality of illustration in Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is outstanding. Even though many of the images need to be dark to support the text, they are still vibrant, beautiful and stunning. I loved the way so many animals feature, from domestic cats to turtles, especially as there fantastic messages about caring for the environment and the need to allow nature to experience darkness to thrive. Indeed, I think adults should read this book, never mind children, so that they can appreciate the environment more too.”

“The way the illustrations personify the dark works flawlessly.”

“The language in Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is fabulous. Not only does Peta Rainford maintain the rhyme scheme impeccably without straining the language to fit, she balances familiar and challenging language so well, meaning that the book is accessible for independent readers as well as improving their own vocabulary.”

“I’d love to see a copy of this book in every primary school in the UK. I can see so many educational and emotional benefits from reading it with and to children.”

“It’s difficult to convey what a triumph I think Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is. It’s a wonderful book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just buy it!”

If you would like to follow Linda’s advice, you can buy Jacob Starke Loves the Dark here.

Great feedback from Canada!

It’s so exciting to be reminded that words and pictures created in my tiny office on the Isle of Wight can be read and appreciated by people living thousands of miles away.

I have been forwarded an email from a mum living in Canada, thanking her English friend for sending her daughter three of my books:

Ms. Peta Rainford’s stories and illustrations captivated her imagination. I appreciate Ms. Rainford’s gift in distilling the world of children through her characters and at the same time making her tales appealing to grown-ups reading the books. 

All of Ms. Rainford’s characters resonated with my little one. In a way, she’s similar to Isabella and the Hairy Fairy who has such a big and kind heart. H.Fairy also dances to the beat of her own drum. When we first read Isabella, Rotten Speller, Malaya was incensed that the black cat was mean to Isabella and “sabotaged” her magic. She protested to the injustice with this rhetorical question: “Why was the black cat mean to Isabella? She didn’t do anything mean to the black cat!” Jacob’s fear of the darkness is familiar to M as well. It was only in the past year she has made the “darkness her friend” …

Anyhow, please extend Malaya’s and my appreciation of Ms. Rainford’s work! We thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you are a far-flung reader, please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!

Jacob Starke’s in National Parks!

Nothing like a rhyming headline to perk me up in the morning – especially when it heralds the good news that a number of National ParksBrecon Beacons, Exmoor and North York Moors – are now stocking my new rhyming picture book, Jacob Starke Loves the Dark in their shops. Woo hoo!

The reason for this, of course, is that  Jacob Starke Loves the Dark is all about the dangers of light pollution and the importance of Dark Skies, and the National Parks that are stocking my book are all known for their exceptionally beautiful Dark Skies.

Exmoor National Park (where I lived for a number of years, and once walked into a hedge when trying to get home from my next door neighbour’s house at night without a torch, so I know how dark it is) and Brecon Beacons National Park are both designated as International Dark Sky Reserves, which means they have an exceptional quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. North York Moors National Park has Dark Skies Discovery Sites at Danby and Sutton Bank National Park Centres plus Scarborough & Ryedale Astronomical Society Observatories in Dalby Forest.

So exciting to think that my book might encourage children to look at the stars from our National Parks.

Five stars for Jacob!

Whispering Stories Book Blog

5.0 out of 5 starsThis book is truly wonderful

Jacob is afraid of the dark. Every night he goes into all the rooms in his home and switches on the lights. He even wears a light on his head to bed. One night the lights all go out, including the one on his head. He is in total darkness, that’s when the night shows him it is nothing to be scared of and why the dark is important as much as the light.

The book is just beautiful, both the rhyming words and the illustrations. It is exceptionally engaging and I’m sure that children will not only enjoy a fab story they will also learn a lot too about what the dark does and why nature needs it.

For any child that is afraid of the dark, this book is a must. It will reassure them in a relaxing manner and make them understand that there is nothing to fear.

Coming back to the illustrations, these have been drawn with so much love and care. I especially love the night scenes with their black backgrounds and colours that really stand out.

This book is truly wonderful. It has short sentences and as it rhymes, young children who are just learning to read will find this easy to follow. It would work perfectly as a bedtime read to ease those woes about the dark.


5.0 out of 5 starsAnother charmer from Peta Rainford! BUY IT

K. J. Noyes

5.0 out of 5 starsSmooth-flowing rhyme in a reassuring story about the Dark

My 7-year-old has recently started complaining about a ‘fear’ of the dark. Frustrating, when it’s not a long-standing problem. We’ve talked about what dark is, what dark is useful for, why there’s nothing to be frightened of. Sometimes though, it takes another child’s similar experience to encourage and reassure.

He read this himself and enjoyed it, and we discussed it. Jacob, the protagonist, is terrified of what might be in the dark. He is made to see the use of darkness, what needs it to survive, what would happen if we didn’t have dark. It reminded me of Jill Tomlinson’s ‘The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark’, but for a younger audience.

I appreciated the approach, the examples used, and really enjoyed the rhythm and natural-feeling rhymes. The examples are relevant and interesting to the target market (planets, animals), and I really liked the full-illustrated look of the book, with the text integrated inside the scenes.

Could be very useful for parents/teachers/educators needing to address this topic with children. Suitable for toddlers and older and gives opportunities to discuss natural history and nocturnal sleep patterns, astronomy, plants and seasons.

For ages 3 and above, would continue to have a place in KS1 classes.


5.0 out of 5 starsAnother great book for children from Peta Rainford, with a great message

Loved the drawing style, especially the delicate and serene depiction of The Dark contrasting with Jacob and light. This book should help lots of children overcome their fears. When I was a child I used to be terrified of things under the bed at night (still am sometimes even though I’m grown-up now). This would have helped me I’m sure. I love looking at the night sky now and wish I’d started looking at it sooner. And we do need councils to cut the amount of light pollution in our cities so our children can see the riches above us: the red glow of Mars, tracking satellites and the ISS as well as the stars and constellations which change position with the seasons.