What a fab festival it was!

Reading jacob Starke Loves the Dark and talking about dark skies

Can’t believe a whole week has gone by since the inaugural IW Story Festival took place – and I’m still feeling the buzz!

I’m part of the core organising committee – along with Elspeth Giddens, storyteller Sue Bailey, and fellow local author/illustrators Jules Marriner and Debbie Webb, who all worked liked dogs but were determined and positive throughout! We had a vision: to inspire creativity and imagination though stories of all types, in children from the Isle of Wight – particularly from ‘hard to reach’ families – and beyond. We didn’t know if we could pull it off. But we did. With bells on. (l should add: although we were the core team, we couldn’t have done it without the help and support of many other wonderful people.)

Hundreds of children and families poured through the doors of the Riverside Centre in Newport to see authors, illustrators, storytellers, poets, puppetry and theatre. They took part in junk modelling, book making, World Book Day costume making and encounters with bats, bugs and owl poo!

The success of the event was helped, in no small part, by our fabulous headliners: Korky Paul, Nick Sharratt and Sarah McIntyre, who brought in the crowds and were all charming and generous with their time and drawings. Sarah wrote her own blog, which gives a fabulous flavour of the fun of the festival. You can read it here.

Indulging in some fandom with the splendid Sarah McIntyre
Nick Sharratt had been signing books for around an hour and a half at this stage –
and he’s still smiling!

My own session – where I read Jacob Starke Loves the Dark and led some nocturnal animal mask making – was great fun and resulted in some fabulous badgers, foxes and owls.

The festival was also the first outing for my new book, Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes – it was exciting to see it on display in the festival bookshop run by Medina Books. Even more exciting to sell a few copies!


My new books says: it’s OK to make mistakes!

Very excited that my new book, Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes is finally out! You can buy it from my online shop HERE, from Amazon (it’s discounted today!) or ‘all good bookshops’ (to coin a phrase).

So what’s it all about?

Milly May’s paintings are full of blots and smudges. She really WISHES she could do better. Then – hey presto! – her fairy godmother (looking a little bit like the artist, Frida Kahlo) appears and grants her wish. But Milly soon discovers that success isn’t worth having unless it’s earned. Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes is a funny, rhyming picture book about art, friendship and perseverance, that says it’s ok to make mistakes.

My new rhyming picture book is out TODAY!

I’ve already had some MARVELLOUS reviews!

“Peta Rainford has achieved another wonderful children’s book in Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes.”

Linda’s Book Bag, full review here 

“I really enjoyed Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes and I could see it becoming a popular story for repeat reading with little ones.”

Kraftireader, full review here

“Another wonderful story.”

Mrs Average Evaluates, full review here

New book says: it OK to make mistakes!

So, let me tell you a bit about my new book, Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes, which will be on sale from 20 February 2020 and will be available for pre-order soon. Like lots of my books – but particularly The Niggle – it’s about a fear that all small children (and, indeed, not so small adults) have to face, in this case: the fear of getting things wrong.

At the risk of going all cod psychologist on you, I think this fear of failure can be a particular challenge for the current, X-factor generation of children brought up to expect overnight success and instant gratification. Especially if, as they get older, their every move is scrutinised and commented on on social media.

In my book, our hero Milly May, more than anything, wants to paint beautiful pictures. But she always ends up with blots and smudges. She really WISHES she was a better artist, and then – hey presto! – her fairy godmother appears (looking a little bit like the artist Frida Khalo!) and grants her wish…

Much painting and drawing ensues, but it turns out that achieving success without working for it, can feel like a hollow victory; especially if it loses you friends on the way. So my story is something of a modern morality tale; about the importance of making mistakes and the perils of seeking success at all costs – but hopefully delivered with not too straight a face!

Proof copies have arrived!

I think, possibly, this copy’s not for resale!

Well, this may be my seventh children’s book, but I have to say that receiving the proof copies gets no less exciting! I have to hold myself back from showing them to random people in the street, and there’s absolutely no chance of escape for friends and family!

I’ll be putting more information about Milly’s Marvellous Mistakes on this website over the course of the next few days, including details of how to pre-order copies. In the meantime, I’m just going to spend some quality time with my proofs…

Exmoor Dark Skies Festival Fun!

Just back from a fun four days at the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival. I was so pleased to be asked to take part with my Dark Skies book, Jacob Starke Loves The Dark – not least because I lived on Exmoor between 2000 and 2006, and it was great to have the opportunity to reconnect with the stunning landscape, lovely people and, of course, some very dark skies.

Reading at Porlock Pavilion
Nocturnal crafting after storytelling in Minehead (looks like I’m moving fast!)
Beautiful woolly solar systems!

My final session at Lynmouth gave me the opportunity to share my newly-penned Dark Skies Ode to Exmoor National Park – the children, not only joined in the chorus, but drew some wonderful pictures of what they love about the dark.

Always exciting to see your book on display!

New Spooky Video says: Come and see me at Exmoor Dark Skies Festival!

As long as that’s not completely terrified you, please join me if you can, for stories, poems and crafts about space, nocturnal animals, and all things Dark Skies.

On Saturday 26 October, at 5pm

I will be at Porlock Pavilion and Rec reading Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. There will also be stargazing and a dark walk, crafts and games, hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows. What’s not to like about this free event?

On Monday 28 October from 3.45-5pm

I will be at Minehead Methodist Church Hall, for a story and craft workshop based around Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. Suitable for children up to 10 years. Session 3.45-5pm. Price: £2 per child. (Parents free). Booking recommended as spaces are limited.

On Tuesday 29 October, at 10am

I will be at Lynmouth National Park Centre, reading my book Jacob Starke Loves The Dark and my nocturnal poems, and getting the kids involved in some imaginative nighttime stories too. Free EVENT but booking recommended.

For more information or to book a place at any of these events, click https://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/stargazing/dark-skies-festival

‘That has made me want to be an author…’

Today I received the best post ever: a whole book of thank you letters from the fantastic Year 1 class at Henham & Ugley Primary School. I visited the school back in June, and the Year 1 class and I bonded big-time over my dark skies book, Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. The children created some wonderful nocturnal pictures, as a starting-point for their own stories.

To hear that you have given a child the ‘best day ever’ or inspired them to become an author, is, to say the least, humbling. Thank you to their lovely teacher, Suzie Espie, for putting the book together – especially as several of the children say they would like to swap her for me! (I’m sure they don’t mean it, Suzie!) It is a very special thank you, and I will treasure it.

Scrapbooking on the beach!

The 11-year-old and I decided to record our walk to the beach yesterday with wax crayon rubbings and collages of some of the living things we encountered. It made for a slow walk, but prompted the comment: ‘I would always say yes to a walk if we did this every time.’ Job done!

But it wasn’t all about half-term distraction. I am planning to do similar ‘scapbooking’ with schools later this summer, as a way of exploring the ideas about the importance of darkness in Jacob Starke Loves The Dark. But in the meantime: an idea to keep them occupied over half-term?!

Magical Barnes

Drumming up an audience with my superhero cape!

It probably helps that when you step off the train at Barnes Station, you feel more like you’re entering an enchanted wood than a London suburb, but my first experience of the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival was really magical.

It was slightly nerve-wracking to discover that my 10.30am free session had an audience of precisely no one at 10.27am. But – abracadabra – by 10.30am a pretty-much full-house had appeared. They listened attentively to The Niggle, joined in the actions, and then made some awesome superhero capes and masks

And then I was left spell-bound by some real-life superheroes: Axel Scheffler with his enviably fluid drawings; Frank Cottrell Boyce with his ease of expression; Libby Jackson with inspirational tales of women in space. Magical!


I’m almost ready to fly to Barnes (but in a green way!)

Flamingo shopping trolley. Check. Superhero cape and masks. Check. Wool, glue and felt tips. Check. Copies of The NiggleCheck.

Yes, it looks like I’m nearly ready to take part in the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival this weekend. I’ll be in the Bookshop Marquee at 10.30am, reading my book about being brave and resilience, The Niggle and helping children turn themselves into superheroes with the help of scissors, glue and some off-cuts of kite material, disposed of as part of a house move.

I  only mention the provenance of the materials I’m using in my craft activity because I am making a conscious effort in all my workshops now to use, as far as possible, only recycled or otherwise-destined-for-the-bin materials. In the past, I have been as guilty as anyone of buying those brightly coloured little packets of bits and bobs for crafts (and I still have industrial quantities of foam letters from Isabella, Rotten Speller workshops to prove it.) But I now believe, not only that it’s cheaper and greener to craft out of recycled and reused materials, it’s more creative and satisfying too.

If you’re in the Barnes area on Saturday, please come along for some story and gluing fun. My event is part of the Free Programme (more details here), so it won’t cost you a penny!