Peta’s fun stuff to do at home

3. Make a picture with nature

Hello! I have used my book, Jacob Starke Loves the Dark, as the starting-point for lots of different art activities – particularly the bit when The Dark declares:

‘… Don’t you see,
All living things depend on me.’

If you are having a walk today, or can go out into your garden, how about gathering up some natural objects – sticks, leaves, flowers, feathers, earth, sand, whatever else you can find – and making a picture. You can make a small one by gluing the things you find on paper like these – maybe including some drawing, bark rubbings and other types of mark-making:

Or you could make some ‘land art’ in your garden (or indoors, if you can stand the mess!). Here is one we made earlier:

Here is our stick yacht, sailing on a pebble sea. We added detail – seagulls, jellyfish and fish – by drawing on pebbles and some slate we found in the garden

You might also like to try these extra challenges:

  • Once you’ve made your ‘land art’ picture, take a photo (if you like) and then rearrange all the elements to make another image. How many different pictures can you make out of the same objects?
  • If you can’t get outside, or just want a different challenge, you could make your ‘land art’ inside, out of household objects!
Our yacht has been turned into flowers and butterflies and bees drawn on stones by Tilly

Peta’s fun stuff to do at home

2: Make a nocturnal picture

Welcome back! Today I thought I’d share an activity relating to my book, Jacob Starke Loves the Dark. It is exactly the technique I used when I was producing the illustrations for the book.

Don’t forget, I’d love to see the work you produce! You can email it to, post it on my Peta Rainford’s Facebook page @dogpigeon, or Tweet me @PetaRainford

This is one of the illustrations I used in my book

This would probably work best if you have some black paper. But you could make your own by painting white paper black.

So what do you have to do?

  1. First step is to create your nocturnal animals like the ones above on a piece of white paper. You can draw and colour your own, or print off the ones I have drawn and colour them in. A printable version is available here
  2. Next, cut out the animals. Handy hint: it’s best to leave a bit of white space around the shape, rather than risk cutting off an ear or a leg!
  3. Arrange them on the black paper to create a nocturnal scene. Once you’re happy with the position, stick them down
  4. Use some light coloured pencils (eg. white, yellow, pale pink, pale blue) to add background details like stars, grass, flowers etc
  5. For a really professional finish, you can use a black crayon to colour in the white edges of your animals to make them blend in more with the background
These are the fab nocturnal pictures created by Year 1s at Henham and Ugley Primary
when I visited last year

You might also like to try these extra challenges:

  1. use the same technique to create a picture set in space
  2. write a story or a poem about the picture you have created

Peta’s fun stuff to do at home:

I’m going to miss doing my usual school visits and other events over the coming weeks and – potentially – months. So I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve developed over the years, so that you can try them at home.

I’ll be sharing a few new activities too. Many of them will be based on my books, but others will just be ideas I want to share with you. I hope you find them fun to do with your family. And do, please, share any artwork or writing you create – I’d really love to see it!

You can email it to, post it on my Peta Rainford’s Facebook page @dogpigeon, or Tweet me @PetaRainford

1: Create a self portrait out of letters!

One of the most popular activities I have done is based on my book Isabella, Rotten Speller, which is set in a world where everything is made out of letters.

Can you create a self portrait made entirely of letters?

There’s a template to download here – but you can just as easily go DIY and start off with a large face-shaped letter, like a U or an O.

Once you’ve practised a few times, you might like to try these extra challenges:

  1. try to use as many different letters as possible
  2. try different ways to create the letters – for example cutting them out of magazines or painting rather than drawing
  3. try to include all the letters of your name, or other words, in the portrait
  4. create other pictures out of letters
Years 1 and 2 at St Helens Primary School did these fab self portraits back in 2015. Why don’t you have a go!

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

‘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.