Whether you’re looking for something for your locked-down children to get stuck into, or you fancy it yourself, here’s a collection of stories by my friend and poetry collaborator, Andy Blackford. It’s more than unlikely that this could end up as an actual book. We think it will stay as a webpage story. But what we’re inviting is book covers, title pages or moments from a story. Whatever catches your imagination.
You or your children, or your grandchildren, or friends’ children don’t have to be artists…just be inspired by ones like Brian Wildsmith, and all the others I talked about two posts ago. In any case, children draw and paint what they truly see when they hear or read a story.
To kick it off I asked one illustrator, Kate Rolfe, to inspire you with two of hers. You can see what she came up with:
If you want to be involved and want more detail, (especially about the resolution we need for the images) contact me at john.foggin.outlook.com and I’ll get back to you pretty well straight away. I’ll be accepting your illustrations until the end of August, and posting them as they come in. After the deadline, Andy Blackford will choose the ones he likes best, and they’ll then form part of the story text. Basically, we’ll be choosing the best overall book cover, a title page for each story and up to three images in the body of each story.
How about it? Lostriches, Hummingbirds, Magpies, Cuckoos, Woodpeckers, Swans, Penguins. Any medium. There’s talent and imagination out there.
ROCKY the WOODPECKER
Rocky was a baby Woodpecker. He lived in a nest in a tree in a forest with his mum and dad and his three brothers.
One day, a great wind shook the trees and Rocky fell out of the nest.
Before long, he was hungry. He was too little to catch flies to eat. But he could peck through milk bottle tops. Every morning, he hopped around the town, and drank the milk on people’s doorsteps.
The people didn’t like it, of course. But they forgave him because he was only a baby.
All that milk made Rocky grow big and strong. And all that pecking gave him a very tough beak.
Soon, he became the loudest Woodpecker in the forest.
But he soon grew tired of pecking wood. “Wood is far too easy to peck,” he thought. “I think I’ll be a Brickpecker instead.”
So he went to the town and pecked holes in the houses.
The townspeople were very cross. They went to the Mayor and complained. So the Mayor had a quiet word with Rocky.
But Rocky just laughed. “ Don’t worry. Bricks are far too easy to peck. From now on, I’m going to be a Stonepecker!”
On Sunday, the townspeople went to church. But the church was gone. Rocky had pecked it all away.
The people went to the Mayor again. “You must lock that Woodpecker up,” they cried, “or he’ll peck the whole town to bits!”
But the Mayor was a wise and kindly old man. He went to visit Rocky in his nest in a tree in the forest. “Rocky,” he said, “why don’t you peck us some nice, stone statues? They will make the Park look nice. Then perhaps the townspeople will like you again.”
Before long, the Park was full of stone animals and stone mayors and huge, stone woodpeckers.
The Mayor invited everyone to a party. When Rocky arrived, they sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Woodpecker!”
But from the corner of his eye, Rocky could see the bridge over the river. “Hmm,” he thought. “Stone is far too easy to peck.
“I think I’ll be a Steelpecker!”
SHIRLEY THE SWAN
Shirley’s very first memory was of two big white question marks, reflected in the river. They were the long, curvy swans’ necks that belonged to her Mum and Dad.
Of course, little Shirley didn’t know what a question was. But then she asked one: ‘What’s a swan, Mum?’
‘Why, you are, dear!’ her Mum said.
‘We are!’ said her two brothers and two sisters.
Shirley was looking at a family of ducks who were paddling past.
She asked her second-ever question. ‘Are they swans?’
‘Certainly not!’ said her Mum. ‘We don’t mix with their sort. They’re ducks.’
The ducks gave Shirley a cheery wave. Shirley waved back.
‘Shirley!’ snapped her Mum. ‘Just ignore them!’
And Shirley asked her third-ever question. ‘Why?’
Shirley’s Dad said, ‘Because they’re small and mud-coloured, not graceful and gorgeous like us. Also, they quack.’
‘That’s right!’ said Mum. So do as we say and leave them be. All five of you.’
‘Four,’ corrected Shirley’s Dad.
Shirley’s Mum looked around and counted the cygnets. ‘One…two…three…four…five. Five!’
Shirley’s Dad frowned. ‘Hmm. I could have sworn there were only four. Oh well, dear, you know best.’
The Spring turned into Summer and the little cygnets were growing up fast – at least her sisters Lily and Iris, and her brothers Bulrush and Skunk-Cabbage were. But Shirley was falling behind. Before long, she was quite a lot smaller than the rest.
Her Mum and Dad were worried about her, and gave her more food than the others. But it didn’t seem to make any difference – except that her brothers and sisters were cross with her because she got more to eat than they did.
Also, she was finding it harder to keep up with the rest of the family as they swam up and down the river. She would paddle away with her short legs and her little webbed feet, while her brothers and sisters seemed to glide along smoothly with hardly any effort.
‘Get a move on, Duck Face!’ shouted Bulrush.
Shirley was hurt. ‘Why did you call me Duck Face?’
Bulrush replied, ‘Well now. Let me think… Could it possibly be because you’ve got a face like a duck?’
Shirley looked at her reflection in the water. Was it true? Did her mouth look rather flat and wide – perhaps a bit more like a duck’s bill than a swan’s pointy beak?
Every day, they’d pass the duck family, who would smile at her and quack in the most friendly way. If her Mum and Dad weren’t looking, she’d give them a shy little wave in return.
Then one day, she just couldn’t keep up.
The swans vanished around a bend in the river and she was left far behind, exhausted and out of breath. She tried to call out but instead of a swan’s cry, all that came out was a sort of squawking noise, like something made of iron that needed oiling.
By the time she got her breath back, the Swan family were nowhere to be seen and she began to panic. The sun was going down, she was cold and she started to cry.
But suddenly, an otter’s head popped out of the water – quickly followed by the rest of an otter. You don’t often see otters, but otters wearing spectacles are very rare indeed. ‘Hello!’ he smiled. ‘Lost?’
‘I couldn’t keep up with my family,’ she said, ‘and now they’ve left me behind.’
‘Hop on my back,’ said the otter, ‘and we’ll have you back with your folks in no time!’
As they sped through the water, the otter said, ‘I always try to help lost ducklings.’
‘Ducklings?’ squawked Shirley. ‘But I’m a swan!’
The Otter disagreed. ‘I’ve seen a lot of swans in my time, and even more ducks. I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re a duck.
‘You see, it’s a bit of a thing with me. Back in the Spring, I picked up a lost duckling and delivered it to a family of swans by mistake. The ducks never forgave me. That’s why I wear glasses nowadays – so I can tell the difference.’
‘No, you don’t understand! I really am a swan!’
‘Well, if so, you’re going to have a hard time of it. Your beak’s all wrong – your feathers are a funny colour – you’ve got a quacky voice and I don’t mean to be rude but you’re a midget.’
‘That is quite rude,’ Shirley said.
‘Do the other swans call you names?’
‘Sometimes,’ Shirley admitted, ‘they call me Duck Face. And Mucky. And Donald. And Daffy. And Crispy. And Quackers. And…’
‘Yes, yes, I get the picture,’ the otter interrupted. ‘And it’ll only get worse, trust me.’
Then around a bend in the river came the family of ducks that always waved at Shirley. The otter swam towards them. ‘Mother Duck!’ he called.
‘What is it?’ she snapped. ‘You’re that otter what lost our Tracy!’
‘True,’ said the Otter, ‘and I’m very sorry. But I think I’ve found her again!’ And he pushed the little duckling towards her.
Mother Duck stared at Shirley than suddenly threw her wings around her. ‘Derek!’ she screeched to her husband. ‘It’s our Tracy! She’s come ‘ome!’
And that’s about the end of our story. Tracy (for that was her proper name) felt much happier with her real family.
And Mrs Swan had to admit that she might have been wrong about how many children they really had. ‘Eggs all look the same,’ she explained. ‘It’s hard to remember exactly how many there are.’
‘Yes,’ replied her husband. ‘Of course, dear.’
THE BEST NEST CONTEST
It was Spring and time for the big Nest Competition. The Blackbird had to visit every tree in the forest.
The birds worked hard to make sure their nests were clean and tidy.
The Robin’s nest was on the ground, round and neat and lined with soft, green moss.
The Swallow’s nest was as hard as wood, with a little hole for a doorway. The little Wren’s nest was tiny and pretty, just like the Wren.
The Greenfinch made her nest in a little house in a tree in someone’s garden.
Even the Dove tried hard to make a safe, warm home for her family.
But when the Blackbird flew to the tree where the Cuckoo lived, she couldn’t believe her eyes. What a mess!
The Cuckoo was still trying to build her nest. But she wasn’t doing very well.
First, she tried to make the nest with grass – but it just fell to bits. Then she tried sticks, but they wouldn’t stick together.
Then she tried string. Then she tried mud. She even tried cake.
‘Rubbish!’ cried the Starling.
’That’s a good idea!’ said the Cuckoo. But it wasn’t.
She tried baking foil. And fur. She even tried toothpaste. But nothing seemed to work.
The Blackbird shook her head. ‘My dear Mrs Cuckoo, why don’t you come and stay with us instead?’
And so the Cuckoo laid her eggs in the Blackbirds’ beautiful nest. She had never been so happy in her life.