The first time we are introduced to rhyming is often through the nursery rhyme. From Baa-Baa-Black-Sheep to Humpty Dumpty, these quirky songs may seem like meaningless fun.
However, experts claim they actually provide a creative and playful learning opportunity and can be important for early development in literacy. To begin understanding phonics and to develop skills in listening and verbalising, nursery rhymes can help young children make sense of the complex sounds around them. Rhyming creates rhythm and helps patterns emerge within language. As explained in Mem Fox’s Reading Magic, ‘experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.’
Rhyming within children’s fiction is the next step up from the nursery rhyme and continues to be essential for a child’s literacy development. Reading or listening to a story in rhythm and rhyme can help children learn a broad range of vocabulary, alongside concentration skills and auditory discrimination. As young readers become familiar with rhymes, they can also start to anticipate the next rhyming word, which not only teaches them how to comprehend common sounds and letters, but also makes for a more rewarding, beneficial and joyful experience of reading. Sometimes the task of learning to read can seem daunting to a young child, but if the rhymes are there to support them and offer fun clues to match the pictures, it can become a much less pressured experience. Increasing the enjoyment of reading, as rhyming fiction does so well, thus encourages a life-long love of books in youngsters (which is ultimately what all bookish parents hope for).
Thingamanose by Lynne Hudson – a comical, rhyming children’s book by Beachy Books
If nursery rhymes are the first thing to spring to mind when you think of rhyming for kids, the second is likely to be Dr. Seuss, with his hugely influential rhythmic fiction. Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and so many more, paved the way for rhyming fiction filled with nonsense and silliness. The ‘Seussian’ world is one of fantastical animals and made-up words (the Lorax and Thneeds made of Truffula trees, for example). According to scholars of the author, his creativity stemmed from his own difficult childhood, which allowed him to understand the style of words and stories that would be most compelling for children. While made-up words may run the danger of confusing young readers, they can actually help raise an awareness of the sounds that certain letters make together, continuing to help with developing literacy skills. Beachy Books’ own Thingamanose takes inspiration from the fun rhythm, invented words and nonsensical rhymes coined by Dr. Seuss, proving this style of children’s fiction is equally as engaging now as it was 60 years ago.
Rhyming makes for a more enjoyable reading experience, while whimsical plot and humorous language is often what sparks a real love of reading in children. Author and illustrator, Huw Aaron, discusses his personal passion for nonsense rhyming, stating ‘before Meaning or Plot or Character come along, funny sounds and jangling rhythms and bouncing rhyme are a young child’s introduction to the world of Story, and simple, silly pictures their doorway to Art’. Fiction by Dr. Seuss, Spike Milligan and Beachy Book’s author Lynne Hudson, allows young readers to have fun and escape the realities of the world around them with rhyming children’s book, Thingamanose. Perhaps most importantly, this style of writing can help to expand a child’s imagination. For so many adult readers, literature is pure escapism. Silly rhymes and nonsense stories are the best way to ensure that children’s fiction works in the same way for those just getting started on their own reading journey.
Amy Butler is an avid-reader, book blogger and Marketing and PR professional based in the New Forest. Her favourite book is Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree and she is at her happiest with a cup of fresh coffee and a new Historical Fiction novel. Amy is currently helping out at Beachy Books to gain experience in the publishing industry.
Beachy Books publisher, Philip Bell, interviewed his recently signed author/illustrator Lynne Hudson on their newly rebranded traditional imprint, about her longer children’s book called Thingamanose, her writing process and how she got into illustrating.
Bold text (Philip), plain text (Lynne)…
Do you write full time?
I work part time at a hospital to bring in money while I work on my writing and drawing.
How did you get into writing and illustrating?
Well, I was actually applying for a job and I had to write a cover letter, and I just sat down writing these cover letters and I just really enjoyed it. (At this point, Lynne’s cat, Tiger enters the room and she shoos it out! -Ed) So, I thought I would have a go at writing a story, because I never really thought that I could write anything before. I just sat down and started writing things. I think the first things I wrote were pretty rubbish then I started writing things that were ok, so I sent them off to the Literary Consultancy for them to edit for me and they gave me a lot or really positive feedback. Things went from there really. The first book I had published was called Sniff by Hogs Back Books and then they asked me to illustrate one of their other books called Big Dog and Squiz. I’ve just been plodding on from then.
How long have you been writing and illustrating for?
I’ve have been writing for about 10 years, but I have been doing the illustrations for quite a long time. I trained as a Potter at Bath Academy of Art and when I left there, I taught night classes for a few years, but it wasn’t really me. But my pots were very plain pots that were covered in illustrations, and I realised that that was the part I really liked — the design and decoration on the pots. And then I cut out making the pots and concentrated on illustration.
I noticed when you sent your first submission, I really loved your illustrative, cartoon style. Is that something you are particularly into, or was it something that just came out and became your style?
I think it has basically been my style, but I did do a correspondence course with the College of Cartoon Art, that was over about a year, the professional cartoonist Dave Fellows, who was the chap that mentored me, sort of pushed me in the way or children’s illustration as he said that it was the best thing for my style of drawing. Sadly, he passed away in 2003, but I fondly remember he especially liked my caricatures of soap characters like Dot Cotton [see below].
So, what would you say is the difference between an artist that can do one set scene, and an illustrator of a children’s book? What skills do you think are needed for children’s book illustration and even comics?
I think probably, I observe people and go around and have a little sketch book and go into town sometimes or other places and sketch people. I think you get a feel for how people are really, and their character.
I saw Shirley Hughes on the BBC 4 documentary What Do Artists Do All Day? Have you seen that? She sits in playgrounds observing people and drawing in her sketch book – actually, maybe that sounds a bit weird… *laughs*
*laughs* That’s basically what I do!
I see so much movement in your illustrations. It’s crazy really, it’s only a static image but yet there’s so much movement in it. I always like that kind of feeling. I think people are quite fascinated by the process and think it’s magic.
Yeah, *laughs* there is quite a lot of imagination goes in it, but I am also a bit of a people watcher.
So, does what inspires you to write and draw? What is your muse?
I think things just seem to jump into my head really. For this story, I was just walking into town one day and a phrase just popped into my head. Something about a girl called Rose, picking her nose. I just started writing it down and it became ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose Rose!’ (which was the original name of the story when Lynne submitted it to Beachy Books – Ed). I didn’t really know where it was going to go at first, it just kind of evolved as I sat down at the computer and wrote and built up the idea.
Rose is quite a feisty heroine in the Thingamanose story. What’s the inspiration behind her?
I think it’s probably me, actually. *laughs* I have always been a bit of a nose picker! *laughs*
I was afraid to ask if you picked your nose! *laughs*
Yeah, quite a lot of my old school friends have commented about that!
Going back to my inspiration from Rose, I think that she also came from having quite strict parents, who just kind of dismiss things you say, things like that. At work, quite a lot of the doctors are very dismissive and that really gets my back up. They don’t believe what you’re saying half the time.
So, are saying that your writing process is quite cathartic? *laughs*
*laughs* Just a bit, sometimes. I’m quite rebellious as well, like Rose!
So, from Rose picking her nose… how did Thingamanose pop into your head? *laughs*
I think it’s probably just something that just popped into my head literally. I think it was just something that happened when I was sat down writing. I kind of go into my own subconscious; in my head it’s a video and I write down the film in my head. It’s like dreaming or daydreaming really. You are sat there writing but you are daydreaming at the same time and all these weird things just come out!
*laughs* I love it. That’s great! So, obviously when I read your story it was very funny. So, what do you enjoy about humorous writing? Is that your default writing style, you go for something funny?
I suppose so. I sometimes think it’s quite serious really, but I’m quite happy people think it’s funny. I think it’s just the way I am really.
So, do you mean Thingamanose is more of a serious story than a humorous one?
I can’t really put my finger on what it is. I think that a lot of people are laugh when they read it, but I think I’s quite serious *laughs*
*laughs* Erm, that’s quite interesting to hear that.
When I had it [the early draft] edited, the comments said it was quite revolting at some points! *laughs*
So, the early drafts were edited by the literacy consultancy?
Yeah, I sent that off last year for them to do it, but it’s obviously now changed quite a bit since then editing with Beachy Books.
And talking of Beachy Books, why did you decide to send your story to us?
They [The Literary Consultancy] did say it was a longer picture book and they weren’t sure what kind of genre it would fit into, because it sort of sits between a picture book and a chapter book. I used to get this quarterly magazine called Carousel and I noticed they were advertising some books and it mentioned that it filled the gap between the picture book and chapter book market, so I went on the computer and looked if they were taking any submissions and they weren’t, so after some research on the computer I came across your blog post [https://beachybooks.com/bridging-the-gap-longer-picture-books] about longer picture books and I emailed you and sent you off a manuscript, just by chance really.
I remember writing that blog it was quite a long time ago now and it was inspired by my frustration of how my daughter, who used to really like picture books, would end up feeling as if she could not read them, as they were associated with a much younger audience. She is a teenager now but still appreciates picture books, but at school she would be teased by other children for choosing to read a picture book when they were reading longer story books with little or no illustrations, which she wasn’t really inspired by in the same way. I also remember that feeling as a child of how wonderful picture books and comics were compared to books full of text. I love them now of course, all books.
Thingamanose is written in rhyme. Is that a writing style you enjoy?
Yeah, I think it comes a bit more naturally to me than prose, but it takes a lot longer to write. I just feel more comfortable with rhyme.
Do you have a favourite children’s book?
My favourite is Dr Seuss. You can probably see that from what I write. I love the Lorax with its environmental message. From childhood, I used to really love the Miffy books, the style and the simplicity.
Have you got any inspiring advice for budding writers or illustrators?
My advice is just to try it. Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m not a writer…’. You never know until you try! It was when I enjoyed it, trying and trying and keeping at it. It was how I developed my own style and got better and better. With drawing, it’s the same really. Just pick up the pencil and have a go. My grandma was a painter and I used to sit next to her as a little kid. She used to give me old envelopes and a biro and I used to just sit there doodling all the time.
Is there a message in Thingamanose?
The story is just about parents listening to their children and not dismissing what they say. If they’ve got problems or a niggle then listen to them, don’t brush them off. The frustration of people in power just not listening to the small people.
Thank you Lynne Hudson!
Philip Bell would like to thank Lynne Hudson for her time in the interview. If you like the sound of Lynne’s writing and want to see her ilustrations, you can read more about the book, take a peek inside and buy a copy to support the author and publisher here: Thingamanose.
Beachy Books started publishing children’s books so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I published other people’s books. A song writer and poet, David A Ballard, came to me with his rhyming poems for children and asked if I could help him get it published. His friend Christian Hennessy illustrates the book and has helped promote the book. The pair had one of Waterstone’s most successful book signings earlier in the year and the book is selling well.
Last year I created and published a book called Fairyland Fairytales, which was a book commissioned by a lady from a Shanklin tearoom who wanted to compile a book of fairy stories written by children. She wanted the book for sale in her tea room and for all profits from the book to go to a charity of her choice each year.
I’m happy to report that another 100 copies of the book have been ordered for sale this year! This is the third book order now so it’s lovely to see a book completely selling out and being reordered and doubly satisfying when it’s for charity.
The book is one of our most complex in design, with the children’s stories arranged over classic fairy art. The writers ranged from children of only 3 (with some help from their families) to teenagers, and stories of only a few lines to longer fairy tales and poems, so there’s something for everyone.
“These are brilliant stories which remind us that there is real talent, invention and creativity amongst readers and contributors to Mumsnet and Gransnet. I really enjoyed reading and selecting these funny, clever stories.” ~ Michael Rosen
I’m a published children’s author! Whoop! You know, “properly”, “traditionally”, “proper” (and any other terms people refer to) published author. Mumsnet and Gransnet – The Book of Bedtime Stories published by Walker Children’s Books is now out for sale (3rd October 2013) and what a gorgeous hardback book it is, filled with 10 winning children’s stories (including mine – me being the only bloke-man-dad to win!?) whittled down by walker/mumsnet/gransnet to 20, then former children’s laureate Michael Rosen, chose the final 10 published stories, which are all beautifully illustrated by 10 commissioned debut illustrators! And to think, the competition all started here.
“The 10 winning stories are a real treat to read, and we’re confident that The Mumsnet Book of Bedtime Stories will be enjoyed by grandparents, parents and children for years to come.” ~ Justine Roberts, Mumsnet co-founder
I received my author copy from Walker Books yesterday and I proudly read it on the train on the way up to London for the launch party, holding it up in the hope that all the other commuters would notice. Sadly they were all too busy watching films on i-p-a-d-s. You cannot beat a real book and this book is the perfect size, not too big to hold up, laying in bed next to a child, and not so heavy it will bruise if you drop it on your head when you nod off after hours of reading—not that any of the stories are dull! The 10 stories are all gripping and fun and atmospheric and touch on many aspects of childhood that I hope a parent and child will identify with. I hope the book will become a modern classic and be on every child’s Christmas list!
And to the stories, of which there are 10, mine called “Bedtime at the Lighthouse”, a story based on a time my children couldn’t sleep during an exciting stay over with their grandma (nana) at her home under the real lighthouse at Portland Bill. More on the story here. Bedtime at the Lighthouse is illustrated by the incredibly talented (I met her at the party and she’s brill) Joanne Young (thanks to her for the use of her image above) and I think her images add so much brooding atmosphere, scene setting and texture to my story, so much so, you’ll feel you could be under the lighthouse, watching a boat, rising and falling in the swell of the sea, as a rescue helicopter swoops overhead, chased by the passing light from the lighthouse…
All the writers and stories are:
Polly the Jumping Cow by Jools Abrams-Humphries
Bedtime at the Lighthouse by Philip Bell
Time for Bed by Michelle Eckhaus
The Night Thief and the Moon by Katherine Latham
A Parcel for Theo by Claire McCauley
Princess Imogen’s Independent Day by Christine O’Neill
The Dancing Bear by Suzy Robinson
The Sheriff of Rusty Nail by Sophie Wills
Celeste Who Sang to the Stars by Kate Wilson
Allie to the Rescue by Helen Yendall
I met all the writers, and most of the illustrators, who contributed to The Book of Bedtime Stories last night and we dashed about excitedly getting each other to sign our copies – perhaps one day they will be worth something? No! Never! They’re priceless! It was also inspiring to meet top people at Walker and Mumsnet and Gransnet and I’d like to thank them all (and Michael Rosen) for the opportunity and for choosing my story. I hope this is the start of a new phase in my writing career. Well, I can hope can’t I?
I hope you enjoy Bedtime at the Lighthouse and all the other stories in The Book of Bedtime Stories, being read soon, in a bed near you. x
“A story shared at bedtime prepares a child for life. So, cuddle up with this book and get reading.” ~ Michael Rosen
Our winter snow children’s book called Jack and Boo’s Snowy Day follows the adventures of two children, Jack and Boo, as they explore outside on a snowy day, playing, imagining and spotting how wildlife survives the winter. Snowball fights, snowmen, snow angels and more! Also includes wildlife spotter and snowy day children’s activities. Suitable for ages 2-7 and sure to inspire a child to want to play and learn in nature.
We have a list of stockiststhat include bookshops and the big on-line retailers, but if you want to support an indie bookshop that does pay it’s tax in the UK and for every book ordered a tree is planted check out the brilliantly independent Beetroot Books.
If you live on Isle of Wight you can buy it in person at the following locations:
Fab indie bookshop – Babushka Books – 3 Carter Road, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, PO37 7HR. Tel: 01983 864114
The big bookshop who support local authors – Waterstones Newport – 118 High Street, Newport, Isle Of Wight, PO30 1TP. Tel: 01983 527927