Marvellous machines, creating kindness and bedtime stories…

Newark Book Festival 2021

Being able to lose yourself in a good book has always been a welcome opportunity so it is unsurprising that many people have chosen to escape from the past year’s uncertainty into less restrictive fictional worlds.

But celebrating stories as always been a shared activity too and one organisation working hard to make sure it can still honour this is the Newark Book Festival.

“Our 2021 festival may look a little different to what you are used to; our venues have changed to ensure we can provide a Covid-safe festival and they reflect changes in venue capacities and funding,” explains Newark Book Festival Artistic Director Sara Bullimore.

“But nonetheless we are delighted to bring you a varied, fun, informative and inspiring programme. With events online and in person, outdoors and (safely) indoors, there is something for everyone.”

And “everyone” most definitely includes mini readers.

The Tale of the Whale by Nottinghamshire author Karen Swann will provide the inspiration behind a Family Book Trail running throughout the festival weekend (July 8th to 11th).

Age 3 to 5 year olds can take their grown ups along to a storytelling session on Friday, July 9th at 10am at Beanblock Café where they can join Izzy Wheeldon and hear all about Clarence the Cockerel.

And a Schools Day, including Kerry Drewery and Jess Kidd, will take place online -contact the festival team for further information.

But, of course, it’s the Saturday and Sunday (July 10th and 11th) that sees lots of children’s events programmed in for when your mini ones have escaped the school gates for 48 hours.

Storytelling inspired by The Snail and the Whale, The Enormous Crocodile and time travel with Lincolnshire’s own Rhubarb Theatre, imagining what the world would be like if everyone was kind to each other with Nottinghamshire author Becky Goddard-Hill, following simple steps to build toys with Alom Shaha of Mr Shaha’s Marvellous Machines, visiting the book festival Wonderland at the Castle and winding down with some bedtime stories at the Palace Theatre are all activities welcoming mini audience members.

And, as the festival theme for 2021 is Our Stories, don’t forget to take the time for your young ones to share their stories, of home, how they stay happy and what they’ve been reading.

Booking for all events is recommended due to differing capacities. Visit for further information.

Summer season shows set to be back on stage!

Lincoln Performing Arts Centre announces theatre line-up

Mini theatre goers can finally get their hands ready to applaud the return of live theatre to indoor auditroiums as Covid restrictions begin to be lifted and the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre (LPAC) has an exciting line-up of much needed and long-awaited-for entertainment including several family-friendly shows.

Julia Donaldson’s wondrous tale of wanderlust, The Snail and the Whale, will be brought to life on stage by Tall Stories on July 24th (2pm and 4.30pm) and July 25th (11am and 2pm).

The heart-warming adventure recommended for age 4+, sees an adventurous young girl and her seafaring father reimagine the story of the tiny snail’s incredible trip around the world. The sea snail hitches a lift on the tail of a great big, grey-blue humpback whale and the pair’s amazing journey is brought to life through live music, storytelling and lots of laughs as their tale proves that even the tiniest creature’s efforts can be hugely effective.

If you have older readers who are fans of the Terry Deary series Horrible Histories then they too can enjoy seeing the tales of Gorgeous Georgians and Vile Vivtorians come to life on stage on August 25th (1.30pm and 4pm).

“Are you ready to swing with a Georgian king? Can you see eye to eye with Admiral Nelson? Does the Duke of Wellington get the boot? Dare you dance the Tyburn jig? Will you be saved by Florence Nightingale? Find out what a baby farmer did and move to the groove with party Queen Victoria!”

Both those shows indoor shows will, of course, be Covid-restrictions compliant (and “if the situation changes and the roadmap to recovery is delayed ticket bookers will be offered full refunds for affected events and offered to rebook if events need to be rescheduled”), but it is still the summer too and culture seekers who are also fans of picnics can grab a blanket and enjoy theatre in the fresh air at the International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC).

Supported by the Culture Recovery Fund, LPAC and the IBCC have teamed up to provide a Family Fun Day on Sunday, August 22nd. Highlights will include The Three Muskateers by Morgan & West (Winners of Penn & Teller Fool Us!), pop-up performances and storytelling by the much-loved Rhubarb Theatre to small family groups in the marquee, family-focused Bomber Command workshops and more activities yet to be announced.

Also on:
July 15: Mathematician-turned-World-Slam-Champion Harry Baker with his stand-up comedy show I AM 10,000 celebrating numbers, words and life itself.
September 3: Comedian Jenny Eclair confronts a new decade of decrepitude in Jenny Eclair: Sixty! (FFS!)
September 3 (at the IBCC): The Lord Chamberlain’s Men present Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
September 11 (at the IBCC): Folk, roots and acoustic music will be celebrated in a Folk Festival.

Visit for further information and to book.

Create, play, read and craft – but, above all, imagine

Newark Book Festival Imaginarium

Image result for newark book festival logo

Losing yourself in a good book can provide all sorts of benefits as any avid reader knows but a good dollop of escapism has to be one of the biggest advantages in current times for story lovers both young and old.

One Saturday, February 27th, the Newark Book Festival will be helping to engage those imaginations keen to fly into fictional worlds with a series of free online events designed for families.

The Imaginarium festival will see Rhubarb Theatre presenting its adaptations of Addy Farmer’s space travel adventure A Place Called Home and the classic fairy tale The Ugly Duckling.

Nottinghamshire-based author Frances Stickley will be sharing some of her stories including What Will you dream of tonight? and The Mouse’s Apples and introduce you to the characters in her story sack.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bunnies-on-the-bus.jpg

Budding illustrators can join prize-winning Bunnies on the Bus author Philip Ardagh for stories, drawing and fun and older children can take part in a writing workshop exploring magical worlds with LD Lapinski, author of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency series.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jenny-mclachlan-land-of-roar-book-image.jpg

Thomas Taylor will be sharing more about his book Gargantis, set in the mysterious Eerie-On-Sea, and Jenny McLachlan will be inviting you to welcome dragons, unicorns and mermaids into your living room as she introduces The Land of Roar.

The fun doesn’t have to start and stop on the 27th though. Get those imaginations warmed up by creating a model of your favourite character from a book to enter the festival’s craft competition beforehand and afterwards families local to Newark can download the Barry the Bookworm exercise trail and look out for Barry in shop windows across the town throughout March.

All events are free (donations are welcome). Find out more about the events on the Festival website, visit to book your free place online and visit Newark Book Festival Facebook Page for regular updates.

Chakraji and Calm Callum

The state of children’s mental health has been a growing concern in recent years and it is unsurprising that the pandemic’s continuing effects have seen the problem grow even worse.

Hansa Pankhania, who founded AUM Wellbeing Consultancy, has plenty of experience as a corporate wellbeing expert, speaker and author but it’s not just adults that she feels could benefit from her skills.

“For a few years, I have been concerned about the rising levels of stress and anxiety in children and young people. Just like all life skills, it is imperative for children to have the skills to overcome stress, otherwise it builds up and causes mental health issues in later life,” she writes on her company’s blog.

“My forte is to pass on simple natural techniques that do not cost anything and are easy to integrate into everyday life.”

Her concern has led her to publish a children’s picture book called Chakraji and Calm Callum (Sohum Publications, £7.99).

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chakrajicallum.jpg

Illustrated by Anne-Marie Sonneveld, it is the first in a planned series of six titles that incorporates these “natural techniques” in imaginative storytelling to introduce mini readers to mindfulness and stress relief techniques.

Integrating Eastern and Western influences, the short tale essentially presents a breathing exercise and affirmation. But encapsulating it in a story of a young boy upset by his parents arguing, complete with magical flamingo ride to see the mystical maternal Chakraji seated on a rainbow, enables parents to introduce these ideas and techniques in a less direct manner. Accompanying Callum on his colourful journey allows for discussion of feelings in the third person.

The eldest two minis are very used to joining in with actions suggested by a book and reenacting the story in different ways (see Everybunny Dance! and A Busy Day for Birds), so no verbal prompting was needed to get them to copy the instructions Callum is given by Chakraji, as soon as I put my palm on my tummy they started physically following along too. And, in the couple of days after our initial reading, my six year old was also keen to repeat the magic words the flamingo teaches Callum “to make you feel happy inside” to prove to me she remembered them.

Anything that might help young people’s resilience during these strange times is definitely worth embracing and, even if it’s not retained and just works when you’re reading it, a calming story for bedtime is always welcomed too.

Today is the start of Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (February 1-7). This year’s theme is Express Yourself.
And it’s also National Storytelling Week 2021 (January 30 – February 6).

Find out more about “a wobbly and magical friendship”

Newark Book Festival 2020

NBF1Like a lot of events scheduled for this year, the Newark Book Festival has had to make a few changes to its original plans.

But due to the hard work of its organisers and guests it’s now getting ready to present readers with not just one short story but a whole five chapters of 2020’s programme.

Chapter One will take place virtually this month (July 10th-12th).

Alongside authors such as Kate Mosse, Jess Kidd and Frances Brody and debates on crime through the ages, gothic and historical fiction and celebrating the Bronte 200 anniversary, younger readers haven’t been forgotten either.

The first event on Friday, July 10th, will be a story time with Helen from Diddy Signers. Hosted by the BeanBlock Cafe’s Facebook page, the Makaton-signed reading of Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy will take place at 10am.

Claire Barker - author imageOn Sunday, July 12th, recommended for ages 6 to 10, children are invited to join in adventures with Picklewitch and Jack.  Taking place from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, tickets to the event are available via

The author Claire Barker will bring to life her creations that share “a wobbly and magical friendship”

“Picklewitch has a nose for naughtiness, a taste for trouble and a weakness for cake. And unluckily for brainbox Jack – winner of the ‘Most Sensible Boy in School’ for the third year running – she’s about to choose him as her new best friend…  This is a story about fitting in and finding a special friend where you’d least expect it.”

There are two titles in the series currently available and a third – Picklewitch & Jack and the Sea Wizard’s Secret – is now due to be published in June 2021.

And if you run out of questions to ask Claire about her work you can always ask her about wrestling sheep, battling through nettle patches and catching rogue chickens on her farm in Devon.

Find out more at Newark Book Festival. 

#30Days Wild Days 24 to 30 – Flowers, water and more butterflies

The last week of #30DaysWild went by quickly with changing weather, lots of work commitments and attempts at home learning that were, well, variable in their success.

Flower PartsSome of the tasks sent home from their school helped in our daily challenge as our eldest was set the task of learning the names of some garden and wild plants, the parts of a flowering plant and identifying trees and the parts of a tree.

We vicariously enjoyed others’ natural adventures through the CBeebies programmes Down on the Farm and Let’s Go For A Walk.   A not incredibly successful attempt at getting our youngest to sleep one night led to a marathon binge watch of CBeebies Bedtime Stories and the discovery of a beautiful book called The Rhythm of the Rain by Grahame Baker-Smith that celebrates the water cycle flowing from a pool on a mountainside, through sparkling streams, over waterfalls, through rivers and into the open sea – and on to our ever-growing book wish list.

Creating butterflies in our arts and crafts projects has featured highly in our last two month’s activities – Day Six, Day Eight, Day Nine, Day 23 – so we couldn’t pass up another opportunity to make some more of the winged creatures when we read about The Butterfly Project the Different Light Collective is running in association with this year’s SO Festival.

TheButterflyProjectGiven the current Covid-19 situation, the SO Festival has cleverly rebranded itself as the SOfa Fest for 2020 as it goes online rather than on to the streets of Mabelthorpe and Skegness but it’s still keen to be as interactive as possible.

The Butterfly Project is a creative community engagement project asking people to design and send in their own butterflies which will become part of a short film by award-winning artist Barret Hodgson.

“The project is about being a small part of something big, something special that celebrates creativity, community, beauty, freedom and self-expression.  It reflects the idea of being trapped and eventually released, of going from caterpillar to butterfly and also represents the idea of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ – one small action here can lead to a much bigger impact elsewhere.

The finished short film will show the butterfly images from individual members of the community gradually coming together to form one giant butterfly – a creative and beautiful expression and demonstration of how we really are all in this together of how when we all work together we’re stronger and can achieve more.”

Our own “small actions” saw Luke (a big fan of the recent The Great British Sewing Bee series) choosing to have his template cut out of felt so he could sew on different fabric remnants to decorate it whereas Willow headed straight to the glitter, glitter card, stickers and pompoms to design hers.

The PDF templates are available to download from Different Light’s website but be quick, the deadline for submission, which can be via email, is Sunday, July 12th at 4pm.

What a lovely colourful and collective way to round off our 2020 #30DaysWild experience.  We may not have managed something every day of June this year but then some days we did more than one thing and it’s certainly once again given us the chance to think about the importance and influence our wild world has on us and that we may have on it.  Here’s to 366 (ish) days wild.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

Oi! Do you know it’s Independent Bookshop Week? asks Lindum Books

LindumBooksIt’s a special day for city bookshop Lindum Books today as it reopens its doors for the first time since Coronavirus lockdown.

It’s been continuing to make sure Lincoln’s readers haven’t been left with dwindling to read piles throughout its physical shop closure by taking orders for delivery by phone and email – we’ve added titles including Ducktective Quack and the Cake Crimewave by Claire Freedman and Joseph Elliott’s The Good Hawk to our library and also been able to have a couple of presents sent straight to their recipients.

But there’s no doubt, even with extra special measures in place, that owner Sasha Drennan is more than pleased to be sharing the shop’s shelves with her keen customers again (on Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 4pm to begin with).

LindumIndependentAnd it couldn’t be better timed for shops such as hers as they look forward to the annual Independent Bookshop Week celebrations which get underway in just three days.

Running from Saturday, June 20th to Saturday, June 27th, the Bailgate store will have early releases and signed editions on sale to mark the occasion.

Not available elsewhere until July 9th, the shop will have early release copies of the paperback Oi Puppies picture book by Kes Gray and Jim Field (£6.99) alongside signed copies of the children’s author’s new book The Diddle That Dummed (£6.99).

“The Oi! books make us laugh out loud and, as book people, we love the way they play with words.  We’re looking forward to having the cute Oi Puppies! here in paperback,” says Sasha.

Not Now Bernard by David McKeeA video reading of the children’s picture book Not Now Bernard by David McKee by actor, rapper and author Ben Bailey Smith celebrating the book’s 40th anniversary is also being organised – look out for it during the week on the shop’s Facebook page.

If you’d like to add to your own selection as well as your children’s reading list whilst you’re there then Lindum Books will also have signed copies of the Lady in Waiting paperback by Anne Glenconner (£8.99) as well as early release copies of the Faber Poetry Diary 2021 (£12.99) and the Liberty Print Poetry Diary 2021 (£14.99) available.  These two won’t be available elsewhere until September but we’re all ready to move on to next year already aren’t we?

For those of us that aren’t yet able to venture out too much the shop will still be offering additional services including home delivery direct from their supplier, pay and collect/deliver and private appointments.

Call the store on 01522 262374 or visit for further information.

#30DaysWild Day 15 – Swirl by Swirl

Day 15We’ve been very grateful to post deliverers of all types during these last 12 weeks for adding a bit of unwrapping excitement, home learning opportunities and fun to the minis lockdown experience.

But the best deliveries have to be the new book days, don’t they?  (Well at least for mummy anyway, Willow might opt for when her new LOL watch arrived but let’s not test the theory…)

And when such a beautiful gem as Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes is left stood up on your doorstep, it’s a particularly special day.


The Newbery Honor (the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children) and Caldecott Medal (most distinguished American picture book for children) winning team combine to provide a deceptively simple but beautifully rich tale, just like the shape itself.

It starts of small and cosy – “A spiral is a snuggling shape.  It fits neatly in small places.  Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits…” – and uncoils and expands with examples growing in size, both flora and fauna, above ground and under the sea.

From the harvest mouse to merino sheep to the spiny sea horse, the sweet pea to the rose to the sunflower and through to whirlpools, tornadoes and galaxies – “spinning and sparkling, forever expanding” – spirals are shown to be safe and strong, defensive and explorative.

But it’s final pages bring you back to wanting to curl “up neat and small, warm and safe” alongside the eastern gray squirrel and harvest mouse “warm and safe”.

Two additional pages add definition and further details beyond the poem – “Spiral: a shape that curls around a center point” – also briefly mentioning the DNA helix and Fibonacci spiral.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 

#30DaysWild Day 11 – A bear hunt on the West Common

Day 11An attempt to find another different place to explore for a walk than our usual lockdown routes led us to Lincoln’s West Common today.

Whilst probably not the best place for a pushchair which was very quickly taken back to the car, and due to its openness not great for hide and seek, it did turn out to have good bear hunt opportunities however.

With Willow spotting a patch of mud on the way in she was quickly squelch squerching through it reciting Michael Rosen’s words.

And not long afterwards we found a good spot of swishy swashy grass too with the cycle path providing an imagined river to splish splosh in.  Sadly we didn’t come across any caves with bears in though.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt has long been a household favourite – click here to see Willow reciting and reading the well-loved story and it’s so lovely to hear that Michael Rosen is starting to recover from the virus.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild. 


#30DaysWild Day Six – Snails

DaySixHaving revisited The Snail and the Whale for my five-year-old’s home learning I had also done a quick search for other snail activities for us to try out.

Thanks to How to Montessori for including the recipe Baking with Kids – Easy Mini Cinnamon Snails on its website we spent the morning making some marshmallow-eyed molluscs.

MatissesMagicalTrailIn the afternoon we turned to Twinkl educational resources again and labelled the parts of a snail followed by reading a new book for us.  Matisse’s Magical Trail by  Tim Hopgood is a tale of an inspirational artistic snail and was recommended accompanying reading on the White Rose Maths website which Willow’s home learning was sourced from.

Twinkl’s website also made us aware that today was the 10th Butterfly Education and Awareness Day (BEAD) organised by the Association For Butterflies so I had planned several butterfly-inspired activities too but the “determined insistence” of our seven year old in requesting we inflate our new paddling pool inside the house rather overtook the rest of the day and we only got as far as coronating Willow with this lifecycle crown but she is always happy when her regal inclinations are acknowledged.

Click here to find out more about #30DaysWild.