Thursday, 20 September 2018

How to Ride a Polar Bear - Out NOW!

Our 8TH Albie adventure publishes today - Hooray!

This time, Albie is off on an arctic adventure with his new friend Yura and her polar bear.  With stunning scenery and plenty of excitement, this may be the best adventure yet!

I was inspired to write How to Ride a Polar Bear after many trips to Western Park Museum in Sheffield, with my own children.  The museum has a fabulous arctic exhibition where you really can build your own igloo and dress up in inuit clothing.

So if you're ever near Sheffield, do pop in and see where it all began.  You never know, you might even end up on an adventure of your own!

How to Ride a Polar Bear is illustrated by Ed Eaves and published by Simon and Schuster.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova – Cosmonaut (Russia)
First woman in space

What do you want to be when you grow up?  An astronaut of course!  Yes, but you won’t ever become an astronaut. Or a professional footballer or a famous youtuber or a film star or a pop star.  At least, that’s what hundreds of children will hear from adults they trust.  They will be told that their dreams are not for them. They they are not good enough to achieve those dreams.  That these are things other people do. 

But if we tell them this, then we are crushing their ambition and robbing them of the drive that could actually propel them to become those things they dream of. Or, to becoming something else that they want to do more.

My philosophy has always been, “Well, someone’s got to do it, so why not me?”  I understand that many teachers and parents mean well with these comments.  They are trying to protect their youngsters from disappointment. I get it.  But telling a child that their dreams are not for them denies them the opportunity to hope and to strive.  Who are we to tell anyone what they can or can not achieve? If I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that you can achieve anything if you are prepared to work hard, act on good advice and develop your skills.  The dreams we have as children may not turn out to be the dreams we have as adults, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the desire to strive that is important. If we squash the desire to strive, we squash ambition and condem our children to failure before they’ve even got going.

Did you see that BBC series last summer, Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes? It featured a group of people that went through the same training that NASA astronauts and the person who won it was supposed to be invited to apply to be a real astronaut.  Well, it was won by a woman called Suzie Imber, a professor of planetary science at Leicester University.  What I really liked about the series was that each contestant excelled at something different.  And that the people you thought might not stand a chance, turned out to be some of the strongest.  The point is, you could not predict who would win.  Just as you can not predict which children will achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.

A few years ago, I discovered Helen Sharman, who was the first British astronaut and the first woman to visit the Mir space station in 1991. Her achievements preceded Tim Peake’s by 24 years yet hardly anyone has heard of her.  But we’ve all heard of Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and Tim Peake.  All great achievers. And all male.  Does that mean that there have been no women in space?  Not at all!  It’s just that we don’t really hear about them.

You might be surprised to discover that the first female cosmonaut went into space 55 years ago in 1963. That’s just two years after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he orbited the Earth in the spacecraft Vostok. 

So why does it matter that a woman went into space 55 years ago? She wasn’t the first person to do so. In fact, she was the 12th.  Why does it matter that Helen Sharman went into space 24 years before Tim Peake?

Well, it matters because it is proof to children that women can.  Even though the number of female cosmonauts amounts to only 10% of the 561 people who have left this planet in a rocket, that’s still 60 women who have done it.  And if other women have done it, it makes being an astronaut a possibility for every girl - and boy - who wants it enough. 

Girls Can Do Anything is about allowing our children to dream, and giving them the confidence that those dreams could come true.  By showing them that these dreams belong as much to people born into female bodies as those born into male bodies, we are telling them that they are all valid and valuable human beings who have a positive contribution to make to the world.  Let’s help our children achieve their dreams by letting them know that their dreams are achievable.

Sources:



COMPETITION TIME! 


Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this
Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.



Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Karen Gaffney

Karen Gaffney - Swimmer and Advocate for People with Disabilities (USA)
First person with Downs Syndrome to complete a relay swim across the English Channel

The 2012 Olympic Games marked a turning point for me in terms of disability awareness and the television campaign that marked the run up to the games was a major influence in the writing of Girls Can Do Anything.  For the first time, the paralympic games were given the airtime they deserved and the achievements of people with disabilities were publicly and noisily applauded across the nation.  Here were people who were not made less by their disabilities, they were shown to be so much more.  They were billed as superhumans who have accomplished phenomenal feats despite a whole host of obstacles including a wide range of disabilities. 

At a time when I was suffering from quite severe depression, these people gave me courage and inspired me to keep going, despite my own difficulties.  I could have chosen any of the amazing athletes to appear in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, but I wanted to find someone who we perhaps hadn’t heard of yet.  I wanted to find an ordinary hero who might help inspire us lesser mortals - someone to tell us that you don’t have to be the best in the world to be worthwhile. You just have to be the best you can be.

Which brings me to Karen Gaffney.  She’s the first person with Down’s syndrome to complete a relay swim of the English Channel - or La Manche if you’re on the other side. She is also the first person with Down’s syndrome to receive a doctorate, which was awarded to her by the University of Portland for her work in raising awareness of the abilities of people with her condition.  She is one of an increasing number of people that are changing perceptions of people with Down’s and for that she truly deserves her place in our gallery.

You might also heard of Collette Divitto, who set up a cookie making business in Boston which now employs other people with disabilities. 

Madeline Stuart, a professional model 

Sujeet Desai, a professional musician who plays seven instruments and has won numerous awards.





COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.


Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Sunday, 12 August 2018

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Author (Nigeria / USA)
Winner of the MacArthur Genius grant

I was never all that good at history.  The school curriculum in the late 70s and early 80s left a great deal to be desired, being mostly either about the first and second world wars, or medieval medicine - a course of leeches anyone?  If you are a teenager, or parent of teens, you won’t be surprised to learn that these are still hot topics on the whiteboards of today’s GCSE students.  To be honest, I found most of the history I learned about in school at best irrelevant and at worst, downright boring. (Sorry Mr O’ Shea).

It wasn’t that the events themselves were uninteresting, but that the whole of history teaching was based around dates and fighting and the things that men did.  There was nothing about the lives of real people which made the subject completely non-relatable to me.  But the lack of even a GCSE to my name left me sadly lacking in knowledge and understanding of world events.

Luckily, as an adult I’ve discovered a new approach to learning about history and politics - through the words of contemporary modern authors from around the world.  I’ve learned more about the Chinese cultural revolution and the troubles in Pakistan and Afghanistan through reading novels than I have from any history book.  This is because the novels I’ve read, novels like Half a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Adichie, are about real people living through these historical times.  They may be fiction, but they are based on a deep understanding of those cultures and the experiences of real people living there. For me, this gives far greater insight into the impact of political systems and military regimes than a load of dates and statistics.

Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian author who lives part time in the United States. She’s won numerous prizes for her work including the Commonwealth Writers prize 2005, the Orange Prize for fiction in 2007, The McArthur Genius Grant in 2008 and the PEN Pinter Prize this year.

I wanted to feature her in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women because
she is one of a growing number of voices from across the world that are contributing to a deeper understanding and appreciation of other lives and cultures. 






COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.


Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Saturday, 11 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Malala Yuousafzai

Malala Yuousafzai - Human Rights Activist (Pakistan/UK)
Youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize

The Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women would not be complete without a portrait of this incredible young woman.

Malala Yuousafzai captured the attention of the world when she came to the UK for medical care following an assassination attempt in Pakistan when she was just 15 years old.  This was no random shooting. Malala had been speaking out about life under Taliban rule since she was eleven years old. She wrote a blog under a pseudonym and was featured a New York Times documentary in 2010.  She gave interviews and speeches in print and on television and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize.

She was shot in the head, alongside two other girls, while on a school bus. Amazingly, she survived and was brought to the UK for further treatment following life-saving surgery in Peshawar. Since then, she has continued to speak out about the right to education and is the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, aged just 17.

Malala Yuousafzai is probably one of the most iconic young people of our time. Her courage and determination to make a difference provide an outstanding example of the potential that every single one of us holds within us, to make positive changes to our world. 

Sources:




COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.


Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Friday, 10 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Gallery of Inspirational Women - Josephine Reynolds – Firefighter

Josephine Reynolds – Firefighter (UK)
First female British firefighter

Girls Can Do Anything, written by me and illustrated by Ali Pye, is a celebration of all the things girls can do. It attempts to demonstrate to very young children that there is no job or hobby that cannot be enjoyed by those of us who were born in female bodies. One of the verses says:


Girls can be brave like this firefighter here,
Rescuing people when danger is near.

But is it true? I wanted to not only tell children that anything is possible, I wanted to prove it to them, which is why we created a gallery of inspirational women on the back end papers of the book. One of these is Josephine Reynolds, who is a firefighter. In fact, she was Britain’s very first female firefighter, and made history when she joined the service way back in 1982 when she was just seventeen. Since then, many services have worked to recruit more women, but according to the UK Government Fire and Rescue Service Equality and Diversity Strategy 2008-2018, only 3.1% of firefighters in the UK today are female. Still, they ARE out there, so if your child is interested in joining the fire service – or any other rescue service for that matter – they can!
And in remembering to use the non-sexist terms for these brave women and men, we are further demonstrating to our children that these careers are open to everyone, regardless of gender. For a fun list of non-sexist terminology, check out this page.
It’s amazing what you find when you’re researching online. 




COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.


Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Gallery of Inspriational Women - Peng Lei


Peng Lei (Lucy Peng) – Businesswoman (China)
Co-founder and CEO of Ant Financial Services 

I chose Peng Lei, otherwise known as Lucy Peng to appear in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, because she’s a highly successful business woman who founded her own company that has recently been valued at around $60 billion. That’s a lot of money she’s made.  Personally, I’m not massively into profit or commerce as such, but I wanted to include someone like Peng Lei in the gallery of inspirational women, because she is, I guess, a classic example of a successful woman.

She is a clever woman who has made her own fortune and has created jobs for thousands of people.  She was listed as the 34th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2017. On that list, Angela Merkel was first, followed by Theresa May and Melinda Gates. Oprah was 21st and Beyonce was 50th. Incidentally, over half of the top 50 are from the United States and our own Queen only ranks 26th. So the Queen is less powerful that Oprah.  Well, I guess that makes sense.

I’m not  quite sure how Forbes decides who is the most powerful, but Peng Lei is definitely up there with them.  So for all those children out there who want to make a packet, who are interested in business and commerce, this it to show that there are lots of women out there doing very, very nicely, thank you very much!





COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.

Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.



Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Sirimavo Bandaranaike

In our Girls Can Do Anything Gallery of Inspirational Women, we've tried to pick out mainly contemporary figures who are relevant to our lives now.  But one or two historic women have made it to the gallery, including Sirimavo Bandaranaike.  

Here's why we chose her:


Sirimavo Bandaranaike – Politician (Sri Lanka)
The world's first female prime minister 

Sirimavo Bandaranaike was prime minister of Sri Lanka on three separate occasions: 1960-65 1970-77 and 1994-2000. She was the world’s first female prime minister and took the country through major socialist reform that resulted in the island becoming a republic.

You might be surprised to learn that there have been over 113 female prime ministers and presidents and several more acting up to the role since the 1940s.  Something I find quite amazing given the reluctance of many nations to allow women to occupy other positions of responsibility or power.  

Saudi Arabia have only just lifted a ban on women driving cars and in many countries girls still don’t have the right to attend school.  According to The Guardian, in South Sudan nearly three quarters of girls still do not attend primary school. So the fact that across the world we’ve had ANY women in the ultimate position of power is a bit of a miracle.  Of course the UK didn’t get a female Prime Minister until 1979 and the United States has never had a woman at the helm, so I guess there’s still some way to go yet.

If you’re interested, there’s a full list of female heads of state here




COMPETITION TIME! 

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.

Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.





Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Sue Wimpenny


Not all the people featured in our Girls Can Do Anything Gallery of Inspirational Women are famous.  Some are just ordinary, extraordinary people going about their daily lives.  They are women who are busy making a living doing the jobs they love. People like Sue Wimpenny.  She's not famous, she's not on telly (though she was in The Independent once) but she IS  doing a job that many of us would not expect a woman to do.  

So if you have a child who's interested in something different, get online and find someone like them, who is doing it too. Show your kids that they can do whatever they flipping well want, regardless of the bodies they were born into!

Anyway, here's why we chose Sue Wimpenny:


Sue Wimpenny - Builder and CEO (UK)
I mean, how many women builders have you ever met?  I haven’t met any and, I’m ashamed to say, had not even considered that women builders were even a thing until recently.  Interior designers, yes, painters and decorators - well I’ve seen a few now, thanks to DIYSOS. But actual builders? 

Then, while doing some research for the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women,  I discovered Sue Wimpenny.

In the book, we tell young readers that girls can be and do anything they choose. We tell them girls can be good at science or writing or music or maths. We tell them girls can be firefighters, lawyers, sports people, lorry drivers and builders. So I thought I’d better find some examples of real women who really ARE doing these things and doing them well. 

Enter Sue Wimpenny. Not only is she a builder, she has built (pardon the pun) her own construction company called The Lady Builder.  It’s a successful building company that does everything you’d expect… they build things and refurbish things and no doubt make a lot of dust in the process. In itself this is not remarkable.  But the fact that this company was founded and is run by a woman - IS.  I don’t know much about Sue but I do know that she’s a successful woman operating in what is a predominantly male world and for me, that is what makes her outstanding. And for children to know that there are real women doing this kind of work - well I think that’s incredibly empowering.




COMPETITION TIME! 


Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.

Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Monday, 6 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Serena Williams

Girls Can Do Anything by yours truly and Ali Pye is NOW OUT!   

And to celebrate, here's our next totally incredible and supersonic inspirational woman, Serena Williams.  She's one of 15 women featured in our Gallery of Inspirational Women at the back of the book. Here's why we chose her:


Serena Williams – Tennis Champion and Icon (USA) 

Many of the women I’ve chosen to appear in the Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women, are not high profile. They are not especially in the public eye, and some are not even famous at all. But Serena Williams is, most definitely, smack bang in the middle of the public eye and rightly so.  I think it’s safe to say she’s an icon of feminine power and physical prowess and probably, in fact, as close as you can get to an actual goddess.

Six-times champion of the US Open, seven-times winner at Wimbledon and with many other wins to her name in singles, doubles and mixed doubles tennis, Serena Williams is a complete master of her game and outstanding sportswoman. She is also a philanthropist and supporter of disadvantaged young people in the states and abroad. 

So if you’re looking for a strong female to look up to… well, she’s the real deal.




COMPETITION TIME! 


Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.

Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Girls Can Do Anything Inspirational Women - Arunima Sinha

Girls Can Do Anything publishes TOMORROW! 

Hip Hip Hooray!

And what better way to celebrate than with our next totally awesome and hugely inspiring woman, Arunima Sinha.  She's one of 15 people who feature in our Gallery of Inspirational Women at the back of the book.  Here's why we chose her:



Arunima Sinha – Mountaineer (India)

First female amputee to climb Mount Everest

The next inspirational woman to appear in our Girls Can Do Anything gallery is Arunima Sinha.  Here's why we chose her:

Lots of women climb mountains. Quite a few have even summited Everest. 

Between the first summit, in 1953 and 2014, over 4,000 people attempted the trip in over 6,000 climbs.  Of these, 418 - around 10% - have been women.

The first was Junko Tabei in 1975. The youngest, at just 13 years old, was Malavath Purna in 2014.

And then there’s Arunima Sinha.  In 2013, she became the first female amputee to summit the mountain.  So not only did she climb the highest mountain in the world, she did it with a prosthetic leg, just two years after the accident that caused her injury.  Now if that doesn’t warrant respect, I don’t know what does.


I wanted to include Arunima Sinha in our Girls Can Do Anything gallery of inspirational women because not only has she overcome the huge blow of losing a limb, she has used her misfortune as a driver to achieve something amazing.  Arunima is a great role model for any child who faces disadvantage.  Be that physical, social or whatever, she is proof that it is really only your imagination, commitment and self-belief that determine your ability to succeed.

Do you have a sports enthusiast in your family?  Does your child have a disability?  They need to know that, with the right help and support, their dreams can be achievable too!


COMPETITION TIME!

Who inspires you?

We want to create a gallery of people who inspire you!

Download a competition entry form and you could win a hardback copy of the book, an awesome art set, and your entry in the online gallery. Competition closes 31 August, 2018. Entries sent after this date can still be included in the online gallery but will not be eligible for the prize.

Girls Can Do Anything is illustrated by Ali Pye and
published on 2 August 2018 by Scholastic. Pre-order your copy here.