For another idea using the story of Zeraffa, try a shadow play of the story.


You can make templates for the shadow puppets out black paper. Draw and then cut out an outline of a giraffe, cutting holes for the patterns. You can make the legs move by attaching them on to the body with little brass split pins so that you can put the legs in different positions. It will look as if the giraffe is walking.

The Egyptian show can be made with triangular sails and also the bigger boat that went across the Mediterranean Sea. Don’t forget the carriage and the cows and also the houses on the walk through the French countryside to tell your story. The houses could have doors and windows cut out so the light shines through them. If you tape on thin sticks to the back of the shadow puppet you can hold them up high so your own shadow doesn’t get in the way.

Remember that you are making outlines and their shadows need to show up on a white screen or sheet. You can either stand behind a white sheet with a strong light behind you or you can stand in front of a white screen so that a bright light reflects the shadow onto the screen. This works well with an overhead projector.


We’ve done lots of events with the poets from Falling Out of the Sky. Sometimes they read their own poems from the book, and sometimes they read other people’s.

In this video, John Canfield (who wrote ‘The Legend of Jan Tregeagle’), is performing ‘The Minotaur’ by Rachael Nicholas. I’m in the background, holding my watercolour painting of the Minotaur, which is based on my illustration in the book. And that’s Kate Wakeling on the left – she wrote ‘The Serpent and the Turtle’.

I’ve always felt sorry for the Minotaur, alone in that big maze just waiting for someone to come and slay him, so I drew him looking a bit sad, though I did also want him to look scary.

No-one really knows what the Minotaur is meant to look like, other than being half man and half bull. After watching the video and listening to the poem, why don’t you have a go at drawing the Minotaur?

You could try to capture what made him so terrifying that King Minos trapped him in the Labyrinth.

Or you could try to show what it might have felt to be the Minotaur – was he lonely? Did he get lost inside the maze too? Was he hungry all the time?

You could also draw Theseus. Would he look frightened inside the Labyrinth, peering around each corner, or would he stride around confidently?

You could also draw Ariadne, who gave Theseus the sword and ball of string. What would she be feeling as she waited for Theseus to emerge?

Demeter, goddess of the harvest, had a beloved daughter named Persephone. The god of the underworld, Hades, fell in love with Persephone, and took her underground to live in his kingdom with his three-headed dog Cerberus. Determined to escape back to her mother, Persephone refused to eat, until she was so hungry she ate six little pomegranate seeds.

Because Persephone had eaten the food of the underworld, it meant she had to stay there. Distraught, Demeter let the crops wilt and die. People were starving, so Demeter’s brother Zeus struck a deal between Demeter, Persephone and Hades. If Persephone would stay six months of the year as queen of the underworld, she would be released above ground for the other half of the year to see her mother.

In Greek mythology, this is why we have the four seasons. In spring and summer, Demeter is rejoicing with her daughter, and in autumn and winter, she misses Persephone and allows everything to die again.

Imagine you are Demeter, in control of the seasons, waiting to see your daughter again. Create some draft ideas using the prompts below, or any other ideas you might have. Then you can pick and choose from what you have written and and experiment with reordering your favourite lines to create your poem. Will you start with spring/summer or autumn/winter? Will your poem be first person (‘I am Demeter’), or third person (‘Demeter cried for her daughter’) or even second person (‘You watch the entrance to the underworld’)?

Think carefully about which lines/phrases would be best to start and end your poem.

Describe what life was like before Persephone was taken away. Imagine how rich and plentiful the crops were. Think about using descriptive words and similes.

You watch the entrance to the underworld: what can you see and hear? Perhaps you could use some onomatopoeia for the terrifying sounds which seep out – are there sights and smells too?

What does the world look like in autumn and winter? With your descriptive words, try to get a sense of Demeter’s loneliness and despair:

Think about the moment you spot Persephone coming out of the underworld for her annual visit. Imagine the moment in slow motion and focus on small details to bring it to life.

How are your joyous feelings reflected in the world around you?


There are two poems about the Norse gods in our poetry anthology Falling Out of the Sky – one about how Loki destroyed the universe, and one which introduces you to five of the Norse gods. I already had an idea about how they might look, because I used to read lots of Norse myths when I was younger, so it was great fun trying to capture my ideas in my illustration.


You can download my illustration of Norse gods below, so you can print the image out and colour the gods in.


Or, you can read the poem from the book and draw your own illustrations of the Norse gods. Rachel Piercey’s poem contains lots of clues about what the gods might look like.


To Asgard!

Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


Odin is the ruler here,

he strokes his beard, he shakes his spear,

he keeps a pair of wolves as pets

and flies a horse who has eight legs.


Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


Frigg is queen, and she can see

what every person’s fate will be,

and whether it will turn out well

or badly, though she’ll never tell.


Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


The strongest of them all is Thor

whose hammer causes thunderstorms.

He crushes mountains, likes to flirt,

has two goats pull his cart to work.


Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


Freya’s husband roams the worlds,

so she cries tears of solid gold.

In feathered cloak, boar at her side,

she goes to seek him far and wide.


Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


Loki is the trickster god:

he causes trouble, then he’s off,

and even Odin cannot make

this wily, wicked god behave.


Come across the rainbow bridge

to Asgard, where the Norse gods live!


Their world is full of beasts and swords,

serpents, giants, magic wars.

They feast and fight and feast again

but even Asgard has to end…


So while there’s still a rainbow bridge:

to Asgard! where the Norse gods live…


Everyone Loves to Hate the Evil Villain!

Everyone loves to hate the evil villain!

They are great fun to create.

Make a ‘Wanted ‘poster for your villain.


Draw their picture and write a brilliant description of them.

What do they look like?


Height, build, eyes, mouth, nose, teeth, hair.

What are they wearing? Clothing, footwear, jewellery.

What do they smell like? Go on have a sniff. Is it time to put a peg on your nose?

What do they sound like? Voice – its pitch, volume, speed.

What about skin texture/ temperature / moist/wet/slimy dry.

How do they move? Slither like a snake? Stomp like an elephant? Glide like a swan? Do they twitch? Or stand as still as a statue?

What’s their character? Hot-headed and hasty or cold and calculating?

Any distinguishing features?


What evil crime have they committed?


Last seen?


Watch the video below – do you think you have what it takes to be an illustrator?


Like all authors, I’m often asked “Where do your ideas come from?” and sometimes I know the answer. Or at least an answer.

I had accepted an invitation to write for Barrington Stoke. I knew of the Barrington Stoke books – short, easy to read, many of them aimed at teenagers but with a younger reading age. I’d always thought it would be hard to write such a book in the way I wanted, but thinking of the approaching 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, I agreed to take up the challenge.

It was a hard-hitting Siegfried Sassoon poem that started it off. Here’s the first verse, which I quote at the beginning of Tilly’s Promise:

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark …


The poem is called Suicide in the Trenches, and goes on: He put a bullet through his brain … No one spoke of him again.

For this, Sassoon blames not the enemy, not the generals (though he had plenty to say about them in other poems) but the crowds at home who encouraged boys and young men to go and fight, and jeered if they wouldn’t.

I wondered about a boy like this – who was he? Where did he come from? What finally drove him to despair?

Although there’s no suicide in my book, the simple soldier boy became Georgie, and the story is told by his sister, Tilly, who becomes a nurse. Once I had the idea of Tilly making her sweetheart, Harry, promise to look after Georgie – a promise he’s reluctant to make, for good reason – I had my story.

The publishers, Barrington Stoke, have made a special website called READING WAR, which gives background information to both TILLY’S PROMISE and a story by Tom Palmer called OVER THE LINE. Find the website here:

WRITING IDEAS: Find out more about the poet Siegfried Sassoon (from his name you might think he was German, but in fact he was English, with a home in Kent) and what happened to the Military Cross medal he was awarded for bravery. He is known for his blunt, very direct, hard-hitting poems about the First World War.


You could find the whole text of SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES, and see which bits I used, and which bits I left out. You could look at another of his poems, for example MEMORIAL TABLET, and write the beginning of a story based on that – maybe set in the village where Tilly lives with her family, but using a character you make up yourself. It’s an unusual poem in that it speaks from a viewpoint ‘beyond the grave’ – that of a soldier who has been killed in the war. You could try using that in your story.