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Measuring Me
BLOGS
Created: 1st March, 2024

What inspired you to write this book? 

Measuring Me! explores fun methods of measuring (including a tower of tin cans to measure height) and extraordinary facts about scale in relation to a child’s body (including how far their blood vessels would stretch if unravelled. Astonishingly, it’s almost three times around the Earth!)  

When my children were in their early years of school, I sometimes tried to support their learning with playful activities at home. These gave a fun and familiar context and meaning to some of the maths and science concepts they were starting to learn at school. One activity we did was weigh ourselves and then pile up household objects on the scales until they reached the same weight. This provided a visual illustration of measurement and equivalence that was active, funny and illuminating.  The idea for Measuring Me! began to grow from this. 

Before I wrote and illustrated children’s books, I worked in factual television on subjects ranging from art to history to health. I really enjoyed researching facts for the voiceover scripts I used to write, and I had been wanting to bring that experience into my books. That was another impetus for creating Measuring Me!  

Measuring Me! features a range of children – all loosely based on my children’s friends from school over the years. But the curly haired girl on the cover is based on me. Like me, and around 20,000 new patients a year, she has a tracheostomy. These can be performed because of an airway problem or to assist breathing during stays in ICU.  

The girl’s tracheostomy, like the boy’s walking frame on another page, is completely incidental to the subjects explored in the book, and this was very deliberate. For children facing hospital treatment and chronic illness, it’s great to see issues like these represented in books. But I believe it’s just as important for them to be represented as ordinary children, with their difference an incidental feature in the illustrations and not the thing that defines them.  

 

How could teachers use Measuring Me! in their classrooms? 

One of my favourite things about Measuring Me! is that it introduces ideas that can be adapted and built on at school, the library or home, and I hope children will enjoy starting to think about how things of different sizes, weights and volumes relate to each other. 

In this way, Measuring Me! can support learning about measurement, scale and equivalence. In the book, I use everyday objects - including toys, food tins and lightbulbs – to illuminate facts on these themes. I think that teachers and children could have a lot of fun recreating some of these in the classroom, using familiar objects to visualise mathematical concepts.  

Measuring Me! is also an entertaining introduction to human biology, exploring the measurement of elements of our bodies, such as bones, blood vessels and hair. 

 

Activities could include: 

  • Measuring children’s heights against a tower of tin cans or other packaging 

  • Collecting containers to illustrate how much water is in an average child’s body 

  • Finding cuddly toys to illustrate the length of different bones 

  • Collecting clothes to illustrate the weight of our skin 

  • Making drawings of themselves and objects that represent a measurement fact, based on the facts in the book. 

 

What motivated you to begin a career in writing and illustration? 

I loved drawing and making up stories from a very young age. My mum was an early years teacher and an artist. We used to make books together and play lots of word games. When I left school, I did a combined honours degree in English and Visual Art, then got a place on a BBC TV traineeship and became a producer in the arts television department, later working as a freelancer on programmes about all sorts of subjects. It was another way of telling stories through words and pictures.  

I was given the opportunity to write some scripts for a children’s animation series and realised how much I liked making work for children. I had been drawing and making things in my spare time all through my life and really wanted to take this experience, and my narrative experience from television, and start making children's books. After I had my own children, I went back to college to do an MA in Children’s Book Illustration, graduating with seven books I made on the course. The MA was fantastic and led to my first book deal in 2016.   

 

How do you decide on the subjects for your books? 

Ideas tend to emerge from a seed: an image or a play on words, or a theme or subject that has struck me as interesting or important. I find that a lot of my thinking happens on daily walks and it’s then that these seeds grow into proper concepts for books. Next I start to play in my sketchbook or write a draft of the book which I mould into a finished narrative. 

My illustrations tend to contain lots of familiar objects from domestic life. When children are very young, their worlds tend to be quite small, and framed by the home, so these icons of home life can be very comforting and familiar. A big influence on me is the work of Allan and Janet Ahlberg. I was very lucky to get the chance to interview Allan for my MA dissertation, which was about the importance of domestic paraphernalia in the visual language of picture books. 

 

Which books from your own childhood have had a lasting influence? 

I still have many of my childhood picture books. I loved the Harry the Dog series, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. The mid-century style and limited palette is gorgeous, and the stories are engaging and funny. My children loved them too.  

Another favourite was Two Can Toucan by David McKee. Like the Harry the Dog books, the story itself hinges on problems or solutions connected to the colours of the character. I still love books in which the illustrative style is fundamental to the story itself.  

I also loved anything by Raymond Briggs, especially the Father Christmas books, which are so funny and charming with a slice of social history in them too.