Choices: A poem for teenagers

Teenagers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote this poem a few years ago, with no particular person in mind.  It looks at the decisions teenagers have to make when thinking about their future.  The poem ends by recognizing that adulthood is not easy, but it seems preferable to the uncertainty they have to face as teenagers.


My brothers (twins) are starting to think about university.  They are doing their GCSEs and very soon they have to settle on which A-levels to choose.  It’s a big decision to make at such a young age, as the subjects they take for A-level will determine which type of degree they can get onto.  Watching them both pour over university prospectuses when I visited over Christmas made me see how relevant this poem is to them.


This has been a discouraging week
Unsettling thoughts disturb my sleep.
It’s getting light, insomnia’s curse
I feel like things cannot get worse.
I’m on a new and scary road
And find that life’s not as I was told.
Things are changing, I feel bemused
Ambitions and dreams are lost, confused.
What once was simple is now complex
I worry about what’s coming next.
I know that adulthood’s no halcyon glen
But how do I survive until then?


Poem by Hannah Meiklejohn (2010)




Dreaming of an Orangey Christmas

orangesThis smell reminds me of Christmas. Oranges, clementines, satsuma mandarins and tangerines always filled my family’s fruit bowls over the festive season.

And I always had some satsuma mandarins in the heel and toe of my stocking.

No stocking fillers were ever the correct shape to fill the heel or the toe of a Christmas stocking.  Other stockings flap around at the foot while the leg is bursting out at the seams.

But not mine.

I had a satsuma mandarin in the heel and the toe of my Christmas stocking.

stockingChristmas morning we would all open our stockings together upstairs.  I being the only child always had plenty left when everyone else had emptied their stockings. Before going down stairs to open our main presents Granny would make us all breakfast leaving the rest of us to admire our miniature gifts, and fill the air with an orangey aroma as we ate the satsuma mandarins from the heels and toes of our Christmas stockings.

Everyone always had a cooked English breakfast as a Christmas morning treat, except me. I only ever wanted porridge with honey.

And the satsuma mandarins from the heel and the toe of my Christmas stocking.

Creative use of typeface in picture books

“Images cannot – and must not- be looked at in isolation from the surrounding text” (Moebius)

Words and pcurl upictures compliment each other to create the story, but the words themselves can create further meaning to the story by the use of creative typeface.

Typeface can indicate the playfulness or the seriousness of a book.  The text in this book shows that the book is suitable for young children, and the position of the words, as if the character is shouting them out adds another playful layer to the narrative.

Different colour fonts can complement the images:

Coloured font










Each envelope in The Jolly Postman is written an a way that harmonizes with the story and the characters. Jolly postman

Different typefaces are used for different voices. 

Each character in this book has their own typeface to represent their own voice.  This is a great technique when there is a dialogue between two or more people.  The different types in this books not only compliment the pictures, but they become an integral part of the artwork.

Clarice Bean
Voices in the park by Anthony Browne is a superb example of using different typefaces to represent different characters. (See picture below)
For voice one Browne uses sensible typeface, and a sensible picture for a sensible lady.  For voice two the text is bolder, darker and almost gloomy, like the  picture, to match the personality of the unemployed man feeling low about his situation.  Voice three is a quiet little boy, and the typeface used here is fine, almost fragile.  Finally, voice four is a happy little girl.  Her text is bright and playful.  The picture is quirky and bold.Voices in the park

I Bought a Kindle (Part two)

KS-slate-05-lg._V389394900_I bought a Kindle with my birthday money in June and wrote a first impression review of it here.

Now that it’s almost Christmas, it’s a good time to present my follow-up review:


It’s small and light, meaning you can take it anywhere.  I went on holiday this summer and my kindle fit in my jacket pocket.  I travel light so I usually only have hand luggage and whatever I can fit in my pocket, so this was perfect.

You can carry hundreds of titles.  Again I found this handy going on holiday.  I don’t read that much on holiday.  I don’t do relaxing holidays; I want to come home exhausted! But I do usually take at least two books.  I read at the airport, on the plane and before I go to sleep.  I take two because I might finish one, or I might not enjoy one.  This year I also took a train to a small town called Halden on the Swedish/Norwegian border, about 90 minutes from where I was staying so by the time I got on my home flight I was on my second book.  The book I had been reading on the train was a bit heavy for bedtime reading so chose another.  That’s a big benefit!

You can purchase new titles instantly.  See a title you want on Amazon, buy it and it’s on your Kindle before you can blink.

You don’t have to use bookmarks (or fold the corner of the page, as I do *naughty*) as the Kindle goes back to the last page you were reading.  Even if you read something else on the Kindle, each time you go to any of the books you have it will remember where you left it.

On most books you can skip to the next chapter – great for text books or short stories.

You can change the font size to suit you.

You can make notes and highlights (I do this on paper books but I know some people are loath to do that to a book.  See here.) Whenever you underline or make a note, the Kindle saves it in ‘clippings’.

No paper = saving trees.


Books don’t have to have their battery recharged; Kindle does.  BUT it does use the same charger as a standard camera charger so on holiday you don’t have to take lots of leads and plugs with you.

It doesn’t feel like a book.  It’s not just the stories we love.  Books themselves are works of art, to hold and feel and smell!


I read recently that it’s no good for special characters particularly for maths, science engineering etc.   I have read a couple of pages from a Swedish book but it did not seem to have this problem.  ø was not represented as o for example.

You can get pictures, but on most versions only in black and white.  You can also get travel guides for the Kindle, complete with map.  Again, very handy when on holiday.

You can get samples.  If you are not sure of you want to buy a book in a book shop, or check out a book from the library, you read a few pages first. Well you can do that free on the Kindle too!

You can read something trashy and no-one will know! But if you are reading something which would make you look super intelligent, no one can see you reading it because it’s hidden in a custom kindle cover!

Little Red Riding Hood – The wolf and the leer

English: An illustration from Tales of Mother ...
English: An illustration from Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault; translated and edited by Charles Welsh The caption was “”She met with Gaffer Wolf””, it presumably illustrates the tale “Little Red Riding-Hood” and is found as the frontispiece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Double Review: Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault and Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf  by Roald Dahl

The story of Little Red Riding Hood is essentially a story about an attack on a little girl and her grandmother.  It includes violence, death and sexual connotations (and we read this to kids!).  The vague time and location of ‘Once upon a time…’ signifies to the child that this is a world of fantasy. This means that the child is aware that it is just a story.

Fairy tales began as folk tales for adults but have been used to entertain children since the eighteenth century.  They have been retold and altered according to social and cultural contexts.  In the original folk tale the little girl (unnamed)  is asked by the wolf if she is taking the path of pins or needles – pins representing the temporary binding of a young girl’s garments, and needles representing coming into adulthood, where needles are a permanent bind.  This was originally a tale of initiation as she chose the path of needles.  She later encounters the wolf dressed as her grandmother and gets into bed with him.

In Perrault’s version (1697) the girl who is now nicknamed Little Red Riding Hood, is “the prettiest that had ever been seen”.  Her attractiveness is important because, as is seen later, the story is a warning to women against talking to the wrong kind of men.  She does not escape but instead serves as an example of girls who are spoilt and naive.  She wears red, the colour of passion, which was introduced by Perrault, as a symbol of her ‘sinful’ nature.  She “met old neighbour wolf, who had a great desire to eat her.”  This is the first clue that the wolf is actually a sexual predator.  Perrault turned the wolf into a stand –in for male seducers who lure young women into their beds.

What makes Perrault’s version so great?

– Although this version was not originally intended for children, the repetition the ‘all the better to…’ sequence is a formula that is liked by children.  This has been repeated in every retelling of the story apart from removing some lines such as “the better to hug you with…” for their promiscuity.

– In terms of social anthropology, this is a wonderful example of a 17th century text.  The earliest oral versions of the story include bodily functions “oh, but I’ve also got to make cacka, grandma” and cannibalism “Slut! To eat the flesh… of your grandmother” and also sexual innuendo “undress yourself… come lie down beside me…” which were all removed when Perrault wrote it down.  He altered the story to one that would be suitable for the society he wrote for.

– Let’s face it,  the moral is still relevant: “Children…  should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.  I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.”

Roald Dahl’s version  (1982) begins with the wolf.  Little Red Riding Hood comes into it later when wolf decides that eating Grandma was not enough.  He makes the decision to wait for her with a “leer” which is the first sign of the wolf’s ‘sleaziness’.   This version is clearly aimed at children; the simple rhyming scheme and the humour make it appealing to children. Yet it is still laced with hidden assumptions about Little Red Riding Hood.  She is described in line 27 as the “little girl in red”.  But later, she is referred to as “Miss Riding Hood” with “no silly hood upon her head”.  In France, to have ‘seen the wolf’ was a euphemism for a girl losing her virginity.  Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood has matured since having ‘seen the wolf’.  She also smiles and takes a gun from her underwear before shooting the wolf dead.  Children only see the humour in this but to an adult she acts quite flirty, and promiscuous.   Dahl has returned the idea of her being a desirable object for the wolf, which is often removed in recent versions. “Compared with her old Grandmamma/ She’s going to taste like caviar.” Her youth makes her more appealing, but it also questions her physical appearance.  Grandma was “small and tough” but by favourably comparing Little Red Riding Hood, one assumes that she would be in comparison, curvy and voluptuous.

What makes Roald Dahl’s version so great?

It is hilarious: “He ran around the kitchen yelping/’I’ve got to have a second helping'”

It is postmodern: “‘That’s wrong!’ cried wolf ‘Have you forgot/to tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?'”

She is kick-ass: “The girl smiles. One eyelid flickers/She whips a pistol from her knickers.”

It is illustrated by Quentin Blake