Wednesday, 15 July 2020

#BookReview Gloria The Summer Fun Bus @JayJayBus #ChildrensBooks #IndieAuthor #AuthorInterview #GuestPost

Gloria The Summer Fun Bus

Written by Sue Wickstead


Published by JayJayBooks (22 April 2020)
Genre Action & Adventure for children
Pages 39
Format  Paperback
ISBN-10 191639230X
ISBN-13 978-1916392304

For children aged 4 - 8 years

Today I am thrilled to be able to bring you an interview with author Sue Wickstead, as well as my review of her latest children's book, Gloria The Summer Fun Bus. I have long been a fan of her delightful picture books which educate as well as entertain younger readers.

The blurb:

A children’s picture book about a bus, a Playbus.

The stories began with a photographic book about a real bus, with children asking questions it led to fictional stories.

What is a Playbus?

What does it do?

How is it different?

The photographic history book about the project, The ‘Bewbush Playbus’, was published in 2012.

The fictional tales began with ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, Gloria is the new bus which delivered Play-scheme support over the long school holidays to children. Providing a safe place to play.

My thoughts:

It is no secret that I absolutely adore Ms Wickstead's educational and colourful story books for young children. When I received this one, the first thing I did was to check that her trademark little bird was still included in the pictures, and I'm delighted to report that the little seagull is back!

Gloria The Summer Bus is another beautifully designed picture book with a super little story about
 a bad-tempered boy called Max, who eventually comes to appreciate the playbus, and realises that he has been behaving badly.

Max has a younger brother who is eager to play on the bus with the other children already inside. In time, Max is encouraged to get on the bus and try some of the activities. Soon, he is enjoying playing with the other children, and realises that by behaving badly and not joining in, he was missing out on so much fun.

The story is told in simple enough terms that young children can appreciate, with identifiable and relatable characters. The moral of the story is not to judge something until you've tried it, and that comes over really well as we see Max initially grudgingly enter the playbus, having dismissed it as being for 'babies', but changing his tune when he becomes involved, and starts to enjoy himself.

As with all Ms. Wickstead's books, Gloria The Summer Bus is written to be a shared reading experience for adults with young children, but the more confident young readers will also be able to read it for themselves.

At the back of the book is an interesting little piece of history about the real Gloria playbus, which is the inspiration for this children's story.

A well-considered, engaging story, with beautifully drawn pictures, and a cheeky little seagull, that will delight, educate and entertain young readers.

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Thank you so much, Sue, for taking the time to join me here, and answering a few questions for my readers today. We wish you well with your Barty Barton teddy bear stories, and I am personally looking forward to seeing The Weather Witch in print!

What inspired you to write books for children? 

I never intended to write children’s books that sort of came about by chance. 

I wanted to teach; which I did. 

I loved listening to stories.

One of my aunts, was a teacher, she had lived in Lapland in Sweden and later Africa. Her spoken stories and recounts were always interesting even if I had heard them before. 

My aunts were my inspiration with storytelling, and that led to my story-telling and later writing. 

At college I wrote poetry and had a few published in the college magazines. 

While teaching, I would often write with the children or for the children; modelling examples of poetry etc.. We might also create a shared write together. ‘A Spooky Tale’, came from a shared write. 

Where do you find ideas for your stories? 

The inspiration for my story books began with my involvement in a local community play charity. It was a bus which hosted a very successful playgroup. 

I became involved at first as a parent and eventually a part-time project co-ordinator. 

In this role I would write project reports and put up exhibitions. The exhibition photographs were eventually recorded in a photographic book. 

The children I met would ask about the Playbus (now only a memory) and from here I began telling stories. 

The fictional tale of Jay-Jay was to support the photographic book. 

My involvement in the charity began with me painting the bus; that’s Daisy’s story; and Gloria is the bus we raised the funds to buy and convert.

Other bus stories are based on Playbus projects I met on my fund-raising and networking journey.

Have you written anything for older readers & would you consider writing more for that audience? 

I have written a ‘pirate’ book but it is very much a draft copy. I would like to develop it maybe. 

I also tell the children in school a story about my rainsticks, which seem to make the rain come… well the children (and adults I worked with) seemed to think so. It will be called ‘The Weather Witch’. 

I’d like to get this written one day but it might need a bit of help and advice as the story has grown and will end up involving myths and legends; as well as information; how to make musical instruments; creating sound stories? 

Tell us about the first story you had published? 

My first story was ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, it is based on the real Playbus. 

From question’s asked by children, I began telling a story. 

What does it do? 

How is it different? 

What did the Bewbush Playbus do? 

I wrote the story which I read to children along the ‘Supply Teaching’ journey, from their comments I eventually edited and published it. 

The bus is called Jay-Jay as his number plate was JJK 261 and any bus enthusiast will tell you that JJK is an Eastbourne AEC Regent model; because of this all of the buses in the stories have real number plates. 

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that? 

I have a book in the writing process at the moment, which is about ‘Barty Barton’ my son’s teddy bear which sadly he didn’t want any more. This will be for younger children (and perhaps my grandson). I have written the first draft but with lockdown I have not been very motivated at the moment.

I also intend to write a children’s information book to support the bus books as well as perhaps an activity book.

In addition, I have a few draft stories to go with other buses.

But I would really love to get the ‘Weather Witch’ written.

The children love the story I tell.

Who is your favourite author & why? 

A. A. Milne, because I love the wisdom of Pooh Bear.

I grew up reading ‘Winnie the Pooh’ and his Poems, ‘Now we are Six’.

I was so excited when I found there was a second Winnie the Pooh book, ‘The House at Pooh Corner’ in the college library.

But I have so many books I love including Dr Seuss; JK Rowling; JRR Tolkein; Michael Morpurgo. I also have a set of Paul Geraghty picture books, ‘The Hunter’, was part of our topic planning. It was a Scheme of Work and every school seemed to do the same book, it’s a good book and I like the illustrations (as in all of his books), but maybe a bit of variety would be good too.

Have any writers influenced you in your writing?

I loved the rhyme of Dr Seuss.

I read a lot of books to my younger sisters and brother and loved reading books to my children. I’ve always liked the illustrations in any story and my favourite genre were traditional tales, fairy stories, myths and legends. I also like stories based on real events.

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

I’m always writing and I write a daily diary. This began as a boring account on holidays but then on my supply teaching journey I found I needed to keep a record of where I had been and what I did.

I would also record some surprises along the way.

I refer back to this diary when I re-visit a school after a while.

When I’m not writing I am usually playing with my Lego! Well not actually playing, this is in fact my main hobby.

I used to relax at the end of term by reading, crocheting and doing jig-saw puzzles.

A box of Lego appeared in a charity shop where my mum was working at the time, and she talked me into buying it.

I had been building my son’s Lego for the school topic display (pirates).

Reluctantly I took it and paid what was asked. It became my 3D jig-saws and I continued building what was in the box. Researching and finding instructions.

I was surprised to find in the box was most of the ‘Star Wars’ sets from Episodes 4,5,and 6.

Everyone laughed at me playing with the Lego, until my sister helped me put the models onto ebay and the £5 box made over £1000.

From there my husband joined in. He does the meticulous inventories, selling and dispatching, while I help but concentrate on the model making, when I can between school and books.

What do you like most about being an author?

I love having a book to show that is mine; I like being in control of its content; I love sharing the stories and hearing from children that they love the stories (adults too).

The hardest part is the sales, marketing and promotion.

Do you have a specific routine for writing? Is there a special place you like to write or a particular tool you use?

I usually write my initial ideas in a writing book and when I think it is ready, I write it on the computer and then read it aloud to myself.

I try to give a couple of days for book work depending on the teaching commitments. But I give as much time as I can to the Lego as this brings in a little money. The Lego has taken over my house! I’m sure these Lego bricks are breeding!

With my diary I write when I get in from school or at the end of the day.
(The diary – has continued during lockdown, so I suppose I can remember what I did, as the days merge into one)

What advice do you have for other children’s book authors?

Read to children to get their reactions or comments.

Get the book edited and, if it’s a picture book, get an illustrator to do the illustrations for you.

I initially drew my own storyboard pictures, which the children liked, but the illustrations are key. The company I use, Artful Doodlers, have done a good job and this is always commented on by reviewers.

The illustration company, not only do the illustrations but, also sort out the layout and get the book ready for online printers, such as Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark. Chrissie, the team leader, is also not afraid to question or suggest text changes.

It might cost a bit more but it is worth it in the end.

What advice do you give to children about their writing? 

My advice to children in school, with creative writing, is to just write, don’t worry about ‘subordinate clauses’ or any other SPAG (spelling and grammar) rules. You can go back and edit when you read it back. Same applies to punctuation.

I also say, don’t rub it out if it goes wrong, cross it out, you might want this phrasing or idea at another time, and if it’s gone it’s gone. Also, the teacher can see you have written something in the given time.

Again the final draft/ edit etc.. is when you read through and improve. The final presentation is where you write it up neatly. (My initial ideas are always scribbled and crossed out etc.. and maybe my punctuation needs more focus. But getting ideas down is the key for me)

Reading it to others help with the flow.

Are you considering releasing your books as Audio books, and who would you choose to read them? 

It might be good to have the books read as audio books or even as a story read with picture.

Not quite sure who? Maybe David Tennant?

Recently, I visited a school and was teaching Year 6. I had told the class that I write books and play with my Lego when I’m not teaching. This gets the children’s interest and they always ask questions or tell me stories (usually about their Lego), I also tell them that, if not there is not time to read to them, that there is a copy in their school library. (I always leave a copy of the first book ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, in each school I visit on my supply visits.

On this occasion, our afternoon task was to visit their library and to change books. One boy came dashing up to me excitedly to show me he had found my book in the book box.

I suggested maybe he should read it, he did. He and a group sat and he read the book out loud.

It truly was a ‘Wow!’ moment for me. I have never heard it read out loud by someone else before. It is usually me reading to the class.

I listened to the way it was read. I was worried, as it is quite a long story and for younger readers, that maybe he would get bored and put it down. But the group was engrossed and when one boy came back from his intervention group, having missed the ending, he was desperate to know what happened.

I did ask if they enjoyed the story and enthusiastically, they said they did. But then children are polite.

But I truly was blown away by hearing it read and watching them enjoy the book.

Definitely a diary entry to remind me.

P.S. One of the reasons I began writing seriously was to write down and record some very difficult times in my life and in my teaching career. It certainly helped me release my feelings and face my demons. My poetry writing in college did that for me too.

It is hard to know whether my books will be well received, but then I see the children’s faces when they read them, and I know I’ve done a good job.

My own children are too old for picture books and wonder why I write and self-publish my stories. I tell them I do it because I enjoy writing for children. I also love the challenge of putting a book together; commissioning the artwork, setting out the various formats, and finally seeing it on the shelves. It’s my hobby.

On being a Judge on the BBC 500 words competition

A few years ago, another children’s author suggested I should perhaps offer to be a judge on the 500 words competition.

Since leaving full-time teaching, reading children’s work is something I miss out on. I might see the beginning, the middle or even the end of a given piece of work. Sometimes, like ‘The Hunter’, I might recognise where the writing is going but often, I come in at various stages but might never see the finished result. (Same also applies to the given reading book that the class might be using – unless it’s a picture story book I don’t know the context.)

Becoming a judge enabled me to read children’s stories and ideas.

What I liked most about the judging was that you were able to judge anonymously, without regard to grammar, punctuation or spelling.

The competition was ‘launched back in 2011, after Chris Evans had a dream. He dreamt of getting children excited about reading and writing. All children: no matter what their ability, experience, or background.’

That comment I like, as sometimes in schools the SPAG and the testing overtake the enjoyment of learning.

I’ve certainly enjoyed reading and marking the lower age group, which I have now done for two years.

Author Bio –  Sue Wickstead

Sue Wickstead is a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme. She has also written a photographic history book about the real bus, which is where her story writing began.

Sue once worked with a playbus charity based in Crawley. This led her to write the photographic history book about the project. The ‘Bewbush Playbus’ book was published in 2012.

Sue then began to write a fictional tale about the bus. ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, his number plate JJK261 gave him his name and has now been followed by more picture books which all indeed have a bus connection as well as links to her teaching journey.

Gloria is the most recent book and is based on the summer play-schemes which operated during the school holidays providing a safe place for children to meet and to play.

Award winning author


  1. Thank you so much for starting off Gloria's summer of fun on her blog tour.
    It has certainly been a busy journey so far.
    Bumping along and a few splutters but the bus writing journey continues despite lockdown.
    I'm enjoying the ride.