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Cambridge author Rebecca Patterson publishes new book, Nursery? Not Today!

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For any child who may be anxious about starting nursery, established author Rebecca Patterson’s fun-filled and positive new book Nursery? Not Today! is the perfect antidote.

Nursery? Not Today! by Rebecca Patterson
Nursery? Not Today! by Rebecca Patterson

Rebecca, who grew up in Bolton but now lives in Cambridge with her husband and teenage children, is the author and illustrator of around 12 picture books and fiction for children, including A Moon Girl Stole My Friend, My Big Shouting Day, and Night Bear. She also works part time as a teaching assistant at Mayfield Primary School in Cambridge.

Rebecca had wanted to be a children’s writer since about the age of 18. “I’ve done lots of other jobs as well but that was my long-held dream: to write picture books and illustrate them,” she reveals, “and so I sent out lots of manuscripts all through my 20s that didn’t get anywhere. I think I sold my first one when I was about 30, and that was illustrated by someone else.

“Then when my children went to school, I did the fantastic MA in book illustration at Anglia Ruskin, and I got work from that. They do an end-of-course show in London and publishers come and will commission work from that show – because otherwise it’s really difficult, just sending stuff off. So it was great to have that exhibition at the end of the course.”

Rebecca says the main reason she works as a teaching assistant is so she can “keep in touch with very small people”. She adds: “So the work I’m doing now is very influenced by hanging around four-year-olds and five-year-olds at Mayfield Primary School.”

Her latest book was published on September 30 by Farshore, part of HarperCollins, and is illustrated by Nikki Dyson. Rebecca says: “Although it is based on my work with small children, and having had children who were small once, I never really liked school...

Cambridge children's author Rebecca Patterson. Picture: Anna Christopherson
Cambridge children's author Rebecca Patterson. Picture: Anna Christopherson

“I spent most of my time at primary school looking out at the playground actually jealous of old ladies doing their shopping just because you could do what you like – you’re out there with your shopping trolley doing your thing... So I was never super happy to be in school all day.

“I know lots of children aren’t happy to be in school all day, and I sympathise very much with any child I meet now who’s not very keen on school. Then I’ve heard – I don’t think my children did it but I know lots of kids when they’re very little they’ve been at home having quite a nice time and then, ‘Oh, you’re going to nursery tomorrow’, or first day at school whatever it is...

“And they’ll go for that day at school and it’s great. They come back and they go, ‘Yeah, it’s great, I’ve done school’ and then there’s the horrible realisation that you’ve got to go again. A lot of people have told me their kids have gone, ‘What, again?’. So I suppose it’s about that.”

The main character in Nursery? Not Today! is Rosa the Pug. Might she appear in future books? “What’s been great about having someone else illustrate my work is she’s done it in a way I never would have done it,” says Rebecca, who did her foundation art course at CCAT (Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology), which is now ARU, “and there is talk of doing some sequels, yes. I’ve got some ideas so hopefully she’ll appear in other books.”

Rebecca notes that the main parent figure in the book is a “dad, not a mum” – “because I think it’s really important today to show that a lot of dads are doing a lot of childcare, and so I’m quite conscious of that.

“I was in my school a few years ago working and a little girl came up to me at lunchtime. She had these lovely blonde plaits, immaculately done, and I said, ‘I love your hair, who did your hair this morning?’ And she said, ‘Daddy’ and I thought, ‘Wow, I grew up in the 70s – that is a change! Daddies can plait hair, the world has moved on!’”

Nursery? Not Today! is out now, published by HarperCollins.

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