On being too busy having fun to do anything else

posted in: Rebecca Cobb | 18

I really don’t know how it is that I only recently discovered the gorgeous work of Rebecca Cobb. She’s an illustrator with a lovely fresh look, full of colour and a real knack for perfect observation, capturing emotion and feeling with just the tiniest strokes of her pencil or paintbrush. We’ll soon be hearing lots and lots more about her, as she has a book with Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson due out this autumn, but don’t wait that long to discover her lovely books and art. Start now with Lunchtime, a delightful story about being simply too busy to to do what your parents want you to do. I know two children for whom this is true most days, and I bet you do too!

Lunchtime opens with a young girl busily being creative, painting and cutting and gluing. When her mum calls her for lunch, she’s too busy to stop what’s she’s doing. When cross words drive her to the lunch time table, a friend or two come to help clear her plate; the animals she’s been painting step out off the paper and save the day. Mum returns, and is delighted to see the plate clear. So far so good… but as well all know skipping lunch does have its consequences, and later in the day it’s not the growling of the girl’s bear we hear but rather that of her own tummy.

I don’t know if Cobb has children of her own, but she has captured several moments of parenthood/childhood very perceptively in this short tale; from the total absorption kids can experience when they are doing something they love (an immersion that really can bring to life imagined friends), to the parents exasperation when kids don’t eat their food (and – to my shame, because it does happen in my home – the kids being left alone to eat their food whilst Mum gets on with something no doubt “more important” like tidying up). These moments are so authentic, and they are matched with illustrations that are equally spot on with observation. The facial expressions of the animals, the body language of the little girl – it all rings true, and rings with glorious colour and texture; Cobb uses a variety of techniques in her illustrations which zing off their clean white backgrounds.

The endpapers of Lunchtime are a rich treat, totally covered in watercolour rainbow rings. The girls wanted to try to replicate this so of course I was happy for us to give it a go.

We used sponges to dampen our watercolour paper…

and then we started by putting “blobs” of one colour all over our sheets. Gradually we built up circles around our blogs, giving our paper a peacock look.

The activity then took on it’s own life and the girls got out our inks and pipettes. Water, bubbles and COLOUR – what a fun activity indeed!

Who needs a magic wand when you can have a pipette?

Once our paintings were all dry we turned them into bunting to decorate the kitchen – a fun and playful way to display our art.

Whilst painting we listened to:

  • Hey it’s Lunchtime by Mr David
  • Lunchtime by Big Bird, from Sesame Street
  • Miss Otis Regrets (She’s Unable To Lunch Today) sung by Ella Fitzgerald (or Lonnie Donegan or Nat King Cole)


  • Other activities which would be fun to try alongside reading Lunchtime include:

  • Inviting all your soft toys to lunch or a tea party – a bit like what we did here.
  • Making a place mat for or with your kids. Here’s one made from fabric by Jade Roo Can Do, a printed one from Bloesem, or a laminated paper one from Crafty Parent.
  • Learning to make shadow animals with your hands. The title page of Lunchtime hints at this activity, and here’s a sheet with a whole load of possibilities from Artists Helping Children.


  • What are lunchtimes like for you? What’s your favourite meal for lunch? What do you love doing so much that you’d happily miss a meal?

    Disclosure: I received my copy of Lunchtime from the publishers. This review, nevertheless, reflects my own and honest opinion.

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    18 Responses

    1. How glorious! This is a new title for me too… Can’t wait to check it out!
      Stacey recently posted..Point of View

    2. This bunting is fabulous! I loved the endpapers too.
      Today I’m off to do felting with pupils. You know me and crafts, so wish me luck!
      Library Mice recently posted..Shrinking Violet

      • Ah Library Mice, you’ll be fab! I’m curious to know what’s inspired the felting…

    3. No inspiration, just helping out one of our textiles teachers (it’s activities week)!
      Library Mice recently posted..Shrinking Violet

    4. Love her style, absolutely spot on for children’s books (like a slightly tidier and fancier version of Eric Carle’s style). Will definitely be hunting her work out.
      ReadItDaddy (Peej) recently posted..Old Dog by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross (Andersen Children’s Books)

      • Hi ReadItDaddy, Yes do look for her books (i’ll be reviewing another one later in the summer). The vibrant colour is perhaps indeed a little Carlesque, though she doesn’t use collage like he does.

    5. Love the look of this book, and your bunting is so pretty. Where do you get pipettes from please for the painting activity?
      Helen D recently posted..I’m looking for an app about… Space

    6. Hi Helen, we got ours from a local-ish art shop – I like them because they are all plastic, and therefore safer than the glass ones (which I prefer the feel and hold of, and which you can get here http://www.greatart.co.uk/PIPETTE%20GLASS-marble-paint.htm)
      Zoe recently posted..On being too busy having fun to do anything else

    7. I agree with ReaditDaddy’s observation that the style is reminiscent of Eric Carle. Lovely looking book and I must say I am impressed with your girls’ attempts at the end pages – very beautiful!
      Sam recently posted..The saddest type of bedtime story

    8. Hi Sam, I think watercolours are great with kids because the colours are so vibrant and the effects so magical almost anything looks brilliant!

    9. That bunting is gorgeous! I think we’ve got some ink somewhere – must hunt it out.
      Elli recently posted..I Once Knew a Fella

    10. Do, Elli! It’s so lovely to work with – really rich colours, and dries beautifully.

    11. Sounds like a wonderful book. Look forward to reading it!
      Darshana recently posted..TBR Bookshelf

    12. Lovely bunting!

    13. The book looks like fun!

      I really love your light cover too. We have one like that, a plain washi paper one, but I want to dress it up- thanks for the inspiration!
      Jen recently posted..What are you reading Wednesday?

    14. Thanks Jen, the book certainly is fun. Enjoy decorating your lampshade!
      Zoe recently posted..Kidlit radio #24

    15. […] Playing by the Book’s review, that contains activity suggestions such as making watercolor rainbow rings (see endpapers), […]

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