Rebecca Patterson has been busy being brilliant

posted in: Rebecca Patterson | 12

belladayIn My Busy Being Bella Day by Rebecca Patterson, being packed off to nursery seems like the short straw to Bella.

Whilst she has to work hard, she can’t help imagining all the fun her younger brother is probably having with Mum. Treats at the café? Or a trip to the soft play centre? Not only that, for snack time Mum has packed Bella a banana with brown spots on it. Ugh. Life just doesn’t seem fair.

But is Bob really having so much fun at home? Does Bella really end up having such a bad day at nursery?

With My Busy Being Bella Day Patterson has written an acutely observant, extremely funny book about sibling jealousy and love, which also explores the anxieties kids can face when starting school/nursery. As a parent I found her choice of “moments” almost unbearable, they were so accurate; from the rather empty activity of colouring in a number in the name of “education, education, education” whilst mum and younger sibling are indeed sharing coffee foam in a café, via the horror of a slightly squashed banana especially when everyone else in the class seems to have much more appealing snacks, to the genuine delight children have in being selected as the “Special Person” of the day, Patterson has chosen reassuringly familiar moments for many families.

This recognition makes this picture book a thoroughly satisfying read, but it is also delightful because Bella is such a joyous character. She may only be three but she’s got bags of spunk and style (wait till you hear her singing or see her dressing up). She doesn’t set out to be deliberately funny, but her take on the world will make many a parent laugh, and many a child feel that Bella is really them.

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The illustrations remind me a little of a childhood favourite of mine – Topsy and Tim – perhaps because of the use of flat colours, black line drawings and familiar domestic settings, but with rather a lot more spirit. Click here to see for yourself!

This is actually Bella’s second outing: she was also the star in My Big Shouting Day, a hilarious book which deservedly won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2012. I think Patterson deserves to make history and win the prize for a second successive year with My Busy Being Bella Day – Rebecca Patterson really has been busy being brilliant.

One of the many activities Bella gets up to at nursery is making a picture out of pasta. As she comments, pasta can be rather hard to glue onto paper so to get round this problem we combined two nursery staples: making pictures with pasta and salt dough.

To make the salt dough we mixed 1 mug of plain flour with half a mug of table salt and half a mug of water. Once combined we kneaded it for a little to make it nice and smooth and then we were ready to go.

We use the salt dough as our canvas and simply pushed the pasta shapes into the dough.

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We rolled our salt dough out so it was about 1 cm thick and then simply pushed the pasta in hard to make sure it was secured.

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Baking the dough took a long time – about 12 hours at 50C. Once it dried out we used lots of hot glue to stick our dough-pasta-art into frames; I sourced a couple of cheap frames from charity shops and simply took out the glass.

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Now they’re a proud part of our gallery!

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Whilst making our pasta pictures we listened to:

  • I Believe In Pasta by David Rees
  • Pasta by The Pop Ups (click to hear it for free)
  • Everything we could get our hands on by The Que Pastas! Here’s some of their music you can listen to for free.


  • Other activities which would be fun to get up to alongside reading My Busy Being Bella Day include:

  • Making lentil shakers and other easy musical instruments – Red Ted Art has a fabulous round up of instruments you can make with your children.
  • Dressing up – if you haven’t a dressing up box, just let the kids try on your clothes and shoes. Alternatively set yourself a budget and have fun at the charity shops. Here’s Playing by the book’s guide to the best things to include in a dressing up box.
  • Creating a play coffee shop at home – Imagination Tree has some ideas to get you going.


  • If you’re looking for more great books about starting school check out this round-up.

    What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book. I was not required to write a review and I received no payment for this post.

    12 Responses

    1. Oh the brown banana! My son would hate that too. Also a fan of Topsy and Tim growing up – loved those books!
      Stephanie recently posted..Funny Flea

    2. Oh wow, what a wonderful gallery you have!

      I can think of several children who I have taught in a reception class who would have benefited from this book. It looks adorable 🙂
      Catherine recently posted..Mole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis

    3. Hi Stephanie, yes, me too. I’m so fussy when it comes to my bananas, it’s quite a running joke in our family.

      Thanks Catherine – it’s a lovely mix of art by the kids, and art by illustrators, plus some fabulous cinema posters from the 40s
      Zoe recently posted..Rebecca Patterson has been busy being brilliant

    4. Love love LOVE “My Big Shouting Day” so much, it’s probably one of our most-read books so this is about the best news ever. Cannot wait to read it! Bella is awesome but Bob is also SO cute!
      ReadItDaddy recently posted..Louis – Red Letter Day by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

    5. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Rebecca read ‘My Busy Being Bella Day’ it was hilarious, especially as my ‘Bella’ who is now 24 was sitting next to me. This book is so well observed that even though it’s twenty years since mine went to nursery school it still rang true. A brilliant book.

    6. Wow, this book sounds really funny. I never even thought of a preschool child having such a highly developed sense of awareness at that age. The activities are great for a hot summer day.
      bamauthor recently posted..DIFFICULT DECISIONS

    7. This really made me smile as I usually avoid telling my 3 y.o. our plans for the day till 5 y.o. is at school to avoid him being jealous! Even though I know he is having lots of fun too. Love your simpler way of doing pasta pictures.
      Helen recently posted..I’m looking for an app about… dance

    8. Stumbled across your blog this evening and will definitely be back! The salt dough/pasta pictures are a fantastic idea.
      I love your gallery too! Am a firm believer that if a house has kids in it, the walls should be plastered in their art work!
      Single Mother Ahoy Vickys recently posted..Bloglovin…

    9. What a beautiful book, I love how your complimented it with the art work too. Gorgeous gallery!
      Amanda @gidders1 recently posted..Ana Snapshot : Allium

    10. So taken with the sound of this that I’ve reserved it at the library. Might be a bit young for my son, but I think we’ll still enjoy it.
      Erica Price recently posted..Mike The Knight Goes To Warwick Castle

    11. Thank you SO much for reviewing my book! I really appreciate your kind comments. I have sent you a link to my new blog which is a bit more for grown ups than children but might make you smile. Love your pasta pictures! Inspired!
      Rebecca Patterson recently posted..Comment on Year 7 by Patrick

      • Jennifer

        My husband, four year old and I LOVE both books and frequently quote them (especially “ballet is tooooo itchy”). My husband and I also love the fact that Bella gets to choose the weather 🙂

        The playdough and pasta idea is great too. We’ll definitely try that and thanks for the idea!

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