All I said was…

posted in: Michael Morpurgo, Ross Collins | 4

Red Squirrel, a new imprint from Barrington Stoke, is dedicated to creating exciting picture books.

Fair Enough.

But what makes them sit especially tall on the bookshelf is that as well as superb storytelling and inventive illustrations, these picture books contain lots of dyslexia friendly features so that grown-ups with dyslexia can also experience the joy of reading aloud to the kids in their lives.

all i said was 2One of their first offerings, All I said Was, written by former children’s laureate, Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Ross Collins is a cautionary tale about the dangers of wish fulfilment.

Have you ever been reading a book and then fallen into a reverie imagining yourself as the character you’re reading about?

This is exactly what happens in All I said Was, and as a consequence – with the help of just a little magic, a boy and a bird swap places.

The boy-turned-bird is delighted. “This flying lark is amazing. I wan to to be a bird all my life.

The bird-turned-boy is also pleased as punch: He discovers the joy of being able to read.

But is bird-life really all it’s cracked up to be? And can the magic ever be undone?

A quietly funny celebration of the power of a good book to transport us anywhere – safely – this is lovely story, told clearly and concisely. Its theme makes it particulars appropriate for opening a new venture which will hopefully enable more families to enjoy more stories.


Collins’ characterization and visual humour are especially strong (I particularly like his farmer and pigs). The illustrator also has the final say with a brilliant twist in the tale once Morpurgo’s words are complete. It’s a brilliantly satisfying, slightly naughty and rather funny end to a super book.

This is a book that could be enjoyed for so may different reasons – whether you’re looking for a prime example of illustrations doing so much to enrich a written text, a book celebrating how books can bring our imagination to life, or simply a funny story to share at bedtime – whether or not you yourself sometimes struggle with the written word.

All I can say is: Hurrah for Red Squirrel and their broadening of what it means for picture books to be inclusive.

Both M and J said they too would love to experience flying like a bird. The nearest I could offer them was the joy of flying…. a kite, made to look like a bird. Ah well, us parents, we can only try our best 😉

We cut out very rough bird shapes from old plastic bags which we decorated with permanent pens. Once the feathers, beaks and eyes were in place we attached thin doweling to our birds. I used this commercial product as a starting point, cross referencing it with these instructions for making a diamond kite to come up with All-I-Said-Was-Kites Mark 1.


We each made one kite and then imagined us swapping places with the birds as we flew them.



Additional activities which could work well alongside reading All I said Was include:

  • Reading another be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale, for example, The Fish who could Wish by John Bush, illustrated by Korky Paul.
  • Making a set of beautiful paper wings like we did here, when reading Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar.
  • Chasing pigeons. I don’t know a child who doesn’t love chasing pigeons!
    Photo: Owen Jell
    Photo: Owen Jell

  • Music that goes well with All I said Was and the playing it induced in us includes:

  • Let’s Go Fly a Kite – from the film of Mary Poppins
  • Keep The Park Clean For The Pigeons – from Sesame Stree
  • Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra

  • If you could swap places with a character in a children’s book, which character would you swap places with (bearing in mind whoever you swapped with would take your place in your family/classroom/library….)?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of All I said Was from the publisher.

    4 Responses

    1. Amy

      I’d really like to know a little more about the dyslexia friendly features that this book uses–does the publisher have an explanatory site? Or could you describe a little? Thanks.

    2. Mairi

      Hi Zoe and everyone else – this is Mairi from Red Squirrel/Barrington Stoke.
      Amy asked about our dyslexia-friendly features. We use:

      tinted backgrounds to reduce visual stress (the huge contrast between black and white can result in text ‘dancing’ for some readers). In our fiction titles for young readers we also use heavy paper to stop the ghosts of the words on the reverse of the page showing through and confusing the eye.

      a special font which preserves maximum difference between characters in order to reduce confusion between letters

      special layout and spacing, including increased character spacing to help minimise jumbling.

      In addition to this we carry out a special edit, tweaking syntax to help readers bring their own knowledge of language to the task of reading.

      I hope that’s helpful. If you’re interested to find out more, we blog regularly on our process over at the Barrington Stoke blog There’s a post here about the font, for example

      Thank you all for the kind words and support for Red Squirrel, and huge thanks to Zoe for this wonderful review!

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