Living in colour

posted in: Polly Dunbar | 17

I don’t know about you, but since Christmas we’ve been seeing a lot of grey. Grey clouds, grey sleet, grey sky, grey rain. I’m beginning to get a bit itchy now for some splashes of colour. Some early crocuses would be nice, or even just some sunshine!


So I’m having to get my colour fix another way, and one source of rainbow delight this last couple of weeks has been Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar.

Katie is feeling grey. Finding inspiration from a beautiful picture on her wall of birds with colourful plummage she sets about trying to cheer herself up. First she puts on her most colourful clothes, and although that helps she doesn’t yet feel quite right. So, Katie then paints herself – her face, her arms, her fingers, and whilst the paint is drying magic occurs.

With a fizz and a flutter Katie is ably to fly into the picture on her wall and spends the rest of the day living in colour, making friends with the cheerful, exotic birds around her, having a great deal of fun right up until it is time to return home for her bedtime bath.


Both girls (and me!) love this book. The illustrations are a tonic – Dunbar’s use of colour is most definitely what the doctor ordered for us. Stars and sparkles fizz over the pages and the birds’ feathers come in a riot of colours. Katie’s imagination and can-do attitude, as well as her body language and fashion choices remind me somewhat of Lola (as in Charlie and Lola) – a great little hero to identify with. Although a short read, it carries a great message worth reminding ourselves of sometimes – with a bit of creativity we can do a lot to help cheer ourselves up! No more complaining about the weather and the cold then for me πŸ˜‰

As soon as we’d read the book for the first time, M and I both wanted to do exactly as Katie had done – find our best, brightest, cheeriest clothes and fly away into a magical place. So the first thing we did was to recreate a picture to hang on our kitchen wall in hommage to Katie’s picture. I cut out bird shapes from card and “feathers” from multi coloured tissue paper and we all sat down as a family to stick, glue, and decorate our birds.


The final result has certainly brightened up our kitchen!


One friend saw this yesterday and commented “Hmm, not a lot of parental involvement there, then!” – but that was missing the point entirely I think – this was a great project that got all four of us sat together around the table, pottering away on our birds, helping each other, chatting, working together. The process of making the picture was more important than the final result, but of course I can’t capture that in any way.

Anyway, once we had our picture ready to jump into, next we had to make ourselves some wings. For each girl I took two strips of card about 5 cm wide and as long as the distance from armpit to wrist for each girl. I folded the card over and then glued into the crease lots of large tissue paper feathers (each about 20 cm long).


When all the feathers were in place I folded over the top piece of card and stapled it down. As soon as the glue was dry I used safety pins to attach the wings to my own little birds, and then we starting flying about!


We definitely had a good time, and felt much brighter and happier for a dash of colour, a flight of fancy and a good dance.


Flyaway Katie: *** (3 stars)

We flew and danced to:

  • I’ll Fly Away on the Down from the Mountain: O Brother, Where Art Thou? album
  • Colour my World by Petula Clark
  • Three Little Birds by Bob Marley (bound to cheer you up if you’re having a grey day!)
  • There are so many more great projects out there that involve lots of colour. Here are two that we’re definitely going to try:

  • Rainbow stars from Garden Mama, found via The Crafty Crow
  • Spinning Wheels from Se7en+1, also via The Crafty Crow
  • When it stops being so grey and temperatures warm up enough for us to take some clothes off in the garden I’d like to try body painting – here’s a lovely post from The Artful Parent about her experience of this fun sounding activity.

    FeedMeBooksFriday4Today I’m linking up with a new project – Feed Me Books Friday, hosted by Janna at The Adventure of Motherhood. If you have 5 minutes to spare do head on over there as there will be plenty of book recommendations from other parents to check out!

    17 Responses

    1. Ashley

      That book looks just the ticket for these gloomy grey days, like you I’m so fed up of them.
      Wonderful project, I think the bird collage is just fabulous, really cheerful and can imagine how much fun to sit and make.

    2. jama

      This post really cheered me up today! Love the colors, the bird wings project, and now I must see the book!

    3. Ginny Marie

      Those activities are fantastic! I’d love to try them with my daughters!

      I haven’t seen that book before. I’m definitely going to find it to read to my girls!

      I have a post up for Feed Me Books Friday, too.
      I hope you have time to come for a visit!

    4. Adventure Mom Janna

      Oh how I love your post!

      I’m wearing a purple sweater today b/c I love color and I’d love to add some of those wings to my sweater.

      I love that you worked together on the project and it came out sooo well. What lovely little butterflies you have and how wonderful that you let them spread their pretty little wings and enjoy childhood so fully.

      I am honored to have you anytime at Feed Me Books Friday!

    5. Amy Pertl-Clark

      What a wonderful way to brighten up a gloomy day!!! I can’t wait to read this book with Emmy AND make those beautiful bird wings. Thanks for the inspiration!

    6. Steph Burgis

      This looks great! I’m adding it to my son’s Amazon wishlist. (We just got his copy of How to Catch a Star, and he loves it – fabulous recommendation! πŸ™‚ )

    7. Ashley

      I couldn’t resist ordering this book after seeing it here … along with another Dunbar book Shoe Baby .. and I’ve just fallen in love with this author/illustrator, her use of colour is just fantastic. Thanks Zoe for drawing my attention to Polly Dunbar, really love her style and my little guy seems to equally enjoy these books.

      • Zoe

        So glad to hear you too love Dunbar’s illustrations – I hope they make you feel happy just like me when I look at them!

    8. Katie

      The wings look positively amazing — especially considering all the grey going on right now. And your girls look like they are having the time of their lives flapping around. Great book suggestion!

    9. Sheela

      Oh, I love the picture you made as a family to jump into, and the wings!! My daughter was obsessed with Flyaway Katie for a while when she was about 21/2 – I think now at 4 she would love to create the picture and the wings – thanks for the inspiration!

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