Tuesday Writing Tips is back here today! I’m so excited because my writerly friend, Claire Saxby is visiting  RIGHT NOW to talk about her gorgeous new book baby.

Today is the day that Claire Saxby’s There Was an Old Sailor, and my Tuesday Writing Tips blog tours cross over. This is a first for me and my blog, so I hope you enjoy the journey with us.

I’m reviewing Claire Saxby’s beautiful new book, There Was an Old Sailor, and I’ll be talking about reviewing vs editing skills. Claire has a reviewing tip of her own which I’m sure you’ll find useful.

But first, she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

1.    What is your favourite sea creature in the book?

I like the way the squid swirls through the pages, but I think my favourite in the book is the ray, with his green and spots. He looks as if he’s planning to keep himself as broad as possible to try to avoid being swallowed. He doesn’t look panicked, just resolute.

2.    What is the worse thing you ever swallowed?

Ooh, you’ve brought back memories of my early childhood. I did like to chew things. I swallowed several plastic eyes from toy cats and other toys. All with no ill effects!

3.    I believe this story is a real favourite in classrooms. Can you tell us why?

I think it’s because of the absurdity of it, the idea of a sailor being able to swallow all these sea creatures. Children also enjoy the rhythm and soon join in. It also doesn’t hurt that I take in a three-dimensional sailor with a wide open mouth, and a set of the sea creatures for him to ‘swallow’.

4.    Do you have any tips for new authors interested in doing classroom visits?

Moo. Perhaps in private. I was once told to ‘moo’ before any classroom visit. It does two things. It helps to warm up your voice and the very act of mooing tends to help break through nervousness.

And this might sound obvious, but read your book to them. Even if they’ve asked you to talk about your process or story writing, they still want to hear an author read their story.


Okay, I’ll admit right from the start that Claire is a writerly friend of mine, but that has nothing to do with how much I love her new picture book, There Was an Old Sailor.

It’s based on the well-loved There Was an Old Woman who swallowed a fly, but this aquatic version puts a whole new slant on things, and has a happy ending.

The rhythm of the text moves the reader along at a cracking pace, but it’s the action and descriptions and the amazing drawings by Cassandra Allen that make this picture book such a wonderful addition to any library.

Okay, so what the sailor does is actually a bit icky (although kids love icky) but his kind eyes and jolly demeanour brought to life by Cassandra Allen make him totally endearing.

This book is full of humour, and text and illustrations that will enthral young readers. It also introduces them to the amazing creatures that inhabit the sea. The Old Sailor is a great character and the resolution is satisfying for the reader. It’s a great book for the classroom – especially for those grades studying sea creatures.

My favourite bit:

There was an old sailor who swallowed a shark.

It must have been dark when he swallowed the shark.


In my experience, editing skills and reviewing skills are not that different. That’s why it can be so useful for a writer to review other people’s books. It teaches you what to look for…what are the things you like/dislike in what you read?  What draws you as a reader to a story.

The similarities I see between reviewing and editing are that both require you to look at:

  • Does the opening grab the reader’s attention?
  • Does the story maintain reader attention?
  • Are the characters well drawn?
  • Is the dialogue realistic?
  • Does the story appeal overall?
  • Is the voice unique and appealing?

These are all questions worth asking yourself when you are editing your own work.


You don’t have to love a book to review it favourably. Imagine the target audience for the book. Will it satisfy them? Let that guide the review.

It has been so much fun having Claire visit us today.

You can also catch up with Claire at some other great blogs on her tour:

Monday 8 February: Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children <http://www.sallymurphy.blogspot.com/>

Tues 9 February: Dee White’s Tuesday Writing Tips <https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/>

Wed 10 February: Dale Harcombe’s Read and Write with Dale http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/>

Thurs 11 February: Robyn Opie’s Writing Children’s books <http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com/>

Fri 12 February: Lorraine Marwood’s Words into Writing http://lorrainemarwoodwordsintowriting.blogspot.com/>

Sat 13 February: Mabel Kaplan’s Tales I Tell <http://belka37.blogspot.com/>

Sun 14 February: Sandy Fussell’s Stories are Light http://sandyfussell.blogspot.com/>

Our Tuesday Writing Tips tour continues next week at Sandy Fussell’s blog where we’ll be talking about what writers need to read. Hope you can join us then. Here’s the itinerary for the Tuesday Writing Tips tour:

2ND February 2010 Claire Saxby’s bloghttp://letshavewords.blogspot.com Writing Picture Books – Leaving room for the illustrator.
9th February 2010 Dee White’s bloghttps://deescribewriting.wordpress.com

(That’s here:-)

Reviewing ‘There Was an Old Sailor’Reviewing vs Editing skills.
16th February 2010 Sandy Fussell’s blogwww.sandyfussell.blogspot.com Writers Need to be avid free range readers
23rd February 2010 Robyn Opie’s blogwww.robynopie.blogspot.com How to make your story longer – adding layers.
2ND March 2010 Angela Sunde’s blogwww.angelasunde.blogspot.com More about Point of View – head hopping.

Thanks for dropping in Claire. It has been great to talk with you about your beautiful new picture book,
There Was an Old Sailor.

The Tuesday Writing Tips blog tour continues next week. If you have a writing question, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing.

P.S. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post at https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com It’s all about How “NOT TO” Scare Away Publishers and Agents”.


  1. Dee, as a general comment, your enthusiasm for writing, reading and sharing your knowledge really comes through. It’s almost infectious and it makes me feel all kind of…well…bubbly.
    Keep it up,

  2. Thanks Trudie. Of course being the author of “I’ve Lost My Kisses” featuring the gorgeous bovine Matilda, you would be a bit of authority on mooing I suppose:-)


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