BABBLE BOOK LAUNCH

FOUR years after her mum’s sad passing Kelsey Carroll has finally taken the maternal advice she was offered and published her first children’s book.

Kelsey, who was brought up in Ballygowan, wrote Babble the Bunny back in 2016 and on reading it her late mum, Carolyn Barr, urged her to have it published.

Finally, Kelsey has done just that, having decided to self-publish after collaborating with English illustrator Eleanor Jones, whose naturalistic work caught Kelsey’s attention.

Says Kelsey: “My mum was probably my biggest supporter and was very positive about a lot of things I did.

“It really stuck with me that when I first read it to her that she said I really should get it printed.

“My mum passed away in 2019 and then Covid hit in 2020 and I was able to do this in her honour. I really feel like she was with me right from the start of me writing the story.

“It is nice to have that as a dedication to her in her name. It is bittersweet because I would have loved for her to have seen it and the response that it has had so far.”

The book was launched recently at Clandeboye Estate with the help of members of the Clandeboye Nature Rangers Forest, a privately run forest school.

“The book is all about the bunny, Babble, going through the Wibbly Wobbly trail trying to earn his special fluffy tail. It’s a rhyming book and it’s suitable really for a lot of ages,” says Kelsey.

“At the book launch we had a storytelling session and some songs and dancing with soft bunny toys.

“The launch got local families thinking about being outside, being in nature, enjoying nature and enjoying books as well, without having a screen in front of them.

“Then the Clandeboye Nature Rangers put on a whole range of forest school activities. People had the opportunity to purchase the book and get it signed and the feedback so far has been great.

“It’s a really nice, gentle book and a lot of parents say that they are reading it as a bedtime story and their children have really taken a shine to it.

Outlining the plot, Kelsey says: “Basically, Babble the Bunny has to find the hedgehog queen who lives on the trail and help her to find her three hedgehog children who she has lost.

“They are playing hide and seek with Jumbo the jungle frog so basically Babble is having to learn to be brave and hop as high as he can.

“It’s nice and gentle and the illustrations are natural because it’s all about the natural forest world.

“There is a little butterfly on each page for children to spot, which is a nod to my mum because she just loved butterflies. It’s quite heart-warming.”

Kelsey has been working as a children’s arts facilitator for the past 10 years and is a familiar face around schools in the Ards peninsula and Bangor area, putting on puppet shows and engaging children in story-telling and music and movement activities.

Not surprisingly, she has used Babble the Bunny in her interactive story-telling workshops, encouraging children to engage with the story through singing and dancing.

She had planned to continue to use the book as the basis for further workshops but those plans have had to be postponed for now as she will be going on maternity leave at the end of this week.

The experience of being a mother to her two-and-a-half year old daughter was, says Kelsey, further encouragement to bring Babble’s adventures to a wider audience.

“That was also a push to get the book published,” she says, “because we spend a lot of time reading books.

“I am very aware of screen time with children and about spending quality time and it’s nice to take 10 minutes out of a day to have a nice read with a nice book.

“It’s nice as well that it’s written by someone local.”

Copies of Babble the Bunny are available to buy from Kelsey’s website at squigglesandgigglesparty.com and cost £10 plus delivery. It is also in stock at the Lane Coffee Hut in Ballywalter.