There are few things we love more in life than dogs. Add in poetry and you have some very happy librarians. Luckily for us, Cheshire author Ros Roberts has combined the two in her wonderful children’s book, Digger and Me. In her guest post, Ros discusses faithful dogs, inspiring poetry, and her special connection to Cheshire.
It took me many, many years to become a published writer. I wrote lots of books and had many rejections. I kept writing, kept trying! Then a very significant thing happened in my life: not a journey or a chance meeting but our beautiful Bernese Mountain dog Texi, died. She was only two. We were all devastated. Texi was the thread that ran through us all and connected us in a truly unique way. My sons all grieved in different ways but the loss was huge.
I started to think how such a terrible thing might affect a child already going through a difficult time. James and his wonderful dog, Digger, arrived on the page and their relationship formed the core of my book, Digger and Me, published in 2021 by Little Tiger. James is a secure, loved child but his parents have separated and he is struggling with the adjustments. His dog Digger, the one constant thread in his life, goes everywhere with him. And then Digger becomes poorly. James’s parents have to navigate a new path forward as they all strive to help Digger. It is a tough premise for a book but the story is also full of lighter, funny moments, especially with James’s classmates and his new teacher, Mr Froggatt, who loves a good poem!
Poetry is very special to me. At primary school (here in Cheshire – I’m a Cheshire lass!), amazing teachers embraced my love of creative writing and encouraged me to write poems. They would give me five minutes to write a poem and then perform it to the class. I loved it! Poetry has always brought me pleasure and solace.
As I drafted Digger and Me, I wanted to pay homage to those special Cheshire teachers. As a primary teacher myself (many years ago now!), I was a firm believer in freewriting: writing without boundaries with the words flowing off the page. Mr Froggatt brings a strong, calm presence to the classroom and he also brings his big red poetry box. He gives the children ideas and themes and they let their ideas flow. The poems are not marked or corrected, just celebrated. His first instruction in the children’s books includes these lines:
I’m not going to score it
With crosses and ticks
It’s your own special work
There’ll be nothing to fix
James enjoys this new silent, trusting process. He uses the poems to vent a little, lament a little and have some fun. The classmates share their poems but only if they are comfortable in doing so. Mr Froggatt writes poems too. The class learn that poetry can be public, noisy and shared or it can be intensely private and for the writer alone.
Poetry can help us understand and unravel our thoughts at the most difficult times of life. Poetry is for everyone and there are no rules.
Read some poetry or (even better!) write one of your own about something in your life that’s important right now. If you decide to share it, I’d love to see it!
Ros Roberts lives in Cheshire and loves to meet readers and writers of all ages. She is the author of two middle grade books: Digger and Me, published 2021 (shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award, James Reckitt Book Award, longlisted for the Sparks Book Award and the Shropshire Bookfest award) and Every Cloud published 2022 (nominated for the Carnegie Prize), both by Little Tiger Press.
Find Ros online here: