Weather characters come to life in new children's book series
Conversations about the weather are never far off the agenda in Ireland. Now pre-school children can enjoy exploring the weather in a new fun book series created by Maghera childminder Yvonne Fleming. Jenny Lee finds out more
MOVE over Mr Men, there are a whole new bunch of environmentally friendly characters ready to take to the limelight. The Weatherbies is the brainchild of Maghera mum Yvonne Fleming, who first made up the adventures about a group of weather-based characters for her sons 10 years ago.
The bedtime fables are now a series of illustrated children's books, aimed at children aged two to five, the first of which is called Sammy Sun Is Coming Out To Play.
The Weatherbies characters live in Skytown, a magical fantasy land above the Earth's ozone layer. They include Ronny Rain, Flo Snow, Colin Cloud, Rosie Rainbow, Willy Wind, Barry Star, Harry Hail, Mary Moon, Tommy Thunder and The Lightning Twins.
"I have created The Weatherbies from a passion of doodling on paper. Art was my most enjoyable subject when I was at school and I've always found it very relaxing to sit down and let the creations in my head come out on paper," explains Yvonne.
"While sitting in the garden colouring with the children on a sunny day I looked up at the sky and doodled on a piece of paper. As a child I loved watching the clouds and the shapes they made.
"I wanted to make the weather fun and interesting for the children I cared for so I did rough sketches of a few little weather characters and gave them names.
"When I was putting the boys to bed them would always be looking me to tell them stories. One night my husband Peter heard me telling them a Weatherbies story, and said 'I think you should do something with them.'
"So I typed them up and started the process of developing the stories, drawing the characters and I even bought every box of plasticine I could get my hands on and made a model of my little characters and Skytown, the world in which they live."
Yvonne is grateful for the support of her husband Peter – a former director of Schism Records and member of the 90s alternative metal band Sheer, who has helped her produce accompanying songs for The Weatherbies.
"We have the Weatherbies theme song and then each character has a song about them," says Yvonne, who recorded the tracks with the help of children from Glenview Primary School, Maghera, and St Brigid's Primary School, Tirkane.
The Weatherbies back-story spans continents, as the books' illustrator James Salenga is from the Philippines. The partnership happened after Yvonne launched a campaign on Kickstarter – the world's largest funding platform for creative projects.
"I got a few samples from different illustrators and animators and I really liked James's style. I was delighted with the finished images and how they can animate and will continue to work with James on this."
So was Yvonne inspired by Roger Hargreaves' Mr Men series?
"When I was a children Mr Men was one of my favourite series," admits Yvonne. "Perhaps that's why The Weatherbies are similar in that they are all different shapes and sizes, they are colourful and eye-catching."
As well as promoting literacy and discussion about the weather, Yvonne hopes the book fulfils a role in promoting environmental friendliness and in helping young children deal with their emotions and world around them. One of the characters, Colin Cloud, is in a wheelchair.
"Part of the reason for The Weatherbies is to make kids aware of what is going on the environment. Sky Town is solar and wind powered, there is a recycling yard, they grow their own vegetables are eat healthy.
"But they are also about social skills and friendships and helping kids cope with situations they may find themselves in or be worried about, such as losing their teeth and bullying. I hope children will find lots of fun, and also comfort, through the stories."
While Yvonne's children are now 12 and 16, she still has a band of young critics in her role as a part-time childminder. She has also tested her stories and songs in local primary and nursery schools.
"I've been blown away by the reaction so far. The Weatherbies are like nurturing a third child and now I'm putting him out there to be judged."
Yvonne aims to create a collection of 12 books based on the adventures of each character, whilst the animated television production is currently in the early stages of development, with the view to broadcast in 2018/19.
:: Sammy Sun Is Coming Out To Play is available to buy now at Theweatherbies.co.uk or through Amazon.co.uk in print (£6.99) or e-book (£0.99).