It seems that summer has been and gone, and its disappearance has put the kibosh on our plans for regular trips to Portishead Lido — just as with camping, we are fair-weather swimmers in this household, or at least I am which means the kids are forced to be.
But the arrival of a rather lovely parcel from Roz Streeten, aka Rosie Flo, lifted everyone’s spirits. A Pool Party. Perfect. The girls were beside themselves with excitement and spent all weekend drawing and colouring in the little figures, while outside it poured with rain.
Most parents of school-aged children will have come across the phenomenon that is the Rosie Flo Colouring Book. But if you haven’t, then click on the link, or head to your nearest good toy shop, and check them out — you are in for a real treat.
The brainchild of graphic designer, Roz Streeten, the colouring books feature charming line drawings of wonderfully eccentric outfits to which children (and adults) are invited to add heads, arms and legs, as well as lots of colour. The books are printed on lovely heavy paper and are quite unlike any colouring book you will have seen before. My children have been obsessed with them since the books first appeared, about ten years ago, and I would guess that between them they’ve worked their way through twenty or more.
Two years ago, Martha was given Rosie Flo’s Colouring Fashion Show for her birthday: a 3D colouring extravaganza which, in turn, prompted all three girls to make a whole range of their own paper pop-ups last summer.
All children seem to love colouring in, whether or not they like drawing, which means that there is an enormous market out there for colouring books. Such a shame then, that most colouring books are of such poor quality: so often the paper is horrible and the art work worse — heavy black lines around simpering Little Bow Peep-type characters or gurning leprechauns. Urgh.
And this is why Rosie Flo has been such a huge success. Roz Streeten’s books not only satisfy a child’s desire to colour in, but they also invite children to engage their imaginations in order to embellish the scenes. Often, Martha races through her copies armed with nothing more that a black biro, adding faces and limbs, and sometimes additional characters in the background. In fact, now that I think about it, she’s never really been that interested in colouring, but she has always loved these books. She adores the witty detail in the drawings, some of which I hope you can see in the image below — the cupcake hat the waitress is wearing, the tiny ice lollies and the shelves stacked with cakes.
I was lucky enough to find myself standing next to Roz at an event at last year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival. We peered at each other’s name tags in order to launch into the obligatory small talk and I explained that I was an unimportant ‘plus one’; she countered by saying that she wasn’t an author or illustrator but made colouring books, at which point the penny dropped, “Rosie Flo?” I said. “Oh you’ve heard of them?” To say that I was excited is putting it mildly. I really, really do love these colouring books. Roz seemed surprised to find such a grown-up fan; but I know that I’m not the only forty-something devotee. I would guess that many a parent has breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of a rack of Rosie Flo colouring books in their local toy shop — imaginative, charming, simple, fun and at £4.99 to £5.99, affordable too. Over the years the range has expanded to include packs of postcards and large colouring posters (£2.99). Not only do the colouring books make brilliant presents, they are also the best way to stave off cabin fever during the holidays or at weekends when the rain sets in — as it did last weekend.
Thank you Roz, the pool party saved the day on a very wet weekend!
The pool party is in the shops now, and I’d highly recommend it. And for all festival goers, you might like to know that for the second year running, Rosie Flo is behind the Camp Bestival Colouring Book.