“I wanted my kids and everyone’s kids to learn from an early age that it is okay for them to be who they are”
University of Sunderland graduate and mum-of-two Laura Maclennan is using her writing talents to teach children that kindness is stronger than unkindness and that our differences make us better.
Laura, from Newcastle, has written two books – Don’t Be Silly! and Don’t Be Scared! – inspired by her two-year-old son Seth.
Both books feature the characters Seth and the Rainbow Monsters – the real Seth is Laura’s ‘rainbow baby’, a term used for a baby born after a miscarriage or other devastating baby loss.
With imaginary Seth and his colourful monster friends, Laura wanted to honour the colour Seth has brought to her family’s lives, as well as bring joy and kindness to bedtime stories and classrooms everywhere.
Laura, 40, said: “The first book Don’t Be Silly! is about Seth wanting to build a treehouse and asking his rainbow monster friends for help. The monsters want to help Seth, but they do not want to work with each other because they all look different – they’re all different shapes and colours – but Seth says, “don’t be silly” and talks about how our differences are our strengths and how we all play our part in creating special things.”
Laura hopes that the message of Don’t Be Silly! will inspire kindness and acceptance and show children they can be exactly who they are born to be, by remembering it’s okay to #BeMoreSeth.
“I wanted my kids and everyone’s kids to learn from an early age that it is okay for them to be who they are, and that they don’t have to be like everyone else to have an impact,” Laura said.
“This is where the hashtag #BeMoreSeth comes from. I want children to think of it themselves and challenge their friends or bullies to #BeMoreSeth when they see intolerance and discriminatory behaviour. It is all learnt behaviour, so let’s teach them a better way through story instead.”
Laura added: “In Don’t Be Scared! each monster comes to the treehouse with a different fear such as moving home, new schools and new babies, and Seth tells them “don’t be scared” because our fears help us to grow if we talk about them.”
After graduating from Sunderland with a Performing Arts degree in 2004, Laura went on to become an experienced teacher, particularly in drama, and within the Special Educational Needs sector.
Now, she is enjoying flourishing as a published writer – having so far sold more than 1,000 copies of Don’t Be Silly! and Don’t Be Scared! combined.
Laura said: “I just want to thank my husband Brett for all his support, as well as my illustrator Kylie Dixon, my editor Alexa Tewkesbury, my publisher Alexa Whitten from Compass Publishing and Melissa Middleton, my business guru.
“I also want to thank everyone who has bought and loved my books and got me into schools with it. It is pure magic to see how much these characters are loved and how much children are already growing in confidence just by being brave enough to own who they are.”
So what is next for Laura?
“In the future I hope to create a theatre in education production using Seth and the Rainbow Monsters for primary schools to support anti-bullying and diversity curriculums,” she said.
“I also see a cartoon in the future! Surely, they’ll let me narrate with my dramatic qualifications?!”
Laura has also plucked up the courage to publish her very first children’s book inspired by her daughter Eliza, now aged six, which has been sitting on her laptop since it was written in 2016. It will be released next summer.
In the meantime, Don’t Be Silly! and Don’t Be Scared! are available to buy at Waterstones in Durham and Seven Stories in Newcastle. Or you can order a copy online at www.sethandtherainbowmonsters.com