Peedie tales raise laughs all round

2nd September 2011 at 01:00
Some new stories about an Orcadian scamp are proving just as popular as their author's Katie Morag series. Raymond Ross reports

It's 10am on a Sunday morning. A few early birds are quietly sitting around Charlotte Square Gardens drinking cups of coffee, reading books and newspapers. You can imbibe the contemplative atmosphere of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Only in the main tent there's a riot of noise, as hundreds of toddlers scream at the tops of their voices, "Oh No, Peedie Peebles!"

Peedie is a lovable Orcadian scamp, an innocently mischievous toddler who effortlessly wins the hearts of his young audience who cry out "Oh No, Peedie Peebles" every time he wanders into mishap.

We're here to celebrate the arrival of Peedie in two new books by Mairi Hedderwick: Peedie Peebles' Summer or Winter Book and the said Oh No, Peedie Peebles!

The children's author and illustrator is, of course, famed for her Katie Morag series of children's books and it's not long before a wee voice pipes up: "Could Peedie Peebles go and play with Katie Morag?" "Yes," says Ms Hedderwick. "They're cousins."

This, however, would involve some island-hopping, as Katie Morag lives on the fictional Hebridean island of Struay, while Peedie is safely ensconced in Orkney.

The Orcadian "peedie" means "wee" or "little" and the character was born in a real-life Orkney maternity ward where, as Ms Hedderwick observed, a newborn infant was awaiting its wrist-band name-tag. The parents hadn't yet decided on a name, so the midwife simply penned "Peedie" in the meantime.

"That was it," says Ms Hedderwick. "The character was born."

And it would certainly seem, from the audience response to him, that Peedie is likely to prove as popular as Katie Morag.

"Why is he naughty?" asks a wee girl.

"Are you ever naughty?" responds Ms Hedderwick.

"No!" comes the firm reply, causing ripples of adult laughter.

Oh yes, Peedie Peebles. That'll be right .

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