Friendship week in St Patrick’s GNS, Hollypark

Last week I was delighted to be invited out to Hollypark Girls National School to meet the students and see how they had used The Magnificent Toby Plum as their story for Friendship Week.

I was absolutely blown away when I walked into the school and saw all the incredible artwork that the students had worked on! There was a fantastic display of snowflakes that the students had written their own unique strengths on and some of the classes had worked on recreating Toby’s bedroom with their own creative and personal touches.

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I was lost for words when I came face to face with an enormous version of Differ in the school reception! Later that morning the 4th classes told me about how much time and effort had gone into making him and I loved hearing about how everyone worked together on it. Differ was surrounded by a whole display featuring quotes from the story and a fun mirror for the children to strike a pose and appreciate their own unique features on their way to class in the morning.

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Ms Marnell introduced me to the 6th class girls who had done a fantastic job of making scenery and puppets for a Magnificent Toby Plum puppet show.

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The 6th class were kind enough to recreate their puppet show for me and I really loved it. They captured the story beautifully and added their own creative twists. Well done to the girls for putting so much work into the production.

I had an absolutely brilliant time meeting all the girls and hearing about what they had done during friendship week. I loved hearing about their ideas for female characters called Audrey Peach and Differbelle!! The school managed to squeeze so much into one week and I’ve only covered a fraction of it here!

Huge thanks to Ms Marnell, Ms Casey and all the hard working teachers and staff who put so much time and effort into friendship week. You all deserve a slice of Differ cake!

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News2Day – Eating Disorder Awareness Week

In honour of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, The Magnificent Toby Plum was featured on News2Day last week! It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about the importance of promoting positive body image and appreciation of diversity in primary school. Here’s a photo of me with the presenter Orla.

news2day orla

Here’s a link to the clip on the RTÉ website

We had a really warm welcome from 4th class in D7 Educate Together so huge thanks to the principal, the class teacher and all the magnificent children! You can see more at the school blog.


Plastic surgery apps for children have been removed from iTunes and Google Play

Earlier this week, body image activists around the world joined forces and asked iTunes and Google Play to remove the very disturbing plastic surgery game app. The game was marketed to children as young as 9 and as you can see in the image below, it provided unhealthy messages about plastic surgery, health, weight and beauty.

barbie game

Influential groups including Endangered Bodies, Everyday Sexism and Miss Representation reached out to their followers and soon Twitter was flooded with messages asking iTunes and Google to do the right things and remove the irresponsible and potentially dangerous game. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the game was removed within a short space of time. Victory! It’s an important reminder to keep track of all the media that children and young people are interacting, including apps.

You can hear me talk about this (and other body image related stuff) on this 98fm podcast.

For more on this, read this great post on Feminist Times


Children’s Book Festival 2013

Hi all!

Just a quick note to say a massive thank-you to South Dublin Library for inviting me out to visit their mobile library last week for Children’s Book Festival. Very proud that The Magnificent Toby Plum is now available as a classroom novel with South Dublin Libraries so schools in the area can borrow a set of 30 to read together.

At the mobile library

At the mobile library

Lovely librarian Bernie Meenaghan picked me up in Tallaght and brought me out to St Thomas’ SNS in Jobstown. I visited two groups of fourth class pupils and had a brilliant time with them. The children showed me their magnificent art work based on Toby Plum’s story and asked lots of questions about how to write a book. A big, big thank you to the children and teachers for the warm welcome!

Some artwork from the pupils of St Thomas' SNS

Some artwork from the pupils of St Thomas’ SNS

Body Image in the Classroom

Hi all,

Delighted to announce the details of our upcoming workshop for primary school teachers which will be held in Drumcondra Education Centre.


Body image has become a big issue for primary school children. Dieting, fear of fat, body image concerns and weight loss attempts, as well as cases of more serious eating disorders have all been documented in children as young as seven years old. However, the good news is that people are not born with negative body image – it is something that can be prevented. This introductory workshop will provide teachers with practical tips to deal with body image and weight-related issues as they arise in the classroom as well as SPHE lesson plans to promote positive body image. Links to SPHE strand units and objectives will be highlighted throughout.

This introductory workshop will be delivered by :

Dr Deirdre Cowman (psychologist and children’s author) and Fiona Flynn Dăscălescu (Youth Development Officer at Bodywhys, the Eating Disorder Association).


Date/Time: Tuesday October 22nd  7.00 – 9.00

Venue: Drumcondra Education Centre

To book a place please phone Drumcondra Education Centre @ 01 8576400.

We need you (and your photo-shopping skills!)

We are looking for someone to help us to create some child-friendly examples of airbrushed or digitally altered images based on images from ‘The Magnificent Toby Plum’. We’d like to create spot-the-differences images which show the extent to which images can be manipulated so that we can make children more aware of how images can be unrealistic and get them to think about why these changes are made etc.


There are loads of great examples of extreme photo-shopping out there on the internet but a lot of them are overly-focused on women’s bodies and not really suitable for introducing in primary schools.


The original images should be of Toby, Differ and other characters from the book and the spot-the-difference images should show some subtle and some obvious changes to hair, skin, colouring, shape and size and maybe a few mad things like an extra arm or leg.


Here’s a messy example that we worked on ourselves (below) but we’re sure that someone with a bit of know-how and patience could create something much better! Are there any creative and artistic types out there willing to give us a hand?


sample changes teacher2

Body image activism!

Endangered Bodies billboard in New York

Endangered Bodies billboard in New York

There’s big money in making us feel bad about our bodies. Think about it! Whole industries rely on making us feel crappy and insecure so that they can sell us fad diets, magic pills, quick fixes and unnecessary surgeries (I swear if I see another pop-up ad online that tells me I can ‘cut down on belly fat every day using this one weird trick’ I might hurt my laptop!) Of course the diet, pharmaceutical and cosmetic surgery industries are just the tip of the iceberg! The fashion, beauty and advertising industries thrive on our insecurities by constantly presenting us with digitally-altered images of unattainable beauty and promoting products that promise to fix our every imperfection. We may like to imagine that all of these unhealthy and negative messages don’t really get to us, but the reality is that the diet industry is booming, eating disorders and body dissatisfaction are on the increase and recent survey of Irish young people suggests that body image interferes with taking part in things like swimming, dating and putting photographs on Facebook for more than 50% of those surveyed.

If you want to get involved in challenging the culture of body hatred, a great place to start is the Endangered Bodies movement.

Endangered Bodies Ireland is the Irish branch of an international organization that works to challenge the industries that promote body hatred and turn us against our own bodies. The different branches of Endangered Bodies, based in cities all over the world, have taken action against these industries in a variety of ways and on a number of levels – from small, personal actions like supporting brands that promote body positive messages, to higher level activism like holding demonstrations, working with industry stakeholders and getting involved in political lobbying.

Dee Cowman on International No Diet Day

Dee Cowman on International No Diet Day

Read this recent post on to see what Endangered Bodies Ireland has been up to lately.


May 8, 2013


Hello everyone and welcome to the new and improved MagnificentlyU website, home of ‘The Magnificent Toby Plum’. We’ll be adding more content and new features to the site in the next few weeks so watch this space!

toby and grannys