Bath time again!

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An expectant audience

Can it really be a whole year since the last Bath Festival of Children’s Literature, well yes it can.  This year sees the return of John and Gill McLay as the artistic directors.  They founded the festival and nurtured it during the first 6 years of its life, now they are back for year 9.

The events started off with a wonderful talk by the iconic Judith Kerr (pronounced Carr, so we2015-10-01 15.50.43 were informed?) in conversation with Julia Eccleshare.  She spoke about her childhood but also about her many books and in particular her new work “Mr Cleghorn’s Seal” which is based on an event in her father’s earlier life.  After this many of us transferred over to Waterstones for the launch party which was full of lovely authors, illustrators, supporters volunteers and friends of the festival.

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Mamillan, 9781447277897

the next day saw me reporting for duty in my first volunteer session of the year.  I was lucky enough to work on a session by Kristina Stephenson for her “Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Pirate’s Curse” which was full of music activity and a wealth of energy.  The children absolutely loved it.  I then had the great pleasure of seeing the Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell talk about his latest book “Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright” as well as watching his amazing talent as an illustrator.  The queue for book signing was enormous and I was unable to get my book signed as I was booked to go and listen to the amazing Patrick Ness talking about “The rest of us just live here”.  A book that I have written about before.

2015-09-28 15.17.33I must admit to then having a day off in order to catch up on the more mundane things of life, as well as doing a bit of reading.  However on Monday I was off again, this time it was attending a school visit with the lovely Bali Rai.  I have heard him do a short talk at a conference in the past, but this was the first time that I had the pleasure of hearing him work with a young audience.  He absolutely held all of them spellbound, something that is quite difficult with over 100 year 9s and year 11s.  He spoke about writing in general, his background, the influences he finds and also about racism and extremism across a wide spectrum.  I would recommend any school to have him talk to their older pupils.

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Corgi, 9780552570749

2015-10-03 11.13.21The second weekend of the festival I was working on both days, but only half a day on each.  Saturday I worked the morning shift at the Guildhall and was able to see Elen Caldecott and Robin Stevens talking about writing crime for younger audiences.  Elen is a local author and and her latest book is the second in a series ‘Marsh road Mysteries’ and is called “Crowns and Codebreakers”.  Robin has really hit the spot with her wonderful series about the two schoolgirl sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong and she was talking about the third in the series “A first class Murder” which is a homage to “Murder on the Orient Express”  I also spent some of the morning learning how to draw “Wookies and Droids”, which might come in useful when my grandson is older.  With the next Star Wars film coming to the big screen in 2015-10-03 09.33.19 2015-10-06 21.25.41November this was very well times. I also saw the amazing duo of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve in the green room as they were about to go to their “Pugs of the Frozen north” event.  I then met them later when they were off to their individual events for “Railhead” and “Dinosaur Police”.

 

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Andersen, 9781783443642

Sunday was the last day of the festival and there were so many events that I would have loved to attend, however I did steward the events for Julian Clary and David Roberts, talking about their book “The Bolds”, which is a great read for those younger confident readers.  they shared the speaking and then David also produced illustrations so that the audience could see how a character is developed.  I then worked on the session with the poet John Hegley – he is 2015-10-04 16.33.05-1really brilliant and it is a major ‘experience’ to hear him speak, play his ukulele  and generally entertain his audience.

The final bit of icing on the cake was meeting Jennifer Donnelly in the Green Room and getting her to sign copies of 2015-10-04 16.59.01her books “Rogue Wave” and “Dark Tide”, the second and third titles in her series about a world with Mer nations and wars for power.

Of course all of this was just the tip of the iceberg and there were so many other fantastic events going on at other venues.  The programme is so varied that there is something for everyone.  For small children there were some favourite authors and illustrators, such as Michael Rosen,  Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and for teens there was Joe Suggs and Jacqueline Wilson.  If you haven’t been to Bath before, then I suggest you book the dates for next year.

A Simply Super Summer

Well we are now midway through the summer break and according to the papers have just passed the worst day of the holiday for parents.  One of the mainstays of the summer break is the “Summer reading Challenge” and this year they have linked with the Guinness book of records to promote the theme of Record Breakers; this is bound to be a really popular theme and it would be great if they could break the million participants barrier.

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Nosy Crow, 978-0857634795

 

Some of the books that could prove popular over the coming weeks are”My brother is a Superhero” by David Solomons, which follows the adventures of Luke and his brother Zak.  Luke is a mad comic fan and totally in to superheros, whereas his brother is more into homework.  Due to an urgent need to go to the loo, Luke misses out on getting superpowers and has to help his brother come to terms with becoming “Star Lad”.  When an asteroid heads on a collision course with Earth it is up to the two boys, together with friends Serge and Lara to save the day;despite the machinations of a crazed Comic Empire owner.

Rampage

Piccadilly Press, 978-1848124776

“Rampage” by Julia Wills is the second in a series of books about Aries, the ram from the legend of the Golden Fleece and it is set in the Amazon jungle.  This story continues the adventures of Aries and his friend Alex, together with the ‘Hero’ Jason, as they try and save their friend Rose from the  grip of the evil Medea.  One again we have a story full of humour and adventure thanks to the ram with attitude.

 

In darkling Wood

Faber & Faber, 978-0571317578

 

 

“In Darkling Wood” by Emma Carroll is yet another brilliant book by this author.  It is the tale of Alice, who is sent to live with her grandmother when her young brother is taken into hospital.  When she arrives she finds that there is a local campaign to stop her grandmother cutting down the Darkling wood that surrounds the house.  This is a story full of magic and mystery and has links to the tale of the Cottingley fairies which was a public sensation just after the First World War.  Alice does not want to leave her family and the bleak atmosphere at Darkling Cottage does nothing to help.  This is the third book I have read by this author and they just keep getting better and better.  Of course I might be slightly biased as Emma Carroll is a graduate of the amazing writing course at Bath Spa University.

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Chicken House, 978-1909489004,

There has been a real surge in the number of books with school setting, especially boarding schools.  The actual stories range from mystery and magic to murder and mayhem and they seem to cover from 7 to 17, so something for everyone.  “Mischief at Midnight” by Esme Kerr is the second in a series about Edie and her friend Anastasia who attend  Knight’s Haddon and this year they have to cope with new girl Janet, a mystery at a local tower and environmental protesters.  It is a great story about friendship and is full of excitement and adventure, so we hope for more to come.

 

August brings a new title from Louis Sacher, author of “Holes” and this one is called “Fuzzy Mud”.  It is about bullying at school and also the issues surrounding genetic modification of food.  This is a great read with a very serious message underlying it.  Thanks to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this.

For younger readers there are lots of great reads.   Michael Rosen has got a new character who makes his first appearance in “Uncle Gobb and the dread shed”.  It is a totally whacky story about Malcolm and the frightening Uncle Gobb who lives with the family and is  very strict about homework etc.Neal Layton’s illustrations are dramatic and atmospheric and add so much to the story.  While Gill Lewis has brought out another title in the Puppy Academy series, this one is called “Scout and the Sausage thief” and is about a puppy who wants to follow in her parents’ paw prints and become a police dog, a lovely school based tale.  Kjartan Poskitt has a new tale about his barbarian hero called “Borgon the Axeboy and the Prince’s shadow”, this is full of action and humour with great illustrations by Philip Reeve.  Finally we have “Nelly and the Quest for Captain Peabody” by Roland Chambers, a story of lost explorers, daring young heroines and dastardly postman pirates.

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Brilliant Bath

I cannot believe that we have now finished the festival for this year.  Many thanks to all the people I had the pleasure of working with and especially to David Almond who was artistic director for the second year.  Next year we will be back in the very safe hands of John and Gill McLay, who founded the festival and were responsible for the impact it has had on children’s literature events in this country.  I was only able to help out for the first weekend as we were away on holiday for week two, however I still met up with some old friends, made some new friends and heard some fantastic sessions.

Miffy in Bath

Miffy in Bath

Perhaps the high spot was seeing the effort that people went to in making the Miffy event such a success.  Congratulations to Kelley Townley for her patience with the costume that was so heavy and hot – what a star she is.  I also had the pleasure of stewarding on the first night of the festival and saw Andy Stanton hosting a book quiz ( I did not totally disgrace myself with my knowledge, but some of the children were amazing) and then saw a panel discussion about the future of teaching.  Of course this was followed by the launch party at Waterstones and a real opportunity to catch up with the many friends I have made over the years.

Andy Stanton, a quiet moment!

Andy Stanton,
a quiet moment!

Saturday I had a day off, but on Sunday I was in Bath for the Miffy event and also a session by Thomas Williams, who was one of the curators of the “Vikings” exhibition at the British Museum, as he talked about his book concerning the life and death of King Harald of Norway. The only thing I had known about this king before is that he was defeated by our King Harold, who then went on to be killed at the battle of Hastings.

 

 

 

Monday saw me back at the Guildhall where Michael Rosen  spoke to several hundred children, all in his own inimitable style.  I then stayed on to hear the lovely Michaela Morgan talking about the two books she has written about Walter Tull (I hope to mention these in a special blog about WWI titles later this year.

with Michael Rosen

with Michael Rosen

 

with Michaela Morgan

with Michaela Morgan

 

 

 

I had hoped to go to the School Library Association Information Book Award on the Tuesday evening, but having been to the local Centurion Book Award ceremony in the morning (to receive the award on behalf of David Walliams) I really was beginning to run out of steam.

 

Martin Veal, Chair of B&NES council

Martin Veal,
Chair of B&NES council

 

I know that there were some great sessions later in the week, especially for teens and I know everyone had a great time.  I am sure that the team are already beavering away to create the programme for next year and they will have us stewards queueing up to help as it is such as friendly and enthusiastic event, with the most amazing yet down to earth writers and artists taking part.  I love this festival.

Festivals and more

 

I have been reminded recently that we are now in the middle of Festival season.  There have been some great posts on Facebook about the fun at Edinburgh and I am so envious of all you lucky people who were able to attend, both as visitors and as participants.  We have just had the stewarding schedules put out for the Bath Kids Lit Festival and I look forward to seeing lots of great friends there at the end of September.  I also heard on the TV this morning that booking has started for Cheltenham Festival which begins on the 3rd October with Michael Rosen and then Henry Winkler.  I think it is the first time that Bath and Cheltenham have overlapped in this way and it will be interesting to see if it will affect ticket sales over the first weekend in October.  For those who cannot attend any of these events then there is the Children’s Roadshow which is touring the country, visiting 15 cities,  from the end of September until the end of November.  There are some great names and with any luck lots of schools will be taking their children to meet and hear some amazing authors and illustrators.children_bookshow_leaflet[1]

This year I am not doing quite as much at Bath, but I am looking forward to the events I am doing, which include a debate on the future of teaching, Michael Rosen and the ‘Big, Big, Bath Book Quiz with Andy Stanton.  During that week we also have the local Centurion Book Award ceremony and the national ‘Information Book Award’, in association with the School Library Association.

Before all of this activity I have two other book related events that I am attending.  Next week we have the launch of the new book by Lauren Child, which is being hosted at Daunt’s on Marylebone High Street; it is a fabulous book that looks at the issues of having a new baby in the house. The following weekend is the Nosy Crow Conference and the following Saturday is the Cilip Members day, thankfully that is being held in Bristol, so on my home turf.  It’s only when you write all of this down that you see what a hectic month this is going to be and that is before I add in my school governor training.  I will definitely need a holiday after all of that.

Something I will still manage to fit in among all of these activities is my reading.  I have got some really great books in the pipeline and I look forward to talking about them in the near future; they include authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Holly Black and Garth Nix.  There are also some superb picture books at the moment and lots more coming in our direction in time for Christmas.  Why are there only 24 hours in the day, I need more?

 

Let’s Celebrate

Yet again we have a bumper crop of anniversaries this year and there is a little bit of something for almost everyone.

Picture book characters that are celebrating include:

 

Product Details

 

Elmer, the beloved patchwork elephant from David McKee, who will be 25 years old.  He is such a favourite not only in  the UK but right across the world and particularly in Japan.  I have to say I am very proud of my ipad case with a picture of Elmer on it.

 

 

 

Katie, by James Mayhew, who has introduced so many children to the world’s greatest artists, is also 25 years old.  The books can be read as beautifully illustrated stories, but they have a real place in  schools helping pupils understand and appreciate art and artists.

 

Kipper, by Mick Inkpen will be 18 years old.  Mick Inkpen has produced some of the most loved children’ s characters over the years and Kipper is possibly his most well known creation.  My particular favourite is Kipper’s Christmas Eve but that is so much younger than the original.

Clarice Bean is 15 years old. This character has developed as the years have gone on and we now have the Ruby Redfort books by Lauren Child, based on a character found in the Clarice books.

Geoffrey in “Giraffes don’t dance”  by Giles Andreae is also 15 years.  This has always brought out the extrovert in me, quite difficult really, but you just want to dance and share the enjoyment of finding your own particular way of doing it.

“We’re going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury is also 25 years old this year.  This is a true classic, with so many children able to tell you the story, even if they only remember the images and rhthms.

I find all of this quite traumatic as I remember them all and it only seems like yesterday since they first appeared at book selection or as a flyer from the publisher.

 

Books for older children start with

 

“Charlie and the Chocolate factory”.  Can you believe that he is 50 years old this year, whilst Dahl’s “Dirty Beasts” will be 30 years old.  See my article about the celebration for this wonderful book.

Also celebrating 50 years is “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” by Ian Fleming.  It has also been so much of our lives for so many years that we think it has always been around.. However for many people their memory is of the Lionel Jeffries and Dick van Dyke film, rather than the book itself.  I can remember seeing the actual car parked outside the cinema in Weston-super-mare, publicising the film showing; happy days!

 

 

Other books published in 1964 which were very popular but are no longer so easy to find are “The book of three” by Lloyd Alexander and “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh.  I have to admit that I found these books when I started work in a library because as a teenager in the 1960s I had been transferred to the adult library and was discovering Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie, as well as more intellectual writers.