For the first time in about 10 years I decided to pay a visit to the “Book it” section of the Cheltenham Literature Festival. This was mainly because I could not fit in all the authors I wanted to see at Bath (I was on duty) and also because it was announced that the amazing Jane Churchill would be stepping down from her role as children’s coordinator at the end of this year.
I decided on the second Sunday of the event because Bath was over and there were several panels of writers that I wanted to see. Perhaps the nicest thing about the Cheltenham venue is that it is in the Town Hall and on the green, which enables little activities to be taking place outside. There was a real buzz about the place as children enjoyed learning circus skills, face painting and various other craft subjects. Luckily the weather was fine and there was a really wonderful atmosphere.
the day started of with a session by Gillian Cross and Sally Nicholls talking about their books “Shadow Cat” and “An Island of their own”. The first story is about two young people brought together by circumstances and who form a common bond as they try and save a captive Serval and the second book is about a group of three siblings who are left some jewelry by an elderly aunt, but the catch is that she has hidden it and they have to go on a search. It was great to hear two such talented writers speaking about their plots and how they came up with their stories.
I then attended a fascinating session by Holly Webb and Kate Saunders about their respective books which carry on two very famous classic novels. Holly has written “Return to the Secret Garden”, whilst Kate has given us “Five Children on the Western Front”. Both books have a wartime setting, the Western front being WWI and the Secret Garden featuring refugees in WWII. They are definitely worth having a read of and provide an added perspective on times gone by. I have just started reading Holly’s book but I read Kate’s book a while ago and it is a superb read, having been nominated for several awards..
The book tent was full of authors signing books for their fans and I was lucky enough to meet up with Shoo Rayner and then saw Tracey Corduroy and Michael Morpurgo from a distance. Shoo had been talking about his new book “Dragon White“, which follow on from the previous title “Dragon Gold” and links a modern story with the myths of Wales and Merlin. It is a similar theme to that used by Sarah Mussi in her book “Here be Dragons”, although her work is for a teen audience. Shoo’s dragons are great for the younger confident reader.
My final event was one that had sold out and several of my friends were quite envious, it felt like having a ‘Golden Ticket’. This was with Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine, both of whom have written brilliant books that I have mentioned in several blogs already. They are “First Class Murder”, the third in the Wells and Wong mystery series and “The mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow”, the first in a series. There was great elation when they both announced that new titles will be published in February and March 2016. From Robin we will see “Jolly Foul Play” and from Katherine it will be “The mystery of the Jewelled Moth“. I can’t wait to read both of them. There is quite an interest in mixing history and mysteries and these two writers are excellent examples of the sub-genre.
I must admit that I came away from this day in a bit of a golden glow. There were so many lovely friends that I had seen and had a chat to as well as listening to some fascinating authors. Most of all these festivals remind us that there are huge numbers of enthusiastic young readers out there, we just need to make sure that they are being shown books that they will enjoy. I definitely think that Cheltenham is back on my map, even though my heart is in Bath.