Beasts and Bugs in Bristol.

Yeterday, with Sue away at YALC in London, I ventured on a solo mission to Cabot Circus in Bristol. Yuval Zommer was holding an event there to share his book ‘The Big Book of Beasts.’ Like its predecessor, ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ (well-loved amongst the JAB Team and one of our Information Books on the NSTBA 2017 long list), this is a beautifully illustrated and informative non-fiction book.

Thanks to Bristol traffic, I was a little late and arrived as the event was in full swing. The children’s section of Foyles, which is always a pleasure to browse, was filled with families. The children were given a page of animal tracks, created from one of the beautifully illustrated spreads in ‘A Big Book of Beasts,’ and invited to add their own Beasts to the page. As the children eagerly drew and coloured, Yuval reminded them about the features of a beast: claws, jaws and growls (the children all growled loudly in response). Yuval spent this time sat on the floor with the children, talking about their illustrations. After some time, Yuval collected in all of their art work. He shared each child’s work – one by one – inviting them up as their efforts were celebrated. Yuval has something wonderful to say about each and every one: from beasty lions, tigers, hyenas and wolves to the less beasty bats, zebras, elephants and butterflies. There were happy, smiling animals, animals jumping on top of each other and even the longest snake in the jungle!

It was wonderful to see such a wide age-range of children at the event. Children from 2 to 10 were all sharing their work proudly. The event itself was relaxed and encouraged children to be creative and use their imaginations. This was another fantastic event organised by the hardworking team at Foyles in Bristol. An added bonus of the afternoon was meeting local author, Duncan Beedle, author of ‘The Bear who Stared’ and ‘The Lumberjack’s Beard.’ Both Yuval and Duncan will be at the Cheltenham Festival this year so we hope to track them down again there.

After the event, Yuval signed books, including the heap that I had brought with me (although I may have left Sue’s special notebook on my kitchen floor, OOPS)! Team JAB have been trying to catch Yuval at one of his events for about a year but keep missing him so it was great to finally catch up with him. He shared his latest picture book with me, published just last week, ‘Big Brown Bear’s Cave,’ which is dedicated to children who barely tidy their rooms. This looks like a really fun, colourful book which is beautifully illustrated in Yuval’s unique style. I hope to get a copy very soon. We also chatted about the exciting projects he has on the horizon. This includes the next, still slightly secret, instalment of his ‘Big Book’ series – ‘The Big Book of Something-Else-Beginning-with-B’ – and a follow up to the stunning fold out book which he created in partnership with Charlotte Gullian, ‘The Street Beneath my Feet.’ These books are real treasures of non-fiction. Both informative and imaginative, they can be the basis of much investigation, discussion and exploration and would be fantastic additions to any classroom or school library.