Hay Festival: The Nothing to See Here Event

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It wasn't the weather shaking the Wales Stage tent earlier today- it was laughter and lots of it as Steven Butler and Steven Lenton, author and illustrator of 'The Nothing to See Here Hotel', took to the stage. This was the perfect event to inspire any reluctant reader or book-a-holic!

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SB started with a story- not the one he had written, but a true one which was a joy to hear. He told us the tale of a small boy from Kent (England's bottom!) who hated reading (I think he said this boy would rather lick his grandmother's 'crusty feet' than pick up a book!). He believed that books were invented to put people to sleep and couldn't understand why any one would pick one up. He described in great comic detail the old headmaster and the dullness of school life until one day, a new head appeared- a Willy Wonka like figure- who was called Mr Strong and everything changed because he discovered that books could be funny.

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The small boy was, of course, Steven Butler, and his new headmaster was Jeremy Strong, author of many popular children's books with words like 'bottom' (second funniest word in the English language) on the cover.

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Having such an inspirational head lead Steven to the library- 'the most important place in the whole world' and to discovering a whole world of books and reading he would otherwise never have known about. It's the sort of story that makes us teachers get quite teary-eyed!

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It also led Steven to writing books, including 'The Nothing to See Here Hotel', an 'internationally ignored masterpiece', which Steve Lenton illustrated. This dream team have created a wonderfully warm, funny story full of crazy characters which is a joy to read. SB demonstrated the art of reading aloud brilliantly, leaving me wishing I read half as well to my class.

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Steven Lenton then introduced the audience to a few of the characters from the story, showing us how the illustrations for Frankie (strongly resembling a young SB!) and some of the other characters had developed. He then taught us all to draw Prince Grogbah (based on a certain very petulant world leader!), breaking the process down into simple shapes and easy to follow steps. SL told us how he used to draw all his toys as a child, but was reluctant to share his pictures with anyone until one day, he showed some to his favourite teacher. He was full of patience and encouragement as everyone had a go, following his instructions.

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This wonderful pair finished the session with the wonderful news that a second book in the series is coming out in September and we had a sneak preview of the cover!

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A wonderfully energetic, fun session from this amazing partnership. Let's hope there are many books to come!

Our review of 'The Nothing to See Here Hotel' is coming soon!