This weekend, I travelled to Surrey where the 2019 FCBG Conference was being held. It was lovely to meet up with so many old friends- and meet all those wonderfully book-ish people!
We were welcomed by the Gruffalo who had come to celebrate his 20th birthday, bringing gorgeous cupcakes and making everyone smile. So many people were sharing fond memories of reading this story to their children, grandchildren, classes and in library sessions.
Having attended the AGM, the publishers then each made a presentation about some of the new, exciting things that they have in line for us all. There are so many amazing books around and just as I think my TBR pile couldn't get any bigger, I hear of new treats on the way. I really enjoyed listening to the enthusiasm of each new publishers- it was really inspiring.
A few stand out titles for me were 'The Suitcase' by Chris Naylor- Ballesteros, 'Africa' by Atinuke and 'Explorers' by DK, but there were so many lovely looking books; it was a bit like looking into a sweet shop window!
The Publishers' exhibition is always a highlight of this weekend. It is great to catch up with people you know and put faces to the names in emails or on Twitter. Each display was a cornucopia of delights and it was a joy to discuss favourite titles, new releases and listen to recommendations.
In the evening, we were joined by the wonderful Frank Cottrell Boyce who entertained us wonderfully with stories of his growing up, the experiences he had and the importance in his life of those who led him to reading. He talked about there being 'magic in well chosen words you don't have to understand' to enjoy or be affected by. It was a great talk, heart-warming and entertaining!
Just as you thought it couldn't get any better, the poets took to the stage! We were treated to a joyous performance of all kinds of poetry- humorous, moving, ones which needed audience participation and those set to music! They finish with a musical set, combining their many talents to perform together. More about this in a future post!
Up early the next morning and the day started with Lisa Williamson talking about her books, particularly 'Paper Avalanche'. With its theme of hoarding, this made me feel slightly twitchy about my extensive notebook collection, but she was fascinating to listen to! An equally interesting session followed about the importance of representation with Knights Of, Cynthia So and Aisha Bushby.
More cake next as we celebrated DK's birthday before heading back into the auditorium for the 'Empathy Panel'.
This was another fascinating session with each of the panel- Miranda McKearney, Ross Montgomery, Sita Brahmachari and Jane Ray- speaking movingly of their experiences and of the importance of the work they are doing in this field. It was very inspiring. The next session was supposed to be Sharon Dogar discussing her books, but sadly, she was ill and was unable to attend. However, Charlie Sheppard filled in for her. Sharon's new book, 'Monsters' is about Mary Shelley and I can't wait to read it!
After lunch, there were seminars with M A Bennett, Amy Wilson, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet and Guy Puzey. These very different sessions were really well received and provoked plenty of discussion.
Back in the auditorium, we were celebrating twenty years of Giraffes Can't Dance, a huge personal favourite. Guy Parker Rees, whose amazing illustrations really make this tale come alive, was just wonderful as he shared pictures he drew as a child, drew pictures as we suggested ideas and read us the iconic story. Gerald (in puppet form!) even made an appearance himself before more tea and cake to celebrate. I cheekily asked if I could have one of the mugs and was delighted when I was given one- thank you so much!
Later that evening, we celebrated another birthday- Elmer's 30th! The patchwork elephant is another huge favourite of mine so it was lovely to raise a glass to him. (No cake this time!!)
The Gala Dinner followed and I was delighted to be invited to sit with Francesca Simon, the guest speaker for the evening. She was amazing to chat to- particularly about the importance of the Dewey Decimal System!- and my son, who used to read the Horrid Henry books with great enthusiasm, was impressed so it was a win-win situation! Francesca spoke passionately about the importance of reading and libraries and books, making a wonderful end to a very long and busy day.
Sunday started with snow! However, this was short lived and the sun did its best to peek through the clouds as we headed off to the auditorium again to listen to the 'middle grade' panel.
Candy Gourlay, Marcia Williams and newcomer, Serena Patel, discussed their books and the role they play in children’s reading development. I heard Candy speak about her wonderful book, 'Bone Talk', at Oxford recently, but it was a joy to hear her again. She has such a way of encapsulating ideas that I could listen to her all day. I was also very interested in Marcia William's new book- a novel instead of her usual comic strip style of text- and how she had come to write this. It was fascinating and I read 'Cloud Boy' as soon as I got home. A fantastic book, it will be reviewed soon! Serena's books sounded equally wonderful, but she was not allowed to give too much away- not even the title- but I'm sure it's going to be a brilliant read.
I had to leave after this session, but conference continued with sessions from Holly Smale, a non-fiction panel with Sam Hutchinson and Laura Knowles and finally, Nick Sharratt, before Conference 2019 closed.
It was a lovely weekend! Congratulations to everyone involved in organising it.