Authors & Illustrators

Bournville Book Fest

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At last year’s Federation of Children’s Book Groups’ Conference, I found myself having breakfast at the same table as a lovely lady, who turned out to be Sarah- the brains behind Bournville Book Fest! Having chatted for a while, I said that if she ever needed an extra pair of hands to let me know. And so, to my delight, she did!

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Having left school earlier than I have ever done before, I made my way up the M5 to Birmingham. Sarah had kindly invited me to dinner with the authors and I was delighted to be able to attend. After a very interesting (!) taxi ride, I arrived at the Bournville Community Hub, a wonderful space, where everyone was gathering.

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It was a lovely gathering with Nick Sharratt, Jacqueline Wilson, James Mayhew and Antonio Reche-Martinez. Sarah made a warm speech, welcoming everyone and the evening was wonderfully relaxed and friendly, full of conversation and laughter. A delicious spread was on offer and the fruit pavlova was unbelievable! (Thank you Sarah’s mum!)

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The following morning, I was up bright and early and made my way to the Blue Coat School where the day’s events were to take place. Everyone was busy, preparing for the day ahead. Bravely ignoring the lure of the bookshop, I helped set things up and before we knew where we were, members of the public were arriving for Jacqueline and Nick’s event.

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A ripple of excitement ran through the audience when children spotted Jacqueline Wilson through the curtain before she came on stage, once again reminding me just why children listening to authors is so powerful and important. There was a lovely atmosphere as the crowd hung on her every word and found out more about her life and her work.

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Nick Sharratt then taught everyone- including Jacqueline- how to draw some of the iconic characters she has created in words and he in images. His step-by-step guidance led to some excellent drawings and inspired many illustrators-to-be!

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Everyone was delighted when they found out that both these lovely people were signing books today. The queue was massive and there were some very moving stories about letters Jacqueline had written to people when they were younger which had inspired them and the effect reading her books has had. It was very heart warming!

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Whilst they were valiantly signing, Tracey Corderoy had taken to the stage next door. Always a joy to watch, Tracey entertained her audience brilliantly with fun and games. Sadly, Steven Lenton was unable to join her as he is poorly (get well soon, Steven!), but Tracey rose to the challenge and taught everyone how to draw Slippery Sam. Excellent fun was had by all!

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It was a pleasure to mingle and chat to those there whilst writing names on Post-Its and directing queues. There was a lovely crowd, very supportive of Sarah’s work and appreciative of the effort she puts into this venture. Local people are very proud of their festival.

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Robin Stevens spoke next, fascinating young sleuths with insights into her work. She had her audience completely captivated and many were obviously ardent admirers who had brought their entire Wells and Wong collection with them to be signed! Whilst signing, Robin patiently answered question after question, inviting children to contact her via her website. One man was visiting from America and was delighted when he noticed that these were the books his daughter was reading back home! He showed me a photo of her, clutching the American editions.

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James Mayhew’s ‘Ella Bella’ event had taken place in another part of the school so I hadn’t had a chance to see him; however, I caught up with him when he came over to take part in the Big Drawing Challenge. This was a fabulous event with lots of children joining the illustrators on stage and working with them to create amazing pictures!

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This was only a fraction of all the wonderful things taking place throughout the day! I completely missed Isabel Thomas talking about her beautiful book, ‘Moth’, the science workshops, the Brambly Hedge stories, the craft activities…

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What a wonderful festival Bournville Book Fest is! Huge congratulations to Sarah and her team for making it happen- and look so easy! The wonderfully warm, friendly atmosphere has not happened by accident- a huge amount of care and preparation have gone into this occasion and that personal touch speaks volumes. Thank you so much for offering me the opportunity to help out today- please ask me back next year!

World Book Day 2019- We're Going on a Bear Hunt

News from another of our schools about how they spent World Book Day. Many thanks to Tracy!

World Book Day 2019  saw our school celebrate the 30th ‘bookaversary’ of the classic and  wonderful ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

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Children and Staff  were encouraged to dress up as their favourite ‘booky’ bear or wear an outfit befitting a Bear Hunt- so our classrooms were  full of intrepid explorers and Paddingtons, Poohs, your average Grizzlies and even a teacher ‘Rupert’ (whose heart broke a little every time a child asked ‘Who is Rupert the Bear?’ Ah, children today have missed out on the charm of Nutwood Forest!)

Our library had transformed into a ‘Bear Hunting’ zone complete with all the obstacles the mighty bear hunters face in the story.

There was grass, a river, mud, forest,snowstorm and cave all created out of junk, blankets, balloons,cushions, camo nets, duvets and our everyday library furnishings. It was made interactive by some adult ‘wafting’  and enthusiasm and of course,the vital ingredient of ‘imagination’- which our small bear hunt participants duly switched on by tweaking their ears before we began.

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In the spirit of the ‘Share a Story’ theme of this years World Book Day, our Bear Hunt was  ‘call and response’ with initial quiet, uncertain voices turning into giant, excited, giggles as we progressed through our hunt -repeating with enthusiasm the familiar refrains and joining in with gusto the necessary ‘Swishy Swashy, Splish Splosh, Squelch Squerch, Stumble Trip, HoooWoo, TipToe’ to accompany our obstacles. The crescendo was of course our ’Bear’. By then our children were so completely absorbed in the story book world that our average ‘Ted’  became our frightening quarry and the ‘quick’ return journey home was quite exhilarating. Our library walls positively shook with the voices and laughter of thrilled little and big bear hunters as they realised they had ‘Forgot to close the door!’ and the smiles and twinkly eyes of the little faces peeking out of covers to announce full heartedly ‘WE’RE NOT GOING ON A BEAR HUNT AGAIN!’ was one of those priceless moments of working with children when you realise, just for an instant, how so very small  and innocent they really are.

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Over 200 KS1 children took part in a Bear Hunt that day and each hunt had something ‘magic’ about it - from the little girls who, dressed as Princesses, lifted skirts to avoid muddy hems in the ‘Mud’ to the boys who ‘swam’ through the wafting ‘river’  and exclaimed that in the ‘snowstorm’ they had ‘Really walked on ice!’ (it IS quite surprising how slippery an uncovered duvet can be!). The day positively flew by! The magic lingers a little still - with the smaller children still viewing our now ordinary Teddy with some trepidation!

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Seeing teachers interact with their pupils  in an imaginary world is not something the curriculum allows on a daily basis so it is lovely that World Book Day exists and that  the amazing ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ could give our pupils and staff that 10 or so minutes of opportunity to make a memory of a happy school day and of course -  feel the power of a really great story!

The incredible Sam Gayton!

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Today we had a wonderful time with the amazing Sam Gayton! Three hundred and sixty something children and adults were completely captivated, enjoying an hour of fun and frolics- and some excellent writing tips. It was a afternoon to remember!

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Starting with an incredible self-introduction that involved bursting out of a cupboard and the children whooping and chanting, ‘Gayton! Gayton!’, Sam somehow managed to settle everyone quickly so that he could share some of his top tips for writing.

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Ask the ‘what if…’ questions, look for the story sparks and remember that play is the highest form of research. With these thoughts, Sam had the children playing games, creating characters and above all, enjoying themselves thinking about writing. He read from his new book, ‘The Last Zoo’, bringing his words vividly to life as he half read, half acted sections of the story.

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The time flew by - and soon Sam was answering questions and signing books. The children were buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm. I have just had parents’ evening and so many of my parents commented on how much their children had enjoyed the event.

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But enough of my thoughts… thoughts from children coming soon!

Many thanks for coming, Sam!

You can read our review of ‘The Last Zoo’ here.