Bookshelf Special Days

South Ken Kids Festival


Yesterday, I went to the South Ken Kids Festival for a wonderful day of book-ish delights! There was an amazing atmosphere at the Institut Francais and it was a wonderful opportunity to see some illustrators and authors I had never seen before. It was also fantastic to hear so many different languages being spoken!


Due to issues on the track, GWR didn’t get me to London in time for my first event. However, this meant that I had plenty of time to browse the wonderful bookshop which ‘Tales on Moon Lane’ had set up in the foyer of the Institute. Plenty of treats on offer!


I was delighted to meet Kris Di Giacomo, illustrator of ‘Take Away the A’ (reviewed here) and ‘Enormous Smallness’ (review here), both books which have been on our awards lists in previous years. Although I had missed her session, it had obviously been great fun as there were many happy children milling around! Signing at the same time was David Litchfield, I saw David at last year’s Cheltenham Festival (read about it here) and so knew what a lovely session the children who had seen him had had! You can read our review of ‘The Bear and The Piano’ here. I was delighted to get my copy of ‘The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle’ signed by David who very kindly drew a bear in my book.


The ‘Live Drawing’ workshop with Axel Scheffler, Tor Freeman and Ronan Badel was a wonderfully chaotic, mad session with these incredibly talented individuals drawing whatever the audience suggested. This was in a mixture of English and French and the suggestions came thick and fast, ranging from imaginative to wildly creative! It was incredible to see the illustrators working together and responding to the children’s requests!


Having just bought a copy of ‘Drawing Europe Together’, I was delighted to be able to ask Axel Scheffler to sign it for me. I have seen him speak so many times over the years and we still treasure all the books that he signed for my son when he was little. You can read our review of ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ which Axel illustrated here. Tor Freeman also signed the illustration she has contributed to the book which is a treasure trove of artistic delights! She was lovely, chatting warmly with everyone and showing a real interest in the children she spoke to.


Ronan Badel completely stunned me when he drew an absolute masterpiece in each of my books as he signed them!


I am constantly in awe of people who have such fabulous artistic skill and could have watched him work for hours! He made my day!


My next event was Victor Dixen and Philip Reeve talking about their work for the YA sector. This was a fascinating session which I really enjoyed. I am constantly ashamed by my mediocre ability to speak another language and listening to Victor Dixen speak English, slip into French to answer questions and then translate those questions was quite amazing. I MUST try harder!


Both read from their books. I finished ‘Ascension’ last night on the train home and really enjoyed it so will be reviewing it soon. Philip’s books are always a great read and I loved ‘Rail Head’. More to come on this session soon.


Whilst waiting for my next event, I was delighted to bump into the wonderful Sarah McIntyre and quickly asked her to sign he picture in my ‘Drawing Europe Together’. It was so lovely to have a chat with her before she whisked Philip Reeve off for dinner. You can read our reviews of Jinks and O’Hare here and The Legend of Kevin here . You can read our review of ‘The New Neighbours’ here.


My day finished with having books signed by Charlotte Gastaut and Aurelia Fronty. Once again, I was treated to lovely illustrations in each of my books which I was thrilled by! I can’t wait to show my class each one!


I had the best day and wish I could have returned today! Never mind- next year definitely!

Tracey Corderoy at Cheltenham Festival


Today, we went to the Cheltenham Festival- it was wet and windy, but it was worth it! Being great fans of the Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam books, we were delighted to see that she had written a book for older children- ‘The Pony with No Name’. Having read this and thoroughly enjoyed it, we were keen to hear what Tracey had to say about her new story.


Using pictures as a backdrop, Tracey read the section of the story where Bryony (her main character) first sees her new bedroom in the house her family are moving to. Beautifully expressive, it was a real pleasure to listen to her read; there was not a sound from the audience!


Having set the scene, Tracey told us about the similarities between her and Bryony and how these shaped the story. Living in South Wales, Tracey grew up neat the beach and sadly, her father died when she was a little girl. Both of these things appear as part of Bryony’s story. Tracey also told us about how she had longed for a dog or a cat as a child and how her mother said no- a fish, yes; a budgie, yes- but it was only when a kitten ‘followed’ her home that her mother let her keep it! Bryony has a cat called Blueberry Muffin and loves riding. So that she could write convincingly about this, Tracey went to her local riding stables and had a lesson which she showed us a film of. Such dedication to her art!


Tracey’s sessions are always beautifully prepared and full of fun. Everyone made a colourful rosette to celebrate the story and then there was a horse-y quiz- which by some miracle we scored full marks on!!


This was a lovely session- listening to Tracey read is reason enough to go and see her. ‘The Pony with No Name’ is a delightful story and I look forward to reading more books in the series.

You can read our review of ‘The Pony With No Name’ here.

Apologies for the photos- the lighting was not the best!

Happy birthday, Paddington Bear!


First published 60 years ago today, Paddington Bear is a well-known and much loved figure created by Michael Bond.

Originally, Paddington was a bear from Africa; however, his agent pointed out that the African Atlas Bear had been extinct for many years so his birthplace was changed to Peru and he became an Andean- or Spectacled- Bear. South America’s only species of bear, sadly the Andean Bear’s IUCN status is vulunerable with population trends decreasing.


In October 2015, I was lucky enough to visit Seven Stories in Newcastle for their ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ exhibition which celebrated the way many different artists have portrayed this iconic character over the past six decades. It was fascinating to see how different illustrators had shaped his character over the years.


When it was first published in hardback on the 13th October 1958, ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ was illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. She went on to illustrate all the novels in the series.


Fred Banbury then illustrated a series of books about Paddington which Michael Bond started to write in 1972. These offered more detailed pictures of Paddington than the original line drawings by Penny Fortnam.


Ivor Wood created a cartoon style Paddington for the London Evening News and was also responsible for the animated television series where a three dimensional Paddington appeared with two dimensional coloured cut outs of the other characters.


In the 1980s, David McKee illustrated a new series of Paddington books for younger readers and from the 90s, R W Alley has been Paddingron’s illustrator.

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More recently, Paddington has starred in two films, cementing his place in he hearts of the next generation.


Yesterday, Book Group decided to celebrate the occasion by reading some of ‘A Bear Called Paddington’ and then making Paddington biscuits! This got very sticky- almost marmalade level- but the children had great fun. Next time, we need to work out a way of making an edible hat!


Next week, there will be a Paddington quiz in the library for everyone to enjoy! This wonderful bear and his stories will continue to bring pleasure to everyone. Many teachers owe their ‘teacher look’ to his ‘hard stare’ and once read, his stories are not easily forgotten. Here’s to his next 60 years!


“Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”