Author Visit

Will Mabbitt

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Today and yesterday, four of our schools were lucky enough to have visits from Will Mabbitt. At my school, he visited this morning and children have been stopping me all afternoon, telling me how funny he was and how much they love his books. Teachers were also captivated by him, calling him ‘inspirational’, ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’. But we were not the only school that was so impressed…

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This account is from another of our schools who also enjoyed his visit.

Our school positively rocked with excitement this afternoon as we welcomed the marvellous, Will Mabbitt, to talk to our children.

Will was both very funny and extremely inspirational - holding the children in the palm of his hand as he told our audience about where he gets his ideas for his books and how he develops them into stories. The idea of basing your characters on your friends saw some of our collective smaller people turn and look at their classmates - already assessing their potential in stories of the future.

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Will’s message that it is ‘OK to make mistakes’ was particularly encouraging and the revelation that he had made over 5000 when writing his first book, ‘The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones’, was greeted with gasps and a few astonished ‘No Ways!’. In a world where the pressure to be immediately perfect is so intense, an established, successful author honestly admitting his struggles with spelling and telling his young audience not to worry about correcting and improving was a rocket to their self esteem.

The session was jam packed with audience interaction- our pupils loved playing the observation game where they had to spot different things in a picture of a rather cluttered writing desk and decide from the objects what the owner may be like. The revelation that  it belonged to Will caused much amusement and when he awarded them a ‘gazillion’ points for their beady eyes the resulting celebration nearly took the roof off!

The session ended with Will reading from his hilarious picture book ‘I Can Only Draw Worms’ - which was hugely enjoyed by everyone -especially the staff!

Lots of our pupils bought copies of Will's books  from the pop up bookshop provided by ‘Books on the Hill’. Both 'Embassy of the Dead' and 'Embassy of the Dead:Hangman's Crossing'( Books 1 and 2 in Will’s new series) were on offer - and every child got their book signed by Will in our library.

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Will took time to talk to every child, asking them a question or writing something unique to them in their book - he made every child he met feel special and those books will be treasured forever. 

It has been an absolute joy hearing all the positive comments from our children about the  author visit! Lots of them couldn’t wait to start reading their new books; others could wait to start writing theirs! Those super fast readers  who had already read a couple of chapters before home time were heard saying ‘It’s proper creepy’ and ‘This might be the best book I’ve ever read!’

Will Mabbit has set off a real book buzz in our school - long may it continue!

Embassy of the Dead: Hangman’s Crossing Will Mabbitt, illustrated by Chris Mould

Orion Children’s ISBN: 978-1510104570

Thank you so much to Will for coming and inspiring so many children! Thank you also to Dom for bringing him and to Books on the Hill for the book sales.

You can read about our last visit from Will here.






Catherine Bruton

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There was great excitement at school this afternoon as Catherine Bruton, author of the wonderful ‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’, came to talk to our Y5 and 6 children.

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Speaking of her love of ballet, Catherine told us about the books she enjoyed reading as a child- ‘Ballet Shoes’, ‘The Swish of the Curtain’ and ‘A Dream of Sadlers Wells’- and then those her mother gave her to broaden her reading- ‘The Silver Sword’, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’. Catherine also spoke about having heard Judith Kerr speak at the Bath Festival, particularly poignant given today’s sad news.

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Catherine explained how as a writer she wanted to make sure the the details she included about Aya’s life were accurate so she visited Bath Welcomes Refugees and other organisations which support refugees where she shared her work, taking advice about changes which needed to be made. Sharing a section from her book, she made the characters laugh and dance in front of our eyes as she used accents, gesture and enthusiasm for her reading. It was a real joy to hear her!

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She then made us all ‘warm up our writing muscles’ by writing from a sentence starter which she gave us. Catherine called out objects for the children to include in their writing and they rose to the occasion with enthusiasm. When asked who would like to share their ideas, hands flew up and some wonderful pieces were read for all to enjoy. Catherine talked about how to link an object to a time, place or person and once again, set us all off to our writing. And once again, the results were inspiring.

Catherine patiently answered the many questions showered on her by the children’s curiosity and enthusiasm. Her manner was delightful and her enthusiasm infectious. Adults and children were inspired by her talk and was lovely to hear so many conversations about her as the children went out afterwards to do their daily mile.

‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ is a wonderful. moving story which I can’t recommend highly enough. And having met the author, I can’t recommend her highly enough either! A huge thank you to Catherine for her visit with us today and for her visit to another of our schools tomorrow.

You can read our review of ‘No Ballet Shoes in Syria’ here.

Jess Butterworth

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This week, four of our schools were lucky enough to have a visit from the very inspiring Jess Butterworth. Last year, Jess came to talk to us about her debut novel, ‘Running on the Roof of the World’ so we were delighted when she agreed to come back and tell us all about her latest book, ‘Swimming Against the Storm’.

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Set in a small fishing village on the coast of Louisiana, ‘Swimming against the Storm’ is the story of twelve-year-old Eliza and her family. Eliza enjoys a wonderfully close relationship with her younger sister, Avery, and together they explore the unique, fascinating wetlands that surround their home. However, the water levels are rising, threatening their home and their way of life. Determined to save the place they love so well, the girls launch a search for the legendary ‘loup-garou’ , sure that if they can prove it exists the government will take steps to save their home. When Avery goes missing in the swamps and a storm rushes in, Eliza has more to save than she ever expected.

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Full of evocative images, ‘Swimming Against the Storm’ beautifully captures a young girl’s passion for the world she knows and the lifestyle she loves. The unpredictable weather, the dangers of the wildlife, the threats posed by the rising water levels- all these things are captured in this exciting adventure story.

With strong environmental themes, warm relationships and excitement a-plenty, ‘Swimming Against the Storm’ is, quite simply, a brilliant read.

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Jess spoke about the amazing experiences she has had growing up which have inspired her writing and the children- and adults- were completely fascinated. She was so inspiring, offering some really useful writing tips and suggestions. The children asked so many questions which Jess answered with great patience! She read a section from ‘Swimming Against the Storm’, using props to help bring the story to life.

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The other schools Jess visited were every bit as impressed as we were. Here are some of the comments I’ve had:

I just wanted to say how wonderful the response was from my year 5/6 colleagues after Jess Butterworth's visit yesterday morning. In particular, they said the students had been really inspired by Jess talking about the drafting and editing process and were desperate to write their own stories after the visit. Thank you so much

She (Jess) has inspired them (the children) … we spent a lot of time talking about her stories…

The feedback from Jess’s visit was so positive. The children were really engaged and loved it…

My class were so excited to hear her speak and thought she was wonderful. They were so excited to meet the author of ‘When the Mountains Roared’ and hear about what inspired her to write it…

One of my class simply said, ‘She’s lovely, isn’t she?’ which I think says it all!

Many thanks to Jess for coming to see us again and to Dom for coming too. Thank you to Alistair from Books on the Hill for arranging book sales for us again.

Swimming Against the Storm Jess Butterworth, illustrated by Rob Biddulph

Orion ISBN: 978-1510105485

You can read out review of ‘Running on the Roof of the World’ here.