Bath Festival

Bath Festival: Emma Carroll

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Last week, I saw Emma Carroll at the Bath Festival, talking about her new book, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’. Where I live would have been completely flooded by this event so I was very keen to hear about her story. Emma’s enthusiasm for writing and storytelling is infectious and everyone really enjoyed the session.

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Fortune Sharp lives in Fair Maidens Lane, a small community of strong women in rural Somerset. When her neighbour, Old Meg, is accused of witchcraft by a rival cheese maker- a man- the outside world starts to show more interest in this little hamlet and tomboyish Fortune and her brother attract attention to themselves by testing a boat that they made on the Sabbath, a day when such a thing is not considered seemly.

To save her daughter, Fortune’s mother sends her away disguised as a boy to search for employment. Ending up a servant at Barrow Hall, Fortune finds herself caught up with an unhappy family, whose father hates witchcraft yet is willing to exploit the fear and suspicion of others to increase the trade in people across the Atlantic. When natural disaster in the form of a tsunami takes place, Fortune survives only to find herself accused of witchcraft, facing imprisonment, torture and trial.

This is a stunning piece of writing, drawing on a little known piece of (for us, local) history and weaving a fascinating tale using this and other social events of the time. Witchcraft was taken very seriously during the reign of James I who had himself written a book on the subject called Daemonologie published in 1597 whilst he was King of Scotland and the famous Bideford witch trials took place in Exeter in 1682, their hangings being one of the last for witchcraft in England.

Fortune is a wonderful character whose individuality and personality made her an easy target for those looking for a scapegoat for their troubles. Those in power used fear and manipulation to create distrust and division in communities, destroying anyone who challenged the status quo. Sadly, it is not hard to draw parallels with events happening today.

Easily Emma Carroll’s best book to date, ‘The Somerset Tsunami’ is a wonderfully atmospheric, action packed novel which is a joy to read. Historical fiction at its best!

The Somerset Tsunami Emma Carroll

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571332816

Bath Festival: Chris Mould

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Today, I went to Bath for the Children’s Literature Festival for a wonderful day of book-ish events. One of these was the wonderful Chris Mould, talking about his beautifully illustrated edition of Ted Hughes’ ‘The Iron Man’.

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Although I read ‘The Iron Man’ when I was little, it was as a teacher that I learned to love this book. It is a joy to read aloud, instantly capturing both the attention and the imagination of a class and in my experience, always inspiring excellent work. This new edition will only enhance the appeal and encourage yet more readers to love this wonderful tale.

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Chris is so inspiring to listen to when he talks about drawing. He gave lots of advice and encouragement to everyone. He talked about ‘constantly making a series of mistakes’ when drawing and enjoying the results. I love using illustration with children to inspire writing and I was fascinated by his saying that he doesn’t see a difference between writing and drawing- both are saying something.

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Chris’s illustrations really breathe life into Ted Hughes’ creation. Each spread is stunning with a mixture of double spread, full page and smaller pictures throughout. The Iron Man is just sinister enough at the beginning and yet it is hard not to feel pity for him when he is lured into the trap. It’s a real joy!

The Iron Man Ted Hughes, illustrated by Chris Mould

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978-0571348862

Kate Pankhurst at the Bath Festival

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Today, lots of fantastically great women, girls, boys and men gathered at the Guildhall to hear the fantastically great Kate Pankhurst talk about her fantastically great books! With their lively illustrations, they are full of information about some of the amazing women who have changed our lives for the better.

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First, Kate told us about some of the wonderful characters in her books- Boudicca, Noor Inayat Khan and Josephine Baker. For each one, she dressed up a willing volunteer from the audience whilst she told us something about them and how she had chosen to illustrate them. There was plenty of audience participation as Kate asked lots of questions and for opinions as she chatted .

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Towards the end of her session, Kate told us about the (distant!) connection which she has to Emmeline Pankhurst. It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm and hear the knowledge which the children in the audience had- much obviously gained from Kate’s books!

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Kate then taught everyone how to draw a suffragette in action, drawing step-by-step. Watching the children near me, this was very successful and thoroughly enjoyed! My favourite bit was when Kate asked everyone to hold their pictures in the air, march them up and down and chant, ‘Votes for Women!’ Just great to see!

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It was a fantastic session, full of fun and learning. I’m off to draw a suffragette or two!

You can read our review of ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Made History’ here.

You can read our reviews of ‘Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World’ here and here.