Hay Festival

Hay 2019: Jessica Townsend

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One of my ‘Hay highlights’ was seeing Jessica Townsend as she told everyone about the wonderful world of Nevermoor and Morrigan Crow. Her bubbly personality and quick humour made the session full of fun as she told us how she became a writer- and how much she loves her job!

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Telling us that it took her 10 years to write ‘Nevermoor’, Jessica encouraged everyone to keep trying and never give up on their dreams. We were all delighted when she confirmed that ‘Nevermoor’ is going to be a series of nine books, the title of the third to be announced soon.

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Morrigan’s adventures continue in ‘Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow’. Invited to become a member of the Wundrous Society, Morrigan is looking forward to an exciting education as part of Unit 919; however, she soon finds that she is to be taught nothing but the evils of Wundersmiths whilst the rest of her team learn exciting new skills. In addition to this, someone is blackmailing the unit to keep Morrigan’s talent as a Wundersmith secret and with mysterious disappearances taking place, Morrigan finds herself viewed with suspicion and dislike. Will Morrigan be able to control her Wundersmith powers?

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‘Wundersmith’ is every bit as enjoyable as its predecessor. Jessica’s infectious sense of humour permeates her writing and her world-building is second to none. The amazing Hotel Deucalion would be a fabulous place to visit, populated by wonderful characters and Nevermoor is as whimsical as ever. Yet ‘Wundersmith’ also shows the darker side of this magical place and Morrigan’s isolation and treatment at the hands of others is uncomfortable reading. The story moves at a pleasing pace towards its satisfying conclusion. I can’t wait for book three to discover what happens next!

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow Jessica Townsend

Orion ISBN: 978-1510104440

You can read our review of ‘Nevermoor’ here.

Hay 2019: Michelle Paver

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‘The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ are amongst my favourite books and I have fond memories of taking my son to hear Michelle Paver speak as each new book in the series came out. ‘Wolf Brother’, the first book, is one which I regularly use in school. So I was delighted to discover that Michelle Paver was back at Hay - and that there are to be three new books about Torak, Renn and Wolf.

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Michelle explained how she has always been fascinated by the Stone Age and wolves- the perfect mix for writing this series. She takes her research very seriously- going to places which Torak and Wolf inhabited because she wanted to make the reader feel that they were living the adventure. Visiting these remote places has at times been dangerous- she told us of an encounter with a polar bear- but the vivid descriptions and atmosphere created by her writing shows how worthwhile this has been!

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Michelle explained how she thought she had finished Torak and Wolf’s story, but a trip to North Norway gave her inspiration for taking their adventures further. One night as the Northern Lights shone brightly in the sky and then faded to one tree pointing north, she knew where Torak, Renn and Wolf were going next. Taking place two summers after the close of the chronicles when Renn and Torak are seventeen summers old, the first book is to be called ‘The Viper’s Daughter’.

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I can’t wait to read Wolf’s next adventures- and share them with all the children (and adults!) I know who love him as much as I do!

Hay 2019: Joseph Coelho

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Full of enthusiasm and fun, Joseph Coelho’s sessions are always an excellent way of spending time! Driving to the festival, I spotted Poetry Joe, standing on the bridge into Hay, enjoying the view of the river and all its beauty, so when he told us all how he loved nature, it came as no surprise!

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Having grown up in a block of flats in Roehampton, he told us that he was lucky because he was surrounded by nature, places where he and his friends could explore and play. Recognising how well-being, space and nature are linked, he now lives by the sea and continues to enjoy the outdoors. He drew on his memories and experiences when writing his book, ‘A Year of Nature Poems’, combining this with research.

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January’s poem was inspired by a legend of two warring murmurations of starlings. Having read the poem, Joseph then encouraged the audience to explore collective nouns and create their own. Stimulating creativity and valuing each response, those present were soon creating wonderful images as they were asked to combined their ideas and create sentences. The results were so imaginative and surprising!

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February’s frog poem stemmed from Joseph’s memories of gathering frog spawn and watching the tadpoles form in an old fish tank at home before returning the frogs to the wild. He emphasised the importance of leaving frog spawn alone now and not interfering with nature, but celebrated the joy of watching nature transform. Using their own frog-related memories, children from the audience created a collective poem, coming on stage to share their ideas.

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Jellyfish in July, scrumping in August and snow in December each inspired poems, language and playing with words. Everyone left filled with Poetry Joe’s enthusiasm for nature and poetry, each determined to capture the ideas they had created and play with poetry. A magical session from a magical poet!

A review of ‘A Year of Nature Poems’ will follow soon.