Oxford Literary Festival

Oxford Literary Festival part 2- Martin Brown

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Last week, I went to see Martin Brown at Oxford Literary Festival where he was talking about his new book, Lesser Spotted Animals 2. The first Lesser Spotted Animals was our 2017 Information Category winner, a wonderful book which uses humour and empathy to introduce the reader to animals - many endangered- which are less well known than perhaps they should be. It is a fascinating book being very successfully used for guided reading in addition to being a fabulous book for the library.

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Martin’s session was wonderful. His brilliant sense of humour instantly engaged the audience as he skilfully introduced us to some fabulous creatures: the black and rufous sengi- also known as the black and rufous elephant shrew, for example and Blainville’s beaked whale for another. Martin explained that although he could have used photographs or made very realistic drawings for his books, he decided to use the cartoon style of illustration so that he could adopt a more light-hearted approach.

Martin set out to convince the audience that anyone can draw- that no one is born playing the piano or able to do maths. These are skills that are learned and developed just as drawing can be. He then set about engaging everyone in making suggestions and showing how a face can be built with different features and showing different expressions.

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This second book introduces more wildlife we rarely get to hear about, making the argument that we can’t help any creature- endangered or not- if we don’t even know of its existence. In Martin’s very chatty and accessible style, the plight of each creature introduced is shared with the reader as well as fascinating facts about them and where they live. Although humour is successfully used, Martin does not shy away from conveying the danger many of these creatures are in. When talking about the grey slender loris, for example, he ends with the words ‘The problem is, us big primates are not going away.’

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Every bit as enjoyable as the first book, ‘Lesser Spotted Animals 2’ is as entertaining as it is fascinating. Bravo, Mr Brown- another triumph!

Lesser Spotted Animals 2 Martin Brown

David Fickling Books ISBN:978-1788450393

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You can read our review of Lesser Spotted Animals here.

Oxford Literary Festival 2019

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Today, I enjoyed the beautiful spring sunshine in Oxford for the festival. Last year, I drove through snow to get here; this year, it was fog, but by the time I arrived it was a lovely day.

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I spent some very happy time in Blackwell’s which I absolutely adore. No book was left unturned in my quest to add to the amazing selection of suggestions we already have for this year’s awards. The staff were so lovely and friendly and the time flew by!

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My first event was at St Cross College where David Fickling, Dan Freedman and Candy Gourlay were discussing what makes a great children’s book. The setting was lovely- the college courtyard looking beautiful in the sunshine.

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David Fickling is one of the most inspirational, enthusiastic people I think I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. His passion for good stories and his pride in his ‘village’ of a publishing house was infectious and no one could doubt the warmth and mutual respect between him and his authors.

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Dan Freedman explained how he had never really seen the point of writing until he realised that he could make a career of watching sport and writing about it as a sport journalist. The led eventually to his writing his Jamie Johnson books, a hugely popular football based series. He then spoke about his new book, published by David Fickling, called ‘Unstoppable’. Focusing on twins with very different sporting dreams , it is a gripping read which follows the many obstacles and complications which they face. Dan read two short extracts, one focusing on each twin. ‘Unstoppable’ will be reviewed very soon.

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Candy Gourlay was completely captivating as she spoke about her childhood in the Philippines and how she came to reading and then to writing. Her latest novel, ‘Bone Talk’ has just been shortlisted for the Carnegie award and she explained how she had come to write about the Bontoc people and the American invasion of the Philippines. Candy was fascinating to listen to and ‘Bone Talk’ is a must read which I reviewed for Reading Zone a while ago. I will post my review here soon.

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It was a fascinating session for everyone!

Unstoppable Dan Freedman

David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1788450492

Bone Talk Candy Gourlay

David Fickling Books ISBN: 978-1788450188

Oxford Festival: Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton

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Today, I drove through the snow to Oxford for the Literary Festival. Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton were at the Story Museum for a session of brilliant fun and stories about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam.

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These former crooks obviously had a very dedicated following in the audience and everyone loved Tracey's re-telling of the original picture book. This fabulous story was our first Picture Book Category winner and is a huge favourite in our schools.

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Steven then taught us to draw Sam in his chef's outfit. Under his expert tuition, amazing pictures were drawn by adults and children alike. 

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Next, the audience was split into two groups to play an interactive board game. Half the audience were supporting Shifty with Steven (who had the lovely Sophy Henn on his side!) while Tracey and Sam led my side. Lots of cheering and great tension followed as the die rolled and the red and blue vans made their way round the board. Great fun!

Whenever I see Tracey and Steven in action, I am always so impressed by the amount of thought and effort they put into their sessions. Their manner with children is really lovely and Tracey's storytelling skills are second to none! Brilliant books- brilliant session! A wonderful way to spend a snowy Saturday afternoon!