Authors & Illustrators

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.

Happy birthday, Katie!

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It is 30 years since James Mayhew’s wonderful book, ‘Katie’s Picture Show’ was first published. The perfect introduction to five famous paintings, the book follows Katie as she visits an art gallery with her grandmother. Exhausted by having been spun round in the revolving doors by her granddaughter, Grandma stops in the entrance for a rest whilst Katie sets off to explore. Curious and mischievous, Katie finds she can climb into various works of art and explore them, her bright red coat standing out in each one.

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This book- and Katie’s subsequent adventures- is a wonderful starting point for giving children the confidence to explore art and bringing pictures to life. To the teacher, they are invaluable, but I also enjoyed sharing them with my son when he was little. He was so excited when we found pictures that he recognised from the story on our visits to art galleries.

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Katie has since gone on to enjoy other adventures exploring more fabulous works of art. Grandma continues to enjoy a little snooze whilst Katie discovers the joys of a whole host of pictures. Each of these books offers endless possibilities for fun in the classroom - or at home. Notes are included in each book about the paintings she explores and the artists who created them, and there is a teaching pack available with ideas for using each title (here). Katie also has some other adventures with dinosaurs when she visits the Natural History Museum and exploring London and Scotland.

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We have great plans for celebrating Katie’s birthday next term which include creating large scale copies of some of the pictures in which she has her adventures and then imagining adventures of our own set there as well as finding out about the artists behind them. As Katie and her Grandma also enjoy the occasional sweet treat, we have some tenuously related cooking activities planned too!

Happy birthday, Katie- we look forward to seeing which pictures you visit next- and thank you, Mr Mayhew, for writing such lovely books!

Katie’s Picture Show James Mayhew

Orchard Books ISBN: 978-1408332405

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.