Hay 2019: Michelle Paver


‘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.


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!


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’.


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!

Brilliant Bookshop: Button and Bear, Shrewsbury


Today, I walked straight into bookshop heaven! Button and Bear in Shrewsbury is a magical place, dedicated entirely to children’s books- and it should be on everyone’s ‘places I must visit’ list!


This family-owned bookshop offers a fabulous range of book-ish delights from first reading experiences to young adult reads. Light, spacious and welcoming, the shop maximises its space whilst remaining clam and uncluttered.


On the right hand side wall is a wonderfully tempting display of fiction, non-fiction and picture books, begging to be admired and read. It was so easy to browse these and locate many favourites as well as some new treasures.


Small display tables are scattered around the shop, focusing attention on particular authors, illustrators or themes. This one proudly displayed signed copies of Nevermoor and Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend who visited yesterday. There were other signs indicating the shop has a busy author event programme as well- pictures drawn by Chris Riddell and Tony Ross hang proudly on the wall and there were other signed books on offer too.


The shop was made even more special by the wonderfully warm, friendly welcome I received. Every question I asked was answered with great enthusiasm and knowledge. The lady I spoke to (I’m so sorry I didn’t ask her name!) even emailed her mum to ask for suggestions of books I might like to read. They even had a section for wordless picture books- not something I always find!


Whilst we were talking, story time was taking place in the Woodland Room beneath the shop. This lovely area is reached by going down stairs lined with trees- a pushchair park is conveniently located just at the top of the stairs. It is such a delightful space and obviously very well used. Parents and children who were leaving had obviously had a wonderful time and were browsing the books before leaving.


If I ever fulfil my dream of owning a children’s bookshop, it would be one just like this! Button and Bear is just lovely and I will be visiting again soon.

You can find out more on their website.

Hay 2019: Joseph Coelho


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!


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.


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!


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.


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.