Monday, 21 March 2011

Emma Dodd at Bookfeast Schools Festival 2011

It was an inspired move to stage the Bookfeast Schools Festival in museums and galleries in and around Oxford as yesterday, Emma Dodd presented her A Roman Rescue book to an eager and excited group of school children - who not only got to meet a real live author but then went on a treasure hunt around the fabulous museums. My school days were never like this.

We were in the gallery in the Pitt Rivers Museum - a smallish, darkish wonderland of amazing artefacts collected over the years by those Victorians who went off with a knapsack (apparently its not the done thing to ask about the shrunken heads) and gathered stuff. All around us were cabinets of curiosities, huge totem poles, canoes hanging from the ceiling...

I did feel very proud of myself in getting Emma to the Museum dead on 9am as requested - driving from Guildford to Oxford in foggy conditions wasn't wonderful but we did it.

Her first event was at 9.45am and year 3 from Manor Primary School arrived in their smart blue blazers. After listening to Emma explain how she did her graphic novel, they set about creating their own storylines using Little Red Riding Hood meeting the wolf dressed as grandma. Again, their creativity was wonderful - and as a special treat for them all, Emma drew lots of pictures of their pets, ending up with a drawing of her own dog, Bart.

After a quick whizz around The Ashmoleum Museum, we were back for our second session - same as above - but this time with a slightly older year group from St Ebbe's Primary School - who once again, wowed us with their creative writing and drawing.

A lovely day with lots of good feedback from teachers and Blackwell's who were very impressed with A Roman Rescue and definitely looking forward to the Egyptians.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Emma Dodd and Thomas Docherty at the Discover Children's Story Centre

It feels like we haven't seen Jayne for ages! She was out and about last week with Simon Bartram and Emma Dodd and on Sunday (6th March) she spent the day with Emma again as well as picture book creator Thomas Docherty at the Discover Centre in Stratford. She has been keeping in touch with her blogs, however, and here is what happened over the weekend.

The Big Write is a festival of children's literature run by the Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford, east London, during March. On Sunday, two Templar authors and illustrators, Emma Dodd and Thomas Docherty told stories, drew wonderful pictures and charmed the children and their parents.

Thomas had a storytelling event and picture drawing workshop and even the tiniest tot joined in. His wife, Helen and two children Lucia and Bethan came along too and joined in with the others. Thomas put a huge piece of card on the floor and asked all the children to help him draw a magical playground - and they did! Wonderful imaginative work by all. I do hope this picture goes up on the wall alongside all the others.

Emma's audience once again enthusiastically joined in with all the animal noises for her Miaow Said the Cow reading and their drawings too were lovely.

Thanks to all at Discover for making us so welcome and to all those who came along for joining in and making it such a fun time.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Simon Bartram's South of Newcastle Tour

Day 5: Lewes Old Grammar Junior School

Friday morning - the last day of the tour and I think Simon was feeling a little weary by now as we had an early start in order to get to Lewes by Sue Giles who organised our visit to Lewes Old Grammar Junior School had invited Simon to their school a few years ago, so she knew what to expect - and laid on cakes and mugs of tea. Wonderful.

Tiny little reception age children filed into the hall - whilst a few parents joined in at the back. Quite nice for Simon to have a gentle beginning to the day especially as the next session was with the very grown-up older juniors. They were hilarious with lots of backchat and when Simon said he couldn't see any aliens, one shouted out "You should've gone to Specsavers!" and we all fell about.

A quick pub lunch - we were in Lewes, home to Harveys beer after all - and back into school for the last session with a lovely group of 7 and 8 year olds, who of course, loved all Simon's dodgy jokes. More tea and cakes and Anna from Bags of Books set up shop. Interestingly, she sold quite a few Watch Out For Sprouts! and one boy said he could recite The Dog Ate my Homework off by heart as it was his favourite. A photographer from the local paper rushed in, took a few pics and rushed off again.

Back to Bags of Books shop in the town for a final reading of Bob's Best Ever Friend to children and parents. So pleased to see this terrific shop still doing great business - and obvious fans of Templar books as they were everywhere - including our new fiction in the teen section.

And there ended Simon's tour 'south of Newcastle' - it was a pleasure to see yet again the response to his books and the huge warmth children, parents and booksellers feel towards him. Thanks Simon - we had fun, met lots of lovely people - and now its back to that shed, to bring us another wonderful picture book. We can't wait!

Simon Bartram's South of Newcastle Tour Day 4

Day 4: Stanford Infant School and West Hove Junior School, Brighton

For World Book Day on Thursday, Simon headed down from London to Brighton and first stop was Stanford Infant School. An alien in underpants met us at reception, and a Shirley Bassey bird took us into the hall. Strange things going on here - we know Brighton has a bit of name for itself but these characters were definitely a little bit different. And they were just the teachers! Inside the hall were over 250 children, all dressed up as their favourite book characters - and it was great to see a fair few astronauts and aliens lurking amongst the Where's Wally's, Alice in Wonderlands and Harry Potters.

After Simon's wonderful and energetic event, the children sang us a lovely song all about opening up a book and seeing what's inside. Very touching and I think the first time we've been sung to.

Vanessa from The Book Nook in Hove was on hand to help with the book sales as Simon and I looked through some project work on Bob Man on the Moon. I loved the DT work around the patterns on Bob's tank top. There were poems and drawings and even a playground installation. Brilliant work Standford Infants.

Then it was off to West Hove Junior School, where their theme was Shakespeare - so a rather loose connection with astronauts and aliens, but no one seemed to mind. A rather fetching trio of witches met us in reception and we found ourselves in front of another 250 children. Once again their shouts and laughter raised the roof and Simon stayed on to meet parents and talk to the children about his work. They were all so excited with the news of another picture book to look forward to.

Vanessa whisked us back to her charming little bookshop in Hove and Simon valiently read his book to a noisy crowd of children and parents. Prizes were given out to the best dressed aliens (I especially liked the little tinfoil with green spots one) and we said our goodbyes.

Thanks so much Brighton and Book Nook for making our World Book Day so much fun.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Simon Bartram's South of Newcastle Tour Day 3

Day 3: Corpus Christi School, Brixton

Jayne has taken a break from the Simon Bartram Tour to spend the day with Emma Dodd at Danes Hill School in Oxshott - the winners of a picture book competition run by ReadingZone. So, she's handed over to the lovely Becky who has taken some great snaps of Simon's day with the pupils of Corpus Christi School in Brixton.

Here's what Becky had to say:

Simon Bartram presented three (Nursery & Reception/Year 1/Year 2) incredibly lively Bob sessions at the Corpus Christi School yesterday, my ears are only just recovering!! He was on FIRE and the children loved it! I was incredibly impressed with the school, the children were so polite and well behaved.

A big thanks to the pupils and staff at Corpus Christi School for a great day!

Simon Bartram's South of Newcastle Tour Day 2

Day 2: St Francis School, Peckham

Day Two - sounds a bit Big Brother, especially with Simon's Geordie accent - but what a day. Once again, road works foiled my satnav so I arrived at St Francis School in Peckham, South London just as Simon had finished reading Man on the Moon to the reception class. He said some of them were about 3 years old but all sat and listened as quiet as mice.

The hall had been decorated with a huge moon painting done by the children with lots of rockets and space stuff all over it. It looked really good.

If the reception class were quiet and a little over-awed by this strange man reading them a story, then Year 1 and Year 2 (around 150 children in all) soon put paid to that. The noise levels and the unbelievable enthusiasm by them for all things Bob was fantastic. We agreed that this class was one of the best we have come across. They clearly adored the book which they had been working on before half term, and one boy came forward with his rocket model, with his drawing of Bob and himself in the 'cockpit'.

After a quick cup of tea, in marched the next set of year groups, 3 and 4 - this time wearing space inspired hats, which they waved around and whooped and cheered all the way through. Another terrific response to Simon - who I think is going to expect this level of audience participation all the time now.

We decided to bunk off from the staff room and school dinner and went out to look for lunch - rather a change from Dulwich village where we were yesterday, with its smart shops and delicatessens. High rise flats and boarded up shops - but we found a greasy spoon and Simon had sausage and mash (with gravy - £3.50) and I had omelette and chips. No sauce.

The afternoon session was with the 10 and 11 year olds, who insisted they weren't too old for a story, which Simon incorporated with his chat about becoming an illustrator. They really liked his comment that in this busy world they should keep a little quiet space in their brains, as "ideas are like little birds trying to find somewhere to land".

We had a Q&A session afterwards with questions such as "what feelings occur to you when you are writing" (happy); "what would you like to have been if not an illustrator?" (footballer) and "who helped you at school?" (wonderful art teacher, Mrs Scott).

Tales on Moon Lane set up a bookstall in the school hall, and we were mobbed. Amazing - sold out of Bob's Best Ever Friend and made a serious dent in the rest of the stock. Delighted with the response and so nice to meet the parents, all keen to meet and talk to Simon and have their children's photo's taken with him.

What a brilliant school and so much admiration for the teachers who have obviously inspired their classes. Huge thanks to Jilly and Danielle, the literacy co-ordinators for all their work.

As a special treat I had promised Simon we would go to the Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. We rushed in (last entry at 4.30) at about 4.45 and I pleaded with the receptionist to let us in - which they very kindly did and we savoured the extraodinary artwork of this American painter. Really inspired Simon - and it was great for me to have a personal guide to someone who's work I have only ever seen on those iconic front covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Really recommended and on until end of March.

That evening saw us in the Angels and Gypsies tapas restaurant in Camberwell (a wonderful place, thoroughly recommended), where around 10 booksellers, librarians and literacy co-ordinators came together for a lovely meal and lots of good chat. Most had not met Simon before, so it was a great opportunity for them all - even if one was an Arsenal supporter (Sunderland are playing the Gunners on Saturday).

A weary late night journey home, but what a great day... I hand over the Bartram baton to the lovely Becky, who's out and about with Simon in Brixton for his next day of events.

I'll be with Emma Dodd in Surrey... but that's a whole new story.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Simon Bartram's South of Newcastle Tour Day 1

Day 1: Dulwich Hamlet Junior School

Simon and Bob have blasted off on their adventures south of Newcastle with their first stop at Dulwich Hamlet Junior School. Templar's Press Officer, Jayne Roscoe, reports back on the day's events...

In the beginning: Please can we have Simon Bartram visit our school - the children would just love it and he's fantastic. The pleadings of two head teachers I met at a seminar (back in the autumn last year) that Simon had just done for teachers on his books featuring Bob, Man on the Moon. And so began the planning for this week in March, which would take in three days in south London schools and two days in Sussex schools. As Simon lives in the north east, it makes sense to tempt him out of the shed with the promise of several school dinners in a row.

A cold and wet Monday morning and we rendevous at Dulwich Hamlet Junior School at about 9 am - well, Simon got there before me as I didn't listen to my satnav and found myself up a cul-de-sac with the school on the other side of the roadworks. Still it was quite nice gazing into the chi chi shops whilst waiting for the green light.

He kicked off with the year 3's. Sweet lovely children who when asked what pets they had, one insisted he had a camel. They also had a great idea to give Barry, the alien dog, a call sign of brrrrrbrrrrrbronngg whenever they saw him, rather than the traditional woof woof.

A five minute break and the year 5's came into the hall. Slightly bigger and with a little more attitude. Simon re-adjusted his talk to include more about his drawing process and they all loved seeing his sketch book and the different stages of how he constructs a painting. After another short break, the year 5's were replaced by the year 4's, who were determined to out-shout the rest of the classes. Their roars when aliens were spotted practically deafened us all and they shrieked with laughter at their own silliness. Simon was being pretty silly too and that just added to the general mayhem and noise.

Now time for lunch and off we went to queue jump the dinner line up - there are some perks to being with an illustrator. Rice and 'mixture' was the order of the day and after ducking and diving back across the playground, we found the staff room where peace and quiet reigned. Most of the staff were catching up on their half term news, which gave us a time to relax.

For the last session we had the top year group, the year 6's. Very smart and sophisticated and for them the funniest thing was Simon's accent. Soon, however, they were all with him, booing and hissing at the dog catcher, barking when Barry came into view and when Simon said he got the idea for Bob's Best Ever Friend from his own situation, i.e. man in shed on his own most the day - one young person wise-cracked, Why didn't you get a guinea pig if you were lonely? No answer to that really.

With all the class events over, Leah from Tales on Moon Lane set up shop in the school hall and as we waited for the parents and children to come and get their books, Ruby and Maame, both aged 10, interviewed Simon for their school newspaper. Quizzing him about his own school days and his favourite books amongst other things, the two intrepid reporters wrote copious notes for their article.

Unfortunately, Mrs Case, the headteacher who had originally asked Simon to visit was in a staff meeting as we left, so we weren't able to say a personal thank you for a great day and to all the children at Dulwich Hamlet Junior School - there are no such things as aliens!