Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Pony Olympics at Ardingly

Ardingly School in West Sussex were celebrating the Olympics in a big way on Monday.  Arriving at the school with Belinda Rapley (author of The Pony Detectives) we were met with an amazing spectacle of all of the Junior school out on the front lawns, all in costumes depicting the various countries competing this year.  There were fencing displays, acrobatics and all the children got into an Olympic rings formation for the main photo.

Belinda had been invited to the school by Victoria Tolworthy, the librarian, as Belinda's showjumping skills and new series of pony books were just the ticket for the girls at the school who are in the main, pony mad.

For the older year groups, Years 5&6 Belinda concentrated on her writing and idea's processes and the girls were very interested in her top tips on how to become a writer.  Belinda's photo's of her horses and the yard along with descriptions of the four girls in her books were really interesting and provoked lots of questions.

With the younger age groups Belinda had devised a really fun activity - she had made some jumps (not quite the Fratton Cup Course for the purists) and we got the girls into groups and timed them jumping over the fences.  They loved it! 

And then the winning teams came up for the medal ceremony to receive their gold winners medals.

When it came to the Year 3's -  (still in their national costumes)  they burst into the national anthem to add a note of authenticity to the occasion - much to the surprise of a passing teacher.

Belinda has promised to bring in a pony next time she visits Ardingly ....

Thanks to Victoria and colleagues for a great day - and of course to the girls and boys at Ardingly.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Librarians welcome Templar

All three librarian groups, the YLG, SLG and SLA came together over the weekend of 9th and 10th June for what I called a Mega Mash-Up.   Over 300 librarians from schools, colleges and the public sector spent an enjoyable weekend at a conference venue in Old Windsor.

Templar's stand, as ever, caught everyone's attention with lots of comments on our new fiction list - which Helen Boyle was ready to expand on and introduce them to new titles for next year.  The picture books looked really strong and again, lots of ooohing and aaaahing over the titles.

Templar sponsored the Grand Opening of the Exhibition with glasses of bubbly for everyone and Mandy giving one of her wonderful exhortations on the wonder and power of books - urging everyone to get out there and sniff a book!

Katherine, Simon and Mandy
Up early the next morning Katherine Roberts, chaired by Helen Boyle, gave a spirited talk about her work and how much she loves her new characters in the Pendragon series.  She is clearly loved by the librarians who understand exactly what she means about inspiring children with legends and history mixed together.   All the delegates left with a special 'magic' Arthurian bead to guide them through the day.

After coffee, it was Simon Bartram's turn to describe a day in the life of an illustrator - or rather, what goes on in his shed when he's creating a picture book.  Alongside Simon was David Macintosh, an illustrator who works entirely digitally - so a really interesting session on the style and practice of each of them.

Back to the stand where Helen and I continued to talk to delegates, show them blads of new books and hand out reading copies.  Glad to say most of those found a good home.

Templar - after the reception - not all drunk by us!

All in all, a successful conference and once again, lots of compliments to Templar!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

HAYFEVER - stuck in the mud ... almost!

The Templar team turned out in force for this year's Hay Festival in the lovely town of Hay-on-Wye on the border of Wales and Hereford.  In the car with me (Jayne) this year were Emma Dodd and Kelly Gerrard - full of energy and wise-cracks and tucking into the Haribo emergency snacks, we made good time on Bank Holiday Tuesday.

Up bright and early on Wednesday morning - despite a low mist, there was none of the rain which had deluged down over the weekend before.   The Charlie and Bandit team were already in the Green Room and sampling coffee and cakes before their 11.30 am event - a graphic novel workshop.  Despite being in the Digital Tent, which had raked seating all the children and their parents (including Mariella Frostrupp and her brood) got down to some great drawing.
Emma and Kelly signing tent

A little later that afternoon the call went out for illustrators to help Korky Paul with his massive illustration marking 25 years of Winnie the Witch.  Emma and Kelly duly obliged!

Around lunch time a clutch of Duddles arrived and very excited they were too.  And that's just the children ....  Jonny's event that afternoon was a sell-out with around three quarters of the audience dressed as pirates.  Lots of ooo aaargh's in true pirate style accompanied Jonny's reading - and as ever, his roughly drawn pirate drew lots of laughs.


In the signing tent, Jonny had a dedicated helper - his daughter Daisy - giving out postcards to the children with books.

Harriet Castor and family had also arrived on Wednesday afternoon and were making the most of their first visit to the Festival.

Thursday was Emma's birthday and she celebrated with a glass of bubbly and not many 'bumps'.  Harriet's event was with William Osborne, who turned up in true Hay fashion (i.e. large black wellies).  It was tipping it down by now.  Again, a terrific audience - great questions and lots of interest in the Tudors and William's setting of Nazi Germany.

Harriet also had a little helper at the signing - her daughter Maud and a great job done by her too.

Setting off late Thursday afternoon - slight worry about getting the car out of the mud, weighed down as it was with crates of wine for the talent (Emma and Kelly) - we made it home safely.

Thanks again to Sophie and Rhodri for their great teamwork and another terrific Hay Fever programme.

Edward Lear competition winner

A whole month has passed since Mr Lear's birthday, which means it is time for us to announce the winner!

Huge congratulations to Claudia Everest who sent us this beautiful drawing:

Your copy of The Owl and The Pussycat  illustrated and signed by Robert Ingpen is making its way to you in the post!

View more of Claudia's work here: https://www.facebook.com/idrawdogs
Thank you to all our entrants, keep your eyes peeled for more opportunities to win some great prizes!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A quick Q&A with Thomas Docherty

 Author and illustrator Thomas Docherty answers our questions in a quick fire Q&A.
 His newest picture book, Wash-a-Bye-Bear is out June 2012.

 One of your books, Ruby Nettleship has been selected for the Summer Reading Challenge this year, congratulations! How does it make you feel?

It’s a wonderful feeling to think of all the children who will be reading my story and enjoying the pictures this summer. The book has a very positive, inclusive message, as well as being a lot of fun and I’m proud that the libraries have picked up on it and decided to include it in the challenge. I’m very fond of the story in particular as a lot of it was inspired by the area where I live and work in Bristol.  

Do you think libraries are important for children?

I think libraries are important for everyone. I am lucky enough to live near a brilliant local library and it is a hub of community activity and always full of a wide range of people of all ages. When I take my own children to the library I like the way that they have the freedom to choose their own books and are able to experience a wide range of ideas and styles and make up their own minds about what they read or look at.  When I was young, I was lucky enough to be taken to the library by my mum and dad, and as someone who found reading quite difficult, it was the picture books and comics that I found there that kept me interested in reading.

Do you remember the first book you loved?

I read a lot of books when I was young and loved them all but the first books I discovered for myself (in the library) and still love to this day are the Asterix books. Their ingenious combination of words and pictures probably played a large part in me wanting to write my own picture books.

Wash-a-bye-bear is a gorgeous book, where did you get the inspiration from? 

 The idea came from two places. An image in my head of a child seen from behind, sat in front of a washing machine, watching a bear go round and round (I don’t know where that came from!). Alongside that was the idea of how children explore very adult emotions through playing with their toys. As the story progresses, Flora is learning all about unconditional love and all the anxieties and rewards that go with it. I think that is something that all children and parents can relate to.

Did you have a special bear growing up?

I never had a bear that I could not do without but I did have a bear that had belonged to my grandma that I was very fond of. He was called Big Ted and he was so old that he was stuffed with straw and quite hard and scratchy. He had been so hugged and loved over the years that he was darned and patched all over and had a lot of character. I think he must still be somewhere in my mum and dad’s house.

What are you currently working on?

Two things. A rhyming picture book written by my wife Helen called ‘The Snatchabook’ about a night time book thief. And I am just about to start on a new picture book with Templar called ‘The Driftwood Ball.’ The only way to describe it is West Side Story with woodland creatures and of course, a happy ending.