Friday, March 31, 2017

International Children's Book Day 2017

I was in Meath recently for International Children's Book Day. ICBD is celebrated on or around April 2, which is the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen and it's the occasion to celebrate international children's books and stories. IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People) is the organisation behind it, and it crops up the world over at the initiative of the local branches of IBBY (IBBY Ireland in our case), libraries, schools or arts centres.
Thus I went off with the lovely plan to present a book published in English, relating the story of an Armenian folklore hero and written by a French author. It doesn't get much more international than Disaster David!
Now, as with all lovely plans, some adjustments (ie big improv) had to be made.
(1) I had to go to Meath twice that morning, courtesy of the bus strike: the first time I nearly went on the bus (there was no bus); the second time, I rushed home from BusarĂ¡s and drove.
(2) the first group I met in Navan expected to hear about Mad Cap. As they hadn't had a chance to read the book yet, there was no disappointment, it just meant that the Q&A at the end was a bit disconnected from the rest of the session.
No matter, we had fun thinking giant thoughts and wondering how different the world would be if we woke up as huge versions of ourselves. The brainstorming was lively and surprising, and the kids' drawing skills proved most impressive.
I was delighted to restore one participant's faith in grown-ups when I turned out to be the first adult she had ever met who knew about manga.
Onwards and forwards, I took to the road again, to Trim this time, where Surprise Number (3) awaited me: 25 ladies from 5th Class instead of the 3rd Class we were expecting. I had a feeling a picturebook (even such a Magnificent and Sophisticated one as Disaster David) wasn't going to work for this audience, so I went into Mad Cap gear and we had a hoot of a session with plenty of shouting and imagining and drawing (kids can seriously draw in Meath!) and writing about super-heroes and equally-super-villains. The Q&A this time strayed into Book Doctor territory which was also great fun. (If you missed my book recommendations, I'm listing them again below, ladies).
So a great day all in all, and a great reassurance that, yes, I can improvise if needs must!
Plus, I got to meet a young song writer who's in with a chance to write the song for the Irish contestant in the Junior Eurovision. How cool is that?
Thanks to everyone for having me and looking after me!

Book recommendations:
Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans: for fans of Greek mythology and running around the Underworld
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan: a stand-alone novel with plenty of action and gore; his best book in my humble opinion
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: a sad-and-funny story for fans of Jacqueline Wilson

That's it, as far as I can remember!
For those who wanted to know more about Book Doctors and Book Clinics, it's over here: and here for the upcoming dates:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Writing, rewriting, giants and babies

Chris Haughton's starry night in Goodnight Everyone gets the Baby Bookclub treatment
I've been busy with the Patron of Reading thing lately and it has been a hoot. The baby book club is proving a riot every time and it seems that everyone involved is really enjoying it: babas, toddlers and grown-ups. It is very rewarding to see people coming back and asking for more; even more rewarding to see the little ones rush over to the mats and wait excitedly for the story to begin. And what to say about the preschoolers who bring in their favourite books to show the rest of the group (unprompted) or the stories of terrible-twos who had no time for story-time and who now will grab their grown-up and demand a book be read to them? All of these milestones in the life of a young reader I am totally claiming as a benefit of Baby Book Club. Totally and totally shamelessly. Ahem...
First Class are giants today
I've also been busy trying out new material on my very willing guinea pigs (sorry, kids): doing a poetry workshop with Second Class (of all things!) and, especially, bringing out Disaster David to various school visits.
He has proved a very likeable hero and we've had great fun reading about his antics and creating some new ones for him.
An interesting aspect of this for me has been rewriting the text for a younger audience (of infants classes). A simplified version, with a bit less poetic imagery but a stronger purpose. Which has me wondering why I didn't write it like this in the first place? Writing simply has always been an issue for me; that is one of the reasons I started writing in English, thinking I wouldn't be able to indulge in fancy language as much in a foreign tongue. It worked for Beckett, but I'm not sure it has for me! (The other reason for writing in English was to stop sneaking in heaps of internal rhyming as I do in French; this has been a lot more successful as I can't seem to rhyme in English.)
After-school writing club has been good fun too, with highs and lows, as in everything. It always amazes me how much talent there is going round and how different the creative sensibilities.