My publishers have printed some lovely new Dragonsitter posters. Email me if you’d like one for your school library.
I’ve just spent a week at Datchet St Mary’s primary school, talking to children in all the different classes, and helping them with their own creative writing.
I don’t often get to spend a whole week in a school. Usually I visit a school for no more than a single day, and often for no more than an hour. So it was wonderful to return to the school every day for a week, and see the same children again, and work with them on their writing, and watch their stories grow and develop.
Datchet is a village near Windsor. A five minute walk from the school takes you to the Thames, and the children know it well. They canoe on the river, or walk their dogs along the bank.
When I was preparing for my work at the school, I did a bit of research into Datchet. I re-read the funniest book ever written (Three Men in a Boat), but was disappointed to discover that Datchet hardly gets a mention. I thought about the places nearby – Windsor, Eton, Slough – but didn’t want to limit our stories to any of them. In the end I decided to draw on two children’s books which begin on the banks of the river, The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland.
Mole sets out on a journey by the river… He meets Water Rat, Badger, Toad…
Alice sits down and dreamily watches a white rabbit run along the bank… Then falls down a hole…
Together we read the first pages of these books, then created characters who could explore the river, its islands and its banks.
I was very impressed by the creativity and enthusiasm of the children at the school. And by their powerful imaginations. We wrote stories together. And drew pictures. And invented characters and plots. And created books.
A photographer from the local paper, the Windsor Express, came to the school and took this photo. A nice memento of a week in Datchet.
Sometimes I arrive at a school, having travelled by train and taxi, battled rain or wind, and get into the hall with my bag, my books, and my USB stick – and there see a display so lovely that I am immediately filled with renewed enthusiasm and energy, which is exactly what I need to talk to a couple of hundred kids.
That’s just the experience that I had a couple of months ago at Warden Hill school in Luton. One of the teachers had created an amazing display devoted to the Dragonsitter. At the heart of the display was a huge green dragon.
He’s probably the first astroturf dragon in the world. And certainly the best.
While we’re on the subject of school displays, here is another from Ark Swift in London.
And here are a few more pictures from another recent school visit, this one at Baden Powell Primary in Hackney. Two of Garry Parsons. And two more drawn by him.
My publishers are giving away my books!
Or one of them, anyway. To win a copy of the latest Dragonsitter, simply follow this link and answer a ridiculously easy question:
As you probably know (or can guess from the title) The Dragonsitter: Trick or Treat? is set at Halloween. If you want to enter the competition, you have until 27 October 2016.
My publishers will send a copy to the winner in time for Halloween.
I have already put up some photos from my time at the excellent Bookworm Festival in Chengdu – click here to see them – and here are few more from my time in Beijing.
I only had a few days in China, sadly, spread between the two cities, but I did get a chance to wander the streets a little, and see a few of the sights.
At the Beijing Bookworm, I did a panel event with Ian Whybrow (author of Harry and the Bucketful of Dinosaurs, and much more), moderated by Lee Williamson, editor of Time Out Beijing.
I don’t have a picture of that event, sadly. Nor do I have any pictures of the wonderful hotel where the Bookworm put us lucky authors, the Opposite House. But I do have a few touristy snaps of Beijing sights, and so I’ll put them here.
Just before Easter, I was lucky enough to be in China, visiting Beijing and Chengdu as a guest of the Bookworm Literary Festival.
The Bookworm is a small chain of bookshops in cities throughout China, run by a wildly energetic expat named Peter Goff. This year was the 10th that he and the other bookshop managers have been running a wonderful festival, bringing local and international authors together.
Rather than writing about my experiences, I’m simply going to put a few photos here, along with some explanatory captions. I’ll put up some photos from Beijing another day, but all the photos below are from Chengdu, my first stop, where I did several events: some talks, a school visit, and a workshop.
Chengdu is a city of about ten million people. It’s the capital of the Sichuan province, renowned for its magnificently spicy food. And it’s famous too for its pandas; Chengdu is home to the Giant Panda Research Centre, where you can watch families of pandas lounging about their pens, happily crunching their way through great piles of bamboo.
This year I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for the Mighty Nose Awards, along with Richard E Grant, actor and perfumier, and Nicky Cox, editor of First News.
I’ve judged several writing competitions, but this one was particularly enjoyable, because all the entries were focused on smell. During the judging process, we three judges were asked to award points for “originality; quality of writing; and lively depiction of smells”.
You can read more about the awards on the Marty the Mighty website – http://www.martythemightynose.org/ – and find out how to enter the 2017 awards. Anyone aged between 7 and 11 can enter, and the closing date is the end of this year.
Here’s a short film which shows the judging process and features the judges reading some of winning poems: