Eddie reading…

The next Dragonsitter book will be published in June. Just to whet your appetite, here is a picture of Eddie reading…

Drawn, of course, by Garry Parsons.

Oh, and if you want to know the name of the new book – the eighth in the series – it’s going to be called…

The Dragonsitter Detective.

A week in Datchet

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.

The astroturf dragon

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.

Halloween competition

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:

http://andersenpress.co.uk/Dragonsitter-Comp/

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.

Good luck!

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The Bookworm Festival in Chengdu

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.

Recent events

I’ve done several events around the country over the past few weeks, both in schools and libraries, some alone, others with Garry Parsons. Here are a few photos:

The two Grk covers and the Dragonsitter collage are drawn by children at Elson Primary in Gosport, where I spent World Book Day. The entire school – staff and pupils – were in costume, most of them dressed either as Grk or a dragon. It was wonderful.

All the other drawings are by Garry.

A map of London

I’ve always loved maps in books. Until now, only one of my own has had a map, and that was Bearkeeper. On the first page was a map of London in 1601, showing the locations of the Globe, the Bear Gardens, London Bridge, and a few other important places mentioned in the text.

London map 1601

The sixth Dragonsitter is also set in London, which gave me an excuse to ask my publishers to put a map in the front of that book too. I was delighted when they said yes, and Garry Parsons has drawn this lovely map:

London map today

Looking at these two maps side by side, you can see that in many ways London hasn’t changed very much over the past four hundred years. There is the river, and there is London Bridge, and there are the main roads spinning out of the centre and heading in every direction, bringing visitors in and out of the city.

Of course Shakespeare didn’t have the Shard, the London Eye, the Natural History Museum, or many of the locations featured in The Dragonsitter to the Rescue. But I like to imagine that he would have been able to find his way around the modern city fairly easily by sticking to the river and spotting a few landmarks which have survived the past four centuries.

The Dragonsitter to the Rescue

The sixth Dragonsitter will be published in the UK at the beginning of January.

I had a lot of fun writing this book, which is set in London, my home town.

In the story, Eddie and Emily come to the Big Smoke to stay with their father in a hotel. He thought he was just taking his two children to London for a special treat; he hadn’t expected them to bring the two dragons.

On a trip to the Natural History Museum, Arthur slips away from the others and disappears into the city.

The Natural History Museum

The rest of the story describes how Eddie and Emily get him back again. They travel around London, searching the parks, the museums, the monuments, the restaurants, and the streets, until they eventually find him in…

Oh, no, of course I’m not going to tell you that. You’ll have to read the book to find out where Arthur has been hiding, and how he spent his time in the city.

Here is the cover:

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