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.
This week I was invited to open a new school library. For any writer, or indeed anyone involved with books and storytelling, I can’t think of many more satisfying ways to spend an afternoon.
The school was Furness Primary in what used to be called Harlesden and is now probably part of Kensal Rise. Whatever you choose to call this particular area, it’s part of Brent, where the council has closed several libraries recently. So it was especially gratifying to witness the opening of a new library inside a school.
Before I cut the ribbon on the library, I did a couple of assemblies, first talking to the youngest kids, then the older ones, answering their questions and describing how my own love of books had been fanned by libraries when I was young. I talked about the books that I loved then, and still love now, many of which I would never have discovered if I hadn’t been able to wander slowly up and down the shelves of a library, plucking books that looked interesting, glancing at covers, scanning blurbs, reading a page or two, searching for the perfect book, the book that spoke to me.
Then I was handed a large pair of scissors.
On the other side of the door was a freshly-painted, crisply-lit room stuffed with books. Cue cries of “oooh” and “look!” from the children who had been patiently waiting for me to snip the ribbon. They rushed around the library, eagerly hunting through the shelves, showing off their discoveries to one another, then pestering the teachers with questions, demanding to know when and how they could take books out of the library. Watching them, I thought about how much libraries like this foster a love of books and reading, and wished every school had a library as welcoming and well-stocked as this one.
This week I was asked to open the new school library at Danetree Junior School in Surrey.
In these gloomy times, when the news is usually of libraries closing, and bookshops too, and children choosing to stare at screens rather than read books, and adults too, it was wonderful to see the passion and enthusiasm and hard work that had gone into this new school library.
When I was there, I unveiled a little plaque which will hang on the wall, and I heard about this library’s transformation and renaissance. The parents and teachers of Danetree have taken a dreary white room and turned it into a magical space, filled not only with books, but cushions and chairs, toadstools and fur coats, a lion and a faun, and a magnificent mural crammed with characters and scenes from the Narnia books.
Among all these delights, my particular favourite was the door.
It’s the door to a wardrobe. The door to a magical kingdom. The door to a refuge. The door to a room full of stories.
I wish every school could have a library as loved as this.
I’m delighted that The Sultan’s Tigers has won the Calderdale Book Award.
I was nominated for this award a few years ago for Bearkeeper, but didn’t win. When I went back to Halifax last week for the ceremony at the Central Library, I remembered that occasion, and felt quite sure that, once again, I would be watching someone else win the award. But this time I won.
Here is a picture of me with two of the other writers nominated for the award, Simon Mason and Sam Gayton. I travelled back on the train with Sam, and he took revenge during an epic three-hour marathon of ipad games, every one of which he won.