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.
The next Dragonsitter book will be published in the UK in September. It’s set during Halloween, and Garry has filled its pages with delicious pictures of ghouls, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and pumpkins. Here’s one of them:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 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 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.