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.

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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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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Brody’s dragon

One of the nicest things about writing books is my post. Yes, of course, like anyone else, I get bank statements and notes from estate agents offering to sell my house and emails promising that I have won the State Lottery of a country that I’ve never visited, but I also get a lot of letters and emails from children who have read my books. My favourites are usually the ones that include a picture. I should post them here more often.

Here is a dragon that was sent to me by Brody, inspired by The Dragonsitter, which he has been reading.

Thank you, Brody, for sending me this brilliant dragon.

The dragon

 

October festivals

I’m looking forward to appearing at three festivals in October. I’ve never been to any of them before, but judging by their programmes, they all sound wonderful.

The first is Flipside on 3 and 4 October in Snape Maltings, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

general

Among the other children’s writers there are Chris Priestley, Emily Gravett, and James Dawson.

Next comes the Wimbledon Bookfest. I’m going to be there on Thursday 8 October as part of the schools programme.

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And thirdly is the Hungerford Literary Festival, where I’ll be speaking on Saturday 17 October.

Here are links to the websites where you can find out more about tickets, venues, and all the other fascinating writers and artists who will be appearing:

http://www.flipsidefestival.org

http://www.wimbledonbookfest.org

http://www.hungerfordlitfest.org

 

Wilderness

Earlier this August, I was one of several children’s authors performing at the Wilderness Festival. The festival was packed with twenty thousand people sampling everything from Bjork’s tunes to Moro’s lamb cutlets. Lucy Coats, Abi Elphinstone, Tamara MacFarlane and I were talking in the children’s area curated by Storystock. Over the course of the weekend, we each spoke about our books inside the big top, then did a panel discussion together.

A few photos below show the Storystock area, full of authors and pirates, and the lovely outpost of the Jaffe and Neale bookshop housed inside its own enormous tent… I wish I’d taken more (and better) photos, but I must have been always too busy eating those delicious lamb cutlets or chasing after my kids, trying to stop them getting completely lost among the other twenty thousand people.