Saturday, 22 October 2011

Wigan and Wells

I've been fortunate to visit schools in Wigan twice this month. There must be many wildlife enthusiasts in Wigan!

Abraham Guest High School

At the first school, Abraham Guest High School I was made to feel very welcome by students and staff. The students had produced a great Sky Hawk display and there was great enthusiasm for ospreys and wildlife. I shared a creative writing workshop with students too, and there were loads of fantastic ideas flying many ideas just in an hour...far many more than most authors come up with in a week!

We were so busy that regrettably I forgot to take photos of the amazing display the students had produced for Sky Hawk. They had produced some terrific wildlife writing too.

One of the really great things about Abraham Guest High School, a newly built school, is that it has incorporated the community library into the school building. Students have access to a wide range of books and audiotapes and reference books. It was great to see the library packed with children at lunch time and after school! Absolute proof that libraries are essential for schools and communities. Mixed into this, of course were some very enthusiastic librarians. At a time of library cuts and closures (my local library in now only open 2 days a week) it is refreshing to see libraries, librarians, teachers and students having the opportunity to share books and instill and develop a love of reading. Maybe politicians who view libraries as a superfluous waste of money should visit Abraham Guest and see for themselves the benefits of books...not just for increasing literacy levels, but for sharing stories and finding out about the wider world.

So a big thank you to staff and students at Abraham Guest High School for two fantastic days working with you.

Wells Festival of Literature 2011

I felt hugely honoured to be invited to talk at the Wells Festival of Literature. It's been a successful year again for Wells. There have been some big names, children's authors and local authors including Matt Frei, Melvynn Bragg, Pam Ayres, Shirley Williams, Gillian Cross, Emma Craigie...the list goes on.

As I descended into Wells, the cathedral was lit in the golden light of an autumn evening. It was stunning. Children from various schools in Wells came along and asked some very interesting questions too. I received a lovely ceramic plaque of Wells Cathedral and and anthology of poems shortlisted from this year's competition. I know which one I'm voting for!

Back to Wigan and Winstanley Community School

I had a fantastic day yesterday. Again, both pupils and staff had put a huge amount of time and effort into making me feel very welcome. The children had been working hard on an osprey Sky Hawk display and have been plotting Ozwold's journey. They were delighted that they were the first to hear of Ozwold's safe arrival in Spain...the news came in from Roy Dennis during assembly.

I was impressed by the art work and writing the pupils had produced from reading Sky Hawk. One of the year 5 teachers said the children have been going osprey crazy...drawing pictures of ospreys. Y5s had even produced an anthology of poetry about ospreys. Each child had written and illustrated a poem about...'If I were an osprey...'
It was wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation. Two children had written and illustrated a comic about ospreys. I laughed out loud at one picture...the word bubble said..."what's for supper tonight?"...answer..."Fish! as usual!" and another of an osprey sunbathing in Africa saying, "Man, it's hot!"

Osprey poetry anthology

Staff and the Sky Hawk display...and me!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Book House and Thame schools

I had a great day with staff from the Book House book shop in Thame yesterday, visiting primary schools in Thame and Watlington.

Year 6 children from three other schools joined one of the large primary schools in Thame...even the local press was there to take photos! Some of the pupils had entered a writing competition and had written some fantastic descriptions of ospreys. There were great illustrations too. It was difficult to choose a winner, as all the entries were strong contenders. Well done to all of you who entered.

Children at Watlington Primary had made a huge display about Sky Hawk...see below...some brilliant osprey artwork too.

There were some great questions too...'how do you lift a horse onto an operating table?'...'If you could travel anywhere to see one animal, what animal would you like to see?'... and lots more....

I had come to talk about Sky Hawk and ospreys, but this area of Oxfordshire has its  own fair share of an amazing and beautiful bird of prey...the red kite. Like the osprey, red kites were once common place across the British Isles. They were so common that William Shakespeare referred to London as a city of red kite and crows. But persecution reduced their numbers to only a handful in Mid Wales. Re-introduction programmes have been hugely successful and their numbers have risen dramatically. On my school visit today, I counted at least 12 kites in the skies above Oxfordshire. Some of the children told me the red kites a particularly fond of barbecues, as they are carrion eaters and will swoop down for sausages dropped on the grass!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

End of another great BathKidsLitFest

The 5th BathKidsLitFest has come to an end. It goes from strength to strength year on year. There have been some incredible authors and illustrators...Andy Stanton...Cressida Cowell....Francesca Simon...Celia Rees...Tony DiTerlizzi...David name only a few, and that was only week one!

I sat on a panel event about writing for children and teenagers. The event was chaired by author and university lecturer and course leader of the MA in Writing for Young People, Julia Green. Marcus Sedgwick spoke about the inspiration behind his latest novel, MidwinterBlood and how it came from a painting he viewed in a Stockholm gallery. It's alway interesting to hear how ideas for stories are born and are developed. The story is deep, dark and very mysterious. Karen Saunders read her beautiful picture book, Baby Badger's Wonderful Night. Texts for picture books are renowned for being the most difficult books to write. The writing has to be concise, but must flow from page to page, and also interact with the illustrations. Sam Gayton, who was in my MA year at Bath Spa, read from his fantastic imaginative debut novel, The Snow Merchant. Having read snippets from work in progress on the was great to see it as a finished book. Sam spoke of his inspiration...that childhood wonder of waking up and seeing if appeared by some kind of magic. 

Other news...The Italian cover of Sky Hawk is just in....I love the shadow in the clouds. 

Il grido del falco

and also the Spanish....

Librería Central - Kulanjango: el viaje del águila

What amazing art's interesting to see how each different language publisher develops a different style.