Thursday 2 April 2015


The buzz of World Book Day Week - no, fortnight! - is over.  
 It’s an exhausting time – admin and maps and worry about traffic and weather especially -  but each visit brings something memorable or different.

Here are my Spring 2015 visits.

 My first visit was to Oatlands Infants School.  Traditional stories work well with Reception & Key Stage 1 children, and  this time I had fun sharing a favourite telling tale, The Great Chappati Chase and showing them the story now exits in a book form, with beautifully coloured illustrations.  (See above!)

The next day - World Book Day - I spent at Richard Taylor Primary School. Over four sessions, I shared stories, talked about where I got ideas from and how I’d shaped those ideas, as well as reading from various books etc as well. WBD itself was so spring-like that I went out for a quick lunchtime walk (a useful way of warding off midday slump) and discovered a “sticky bun” shop nearby. Such days are definitely days for giving yourself treats.

However, alongside my sessions, I got a chance to see the chicks just hatching out of their shells – some damp, some fluffy -  as well as the happy smile of a newly appointed Lollipop Man and a staff room of teachers learning a dance! (As they’ll have done their dance for Red Nose Day by now, I can put that in this blog.) 

Friday morning was a doubly busy day, The morning was spent with Year 3 &4 at Thorpe Willoughby Primary, where, after a hasty “Author Talk”, I spent time in each class drafting up class poems. The staff and children were also busy celebrating poetry by decorating each door to illustrate a poem. In passing, I noted a ”Daffodils” door, a “Ning Nang Nong” door, and the start of a Kit Wright “Box” poem door. 

Moreover, each class was learning their poem to share it at the afternoon’s assembly. It was an inspiring rush of time.  Additionally, as I sped away, I’d been given a crust of the kind cook’s most delicious bread!

Just as well: my afternoon at Carlton-in- Snaith Primary School was a big “Author Assembly” for Years 2 to 6, followed by a Reception and Year 1 “Storytime”.  All the school, teachers included, had dressed up! The afternoon ended with parents arriving to see the school’s annual “Book Character” procession. As rousing music blasted out, the line of characters wound around the school, each class-load pausing in the hall to “twirl” for the audience, collect prizes, and then reappear for a single Grand Finale Parade. Magnificent! As I was standing by the Reception Classroom door, I had a very good view of all the costumes and the children’s faces as they passed by. Very enjoyable!

However, things got complicated after that.  First of all, my sat-nav went rogue, showing a map of Germany when we were driving through in Leeds, and then getting stuck on my home location and not shifting. The machine continued treacherous the following week, when I was booked as part of the Kirklees and Calderdale Page-Turners Festival school visit programme, only showing arrow junctions. (I ended up dragging out my old A-Z of West Yorkshire and a pile of Post-It Notes.)

My first stop was the school library (large, impressive, and complete with a school librarian - always a joy in these times) at Moor End Academy, where I talked to two groups about my writing and particularly my novel A BOY CALLED MOUSE. 

Over lunchtime, the sat-nav took me along all the cobbled country lanes between Huddersfield and Rishworth, both with and without grass in the middle, around hairpin bends, across between reservoirs and more until - eventually - I reached St John’s Primary for a lovely session with Reception and Key Stage One. 

Unfortunately, that evening, I came down with a horrid bug that knocked me out for far longer than I could imagine. (One dire day reminded me of childhood attacks of tonsillitis before I lost my tonsils! ) It wasn’t until the week after – the day of the eclipse - that I managed to visit the wonderful library at Scissett Middle School. What a lovely morning that was – and such a joy to see all the art on the walls! In the afternoon, sustained by DayNurse, I visited Almondbury Key Stage Two School. Although one of the class teachers was away too, the children still made it a very good time!  

 So hooray for World Book Day, and everyone involved with all the organisation and administration during these times of cuts. Thank you all!

Afterwards, at home, I gave way to a second round of flu. So annoying! However, I can’t be grumbly about that because of the joy and relief when you start to feel healthy again (and I had done all the school visits after all!)  

Besides, this week I’ve just finished and submitted a very small project - and this weekend it’s Easter – so I’m looking forward to some happy family times, some good egg hunting and some good reading!

Hope you have a Happy Easter too!

Saturday 21 February 2015

HAPPY FACE! SAD FACE! Or Today's Visit to the Library.

Today, returning a book to my local library, I caught the end of the current book sale. Happy face!

I’d bought a batch of books two weeks ago, when the sale started, and now I’ve picked up another batch of non-fiction titles. Today’s cache included several history books, a trio of cookery books (one healthy and two cake!) as well as a “research” book by a reformed medium and finally a score for the musician in the house. I felt smug and satisfied with this haul and am looking forward to reading and using them.

And yet, and yet, I also felt sad about how rapidly libraries dispose of book stock. The drive to make libraries popular with the general public means that books are taken off the shelves within very few years.  (Nor is such “popularity” truly saving the library services from local authority cuts, alas!)

Such rapid culls seem to me to dismiss the work involved in the writing and making of the books. In addition, each “removed title” shrinks the author’s (small) Public Lending Right payment. If that title disappears from every library, that income is over. And if there are less libraries, and less purchasing of books - not the happiest thought for the future. Much as my clutch of books excites me, those stacked tables do represent a quiet loss of income for many writers. In addition (or subtraction?) within the proposed “community library” world, PLR payments are still to be agreed, as far as I understand. If you know differently, I apologise, and I’d be glad to hear. 

 Library re-organisations do seem to give an excuse for book culls, big and small. Famous names have been protesting about the reference stock missing from Manchester’s refurbished Central Library. 

Specialist collections disappear too: one nearby library used to display a collection of early Victorian children’s books. However, during another re-organisation, the collection was boxed up, taken away and is now lost. 

Once upon a time, I’d imagined that, deep within library headquarters, qualified staff checked that all the archives were conserved. Unfortunately, those qualified librarians have been and are being packed off as at great a rate as the books. I'm certainly not getting at them.

I bought my happy stack of “history reference titles” because I wasn’t sure I’d ever get hold of the books otherwise. Recently, asking about a specific educational title, I heard that the public library is not really there to help higher level academic studies. The web isn't the well thought out, well-reasoned answer to everything.

Another book I'd asked about was too expensive to buy – and the inter-library loan system no longer seems to work. So I wander around, and try not to notice the slebs and tv titles filling the biography shelves, pushing other names out and away. Ah well. I know we can’t keep every book forever, but we live in confusing times . . .

I had originally gone to the library to kick-start a halted project but after trying a line or two, I gave up and walked home. Seeing so much written effort discarded, and some titles bearing the names of people I know, I suddenly didn’t feel up to writing after all.

Still, those “Removed from Loan” cookery books will help me make some comforting cake, won’t they?

Enough dismal muttering and lamentation. Enough crabbiness. I hereby declare that I’m reaching for my timer and putting my mind on my stilled project for thirty minutes. Onwards.


Saturday 24 January 2015


Ah yes, that resolution I made about this blog at the start of January? 
I’d meant to start again, honest, but there wasn’t a moment of spare time, or spare brain, come to that.

I was intending to re-start blogging here right after the tidying away of the tree and decorations on Twelfth Night . Then a horrid bug crept in – lots of groo and atishoo all round the house – followed by a week of scary tax accounts. I had a local library meeting to go to, and a couple of urgent blogposts needed elsewhere.

However, I think almost all the catching up’s done now so today’s a day for a small celebration. Today’s post brought my five author copies of a new book:  
The Great Chapatti Chase.

It’s my version of a familiar story format – and no, I’m not going to tell you which! – and one I’ve enjoyed telling on school and library visits for quite a while. 

I’ve even told it at the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival in Delhi. Here’s the cheerful cover:

Thank you, artist Laura Sua, for all of the brilliant and clever illustrations between these pages.  

Happy sigh. Yes, the nice times of 2015 have begun. Happy New Year, everyone!