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Saturday means more Bath Kids Lit Festivals events.

The first today was to see Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve who were in Bath as part of their #PugsRoadshow tour.

I admit that I am just a little bit older than the target audience for 'Pugs of the Frozen North' but it's a lot of fun.

I haven't yet read the book but I understand that it follows the adventures of friends on a race to the North Pole, in a dog-sled pulled by 66 pugs (in warm woolly jumpers) competing with various other characters (all with splendid names, such as Sir Basil Sprout-Dumpling, and his butler Sideplate)

The event included a musical interlude with added 'Yip's from the audience, the creation and playing of a game  and a quick lesson in how to draw a pug.

I also got a lot of fun from eavesdropping on some of the conversations which various small children were having with their parents... (particularly the small boy behind me, explaining excitedly how Sarah got her Yeti Hands!

And it was very nice to meet Philip again, and to meet Sarah in person after following her blog and having  the occasional exchange on twitter.

Pugs of the Frozen North is the 3rd book these two have created together, and they are all well worth checking out, particularly if you have children!

Then I had to dash across Bath city centre to get to the 'Writing Doctor Who' panel.

As advertised, the panel was supposed to include A.L. Kennedy, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Mark Gatiss, but it turned out that Gatiss was unavilable, so James Goss (who has written both Doctor Who and Torchwood novels, including Summer Falls) took his place. A L Kennedy has also written a Doctor WHo novel (featuring the 4th Doctor) and Cottrell Boyce wrote the Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'

A.L. Kennedy talked about being a lifelong Doctor Who fan, and about a habit of wearing sensible flat shoes due to noticing at an early age that women wearing high heeled shoes tend to tip, or break their heels, and get killed by Daleks or other monsters..#

Cottrell Boyce made the point that one of the effects of the show's longevity is that it is now written and produced and run by fans - it's basically its own fanfiction. He also said that when he was asked to write an episode, his immediate response (like everyone's, he says) was to ask whether his children could visit the TARDIS, and to accept when told they could - no questions about fees or deadlines or anything else..

There was a lot of love for Romana, and for City of  Death, and discussions about different Doctors. And of course, as soon as the panel noticed that someone had brought K9 along, the entire panel ground to a halt as K9 came up on stage...

Oh, and when you hear about a movement to have the Doctor Who theme music adapted as the new National Anthem - this is where it started..!

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A highlight of last week was the encore broadcast performance of Coriolanus - the Donmar Warehouse production, featuring Tom Hiddleston, Mark Gatiss and Hadley Fraser. I was fortunate enough to see the production live, back in January 2014, and I really enjoyed being able to see it again, and to realise once more what stunning actors Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss are.


Then on Friday, came the start of the Bath Children's Literature Festival, now in its 9th year. The first event, and the first I booked when the brochure came out, was with Judith Kerr.


Her 'Mog' books are some of the earliest books I remember reading, as a child, and then when I was older, her book 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit' was an early introduction to the history of Nazi Germany, and experience of Jewish refugees, and I then read the other 2 books in the trilogy when I was rather older.


This is the third time that Kerr has been booked to appear at the Festival, but on each of the previous occasions she had to cancel due to poor health.


So, I was particularly keen to see her this time, and really pleased that was able to make it (she turned 92 this summer, so its hardly surprising that she's not always able to make it to events!)

She was interviewed by Julia Eccleshare (former Children's Book Editor of the Guardian), and it was an interesting evening. She was officially publicising her most recent book, 'Mister Cleghorn's Seal' which is a short novel for older children, abut a man who adopts a seal. She explained that had wanted to do a book with lots of pencil drawings, and to suit the age where children can read. in her words "they are too old for picture books but a 250 novel is a bit daunting - the gap between Dr Seuss and Sherlock Holmes".

Judith Kerr : 25.09.2015

She went on to explain that the book was inspired by an incident in her father's life - he ended up with a baby seal after it's mother was killed in a cull, and he decided to take it home rather than allow it to be killed. She described how he took it by train from Normandy to Berlin, attempting to feed it on a mixture of milk and cod liver oil, before arriving in Berlin and taking a taxi to a restaurant, as he had run out of his milk mixture!


In real life, things didn't end well for the seal,I think the fictional one probably does better!


Kerr's love and admiration for her father and his skills as a story teller came through loud and clear. Moving on, she spoke about Mog - who was a real cat, the first that she had, when she and her husband first had a home with a garden, and gave us a number of anecdotes about various cats, including the current one who has trained Kerr to open the door for her (after looking out through the cat flap)!

Which led on to The Tiger Who Came to Tea . Julia Eccleshare raised the fact that Michael Rosen has suggested that the Tiger represents Kerr's memory of, and fear of the Nazis - Kerr immediately responded that she loves Rosen and is happy for him to say anything he likes, but that the Tiger was a story for her daughter incorporating all of her daughter's favourite things, and was made up when her husband was, unusually working away from home so she and her children were lonely and wanted someone, anyone, to visit. She also explained that she was able to then make the story into a book once both of the children were in school and she had time.


Kerr than answered questions from the audience. She explained that she considered herself to be an illustrator first, and writer second, and that she felt she had learned a lot about writing from her husband (Scriptwriter Nigel Kneale) and her son (novelist Matthew Kneale). She also explained that she thinks in English, and that while she does speak French and German can only write (books) in English. She wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit because she wanted to tell her children about her own childhood, and that she was surprised when it was published, in part because it did not conform with what might be expected; that normally in children's books (at least at that time) parents were remote but could do anything, but her own parents were not like that, and that despite everything, she had a happy childhood. She also spoke at some length about her experience of being a refugee, her feeling of gratitude to Britain for letting her family in and saving their lives, and commenting that even during the London Blitz, with people dying every night, no one was cruel or offensive to her parents (who both had strong, and obvious German accents). She was asked about the current refugee crisis and simply said that she did not think that the scenarios were the same, as the sheer numbers of people now involved are so much greater, and she doesn't see there being an easy or obvious answer.


Finally, she was asked by a young girl whether there really was a Pink Rabbit, and whether it was left behind. And she confirmed that yes, there was, and it was left behind. But, she added, "I've got over it".


Over all, she came across as a wonderful, witty and optimistic person - I would have loved to have had the opportunity to say hello but (understandably) she did not do a signing, but I'm very glad that I had the opportunity to hear her speak. It was a fun evening.

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Saturday morning was devoted to dull but necessary tasks, such as getting up far too early for a Saturday in order to get a 'flu jab, buying food, doing laundry and getting a cat-flap installed ready for when the kittens are allowed out.

The afternoon, however, was much more fun.

This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature has begun, and one of the events was 'In Conversation with Dave McKean' which took place on Saturday afternoon at the Holburne Museum.

I was  particularly keen to see Dave McKean, partly because I love his work, but also as his event last year had to be cancelled, as he was prevented from getting to Bath by major road delays!


He started his presentation by apologising for last year, and explaining that he had arrived in Bath 3 hours early, this time, to ensure that there wasn't a repeat of that issue!

He then gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of his works, with illustrations,  concentrating in particular on the work he has done with children's books.  It was particularly interesting to me to hear him explaining to people who might not know, who Neil Gaiman is, with particular reference to his Crazy Hair!


He also talked about his work with David Almond (in glowing terms, and pointing out first that David was sitting in the audience!) Richard Dawkins and S.F.Said, speaking a little about the techniques he had used for some of the different art works.


He mentioned that his new film, Luna, is out soon. He didn't play us the trailer, as it is not a children's film (apparently it has just been classified as a 15) but did mention that it will be showing in Bath next month, and that he will be doing a QandA, but he did play us Sheepdip, Johnson and Dupree whicch was fun.


After the event he signed books - sadly the  event bookseller had not brought any copies of his new book Pictures That Tick (Vol 2) - they only had older ones (all of which I already own!) but Dave himself had brought along some spare copies of Jazz (in Quotes) which is a limited edition collection of illustrated quotes, which was produced for SDCC, so I was able to get one of those, and to get Dave to sign a couple of my existing books.

All in all, a most satisfactory evening. And when I got home, I was able to book a ticket for the screening of Luna.

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This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature started last weekend - sadly 2 of the events I booked for were cancelled at the last minute.

Anon. -  circa 1665
Restoration of  King Charles II

Judith Kerr, author of 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit', as well as the 'Mog' books and 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea' sadly had to cancel her event due to ill health (given that she is now 90, this is perhaps not surprising, but it is disappointing, despite that), and then last Saturday I arrived at the Holburne Museum for Dave McKean's event, and was met with the news that he had been caught up in huge delays on the M25 so couldn't make it.

And then I missed the event with Meg Rosoff as I got stuck at work and couldn't get to Bath in time. So I've only been to 2 out of 5 booked events so far.

On Saturday, as I was already at the museum when I learned about the cancellation, and as  I have never been round it (despite driving past on a regular basis) I decided to use the unexpected free hour to look round the museum.

Its primarily an art museum, so lots of painting, but also has some interesting textiles - I loved this embroidery/applique which depicts the Restoration of Charles II (and the background- you can see him hiding in the oak tree, behind the picture of his in all his majesty!) and dates from around 1665.

Holburne Museum

There's also a lovely collection of spoons, and some dodgy antiquities picked up by Holburne during his Grand Tour.

It's not a big museum, but I enjoyed browsing the exhibits. And it's a beautiful building!

I also took the opportunity to have a wander around Sydney Gardens - they were laid out in around 1795 (this bridge over the canal was erected in 1800) and were, apparently, very popular with the residents of Regency Bath - Jane Austen included.

It's divided by the railway, as well as the canal, now, but there is a lovely, sweeping bath stone bridge over it, and it is down in a cutting, so it doesn't impinge too much on the park.

I don't think the tennis courts were there in Jane Austen's day, but I dare say the grass, trees, and squirrels were pretty similar (although presumably the squirrels would have been red, not grey.

I was back in Bath on Sunday, to go to David Levithan's event.


He was reading from his book Every Day, which explores what happens when you (quite literally) wake up in a different body (someone else's ) every day, and when you decide that you want to keep in contact with a person you meet one of those days.

It's an interesting concept. He mentioned that he definitely  sees, and intended the book to be (among other things) a transgender book, but that he finds it interesting that people talking about the book focus on the gender issues and less on other issues which are equally part of the  concept. (I haven't read the book yet, so I can't comment specifically).

I was also really interested to hear him talk about collaborating with other writers (it's fun!) and to say that he is not a visual writer - he doesn't 'see' how his characters and their rooms and familes look (so found it much less traumatic then his co-writer Rachel Cohn when their book was adapted, when looking at which actors were cast!

It was an interesting event, and I'm looking forward to reading Every Day - the only book of David's which I've read before is Boy Meets Boy.

Friday evening saw me back in Bath for Malorie Blackman's event.

Malorie Blackman



I've read her 'Noughts and Crosses' series, which are excellent, and of course she is currently serving as Children's Laureate.She is currently promoting her new novel, Noble Conflict, which is a dystopian novel, set in a future society, and explored (so far as I can tell for the reviews and the conversation at this event) what happens when you find out that the Good Guys you've aligned yourself are maybe not-so-good.

In talking about the book, Malorie explained that she is fascinated by questions, and mentioned issues such as the security for the Olympics (guns on the roofs of blocks of flats), CCTV in public spaces (do you believe that if you have nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear) the actions of whistle-blowers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and also the issue of who owns, and writes history (history is written by the conquerors, not the conquered, and the written history of a literary society ends to survive longer, and to oust, the verbal history of oral cultures.

Malorie also spoke about her role as Children's laureate, and her concern at recent studies showing that many children and teens are embarrassed to be seen reading, and stressed that reading is great - whether you read paper books or e-books, novels or graphic novels or comics or picture books.

As with David's event, I'm looking forward to reading the book, and am glad I made it to the event!

This weekend I shall (all being well) be seeing David Almond and Patrick Ness, although sadly missing Philip Reeve.
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This year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature started on Friday. Although there wasn't any one event this which which leapt out at me as being totally unmissable, but lots that struck me as interesting in one way or another, and I have tickets for 5 or 6 events.

The first was Michael Rosen (well, technically, the first was Ali Sparkes, but I booked that before I knew I had to work on Saturday morning, so I had to miss it, which was a shame)

Michael Rosen's event was in the Guildhall's banqueting hall, and was sold out, which means there were about 350 people there - at a guess, about half of them were small children, and everyone seemed to be enjoying Michael's stories about his school days (back in the Stone Age, when teachers didn't allow children to breathe during lessons, and there was a school dungeon where rats gnawed your toenails) and his poems, many of which involved audience participation.

The event was clearly aimed at young children, but despite neither being, nor having with me, a small child, I still found it lots of fun. An excellent start to (my) festival.
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On Saturday morning, while checking Twitter, I saw Garth Nix tweet that he would be in Bath that evening, which sounded as though it might be interesting, so I went along.

I have enjoyed his books for several years now, particularly the 'Old Kingdom' ones, and I enjoyed his talk, too.

He started by talking about his name (not a pseudonym, despite what people may suspect) and about telling stories, and where he gets ideas from (unlike Neil Gaiman and others, not from a little shop in southern England, it would seem) and the process of making stories.

He also read us a little of the most recent books he has out; 'A Confusion of  Princes' and 'Trouble Twisters' and also a short excerpt from what will, probably, be the prologue to a new 'Old Kingdom' book - 'Claribel: The Lost Abhorsen', which sounds as though it's going to be a book I want to read. 

He then answered questions before signing books and chatting, which was fun.

I was slightly distracted during the talk by the fact that there was some decorative bunting up, which had clearly been made out of books.. This bothered me a little. I couldn't help but notice that the bunting was made from actual pages, not anything printed as bunting.

(It's OK. I went and asked one of the staff members after the reading; they explained it was made from a damaged proof copy of a book, so it wasn't destroyed specially)

I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through 'A Confusion of Princes' which I'm enjoying.

There are going to be more authors, soon. It's the Bath Kids Lit Fest next month, which should also be fun, and I have a theatre trip or two lined up. 

And on an unrelated note, I went to donate blood today. Turns out it was my 50th donation, which means they give me a shiny brooch and a nice pen, and I was surprised at how chuffed I was about it!

Bleughh

Sep. 26th, 2011 05:44 pm
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So, I got home from Italy on Tuesday, and did bits of laundry and so on. On Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat, which I put down to having been cooped up in an aeroplane and a lot of trains. However, it quickly became obvious that that wasn't it.

I've spent most of the intervening time either curled up in bed, or on the sofa.

Now would be a good time to buy shares in tissues and lemsip

I think I'm starting to get better.

I ventured out yesterday to go to Bath - the Bath Kids Lit Fest started on Friday, and I had a ticket to see Philip Reeve and Moira Young.

I enjoyed the panel, and it was  but it did make lovely to be able to say hello to Philip Reeve in person, after having spoken to him once or twice on twitter,  but I think I may have made a mistake in venturing out.

I was back at work today, but I only made it until about 1.30 before having to give up and go home.
I was due to go to a Kids Lit event this evening with David Almond, Melvin Burgess and Meg Rosoff but that's not going to happen, sadly.

And the event on Sunday with Judith Kerr has had to be cancelled as she is not well, so my Kids Lit Fest this year will be a bit of a damp squib.

Oh well. C'est la vie.


(Photo from @PhilipReeve1's twitter)

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