Category Archives: Education

Cool

I held my breath yesterday morning.

Well, actually, I tidied up after the day before and ran the dishwasher and put the leftovers in the freezer. But it amounts to much the same thing.

Daughter was the first to leave the party on Monday, as she was already 24 hours late getting to her conference. Luckily the plane ran to time, or the Resident IT Consultant would have had to drive through the night to get her to Uppsala for the next morning, when someone had booked her to actually give a talk.

She was a bit surprised by this. I don’t know what I was, because I don’t know about all these stars and spots, that are either hot or cool. And something is eating them (which frankly sounds like the beginning of a horror sci-fi novel). According to her professor it’s a bit like discovering a long lost, or previously unknown, Pink Floyd album. This means little to me, but sort of places him in a certain age bracket.

#CS19 is where you want to go to find out about cool stars. It’s more than my life is worth to post a photo on here.

Another Scottish Friendly

You might have noticed before that the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tours tend to offer some really rather good authors and illustrators to schools around Scotland. Their past list reads like a Who’s Who in children’s books. I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear they were bringing Sarah McIntyre here next.

Sarah McIntyre

Sarah is both an illustrator and an author. She arrives this weekend, for five days in the Highlands, which in this case means she starts right up north in Thurso and works her way ‘south’ to Inverness. Well, to me Inverness is still pretty north, and this week is pretty full of other things, and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Sarah and her Highlands will have to be witch-free this time. But there are ten lucky schools who get her full attention.

And occasionally (what am I saying? It happenes all the time) Sarah gets attention in other ways too. She’s not the only one, but the other week she wrote a blog post about it, which is too good not to share. The ‘it’ being hopeful wannabes who ask illustrators to do the illustrations for the book they’ve just written. Usually without any idea of how much work that entails, or that an illustrator would like to be paid, or even being able to be polite once they’ve been turned down. (At least they got a reply!)

The trouble is that even to someone like me who understands that work takes time and you can’t work for free, these professional illustrators make it look so effortless. And I must admit that whenever I daydream about having a book out there that is all mine, my next daydream is who to ask to illustrate it, or at least do some nice cover art for me…

Bookwitch by Sarah McIntyre

Oops. Very easily done.

I am the proud owner of a genuine McIntyre. Digital, but very lovely. I believe it was something Sarah ‘threw together’ on her sickbed, one day when she was too tired to do anything else. She’s made the wicked old witch look quite pretty.

Ankh water

Ankh water

I overlooked this bottle the other week, as I carefully photographed everything that was in my Terry Pratchett partybag.

I was extremely thirsty that evening, but this bottle of Ankh water was safe from me. I’m not sure I can ever drink it. One, it’s a precious memento. Two, is it safe to drink Ankh water?

Surely it’s a fairly questionable substance? So on balance I reckon it will be better for it to grace some surface or other at Bookwitch Towers, and I can smile at it as I swoosh past. It’s got a reasonable date, after all.

And to return to harping on about libraries, I know I forgot to mention the Beaconsfield library two weeks ago. They have decided they want a plaque outside in Terry’s memory. After all, it’s the place he reckoned he learned the most in, having little respect for his secondary school.

Aren’t we glad Terry had his library to go to? Would we have had any of his books if he’d been stuck with school learning only? (Well, maybe. Apparently some of his teachers became Discworld characters. But still. Libraries rock. Apart from the Stockport librarian who felt Terry was unsuitable for children.)

Stirling goings-on

The Bookbug Week‘s flagship event will this year take place only a mile or so away from Bookwitch Towers. Scottish Book Trust’s annual book week for young readers runs from May 16th for a week, kicking off at Bannockburn with a day of, I think, poetry and stuff.

Bookbug

The rest of the programme happens all over Scotland, and the theme this year is international. Songs and rhymes from around the world.

This tallies with what you find in the programme for Stirling’s own Off the Page where, surprisingly, they offer both a German Bookbug session, as well as a bilingual event or two.

You can also do colouring in and design your own coat of arms, along with attending a teddy bear’s picnic. At the other end of the age scale (or so I imagine) is a vintage reminiscence tea party, which sounds really very nice. Except I hope I am not old enough for that sort of thing yet.

Somewhere there are dragons.

In schools (they have all the luck!) you might find Chae Strathie, Janis Mackay, Kirkland Ciccone, Alex Nye, Ross MacKenzie and Mairi Hedderwick.

But despair not, Mairi Hedderwick is also doing a public event. Maybe even two. This ten-day long festival starts on May 6th, and other public children’s events offer Lari Don and Nick Sharratt.

Helen MacKinven, whom I met at Yay!YA+ last week is also doing an event. As are several of the big names in Scottish crime, such as Lin Anderson, Helen Fitzgerald, Denise Mina and Caro Ramsay.

There are many more events and many more authors. And much upset on my part because I will not be going to any of these… The more attractive the event, the less convenient the date (for me).

The ability to read

Toby in Tony Bradman’s The Boy and the Globe was able to read. He was young, and an orphan, and so desperate he took up a [short] life of crime in order to eat. But he could read.

He got enjoyment from a book one of the other thieves accidentally stole, and Toby helped this boy, purely by being able to read. And when they ended up thieving at the Globe, it was the reading that eventually got him his better job, as an actor, as a friend of Shakespeare’s, and more.

Ned in Mary Hoffman’s Shakespeare’s Ghost could also read, as could the young girl who wanted to marry him. Both were poor, and Ned was an orphan like Toby. He couldn’t have done his acting without being literate. Or maybe he could, but it would have been much harder.

Set in a period when I suspect most normal children, by which I mean not terribly well off, would never learn how to read, this is remarkable. But had they not been able to, the plots for the books they feature in wouldn’t have worked.

It’s probably not just a plot device though. I’d like to think of it as being there to demonstrate to children how well someone can do just because they have this basic skill. A skill that many still don’t have, or not to the degree we’d like them to.

And for all the Government’s harping on about ‘Literacy,’ they are not necessarily helping. Especially not when they remove the places where the children could go to practice and enjoy their reading skills. You know, like libraries.

Toby and Ned got to where they wanted through reading. I assume that’s what the people in power are afraid of.

Another Hamlet

Something, I forget what, made me remember the other Hamlet. I think of him every now and then, and I blogged about him once before:

‘Swedes have long admired the British for their wit. The English department at Gothenburg employed several such witty Englishmen to dazzle the Swedish students with their Englishness. They were usually called David something-or-other.

The short Hamlet was written by David Wright while he was still at school, if I remember correctly. He provided us students with copies of his admirably brief play, which was very funny, primarily because everything had to happen with such speed. I may still have it somewhere.’

I read through it again, and maybe it’s not the work of a genius. With added maturity I can see it’s more schoolboy wit, but still. It’s English schoolboy wit rather than Swedish. Not saying they are better. Just different.

The grown David Wright was amusing and entertaining too. I’d happily have gone to his lessons just for the fun of it.

At that time one of our set books was Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. For someone as witty as Tom Stoppard (I must have been collecting them at the time!), I seem to recall that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern struck me as more boring than expected. Perhaps it’s just me. I might have a Hamlet block somewhere.

The EIBF schools programme 2016

Perhaps I could – temporarily – start a very small school? That way I could book seats for me and about three pupils to attend as many of the rather interesting looking school events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival as possible.

I’m doomed whatever I do, as there are too many events, and some of them happen simultaneously (and I don’t), but it’d be nice to go to some of them.

This year’s programme is available online now, for anyone who wants to have a look, and to daydream a bit.

Anthony McGowan is coming, and will be talking about his fantastic Brock and Pike books, alongside Patrice Lawrence, on Urban Grit. It’d be worth getting out of bed that early for. I’ve realised why Vivian French scares me so much. She has written 300 books! She’ll be talking about [one of] her latest, Alfie Onion. Jennifer Downham and Annabel Pitcher sound like a duo made in heaven.

Lynne Rickards will talk about her Puffling, and Gill Lewis is bringing her Puppy Academy with her. Keren David and Alex Wheatle will be doing diversity [duck!], while on the same day there is going to be LGBT theatre on offer.

Miriam Halahmy will bring her emergency war time zoo, and Gill Arbuthnott and Nick Armstrong are offering A Beginner’s Guide to Electricity, which sounds more fun than you’d think. A bit of Shakespeare or some terrorism, with Tony Bradman and Tom Morgan-Jones, or Alan Gibbons and Brian Conaghan respectively.

Sarah Govett, Tanya Landman and Anne Cassidy should all be pretty good, and on the last day Debi Gliori, Philip Ardagh and Barry Hutchison will be let lose in Charlotte Square.

And countless others. I suppose we could always just agree to hang around, hoping to catch sight of all these lovely authors…