Kessler has fulfilled her promise to entertain us to a tee, as the long queue of eager Windsnappers keen to get their books signed justly confirms.
Liz Kessler is here to have fun, and her good humour is immediately infectious. A natural entertainer, and the successful author of sixteen books from Meet the Real Poppy to Read Me Like a Book, she promises to entertain her audience, but she fervently hopes “that you will also entertain me.” So follows a madcap mix of excerpts from Kessler’s Emily Windsnap series, a bit of show-and-tell, a hilarious game show, general absurdity, belly laughs, and flying sweets.
Her latest publication, Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls, is the sixth in the popular series chronicling the adventures of young Emily, who discovers at her first swimming lesson in Book One that she turns into a mermaid once immersed in water. Kessler talks of Emily as of an old friend: “Emily and I have done lots together. She chose me to tell her story.”
Celebrations ensue. The audience is divided into two teams, children and adults – the Elowens and the Mermaids respectively – and presented with a number of challenges. Hands shoot up into the air, children’s hands, that is. The adults need a little more encouragement to get up onto the stage, don a blonde curly wig and brush their hair enticingly for challenge number one: who can do the best impression of a Siren? Not the weeh-waah noise that emanates from a police car pursuing a suspect, mind you, but the song of the beautiful women of Greek mythology who lure sailors to the rocks.
Challenge two requires a blindfold for Pin-the-tail-on-the-Mermaid. “You do know it’s meant to go over your eyes?” Kessler chides the volunteer for the Mermaid team. So far, it’s two points for the Elowens, and none for the Mermaids. But that could all be about to change, not least because now it’s the quick fire round for super-fans of the series: the first to buzz in and give the correct answer gets a point. For sure, the Mermaids are going to win as our volunteer – well, actually the adult volunteered for the challenge by Kessler herself – is Kessler’s own publisher. It’s going to be a guaranteed win for the adults, right? Or maybe not. Kessler’s mock horror at her publisher’s failure to answer the first question, and then the second, and then the third has the audience in stitches. And to finish, an impersonation of Neptune, crown and trident fashioned from tin foil to lend authenticity to the performance.
It’s a close run thing, but the Elowens manage to grab victory by a whisker. There’s just time for a quick Q and A session. “What made you become an author?” “ I think you sort of are, you don’t become it. If I’m not writing, the world doesn’t make any sense to me.” And then, all too soon, our forty-five minutes are up. Kessler has fulfilled her promise to entertain us to a tee, as the long queue of eager Windsnappers keen to get their books signed justly confirms.
Claudia Pugh – Thomas at Liz Kessler – Emily Windsnap and The Ship Of Lost Souls Sunday 27 September: The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival 2015
The Festival continues until Sunday 4 October See the full programme here