Nik at Bath Kids Lit Fest

Young bloggers review Bath Kids Lit Fest

Our young bloggers have been really enjoying this year’s festival. Read what they have to say about the different events they’ve been to…

Nik Nikiforou:

Hannah Price, age 13:

On Sunday 8th October I attended the Norse Myths event with Francesca Simon and Kevin Crossley-Holland, it was both riveting and educational. Both authors said they had been introduced to Norse Mythology at a young age. Francesca said she had read the myths at the age of 8, sitting on a beach in California where she grew up. In contrast, Kevin had the tales told, or sung to him (accompanied by the Welsh harp) by his father when he was a boy.

Both writers described their interest in Norse Mythology and how their studies in medieval literature at Oxford University had contributed to their writing over the years. Their presentation resembled a free flowing discussion between them, which as they are both so engaging, resulted in an enjoyable and informative conversation.

Some of the things I learnt:

The Norse Myths were an oral tradition, and so weren’t written down until 300 years after the Vikings invaded Europe – they were never recorded by people who actually believed in them!

About half of the words in the English language are derived from Viking or Anglo-Saxon words. An obvious example: Thursday = Thor’s Day.

The Viking invasion reached as far as Constantinople.

An audience member asked both writers if it was the Norse Myths that originally encouraged them to write books. Interestingly, they both replied that the Norse Myths had not directly inspired them originally, but they could not imagine writing without the foundation of that language. Francesca Simon said that she had used Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Pengiun Book of Norse Myths as her “go to” factual reference for her latest book “The Monstrous Child”. However, she decided to write this story from the Goddess Hel’s point of view and she stressed that when writing in the first person you require a distinct and unique voice for your character. Amazingly, she said that the first line of the book just popped fully formed into her head when she was jet-lagged and travelling on the New York subway! In this way she wrote Hel’s viewpoint as that of a grumpy, depressed teenager.

It was extremely impressive to hear Kevin not only reading out passages from his new book Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki, but also quoting the last passages from Beowulf – in the original Anglo-Saxon! By the end of the talk I felt like that I had been given the best and most fascinating education in the Norse Myths that I could possibly hope for. I am very grateful to both authors for this, and for signing my books afterwards.

I have thoroughly enjoyed both events that I’ve attended this year, and I’m already looking forward to seeing the line-up for next year’s BathKidsLitFestival!

Christopher Cooper, age 8:

Oscar Lovell-Clark, age 9:

Joe Berger

“Joe Berger told us about his book – The Pudding Problem – which is based on his life growing up. He really likes cartoons and said that you can use really simple faces to show different types of feelings – like eyebrows going down to show anger, or going up to show worry. He drew Sam, the main character from his book, and asked us what he could add to Sam’s face to make him look really angry – like steam coming out of his ears, and red cheeks. Then he drew another picture of Sam and asked us what he could add to make him look really worried – we said lots of things, including worry drops coming off around his face, wobbly lines going down the side of his body, and knocking knees, which actually made him look desperate for the loo!

Then we got to draw our own comic strip – it was really good fun.

At the end, I asked him what his favourite books, authors and illustrators had been – he said Tin Tin and Roald Dahl. I like them,too.

Time flew at Joe Berger’s Drawing Masterclass; it was such good fun. And I highly recommend his books – the bits he read out were very funny!”

Animal Encounters

I thought Animal Encounters with Kieran Larwood and Gill Lewis was really good. They sat together on a small stage and were interviewed about their life, their books and their inspiration.

Both Kieran Larwood and Gill Lewis rescued injured animals when they were children – and they said that that’s where their love for animals came from. In between the interviewer’s questions, Gill Lewis and Kieran Larwood read passages from their books, which was brilliant because it gave everybody an insight into what their books were like.

Gill Lewis’s book  – Sky Dancer – sounded really good. It’s about a boy called Joe whose dad was a game keeper but died in prison. Joe lives in a community who are debating the fate of hen harriers – a bird of prey that’s nearly extinct in the UK. The book is all about Joe having to make a decision. I’d like to read it because I’m not that good at decisions, so it might help me learn how to make decisions in the future.

Kieran Larwood is one of my favourite authors. It was so interesting to find out how he came up with his ideas for the magical world of Podkin One-Ear. When it was the audience’s turn to ask questions, I put my hand up and asked him how he came up with the names for his characters. He said that when he was little, he rescued a rabbit from being chased by a weasel in his garden, and called it Pod, so Podkin’s name originally came from there. When it came to thinking of names for the Gorm Lord, he wanted something that sounded big and sharp and spiky, and came up with Scramashank – it’s perfect.

I can’t wait for Kieran Larwood’s next book! It comes out in 2018 – I don’t think I can wait that long!

To sum it up, I thought it was good to sit and listen to these authors being interviewed – I found out things I’d never have known otherwise. I wonder which authors will be coming to next year’s festival!

Faye and Catherine, age 9:

Catherine and Faye with Chris Riddell“On Sunday, we went to the Bath Literature Festival to see the author and illustrator…CHRIS RIDDEL!!! His most resent book is Goth Girl and the sinister symphony. He said his favourite type of books are the tiny books in the back of story’s. We got to ask him a few questions and someone asked “him what is your favourite book?” And apparently “I have always wanted to walk through a wardrobe so it’s probably Narnia.” Someone else asked him “what is your favourite place?” He replied “Norfolk because my wife came from there.” He’s a very funny man and our favourite part was how he illustrated his point. His hair and beard make him look better than Michael Rosen (his words not ours).”

Rose Goddard, age 8:

Find Gobi

“On Sunday afternoon, I was lucky enough to spend an hour with Dion Leonard (and his dog Gobi) at the ‘Finding Gobi’ book event.

I know I’m not alone in thinking this event was wonderful.

I knew about this inspiring story but nothing prepared me for meeting Dion and Gobi (a small stray dog who joined Dion on a 155 mile race across the Gobi Desert in China). I think everyone in the room fell in love with Gobi as she walked in with Dion, her tail wagging and full of enthusiasm.

In a jam packed room, I sat with other children on the floor next to the stage completely absorbed in the story. Dion is from Australia and started by teaching us how to say ‘Hello’ in Australian – Good Day Mate (pronounced ‘Good Eye Might’!). He told us his story of his childhood and how he got into running extreme marathons in the desert. Then he reached the bit I’d desperately wanted to hear about – how he met and adopted Gobi.

Rose and GobiIf you don’t already know about the story, then this is a short summary! (Although I recommend reading Dion’s book!)

He told us first about how he had not particularly paid attention to Gobi when she suddenly appeared because he was focused on his running and doing as well as he could in the race. But Gobi was determined to stay with him. As he saw her running next to him mile after mile he gradually fell in love with her! That evening in the tent Dion was asleep next to a very happy but tired Gobi.

When the race had finished Dion set about trying to import Gobi back to Edinburgh where he lives with his wife. It was a tricky process so some people took care of Gobi in China while he was back at home making arrangements. One day, Dion got the worst call possible – GOBI HAD GONE MISSING! So Dion decided to go back to China and search for Gobi. He put some reward money out. Lots of people helped – some people because they wanted the money and others because they wanted to be helpful.

Dion found it very stressful especially because he kept getting calls about people thinking they’d found Gobi but they hadn’t – including one that was a black labrador! Until one night when he was beginning to think he would never find her, some people sent a photo of a dog they had found and said come and have a look at it. AND IT WAS GOBI! A very different Gobi though because one of her legs had been injured and she had a bad cut in her head. (She still has the scar now.)

I won’t spoil any more but I will just say that it has a happy ending!

Dion told the story of his experiences so well, I felt like I was actually there with him and Gobi. Some parts were sad, some funny and all of it moving and inspiring. After his talk, I think everyone queued up for a book signing with Dion and – best of all – a photo with Gobi!

It was really special being able to meet Dion and Gobi and hear their life changing story.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book. I will also definitely look out for the movie of their story that Dion said is likely to come out in 2020. If it’s even half as good as this event, it will be AWESOME!”

Deadly Drawing with Horrible Histories

“I really like Horrible Histories and I love drawing so I was really looking forward to the ‘Horrible Histories Deadly Drawings’ event with Martin Brown.

It was a great mix of history facts, drawing tips and jokes.

Some of his ‘horrible facts’ were amazing. My favourite fact from the show was… a World War I solider who had 10,048 lice just on his shirt (the average was 20 lice).

I liked how he involved everybody in the audience, like getting people on stage to help show a history time line and guessing the answers to his horrible facts. It made it interesting and fun.

The main thing he stressed was “anyone can draw!” and “just have fun with it”. It doesn’t have to be realistic – cartoons are just as good.

It was loads of fun giving Martin Brown suggestions for 3 cartoon heads that he drew – my favourite one had straw hair and a carrot nose! He also gave us some drawing tips. One of my favourite bits was when Jane Austin walked on stage and joined Martin Brown so that he could do sketch of her. It was really good!

At the end, he set everyone some homework “Go home and draw!” This is homework I will definitely make time to do!”

Hannah Price, age 13:

“On Sunday 1st October I went to see The History Girls event with authors of Middle Grade historical fiction, Emma Carroll and Eloise Williams. They were both very engaging and shared their experiences of researching and creating their books. It was also lovely to hear them reading out passages from their own work as you could hear their characters come to life in their voices.

Emma Carroll was discussing her latest novel, Letters From the Lighthouse. She told us how she researched recipes from the Second World War and in particular, the ingredients which were substituted in for rationed products. It was hilarious to see a line of disgusted faces when she asked for volunteers from the audience to try her “carrot fudge” ( ingredients: carrot, orange essence and vegetarian gelatine -yuk!) She told us about using internet resources such as the BBC’s People’s War Project and maps where you can see when and where bombs were dropped during WWII as well as personal stories from relatives; and then using that as a base for creating her characters.

In contrast, Eloise Williams described basing her story, Gaslight, on her own experience as an actor and spending time in the grotty back stages of theatres as well as research about the theatre during the Victorian era. She said she builds her characters by thinking about how they would react in all the situations she finds herself in – for example, how they would walk; what they would cook and what they would be interested in. As she described it, you could almost see her physically embodying the character Nanci; and when she read a segment her delivery was dramatic and enthralling.

Both authors told us that in writing historical fiction they are able to raise issues which reflect contemporary events and allow children to put current affairs into perspective, which I found very interesting.

I completely loved attending this event. I always learn something new whenever I listen to children’s authors at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, and if you have not attended an event yet, I would strongly urge you to go before the festival closes next Sunday night. I am very much looking forward to another event next Sunday about Norse Myths!”

Lois Edwards, age 11:

“This year I was lucky enough to be chosen to write for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. This is my third year writing for them and I am really excited to have this opportunity again. This year I am going to see the Laugh Out Loud Funny Show. I chose this event because I really love funny books and comedy.

The people who are presenting it are: Michael Rosen, who will be joined by Liz Pichon, Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet. I saw Liz Pichon last year and she was amazing so I can’t wait to see her again. I don’t really know Michael Rosen or Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet that well so I am really exited to watch them.

It’s a Sunday afternoon and we are waiting in the Guild Hall. I arrived here about half an hour before the show had started, there is already a huge queue for the show. Even though we had to wait a while, it gave me a good chance to look at the place itself. There are loads of amazing paintings and the ceiling was really interesting because it has loads of decorative patterns and swirls engraved into it and fantastic chandeliers. I couldn’t wait for the show to start.

The show begins with the director of the Literature Festival introducing the guests and welcoming us all to the show. Then Michael Rosen starts talking about the Lollies awards, as soon as he started talking I could tell that he was going to be hilarious. He explained how he created the Lollies award because he knew there were loads of different book awards but there wasn’t an award for the funniest book and he thought there should be one.

Liz Pichon was really great because she played loads of games and did lots of silly doodling, she even told us how to do the caramel wafer trick:  all you need is a caramel wafer:

1. unwrap the wafer carefully
2. eat the wafer
3. fold the wrapper back up so it looks like there is a caramel wafer inside
4. now leave it on a plate for someone to come up and eat it
5. to there surprise there won’t be anything in there

Liz Pichon also played us one of the songs from Toms Gates band Dog Zombies, it was really cool and I loved all of the illustrations to go with it. She also did this game where she drew this really silly monster with bacon legs and triangular eyes, she asked the audience to describe different parts of the monster while she was drawing it, it turned out really funny.

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet were the previous winners of the lollies awards last year with their book “I Need a Wee” and that is why they were here today. They have also written plenty of other books you might have read: Supertato, No-bot, Simon Sock, Cake, Barry the Fish with Fingers, Gordon’s Great Escape, Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell, Norman the Slug who Saved Christmas and many many more books.

Paul Linnet had actually wrote a song about Supertato and how he always saves all the other vegetables when the evil pea is mean and bullies them. It was a really funny song and even though it was aimed at younger children it was still fun to listen to.

Although every one else was good Michael Rosen was fantastic! He told us loads of funny stories and my favourite one was about sneaking downstairs at night to eat chocolate cake, you can see thLois and Michael Rosene full story here.

He also joked about how he lived in the Stone Age which obviously wasn’t true but it was still funny anyway. He also said that his teacher was really strict and she wouldn’t let anyone breath in class, she said that the children have all playtime to breath in. Can you imagine what it would be like if teachers were really like that!

I also liked him because even when the other authors were talking, he was always making funny gestures and joining in with the songs. He was really funny to watch and I left wanting to find out more about his writing as I think it will be really funny.

I really liked the whole show in general although apart from Michael Rosen the other presenters didn’t tell many funny stories, if they did that the show would have been perfect.

If you want to vote for the Lollies awards this year then you can click this link here in order to do so.

If you want to see more of my blogs from the past literature festivals shows, then you can go and look at them on my blog at:”

Nik Nikiforou:

Alex Lea, age 12:

Dragons in Bath

“I had a lot of fun at the Dragons! event with Jasper Fforde and Scarlett Thomas. Both authors were fascinating and read passages from their brilliant books, The Last Dragonslayer and Dragon’s Green. They also talked about their inspiration for the books. Scarlett said that hers was a village she saw on a map, and told her partner that if she ever wrote a children’s book she would call it Dragon’s Green. Jasper’s sister was the one who told him to write about dragons. They had both written only adult books before. Both of them talked how magic is all around us, unnoticed in our busy lives. Including how books, which are just black text on white paper, can magically fill our heads with stories and images. At the end there was a question and answer session, in which we found out neither of them were particularly impressive students at school! They gave advice for budding writers, such as that you should take inspiration from anything and everything. Both of the books are the first in a series. There are three books in the The Last Dragonslayer series, with one more yet to be published. Dragon’s Green is the first in the Worldquake series, with book two coming out in April 2018. I can’t wait! Overall, I found the event very interesting and enjoyed myself a lot. The books are both absolutely terrific – they are smart and funny and surprising. Go out and get yourself a copy of each right now or order them from your local library. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

Liz Pichon Rocks

“I took my seven year old brother to listen to Tom Gates’ author Liz Pichon. The Forum was packed with youngsters who gave a deafening round of applause when Liz came on stage. She was accompanied by Dude 3, Tom Gates’ favourite band, who played such classics as the School Dinner Blues (perhaps better known as We Want Chips). Liz drew lots of doodles and got the audience to help create a monster just for Bath with eyes on antennae, hairy knees and belly button and all sorts of strange bits and pieces. Everyone was given pencil and paper so Liz could teach the audience to draw the Tom Gates way. My brother absolutely loved it, which isn’t surprising as it was loud and silly and action packed. “What is a reading without a fart cushion?” Liz asked at one point as two kids from the audience helped to create the sound of noisy shoes. The audience couldn’t have been happier. After we got home my brother carried on doodling for ages, singing the School Dinner Blues all the way. Right. It’s time for a snack. Where did I put those caramel wafers?”

All hail Chris Riddell!

“The Chris Riddell event was brilliant! With him sketching the audience and revealing hilarious stories about himself and his life, it was an event to remember. It started off with a humorous pencil sharpening demonstration and a sketch of the front row – I bet they’re glad they arrived early! The queue was already monstrous by the time I got there. I was glad his work was projected onto large screens either side of him so we could all see the drawings as he did them. You’ll have to read his latest book, Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony, to find out why he won’t be doing any American book tours in the near future. Ouch – his political satire is as sharp as his pencils! One thing I particularly liked was the fact that he told so many stories, none of which I had heard him tell before, and the way he involved the audience. Overall, I thought it was very clever, very funny and all in all, fantastic. I would also like to point out that Chris Riddell, as well as being a former Children’s Laureate, is now President of the School Library Association and a much needed champion of libraries and librarians. Now that’s the kind of President we need!”

Awesome Award Winners

“I had an exciting and informative evening at the Award Winners event with Gillian Cross, Geraldine McCaughrean and Alex Wheatle. Alex and Geraldine both talked about their transition from adult to young adult books and all three authors agreed that they much prefer writing for children. They also said that young adult books have to have something happening on every page and you don’t get that in adult books. Alex talked about his young adult books – a series about gang warfare and teenage life in a fictional town called Crongton. He spoke about his inspiration for the character of Lemar in Liccle Bit who was based on a boy he had met while he was a youth worker and who disappeared one day, only to turn up later in hospital after being stabbed. As you would expect, Liccle Bit is gritty and pulse racing. It is also surprisingly funny with great dialogue. Gillian has written scores of books. After Tomorrow is one of my favourite books of all time and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This book about refugees is both bleak and uplifting. Gillian’s Demon Headmaster series for younger readers is funny and creepy. The headmaster is a great character and Gillian clearly has a whale of a time writing about him. Geraldine talked about and read from her new book Where the World Ends, which sounds immensely exciting and also very dark and scary. I bought a copy and can’t wait to read it. The book is based on a true story from 1727 and is about a small group of men and boys stuck on a remote sea stac in the Scottish islands of St Kilda. They were left there for nine months when no-one came back to collect them and Where the World Ends is a fictional account of what might have happened there. Geraldine has written a whopping 160 books and won’t be stopping any time soon. She described books as a safe place that kids can travel through and come out wiser, going on adventures without actually being killed. All three authors have won major awards and their books are amazing. It was definitely one of my top events so far in the festival.”

Animal Encounters

“The Animal Encounters event was epic! The event started off with both authors talking about their proximity with animals during childhood and how it had fuelled their creative writing. Gill Lewis chatted about filling her dolls house with creepy-crawlies and Kieran Larwood told us about the long nature walks he took as a child on the Isle of Wight. We also found out that his first book was set in Victorian London, and how he tried for a different vibe with fantasy tale Podkin One-Ear. The story behind Gill’s latest book is the constant struggle between grouse farmers and hen-harriers, which consume huge quantities of grouse but are also an endangered species that needs our protection. Gill then read an extract from her book, aptly named Sky Dancer. She was followed by Kieran, who read about the Gorm invasion on Munbury burrow in the first book of his Podkin series. They then spoke about the research process, which Kieran breezed through, as his book was set in an entirely fantasy world, but Gill did painstaking background research about the moors and grouse shooting for Sky Dancer, including going paragliding to experience the sensation of flight. The authors also voiced their opinions on the impact of wildlife upon us, and the importance of it. Gill told us that she was terrible at spelling as a child, and Kieran told us about his early ambition to write comic books, until he discovered that he found the writing more enjoyable than the drawing! They then talked about the issues covered in their books and how they told the stories of people from many different walks of life, Gill Lewis’s in particular. Kieran then spoke about Podkin’s character development from the beginning of the book to the end, from a lazy young bunny to a rabbit with the makings of a hero. This is my last event blogging at the Bath Children’s Literature Festival. It’s been a privilege to blog and I hope I also have the opportunity to do it next time. The festival, as always, has been brilliant and I’m already looking forward to next year.”



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