04 Mar World Book Day 2016
It was the nineteenth World Book Day yesterday, and my first as a published author. As someone who is just starting, I assumed I’d be sitting this one out – most authors are booked for WBD visits a year in advance and I didn’t have a book out until June – so I when I got an email back in September asking me to come along to St. Nicholas Catholic High School in Northwich, Cheshire, I had to say yes.
It was a very exciting day. The morning news was full of authors talking about World Book Day, accompanied by shots of schoolchildren dressed up as their favourite literary characters. Author-illustrator-laureate and demon-drawing doyen Chris Riddell was on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show, being all fantastic (as usual). And, as I pulled up to St. Nicholas, I was greeted by a real-life version of this Where’s Wally picture:
The pupils of the primary school next door had ALL come dressed as Wally. So there were Wallies riding bikes, Wallies playing football, Wallies starting at other Wallies out of backseat windows of cars. There was excitement in the air, and it was all about books and reading. It was like author Christmas.
I was shown to the library, and introduced to the school’s librarian, Kate Roberts (who turned out to be from Rhyl, and was super-nice about the whole ‘apocalypse starting in her home town’ thing). She apologised for the size of the library though I thought it was great. I’ve been in smaller public libraries.
But that was before I noticed the chairs. There were a LOT of chairs. I thought back to the pile of paper I had for the demon-creating activity I do as part of my talk, and started to wonder if I’d brought enough. But before I could say anything, Michelle and Andrew from booksellers Robins Lake arrived carrying boxes and boxes of books. Way more books than I thought they would bring.
‘About a hundred and sixty.’
This is a considerable number. I gulped, audibly, like a Beano character.
‘That’s a lot.’
‘We did nearly four hundred when Charlie Higson was here.’
‘Oh yes,’ said Kate. ‘We had him here last year.’ She showed me the photos, pinned up behind the counter. ‘He was great.’
Somewhere a gong rang. It took me a second to realise it was coming from my throat: another comically loud gulp. They had Charlie Higson last year! Seasoned comedy professional Charlie Higson! This year they had me, a few bits of paper, and a slideshow about Llandudno. Suddenly I wasn’t so confident. But I didn’t have time to get nervous. The first group had arrived.
I needn’t have worrried: they were one of the best groups I’d ever had. There were about sixty of them, and they laughed at the funny bits during the reading and were really up for all the activities I’d planned out. I like to think this was at least partly down to me, and not just because they were missing an Enterprise lesson. (Were I in charge of the school, that would be a subject about fictional spaceships. Unfortunately St. Nicholas don’t follow the Whelan curriculum and so learn about business instead.)
The day got better and better from there. There was one point, during break, that the lady from the office had to ask us to arrange something so that the kids could bring money for books another day: they were getting besieged by kids asking to borrow money because they hadn’t brought any!
At lunchtime I met St. Nicholas’ library assistants, Arran, Katie and Greg, and we chatted books for a while. The three of them volunteer to work in the library during break and lunch, so they were extremely knowledgeable about books. Greg is even nominated for Pupil Librarian of the Year – one of five on the shortlist – and will soon be travelling to London to find out if he’s won (and to meet a certain Mr. Riddell in the process). Best of luck to him! (#thecampaignstartshere #Greg2016)
By the end of the day, I was really tired: each group had been slightly different, but as each of them had been such great fun and so full of energy I think I knackered myself out trying to match them!
All in all, I saw around two hundred and fifty students, and we sold nearly all the books. We ran out of paper halfway through, but Kate photocopied my sheet for me so it wasn’t a disaster!
I feel so lucky to visited such a great school library, and to have met a brilliant, passionate librarian who is supported by her school. (They timetable Library lessons. Truly, this is a place that values reading for its own sake.)
It was a great first World Book Day, and I look forward to many more to come. (Now booking for 2017, should you be a school in a market for an author…)
P.S. Regular visitors to the blog (and I know you are numerous, especially since I’m so good at blogging I haven’t posted since January) may be wondering about my Patron of Reading school, North Harringay Primary, and why I wasn’t with them for Author Christmas (as WBD shall henceforth be known). Well, I did manage to do something special for them too, which I’ll cover in my next post…