From Wonderland to Widcombe Hill, a Girl and a Book

Bookwagon enjoyed a busy week, with a lot of chewing gum chomping, checklists and children.

On Thursday, National Poetry Day, we accompanied poet Michaela Morgan, Ambassador to the Poetry Society, to Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, Elstree. Michaela read poetry from Wonderland Alice in Poetry and Reaching the Stars to the Junior School children before creating descriptive poetry with them. She shared an earlier rhyming publication with the younger girls, then developed rhyming phrases around a ‘rat-a-tat’ rhythm.

Michaela’s works from ‘Reaching the Stars‘, poems about exceptional women, gripped the audience, e.g., ‘Malala- afraid of one girl and a book‘ and ‘Ruby Bridges, My First Day at School’. Michaela shared ‘Freedom‘, a poem for the day read on the hour at Sutton Railway station, built around the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day. Thank you to all involved, especially the superb school library team, Christina, Fiona and Annette.

Bookwagon took a break of dawn drive on the M4 to be part of an audience with Kate DiCamillo at this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival. This outstanding writer of wonderful titles such as Because of Winn-Dixie, Flora & Ulysses and Raymie Nightingale  served as the United States’ Ambassador of Young People’s Literature between 2014-15. “Kate DiCamillo is not only one of our finest writers for young people, but also an outstanding advocate for the importance of reading,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.’

I  have recommended, gifted and read ‘Because of Winn-Dixie‘ to many children. I have a special memory of reading this book to the beloved sons of a dear friend when we holidayed in a dilapidated house in the Ardeche, France about twelve years ago.

I adore Kate DiCamillo’s writing, in a way Mr Bookwagon does Luther Blisset and Watford Football Club. In Florida last year, I ‘was ecstatic to discover a hardback first edition of Kate DiCamillo’s ‘Raymie Nightingale‘ in Judy Blume’s Key West bookstore. Yesterday, the author signed that book.

Kate DiCamillo in person exceeded my hopes and aspirations. She was warm and wonderful. It made me think of how special it is to young people to realise writers, that this connection is vital to their reading attachment and development.

She told us how her mother’s vacuum cleaner inspired ‘Flora & Ulysses‘, that Opal Buloni of ‘Because of Winn-Dixie‘ is a far wiser character than she could ever be, that Raymie Clarke, and her situation as described in ‘Raymie Nightingale, are closest to her own, so that book is ‘autobiographical, but not autobiographical’. She held my attention like a tight goblet; the children in the audience were similarly enthralled.

On the same day a furious debate rang out across social media about celebrity authors platformed for World Book Day 2018, while lesser known authors and illustrators struggle. An average salary, the esteemed Jackie Morris wrote last  week, is £12 000-Jackie Morris Blog

Kate DiCamillo told her audience that her best selling, award winning, internationally acclaimed ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’ had taken six years to write and suffered 473 rejections. It was not until some two years after the publication of that title, after monumental ‘success’, that she was able to cut back to working 32 hours at a local bookstore in order to ‘make ends meet’.

Since that success, and during her role as Ambassador (similar to our Children’s Laureate), Kate DiCamillo has determined to ‘work hard to get to places you wouldn’t think mattered because kids need and love physical books.‘ I’d assert that kids need and love physical writers, real writers, real books, too.

Our predicted 2 hours 6 minutes of travel became 3 hours 35 minutes each way. We endured a furious argument when attempting to park in a garden centre . However, I returned with a greater determination to share our books and writers, with our lovely audience and beyond, so that writers like Kate DiCamillo are known and read, and would-be writers like Kate DiCamillo might enjoy greater opportunity to become known and read. It matters.

 

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