Today I am absolutely delighted to be blogging from Pontypridd Museum for the second Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival! A children’s book festival in partnership with Cardiff Book Festival and Pontypridd Town Council held today on Saturday 18th May 2019 at Pontypridd Museum from 10am-5pm.
It’s an all day festival for children and families to celebrate books of all kinds, inspire new authors and enjoy reading, writing and storytelling with joy, fun and friendship. It’s taking place at the beautiful surroundings of the Pontypridd Museum and Pontypridd Library, spilling out onto the banks of the River Taff, under the shadow of the famous old Pontypridd bridge. The event has free entry, displays, props, music and activities as well as ticketed events with authors, readings, masterclasses and Q&As.
Throughout the day, you can see updates of the festival, author talks, events and goings on of the day here and through my Twitter feed (@MrEPrimary) and also at Pontypridd Children’s Book Festival Facebook and Twitter pages.
Meet David Brayley, author of Champion of Champions! £3
Reading – How It changed my life and made me a sports author.
Sharing how his love of reading for pleasure started thanks to him and his best friend Tony voraciously reading books such as Rothmans’ Football Yearbook 1974-75, David spoke about how reading as a child helped him to not only gain an encyclopaedic knowledge of the football league teams but also unbeknownst to him at the time, his reading skills developing in school.
Further on, David spoke about how hard work led his childhood friends to play professional football for the team that he wanted to play for, Swansea City, even though he had the natural talent to get there himself. Feeling proud of his friends but slightly envious at the same time, David kept in touch with his sporting friends through his love of reading and as a result of the books he read as a child, this led to his life changing in more ways than one. With Tony, his childhood friend, getting back in touch with him to ask him to write his book, There’s Only 2 Tony Cotteys.
As a boyhood Swansea City fan himself, and realising the impact that football and sport books had on him, David also got in touch with friend Ashley Williams, captain of Swansea City at the time that they won promotion to Premier League and ended up writing his book, Ashley Williams: My Premier League Diary, too. David soon became more well known – even worldwide in parts of South America – and for David, this came full circle as his beloved Swansea City invited him to write a book of the club’s history in the format of a quiz book, The Official Swansea City Quiz Book (linking back to what David loved reading as a child) and going on to write his own novel Champion of Champions, proving that the effects of reading can result in more than we could ever imagine!
With a vast array of objects adorning the room, and introducing an antiquated and shabby-looking suitcase, Clare spoke about the importance of objects; their value to us and how they can be a source of inspiration to get us talking, writing and sharing.
Reading ‘An Ode to My Socks’, written by Pablo Neruda and ‘Fork’ by Charles Simic for their words to act as inspiration, it soon became clear to the audience that there is extraordinary opportunity and possibility in the ordinary objects that are around us if we look at them from a slightly different and altogether imaginative angle. Could a fork be a sword or even… a dinglehopper?
What made the workshop was the level of detail, perspective, emotion and creativity in the poems created and read by the children and adults out loud at the end of the session… including a poem from one of the children in my class with the line ‘a rose standing proud and cold; desperate for someone to hold’.
Talking about The Train to Impossible Places to a packed audience, Peter began by telling us about a different kind of troll that he set out to create for his fantastical and magical adventure story which is about as far removed from a typical troll as you can think or as moviemakers can portray.
As the sound of metal on metal clanged loudly, the Impossible Postal Service smashes itself through the underneath of Suzy’s house revealing its troll, Fletch and its driver to her. As this is not a usual encounter for Suzy, curiosity gets the better of her and she realises she has to be involved on this wildly inventive, thrill-ride of a journey on a train that’s powered by nuclear bananas to universes and realms beyond your wildest imagination! Trollville awaits…
Sharing favourite bedtime stories with the audience Peter revealing that in fact The Train to Impossible Places itself started out as a bedtime story for his son. Racking his brains, he felt he had to take inspiration from somewhere and so The Polar Express crossed his mind. However, what if the train hadn’t just pulled up outside the child’s house but roared its way through the house nearly killing the child in the first chapter and so, The Train to Impossible Places was born.
Having a go at making our own new impossible trains that deliver ice-cream, destroy everything in their wake and snatch children complete with dragons, ghosts and grandmas; nothing is impossible in the imagination of Peter and Pontypridd.
Newsflash! Multiple witches spotted in Pontypridd! Appearing within the audience, there were many witches’ hats, wigs and goings-on during Sibéal’s session where she shared her massively successful Witch Wars series, the first of which was shortlisted for Waterstones’ Children’s Book Prize in 2016.
Swapping between Witch Wars and newest series Bad Mermaids, Sibéal spoke hilariously as the audience created real-life versions of her characters and about her magical lands called Swirly Shell, Anchor Rock, Lobstertown and Oysterdale to mash up both series in one creating a new merwitch adventure; even dousing a witch in water and calling one of the characters the best name in the witching world, Witchy Witchbum!
Giving us historical accounts of The Wild Hunt, Claire started with the whole room sat in suspense. Horses’ hooves thudding; hounds barking; thunder crashing; lightning flashing, the sound and the spectacle of the hunt is not one to be reckoned with. However lagging behind was a hound called Storm and he couldn’t quite keep up…
This is where the creation of Claire’s (as I called it when I recently reviewed it) electrifying, exciting, entertaining and endearing novel, Storm Hound came from. But you’re probably thinking that Storm is a strong, stubborn wolf hound full of ferocity however Storm is just a little bit different. Full of cuteness but bestowed with magical powers.
Talking more about norse gods like Odin, Loki and Thor; mythical beasts such as dragons, unicorns and even the Loch Ness Monster and with the appearance of sheep, including a sheep quiz. Spoiler alert! Sheep have rectangular pupils, there are over 1000 breeds of sheep and they can recognise 50 other sheep!). This session was every bit as fun and fantastic as this story is!
Set in the wonderful world of Wales, and brimming with legend, this is a modern-day myth of its very own.
Starting the session atmospherically in the dark (reason for lack of author picture above!), Eloise – a trained actress herself, and now an expert in creative writing and teaching creative writing – invited the audience to visualise and imagine themselves within their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, senses and surroundings to see the world through the eyes of a child.
Developing settings by honing in on images of places and landscapes and focusing on asking questions to create a character including their name, age and their best and worst memories helped the audience to bring distinct facets of their characters’ personalities, strengths and insecurities to life. Cue a crowd naturally captured by concentration! The session ended with an spontaneous author Q&A panel with Eloise, Claire Fayers and Sarah Todd Taylor, author of the wonderful Max the Detective Cat series, who were also in attendance.