Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Bookish Japes in Charlotte Square - Part 1

For most people, August is synonymous with summer holidays. Everyone gets a bit of time off from work or school and either takes steps to flee the country for a bit of sun, or (as has been particularly in vogue this year) elects to make the best of the British summer by embarking on a 'staycation'.

For the publicists of the book trade, however, (and their author/illustrator charges) August means just one thing. It's the month we pack up our best dresses, team them with a pair of wellington boots and make the pilgrimage to Charlotte Square for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. This year I had so many authors and illustrators appearing that I had to make two trips, so I'll do two blogs, y'know, to break it up a little.

The first trip was definitely the busiest. I arrived in Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon and then on the Sunday I kicked off early doors with Catherine Rayner and her latest gorgeous picture book Sylvia and Bird. Catherine was the inaugural Illustrator in Residence at the book festival this year so as well as doing a number of her own events she also chaired the masterclasses of fellow illustrators, including Mini Grey and Oliver Jeffers, designed the book festival 'passport' and had various of her illustrations popping up all over the square. Her event went down very well with little-ees and parents alike. 

Catherine Rayner admires her creation Harris in the festival bookshop window.
(P.S. We don't have pint-size authors, Harris is not to scale!)

Next up was the always delightful David Roberts, who performed to a packed out audience of around two hundred and fifty Dirty Bertie fans. David's events have gone down very well for the past couple of years, but each time he performs Bertie seems to accrue yet more devoted fans. I was very impressed by the number of kids who could recount scenarios and characters from the books - they are Bertie-mad in Edinburgh! David nearly didn't get away in time for his train because his signing queue was so long!

And I almost didn't get away for the third Little Tiger of the day, Steve Smallman. Thank goodness I did though, because I wouldn't have missed it for the world. I sincerely wish Steve could read everyone a bedtime story every night because he would just send everyone off so peacefully. It was lovely to see all the little-uns sprawled out on cushions, totally mesmerised by Steve's stories. Although once he'd got them good and relaxed with There's No Such Thing as Monsters he stirred them right up again with the mischievous The Monkey with a Bright Blue Bottom.

Monday morning saw Kathryn White introducing a clever monkey and a nuisance crocodile in Click Clack Crocodile's Back! One of the terrific things about the festival is the chance for authors and illustrators to mingle with their peers and it's always lovely to see the sense of camaraderie between them. Stuck for someone to play the part of the crocodile in her event, Kathryn called on the very obliging Julia Donaldson, who played the part with great gusto!

Kathryn White with her croc' AKA Julia Donaldson

So that was all the pros done and dusted and Tuesday and Wednesday was time to focus on the Edinburgh novices. Illustrators Caroline Pedler and Simon Prescott ran terribly creative/messy events in the workshop tent. I always feel you've been cheated if you don't leave that particular venue covered in glitter, and I wasn't disappointed. (I think there'd been some fairies in there just before us!) Rounding the trip off nicely was Paul Bright, whose interactive event featuring dinosaurs AND underpants, not to mention a huge inflatable globe, went down a real treat. (You can't go wrong with that kind of combo!) He really got the kids pepped up and we met some die-hard dinosaur fanatics! 

(L - R) Lacey, Caroline Pedler, James (Caroline's other-half and a dab hand with a paintbrush, too!), Simon Prescott hanging out in the yurt.

I can't speak highly enough of this festival. The lovely Sara Grady and her dedicated team do a fantastic job of co-ordinating hundreds of events across two and a half weeks and the festival itself always runs exceptionally smoothly whilst appearing totally laid-back and effortless. I really don't know how they do it but I would very much like to know their secret!

Coming up in Part 2:
Zombaliens invade Charlotte Square, along with a giant moose.
Children's Laureate Anthony Browne is full of praise for Catherine Rayner.
I took some nice people for dinner and we all had a lovely time.
I managed to see some bits on the fringe and chuckled quite a lot.


  1. Wow - that looks great - must be an a wonderful job getting to meet all those talented authors and illustrators. Love reading your blog, keep up the great work!

  2. Yes, I am very lucky! It can be pretty stressful, but it's always worth it when we get to meet all the little people we make the books for.