Saturday, 29 June 2013

The M23 Tour

We found this sign at a garden
centre near Kenley. 5 1/4 mph?!
This week Mike and I drove up and down the M23 four times from Brighton up to schools in Surrey and Croydon. It meant leaving early each morning to avoid roadworks, but we didn't mind.

On Monday we visited Kenley Primary School and had great fun working with KS1 and KS2. There were many highlights to the morning, but possibly my favourite was when I asked the boy playing Spooky Steve to act terrified. He is obviously a born comedian, as he let out one of the most undramatic 'screams' imaginable, which made us all roll around laughing. What a brilliant way to start the week! Thank you to all the staff for their support on the day and during the book signing a couple of days later. We'd love to return soon to tell you all about more of my books - especially my next one, The Ghost Lord Returns, when that's published!

The beautiful grounds of the City of London Freemen's School
This is what raked seating looks like,
in case you didn't know!
At the City of London Freemen's School I performed to year 4 and most of year 6 on Tuesday. It was a busy day in school, with some children rehearsing for a school production, some doing cycling proficiency and others taking part in an Egyptian day! It was a pleasure working with the children I got to meet and introducing them to my spooky books. I even had the luxury of using their Senior Assembly Hall, with a proper stage and raked seating, which meant everyone got a clear view. I hope it's not too long before I'm able to return to work with some more CLFS children!

We love returning to schools to see old friends and on Wednesday we were invited back to Furzefield Primary School. After having such a wonderful time there last year, could this year's visit be even better? Of course! We were welcomed again by the lovely librarian Sam and the enthusiastic deputy head, Dave (who was busy writing the Doctor Who themed year 6 play, complete with Tardis - how cool is that?!). I always like to make an entrance, but in the KS2 presentation Dave
Thicket House by Jessica number 2 from Furzefield - she only
had a few minutes to draw it! She's called Jessica number 2,
because the illustrator of my books is also called Jessica.
I think Jessica 2 gives Jessica 1 a run for her money!
gave me the best introduction I've ever had, turning my entrance into a complete surprise for the children! KS2 and KS1 were a brilliant
bunch to entertain and their loud laughter was infectious. Throw in some great acting (especially from a very cheeky Becky), and a brilliant illustration from Jessica, and this was a morning to remember. I can't wait to return to Furzefield with The Ghost Lord Returns when it's published!

Next up we are going international again, with a visit tBr├╝ggen School in Germany in a couple of weeks. Watch this space!

P.S. For those who have seen my presentations, this morning I woke up with my hair looking like this... Maybe I don't need the Jedward wig anymore?!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Super Stevenage and Terrific Tring!

Although Mike and I were staying in Stevenage this week, we didn't have to travel far to get into the countryside around the town, and that's were most of our schools were. Our drives to Oaklands School on Monday and St Michael's Woolmer Green School on Tuesday took us down the narrowest of country lanes - even in our small car, we struggled to fit down them. As we came out of the appropriately named Slip Lane, a dustbin lorry was indicating to turn into it; thank goodness we didn't meet this giant vehicle coming along Slip Lane - we'd have been crushed!

Our location out in the country meant we were able to enjoy lovely lunches at the local garden centres. At Vanstone Park garden centre we saw a heron catching a fish, and met the adorable goslings you can see in the photo.

Oaklands and St Michael's provided lovely, small audiences - and both proved that size doesn't matter, as the children were so enthusiastic and welcoming. We were invited to Oaklands by our good friend Julie Petitt, who we last met at her old school, Whitehill Junior, earlier this year. Both Oaklands and St Michael's were brilliant schools to perform in, and put us in a great mood for the rest of the week!

On Wednesday we were treated to a larger audience at Camps Hill Primary in Stevenage. The atmosphere in the packed hall was great, as was the children's acting. Year 6 are currently rehearsing for a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and if their acting is anything like it was in my KS2 and KS1 presentations, it will be a fantastic show!

I have performed in a huge range of locations, but Friday was a first - I performed my spooky presentation
Francis House School
in a school chapel! I was invited to Francis House School in Tring by our friend Connie Murtagh (who I last met when she was teaching at Sacred Heart School). It was a busy day for the school, with finals of music competitions and French Speaking competitions taking place in the hall, and my presentation in the chapel. It was certainly a fascinating place to bring to life my ghostly books, with the children joining in enthusiastically from the pews! A group of year 5s and 6s had to leave half way through to take part in the French Speaking competition, but apparently they were desperately trying to speed up their readings so that they could get back to my presentation! Although I'm in danger of repeating myself, it has to be said that Francis House was another brilliant school. The children's acting certainly added a lot of extra character (and humour) to the visit.

Thank you to our friends, old and new, for organising our visits to the schools this week: Julie Petitt at Oaklands, Mrs Allen and Mr Mallon at St Michael's, Keri Doling at Camps Hill and Connie Murtagh at Francis House. You all proved lovely hosts, and we can't wait to tell you all about my next book, The Ghost Lord Returns, when it is released next year!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

3 Counties, 5 Schools, 100s of Children and 9 Hatching Eggs

Our tour this week took Mike and me to schools in Berkshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. 

Monday was a busy day, visiting 2 schools near Reading. At Lambs Lane Primary, we kicked off their book week with a bang. We had great fun entertaining KS2 in a presentation full of laughs, silliness and dramatic acting. I was particularly impressed with the year 3 who came up to help me dance to Jedward! In the afternoon, we had just as much fun introducing KS2 at Bucklebury Primary to our ghostly books. The children here were very good at bad jokes - I had to work very hard to find jokes they didn't get! Thank you to Amy O'Rouke at Lambs Lane and Nicola Madden at Bucklebury for arranging brilliant visits to both schools. This was our first visit to both Lambs Lane and Bucklebury - we certainly hope it won't be our last!

On Tuesday we travelled 50 miles to Gloucestershire and had a lovely time at the small, but very welcoming, Rodmarton Primary School, which has just 30 children in KS2. We were competing on the day with cute chicks hatching out of eggs. As we arrived, the first one had just hatched! We had the luxury of using the village hall next to the school for our presentations. Although the audiences were small, they made up for it with their enthusiasm and I had great fun bringing my books to life with them. Seeing 30 awe-filled faces staring up at me as I gave a dramatic reading of Becky's encounter with 'The Spectre' encouraged me to make the reading even more dramatic! When we returned to school the following day, a total of 9 chicks had hatched ... awwwww! Thank you to Mr Jones for organising our time at Rodmarton - we look forward to returning soon to work with you and your partner schools.

On Wednesday we were greeted with great enthusiasm by the Catholic School of Saint Gregory the Great in the centre of Cheltenham. Our lovely hostess, Miss Vaughan, and the other staff were amongst the most welcoming and helpful teachers we have met and we would like to say a huge thank you to them for making us feel completely at home entertaining the lively audience of year 4-6 children. In the school hall there was a nice, big stage - whenever I get the chance, I can't help jumping off and getting the audience fully involved in my presentation. I think I gave some of the year 4s at St Greg's quite a surprise as I leapt towards them! After my visit, the school decided to buy a huge collection of my books so that those children who weren't able to purchase their own copy would have a chance to read them - what a wonderful idea! We'll be in touch as soon as the next book is ready to show you all!
The brilliantly decorated entrance hall at Riverside!

After travelling another 50 miles up to Hereford, we found ourselves back with old friends at Riverside
Primary School, which I have visited twice before. You know when you enter a school that has an entrance hall decorated like the one at Riverside that you'll be in for a good time. Our audience of over 200 KS2 children entered the hall quietly simmering with curiosity, but by the time they left they were so excited about my two latest books they had just about reached boiling point. If I'd left them with one more cliff hanger I think they might have exploded! The large KS1 audience afterwards were an absolute joy too and their laughter is still ringing in my ears! Thank you to Mrs Walker for arranging another fantastic morning. After our third successful visit to Riverside, we now can't wait to come back and tell you all about my next book, The Ghost Lord Returns!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Back On The Road

After a month's break from school visits, what better way to kick things off again than by returning to visit old friends.

I was last at Edward Bryant School in Bognor Regis 3 years ago, but arriving at the school gates on Wednesday morning, it felt like only a few weeks had passed between visits. It was lovely to receive enthusiastic welcomes from year 6s who remembered me from when they were in year 3! The plan was for me to run my Ghost Island presentation with the whole of KS2, followed by workshops with year 5. But then Ofsted turned up!

This meant that I was only able to see all of KS2 for about 15 minutes. Although we didn't have long, I launched into the most action-packed part of my presentation and crammed as much excitement into those 15 minutes as possible. By the end I was exhausted and the children were eager to find out more about my latest books. But sadly, year 3, 4 and 6 had to head back to classrooms, leaving me with year 5 for the rest of the day. Fortunately, year 5 were a delight to work with and made the day thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you to Mrs Bolland, Mr Lawrence and Mrs Bennet for your support throughout the visit - if I was an Ofsted inspector I would rate Edward Bryant Outstanding!

Fun at Hawthorns!

On Thursday morning I left home early, at 6.30am, to get past miles of roadworks on my way to Hawthorns School. I have visited Hawthorns for the past 3 years to work with their year 5s during project week. There's one thing I can guarantee about my yearly trip to this school - they always provide some of the most lively, enthusiastic children you are likely to meet. This year proved no different! It was an absolute pleasure working with them throughout the day - from the very entertaining presentation, to the gruesome ideas thought up in the writing workshop, to the high comedy of  the drama workshop. Some real characters shone through, and the acting ability of these year 5s was top class. We were having so much fun that in the end the final workshop overran by 30 minutes, but no one minded - least of all me!
A year 5 showing me his best Jedward impression!

Thank you, as always, to Mrs Moyle and Mr Woodard for organising a fantastic day. I'm looking forward to next year's visit already!