There are many good reasons for living in Scotland. One of the best is the Edinburgh International Book Festival which happens every summer in the last three weeks of August. At this time the city of Edinburgh comes alive with street performers, outdoor concerts and thousands of comedy, theatre, music and dance shows to choose from.
The Book Festival hosts over 800 author events, including almost every children’s author you’ve ever heard of! It’s always a thrill for me to be invited to perform at the festival alongside some of my absolute idols! This year was my third appearance, and I took my daughter and her friend along so we could enjoy some other authors’ events as well.
For many years now my daughter Anna has been a big Jacqueline Wilson fan. We ALWAYS go to see Jacqueline at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and this summer was no exception. This time Jacqueline was talking about her latest book, Four Children and It, which is based on the classic story written in 1902 by Edith Nesbit, Five Children and It. The ‘It’ in both books is a funny little alien, and Jacqueline has written an updated story with modern-day children who have new adventures with the alien.
Some years ago we were lucky enough to get to know Jacqueline Wilson, and I can tell you for certain that she is a lovely person! Despite being incredibly busy signing books and doing interviews, she took a bit of time out for a quick visit with us, and my daughter and her friend Mashal got this brilliant picture!
But that wasn’t all. Next we went to hear the wonderful Meg Rosoff talk about her new book, There is No Dog. Anna had read and enjoyed it, as well as How I Live Now, and I was curious to learn more about this writer whose work I had dipped into and been very impressed by. Listening to her talk, I was struck by how much we had in common (as North American writers of about the same age living in the UK). She was funny and clever and instantly likeable, so it was a great pleasure to meet her in the book-signing tent after her event. I am definitely going to read as much Meg Rosoff as I can get hold of now!
But then it was time for my own event. This summer I was reading my latest book, Lewis Clowns Around. I had a good crowd of children on pillows on the floor, and their parents all sat on chairs behind them. It was great fun reading the story with them, and one little boy (who is wearing a stripy shirt and dungarees in the photo below) kept climbing up on the stage to be part of the show! Later the children all got paper and coloured pencils to do their own puffin drawings. I set up the big book on the floor so they could look at the pictures for inspiration.
Some of the children gave their drawings to me at the end of our session, and I have two particularly good ones to show you. In the first one you can see Lewis the puffin in a special train to go to the circus. Can you see his carriage is covered with little fish? Perhaps that’s his lunch.
The second drawing is a very handsome puffin by a boy called Ruari. For some reason he decided to colour Lewis’s tummy green instead of white. Maybe he’d been sliding down a grassy hill…
After my event I got to chat with lots of kids and their parents in the book-signing tent. While I was there, Anna decided to take some photographs around the book festival. She is a great help to me when I need photos for my blog!
You can see in this one how many people come to the book festival every summer. I was very lucky to have warm sunshine on the weekend I was there. The tents are set up all around Charlotte Square Gardens, and when it’s rainy the grass in the middle is a sea of mud!
Most of the tents are venues for author events, but one or two are cafes like the Spiegeltent above. There is also a special tent called the Authors’ Yurt, where we authors can relax before or after an event. The picture below was taken by Book Festival staff.
The Yurt is a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis because it looks quite small on the outside but inside it has several rooms with exotic rugs on the floor and colourful cushions all around. The lines you see on the ceiling are wooden slats holding up the tent roof!
All around the walkways that link the tents are big poster-size portraits of the many writers who come to the festival. This photo Anna took shows Ryan Van Winkle, my friend Vivian French and Jenny Colgan. In most cases the authors are making funny faces for the camera, and it’s great fun to go round and see how many you can recognise.
Anna took this last photo in the bookshop, where hundreds of books are on display. She liked the colours and the funny titles of these Scots books. The Edinburgh Book Festival continues until 27 August so there’s still plenty of time to check out your favourite authors. I have a new puffin book coming out next spring, so I’m hoping I’ll be invited back to the festival in 2013. See you there!