SUPERB IN STOCKTON

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The 21st Anniversary of the Stockton Children’s Book Award finally arrived.

Along with 14 other authors, Kath and I headed for the Stockton Library special weekend celebrations. The library were very generous and put us up in a nearby hotel and sent a taxi to collect us to take us to the library on Sunday morning along with 7 fellow authors. The other 7 invited authors had spent the previous day (Saturday) with their fans…now it was our turn!

Outside brilliant Stockton Library

Scabbajack was the reason for my invite. It won the award back in 2012 and it was pleasing to find out that it’s still a popular read in the Stockton schools today…despite it being very scary! Well, we had a fabulous day! As usual, Lucy Carlton-Walker had organised everything with super efficiency and our two presentations, with lunch in between, and subsequent book signings, all passed smoothly and without a hitch. Thank you so much, Lucy, and to all of the library staff for making our day so enjoyable. We loved every minute of it.

The next morning found us at Tilery Primary School. We have a long-standing relationship with this lovely school and it was great to find out that they are still HUGE fans of our books. We performed our full-blown Mokee Joe presentation to a fab KS2 audience. I could have talked to them forever…and I think they would have sat there forever if we’d given them the chance! Tomorrow, our son, Simon, arrives and he is going to entertain and enthuse the KS1 pupils with his Icky Doo Dah books. Thank you Tilery Primary for inviting us back…we love visiting your school and will continue to do so as long as you keep on reading our books!

Next visit was to our old friends at Conyers School.  Five Year 10 boys greeted us, helped us set up in the auditorium and even managed to acquire a cup of tea for the both of us. Amazing!

A big audience of Year 7’s (232) sat extremely attentively (very polite!) as I talked on about the reason why I was in Stockton in the first place – Scabbajack – followed by a dramatic presentation of the sequel – Kruschmeister. The performance was well-received and I thought the audience did me proud in sitting on their hard seats for an hour and a half! Phew!

The following day we arrived back at Conyers in the midst a ferocious hail storm, made our way to the library and managed to sign books for a long queue of fans, chat to the lovely librarians and somehow eat our lunch at the same time. Exhausting but brilliant!  BIG ‘thank you’ to Ms Dawson for being a superb hostess (as usual), and to her fab team of librarians for looking after us so well. We will be back!

Final visit of the Stockton tour was to St John the Baptist Primary in nearby Billingham. Unfortunately it turned out that the Year 4’s were out swimming and the Year 6’s were heavily involved in SATS preparation, so our audience was restricted to Years 3 and 5. But didn’t they make up for it!  All of the children were brilliant and a pleasure to perform to. The Mokee Joe presentation went  down a storm and we couldn’t get over how many of them were waiting the next day to get their hands on the books. It seemed Simon had also made an impact working with KS1 on his Icky Doo Dah books and hence the school was more than pleased with our visit.

Good food with good friends!

We finished off the tour with a visit to the Cenna Restaurant in Yarm to link up with a good friend of ours, Peter Huggins, alias  ‘Peter Popps’ to those who know him in the area. Peter has followed us over the years since we visited his daughters’ school, Yarm Primary. His eldest daughter, Sophie, is now preparing for university, but is currently helping out in the restaurant and she actually served Kath and I with our meal. Brilliant! The meal, by the way, was excellent, and Kath will tell you that the dessert was to ‘die for’!

Oh well, back to base for a well-earned rest. Just hope the snow and ice keep away so I can get some fishing in! Thanks to everyone who met up with us in the Stockton area…it was a real pleasure, as always!

PJM

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