Surprise visitor for budding authors
On Thursday 18 July, I was privileged to be asked to accompany the eight founding members of the MCPA Book Group, along with organiser Mrs Yardley-Barnes, to spend the afternoon at Felicity Bryan Publishers in Oxford.
The girls from Years 4 and 5 were encouraged to talk about their love of books, favourite authors and to explain the plans they have for their book club. They are all avid, high level readers and favourite books included Inkheart, The Hobbit, the Warrior Cats series, Orphan of the Sun and several by Lauren St John who is one of Felicity Bryan’s authors. The One Dollar Horse series by Lauren St John was introduced to the group by Mrs Yardley Barnes and the girls have been reading the first two books. They spoke enthusiastically about the stories and the author and it was clear that she is a favourite for most of the girls and something of a hero for one group member in particular. You will understand then the squeals of delight and even tears of joy when the surprise of the day was unveiled - Lauren St John herself walked around the corner!
Once the girls had managed to contain themselves, Ms St John sat and talked to the group about her work, her childhood and where she got the ideas for the book series. She even gave some sneak peek information about the third book, which is yet to be published. The girls asked lots of questions about the writing process then posed for photos with Ms St John. She wrote every girl an autograph before having to leave to travel back to London.
Following cakes and drinks, the group were invited to perform some market research, commenting on various book covers and choosing their favourites from different options. Some of the girls are also budding authors and enjoyed discussing what makes a good manuscript and how to avoid yours being passed over by a publisher. Katelyn had brought along one of her stories in the hopes that it could be passed on to Lauren St John and was thrilled to be able to hand it over in person. The story was shortlisted for the Radio 2 story writing competition, 500 Words, and has been read to the whole school during an Assembly time.
It was a wonderful afternoon and I felt immensely privileged to be there to witness the delight and enthusiasm of these young ladies. They were intelligent and mature, asking well thought out questions and offering insightful opinions on their reading. Their unbridled delight at meeting Lauren St John was extremely moving.
As avid readers who love and value a wide range of texts, the book group wanted to find a way to pass that enthusiasm on to more of their peers. They have plans to make personal recommendations to their peers through Match Book. The group describe Match Book as a dating agency for books. They plan to generate a questionnaire for interested children listing their likes/dislikes, previous reading habits and other details, using the answers to search for suitable books to recommend. They further plan to create a database of the books members have read and to write personal reviews.