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Hawick library is really impressive – a stately and roomy Victorian building with arches and stained glass. I was delighted to see there was a separate children’s room, instead of the children being squeezed into a section of the adult area. We were welcomed with a lovely collage display of my books, and there was also some wonderful jungle scenery made by the two schools performing to us. The first of these was Stirches Primary, who did Party Animals.
They sat in a circle and took turns to come into the middle for various dances and actions – a very animated performance. The sound effects were really excellent, specially when several of the children took turns to tap out rhythms on the floor with some special sticks called “boom whackers”. All this plus a giant snake and a pink guitar!
The other children were from Trinity Primary and they acted Monkey Puzzle, cleverly creating parts for everyone by adding extra butterflies (in the book there is only one) and using multiple narrators. It rattled along and was obviously very well rehearsed. And there were some lovely tree costumes – green tunics and headbands decorated with leaves.
We acted Room on the Broom with a very sweet boy being the cat. He also turned out to be an ace mathematician – working out in a flash during Question Time that if I’d started writing books in 1993 that I’d been an author for nineteen years. We also did Paula the Vet which always goes down well, specially the dragon chase at the end, and we sang the “Ball of Pastry” song and “Use Your Arms”.
Our final library on the Scottish leg of the tour was Castle Douglas, where we were in a lovely upstairs area with a wrought-iron balcony overlooking the rest of the library. Here we had just one class, from Tweedbank Primary. It was nice having a smaller number of children and it meant that everyone who wanted to could have a little part to act or could get to ask a question. They performed Little Polar Bear which was the most adventurous story so far, about a polar bear travelling to the tropics and back again. There was some great scenery, depicting the different landscapes, some good miming, and effective sound effects such as the children drumming their hands on the floor to represent rain. We had time for more of our own stories and songs than usual, fitting in Monkey Puzzle, Freddie and the Fairy , the Walking the Dog poem, and two songs: “Under the Water” and “Splash and Squelch”.
Back home alone (Malcolm has gone to Germany for a medical conference) I feel exhausted but very happy about how the Scottish tour has gone. Everywhere we have been given a huge welcome, and the anticipation and enthusiasm of the children has been a real joy. There have been funny moments too, specially when I ask them to guess what is in my flat maroon box (it actually contains my Children’s Laureate medal). Often they say “A book” but one child guessed “A Gruffalo” and another “A sandwich”.
Alas, it’s all over ... This tour has really opened my eyes to the opportunities and possibility of doing more work in libraries. Scottish Book Trust are keen to do more to facilitate the relationship between schools and libraries – and I’m interested to see what we can do after this tour. It was wonderful to see pupils getting excited about their own performances, and most of the schools have (or will) perform their picture book play at a school assembly. That means the performances we enjoyed are just a part of the greater learning the pupils are doing in their schools. Great stuff! And finally, after seeing thousands of miles of Scotland, Beth has decided that, in fact, she really likes her flat in Edinburgh the most and has decided not to move after all.
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