“Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.” So, famously, said one of Edinburgh’s most iconic fictional characters when she was in her prime – the decidedly dotty and unforgettable Miss Jean Brodie, created of course by arguably the Scottish capital’s most highly regarded author, the late Muriel Spark.
The infamous Mussolini-supporting school teacher may not solely have had in mind the best interest of her impressionable girls, who were of course “la crème de la crème”. But for the last twenty years, all involved in the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour have indeed wanted to create an inspiring impression with young people that will remain with them all their days.
That’s because the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour brings writers, storytellers and illustrators of children’s books to children the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. It is designed to enthral, inspire, inform, entertain and most of all get children to engage or even re-engage in the world of books and literacy in general. I have been involved in the programme since its inception in 1998 and it’s still a big thrill for me every time I see an author or illustrator light up the imagination of young people whenever they appear at a school or library.
What’s so particularly pleasing about it is the way the malcontents – there’s some in every class – go into the assembly hall for an author presentation with a surly “Oh, sir, oh, miss, must we?” kind of attitude. Five minutes into the presentation, the malcontents’ heads begin to rise; chins are no longer on chests. After another couple of minutes, the grumblers have stopped slouching in their seats. And by the time we’re ten minutes in, the sour faces have smiles and the sad eyes are sparkling eyes. Streuth! Some even have their arms raised because they want to contribute! That’s what the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour is all about – inspiring children that books are exciting, interesting, inspiring and, heck, useful!
Scottish Friendly is proud, delighted and humbled to have supported this amazing programme over the past twenty years and we’re grateful, indebted even, to the devotion and hard work of our friends at Scottish Book Trust to get each show on the road.
We’ll be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the tour BIG TIME in June this year but in the meantime, we’ve put together a great video showing some key moments in the programme over the last twenty years – you’ll find it at the end of the page.