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Back in the early summer, the older children and I were invited along to the Children’s Bookshow event in Manchester. I checked the date and agreed we could go. I’ll confess to not having known too much about the Children’s Bookshow, nor what to expect from the event.
Today was the day of the event so Harry was off with Grandma for the morning and Daniel, Emma and I headed into Manchester. The show we were seeing was with the Author and Illustrator Alexis Deacon , an author I wasn’t overly familiar with.
Annoyingly our train was running quite late so we had to have a rather fast walk from Piccadilly down to the Royal Exchange. We collected our tickets and fortunately (for us!) the show was slightly delayed so we could catch our breath and get ourselves sorted.
Despite having worked in the Royal Exchange Buildings for five years and having spent many a lunchtime sat on the steps of the theatre, I’d never before actually watched a performance there. The stage is circular and the seats are all around it, which makes for a really close and personal experience; it’s very different to watching someone perform on a ‘normal’ stage where they are in front of you. There were large screens set either side of the stage with projected images from the books onto them.
The children and I sat down and had a read through of some of the books we had been kindly gifted and waited for the performance to start. I think all the other people there were school groups (although I think as home educators you can buy tickets too) and it was fantastic to see so many children utterly captivated by the show.
The Performance Itself
Alexis was fantastic and introduced himself and then set about performing his book, A Place to Call Home. There is something quite magical about listening to an author perform their story and I am sure that when we read it again at home the children will want the full performance from me. It was a wonferul experience and the children were totally absorbed by it and completely engaged with Alexis and the story.
— Children's Bookshow (@ChildrensBkShow) October 18, 2018
After this, Alexis told a little about how he had always loved to draw, and how he had got into reading many different books. Daniel did look a bit perplexed at the suggestion that some people don’t like to read (he did say to me at one point ‘but why wouldn’t you want to read?’) but the discussion I suspect may have resonated with some of the older and, perhaps, more reluctant readers in the theatre.
He then moved on to performing Croc and Bird which I absolutely loved; this is such a fantastic story and one I plan to revisit with the children and look at in more detail. There was some live drawing as well as discussions about how one simple shape can turn into lots of different things – something I am going to do with the children in a few weeks’ time.
After the event, there was an opportunity to meet Alexis and the children got their books signed. They were a bit awestruck I think and when we got back on the train they were asking if he had really written the books they were holding. They really enjoyed the show and I plan to revisit some of the things Alexis talked about with them in the next week or two – the ideas about shapes and using that to spark ideas.
Events like these where children get to see, hear and meet the person behind the book are so valuable. I have always loved reading and am thrilled that, so far, all three children seem to also enjoy reading – there’s isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t find them all reading. But for those children who don’t like to read, or don’t engage as well with books hearing about the magical world of books from authors and illustrators such as Alexis Deacon cannot help but inspire and excite them. The fact that Alexis managed to capture and hold the attention of a room full of children for an hour was no mean feat!
About the Children’s Bookshow
The Children’s Bookshow, who organised this event is an arts charity whose aim is to inspire children with a love of reading. They introduce children to world-class authors and illustrators through a programme of theatre events and in-school workshops. The artists selected are chosen from a wide variety of countries and cultures to give children access to the very best stories, poems and illustrations from all over the world. It’s worth taking a look at the performances that are still to run (see here) and signing up to the mailing list to be the first to hear about the events next autumn.
The children and I were gifted tickets to this show as well as some of Alexis Deacon’s books in exchange for this blog post.