Right Royal Reading Challenge

Photo: Clarence House

It was the grand official opening of the new Exeter Library yesterday, and I went along to help Sarah McIntyre, who was doing an event there in her capacity as illustrator for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge – young readers borrowing books from UK libraries over the summer holidays will be able to collect the poster and stickers she’s drawn. Also visiting the library was HRH the Duchess of Cornwall, on plaque-unveiling duty, and she sat in on Sarah’s session for a while.

This made for quite a hectic event – Sarah was having to compete with choirs singing in the neighbouring room, and press photographers talking at the tops of their voices, even interupting her in the middle of her event to ask her where Camilla would be sitting – to them, the audience of kids from St Leonard’s Primary School were just props in a Royal Photo Op (you can see why the paparazzi aren’t popular).  Anyway, McIntyre pulled it off, as usual, and Camilla very gamely drew a sea monkey (or, as the Daily Express describes it, ‘a creature with strange but vaguely familiar large ears’). Here she is with the copy of Oliver and the Seawigs which we gave her (the lady next to her is Ciara Eastell, Devon County Council’s Head of Libraries). There’s a full report of these Exciting Royal Events on Sarah’s blog.

Photo: Sarah Reeve

Events, dear boy, events…

Just a reminder about two forthcoming events for anyone who is interested and in the right bits of the country…

First, next Saturday (21st June) I shall be at Exeter Library, talking about the Goblins books (and specifically about the new one, Goblin Quest).  Kick off is at 2pm and I shall burble on for about an hour, with signing afterwards. I don’t think I have any other events scheduled for Goblin Quest, so I guess this counts as the OFFICIAL LAUNCH too! Tickets are free, but can be reserved if you want to make sure of a seat –  at time of writing, there are 37 left.

And at the end of the month I shall be joining Sarah McIntyre in Manchester for a big Oliver and the Seawigs event on Saturday 28th June. This year’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival has been overrun by our Sea Monkeys; to the point where one of the little critters is even writing the MCBF official blog (he’s a much better typist than the goblins).

Looking forward to both of these – and hoping to meet some of you there!

Hay Festival & Exeter Library

Caban Coch dam, Elan Valley.

Just back from a week in mid-Wales, during which I popped into the Hay Festival for a day to join celebrity hatstand Sarah McIntyre for a couple of events – details on Sarah’s blog.

We haven’t been to Mid-Wales before, although I know the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia fairly well. It turned out to be beautiful. The towns aren’t up to much – charity shops and convenience stores inhabiting the decaying grandeur of once-popular Victorian resorts (Aberystwyth feels particularly post-apocalyptic)  but the surrounding country is beautiful, with mountains, gorges, waterfalls and lots of dams and reservoirs, which were looking very impressive after the recent rain. It reminded me a lot of the Wicklow Mountains, and also parts of the Lake District. We stayed at Pwllgwylim Cottages in Cilmeri, just outside Builth Wells. The owners, Richard and Jill, also do B&B, and were very welcoming and helpful. I’d recommend it if you’re thinking of visiting the area.

I was also very taken with the Hafod Hotel at Devil’s Bridge, which has exactly the sort of a big, comfy, friendly tea room you want to find if you’ve just been on a wettish hike to the bottom of the spectacular Devil’s Bridge gorge. And the drive back to Climeri from there over the mountain road was glorious…

I came home to find my first advance copy of the new Goblins book, Goblin Quest. It’s published this week, so I’ll be blogging about it in the next couple of days.  And if you’re in Devon, I’ll be doing a Goblins event at Exeter’s snazzy new Central Library on saturday 21st June at 2pm. Tickets are free, and can be reserved in advance (though you can just turn up on the day, if you prefer).  It’s so long since I’ve done an event without Sarah M that I can’t remember how, but I expect I’ll do some drawing, and read a bit from the new book, and I may even dust off the Bratapult…