Spring and Summer 2016 author visits and Able Writers Days

Author visits in schools inspire children to read widely and to write for pleasure. Here is my school event itinerary for the coming weeks. I won’t add any more events in May or June, but if you would like me to visit your school in July, do get in touch. For rates, testimonials and session content, see Stephen Davies Author Visits, or drop me a line at sahelsteve@gmail.com.

DateSchoolLocationNature of Visit
28 April 2016St Mary's Catholic Primary GillinghamAble Writers Day
3 May 2016Holy Trinity CofE PrimaryMaidenheadAble Writers Day
6 May 2016Burntwood AcademyBalhamWriting Workshop
13 May 2016Burntwood AcademyBalhamWriting Workshop
18 May 2016Whitgift SchoolCroydonTalks
24 May 2016Alveston PrimaryStratford-upon-AvonWriting Workshops
7-8 June 2016Westfield PrimaryWokingAble Writers Day
9 June 2016St Mary's Catholic PrimaryGillinghamAble Writers Day
15 June 2016TBCWandsworthWriting Workshops
16 June 2016Brentwood PrepBrentwoodAble Writers Day
22 June 2016Stocks Green PrimaryHildenboroughAble Writers Day
23 June 2016Willington Independent PrepWimbledonWorkshops
6 July 2016Monks Orchard PrimaryCroydonAble Writers Day

The Complete Walk : a celebration of 400 years since Shakespeare’s death

Went on the Complete Walk along the South Bank of the river today. Wasn’t sure how many screenings I would be able to see, due to having a three year-old in tow. As it turned out, the problem was never the three year old, but the technical difficulties which beset the whole event. The Globe blamed Obama’s visit for the many blank screens. A few of the screens were working, though. We got to see Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labours Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King John. And the sun was shining.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts

This wonderfully titled book The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts is written by renowned travel writer and journalist Joshua Hammer. It tells the true story of Abdel Kader Haidara, the mild-mannered librarian who spearheaded the smuggling of Timbuktu’s priceless manuscripts out of the city in 2012, when they were under threat of destruction by Islamist extremists.

abdel_haidara

My own novel BLOOD & INK recounts the same story from the point of view of Timbuktu’s teenagers. Whereas my book is YA historical fiction, Hammer focusses on the adults and sticks to the facts. He recounts these facts in truly dramatic fashion, though – the story has been called ‘a heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven’. Reviewer Jeffrey Brown comments that ‘the stories of Haidara’s colorful and sometimes perilous journeys to gather manuscripts make for some of the book’s most exciting passages’.

I look forward very much to reading it myself.

THE BAD-ASS LIBRARIANS OF TIMBUKTU comes out tomorrow, published by Simon and Schuster.

BLOOD & INK is already available in the UK, published by Andersen Press. It comes out in the US later this year, published by Charlesbridge, and in Germany, published by Aladin Verlag.

Badass_Librarians_reviews

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD publication day

“All aboard for the Bobo Road, the most beautiful road in the world!”

In my new picture book, Fatima and Galo load the luggage while their dad Big Ali drives the bus. Help count on bikes, rice, melons, goats and chickens as the bus travels through the stunning scenery of south-western Burkina Faso. Illustrations by Christopher Corr.

My wife and I used to live in the northern ‘Sahel’ region of Burkina Faso, the shore of the Sahara desert. We often thought wistfully of Banfoura and Bobo Dioulasso down in the south-west of the country, which are always lush and green by comparison.

Banfoura is famous for its picturesque waterfalls and ancient rock domes, whilst Bobo Dioulasso is the cultural capital of Burkina Faso, known for masks, dancing and drumming. This region is also remarkable for the number of different ethnic groups who live there – literally dozens of ethnic groups living in an area the size of Wales, all with different languages and traditions. Chris Corr has captured the cultural vibrancy of the region in his wonderful illustrations. Check out these stunning Gurunsi houses, for example:

gurunsi_houses

The journey from Banfoura to Bobo is very close to my heart. I have done it on three occasions, with different travelling companions, and all three have great memories attached.

I really enjoyed writing this book and seeing it take shape. Unlike my other picture books, this one went through many completely different drafts. At one point it was even called THE BANANA THAT BROKE THE BUS. I am grateful to my editor Libby Hamilton for coaxing the book into its present form.

Free BOBO ROAD colouring sheets

To celebrate publication day, Chris has produced two fabulous colouring sheets. Feel free to print them out for children to colour in. If the results look good, please do take a picture and email it to me for display here on the blog.

All Aboard for the Bobo Road colouring sheet 1

All Aboard for the Bobo Road colouring sheet 2

You can read early reviews here and buy a hardback copy of the book here, or (even better) order from a local bookshop. Paperback will be out sometime next year, I imagine.

BEEP BEEP! Happy reading!

Dhaka rickshaw ride

The most interesting way to travel in Bangladesh is by cycle rickshaw. Dhaka is known as the ‘rickshaw capital of the world’ and the drivers (pedallers?) are known as riksha-wala (রিকশাওয়ালা).

One of the most striking aspects of these vehicles is the rickshaw art. Starting in the late 1940’s, the faces of movie stars started appearing on the hoods of cycle rickshaws. Since then a huge variety of bold bright designs proliferated. Illiterate rickshaw artists do this work for two to three dollars a day. Author Joanna Kirkpatrick writes:

I consider it “peoples’ art”. It is not necessary to force it into a unitary category as it combines folkloric, movie, political and commercial imagery and techniques. It serves the expression of heart’s desires of the man in the street for women, power, wealth, as well as for religious devotion. Rickshaw art also serves prestige and economic functions for the people who make, use and enjoy it.

Here is a thirty second video sequence I took on Wednesday afternoon – the edited highlights of a journey from the International School of Dakar to the Royal Park Hotel near Banani bridge. My ricksha-wala ‘Geniral’ was given his rickshaw by a New Zealander living in Dhaka – hence the Kiwi themed rickshaw art!

Visit to Solmaid Community School in Dhaka, Bangladesh

I arrived in Bangladesh today, and had the pleasure of visiting Solmaid Community School, a low-cost school run by Bangladeshi teachers for 130 children from their own community, with some support and training provided by expat teachers from the International School of Dhaka. This unique partnership seems to be bearing good fruit. The school currently has a waiting list of over 600 children.

Over the next few days, I shall be doing some talks and workshops for ISD students. But first some sleep – I’ve been awake for thirty hours now, and am feeling as goggly as a goggle-eyed goat.

Happy World Book Day 2016

I spent World Book Day 2016 at the wonderful Brickhouse Primary School in Rowley Regis, Birmingham. They’re saving their costume day for tomorrow, so no Skullduggery or Hermione pics, I’m afraid, but a good time was had anyway. Years 1 and 2 were reading DON’T SPILL THE MILK and then designing an extra spread for the book. One lad came up with the idea that Penda could come face to face with an amazing desert-dwelling spider called a – wait for it – cartwheeling spider! I looked it up as soon as I got back to the hotel, and he’s absolutely correct, such a creature really does exist. It was discovered in Morocco in 2014 and it turns cartwheels to escape from predators. That has totally made my day.

Two or three children chipped in ideas for some text for our new Cartwheeling Spider page, and very well they did too:

cartwheel_text

The other highlight of today was getting this pic from home – my daughters in their own World Book Day costumes. Well done girls!

World Book Day 2016 costumes
Noddy and Merida, ready to go…

Read to Feed 2016

I’m collaborating with the Read to Feed project this year, which is organized by the fabulous charity Send a Cow. The project is about nurturing children’s love of reading, raising awareness of Africa’s diverse cultures, and giving families a helping hand to lift themselves out of poverty. Do please like and share this video so that plenty of schools get to know about this fun new initiative. Being given a goat (even a naughty one) can really help a family to make ends meet.

World Book Day 2016 author visits for schools

World Book Day (Thursday 3 March) is looming large on the 2016 calendar, and children’s authors all over the country are filling their diaries with lovely schools to visit. An author visit can spark bookish enthusiasm in primary school pupils and launch hitherto reluctant readers on a quest for their next fiction fix. If your school has not yet organized its activities for that week, then now is probably a good time. If you leave it until mid-February then it will be nigh impossible to book any author.

The World Book Day website contains all sorts of useful information about this year’s featured books and how to organize World Book Day activities. On 22 February 2016 there is going to be a bumper book quiz extravaganza – a Guiness world record attempt for the most people participating in simultaneous book quizzes!

Here is my itinerary for the coming weeks. As you can see, I am still available in mid-March for author visits and Able Writers Days. And in mid-April I am planning a series of school events for KS1 and EYFS to celebrate the launch of a new picture book ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD, beautifully illustrated by Christopher Corr.

DateSchoolLocationNature of visit
3 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
8-9 February 2016The Mill Primary AcademyCrawleyAble Writers Days
10 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
11 February 2016St Martin's C of E Primary SchoolBrightonAble Writers Day
22 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
23-24 February 2016Queen Eleanor's Junior SchoolGuildfordAble Writers Days
26 February 2016Westbridge Primary BatterseaCreative writing tutorial
29 February 2016Headington SchoolOxfordWorld Book Day sessions
3 March 2016Brickhouse Primary SchoolBirminghamWorld Book Day sessions
4 March 2016Anglesey Primary SchoolBirminghamWorld Book Day sessions
8 March 2016Henwick Primary SchoolElthamAble Writers Day
21-25 March 2016International SchoolsBangladeshAuthor Visit
14 April 2016Macaulay SchoolLambethBOBO ROAD launch
19 April 2016Alveston Primary SchoolStratford-on-AvonAuthor Visit

Ideas for World Book Day 2016 costumes

My daughters’ school (along with thousands of others around the country) encourages children to come into school on World Book Day dressed as one of their favourite children’s book characters. Here are some suggestions for World Book Day 2016 costumes:

  • an enormous cardboard nose (Barry Loser)
  • a scary scull mask (Skull from THE DREAMSNATCHER)
  • a big pile of (fake?) books (The Incredible Book Eating Boy)
  • little horns on a hidden headband (Jinx from the wonderful D’EVIL DIARIES)
  • a pantomime unicorn costume (I Believe in Unicorns)
  • any one of a hundred fantastic Japanese monsters from Jason Rohan’s SWORD OF KUROMORI and sequels

Or perhaps you could take inspiration from one of these prize-winning costumes at Mudeford Junior School in Dorset. My personal favourites are the Demon Dentist (back right) and the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, complete with enormous pocket watch.

World Book Day 2016 costume ideas

If you have a good idea for a World Book Day 2016 activity or costume, please do share it in the comments below!

Fabedougou in Burkina Faso

The Domes of Fabedougou must be one of my favourite places in Burkina Faso. They are located in the south-west of the country, in a desolate spot between Bobo Dioulasso and Banfoura. These striking egg-shaped formations are very similar to the Bungle Bungles in Australia. They date back 1.8 billion years and were probably covered by water for much of their history, hence the peculiar layering of the rock.

Domes_of_Fabedougou1

I came here with Charlie the day after we got engaged back in 2006, and again two years later as part of a larger group. The convenient hand and footholds all the way up the domes make them very easy to climb, and the view from the top is breathtaking.

For our forthcoming picture book ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD, illustrator Christopher Corr has painted the Domes of Fabedougou beautifully, both on the cover of the book and on one of the inside spreads. Pink, purple, brown, ochre and yellow stripes cut across the orange domes of rock. Once again, Chris has given us a real feast for the eyes.

ALL ABOARD FOR THE BOBO ROAD comes out in the UK on 7 April 2016, published by Andersen Press.