A Talking Author Called Phil

I woke up early on the day of my first ever author visit and was somewhat flattered to see that the day had been designated ‘World Book Day’ in my honour, with children across the world dressing up as characters from their favourite books. A good portion of these children seemed to have picked characters that weren’t from my book, but I let that slide.

I got dressed (socks first then shoes) but anyway, let’s skip this bit as I now realise it’s largely irrelevant.

I arrived at the school bang on much too early. I was concerned that the clicker thing for changing slides wouldn’t work on the school computer, and I wanted to give myself time if necessary to fashion a Heath Robinson one out of the things that the everyday folk leave behind. In the end my fears were unfounded but skip this sentence if you want to retain an element of jeopardy.

The children were all dressed magnificently in their World Book Day costumes, and this definitely added an extra fun element. They greeted me with beaming smiles and an air of excitement. I was starting to hope that I hadn’t been over hyped. Had I been too cautious in removing the juggling-flaming-clubs-while-blindfold-on-a-unicycle element I’d been toying with?

Introductions over (I omitted to shake each child formally by the hand in the interests of time) I launched into my bit.

As the author (but not illustrator) of my book I focussed on, what else, the illustrations - explaining to the children that despite us working as a team on the book I had never even met Mike Moran the illustrator and didn’t even know what he looked like. Noting to the children that for all I know he could be one of them, I asked for hands up if they were Mike Moran the famous illustrator. Let me tell you, there were a surprisingly high number of Mike Morans in the audience, although looking back now I suspect that some of them may have been electing to deliberately mislead me.

We looked through some pictures (two by Mike Moran, one by me) to see if they could work out why I might not have drawn the pictures for the book myself. It was distressingly easy for them to work out which was mine.

Then we launched into the bit where it could be argued I lost complete and utter control of every last member of the audience. It became apparent during this bit that my ability to whip them into a frenzy was not matched by my ability to whip them out of a frenzy. Thank goodness for the teachers being able to do the de-whipping on my behalf or I may still have been there now trying to calm them down.

 I was playing the role of ‘incompetent fool’ by not spotting the naughty reappearance on the screen of the rabbit that I had drawn despite the best endeavours of the children to let me know, as requested, each time it appeared. Positive spin: the children really got into it, imploring me to spot the rabbit. Negative spin: not one child, including my own, had the slightest problem believing I was an incompetent fool. A trait I fear they may share with my boss.

We then talked about the importance of writing about what you love and saw if my clues might help them guess what it is that Rabbit loves and writes his book about in my story. Colour of a carrot, shape of a carrot, tastes like a carr…well, I won’t keep you in suspense, it was a carrot.

And then I got to read my book to them. A genuine thrill that I did my very best to savour.

While I’m confident that the message of the book that you don’t have to change to please others comes across naturally, it never hurts to drop additional subtle hints such as my use when I’d finished reading of the phrase “the message of the book is that you don’t have to change to please others”.

Then on to a quick Q&A where the children asked some fantastic questions, including a great one about what my next book was going to be about. Taking this as a market research opportunity I offered them three options to vote on. Doggies; jungle animals; talking banana called Dave.

The children sagely spotted the sizeable ‘Books about Talking Bananas Called Dave’ gap in the market and that one won by a landslide. Although not fully legally binding I nevertheless feel an onus to deliver on this promise, so I look forward by next World Book Day to hearing hushed tones everywhere I go of people remarking in awe “That’s Phil Dillon. He’s big in talking bananas.”

My presentation was over and it was time for one of the biggest highlights of the day. All thanks to Rising Stars I was able to give every child a signed copy of my book. The squeals of delight when this was announced was an incredible moment and makes a gnarly old incompetent fool almost tear up just remembering it.

Some of the children getting to enjoy their new books

So that’s it, show over, and I perhaps wisely erred on the side of caution and resisted the temptation to stage dive into the mosh pit by way of grand finale. At 6’ 4”, or indeed any height, I reasoned it ill-advised at best.

The children for their part resisted the urge to carry me aloft on their shoulders chanting my name and instead elected to file out in an orderly fashion but not before bellowing “YES!!!!” at me when asked if they enjoyed it. A beautiful moment that will live with me for a long time.

Lessons Learnt:

  • Children are pretty amazing, and incredible fun.

  • School visits are pretty amazing, and incredible fun.

  • Talking bananas called Dave have been overlooked as a source of inspiration for far too long.

Phil Dillon is the author of Look at my Book, which is part of the Galaxy strand from Reading Planet.  You can get the book for your school as part of the Reading Planet Galaxy Turquoise Pack.



Reading, Reading and Ebooks, reading scheme, Rising Stars Reading Planet

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