The only disappointment was that I'd loaded a whole bunch of my drawings and pictures by my favourite illustrators onto a specially created blog here on Blogger, thinking it would be quicker to just call that up on the class white-board than go to all the trouble of creating a powerpoint thingy. And it was: it was very easy to do, and looked great. Unfortunately, when we tried to access it from the school we found that it was barred by the filtering system. The Local Education Authority, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that no blog on Blogger is suitable for school pupils, and so it's impossible to open them on school computers in the south west. I presume they bar other popular blogging sites like LiveJournal and Wordpress too: they certainly don't permit access to anything on YouTube. It's infuriating to think of all us chuldren's authors merrily blogging away while the children who should be our readers are unable to even see our sites. Obviously I would expect to find some sort of filtering system on school computers - the internet can be a strange and dangerous place - but I was astonished that the teachers aren't allowed to bypass it when they want to show a particular site or blog to their class. It seems that only faceless busybodies in county hall can be trusted to decide what's suitable. At a time of so much cutting and belt-tightening it seems bizarre that valuable free educational resources can be deliberately banned from our schools in this way. If you are a children's author with a blog or website it might be worth checking to see whether your LEA operates a similar policy of blanket censorship.
On Wednesday I went up to London, and was all busy all day on Thursday with World Book Day events. In the morning there was a big one in Kingston which I had been supposed to do jointly with Chris Priestley. Unfortunately Chris is still recuperating after his recent stroke, but happily Philip Womack was able to step in at the last minute, and we talked about my books, Chris's and his own in front of a large audience drawn from several local schools. Philip's books, like Chris Priestley's, tend towards the supernatural end of the fantasy spectrum, so I think they made a good contrast with my more nuts-and-bolts, sci-fi influenced outings. Although I've been aware of him as an author and journalist for some years I've never had much of a chance to talk to Philip, so it was good to chat with him on the lo-o-o-n-g taxi journey to Kingston. If you like classic children's fantasy and haven't already read his novel The Liberators you should track down a copy at once.
Before the event all the children had been asked to propose a title for a scary book, and Philip and I had to pick the two we thought best. The ones we chose were They Are Coming, suggested by Rhiannon Davies, and The Corner of My Eye by Jenna McMorrow, both of which are quietly sinister and wouldn't look out of place on a bookshelf: I hope they write the stories to go with them one day. We also found some other suggestions which we really liked: Midnight Predators in the City of Beast (by Emiliya Gyuleva), The Fear of the Faceless Gnome by William Potter, The Saliva Spitting Caws from Cawkland by Nabeel, and Frankie Atkinson's The Reeking Death of Interior Doom. Those might look a bit out of place on a bookshelf, but most of them would make perfectly passable titles for a Hawkwind album.
Back to central London for lunch, and then ho! for St Peter's Eaton Square Primary School, where I basically just did a Q&A session with a schoolful of lovely children who had some very good questions. They also had some very good outfits: many schools go in for dressing-up-as-your-favourite-character on WBD, which in our house tends to mean a fake beard, an old hat and a tenuous claim that Sam is Mr Gum. The children at St Peter's had taken it to a whole new level; among others I met I met a Heidi, a mummified Pharoah, Pippi Longstocking, Skullduggery Pleasant, and Miss Flyte out of Bleak House. There was even one tasteful fellow who had come as Jack Aubrey.
|Photo: Jonathan Game|
And finally, here's a World Book Day video of me reading the first two chapters of Traction City in a Spooky Treehouse.
Traction City from WorldBookDay's StoryTimeOnline on Vimeo.