Category Archives: 24.10. children’s

Pamela Butchart: Spies and Vampire Rats

24.10. 10 am:
Taking the suitable for ages 7-10 as a mere suggestion, I walked through the doors and was handed a blank page of paper (which of course I took) and sat on the end of the back row, trying to look as inconspicuous and non-shady as possible. Yes, I was the only person attending not accompanied by at least one child, but I hope my scribbling of notes confirmed my identity as a reviewer and kid at heart. Pamela opens by asking for a show of hands to indicate who saw her at the Literary Festival last year. Many eager hands shoot up and stay held as she asks who has read her previous books and who has read her new book My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat. She then asks a young girl in the front row, Isla, to stand at the front and demonstrate what Pamela means by “a round of applause.” Isla has been here before and she knows the drill, smiling eagerly at the front she proceeds to clap her hands in an arc to which we all join in.

Pamela then talks about the first book in her Izzy series: Baby Aliens got my Teacher. Showing photos of famous film and television teachers and aliens, Pamela starts a competition putting one side of the room against the other. This goes down very well, as the keen and well behaved kids each raise their arms to answer, some hopping on their seats and squirming with anticipation at being picked, full of beans the way only kids can be so early on a Saturday morning. Excitement is peaked as a photo of Yoda flashes onto the screen and all the young arms in the room raise skyward, with a couple of adults’ enthusiastic nods.

We then move onto a reading from Baby Aliens got my Teacher in which hero Izzy finds a “crisp twin” of her neighbour and posts it to her accordingly. This moves us on to the next bit of fun and audience participation as Pamela asks for some volunteers to come out front with her. Not a single child who enthusiastically steps forward is refused and soon nearly every child in the Croppedroom is huddled shoulder to shoulder at the front. Alex, a young boy, is given the job of “crisp inspector”, and, with that title not seeming official enough, is given an old teacher hat to wear. Alex crunches a bag of crisps, opens it and pulls out a triangular shaped crisp. The volunteers then stand in a line and are told that one by one they are going to add a part to the story of how this crisp (which wasn’t always a crisp) became a crisp. This is lots of fun and the kids really take to it, some adding lots and others shyly saying only a few words, helped along the way by Pamela’s guidance (her being a teacher as well as an author). At the end, Pamela tells them not to let the story go to waste and encourages the children to go home and write it down, maybe even in groups.

The event ends with more engaging participation as Pamela shows us how to draw a “vampire rat”, using the blank pages we were offered at the beginning. At the end the proud children held up their illustrations with beaming faces, and I succeeded in refraining from joining them (though I do admit to having drawn my own copy). Pamela was a treat to watch and listen to, all the children and parents were engaged right from the very beginning, but most importantly, the event was fun and encouraged creative interests and outlets, be that writing or illustration.

Kate McAuliffe