Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 20 Mar 2018

So Much fun in Bournville

My twenty month old grandson, Boden really loves listening to stories and so I was recently browsing online for prospective events that he might enjoy. When I stumbled across this one advertised at a small local children’s book festival  , , I exclaimed  ‘ Yes!’  out loud! Why was I so pleased you may ask? I have already written enthusiastically about ‘So Much’, by Trish Cooke, beautifully illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, because it is a personal favourite of mine and one which is generally regarded as a modern picture book classic. Trish Cooke has done a Letterpress Project  e-interview for us and we have corresponded by e mail, but I had never come across her doing a story reading that I could get to so easily.

The event was in the main hall at Rowheath Pavilion in Bournville , Birmingham, a pleasant building set in very attractive gardens with a lake and children’s playground. When we arrived, the place was buzzing with excited toddlers, babies and their mothers already settling down to sit on chairs and large floor cushions for the treat that was to come. Boden enjoys looking at picture books and knows this one very well as it is one of his current favourites (we had read it several times over the past few days). Although he liked it, I was interested to see whether he would concentrate for the designated half hour, especially as there were lots of other children milling about and so plenty of potential distractions. 

I plonked him down on a big cushion near to the front and was delighted to see that he was entranced for the next half an hour as Trish did her splendid stuff.  Lyla, his three year old friend, was equally fascinated and spent quite a lot of time standing up extremely close to Trish, just in case she missed anything important. As well as being a wonderful writer of stories, this author is an accomplished actress who describes herself as  ‘a Yorkshire lass who can speak Dominican Patois’ and she soon had the audience helping her out with a lively poem about the park with lots of interesting actions. Then she read ‘Catch’, a charming story with colourful illustrations by Ken Wilson- Max, which is all about a little girl Kiona who struggles to catch things as she plays in the garden. Trish told us that it was written for her own niece – again plenty of opportunities for joining in with refrains and actions throughout and one that I definitely need to buy. It wasn’t the easiest of venues because of being quite cavernous and echoey but she managed to keep most of the children completely engaged, despite a couple of them deciding to run off and play hide and seek behind some curtains. The teacher in me wanted to gently encourage them to return and relish this performance – after all when might they get the chance to hear such a star again?

But the piece de resistance was her reading of So Much which she performed with such passion. How can I ever hope to read it successfully to children again when I have heard her version read with the authentic Dominican accent? She lingered over the pages and made sure that everyone had time to look at the illustrations. It is such a  rhythmically pleasing story to read and to listen to with its cast of memorable characters all coming to adore the much loved baby in their different ways and then celebrating dad’s birthday together in one happy noisy party. I tried to sneak a peek at Boden’s face as we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ towards the end, because I just knew he would be smiling broadly. It is a story about cherishing a small child that makes me smile every time I read it.  

The half hour passed all too quickly and the appreciative crowd quickly dispersed to buy their own copies of the book and to get them signed.  That is apart from Boden who had remained sitting alone on his cushion hopefully facing the empty chair until he turned to me to say ‘One more time?’ That seems a very positive young child’s review of a memorable story event.

Karen Argent

March 2018