Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Author interviews

As my previous school's book blog is no longer updated, and in the spirit of being environmentally friendly, I have decided to reuse and recycle some of the writing that appeared on there. One of the most successful and popular posts published was when my class at the time emailed a wide range of authors to ask them their views on reading in schools. We were absolutely delighted (and very appreciative) when we received almost thirty replies from a wide range of authors and poets.

The four questions we asked were:
1. What was your favourite book as a child?
2. Which of your own books are you most proud of?
3. Is there a book that you think all children in Year Four should read, or have read to them?
4. Do you think children should be allowed more time to read in school?

I have pasted the results below. The children loved reading the responses, some of which caused huge amounts of discussion in class.

By the way, if there are any other authors out there who would like to share their answers with my current class, it would be great to read them!

Cathy Cassidy
1/ So many - the Narnia series, Little House on the Prairie series, Swallows & Amazons series and many more. I'd probably pick Watership Down which I read when I was 12... I loved that book to pieces.
2/ I'm fickle, I always love the newest book the best... but I guess I'm most proud of Dizzy, because it was the first book I ever wrote and started off my career as a children's author.
3/ Whatever they WANT to read... we're all so different!
4/ Yes, more time for reading, always. And, dare I say it, more time for daydreaming... xxx

Catherine Johnson
1 Favourite book?> Spike Milligan's Book of Soilly Verse, - story book? Comet In Moominland well, that was the first book i remember buying with my own money!
2 SAWBONES! I really enjoyed writing it and it just come out of my head and on to the page so easily, it's a real romp. I loved Sunday afternoon drama on TV (they don't do this now) and I was thinking of those stories when I wrote that, although Sawbones is a little gorier - a forensic murder mystery set in 18th century London.
3 People how ever old should read books they like. Poems are great though because they are short and often funny. And then you can irritate your friends and family by saying them over and over again!
4 Yes, but I am biased, but even if you really really don't like reading, there are so many books with brilliant pictures, Shaun Tan for example you can look at those pictures and imagine so many different stories.

Helena Pielichaty
1. My favourite book was The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett because it was all about a real family who get into all sorts of scrapes. They didn't live in a huge house or castle like in Enid Blyton's books. I loved The Borrowers, too.
2. They're all works of genius.
3.Y4 - Love that Dog - Sharon Creech, The Dragonsitter series - Josh Lacey Captain Crow's Teeth Eoin Colfer, The Smallest Girl in the World by Sally Gardner, Toad Rage by Morris Gleitzman - all funny books you can get stuck into.
4. Do I? Do I? Yes. Not only that, more time to choose books properly and more time being read to by your teacher or TA.

John Dougherty
1. Probably The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe - though there were lots of contenders!
2. I'm proud of them all. Please don't ask me to pick a favourite!!! I'm really pleased with the reception Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers is getting, though...
3. Stinkbomb and... No, not really. I think it's a bad idea to say that every child aged x should read this or that book, because we're all different. How about this: Every child in year 4 should read whatever books they want to read!
4. Yes. Definitely. Absolutely. Unequivocally. Without doubt. And as a matter of urgency.

DJ Kirkby
1. I couldn't possibly choose just one! My favourite series when I was about ten years old was the Little House on the Prairie series, and the Anne of Green Gables series. There are so many more books I loved reading as a child that it hurts to have stop at just these two series...
2. Each time I write a new book that becomes my most favourite new shiny. I'm fickle that way....
3. I think by the time people get to Year Four they should have read The Sneetches by Dr Seuss because it has a very important message about how we're essentially all the same on the inside no matter how different we look or behave.
4. I echo what John said above!

Matt Dickinson
1. My favourite book as a child was Swallows and Amazons. I loved the sense of adventure and wilderness that Arthur Ransome so brilliantly described. Wild camping on remote beaches, cooking over little twig fires, swimming in crystal clear lakes, exploring mountains---that really got my imagination going and I wanted to BE one of the characters in that book!
2. I think the book of my own that I am most proud of is the one I have just written-- 'The Everest Files'. I have always wanted to write a book that would bring the mountain alive for young readers, to share some of my own experiences of climbing to the summit. Writing this book has been a sheer joy and through it I hope a whole new generation will discover Everest and the Himalayas.
3. The book I think all young children should read is 'The Sneetches' by Dr Seuss. It is the funniest and wisest book I have ever come across and the illustrations are totally brilliant. All five of my own children have loved it so that would get my vote!
4. Should there be more time devoted to reading for pleasure in schools?! Naturally yes! And for creative (free) writing as well. Luckily, doing school events all over the country (both secondary and primary) I get the feeling that teachers are realising (once again) just how important this is. Children's horizons are expanded through books. They can discover new and exciting worlds. And the more time given to that the better!

Brian Moses
1. Anything by Enid Blyton - she established the reading habit for me & I've read and read and read ever since.
2. Difficult to pick a favourite but my best of, 'Behind the Staffroom Door' is always the one I recommend.
3. 'Rebecca's World' by Terry Nation - sheer delight.
4. Time for reading is vital. It's such an important skill to acquire and such an enjoyable one too.

Sita Brahmachari
1. Alice In Wonderland
2. Can't say... It would be like asking which of my children I love most. I love them all differently and for different qualities.
3. 'The Arrival' by Shaun Tan (All children can read the pictures - a book suitable for anyone who is human)
4. Yes, Yes, Yes because reading opens up your world, is the place that your can learn throughout your life....the best kept secret in schools is that the best teacher in the world is your library.

Michelle Robinson
1. Um... so many! Maybe The BFG.
2. Each of them feels like a total and utter miracle of achievement - me? Published?! I always get really excited about each new one when it publishes and it becomes my favourite for five minutes, but there's always another one in the pipeline to get excited about, too.
3. 'The King of The Copper Mountains' by Paul Biegel.
4. Always. Especially in nice weather, sitting under a tree. But always.

Cid and Mo
1. 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith
2. The Janksters and the Talking Slug
3. Stig of the Dump by Clive King - when I was a teacher I read this to my Year 4 class every year!
4. Absolutely! 'To get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.' Roald Dahl

Tracy Alexander
1. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr.
2. The one I've just finished that's coming out in October because it's a thriller!
3. The Beak Speaks by Jeremy Strong because laughing is mandatory.
4. Not just more time . . . armchairs too.

Joan Lennon
1. Mark of the Horselord by Rosemary Sutcliff
2. That's like asking me which 4JB child am I most proud of - the answer has to be all of them - and all of you!
3. I hear Joan Lennon's quite good ...
4. YES!!

Nicola Morgan
1. Different ones at different time but one was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Mystery, fabulous clothes, a horse and SHORTBREAD.
2. Fleshmarket
3. The Legend of Spud Murphy

John Townsend
1. 101 Dalmations – great villain in Cruella!
2. Hmm – my next one! Soooo hard to choose!
3. Danny Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
4. Abso-bloomin-lutley!!! And being read to/told stories

Jenny Sullivan
1. The Wind in the Willows and from the age of 13, The Once and Future King.
2. I'm most proud of Tirion's Secret Journal, which is a very accessible historical novel aimed at 8/10 year olds that won me the Tir na n-Og award in 2006. I'm also proud of my adult historical Silver Fox novels.
3. Stig of the Dump. My own children loved it. And Horrid Henry which is great fun. I was reading it to my grand-daughter Catrin just two weeks ago and there's great scope for "voices"!
4. Yes, yes and yes. And given access to the wonders of libraries, and talked to by authors (I love doing this!). Reading is like a big fat golden key that opens all the doors into knowing stuff.

Michaela Morgan
1. Alice in Wonderland (I loved the mix of poems into the story)
2. Walter Tull's Scrapbook (true story of a World War One hero and star footballer)
3. My own book Night Flight. Short Poetic. Huge themes dealt with simply. Maurice Sendak's picture book, Where The Wild Things Are (even adults love a good picture book) and lots and lots of poems. Listen to a poem every day.
4. Yes!!

Damian Harvey
1. I loved lots of books and comics - I really enjoyed The Beano and then the 2000AD comics - but the first book I bought with my own money was Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown so that's probably my favourite.
2. This is hard to answer really - the ones I'm most proud of are the ones I'm working on now but that's not much help to you, but whenever I get a letter or email from a parent or someone that has read and enjoyed one of my books that makes me very happy and quite proud too.
3. There are lots of great books but I wouldn't like to say that everyone in year four should read a particular book in case they didn't like it because everyone likes different kinds of stories. I could suggest my Robo-Runners books of course but I would also suggest books by other authors. I like books that I find funny so perhaps you would like to try something by Michael Lawrence - The Killer Underpants or Jeremy Strong - I'm Telling You, They're Aliens...
4. Yes! Yes! Yes! More time to read and more time to be read to...

Linda Strachan
1. The book I remember most was the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The idea that you could climb into something as mundane as a wardrobe and find another magical land beyond...!
2. So difficult to choose, Usually the one I am writing now is my answer to that question but I am very proud of Spider, my first YA book,because I never thought I'd have something to say that teenagers would be interested in reading. But I am also very proud of the Hamish McHaggis series because I get so many letters from children and parents about how much they love Hamish and it has been an amazing journey.
3. I don't think you can have any book everyone should read because it is about reading something that makes you want to turn the page. If they like fantasy Troll Fell series by Katherine Langrish or Gill Vickery's Dragon Child series. For humour Emma Barnes Wild Thing series. My own book Greyfriars Bobby.
4. Yes there should be time in school where children are free to read, but without pressure to read certain books. It is as always about finding the book/ comic/ picture book that makes them want to have even more reading time.

Caryl Hart
1. What was your favourite book as a child?
When I was very young, it was Snuffy by Dick Bruna
when I was about 7 or 8 it was The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton
2. Which of your own books are you most proud of?
Ooh, that's so hard! I'm proud of them all in different ways. But if I have to choose one it would be The Princess and the Peas because it's quite a complex rhyme and I love the illustrations that Sarah Warburton has done.
3. Is there a book that you think all children in Year Four (age 8/9) should read or have read to them?
Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc - This book will turn you all into upstanding citizens! (not really, but it is funny, especially Jim and the Lion and Matilda)
4. Do you think children should be allowed more time to read in school?
I'm not sure how much time they get now! I think children should be encouraged to read as much as they can wherever they are!

Tom Palmer
1. I didn’t really have one. I didn’t like reading until I was 17.
2. Over the Line. Because it is about real people, unlike all my other books. It is about footballers who fought in WWI.
3. No. I think teachers and children should choose books based on what they are into at the time. There are different perfect books for everyone.
4. Yes. Time to read to themselves. And time to be read to. Then time to talk about what they’ve read. About how the book made them feel. About things they liked – and didn’t like – about the book.

Caroline Green
1. My favourite childhood book was The Didakoi by Rumer Godden.
2. I have been asked this before and always say it's like asking me to choose between my children! I'm proud of them all in different ways.
3. One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson. I LOVE that book.
4. I don't think reading time is ever wasted so YES!

Joe Craig
1. What was your favourite book as a child?
Age 8: Magnus Powermouse by Dick King-Smith
Age 10: The Guinness Book of Cricket Records
Age 13: Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
Age 16: New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Age 32: The Sneetches & Other Stories by Dr Seuss
2. Which of your own books are you most proud of?
This changes every day. Today it's either Jimmy Coates: Blackout or Jimmy Coates: Power. I was re-reading JC: Power yesterday for a work thing and I found myself thinking, "Wow, I really knew what I was doing with this plot." It was a bit weird to be getting into the story and finding it so exciting when it was something I'd written myself a few years ago.
3. Is there a book that you think all children in Year Four (age 8/9) should read or have read to them?
Obviously Jimmy Coates: Killer. But apart from that... READ WHATEVER YOU LIKE. Try something new and if you don't like it after two pages pick up something else. I go through a lot of books this way, but I also find a lot of books I end up loving. And it doesn't cost you anything because at the library books are free. Awesome.
4. Do you think children should be allowed more time to read in school?
I think we should all have more time to read, especially in school. You should also be able to pick a week in the year and declare, THIS IS MY READING WEEK and in that week you do nothing at all except read. And there should be more time for creative messing about too. Reading, experimenting, discovering, failing over and over again... those are the most important things if you want to come up with anything that rocks the world.

Emma Barnes
1. Lots. I loved the Narnia books, especially The Silver Chair, which has a very funny character called Puddleglum.
2. I'm usually most proud and excited about my latest book, so I'll say Wild Thing. It's also my first series!
3. I like funny books so I'd suggest "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume, the "Killer Cat" books by Anne Fine and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson.
4. I think schools are so busy that sometimes reading can get squeezed out. So yes, more time for quiet reading, and more time for a read-aloud class novel at the end of the day.

Emily Diamand
1. I always find it hard to choose between the Lord of the Rings and the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I must've read them both a dozen times.
2. I am always proudest of the book that's still inside my mind, waiting to get out - because that's the one I haven't made all sorts of mistakes in yet!
3. Hmmm, hard. I'm not sure I really think any book should be a 'should' - one person's page turner is another one's yawn fest, after all. So these aren't 'should' they're 'try this, and if you don't like it, try something else': 1. The Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton, because one of the characters is a biscuit with electric muscles. 2. When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, because it will get you thinking in all sorts of sideways.
4. Yes, I absolutely do. Books are secret doorways into a million different worlds, so why wouldn't you want time for them in your day?

Josh Seigal
(1) In primary school my favourite novel was Roald Dahl's The Twits, but I mainly enjoyed non-fiction. Roald Dahl's autobiography Boy was probably my favourite. As a teenager my favourite book was The Diary Of Adrian Mole.
(2) I've only written one book, so it would have to be that one! It's called My Grandpa's Beard, and is a collection of lots of my poems. For me, though, it's important that my poems are experienced in performance as well as being read, so I don't mind not having loads and loads of books.
(3) Hmm. I think all children should experience Roald Dahl and Michael Rosen. I also read an amazing book recently by Morris Gleitzman called If and Then (I think it's two books in one actually), but it is a very sad book. It nearly made me cry.
(4) I think this varies from school to school. I think reading for pleasure is something that should be encouraged both at home and at school.

Cathy MacPhail
1) My favourite book when I was in Primary was Little Women. Little Women is a book about four sisters, and one of them wants to be a writer. and I was one of four sisters, and ...well, you know the rest. I love that book.
2)I find it very hard to choose which of my books I like best, they are like your babies. I wouldn't want to offend one by preferring another. But I will always have a soft spot for my first, that started it all off. Run Zan Run. And of course, you always have a soft spot for your new baby, Mosi's War. (Though I am expecting a few more soon.)
3) I think as long as children are reading, I don't care what they read. We all have different tastes. So, I would not like to specify any particular book. (Except for mine of course!)
4) Most schools I visit have reading time set aside and the children love it. If I did visit a school that didn't I would certainly recommend that they start.

Roy Apps
1: ‘Norman & Henry Bones: The Boy Detectives.’ My mum gave my copy away to the Cub Scout Jumble Sale while I was away at University (boo-hoo!) But my wife bought me a copy on eBay for my birthday a couple of years ago. (Hooray!)
2: ‘The Secret Summer of Daniel Lyons’ won an award, which meant I got a posh dinner at a swanky London hotel for free!
3: It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80,, different books speak to different people. Having said that… you really should read ‘The 100 Mile an Hour Dog’ by Jeremy Strong. It’s so funny.
4: Yes, I should say so! And while we’re about it, there should be more time for teachers to read at school, too!

Craig Bradley
1. 'Kes' by Barry Hines. When I read this book, it was like it had been written about me! I absolutely loved it, and still do!!
2. My first poetry book for young people 'I Like To Rhyme It, Rhyme It' - this book kind of set me off on the road as a children's poet.
3. I don't really have a book that everyone 'should' read. Everyone should just read the books they want to read - that's the best reason to read anything!
4. Yes, I do think there should be more time to read in schools - Reading for Pleasure Time. Reading because you want to read something, is so important. It doesn't matter what you read, books/comics/magazines, as long as you read them because you want to and you enjoy reading them!

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