TRANSCRIPT: Spellbound Pilot Episode 01
Starting very early on.
 
 
Books for 0-3 years old.

Melissa Thom: Hello and welcome to Spellbound - where our aim is to guide you through the magic of children's books, from babies and early years, all the way up to young adult readers. 

 

My name is Melissa Thom. I'm a voice actor and Mum, with two young boys, and I've been involved with a range of really interesting children's literacy projects over the years. 

 

Pretty much daily, I have many conversations with friends, colleagues, Uncles, Aunts, Librarian's Booksellers, Grand Pops, Nanas - anyone who reads books with kids. Perhaps they know a reluctant reader or just want recommendations on how to move the child in their life onto the next exciting book or series. And it was out of this need that the Spellbound podcast was born. 

 

In this episode, I'm joined by children's literature expert, Lucy Shepherd; co-founder of Barefoot Books, Tessa Strickland and Director of the Bath Children's Literature Festival, Gill McClay. We talk about the importance of books for babies and look at where the best books for the very youngest can be found, as well as discussing some of our own personal favourites. 

 

Please; sit back and enjoy the magic:

 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE 

 


INTERVIEW:

 

 

Melissa Thom: I’m joined today by the rather wonderful children's literature expert Lucy Shepherd. 

 

Lucy Shepherd: Hello, Melissa. 

 

Melissa Thom: So, Lucy, welcome to the studio. Can you tell me a bit about how you got involved with children's books?

 

Lucy Shepherd: My background is that I started a teacher in the seventies teaching English in a comprehensive school, and later in my life I reinvented myself as a literary events organiser in a school, where I was running events for all ages, from 3 to 18 and public evening events as well. 

 

Melissa Thom: A little birdie told me that you were the English teacher of somebody quite well known? 

 

Lucy Shepherd: That little birdie was correct! I used to teach the person who's now called J.K. Rowling, but to me was Joanne. 

Many years later, when I was sitting on holiday reading the Sunday paper and looking at book reviews, I saw a photo of somebody who looked familiar, and that person was Joanne Rowling and there was an article all about her first book, entitled Harry Potter. And I read it and was intrigued, and bought the book for my son, as I was trying to encourage him to move on to other books at that stage and he absolutely loved it, as did his friends, and I wrote Jo a letter. 

 

Somebody, many months later, sent me an article in the TES, entitled ‘My Best Teacher’, which was written by Jo, and mentioning my letter and we have met and kept in contact since, through letters and seeing each other. And it's wonderful that she is where she is, and she's done so much to enhance and promote reading across the world.

 

Melissa Thom: What did it feel like to get a letter from a former pupil that ended up being J.K. Rowling? 

 

Lucy Shepherd: Well, when you teach, you teach hundreds of children and you have no idea when they leave, what they're going to do, where they're going to end up, and you don't necessarily spot a particular talent. 

 

I knew Jo was bright. I couldn't predict she'd be where she is now. But what's rare, is to ever have any kind of feedback or acknowledgement in later years. So to read an article in The Times Educational Supplement, in which I was mentioned as her best teacher, and understand that she'd read the letter that I'd sent, was incredibly gratifying - just for that very reason: that here was somebody acknowledging the hard work and investment that you offer to all pupils, but clearly it had made an impression on one.

 

Melissa Thom: I read the newspaper article and I read in it that you were the inspiration for one of her characters. Which character was it? And how does that feel? Being made into one of the most well known characters ever?

 

Lucy Shepherd: That article referred to me as the basis for the character of Professor McGonagall being…now I can't remember the adjective she used… ‘fair and firm’  I think [laughter].

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE
 

Melissa Thom: We're going to talk about where you start with children and books. What's the big deal about getting children into reading and why do we want to teach and nurture the habit of reading?

 

Lucy Shepherd: I think reading is absolutely vital. It's an invaluable tool that opens up worlds that we can never enter, because they may be far away; they may be imaginary, they may be too difficult. But just by sitting in a chair with a book, we can be somewhere else and It gives us an understanding; it throws a light on the world that you can't get through any other means. 

And the earlier it starts, the greater the opportunity, the more life enhancing that becomes. And inevitably, if we are readers ourselves, we're going to be able to encourage and promote that love with our children by reading with them and enabling them to read themselves. Starting very, very early on with board books.

 

 

Toddler: Here’s a little baby, one, two three. Stands in his cot, what does he see? Peepo! 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE 

 

 

Melissa Thom: I have two boys, and they love books, but it's always quite difficult to know where to start when they come out of the baby years. What would you suggest for that?

 

Lucy Shepherd: There are so many different places to start. There have never been so many wonderful books available, such a wide range by so many authors and so exciting to read. It's about finding the ones that will switch your children on, and sitting down and just getting lost in those books with them, because not only can they sit and look at the pictures, but they can lick them, they can throw them, [LAUGHTER] they can whack things with them without spoiling them - just enjoy the feel of them. So it's a great place to start.

 

Melissa Thom: It's interesting you talk about what a great time it is now for reading, almost as if we’re in the Golden Age of children's literature. How is it that different from the seventies or eighties? What is it about now that has led to this explosion of wonderful children's books?

 

Lucy Shepherd: I genuinely think it is the Golden Age of children's literature. I think there were always books for young children, but it got to a point where suddenly you had to stop being a child and the books were for an older reader. And that gap was huge and it really wasn't until probably the sixties or early seventies, that people cottoned on to the fact that there was a great gap in the market. And a lot of the books that are still being read today for children, are those that emerged out of those years and have become classics. And they're classics because they're timeless. 

 

They are wonderful for the early years, wonderful picture books, sometimes with no words, sometimes with few words that children can learn from and enjoy and get lost in the illustrations, which are just so fantastic that they want to read them again and again, and then they're ready to move on to the next stage. Then they become toddlers and develop the skills of being able just to get lost in a book ond all those illustrations and the early words with their parents or carers or on their own.

 

Melissa Thom: You talked about this explosion of books. Because there are so many books, choosing them can be quite hit and miss?

 

Lucy Shepherd: I think choosing them can be hit and miss. But there are ways and means to do that effectively. So obviously, going to a library and just being able to get lost in the range of books available, going into bookshops and seeing what's there, but also looking at things that will guide you in the right direction. And you can do that through various magazines and looking at book awards. 

 

So, for example, there are the Branford Boase Book Awards, the Blue Peter Book Awards, the Costa Book Awards, the Waterstones Children's Prize, the Carnegie Medal, the Kate Greenaway Medal. All those book awards bring the best of books to the top of people's lists - to their consciousness - and they've often been chosen by experts in the field, particularly the Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie medals, because those two particular prizes are the ones that author's want to win. There's no money involved, but they are judged by professionals. It's librarians who pick those books. The long lists are always fascinating. The shortlists are always very exciting. And the winners are people who are picked for writing the best of children's books. 

 

The other awards are all wonderful in their own way. They help to promote children's books. They enable us to find things more easily because there are so many thousands of books published every year. It's not difficult - if you look up ‘children's book awards’ to see what's available, you'll get guided to and through these long lists, and enable your child to find the right kind of book for their stage and age.

 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

 

Melissa Thom: You touched on the fact there are thousands of children's books published every year, and I’m wondering, how is it possible to choose from these? Something that people ask me all the time, is to help them choose books for their children, and what they want, is age appropriate book lists. Is it possible to find books for each age, or do you think we should be thinking about it in a different way?

 

Lucy Shepherd: Inevitably, books get categorised by ages because that's convenient for the publisher. But actually, it's about the development of your child and their maturity. So what might be suitable for a seven year old isn't necessarily suitable for a five year old, and vice versa. So it's getting to know what interests your child and what stage they're at, and exploring that world with them so that they find the level of interest that's going to absorb them and develop their attention. 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

 

Melissa Thom: My kids adore their local library. Tell us why they're so important?

 

Lucy Shepherd:  Libraries are a rare treasure trove. They enable a child or an adult to go into a space where they can immerse themselves in any number of books that they can pick off the shelves and just see whether it tickles their literary taste buds. 

 

And if it doesn't, they can put it back and try something else. It's a safe environment. There's no expense. And you have that incredible range. It's very exciting. If you can find something different, something that engages you, something that takes you transports you to another world, just by sitting with that book on your lap or on the floor. It's an experience that is unforgettable and if that pattern is started early in life, it continues throughout - and it enriches the mind, it enhances your understanding, it enables you to communicate in a way that extends your vocabulary and your ability to understand the world.

 

Melissa Thom: As well as libraries - bookshops: talk to me about those?

 

Lucy Shepherd: Sadly in Bristol, they’re fewer than they were. Bookshops are another place to go and just dive in and see what's available. If their well laid out, they can be very enticing. you can pick things up and discover things that you never knew existed. 

 

And, of course, anybody in a library or a bookshop who knows their stuff can advise and enable you to find, or the child to find, the kind of things that they’d interested in, and discover completely new things as well. So bookshops are fantastic because they smell wonderful, they look exciting; they've got the whole range there, but it always depends on whether you can find it, and sometimes it's a serendipitous activity: are you going to find the thing that you want?

 

But bookshops and charity shops and libraries and going to festivals are all different ways you can immerse yourself in different books, and find reading delights that you never knew existed.

 


MUSICAL INTERLUDE 

 

 

Melissa Thom: So one of the many ways to find out about new children's books is to go to children's literature festivals. Are there many in the UK, and why is it important to visit them?

Lucy Shepherd: The book festival business seems to have grown enormously in the last few years and they are a fantastic place to go, to not only meet other people who are enthusiastic about the same kind of books as you, but to meet in particular, the authors, who write the books you love and to be able to perhaps get a book signed and talked to them in person afterwards. 

 

And this is particularly the case with children's book festivals, which originally were add-ons to adult book festivals. So Edinburgh, for example, has this. Hay certainly has a huge children's book festival, in addition to the adult festival. 

 

But the biggest single, solely book children's festival, which is in Bath, runs for 10 days every year by John and Gill McClay, and that is a fantastic place to go to with your children, because it is solely dedicated to children's books and to be there is an incredibly buzzy experience. 

 

Children get so excited at the prospect of listening to and meeting their favourite authors and just being immersed in that world - that it really is infectious. And John & Gill are so dedicated to spreading the word and including so many young children. And they have done more to promote that than anybody else that I know.

 

Melissa Thom: I think it is quite a magical thing when your child meets the author of one of their favourite children's books. 

 

Lucy Shepherd: Suddenly you've met the people who've written them and this can inspire young children to go away and try to write for themselves and understand more about the process?

 

Melissa Thom: I think we should talk a little bit about the board books for the early years - and there will be a list on the website to go with the podcast, so don't worry if you haven't got a pen to hand.

 

So, ‘Baby Badger’s Wonderful Night’ by Karen Saunders is the most beautiful board book, and is a big favourite in our house. When they were babies, we read ‘Peepo’ quite a lot and there's a sort of nostalgic element about ‘Peepo’ in a weird sort of way, about world that sort of doesn't exist anymore for us. It's quite a cute book, isn't it?

 

Lucy Shepherd: It certainly is. The interesting thing about board books - I was looking earlier at Mumsnet and realising that a lot of the books that are still being recommended are the classics that have stood the test of time. 

 

And books like ‘Peepo’ or ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ or Dick Bruner’s ‘Miffy’, are all out in board book form, as well as paper form.  And it's very interesting that all those books have now become classics and that you only have to pick them up to see why.  It's their format. It’s the beautiful illustrations. It's the minimal text and they are lovely books to hold, and to discover. And there are an unbelievable number of ways that you can come back to them and reinforce ideas about the world with your children. 

They just get lost in them. And so do you.

 

 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

 

Toddler: Baby Badger’s Wonderful Night. I don't like the night, baby badger whispered, as the sun slipped away behind the hills.

 

Melissa Thom: So we've been talking all about the magic of these board books. I'd really like to have a chat about which books are memorable for you, were there any that you use with your children when they were little, that you would still recommend to people now?

 

Lucy Shepherd: Well, there's a question. I was fishing out all those early books a couple of days ago, and just the pleasurable memories that came flooding back - of sitting with my children in their very early years, poring over these books, which are now a bit battered, but are still in print and still enjoyed by millions. 

And although I'm going to pick three or four, they are just the ones that we enjoyed the most. It's not that they're the best, or the only ones you should read. They're just a handful of the wonderful choice that's out there and books that are still in print. 

 

And I think I would go for ‘Not Now Bernard’ by David McKee, ‘Would you Rather’ by John Burningham and the wonderful picture books by Anno, and I'm picking ‘Anno’s Journey’ by Mitsumasa Anno.  But there are many of them. They’re wordless, the illustrations are fantastic. We must have spent hours just going through where things were and what they were for a long time, with both of my children. 

It's the lack of text and the most exquisite illustrations that you could just spend - and, I did, with my children - hours just looking at all the fine detail and dozens more I could add to that list. 

What are yours, Melissa?

 

Melissa Thom: Definitely ‘Baby Badger’s Wonderful Night’ by Karen Saunders, which is this magical tale of papa badger taking his baby badger out to sleep under the stars and making sure he's not scared. Jez Alborough with Bedtime for Bobo’ (‘YES’), ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell - they were huge in our house - ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. Even I remember the illustrations are just gorgeous. 

 

Lucy Shepherd: As we did with ‘Peepo’ with Janet and Alan Ahlberg, those holes would present hours of fascination. What's interesting about everything that’s on the list that we put together, is they are attractive. Children want to get lost in those, looking at the illustrations - the way things are presented, the story line, often, is wordless or minimal words and they become timeless classics, that they'll want to come back to again and again. 

And if we think back to what we wanted to read again and again, they’re often looking back at the same timeless stories that stay in our minds and bring comfort. They are all about an association of sitting somewhere comfortable, hopefully snuggled up with somebody else, looking at something and sharing the joy of largely pictures, but also much more, if there'sminimal text, that you can explore and see where that takes you. 

 

Melissa Thom: So we will put a list of all the books that we recommend on the website. As Lucy said, not a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination. Let us know what you think, drop us a line and tell us about your favourite board books too. 

So we've talked a lot about board books that have stood the test of time. But Lucy, I want to know, Is there a book of the moment that really stands out for you?

 

Lucy Shepherd: The trouble with that question is that so many books pop into my head that it feels almost an insult to hundreds of authors to pick on one. 

But if I'm to pluck the one that's at the top of my head, that had a profound impact on my children and still pops into my head on frequent occasions, it's Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake. And I can certainly recite it by heart. It's the combination of fantastic illustrations with very simple text. And, It's an entrancing book that both of my boys enjoyed, and Quentin Blake, as we know, is the most wonderful illustrator and If we had time, I would read you the whole thing. But if you haven't come across it, go and find Mr Magnolia.

 

Melissa Thom: We haven't got any of the books that you recommended on this podcast, so we will be rushing out to get those.  

For me, I think like you, there are far too many to choose from, but one that I have recently just bought for my sons is called ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris, and it's all about little spells - about the words that we've been losing as children. It’s huge, but I can't wait to read it with my kids.


And it reminds me of, you know, getting those cloth bound books when you were younger and I don't really seem to be able to find those anymore for my children. ‘The Lost Words’ for me is where it's at. 

So we’ve pretty much wrapped it up really. Any sort of final tips for books for the early years?

 

Lucy Shepherd: Total immersion! 

 

I think any opportunity to snuggle up with a young child surrounded by different book, and just enjoy everything they have to offer. Sometimes it's the most unexpected thing - that a child can point out, or you might point out. 

 

It's the comfort it brings, in sharing something in an intimate way that starts that deep love of books that you hope will be a lifelong pleasure, because it will provide them with comfort in years to come when they can escape into something for any number of reasons into their head, with the page in front of them, that shuts out the world when you need and want it to

 

Melissa Thom: Lucy, thank you so much for joining us. It's always a pleasure to talk about children's books with you. 

 

So I’m here with Tessa Strickland, Co-Founder and advisory editor of Barefoot Books. If you haven't come across them yet, do look them up. They are things of beauty, stories from around the world with the most glorious illustrations. 

 

Hi, Tessa. Thank you for joining us. 

 

Tessa Strickland: Hi, Melissa. Thanks for asking me. 

Melissa Thom: I’m actually really excited I get to talk to you about children's books. My boys grew up on Barefoot Books as babies and they absolutely adored them.  Can you tell me a bit more about why you set up Barefoot Books? 

Tessa Strickland: I set up Barefoot Books because, as a young Mum, I felt it was essential, not just important, for children to have stories in their everyday lives and for those stories to come, sometimes from cultures that weren't in the cultural mainstream and actually, in many cases, still aren’t, and for them to see children of different racial and social backgrounds and for no one to be ghetto-ised.

Melissa Thom: Talk to me about stories being soul food? I loved that when I read that on the site. 

Tessa Strickland: I think human beings are meaning-making creatures and we make meaning because of what we remember. And what we remember has to take the shape of story. Otherwise it doesn't make sense.

 

And there's something too important for me about the transmission, about what we want to pass on from one generation to the next, and how the best stories always are about the rub between good and evil. I mean, I think that's why Harry Potter it's so successful, because there are goodies and baddies in a lot of stories. 

 

Melissa Thom: Okay, so we'll talk a bit about the books themselves. What do board and picture books provide for babies and toddlers in your opinion? 

 

Tessa Strickland: For me, a picture book is the child's first theatre and there's something irreplaceable about the intimacy of sitting with a small child on your lap, and you can giving the child the lead so that it's the child who's turning the pages. Obviously the parent is in control, or the adult carer, or the oldest sibling is in control of reading what's on the pages. 

But the child really is empowered by being that involved. And it's great for the parent because the parent is like the stage director. It’s an absolutely unique and very special experience. 

And I think that there was research in the States about six years ago, which demonstrated that if you read to a child for 20 minutes a day, that child will benefit more than any other activity you could share with them. So I mean, that speaks for itself. 

I have a life long fascination with the is missing relationship between music and language and it is a very, very keen sense in small children, and they're like sponges. They're soaking it up. So if they can listen to a story that carries meaning, but also has a melody, they will be enchanted. 

And that's the best way to teach your child. I think you cast a spell, and that's what the sound of the language can do if it's a well written picture book.

 

 

Melissa Thom: Do you have any particular favourite books for babies and toddlers? And if so, what are they? 

 

Tessa Strickland: Well, one of my favourite books for babies and toddlers is ‘Mog the Forgetful Cat’ by Judith Kerr’s classic, which is available in board book form as well as in big picture book form and in miniature picture book form as well, and probably in every kind of form that's been invented. I think that's an adorable story. 

 

I also I think Alan and Janet Ahlberg’s book, ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’ is pitch perfect, and I'm allowed to blow my own trumpet? I did a very simple picture book, which I was invited to create by Book Trust in the UK and that is called ‘Baby Talk’, and it's drop dead simple. And It's photographic, so it shows babies  - each baby is from a different cultural background, but it's very, very simple to read aloud and the purpose of it was to get books into the hands of parents who didn't necessarily grow up in a picture book reading culture, so that it felt safe and accessible and OK to read. 

 

Melissa Thom: Great. We will put details of that on the website, so if you're interested in finding out more about the books that Tessa has mentioned, just check out the website (spellboundkids.com). 

We've talked a lot about timeless classics in the podcast, but are there any new books and authors we should be looking out for? 

 

Tessa Strickland: Well, definitely ‘Wonky Donkey’, I think ‘Wonky Donkey’ is brilliant, and I think it was one of the best selling picture books of last year. It’s from Australia. I'm blanking on the author, but it is absolutely hysterical, and it's a beautiful example of how you can be very, very playful, with language for for small children. And whenever adults read it, they can't help cracking up. 

 

Melissa Thom: I haven't heard of it, but seeing your excitement makes me want to go and get it immediately. 

Finally, what one piece of advice would you have for people when they're choosing books for babies and toddlers? 

 

 

Tessa Strickland: If you're out shopping or if you're shopping online, make sure you like the look of the book. Because if you like it, your enthusiasm is contagious and if you're delivering a reading and it's a fun experience for you, your child will pick that up.

 

Melissa Thom: Any more tips before we go?

 

Tessa Strickland: Don't mind if your child asks for the same story again and again and again. It’s actually a very healthy sign, because it means that there's something going on that the child can't necessarily make explicit to you. But they are working something through and when they’ve worked it through, they won't need that story anymore. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: I’d actually never thought of the reasons behind that, but that's a really lovely tip to finish on so, Tessa, thank you so much for joining us. It's been wonderful to talk to you. 

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

 

Melissa Thom: So I'm here with Gill McClay from the Bath Children's Literature Festival. Hi, Gill. 

 

 

Gill McClay: Hi. Really nice to see you today. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Together with your husband, John, you are Creative Directors of the Festival. Tell us more about why you set it up and what it aims to achieve?

 

Gill McClay: The Bath Kids Lit Fest is all about putting children's authors and illustrators centre stage. We used to go to lots of literature festivals around the country and we would go and we’d see them, and we’d watch how they staged their events. 

And being two people who work within the children's publishing world, we thought, actually? An event for children should be staged very, very differently. And it should be staged with a high level of energy. And there should be something more theatrical about it, and it should also reflect how exciting the world of children's books is. 

 

We deliver over 160 events and we remain the largest children's only festival in Europe. 

 

Melissa Thom: I remember 13 years ago, meeting you when you first set it up. I can't believe it's been that long, so it's great that it's gone from strength to strength. 

We're talking about children's books from the ages of 0-3 years old. Which authors do you work with who produce books for children this age? 

 

 

Gill McClay: Currently, I've worked with and actually being recruited onstage with Julia Donaldson. And I've also worked with Axel Scheffler and Christina Stevenson - a lot of the big authors in that area and they're incredible. They really are. They've bean performers before people worked out that children's authors were performers. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Why is it so important to read books to babies and toddlers? 

 

 

Gill McClay: It's essential to read to children and also, something that I think a lot of people forget, is it's really important to have books in your home. Just having them around and about - books should be part of life. 

We do believe wholeheartedly, that every child has a right to books. It's amazing how many children don't have books in their lives, so just literally having books around the home can actually have an amazing impact on children. 

And for those little children, I think the key thing is to get really great repetition, so that they can really enjoy it. And also for the youngest readers who aren't yet reading, it's really important to realise that literacy isn't just about the words. Literacy is about looking at the pictures and listening to the rhythm of your parent's voice. 

And so some of those picture books, like the Julia Donaldson Picture Books, the reason they're so popular is because that rhythm that comes from when they're read out loud has an impact even to the youngest of listeners. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: What can happen if children don't have access to those books at home and somebody to read aloud to them? How does that impact in later life? 

 

 

Gill McClay: I think the thing that's really easy to underestimate is, when does a reader become a reader? And I think at a very, very early stage in life, you're either someone that has books in your lives or you're not and if you don't have books in your life at that very, very early stage, it's actually really difficult to introduce them later. 

 

 

So even if your child might not be picking them up, the fact that they're there, you're laying the foundation, so when they do want to start reading, they can, and it's not going to be a strange thing for them. Whereas if they don't see books in their world, and you haven't introduced them. If they never see you reading, then actually, it's quite hard to find the entry point. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Do you have any particular favourite books that you'd recommend? 

 

 

Gill McClay: One of my favourites at the moment, is probably ‘Oi Frog’, just because it's a joy of an experience to share. 

But I also love some of the more quirky pitch books that are out there. And there are things like ‘Extra Yarn’, which is just the most beautiful picture book by Jon Klassen and it's all about knitting solutions to problems. It's very quirky but also opens up a really great conversation with your child. 

 

And then also, there are some amazing picture books out there. There's one called ‘Quest’ in particular, which has no words in it all. But the illustrations are so beautiful, your imagination just flies with it. And the lovely thing is, the children will then create their own stories. And, of course, then you never tire of the book because you can change the story every time, so never rule out the ones without words. 

 

Melissa Thom: I think if there was one author that we have read continuously with our two boys, I would say the books by Oliver Jeffers have been a real hit. 

 

Gill McClay: I absolutely love Oliver Jeffers books. Actually, in my personal life, one of my main mantras is an Oliver Jeffers mantra, which is ‘some birds are just like that’, and I often say that to my own son, who's 9, because I think in that incredible simplicity of his text, actually, you can learn so much as a small person, and as a grown up to be honest, about how to interact with others, how to be in society and how to just remain open on open minded. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Now we've got the Bath Children's Literature Festival coming up in September. What can you tell us?

 

 

Gill McClay: Every year, it gets harder to program because every year people are going to expect just have bigger names. We have got bigger names this year. We've got a bigger school program than ever before, which is really, really important to us, because the schools program is the section that we can reach out children, who are those children you were talking about earlier, that don't necessarily have books in their lives. So having a bigger offering for those children is really important. 

And the author opening this year is going to be Cressida Cowell, who is incredibly inspirational, but also just a really open person. And she's very accessible to all. She believes in free writing Fridays, and she believes in the freedom of imagination. 

The main public program is in the final stage is off its programming at the moment and we've got the great and good of children's books, but also, we've got more graphic novels in there than ever before. We've got some great events for babies. We've got some amazing storytelling, got live music, so yeah, we've got plenty for everyone. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Where can people find out about the festival if they'd like to find out more?

 

 

Gill McClay:  It's really easy to find us online, and you can just go to bathfestivals.co.uk.  

 

 

Melissa Thom: Thank you so much for coming to chat to us. 

 

 

Gill McClay: Thank you very much for having me. It's always lovely to talk back its books. 

 

 

TWEETING BIRDS

 

 

Child: Some birds are just like that. 

 

 

Melissa Thom: Thank you for listening to Spellbound. We're really thrilled that you've joined us. If you'd like to share book recommendations with us, or you have a question on any of the books we mentioned on this episode, do please get in touch. We'd really love to hear from you. 

 

Head to spellboundkids.com for more details and links and everything we've talked about during the podcast, as well as information on how to find us on social media and contact the show. We have so many great stories to share, so be sure to subscribe on your favourite podcast app. 

Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen: to Lucy Shepherd, Tessa Strickland from Barefoot Books and Gill and John McClay from the Bath Children's Literature Festival. 

Music by the fabulous Wilfred De Salis and Daniel White. Engineering by Simon Hill. Website designed by Lee Carre and animations by Leo Thom. And the beautiful artwork by Pippa Pixley.

This was a spellbound production brought to life by Melissa Thom and Euan McAleece. 

 

Join us next time for a Spellbound journey into books with 3 to 6 year olds. 

See you then.

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Bristol, England, UK