by Chris Routh
To fit in with last year’s National Non-Fiction November’s ‘The World Around Us’ theme, our poster design competition was inspired by Lots (Walker), a beautiful picture book written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. The winning entry was created by Thomas – then in Year 2 at Loddon Primary School in Reading – and the prize – a visit by Nicola. When trying to arrange a date for the visit, we soon discovered how incredibly busy Nicola is, but we were delighted to eventually be able to welcome her to Reading last Friday where she spent the afternoon talking to pupils at the winning school.
She started by telling the story of an upcoming picture book called Hummingbird illustrated by Jane Ray and due for publication next year. The story follows the journey of a tiny bird from Granny’s garden in Central America to its nesting ground in Central Park, near to her granddaughter’s new home. The spellbound audience of Year 2 and 3 children enjoyed making hummingbird noises on cue. They also asked some great questions, one of which prompted Nicola to talk about her first ever book Big Blue Whale (Walker), which was published in 1997 and is still in print. To help the children visualise the size of this massive creature she started to pace out its 30m length in the school’s beautiful new hall – but ran out of room!
Nicola began her second talk by sharing writing tips and showing the older children her note books and drawings. Her message was reassuring – writing is not something you can easily do to order, or even in order. After reading The Promise, she revealed the beautifully designed boards hidden under the dust jacket of the hardback edition which reflect the book’s message of hope. Once again the audience was entranced and fielded some great questions including ‘what is your favourite animal?’ Not surprisingly, Nicola asked if she could name four instead of one. These were the Southern Right Whale Dolphin, the Pangolin, the Blue Crane and the Peacock Spider (you must look up a film of this one online).
For the grand finale – Nicola taught Year 4, 5 and 6 how to perform the Humpback Whale’s four-part song.
One of Loddon’s teachers reported that everyone really enjoyed the talks – and kept saying that Nicola was ‘the best author we’ve ever had’.
Many thanks to Walker Books for sponsoring the competition, to Nicola and Emily for being judges, and particularly to Nicola for being the superb ‘prize’!
See here for information about this year’s National Non-Fiction November competition.