Young readers flock to festival

Childrens author Anthony McGowan is besieged by young fans looking for a signed copy. GG 0210010 12
Childrens author Anthony McGowan is besieged by young fans looking for a signed copy. GG 0210010 12

The Children’s Festival at Wigtown remains some­thing of a secret: its venue hidden behind the Old Bank Bookshop. Given the quality of authors and illustrators the number of children finding the events is few.

Shoo Rayner kicked things off on Saturday with a look at the Euclid, a man, he explained, who may have existed, may never have existed or may have been many men. If that wasn’t confusing enough, Shoo went on to try to get the kids to draw a square using a compass. It was great fun.

The next event had the marquee heaving as hoards of children waited to hear about Horace the Haggis, a character created by husband and wife team of Sally Magnusson and Norman Stone.

The presentation included readings from Sally coupled with the exuberant energy of her illustrator husband. The fun and laughter could only be topped by the appearance of the hairgelled haggis himself – all 6ft hairiness of him. The children were delighted.

A fictional adventurer was the subject of Damian Dibben’s appearance in Wigtown. His new fictional hero is being strongly tipped to be as big as Harry Potter. As the film rights to Damian’s History Keeper series were sold before he’d even found a publisher for his stories this prediction may prove true.

Already translated into 26 languages, the story of Jake Djones, who belongs to a secret time-travelling society, seems to have hit the spot with youngsters.

From the excitement of time travel and the glamour of the movie world, the next audience was transported to a place of quiet concentration.

Tony De Saulles has been illustrating the “Horrible” series of books for 15 years. This quietly spoken man guided the children through a practical session of How to Draw Horrible Science.

Even after an hour you still could have heard a pin drop such was the focus and absorbed enthusiasm of the children – and adults. The kids got to chop off a finger and slice a dog in half, all on the safety of the page. They loved it.

Author Anthony McGowan was impressed with the know­ledge of the children. “You kids are way too clever,” he said after another insightful answer to his questions.

This must have gone some way to placating the parents who had been dragged along at 10am on a miserable Sunday morning to hear about “The Bare Bum Gang”. To add to the parents’ misery he encouraged the children to do their best burps and shared interesting fact with them about the value of peeing on a wound and how to create fart bombs using old sweetie tubes. The final blow was when he encouraged two children to eat bananas whole – even the skin.

The queen of keepingchildren in raptures – at least in Wigtown – is Cathy Cassidy 
who again shared her world with a packed audience of enthralled girls. Cathy’s ability to capture the world of pre-teen and early teenage girls has made her an enormous success with her readers and they hang on her every word.

To the delight of her fans she read from her new book “Summer’s Dream” and held a little quiz to find out which of the Chocolate Box Girls they were most like. Cathy spent time with every girl waiting for her book to be signed. Four girls had spent hours making bunting for her to put up in her new home as she has moved from Galloway to England.