Caryl Hart at Ilkley Literature Festival: Review

Watching Caryl Hart in action during her Whiffy Wilson session, I was struck by the calm and unflappable way she ran the workshop. Here was a children’s author who seemed to delight in the impromptu contributions of her young audience. Rather than trying to keep the audience relatively subdued in order to run her session, she encouraged the children to share their thoughts and take an active part in the event.

Caryl is the author of the Whiffy Wilson picture books, the latest of which follows the adventures of the little wolf as he faces his fear of going to school (Whiffy Wilson-The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Go to School). The youngsters listened as Caryl shared the story of Whiffy and his friend Dotty, before being introduced to a cuddly version of the wolf. As a veteran of children’s events, Caryl came armed with interesting props to hold the attention of the children; they were invited to delve into Whiffy’s school bag to reveal what he’d take to school. Caryl invited contributions about what the children enjoy doing at their own schools and didn’t seem fazed when the conversation meandered and the comments became increasingly animated. She even had the children on their feet doing ten ‘Jumping Jacks’ to reassure Whiffy’s worries about his own counting skills.

Caryl also introduced her young audience to the first book in the series, which explores Whiffy’s reluctance to wash (Whiffy Wilson-The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Wash). Again, props were used to engage the interest of the youngsters. Cue much rummaging in Whiffy’s washbag and glee at examining a replica germ.

I thought this event was pitched perfectly for its age group and the combination of Caryl’s good-humour and the use of props made for a very enjoyable workshop.

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