Yasmeen Ismail at Ilkley Literature Festival: Review

“There’ll be tears and laughter” joked Yasmeen Ismail at the start of her event and she was certainly half right in her predictions; although we were spared any tears, there were lots of smiles and laughs among her young audience. Yasmeen’s irrepressible warmth put festival-goers at ease immediately and any quiet, tentative replies to her initial questions were soon banished with a ‘hip hip hooray’ loudness soundcheck.

Reading from her latest picture book, Yasmeen introduced the group to Specs for Rex, a charmingly-illustrated tale of a young lion’s reluctance to wear his new glasses to school. The book follows Rex’s comic attempts to hide his glasses in a variety of unsuitable spots, ranging from dropping them in his box of breakfast cereal to squashing them in his packed lunch sandwich. Reassuringly it all ends well as Rex saves the day, earning himself a gold star and a new friend too.

After reading the book, Yasmeen invited the children to take part in a draw-along, creating their own ‘Rex’. She reassured any worried budding artists that there is no set way to draw ‘correctly’ and encouraged them to give free rein to their own creativity. Whilst Yasmeen offered encouragement and praise, the children took advantage of the crafts on offer to decorate their own ‘Rex’.

Although she’s a relative newcomer to the world of children’s books - this is her second picture book - I can imagine Yasmeen becoming a firm favourite at children’s festivals across the country with her friendly manner and boundless enthusiasm.

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