To say that Book Events for Children is delighted that the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson took the time to answer our questions would be something of an understatement!
Jacqueline’s latest Hetty Feather book Emerald Star is now available and Jacqueline will be appearing at Whitby Pavilion on Oct 12, followed by Harrogate’s Royal Hall on Oct 13th to discuss her writing. In November she’ll also be visiting Wessex Festival. Tickets to these events are guaranteed to sell like the proverbial hot cakes so don’t miss out.
Book Events for Children collates the details of book-related events for children in an easy-to-consume format. Why do you think author events continue to be so popular?
I think if children see a real person talking about their book in an entertaining way it makes reading seem much more interesting. I also think that parents are generally committed to helping their children do well at school and so encouraging children to enjoy books and reading is a lovely way of supporting them. Taking them to see a favourite author perform can be an inspiring occasion for all the family.
What does the feedback you receive from these events mean to you? Does it directly influence how you write for your audience?
I very much enjoy events - especially the questions at the end. I don’t think events have a direct influence on my writing but it certainly shows me which of my books are popular and keeps me on my toes. As my daughter is now quite grown up I find events a wonderful way of keeping in touch with my readers. I can see the sorts of things they’re wearing, I can listen to them chat whilst they’re in the queue and I get the opportunity to ask them questions as well.
Following the success of stage adaptations of your books and other productions - ranging from pre-school classics like The Gruffalo to Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse -why do you feel there is a move towards bringing children’s books to the stage?
It seems a general trend to stage book adaptations, for adults as well as children. I suppose if one or two are a big success it encourages other companies to stage book adaptations which I think is a wonderful thing. If a children’s play works well it means that the whole family can have a lovely theatre outing.
Several of your books have been adapted into stage productions by children’s theatre director, Vicky Ireland. How do you feel seeing your characters brought to life on the stage?
Vicky’s always worked magic with my books, respecting the original text and yet adapting them to work really imaginatively on the stage. I just sit back and enjoy seeing the audience appreciate her talent.
Are there any of your other books which you would particularly like to see adapted for the theatre?
I’d love to see my three Hetty Feather books about a Victorian Foundling adapted for the theatre. I think they’d work really well, and look great visually. The circus element would be particularly effective though it may be a challenge to portray a live elephant on stage!
We’re seeing more and more literature festivals with dedicated events for children and young adults. Is this a reflection of a growing interest in children’s literature?
I’d like to think so. Certainly most literature festivals know that the top twenty children’s authors will be able to command large audiences.
During your time as Children’s Laureate, you developed the book Great Books to Read Aloud. Could you share with us your ‘top three’ books (other than your own!) which you have most enjoyed reading aloud?
My all-time favourite read-aloud book is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak. I’ve never known a small child yet who didn’t like to join in roaring their terrible roars and showing their terrible claws. ’The Tiger who came to Tea’ by Judith Kerr always goes down well too. It sometimes helps to read aloud a classic to older children. I loved reading ‘Five Children and It’ by E.Nesbit to my daughter when she was seven or eight.
With the increase of digital media and with so much virtual entertainment on offer, what would you say are the challenges and/or opportunities facing authors in continuing to capture the interest of young readers?
I maintain that a good story with interesting characters will always be able to hold its magic. Whether you read the story in book form or on an electronic devise or listen to it being read is entirely a personal choice. Certainly websites and social media offer a wonderful way of reaching fans directly.
Given the popularity of the Tracy Beaker app, are there any plans to create more apps enabling the reader to engage further with your characters and stories?
There are no plans at present but if someone approached me I would certainly be interested.
Finally, have you been asked to write any memorable dedications to young readers at your book-signings? Or do you have any book event anecdotes to share?
I’ve often been asked to write ‘Enjoy this book!’ as if it was a direct command - or been told to write ‘love from Nanny and Grandad’ rather than my own name. I’ll always try hard to do what the owner wants, though I sometimes have to abbreviate things. I’ve been asked to sign plaster casts, teeshirts, school-bags, baseball caps, foreheads … I’ve had children faint, be sick, have nose-bleeds - but nearly always the children are delightful, and give me little cards and stories and friendship bracelets and little packets of chocolate. I once had a girl make me a special bowl of icecream which had completely melted by the time she got to me - but it made a very refreshing soup.