26 Letters is our annual celebration of children's books, which this year has just as many pictures as words! Hilary Cooke, Creative Learning Producer of the Brighton Festival, shares some of her top picks.
Pongwiffy v Magenta Sharp
Live drawing is one of my favourite things and author Kaye Umansky is accompanied by not one, but two of her illustrators at this event! Ashley King has created the witty images for Kaye’s new Witch for a Week series and Katy Riddell has illustrated the new editions of the much loved Pongwiffy books. The first of this series was published in 1987 and they are now reaching a new generation of young readers. (Katy, incidentally, is a second generation illustrator as she is the daughter of former Children’s Laureate and Brighton resident, Chris Riddell). With Kaye’s warm humour, spellbinding story telling and Ashley and Katy’s competitive drawing skills, this promises to be a wonderful witchy event. (Plus, audience dressing up is encouraged which is always a good thing).
Peter Bunzl’s books, Cogheart and Moonlocket are set in an imaginary Victorian world where the smoky sky is filled with the transport du jour, the airship. Featuring intrepid Lily, her friend Robert and Malkin the mechanical fox, the books are thrilling adventures with extraordinary originality. I’m looking forward to hearing about Peter’s background as a film maker and animator, and finding out how this has influenced his work. I believe that Malkin, the clockwork fox was influenced by Star Wars’ R2D2 and CP30 so I’m curious to discover how futuristic space movies inspired his unique Victorian steampunk world.
The Funny World of Alex Milway & Gary Northfield
There will be more live drawing in Alex Milway and Gary Northfield’s event (can you tell I’m a fan?) but with a more comic book style. These two author illustrators are also great friends which leads to a fantastic on stage rapport. Both Alex and Gary have taken part in our Adopt an Author scheme, (in fact Alex is an Adopted Author again this year), and any class who had the good fortune to adopt either of them will know how inspiring they are as well as being really, really good fun.
Jacqueline Wilson needs little introduction! It is a pleasure to welcome her back to Brighton Festival to hear about her brand new book, Rose Rivers as well as her many other titles. She always attracts a wide age range with her new readers and her devoted twentysomething fans. Jacqueline‘s events are a masterclass in simplicity; when she sits on stage before a concert hall audience it feels as if she’s chatting to you one to one over a cup of tea. She has such a natural, relaxed way of speaking about her books and is both honest and unpatronizing when describing her often hard-hitting subject matter.
Tales from Moominvalley
I love the work of Tove Jansson (for adults and children), and it will be such a pleasure to hear author and Moomin afficianado Philip Ardagh talk about his beautiful book Tales from Mominvalley. He will be in conversation with writer, translator and, (most importantly), fellow Moomin fan, Danel Hahn. The book is a real labour of love and has immense detail about all things Moomin. There is nothing else quite like the Moomin stories in children’s literature – peopled (Moomined?) with eccentric, strange and delightful characters. Because of their enduring appeal. I’m expecting to see quite as many adults as children at this event, keen for a deep dive into Moominvalley.