Engaging reads for children, from Books go Walkabout

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The 2018 Philippa Pearce Lecture- Peopling The Dark – Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge delivered the Philippa Pearce Lecture to a packed auditorium on April 18th at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.

Are books too scary?  Can we iron out the monsters? Should we face the monsters alone?

Some of the questions which Frances eloquently suggested to the audience, why do we think  children should not be given answers, but left with the monster lurking, when we just want them to be safe and not to think about scary things?

Frances’s novels, which include The Lie Tree, The Cuckoo Song and A Skinful of Shadows are full of shadows and half glimpsed faces, things which in the dark are scary. Adults tend to come in and put on the light and explain that there is nothing to be scared of, but when the light goes out, Frances explained that the scary monster is back.  Frances recalled how she had first read The Shadow Cage by Philippa Pearce and it had struck a deep chord.The Lie Tree

Children’s fiction has a wealth of unseen things, some are cowed and shrouded, faceless and use of nonsense words and vague descriptions, for example the Jabberwocky the work of Lewis Carroll. In Victorian children’s books, Frances explained that monsters would be used to impose sanctions, e.g. the monster will get you. Stormtroopers of fear and imagination, the use of cautionary tales.

In today’s world of books for children there is a wealth of material which brings in darkness and scariness, the fear and the imagination of children and young people, for example, Harry Potter and the dementors. We can try to iron out the monsters, we can offer daytime explanations but there remains some uncanny gravitas which no electric light bulb can help!

Frances also pointed out that all children’s authors are adult but maybe it is the inner-self that is still part of the childhood.

A thought-provoking lecture and Frances Hardinge gave an excellent informative journey through the materials on the dark side.

Francis Hardinge at Homerton College, Cambridge to deliver the 2018 Philipp Pearce Lecture

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout


The Philippa Pearce Lecture Tenth Anniversary, with Frances Hardinge

The Philippa Pearce Lecture celebrates its tenth anniversary with a lecture by children’s author Frances Hardinge.

Thursday,19th April, 2018 at 5.00 pm – The Mary Allen Building, Homerton College, Cambridge, CB2 8PH.

Frances’ highly acclaimed children’s novels include Fly By Night, Twilight Robbery, the Carnegie-shortlisted Cuckoo Song and Costa Book of the Year winner, The Lie Tree.

Image credit: David Henson. Frances Hardinge, London, 2009

Frances’ lecture, entitled  “Peopling the Dark“, will explore unseen and half-seen figures of menace and malice in Philippa Pearce’s The Shadow Cage and other children’s literature.

This prestigious annual lecture at Homerton College, University of Cambridge is a highlight of the literary calendar for a wide-ranging audience of academics, writers, illustrators, publishers, teachers, students and other lovers of children’s literature.

The lecture offers a unique platform for the very best children’s authors, poets and illustrators to reflect on their art. Always thought-provoking as well as entertaining, the lectures have tackled such topics as the implications of exposing children to fear, and what poetry is for, and the place of digital technologies in children’s literature.

Following the inaugural lecture and tribute to Philippa Pearce in 2008, the line-up of speakers has included Michael Rosen, Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Meg Rosoff, Allan Ahlberg and Chris Riddell.

The event is held in association with Homerton College, Cambridge,  and is part of the College’s 250th anniversary celebrations:

The lectures were established in 2007 by the family, friends and colleagues of the distinguished children’s author, Philippa Pearce. Her children’s novels include the well-loved classic, Tom’s Midnight Garden (Carnegie Medal, winner,1958).

Exploring concepts of time, connections between past and present, and relationships between children and parents, all convey a sense of the East Anglian landscape where Philippa’s family had lived for generations, and where she spent most of her life. As Philip Pullman said, “She was one of the very finest writers British children’s literature has ever had.”

The Tenth Anniversary Philippa Pearce Lecture, Thursday, 19 April at 5.00 pm, in the Mary Allen Building, Homerton College, Cambridge. A wine reception follows. Tickets are free but  do book in advance.

Register your place here...

An event not to be missed.

Sue Martin

Books Go Walkabout

Chris Riddell The Age of the Beautiful Book


The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture 2017 was presented by Chris Riddell, award winning author, illustrator, political cartoonist and Children’s Laureate 2015-2017.

Not many lectures start with a cartoon of the anticipating audience and the back of the presenter’s head on the large screen! An intriguing way of getting the messages across, and amazing to see book characters come to life before your very eyes! Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, the first in the Goth Girl series, evolved in the screen in front of the audience at Homerton College, Cambridge

Discover Chris’s work on his web site here.

An exploration into the development of the book itself was a joy to listen to, so often we hear of the ideas behind the book but Chris was keen to portray the business of getting the book into print. A meeting with the book development side of the publishers meant that Goth Girl books have plenty of book bling, deep blue, silver foil, varnish effect and above all sprayed edges. At the back of the books is a tiny book in an envelope attached to the back cover; further information about Ishmael the mouse. Brilliant idea! 

The book then travels to the ends of the earth (that may mean China, I suspect!) and back to our country for sale.

The Age of the Beautiful Book was much more than a lecture about illustration in children’s books, but about how that precious book does become beautiful, something to keep and treasure.

Chris talked a little about his own childhood, as the son of a vicar, and how important  books are in exploring new worlds; he talked about finding worlds in wardrobes or indeed down rabbit holes. He has a warm and reassuring tone and when he mentioned that he had, ‘ a vague and reassuring feeling that God doesn’t mind that he doesn’t believe in him’, there were many quiet nods and mmm’s.

This empathy with people is shown throughout his illustrations and he has some ingenious ways of bringing books to life. Now, as he is thoroughly into social media, he has a good way of illustrating characters in all sorts of books and then sending photos to gain many, ‘ little blue thumb likes’! ‘Pictures turbo post words’ he said.

Chris is also an advocate for the real book, the attraction to the senses, tactile, the smell, the sound of turning the pages and being a feast for the eyes. Reading is a pleasurable thing to do and should not be turned into a grammatical exercise only. He  wants children to draw for fun and for expression and we had some amazing cartoons on what would happen if education ever created assessments for drawing; ‘analyse the makeup of the graphite, the ergonomics of pencil sharpening… it would suck the life joy out of it!’

An enthralling lecture, this Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture on  Friday evening September 8th with Chris Riddell will be remembered for its engagement, fun and how to bring the best in children’s books alive through beautiful books.

Sue Martin

Books go Walkabout, stories across the world



The Philippa Pearce Lecture, September 8th, Homerton College, Cambridge

Read more: Philippa Pearce Lecture

The Age of the Beautiful Book is the title of the 2017 Lecture which will be given by Chris Riddell, a multi award winning illustrator and political cartoonist, who was the Children’s Laureate from June 2015 – June 2017.

The series of lectures was established in 2008, as a living memorial to celebrate the achievement of author, Philippa Pearce, who lived close to Cambridge. Philippa’s most famous book was Tom’s Midnight Garden, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1958. There were many more books, including The Minnow on the Say. You can find lots of resources and information on The Philippa Pearce website.

Chris is going to talk about words and pictures working together for a reader both on the traditional page, and  in a digital age. He will explore how books are ever more covetable as objects in their own right, as well as valued for the words and illustrations inside, plus how libraries remain vital as repositories for these beautiful productions.

Chris has now published his Laureate’s Log as a book with PanMacmillan and is a beautiful journey of his time as Laureate.

This will be an excellent opportunity to explore the interests and ideas of an esteemed author working in illustration and the value of books in their own right for children.

In today’s world, we are surrounded by media, in digital and paper and formats. Often the value is only seen in what we can instantly gain and attain from reading and looking at the books. There is much more to be developed in the ongoing level of cognitive interaction and illustrations in books.

At Books Go Walkabout we work with illustrators and authors across the world, including Leigh Hobbs, the Australian Children’s Laureate, who was recently in conversation with Chris at The Children’s Bookfair in Bologna.

Looking forward to the lecture, exploring the Laureate’s Log and listening to further tales.

Sue Martin


Books go Walkabout, stories across the world

The Phillipa Pearce Lecture 2016

Minnow on the Say by Phillipa Pearce

Review or buy this book from Amazon.co.uk

The 2016 Phillipa Pearce Lecture promises great things… Allan Ahlberg has titled his lecture John Wayne & Sibelius or The Train Has Rain In It.

The lecture will be held on Thursday 1st September at 5.00pm at Homerton College, Cambridge.

It is an annual event and hosted as a tribute to the wonderful work of Phillipa Pearce who grew up close to Cambridge in the 1930’s. Her most famous books include;  Tom’s Midnight Garden, Minnow on the Say and A Dog So Small.

Allan Ahlberg is the author of over a hundred books for children and winner of many awards, including two Greenaway prizes for Each Peach Pear Plum and The Jolly Postman.

He tells brilliantly funny stories and he has some fine collections of poetry.

We are looking forward very much to the lecture.

Sue Martin     Books Go Walkabout



The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture 2013

Image 1Kevin Crossley-Holland,celebrated author and President of the School Library Association, delivered an enchanting and beautifully crafted lecture:

‘Footprints on the Grass: Speaking of Gardens and Children’s Books’ to a full house at Homerton College Cambridge on 6th September.

The theme of gardens was delicately drawn into ways in which children use imagination within places where there is space, beauty and security.

Kevin talked about John the Peddar from Norfolk, is journey to London following a dream about a pot of gold, only to turn back and return home where the pot was in his back garden.

‘ The greatest treasure in the world is on our doorstep, but you may have to go away and come back to find it.

There were many references to Philippa’s writing, and especially her most famous book, Tom’s Midnight Garden.

Philippa Pearce died in 2006, but respect and affection for her writing is as strong as ever. In her memory, a series of lectures is now underway, each intended to celebrate excellence in writing for children.

Image 2

The inaugural Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture was held on 11th September 2008, at Homerton College, Cambridge, and focused on Philippa Pearce’s own writing and contribution to children’s literature. Subsequent lectures have ranged more widely and speakers have included Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo, Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman.

The 2014 Lecture will be given by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Kevin’s speech was filmed and will be available on the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture website soon. http://www.pearcelecture.com

What is Children’s Poetry For?

ppThe title of the 2009 Phillipa Pearce Memorial Lecture, given by Michael Rosen and introduced by Morag Styles. The lecture was presented to a packed audience at Homerton College in Cambridge on 10th September.

As always Michael Rosen is great to listen to, a captivating speaker and lots of information. These notes highlight some of the evening.

Poetry can be seen as a speaking picture. It helps meaning to become clear without us knowing how. It provides insight into emotions. It is memorable and enters our value judgement. It encapsulates wisdom with action. It brings together ideas and feelings.

Poetry exists more like the mortar than the bricks. It is the glue in between.

mrMichael presented much of the talk based on work by Sir Phillip Sidney, 1595 ‘An Apologie for Poetry’,or rather defence of poetry. Even then he was defending the way poetry was associated with playing and jesting.

But for children and poetry, it is no wonder they go together so well. Rhyme, verse, patterns, what better way to learn from the start about words and meaning. It’s about playing with words, hearing words when you don’t know the meaning, putting them in context.

And making sense of what you hear- children do it all the time!

Keep visiting Dolphin Booksellers, we are going to be adding more information this autumn.

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