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Posted by Kate, June 7, 2010

Rounding off Hay

Kate had a real day off on Thursday and went to a West Wales beach, but came back in time for the Puffin of Puffins debate chaired by Lucy Mangan, top children’s books afficionado and Guardian columnist. Children’s book authors, adult author Jasper Fforde and Marcus Brigstocke each championed a book from one of Puffin’s seven decades.

Jackie Wilson championed the The Family at One End Street – the first book with people who weren’t posh that she’d encountered. She said that every character was imbued with their own personality, even baby William. She identified with kind Lily-Rose and bookish Kate and said that they were surprisingly modern in their aspirations: Lily-Rose wants her own steam laundry (their mother takes in laundry) and Kate wants to be a sort of eco-farmer (though she doesn’t express it in those words).

Jenny Valentine defended Charlotte’s Web, saying it had a brilliantly dramatic and ominous opening line, “Where’s Papa going with that axe?”, and was a celebration of the transformative power of friendship and loyalty.

Jasper Fforde spoke up for Stig of the Dump, speaking of the appeal he felt as a child of Stig’s complete freedom from the dullness and strictures of adulthood.

Marcus Brigstocke recalled the way that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory expressly addressed him in the first pages, and said that this made the book more approachable for someone who was dyslexic. He said that Willie Wonka was a brilliant fictional forerunner of Alan Sugar, and the whole set-up was like The Apprentice.

Cathy Cassidy championed Goodnight Mr Tom, a book, she said, about “learning to be loved” that she’d read non-stop in the course of a single night when she was in her 20s.

Andy Stanton defended The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog: “A small comic masterpiece” that is “a kids’ book… It’s exactly what kids want.”

Jason Bradbury spoke up for Artemis Fowl celebrating the fairy gadgetry and its moral ambivalence: Artemis is really “a baddie, which is all to the good”.

Of these, Kate would have voted for Charlotte’s Web (had she had a voting slip, which, annoyingly, she didn’t), but the audience vote was for Goodnight Mr Tom, a very worthy winner.

You can add your vote to the national vote

On Friday morning, Kate momentarily owned a Viviane Schwarz original (pictured) after Viv and Grahame Baker Smith’s Kate Greenaway Medal event with Anthony Browne… but a little girl asked if she could have it, and it seemed churlish not to hand it over. Viv’s There Are Cats in This Book is a whimsical joy.

Later, in her event, Francesca Simon read from Horrid Henry Rocks, demonstrating once again that no-one writes about sibling rivalry more amusingly. She said she draws on the emotions of her own childhood and on her observations of her nephew and niece (who provided the line, “He’s looking out of my window!” in the course of a car journey), though she emphasised that Horrid Henry and Perfect Peter represent the “Two halves of everyone”.

Andy Stanton demonstrated the quirky energy and humour at the heart of his Mr Gum books in his event, bounding around the audience to take questions, drinking water “in French” and speaking about his writing process: “Sometimes ideas are like wasps. Probably. They get in your head and buzz around. Actually, they’re not like wasps.”

In his event, Morris Gleitzman spoke movingly of the challenge and process of writing his Holocaust trilogy, Once, Then and Now… prompting a bit of a debate (continued on Twitter) as to whether you have to be Jewish to write fiction about the Jewish experience of the Holocaust or whether any writing about the Holocaust is likely to act as a commemoration and a reminder. What do you think?

Oh, and there was more, but you’ve probably had enough. Once again, the Hay Festival of Literature and Art was fun and stimulating. It was a chance to meet old friends and meet new people. It was great to be there.

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