Not long ago I did my first ever School visit at The Vine School just outside of Cambridge. I was really keen to get out do a school visit because I really wanted to actually meet the people that read my books and also as an author/illustrator it’s pretty thrilling just to get out the house. Despite this in the days running up to the event I was TERRIFIED. I had horrifying visions of being lynched by hundreds of disgruntled children because they weren’t suitably entertained. I counteracted this by practice, practice, practice. I read my book, Weasels, to the spider in my studio over and over to get it right and bought myself a flip chart to practice drawing on. I rounded this intense round of training off by making my boyfriend act like a 7 year old while I did the whole event at him. He was unnervingly convincing.
My preemptive panic was unnecessary though because I think it went rather well. All the kids seemed really into the book and were keen to answer questions and point stuff out. The bit that really went down a treat though were the drawing activities where they would tell me what they wanted to see and I would draw it. As the book features a huge world domination machine the first thing we did was design our own world domination machine. You can see it below but don’t judge me too harshly, I had to draw this very quickly while 100 children shouted at me to use more purple so it was pretty challenging.
Now this machine has a range of excellent features and I’ll talk you through some of my favourite. You can see from the chimney and furnace that this machine is steam powered but one girl was concerned about the safety implications of this so she requested the warning sign above the furnace. One boy had the brilliant suggestion of adding ‘A MASSIVE LASER’ which I naturally included with gusto. The next boy wanted a fuse box, which is a little different from A MASSIVE LASER but who I am to say no? It’s also important to note he wanted the new sort of fuse box with the switches, not the old fashioned ones where you plug the fuses in. Not being that handy round the house I wasn’t too sure how to draw a fuse box from memory but I did my best. Other things you’ll find on this machine are a start button, heavily lobbied for purple buttons, CCTV, a computer, an exit door, radar, a handle, a drill, an Arial, a Sky dish, and various wires.
Once we’d completed our machine we needed some weasels to run it. So, I took requests as to the sort of weasels we’d need and what they’d be wearing/doing, then I drew them to order. The first one we did was Hazmat Weasels (seen below). He handles hazardous substances but only in the appropriate safety clothing. Now you may wonder how we ended doing a hazmat weasels and I can tell you that this is because one boy from year 2 said the exact words ‘Can you do one in a hazmat suit please?’. Now I barely know what a hazmat suit is (let alone how to draw one) so I was deeply impressed by this boy and his knowledge of the safe handling of toxic material.
Next we had doctor weasels who’s there just in case someone has an accident with the furnace, despite the warning sign. He has a lab coat, a stethoscope and a smug look because he has a medical degree.
Lastly you’ll see Security Weasels who’s there to make sure everyone behaves. He’s chunky, wears a bulletproof vest and sunglasses (so he looks tough) and has a guard mouse as opposed to a guard dog.
Overall I had a wonderful time and the kids were brilliant and staggeringly inventive. I can’t wait for the next one!
Thank you, Elys! You can take a look inside Weasels below – and the book is currently available online for just half price from Foyles, here.