I've been meaning to write about this since the beginning of February (and it seems an odd time to do it now!), but I'm really missing my school visits and today seemed a good day to reflect on the last time I interacted with an inspirational group of little people.
I always go into schools wondering what I'm doing and what I can possibly offer to children, as I still feel like I'm winging it in the children's picture book world. This was only my third school visit and each experience has been very different, so once again I was slightly terrified but mostly excited about what my day would hold. After a frosty journey on the bus I was welcomed into the smallest school I'd ever seen, and instantly felt warmth from the dedicated staff and happy children. The entire school sat down for their assembly (around 50 children in total!) and I launched into my presentation about my children's picture book: "The Greatest Cake".
The familiar panic of "What if they hate the story!" entered my brain as I turned the first page, but I'm so pleased my first book is a rhyming book because I quickly lost myself in the words. Before I knew it, the enjoyment had kicked in because I could see every face engaging in what I was saying. This is the most addictive feeling and the real reason why I do it - it's confirmation that I've done something right. Seeing children laugh in the right places and watching their wide eyes as I come to the end of the story is just the most wonderful feeling.
I then talked about where my idea for the story came from and showed a few early drawings. After a brilliant Q & A session, the 2 classes were split up and their creative day could begin. The teachers had organised some worksheets where each child drew their favourite part of the story and wrote why it was their favourite part. I was astounded by the detail as they drew from memory, more proof that they really listened! The task I gave them was to create their very own short story. They divided their A4 sheets of paper into 4 sections and every single child illustrated a story with a beginning, middle and end. Not only that, they were all brilliant ideas, and they had completed the task within an hour. "Puppy Surprise" and "Dinosaur eating spaghetti" were 2 stories I remember most. I wish I could remember more!
These insights into children's minds are invaluable to me. The older I get, the harder it is to try to remember those feelings as a child, encountering things for the first time and learning about the world around you. These moments can really shape you as an adult, but it's easy to forget that in our busy lives. As a passionate children's book illustrator, I am so looking forward to the next school visit. Those days are as important to me as (hopefully) they are to the schools.