making books at drayton park school

Today was the last of four day-long workshops I did for the TEXT Islington project, getting kids to make books. My big find recently has been those little A5 cardboard placards you get in Deptford pound shops, they’re the perfect size for book covers and boy, are they bright! I took three classes at Drayton Park over two days, and here are covers from one of the classes:

The project I set out for the 7-year-olds was to 1) get them to design their own alien or monster character, 2) come up with an 8-page story about the character (complete with title page), 3) design zingy book covers with a blurb on the back, 4) share their books with a classmate and get a positive quotation about the book, 5) Make a book advert poster, using the quotation.
Here’s a downloadable pdf that shows how to fold a book out of one piece of paper.

I let them in on a trade secret, that the purpose of a book cover isn’t just to let people know what’s in their book, but to be IN YO’ FACE!!! (Like my attempt at London street talk? You can get away with this when they’re 7.) I told them that there are millions of books in the world, and no one will take down your book unless the book’s practically jumping off the shelf. When they’ve taken it down, the point of the blurb is to LURE PEOPLE IN to opening the book. And when someone’s opened the book… you have VICTORY.

I liked the very literal approach of this blurb:

Here are a few stories for your reading pleasure. (Can you tell I’m proud of them?)

A big thing was working on their typography, and getting them to spread their writing across the page, instead of bunching teeny-tiny writing up at the top. With a few of them, I actually made them rub it out and try again, larger, and they got some much better results.

I gave them lots of comic-making tips, and one of the things we talked about was bringing in to your story things you see in your local landscape. We discussed the possibilities for this building nearby on the Holloway Road. Besides a rocket launch pad, they suggested it might be headquarters for a criminal mastermind, or perhaps it’s a tank full of live sharks.

Because we’d spent all day crafting our own books, I was intrigued to see a proper, old-fashioned bookbinder on the same road as the school. I wonder if they could hook up at all; I looked through the windows and they have great gear.

So… ta dah! THIS is the end of my two-month event season!!! Now I can go back to making books myself. I would say, now I can breath easy, but actually, I have a whole lot of catching up to do.

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