today we made books! lots of books!

The strangest thing happened this morning. I set off from home very early to get to Thornhill Primary School in Islington, and I was feeling terribly nervous. The longest I’d ever spend in front of one group of children was two hours, and today I was going to be with the same class for the entire school day. I really wasn’t sure if I could keep them focused for more than a few hours, I hadn’t had loads of time to prepare, and I set off with a leaden heart.

As I went out the front door and began walking down the street, a big fox trotted up from behind me and walked right next to me. I thought he’d dash away again, but he didn’t. For at least three minutes, he padded along right beside me, very companionably, down a street, through an alleyway and down another long street through my neighbourhood. He (or she) never turned his head to look at me, so I didn’t feel nervous, but he never raced forward or dropped back either. When I came to the gap between two buildings where the neighbourhood road joins the busier street, he slipped off into the bushes and was gone. Somehow the weight in my chest lifted, and I felt like the fox had given me a gentle sort of benediction for the day. So odd.

I had a great entry, when I walked in, one of the girls in another class called out, ‘Hey, look! It’s the lady from the Cartoon Museum!” She’d been in one of my workshops. (Cool!)

Our goal with a class of 26 seven-year-olds was to make and self-publish three copies of the book by the end of the day. We started with character design, then moved onto book design, where they made an 8-page booklet out of an A3 sheet of paper. After they’d made a title page and written 7 pages of story (and we’d made 3 photocopies of each during lunch break), we talked about cover design and made big, bold covers, then wrote blurbs on the back.

Finally, we swapped books around, and everyone came up with a complimentary one-sentence quotation that the book’s creator could use on an advertising poster, and then we made the posters. We’d been hoping perhaps to interview a few kids with their books and posters to make book trailer videos, but we just ran out of time. But I was hugely pleased with the results, a lot of the kids had some excellent design sensibilities.

A pile of the photocopied books

Thanks to the teacher and classroom assistants for being such a great support team! I was hugely impressed by how enthusiastic and organised they were.

Teacher Tina Chawla and her morning assistant, Rachel

Character design sheet

Really loved this cover and colour scheme:

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