Monday, May 24, 2010

Author visit: P. J. Bracegirdle

In the interests of full disclosure, and as alluded to in a previous post, P. J. Bracegirdle (whose wife, Susan Mitchell, is also a children's book illustrator) had the privilege of speaking to one of our most interesting, diverse and dynamic children's groups. This group, aged 6-8 and from a local after-school club, can be rowdy; the volunteer leaders sometimes have a tough time controlling the kids, for a variety of reasons. The group can be a lot of fun: the boys, for one, while disruptive, have a real sense of humour and enthusiasm for learning, which is pretty refreshing.

Normally, I would have prepared someone in advance for this group, but if you recall, by the time I scarfed my salad and made my way back to the program room, the kids were already climbing on the furniture and Rebekah had kindly gone to direct P. J. to parking.

My second author visit of the day also disproved one of my theories about author visits: that showing illustrations of a book can be boring. In this case, it was really interesting, in part because this group is never lacking in opinions about anything (oh, I love them - I really do!) and in part because P. J. talked about some interesting things, including appeal of book covers to boys versus girls.

To wit, the original cover of Fiendish deeds, the first book in The Joy of Spooking:

Since the publisher decided to go with another illustrator for the second book in the series, Unearthly asylum (coming out August 10th), they re-issued the first book with a new cover:

P. J. brought glossy mock-ups of each cover (including the draft for book two done by the original illustrator, whose work you might recognise from a book I loved, The girl in the castle inside the museum - stunning!), and the kids were enthralled with the art and enjoyed telling us what they liked or didn't like about each one. I was impressed that, despite being a fairly destructive lot, the art made it around the room in a few kids' hands unscathed (whew!).

P. J. got a good feel for the group's sense of humour early on, and discussions about being teased about his family name (which involved an explanation of what a girdle is, to much laughter) leeches, pet frogs, and corpses (Bracegirdle's forthcoming picture book, The Dead Family Diaz, centres on the Day of the Dead) were entertaining and informative.

As with each author visit I've done so far this spring, and again, thanks to our grant, I raffled off two copies of the author's books. The kids in this group, in addition to being lively, are also from predominantly low-income families: if their utter joy at receiving a free book is any indication, I suspect they don't have too many books (or things of their own) at home. I have to say this is the first time I have said, DRUM ROLL PLEASE, and received in response the sound of every child in a group drumming on the nearest hard surface. Did I mention I love them? Did I mention they are exhausting? Anyway, after much suspense (especially since one girl had put in a few blank ballots, which of course were pulled out as winners, heightening the tension!), two children went home with free, signed, copies of Fiendish deeds. Every child left with their own signed bookmark, which I thought was a lovely touch on P. J.'s part.

And thus, the end.

Some Bracegirdle links (in addition to above):

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