Summer Reading Challenge Launch Day

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Today is the official launch of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. The theme is ‘Animal Agents’ and Dave Pigeon is one of The Reading Agency’s selected reads this year!

Get involved with your local library, read six books, follow the clues and join in with hundreds of events across the nation over the summer break.

Team Dave Pigeon will be at North Finchley Library on 8th August and at Manor Park Library on 10th August. Come along, meet Sheena and myself and take part in our Dave Pigeon illustration and story building workshop.

Happy Reading!

Dave Pigeon visits Springwell Junior School

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Team Dave Pigeon visited Springwell Junior School in Heston, where we met with one hundred and twenty Year Three pupils.  We received a lovely, warm welcome and not just because it was the hottest day of the year, but because the children had been reading Dave Pigeon in their classrooms and were raring to go with creating their own Dave Pigeon stories.

We saw lots of brilliant work including monstrous pigeons, evil shelf stackers and a dangerous egg as Sheena led a villain illustration workshop.

The children then used their baddies to create new adventures for Dave and Skipper. We heard about an evil bird-napping nurse, two mischievous foxes and a toilet blocked with a ginormous poo. Sheena and I were so impressed with the creativity of these budding young writers and illustrators.

Thank you so much to the Alligator’s Mouth Bookshop, the pupils and staff of Springwell Junior School, especially Claire, who made our visit so special and the brilliant dinner ladies who made us the most scrumptious school dinner.

Dave Pigeon at Leicester Libraries Our Best Book Award

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We were up in Leicester for the Leicester Libraries Our Best Book Award. Dave Pigeon was on a shortlist of fantastic books and we couldn’t wait to celebrate all things books and libraries with the other shortlisted authors and illustrators.

On the day of the event we were taken to the grounds of the Leicester Tigers for a huge event. We spent the first part of the morning signing more than four hundred bookmarks for all the children who were heading to the grounds for the award ceremony.

Thirty-eight primary schools across Leicester were involved this year and every single pupil could be heard as they erupted with cheers for the winner, Joseph Delaney, author of The Ghost Prison.

As part of the event the pupils had prepared performances and presentations, including this incredible papier-mâché Dave Pigeon, made by the children and staff of Mayflower Primary School.

It was so wonderful to see how the children had engaged with the books and their creativity in their work.

We then headed to Mayflower Primary School to meet more pupils and create new characters and stories with them. Sheena led a drawing workshop, creating new pigeon characters from a single shape.

And I led a story building workshop that involved Dave and Skipper escaping a prison and the evil Peg Leg Pigeon.

Thank you so much to Leicester Libraries, Creative Learning Services and all the primary schools involved in the Our Best Book award, especially the pupils and staff of Mayflower Primary School who made us feel so at home in Leicester. We had a wonderful time meeting you all and are so chuffed that you took Dave Pigeon to your hearts in the way you did.

The shortlisted authors, illustrators and winner

(Clockwise: Me, Sheena Dempsey, Cathy Brett, Tom McLaughlin, Joseph Delaney, Jo Cotterill)

Dave Pigeon wins the Surrey Libraries’ Children’s Book Award 2017!

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I’m thrilled to the moon and back to let you all know that Dave Pigeon has won this year’s Surrey Libraries’ Children’s Book Award. I can’t tell you how special this award is to me. Not only is the short list selected by librarians, but the winning book is voted for entirely by children. Libraries played such an important role in nurturing my love for reading as a child which makes this award all the more special to me.

Sheena and I arrived at the ceremony, held at Dorking Halls, and we were so glad to see some familiar faces from our visits to schools in the area with Surrey Libraries.

We were in for a treat. The children had prepared presentations related to all the shortlisted books. There were videos, stage play adaptations, talks, a song and a puppet show. It was incredible to see how hard the children had worked.

The shortlisted authors and illustrators were then presented with personalised photo collages to celebrate our time with Surrey Libraries and the schools involved with the award. It was following this that Dave Pigeon was announced as the winner of this year’s Surrey Libraries’ Children’s Book Award. Both Sheena and I were flabbergasted. The short list was so strong this year and full of some of my favourite reads ever.

It was an honour to receive our star-shaped awards. Today will be a day I treasure forever. I can’t say thank you enough to the school staff and Surrey librarians who took Dave Pigeon to their hearts and championed him in making the book available to as many pupils as they could. Most importantly I have to give the HUGEST and FEATHERIEST of thank yous to all the children who read Dave Pigeon, produced creative pieces inspired by the book, worked so hard on fabulous presentations and then voted for him. You are all rockstars and have the BEST taste in books.

Building Bird Feeders at Pickled Pepper Books

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This morning I was at Pickled Pepper Books reading from Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!). It was so lovely to meet lots of young readers and introduce them to the new characters from the book.

We then got to work making bird feeders for all the pigeons of Crouch End and the bird feeder designs I saw today were excellent.

Here are a few pictures of some of the bird feeders created today:

Thank you so much to all the children and parents who came along and made such birdrilliant bird feeders and HUGE thanks to Urmi and the staff at Pickled Pepper Books who were the loveliest hosts.

The Bookmark Project is live

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You might remember a post, earlier on this year, about the 1st Burley-in-Wharfedale Brownies who were raising money for Katiyo Primary School in Zimbabwe by auctioning off one-of-a-kind bookmarks designed by authors, illustrators and book lovers; well, the auction has just gone live!

Now is your chance to bid on my one-off, signed, original bookmark ‘Clive’.

You’ll be raising money for an amazing cause and Clive the Bookmark will be a happy to do his best bookmarking in reminding you which page you’ve reached to in your current read. Do get involved and if you do, hugest thanks and hugs from me for supporting this brilliant project.

The auction is only open for the next NINE days so get bidding and good luck!

Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!) at Pickled Pepper Books

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Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!) has landed at Pickled Pepper Books and taken over one of their beautiful windows. To coincide with my crafts event on Saturday 20th May at the bookshop, the lovely Urmi allowed me free rein of the window and of course I went all Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!) with it.

First up was the lettering…

…Then in went Skipper’s trusty typewriter, alongside a couple of Sheena Dempsey’s gorgeously illustrated pigeons…

…We finished off the window with a giant cover of the book and more of Sheena’s lovely pigeons perched on a washing line.

That’s me, looking mighty proud of the finished window.

If you would like to have a look at the window, pop by Pickled Pepper Books in the next week and a half and do join us for a Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!) inspired story time and crafts session on Saturday 20th May from 11 am. Further details about the event are available directly from Pickled Pepper Books.


Roosting with the Dagenham pigeon fanciers

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I’m finishing up writing the third Dave Pigeon book, ‘Dave Pigeon (Racer!)‘ and Sheena has just finished the cover, (which I have seen, by the way, and it is MAGNIFICENT and we cannot wait to reveal that to you all in the next few months).

One of my favourite bits of the writing process is the research. Now I know what you’re thinking, I sit around all day in my pyjamas and write whatever’s rolling around in my head and to some extent that’s true, but the key to making a story readable is to make sure some element of it is believable and that’s when the research comes in.

In ‘Dave Pigeon‘, Dave and Skipper type up their story on a typewriter. Well, did you know that pigeons can be taught to read the alphabet? True fact.

In ‘Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!)‘, Dave and Skipper meet a secret agent spy pigeon, and did you know in the two world wars, pigeons were taught to fly messages across from camp to camp as it was one of the fastest ways to get messages across the warring nations? Also a true fact.

So despite the books being fiction, an element of research and reality does go into my writing. (Another a true fact.)

Last night, I had my research hat on and I left my writing desk to visit Dagenham Trades Hall Flying Club where the club’s pigeon fanciers had gathered to prepare for a pigeon race. We met Steve from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association who gave us a run through of what it is like for a racing pigeon.

The racing season, here in the UK, runs from April to September, with the older birds flying the first half and the younger birds flying the second half. For two to three weeks before the season, fanciers, (these are people who breed and train pigeons), exercise their pigeons and make sure they are well fed and watered, much like a professional athlete.

The day before the race the fanciers take their pigeons from their lofts down to a ‘marking station’.

Each pigeon is taken to the marking team where their ring number is checked.

A rubber band is then placed on the pigeon’s leg, which has a number corresponding to their entry form.

Pigeon racing is a big deal, so lots of precautions are taken to avoid tampering and illegal activity.

Timing clocks are synchronised, ready to collect the rubber bands on the pigeons return home.

Pigeons are placed into a crate which is then loaded onto the pigeon lorry, which will travel through the night to the site where the pigeons are released.

This is called the liberation site and can be up to 500 miles away from home. Once the pigeons are released the race is on!

When a pigeon arrives home to their loft, the rubber band is retrieved from its leg and placed into a timing clock. All the times are noted and the official results are released.

Despite the competitive nature of this sport, it was wonderful to see the comradery between the fanciers. The Dagenham group felt like a family. And it was clear to see the love they had for their pigeons. All are members of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and they follow rules to make sure pigeons were treated with the utmost care and the competition is always fair.

We had such a brilliant time with the Dagenham club and can’t thank them enough for letting us join their family for such a lovely evening of race preparation and pigeon banter. Good luck to all the pigeons flying this morning. We can’t wait to hear the results.