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When my co-author Philip Reeve and I were about to set off for Great Malvern Primary School in Worcestershire from our homes on Dartmoor and in London, we looked at the weather forecast and felt slightly apprehensive. But we'd been planning to feature Pugs of the Frozen North in a big school assembly, and we knew we had to be made of tougher stuff when our book was about two kids being brave and adventurous in polar conditions.



I'd never been to Great Malvern before, and it was gorgeous! Philip and I loved the details of this Victorian spa town's station architecture, and the houses that looked like newly iced gingerbread. And according to one of the teachers, it's said that the lampposts inspired the one in Lantern Waste in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.



The snow was starting to fall harder, but we popped into the bookshop who were selling our books for our visit, the Malvern Book Cooperative, across from the Unicorn pub on St Ann's Road. Inside it was warm and cosy and Helen, who was working there, gave us a cheery welcome.





The next morning, we were greeted at the school by three very colourful characters: the headteacher Nikki Selby, Year 2 teacher Rachel Dudman, and our visit coordinator, Year 4 teacher Cathy Spence.



And I was thrilled to spot all these JAMPIRES!!! Some of the classes had been drawing and writing about the wily little jam-stealing critters in my picture book with David O'Connell. I absolutely ADORE seeing people dressing up as our characters; I love how it makes them feel like they've popped out of the book! Here are excellent teachers and teaching assistants Vicky Barnes, Sam Downs, Karen Brimmell, Rachel Dudman and Delma Black.



Look they even had fangs!



Thanks so much for dressing up! Seeing you Jampires was such a great start to the day! :D



Here are some of the kids drawing of Jampires and the land they come from, tweeted by teacher Mrs Winfield:

jampires drawings

jampires drawings

One of the special things about this particular visit was that I got to launch my brand-new picture book, The New Neighbours! I'm proud of this book, and it was so much fun showing it off, first to Year 1, and then to Years 2-3.

the_gossips_norman_rockwell_LJ.jpg

I've blogged a bit already about The New Neighbours: the stories that inspired it, and how I create the pictures.



We did a lively reading of it, then I showed the kids how to draw one of the bunnies that feature in the story. (If you want to try drawing one yourself, you can download this free, printable, step-by-step tutorial from my website.)



And then we did what's always my favourite event, the big Reeve & McIntyre assembly!



Here we are, showing them how to draw one of the 66 pugs of the Frozen North:



And Mrs Spence took photos while some of the kids were drawing:



We made a big boardgame of a Race to the North Pole, using their suggestions, and introduced them to the 50 kinds of snow that come with a magical winter. At the end, it was lovely to meet many of them individually and sign and draw pictures in their books.



While I was busy showing off The New Neighbours, Philip was talking with the older kids about his longer books. Here he's reading from Mortal Engines:



These books are all brilliant, and here's the order you can read them in: Philip's older Mortal Engines books (including the three Fever Crumb prequel books), and his wonderful new Railhead trilogy. I've enjoyed very much reading them as a grown-up, I'd recommend them to anyone.



And of course, we're all excited about the Peter Jackson adaptation of Mortal Engines coming out in cinemas this Christmas.



Sadly our visit had to be cut short after the Pugs of the Frozen North assembly, because True Winter really DID arrive, and parents rushed through the swirling snow to pick up their kids as the school closed early. Here's Zee, the official school therapy dog, doing his best to keep everyone feeling calm and secure. Mrs Spence said that when there was only one child left, they kept playing the giant board game we'd left, then the child made her own, which made me very happy.



Philip and I then set out on what we hoped wouldn't be an epic voyage home. I heard tales of Paddington station in London being closed, which didn't bode well.



I got on the first train and zoomed right home, but Philip wasn't so lucky going back to Dartmoor, which had completely shut down due to snow and wind. He only made it as far as Exeter, and is still sheltering there with a couple of kindly souls who saw his dilemma on Facebook and jumped in to help. In the meantime, here's a picture by his photographer wife, Sarah Reeve, of Frodo, their Poodle of the Frozen North:



Huge thanks to Cathy Spence and to Tom Padfield from Malvern Book Cooperative for all your work in organising this World Book Day visit - you were fabulous! And to Nikki Selby, and all the teachers and teaching assistants for your wonderful creativity and enthusiasm! The kids were so well prepared, and excited, and welcoming, and we could tell that the people who work at this school really put their heart into making it a wonderfully caring and inspiring environment. If I lived in Great Malvern, I'd be very proud of this school, even more than of all the beautiful gingerbread houses. Fingers crossed Philip will get home soon, and I hope everyone's been having a great Friday playing in the snow! It's been lovely getting messages on Twitter from parents about their kids who are still excited about their new books.



Edit: In the news... Malvern Gazette:



And here again in the Worcester News

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Sarah McIntyre

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