3D Kevin created by Chloe Applin
His flying pony wranglers, Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (that's us), were super-chuffed to get our own Blue Peter badges. I already had the white one from being a Blue Peter Book Award judge, so they gave me a second blue one. And even though Philip had won a Blue Peter Book Award for Mortal Engines, he'd forgotten to ask for a badge (you have to ask, apparently), so this was his first.
Kevin got to go on Newsround with Glaswegian presenter Martin Dougan. There was a lot packed into the two-minute slot, but Kevin managed not to panic or make any accidental poos on the upholstery.
As soon as the Newsround bulletin was over, presenters Katie Thistleton and Karim Zeroual raced onto the stage set on the other side of the room, chatting away merrily, then the cameras were on, and they immediately snapped into even more energetic presenter mode. It was pretty amazing, Kevin couldn't stop staring.
Here's the room where Kevin got to star in a lot of drawings, as Philip and I did some storymaking work for the Blue Peter website. (You can see the cameramen setting up in the background.)
And here's the crew we worked with, including Blue Peter's Digital Producer, Helen Varley. Those people have filmed all sorts of things, and some take crazy amounts of work, like the time they had a drawing competition and decided to hang up all 20,000 or so drawings for a shot. That's a lot of blue-tack.
Here's Kevin having one last cuddle with Katie Thistleton before heading out in the full-force gale. That's okay, Kevin's used to blowing in on storms.
But Kevin's actually become a bit of a diva; even though he would have been fine flying, this time he insisted on riding in the car, either because he liked the constant supply of custard creams, or because he's taken a shine to Liz Scott, our Manchester-based publicist.
The next stop was Preston for the Lancashire Fantastic Book Awards. We heard that Lancashire has had a real problem with literacy, and was put on the equivalent of 'special measures' to sort out the problem. The Fantastic Book Awards is one of the ways that Lancashire School Library Service is tackling it, involving thousands of primary school children aged 9 to 11. Getting kids excited about reading for pleasure is at the heart of the awards. So they're not trying to pressurise kids into reading stuffy books that people consider 'good' for them, but letting them connect with whatever will make them realise reading is fun, and start them off on a lifetime of reading. Delegates at the conference came from 160 primary schools from across the county, mostly teachers, teaching assistants and some school volunteers.
Here's Kevin getting to meet Julie Bell, Lancashire's head of libraries, museums and culture. Philip and I gave a little Kevin-themed presentation, with the Kevin song, and drawing; music and drawing can be wonderful ways to get kids excited about stories, and they make a nice change from standing at a podium and talking.
As always, things got a bit silly and Philip ended up briefly dead on the floor. (Thanks for tweeting that photo, Lancashire libraries!)
After we signed and dedicated lots and lots of books to teachers, their kids, and their classes, organiser Jake Hope and bookseller/events manager Elaine Silverwood from Silverwood Events took us off to Fulwood & Cadley Primary School to talk to 220 children about The Legend of Kevin. We had a few minutes of waiting in the room where all the percussion instruments were stored, so of course we had to try them all.
When you're touring schools, you aren't usually allowed to take photos of the children, because you'd have to get parental permissions, etc. So my photos make the tour look like we're almost entirely hanging out with grownups. But I can show their artwork, and what I draw. So here's the beginning of a story we created with the kids, starring Kevin in outer space. And here's our great organising/bookselling team, Jake and Elaine, with Dannielle Parkinson from the school. Selling books at schools isn't only about Philip, the booksellers and me making a living, although that's part of it. It's also important that once we've enthused kids about a book, they're immediately able to go away and read it, with the added knowledge of it, and excitement from having met the authors. Elaine is amazing, she has a really good sense of what the kids will want to buy, and how many books, and how to come up with special deals that will help make the books most affordable to the keenest readers.
Our next stop (the next day) was Longridge High School, where kids from ten different primary schools came to a huge assembly: Longridge CofE Primary School, Whitechapel, St Wilfrid's, St Michael's, St Mary's, Grange Primary, Goosnargh Oliverson's, Brabins, Barnacre and Alston Lane. 'We are reading' is the Lancashire motto (and you can follow the #LancashireWeAreReading hashtag on Twitter).
After Longridge, we snaffled up a quick lunch in the car and went straight to Lady Barn House School in Cheadle, where we gave another presentation to that school. I hardly got any pictures, but somehow managed to snap a photo of one of the kid's lovely Kevin drawings. (The word 'Biscutits' also made me giggle.)
Here we are with the Head of Early Years, Miss Jennings:
Bookselling on that visit was organised by Andrew and Sue from Simply Books, who have a lovely shop based in Bramhall, which we've visited several times. It's great being able to help an independent bookseller shift books, and Sue did a great job. (Then we had coffee and cake to revive us, back at the lovely cafe in their bookshop.)
On Friday, Philip and I took a cab to Haslingden Primary School, where the head, Glyn Ellis, was one of the most involved and encouraging I've met. Here we are with Glyn, Elaine (who came back to work this event with us) and teaching assistant Vicky Griffiths, who's always a big help to Elaine when she visits this school.
It's always nice when we have a few minutes before the kids come in, after we've set up, where we can draw a poster for the school. It's a great way of testing if the flipchart and pens work, but also the school gets a poster they can keep for their library.
And I absolutely love it when the teachers draw along with the children. It sets such a good example; they see drawing is for grownups, too, and the kids always try much harder and have more fun with it.
Here are some of the kids' drawings of biscuit-obsessed Kevin.
Philip and I led the children in turning our drawing of Kevin into a longer story. So I was pleased to get a tweet from Glyn, showing how the kids had done the same, turning their drawings into stories, too!
Our final stop, on Saturday, was the Youth Libraries Group Conference in central Manchester, at the Mercure Hotel. There were a lot of quite serious talks going on when we arrived, so I think they invited us to be a bit of light relief.
Again, we got people drawing roly-poly flying ponies, which was lots of fun.
A lot of what the YLG Conference is about is publishers pitching their latest books to librarians. One of the sessions I watched a bit of from the bookshop balcony was this marathon session where every publisher gets only THREE MINUTES to present their whole new book catalogue, until a whistle blows. It must be very nerve wracking to do! Here are publicists Emilie Ferguson and Hannah Penny from our publisher, Oxford University Press, who managed to include an astonishing number of books in their speech. (Oh yes, and did I mention that the venue had about 15 massive chandeliers?)
We signed some books and I bought a whole lot, too, up in Marilyn Brocklehurst's excellent travelling bookshop (from the Norfolk Children's Book Centre). I didn't get a lot of colleague photos, but I did manage to bump into quite a few good folk, including Manchester-based illustrator, Jarvis, whom I'd been curious about. There's writer Pamela Butchart from Dundee with her baby (who's already made several on-stage appearances!), and Hannah and Emilie with illustrator Chris Mould.
Huge thanks to everyone who organised our tour and made it happen! Publicists Liz Scott, Philippa Perry, Hannah Penny and Emilie Ferguson, booksellers Elaine Silverwood, Andrew and Sue from Simply Books, and Marilyn Brocklehurst, Jake Hope from the Fantastic Book Awards and the YLG Conference, Joy Court and everyone on the team at YLG, our contacts at the schools, Helen Varley and the CBBC teams, Chloe Applin who sewed Kevin, you were all brilliant. And, of course, Philip, who made doing stage events so, so much more fun.
If any teachers or librarians want extra book resources, I've posted a How-to-Draw-Kevin sheet on my website, along with material for each of the books I've made.
...And our last update: Kevin is back home now, and is very, very tired, and needs lots of sleep.