The Children’s Book Festival, Melbourne, 2013
Family Day at the Melbourne Children’s Book Festival does nothing less than restore Emily Gale’s faith in humanity. Or at least her faith in children’s book publishing. Here’s why.
At last year’s Children’s Book festival at the SLV I was one of the crowd, along with my partner and our two children. The kids did dragon-drawing workshops, raided the CBCA tent for old posters and bookmarks, and we stood in a long, snake-like queue to meet first Sally Rippin and then Andy Griffiths.
It was such a memorable day, not least because I was amazed by the patience and determination of all the kids queuing up to meet their literary heroes - my own usually fidgetty daughter included. In fact at one point she had to tell me to be patient.
I remember thinking how lucky we were to have this sort of event on our doorstep, how well-run it was, and how much I’d love to be part of it.
Funny how things turn out. This year was a completely different experience for me because I attended as part of the Readings team, the official bookseller for the 4-day festival that finished up last Sunday 24th March with Family Day.
I realise now that I’m probably the worst person to write a blog post about how the festival went because I was so busy selling books that I didn’t get to see any of it. But the selling books part is what I wanted to talk about, because from 8am when we started to set up, to 4pm when the weary team inhaled sausages and deliciously charred onions in bread before packing up the van, we didn’t stop. The crowds wanted children’s books, and lots of them. It was a glorious children’s book love-in.
Later on there was a lovely moment when a lady approached me to show off her original edition of My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes. She was searching for Lynley Dodd, wanting a signature on this well-worn, beloved copy. I hope they found each other.
I was star-struck as usual, along with a few hundred pre-schoolers who came to meet Justine Clarke and the Gobbledygook from her picture book, The Gobbledygook Is Eating A Book. Justine had the glow of a movie star but the friendly air of someone’s mum, and as someone on Twitter remarked, she wore “a dress of some note”.
The variety of authors and activities, and the enthusiasm of every child there, gave the whole day the most infectious atmosphere. There was drawing, kamishibai storytelling, comic-making, listening, singing, dancing, animals, firefighters, resident illustrator Oslo Davis sketching the whole thing, Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter, face-painting, and everything. Even tacos.
We’d brought along bags of chocolate eggs in case there were fractious children fed-up of waiting in queues, but we ended up eating most of them ourselves because we saw so few fractious children. Plus, we needed the sugar.
It was a brilliant day to be a children’s bookseller. Maybe we looked a little weary with our rabbit-ears askance, dashing from the front stall to the Theatrette stall to the Readings shop inside the SLV, but we enjoyed every minute of it, and it looked like you did too. Congratulations to the Wheeler Centre and SLV for putting on another great festival. Thanks to Oslo Davis for these unique illustrations of the day.
Look through the list below to see the selection of books we had on the day. And see you next year.