The exact content of my school sessions changes all the time, as new books are published and old ones go out of print,
but a typical day and some typical sessions are outlined below.

I'm also happy to consider tailoring sessions to fit a school's individual requirements.

Typical Day Assemblies Class Sessions Illustration Workshop

A Typical School Day

I use a digital projector for my school sessions. It's a great way of sharing picture books with a large audience as it allows children at the back of the room to see the illustrations in the same detail they'd see if the book was in their hands. I have my own projector and laptop but I need a suitable room with a screen, whiteboard or large area of clear wall to project onto, preferably one where the lights can be turned off and the curtains/blinds drawn. Once set up, I prefer to stay in one place if this is practical.

While I'm sometimes asked to spend the whole day with just the infant classes, or one or two year groups, many schools ask that I spend some time with every year group from reception up to year 6. I recommend the following programme for such instances, although the details can be tailored for individual schools and the order of sessions can be changed to fit in with the school’s regular timetable.

Years Session Length
All or Reception
& Infants-only
Optional assembly 30 minutes
Reception Readings of a selection of picture and pop-up books 30 minutes
Years 1 & 2 Picture book session 40 minutes
Years 3 & 4 Chapter fiction / older picture books session or How a Pop-Up Book is Made session 60 minutes
Years 5 & 6 How a Picture Book is Made session 60 minutes
All Optional book signing (ideally at end of day) According
to demand

Assemblies

An assembly at the beginning of the day is a good way of introducing me to all of the children.

Reading and Ask the Author Assembly (30 minutes)

After introducing myself and reading from one of my picture books I do a question and answer session.  Although I take questions throughout the day, one of the advantages of doing a Q & A in assembly at the beginning of the day is that it allows me to address some of the more oft-repeated questions, such as “Where do you get your ideas from?”, in front of everyone, leaving me free to answer more specific questions, such as “Where did you get the idea for a particular book?” later in the day.

These sessions always work best when the children have thought about their questions in advance and can be further improved by the children writing their questions on my Ask the Author sheets , which you can get from the downloads page.  If you use the sheets, then 20 or so questions can be selected by the school in advance and stuck up on a notice board for me to choose from.  This allows teachers a degree of editorial control over the questions asked and allows me to select the ones that I know will have the most interesting or entertaining answers. 

As well as the child’s name, the Ask the Author sheet has a space for the child to draw a self-portrait.

Class Sessions

All sessions include opportunities for the children to ask questions.

 

Reception & Infants Sessions

Sessions typically last 30 minutes for reception classes and 40 minutes for years 1 & 2. A selection of my current pre-prepared sessions (some of which are longer) are shown below

Reception picture book and pop-up book session
(30 minutes)

I usually read a couple of my younger picture books and a pop-up book to reception classes. The books featured are agreed with schools in advance and I'm happy to include particular books by request or to try to select books to fit a current class topic.
Pig Tails/Tales
(40 minutes)

This presentation features readings from Pig’s Might Fly, The Pig’s Knickers and The Princess and the Pig. Between stories I talk about how each story was inspired.
★Starting from Autumn Term 2016★
Prince Ribbit Froggy Fact or Froggy Fiction
(40 minutes - Year 1 and older)

Prince Ribbit is a book-themed story in which fiction plays off against non-fiction. After a reading of the story, the children take part in Froggy Fact or Froggy Fiction true or false game in which they learn some suprising facts about frogs. The last child in the game wins a signed copy of the book along with a non-fiction book (by another author) about frogs. You can see a preview of Prince Ribbit here.
The Silver Serpent Cup Design and Make
(60 minutes - Year 1 and up, max 30 children)
The Silver Serpent Cup tells the story of a wacky race in which animals compete in a wide range of fantastical vehicles. This session focuses on vehicle design. I show how some of illustrator Ed Eaves’s vehicle models inspired the story and then help the children to create their own custom-made Silver Serpent Racers using a cut-out-and-make kit of parts.
Here Be Monsters Here Be Monsters
(60 minutes - Year 2 and older, max 60 children)

In the first half of this session I explain how an old sea map inspired my book Here Be Monsters. I read both an unpublished pop-up book called Here Be Monsters and my recently published picture book with the same title. In the second half, the children draw maps of monster-infested islands and mark them with a cross to show where they think treasure might be hidden. At the end of the session the location of the treasure is revealed and whichever child is nearest wins a signed copy of the book.
Clockwork Draon The Clockwork Dragon
(60 minutes - Year 2 and older, max 60 children)

The Clockwork Dragon is made from recycled armour. In this session I show how the idea for it was also recycled, beginning life as a pop-up book before going on to be published twice as a picture book with different illustrators.
I read the new version of the book, illustrated by Elys Dolan, then I help the children to cut out and make their own pop-up clockwork dragon masks.

 

Junior Year 3 & 4 Sessions

My year 3 & 4 sessions feature readings from some of my chapter books and picture books that have an older appeal. Most of these sessions are themed. Here are some of my current sessions.

Stupendous Sceince Stories
(60 minutes)
This session features readings of science-themed stories and poems from two of my chapter books: Skyboy and other Stupendous Science Stories and The Emperor's New Clones. I talk about some of the sceince topics featured in these books, including Charles Darwin's discovery that all living things are related in a "Tree of Life".

Here Be Monsters Here Be Monsters
(60 minutes - maximum group size 60)

In the first half of this session I explain how an old sea map inspired my book Here Be Monsters. I read both an unpublished pop-up book called Here Be Monsters and my recently published picture book with the same title. In the second half, the children draw maps of monster-infested islands and mark them with a cross to show where they think treasure might be hidden. At the end of the session the location of the treasure is revealed and whichever child is nearest wins a singed copy of the book.
Clockwork Draon The Clockwork Dragon
(60 minutes - maximum group size 60)

The Clockwork Dragon is made from recycled armour. In this session I show how the idea for it was also recycled, beginning life as a pop-up book before going on to be published twice as a picture book with different illustrators.
I read the new version of the book, illustrated by Elys Dolan, then I help the children to cut out and make their own pop-up clockwork dragon masks.

How a Pop-Up Book is Made Presentation
(60 minutes)
Less detailed and comprehensive than my How a Picture Book is Made session (outlined below), the presentation concentrates on the role of the paper-engineer and how pop-up books are manufactured. The session follows the process through from inspiration to design, development, illustration and manufacturing.

 

Junior Year 5 & 6 Sessions

Although most year 5 & 6 children may no longer read picture books, I’m often asked to talk to them, so I've come up with the following more advanced presentation for this age group.

How a Picture Book is Made
(60 minutes)

This session features my picture book, Pigs Might Fly. After a reading of the book, the session goes through all the stages of picture book production, starting with initial inspiration, finishing with the printed product and explaining the role of the author, illustrator, editor and designer. The presentation features examples of thumbnails, character sketches, roughs and artwork to illustrate the various stage of production.

Workshops

Junior Year 5 & 6 Picture Book Illustration Workshop (All Day)

This is an all day workshop suitable for a class of no more than 30 children.

The children are presented with a picture book text, for which they will provide the illustrated pages. I use texts for picture books that are still in production or have only just been published, to avoid the children having any preconceptions about how the finished book should look. At the end of the day, I show the children the illustrator's roughs or final artwork (if available) for the book.

After reading the text to the children, we discuss how the characters should look, based on what we know or can deduce from the text and subjective interpretation.  The children then prepare their own character sketches, before moving on to explore the principles of picture book design and eventually to prepare final spreads and cover art. Each child prepares a single spread for the book and I make up a selection of these into a unique edition for the school to keep.