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 presentations. 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 high definition 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.

Although the details can be tailored for individual schools, I recommend the following programme. 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 Picture and Pop-up Books 30 minutes
Years 1 & 2 Picture and Pop-up Books 40 minutes
Years 3 & 4 Older Picture Books (see session outlines below)
or How a Pop-Up Book is Made presentation
60 minutes
Years 5 & 6 How a Picture Book is Made presentation 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 conduct 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, which I attempt to identify them from, before addressing my answer to them.

Class Sessions

All sessions include opportunities for the children to ask questions.

 

Infants Sessions (30 - 40 minutes)

These sessions consists chiefly of readings from my picture and pop-up books. Sessions last 30 minutes for reception classes and 40 minutes for years 1 & 2. The books featured are agreed with schools in advance and I'm happy to include particular books by request.

 

Junior Year 3 & 4 Sessions (60 minutes)

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

Pig Tails/Tales (60 minutes)
This presentation features readings from Pig’s Might Fly, The Pig’s Knickers and The Princess and the Pig. Although all three stories are about pigs, each uses a different degree of anthropomorphism and between readings I explain what this impressively long word means and talk a little about its importance in storytelling. I also reveal the inspiration behind a couple of the stories.

Monsters & Maps (60 minutes)
This presentation features readings from Monsters - An Owner’s Guide,The Treasure of Captain Claw and Here Be Monsters. Between readings I talk about the inspiration behind two of the stories and explain how they were developed into the finished books.

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 (60 minutes)

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.