Local writer Sarah Johnson treated a crowd of Raglan Area School children to an excerpt from her new book ‘The Spaghetti Giraffe’ last week when the Storylines Festival Story Tour came to town.
And though this award-winning children’s author has been coming to the school nearly every day for 10 years with her own four young sons she had never before been “up the front”, she told the 100 or so year fives to eights – including son Finnbar – gathered in the school hall for the hour-long author/illustrator visit.
Alongside Sarah were fellow children’s writer Mark Sommerset from Waiheke who gave a very animated reading of his popular storybook ‘Baa Baa Smart Sheep’, and South Auckland comic book artist-cum-pro wrestler Michel Mulipola who showed examples of his work on an overhead screen.
All three shared how they loved what they did, and how their audience too could aspire to be whatever they wanted.
“I never take myself too seriously,” said Sarah, whose earlier books ‘Wooden Arms’ and ‘The Bold Ship Phenomenal’ can be found in the school library. “And I get to do what I want as a job.”
Mark, who also plays guitar and sings, agreed: “You can be an author, write songs, surf … whatever you want really.”
Michel – a comic book junkie from way back – told how getting paid for illustrating comics was such a “good feeling”.
The trio’s visit is part of a push by Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust to bring authors and illustrators directly to schools throughout New Zealand.
It has been hosting Storylines Festivals nationwide now for 23 years, but in the cities. This year is the first time authors and illustrators are travelling to schools throughout six regions.
It was Sarah, Mark and Michel who kicked off last week’s South Auckland/Waikato tour of 26 schools.
Each of them had visited two Waikato district schools on their own that Wednesday morning before coming together at Raglan Area School in the afternoon.
Mark and Michael covered St Columba’s and Crawshaw in Hamilton, then Te Uku and Waitetuna schools on the way out to Raglan.
Meantime Sarah had read excerpts from an earlier book to about 70 children at Whatawhata School and tackled “origami things” – somewhat chaotically, she laughed – as a metaphor for making a book.
Then at Te Mata School she’d got a smaller group of children involved in a play based on her book ‘Wooden Arms’.
Sarah’s now eagerly awaiting the return of ‘The Spaghetti Giraffe’ from the printers in China late next month, having read from a proof copy during her area school visit.