Today’s blog comes to us from Wendy Knight, a Bookaroo volunteer, who helped organise a virtual author visit for a school in rural India.
Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival and Bookaroo in the City brings children in India and books, authors, illustrators, story tellers and puppeteers, together in a very exciting way. A few weeks ago, we were excited to have the chance to bring Fleur Hitchcock, the author of SHRUNK!, to a group of excited students at the Pathways School in Arvali, Gurgaon.
My previous visit to Gurgaon had involved a two hour traffic jam and this was even further. We made good time and stopped to photograph the rural setting.
It is a fabulous school. I was welcomed enthusiastically by everyone. The Skype session with F.R.Hitchcock was due to start at 13.30, 08.00 in England. The hall buzzed with excited children. The equipment was ready. I could see Fleur on the big screen as I made the introductions.
I was a little worried that she did not seem to be smiling or nodding in the right places. Unfortunately, we could not hear Fleur. The children were shouting out, “Check your microphone! Is your sound turned on?”
We switched off and tried again. This time, we could hear, Fleur could not. We managed to sign for Fleur to start reading from her marvellous book, SHRUNK!
Skype stuttered but got better. The children concentrated very hard. They were excited by a boy who could shrink things like Jupiter and the school bully. I did feel sorry that they weren’t getting the full author experience.
Then a small miracle happened. We managed a good question and answer session. The children asked, ‘What started you writing?’ ‘Are you a science geek like me?’ Fleur’s answers were thoughtful and full of humour. She explained life in a seaside town in England, we learnt a lot about model villages and were able to share Fleur’s photographs. I learnt that the children here are quite vociferous in their defence of football when I had foolishly said they would prefer the model cricket match! We particularly enjoyed the ‘giants’ wandering around Corfe Castle.
After few more questions, much hilarity from the children when Fleur told them about her pet guinea pigs and a very thoughtful question about “brain block”, Skype stopped cooperating. We had a few more crackly exchanges before time ran out, and I hope we managed to convey our thanks to Fleur through lots of exaggerated applause and happy faces waving goodbye.
Despite Skype problems it was thoroughly enjoyable. The children all cheered when I asked if they had enjoyed the session. They agreed the best bit was being able to interact with the author. There was certainly plenty of interest in SHRUNK! and future work from F.R.Hitchcock!