I’ve been out on the road (and the rails) these past two weeks, taking The Train To Impossible Places on its very first tour of UK schools.It was a brand new experience for me, and a pretty nervewracking one to begin with – I’m more used to spending my days alone at a keyboard than standing in front of hundreds of eager children – but it was terrific fun from start to finish.
I spoke to more than 2000 children over six days, in schools as far afield as Bristol, Birmingham, Preston, Newcastle, Sunderland and London. I introduced them to the story and characters, explained how the whole thing came about, and encouraged them to think about their own creative processes. Then I enlisted their help in creating brand new impossible trains, crewed by some truly bizarre creatures. (My favourite suggestion was “a hollowed out pig, that uses the train to rescue live pigs from butchers’ shops.”) Everywhere I went, the children were engaged, enthusiastic, and absolutely brimming over with great ideas and questions. My very sincere thanks to them and their teachers for making me so welcome.
I was lucky enough to visit a whole range of schools, from wealthy private campuses to state schools in deprived areas, but the one thing they all had in common was a passion for reading. The teachers had been working very hard indeed to put reading for pleasure back into the school day, and it showed – most of the schools had really well curated libraries, which encouraged the children to pick up everything from classics to comic books. I really wish my primary school had had something similar!
A highlight of the trip was meeting Alicia, aged 10, at Huntingtree Primary in Bristol. (You can read a bit more about the visit here.) She enjoyed The Train To Impossible Places so much she wrote a fantastic review, which she told me I could share. It’s simply one of the best write-ups the book has ever reveived, and certainly my favourite – it’s very nice being reviewed by adults, but it’s something else entirely to be reviewed by one of your own readers.
My heartfelt thanks to Katarina and Jacob from Usborne, and Liz from Liz Scott PR for putting the tour together and making the whole thing go like a dream. And thanks again to every young reader and teacher who made it all so much fun.
I’ll be out and about again before long, and I’ll be adding details to the “Schools & Events” section of this site soon.