National Bookshop Day and Children’s Book Week
Well it’s that time of the year, when in a much more intensive way, weavers of words for children creep from our secure writing caves, dispense with our writing ‘costumes’ of track suits or dressing gowns and venture into schools, libraries and bookshops to talk to our wonderful audiences about what we do and how and why we do it – write books for children. I’ll post full details about my book week visits for my blog post next week but for now I’d like to talk about one book week experience.
So Saturday was not only the beginning of Children’s Book Week in Australia, it was also National Bookshop Day and I was lucky enough to be invited to be part of the celebrations at Collins Bookshop in Northland Shopping Centre, Preston.
Here, surrounded by $2 shops, hairdressers, supermarkets and the majors, is a suburban bookshop which, if you were able to pick up and drop down again, could fit cosily into any trendy strip of shops in suburbs closer to the city or the city itself. There is even a coffee shop where you can leaf through the pages of your new purchase while sipping your favourite coffee. The staff are warm and friendly and looked after me very well.
It is always fascinating to sit at a bookshop watching the world go by, in between signing books and talking to children. The highlights for me were – a discussion with an elderly lady, pushing an almost empty supermarket trolley, who dazzled me with her knowledge of and views on children’s literature and books – new parents who bought their 3 month old daughter her very first book . . . ‘The Dog on the Tuckerbox’ – and the students who came to say hello both from a school I visited only last week and from another where I worked during Book Week last year.
In many ways this was a memory journey for me, as my growing-up roots are in Preston which, like most suburbs, is a very different place today than it was back then. When my darling dad first built our white weatherboard house in Knox Street, Reservoir, I could watch cows grazing in the paddock next door from my up-high spot clinging to the cross beams on the side fence. I remember High Street, Preston, where every Saturday morning I went with Dad to shop in the gift, hardware, delicatessens and fruit shops which were scattered along the high street. Featuring large as life in my memory bank is a big Flying Red Horse sign which sat at the petrol station where High meets Regent Street. I remember walking to Reservoir West Primary in winter, wearing those things called galoshes to shield school shoes from the mud and carrying a school case which included a lunch of sandwiches, cakes wrapped lovingly in waxed lunch wrap by Mum and a piece of fruit.
I use childhood memories very much in my writing, and if I didn’t have those precious memories I’m sure I would never have become a writer and I wouldn’t have been sitting outside a bookshop on National Bookshop Day 2011.