“Goeie Môre Mevrou Julia en Mevrou Celeste”
Before the big book festival in Franschhoek on the weekend, there is a wonderful adventure called the Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) for Young Readers, where authors are driven around the schools in the area to read their stories to the children.
I was honoured to be invited by one of my authors, Julia Richman, to join in. Julia and I have done several readings together of her delightful story The Bacon Chase, and so it felt like family as I arrived at the the first school, Bridge House, with Julia and her characters, Kayta Cat, Freddie the Seagull, Auntie Bea, Princess Flowers and Chubbs (the chubby hotel cat).
Julia started reading to the grade one class, as I whipped out my Sharpie pen and started illustrating Katya, Auntie Bea and Chubbs on paper for them.
The children were giving opportunity to ask questions and I was overwhelmed with, not only the deep profound perspective of the questions, but also the detail. They had really absorbed every little bit of what Julia had read.
“But why does Chubbs steal?” they asked, and “How did Katya get her magical tail?”
After a quick cup of coffee, we were whisked away by Sarah, our volunteer for the day, to our next school, Groendal Primary. I must admit, I felt my age as we entered the classroom and were embraced with a loud “Goeie Môre Mevrou Julia en Mevrou Celeste” (translated: Good Morning Mrs Julia and Mrs Celeste). The last time I had heard that kind of introduction, was when I was a child saying that to some ‘old’ person who was visiting the school! I tried to conceal my cringe, and in my best Afrikaans (which is most people’s worst Afrikaans) greeted the children back.
While language was a little trickier, as English was the children’s second language (and sometimes even third for some of them), I was amazed how much they had followed the story. As the teacher asked them questions about the characters and the plot, the children all answered perfectly.
Our last stop was Franschhoek High. By this stage Julia and I were in full swing and soon had the children captivated with the tale. I was treated to one of the children, looking at me with big eyes, and asking “Is she an Artist?” Then there was the best sound of “Ooooo” as Julia showed them all my illustrations from the book and they all looked at me like I was some sort of wizard. I think my chest swelled with such honour.
All in all, it was truly a magical day and I have to thank the FLF for having us. It was so well organised and the children were amazing. I hope next year I get the opportunity to come along again. Also a huge thank you to my author, Julia Richman, for inviting me. Was a magical day.
The FLF are also holding workshops over the weekend, starting on Friday, for illustrators, writers and book-lovers alike. I will be attending two of the workshops on Friday – if you spot me, please come and say hi!