Birds can’t fly in Winter. I have never seen one fly.
I arrived at Kirstenbosch at about 9:30 in the morning. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I arrived at about 8:30 and drank a hot chocolate in the car, while writing for an hour before grabbing my kit and heading inside the bookshop at 9:30. I was greet by the Kirstenbosch Bookstore team – Mark and Greg. They offered me a coffee while I wait and I headed into the kiddies area.
I was so impressed with Kirstenbosch. There were mini chairs and a lovely table display of Katya Cat books, along with the Kirstenbosch trade mark – a gorgeous vase with proteas. Julia Richman, the author, arrived with her book as well as Belinda, from Penguin Random House. Belinda was carrying under her arm a flip-chart for me to use while I illustrate. With a wink, she informed me she ‘borrowed’ it from the CEO’s office. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I was going to use the CEO of one of the best publishing companies in South Africa (and the world!) to illustrate Katya’s characters. What a treat!
Ordinarily when Julia and I get together to do a reading, we normally have about twenty minutes to get through about three or four chapters. She reads the first chapter which is all about Katya and I draw Katya while she reads. She then reads Chapter 2 which is about Auntie Bea, so I draw Auntie Bea. The third chapter is a toss between illustrating the seagull, Freddy, or the fat hotel cat, Chubbs. Then we do a little Q & A, hand out some colouring-in drawings of the characters for the kids to take home and sum it up.
Today we had an hour to fill. I was so excited. Julia and I had previous agreed we would do something a little extra special. I had the absolute honour of teaching the kids how to draw Katya after the third chapter was read. We handed out the colouring in drawings, I told them to turn them all around, so they had blank pieces of paper and Kirstenbosch handed out wax crayons. Before you knew it, I had about 20-30 kids all following my every move.
I was so impressed with the level of drawing skill this kids had. They had the character spot on. I saw some wonderful uses of colour for all the varies different elements and each cat was completely individual. We then turned our drawings back round and I spend another twenty minutes or so going round and praising all the beautiful colours they used on the various characters they had.
There is just something some magical about children between the ages of four and nine. These are my favourite ages. I can’t tell you all the names of the kids I met today, as I think one of the most boring question you can ask a kid is ‘what is your name?’ It’s right up there with ‘what is your age?’ Only adults ask those type of questions. I was must more interested in what they were doing. Do they have their own pets at home? Is that your favourite colour? Much more interesting than their name.
I was really impressed with one boy. Penguin Random House did a little raffle prize after we had finished drawing and so Belinda was handing out numbers. I was just taken back, when I heard a boy about eight years old, pick a number, then ask for a second number for his little sister who was about four. Just great to know that big brothers like that still exist in the world (I have a big brother like that, so I really related to this situation). Then there was Erin and Rebekah (that’s how you spell her name – isn’t it awesome?). Two amazing girls who just couldn’t tell me enough about how they love to draw and colour in. I had another sister and brother combo who coloured in their cats like tabbies, although the boy informed me sternly that they didn’t have any cats when I asked.
There was a little munchkin girl all in pink who just loved chattering next to me. I got the best hug from her when she left. And then there was another little girl, who when I asked her to smile for the photo, she opened her mouth really wide and showed me all her teeth! I don’t think she had quite grasped the concept of a smile yet! It was awesome!
I have to just add here a big thank you to Belinda from Penguin Random House for organizing the event, as well as the two gents from the Book store who put out all the chairs, tables and displays (especially for the coffee!) and a big thank you to Julia Richman, who without her imagination and writing skills the story would never have happened!
Lastly a big thank you to all the amazing kids, parents, grandparents and child minders who brought the kids all the way to Kirstenbosch. It was really wonderful meeting everyone and for a brief moment, being part of the family. It was a wonderful atmosphere and everyone was really awesome.
In fact, I even learnt something knew! According to (my new friend) Luca, did you know that birds can’t fly in Winter? He’s never seen one fly when it’s cold. I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but if Luca said it’s true, I guess it must be.
The Winter Wonderland at Kirstenbosch is still going on every day the rest of this week. If you would like to see what is happening, check out their program.
Julia and I will also be doing another reading in two weeks at Herschel Girl’s – look out for the blog post!
I have uploaded all the photos from this event on facebook! You are welcome to check it out.