An author visit is always an exciting experience but the circumstances surrounding Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt’s visit to Burscough County Primary made it extra special. Andrew Kidd, Headteacher of Burscough CP School, Lancashire, explains.
When Year 6 at Burscough County Primary won the Smarties Young Judges Competition it meant the whole school being given the responsibility for choosing the overall winner of the Smarties Book Prize. Weeks of deliberation and consultation culminated in the children spending a whole day being filmed for Blue Peter discussing the shortlisted books, prior to travelling to London for the award ceremony. There, as VIP guests, they announced that Jacqueline Wilson was the winner for Double Act. One of our rewards was a visit to our school by both Jackie and the illustrator of her books, Nick Sharratt – the first time they had visited a school together.
A double act
So we had our very own ‘Double Act’ to enjoy. The children were already familiar with Jackie and Nick’s books. There was, however, a heightened enthusiam for them in the months leading up to their visit. Sequels to Double Act flowed from the pens of would-be authors and Sharrattesque illustrations appeared in jotters throughout the junior department.
Author visits are often punctuated by Workshop sessions, but Jackie and Nick simply talked about their work to a very well informed and spellbound audience. Knowing everything there is to know about Ruby and Garnet, Tracy Beaker and The Suitcase Kid, what our pupils found fascinating was learning that Jackie does not use a computer but writes all her stories in ink before typing the whole thing out again on an old typewriter. With the whole process taking five months it was subsequently easier to encourage our children to redraft work!
As well as creating characters that instantly appeal to children, there is an engaging eccentricity about Jacqueline Wilson which children love. She is also very much a child at heart. Strange anecdotes about a typical day intrigued the children. In times when inspiration is absent, Jackie told the children how she attempts self-hypnosis at her writing desk, using ‘Radish’ a bungee jumping bunny. Radish, who appears in The Suitcase Kid, is also allowed to type out the first few words after a successful ‘hypnosis’. The children were fascinated by Jackie’s very early attempt at writing a book entitled ‘The Maggotts’, featuring the first of her ubiquitous twins.
Nick Sharratt, a refreshingly unassuming man, brought the illustrations he had shown at a school assembly at the age of nine. The positive reaction to that particular piece of artwork was the defining moment in his desire to be an illustrator.
Who can say now what long-term influence a one-day visit can have? There was quite a lot of individual correspondence between Y6 and Jackie after her visit which was fantastic for the children. There is also a lasting reminder of our association with Jackie and Nick in the dedication to Burscough County Primary in The Lottie Project.
Most significantly, when past pupils come back to visit us they still talk of the time Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt came to Burscough CP.