the most enormous bright and shiny burst of sunshine. And this wasn't just any school. This was the wonderful St Marys, Stansted, where the reading superstars in Y5 and Y6 have been reading The Phoenix Code as part of their Ancient Egypt topic.
There's always a lot of work involved for a school to organise the logistics of an author visit at the best of times - but right now, it's in another league. So I'm hugely grateful to everyone at St Marys for going the extra mile to make it possible - especially to the inspirational Ms Dawson - who made sure that everything ran like clockwork. With all the extra COVID health and safety considerations - distancing and visors and hand-washing and remote book signing orders - that was no mean feat.
What a treat it was to be back in an actual real school! The children were clearly loving learning, playing, chatting - and reading, together. It was obvious the moment that you walked into the classrooms that they have the most exciting and vibrant of reading cultures. It's a true honour to know that they had all read The Phoenix Code, and so much fun to discuss every plot twist and character arc with classes full of total experts (and a special shout-out here to Sam, who was the super-expert, having read all three in the series).
The enthusiasm of the class teachers and teaching assistants had really rubbed off on the children - a shining example of what a sharing a book as a reading community is all about. I especially loved how The Phoenix Code was just part of the whole topic, with connections through every subject.
These beautiful artworks, linked to a quote in the book, brought tears to my eyes (in a good way!)
And, so did these extraordinary pencil drawings, based on the chapter head illustrations by Leo Hartas. The children worked on them while they were listening to the book being read aloud - what a fantastic idea. I think Leo would agree there are some budding book illustrators here.
And then there were the most detailed and well-thought-out story maps that I've ever seen . . . I just can't stop looking at these pages of gorgeousness (and this is just a tiny sample - every single one was a wonder.)
Thank you to everyone at St Marys for making me so very welcome in your school and for giving me the wonderful gift of bringing my book to life. My writing batteries have been recharged by your reading energy!