The Backyard Book Fair on Saturday was a huge success! Thanks to thorough and thoughtful organisation by the SCBWI Australia West team and staff of the State Library of WA who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and managed to fill the two hundred seat Theatre at the Alexander Library for this new take on the previous Books from Your Backyard event.
At first I was a bit daunted by the idea of having only ten minutes in which to present any thing meaningful and interesting based on one of my newly re-released Eden Glassie Mysteries. But in the end, after multiple drafts of my talk, I didn’t even need all of my allocated time. Having prepared a couple of related activities helped. The Find Axle task, which was based on a mud-map of Eden Glassie, really seemed to catch on with the five to ten year old audience. I offered a free copy of the book as a prize for the first person to successfully find Axle, which meant that the kids had to bring their maps back to me. This gave me a chance to talk to them individually about Axle and the story of Deep Water. Once the prize had been claimed I signed the back of a postcard showing all the Eden Glassie covers for each of the other kids who had participated.
One of the things that worked really well with this new format for the Backyard Book Fair was that, because there were seats in the Theatre for everyone, the adults stayed with their children throughout the presentations by by the various authors and illustrators. In the past the space on the Mezzanine Floor of the Library didn’t lend itself to this. Children were encouraged to go to the front and sit on the bean bags for each individual session, then leave so that the next lot of children cold take their place. Adults tended to gathered at the back and talk among themselves. This meant that younger children, especially, tended to bob up and down to check on their adults. Or, in some cases, left the presentation altogether, which was disruptive for the presenter and didn’t encourage others in the group to stay focused.
Another thing that helped with this new format was that the breaks for morning tea and the Illustrators’ Challenge were strategically timed to suit children’s attention spans. During these breaks the craft tables were well used and kept the young people occupied while the adults bought books and caught up with each other.
Well done Kelly, James and Cristy for being the movers and shakers. And a big ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers who kept everything running smoothly in the Foyer while we were busy doing our thing inside the Theatre.