In November 2013 Malorie Blackman, Children's Laureate and our Ambassador, visited young people in Leicester who had been reading Boys Don't Cry. Chris Hodgson from Leicester Libraries tells us about the day.
Prior to Malorie's visit, working with Random House publishers and Whatever it Takes (who provided the funding for the project) we set up a City Read of Malorie's book, Boys Don't Cry. This book is about teen pregnancy but from the father's point of view. It's easy to read and deals with adolescent relationships and their outcomes in a non-judgemental and supportive way. It raises questions and issues that affect parents and children and underlines the importance of a father's role in bringing up a child.
In September 100 copies of the book were delivered to all 16 secondary schools in the city. Copies of the book were also given away to the general public during the Everybody's Reading Festival and Black History Season. We received over 130 review slips from students who read the book for our competition to win a WiFi eReader. The reviews were judged by Assistant Mayor Sarah Russell and local author Bali Rai.
Extracts from winning reviews
"I like this book because it is one of the only books I have managed to finish. This is because I don't genuinely read, but I think because of this book my opinions of reading will change."
"This book was so touching; it made me laugh, cry and some parts made me drift into endless thoughts."
"You included so many simple yet tragic truths of the world in one book. It made me re-think what kind of stereotypical thoughts I have of young parents and thank you for that."
Meeting Malorie Blackman
All the students involved in the project were really keen to meet Malorie and in November over 200 students plus teachers came to the Afro Caribbean Centre for a special author presentation. Waterstones came along too and set up a pop-up bookshop. Malorie was just brilliant. She spoke about how she began writing books because she couldn't find any that were about, people like her.
She had 82 rejections before she had a book accepted. She spoke about the background to her books and how some have been made into TV programmes, and she made everyone laugh when she played a rap song dedicated to her.
She answered a lot of questions from the audience about how she started writing and where she got her ideas from. Everyone was keen to meet her and have their book signed - yes, even the boys. There was a huge queue but she spoke to everyone.
In the afternoon Malorie went to Highfields Library to present the prizes to the winners of the review competition. She met members of the local community and the Senior Community Librarian, Marcia Brown.
Thanks to the secondary school Reading Champions who were advocates for the project, and negotiated the school timetable so that students could attend the event.
Feedback from the event
We collected some feedback on the morning event from the students and the comments below are representative of what they thought:
"It was really inspiring."
"I loved everything especially when she answered our questions."
"She was very funny and is someone who has got so far overcoming so many obstacles. Love her books."
"She is simply amazing."
Love reading Malorie Blackman? Why not set up a teen reading group with friends to read more?
If you work in a library and would like some help with arranging author events please contact Sandeep.Mahal@readingagency.org.uk