This past weekend I attended the anuual FCBG conference, this year’s taking place in the beautiful grounds of Woldingham School, one of the oldest girls’ schools in the country, in the stunning Surrey countryside.

Kicking straight off with Tea celebrating 20 years of The Gruffalo courtesy of Macmillan it was instantly apparent that this weekend would be full of book related memories to cherish – we even had a photo with the Gruffalo himself!

Gruffalo Tea with Macmillan

Publishers’ presentations came not long after Gruffalo tea and gave a valuable insight into what each of the attending publishers deemed their most exciting, newest, successful titles. It was an absolute delight to listen to Darren Simpson take to the stand during Usborne’s slot, promoting his phenomenal debut Scavengers, which I was beyond ecstatic to have him sign for me at the Publishers exhibition afterwards. As I said earlier on, this was a weekend of memories I will cherish.

My dedicated Scavengers by Darren Simpson

The evening saw entertainment from the brilliant Frank Cottrell Boyce. This was the first time I really became aware of who he is as an author and what he writes and I loved every minute. Frank had an amazing sense of humour and related everything he discussed to himself on a very personal level, which I felt really lucky to be there sharing in, getting a real connection to him and what he was saying. When Frank then read from his latest title Runaway Robot it really felt so much more immersive given that he had already connected with us, the audience. Runaway Robot sounds like a title that will prove hugely popular with the children that frequent my school library where I work so these will be purchased after we return from easter break.

Frank Cottrell Boyce

The first evening at FCBG conference was concluded as an evening of music and poetry with Roger Stevens, Liz Brownlee, Laura Mucha, Ed Boxall, Brian Moses, Zaro Weil and John Dougherty. What a way to end things, the poetry was really fun, upbeat and catchy – and I do not ordinarily consider myself a fan of poetry. The group of poets that attended FCBG this night were first class, so much so I consider myself a fan of poetry now. It seems it is very much like literature, you just needed to find the right authors to ignite the flame within you, and for me this really was it.

On the Saturday I enjoyed sitting and hearing a discussion on how representation matters with Knights Of, Cynthia So, Aisha Bushby and chaired by Joy Court. It was great to learn about Aisha’s new title A Pocketful of Stars, one of the many amazing books available at the publishers exhibition, hear about Knights Of from the enthusiastic David Stevens, and of Cynthia’s content inside Stripes recently released title, Proud.

Coffee with DK

Morning coffee came DK themed and gave people a chance to get books signed by those in the earlier event, and then followed with an empathy panel made up of Miranda McKearney, Ross Montgomery, Sita Brahmachari and Jane Rey. It was really inspiring to hear these guest speakers, and I especially enjoyed hearing about the collaborative work between Sita and Jane.

Empathy Panel

The afternoon gave the opportunity to choose from several seminars, and I had no hesitation in choosing to attend that of Amy Wilson’s. I am a huge fan of Amy’s books – having read them all, and it was an absolute pleasure to hear about Amy’s journey to being a published author, the inspiration for her books, and to also get a special early peek at her upcoming title Shadows of Winterspell – so early in fact that Amy had to read it from her phone! It sounds very exciting and it’s release in October cannot come round quick enough for me.

Amy Wilson

We then went straight into an event featuring Guy Parker Rees. It was great to see a showcase of his illustrative work and get an understanding for just how vast a catalogue of titles Guy has amassed over the years, not least Giraffes Can’t Dance. My personal favourite? Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus (seen on the screen in the picture below), a book I shared with my youngest over and over again.

Guy Parker Rees

Directly after we had tea to celebrate 20 years of Giraffes Can’t Dance courtesy of Hachette and this gave conference attendees the chance to get books signed by authors from earlier seminars as well as Guy Parker Rees.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

I loved that this enabled me to get my Amy Wilson titles signed and dedicated and they will provide so much for me to talk about with students when I return to work following the easter break, I doubt many will believe how many authors and illustrators I have crossed paths with in one weekend, but then again neither can I!

Book dedications with Amy Wilson

Later on we enjoyed cocktails to celebrate 30 years of Elmer in the stunning main house on the Woldingham School site. I will truly cherish the memories made here, it really was an amazing part of the weekend and I was delighted to share the occasion with friends, librarians and fellow committee members.

Elmer at the Conference

Multiple times over the weekend I could have done with being pinched, especially when after cocktails we had a gala dinner with Francesca Simon as the special guest to celebrate 25 years of Horrid Henry. The speech Francesca gave at the end of the dinner was inspirational, humorous, and highly relevant to this years conference theme of ‘opening doors’.

25 years of Horrid Henry

The final morning of this years conference began with a middle grade panel chaired by Joy Court and featuring authors Candy Gourlay, Marcia Williams and Serena Patel, three authors I was unfamiliar with but eager to learn more about. Serena especially caught my attention, telling of her upcoming debut featuring a girl who turns detective when her aunt’s fiance gets kidnapped, the title of her book has yet to be announced.

The seminar directly after featured author Holly Smale, detailing her journey to becoming a well loved author of the series Geek Girl, aimed at girls at the end of primary school and following on into high school, a literary bridge between the school transition that girls appreciate. Most recently Holly has written the first in a new series The Valentines, Happy Girl Lucky. This again sounds as though it will undoubtedly follow the success of her previous series,p especially if it’s popularity at our recent school book fair is anything to go by. It was lovely to then follow up such a great seminar with coffee and cake courtesy of Harper Collins, which unfortunately a migraine prevented me from joining in with.

Holly Smale

The entire conference was wrapped up by two final events, a debate on whether we are currently enjoying a golden age of non-fiction which saw Nikki Gamble on stage along with Sam Hutchinson and Laura Knowles, and also a seminar with Nick Sharatt. Whilst entirely different themed events they both reinforced the message behind the conference and inspired me to want to get busy sharing books with students at school, whether information books or picture books to encourage the children to read for pleasure, feel represented, experience a range of emotions including empathy and enhance their reading rituals.

I cannot speak highly enough of my time at the FCBG conference. For me personally it was an extremely fulfilling experience, I met some amazing authors, illustrators and fellow like-minded, book loving attendees who all inspired me further then I thought possible. I love my job as a primary school librarian and I am always eager and determined in my role but conference really took my interest and knowledge in books to the next level through it’s offering of such a variety of talent from the world of children’s literature.

Will I be attending future conferences? I really want to, even though it is a full on schedule of back to back events, it is the only place I have been where under the same umbrella you find authors, illustrators, publicists, librarians, book shop owners, and childrens book lovers all intent on ensuring maximum enjoyment by all that are there. An absolute pleasure.

Published by samjdthomas

I am a primary school librarian and reading advocate. I like to read as much childrens literature as possible so that I can recommend titles to children and adults that would benefit more knowledge on books in order to make an informed choice about what to read next.

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2 Comments

  1. Wow Sam. What a brilliant account of this years conference. Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and look forward to the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Gary, it’s good to know your looking to attend the next one too as i really appreciated having the support and company of the Ipswich Childrens Book Group members that also attended and would be glad of that again next time 😁

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