Vicky Allan, for the Herald, looks back on the children’s and young adult programme of the recently concluded Edinburgh International Book Festival:
The children’s book festival is a testimony to a vibrant sector of the book industry. Earlier this year The Bookseller reported that the pre-school and picture books genre has grown every year since 2001. Janet Smyth, director of the book festival’s children’s programme, says that almost all pre-school events sell out. Smyth believes that is partly "because parents are really quite keen on the whole reading together thing". But also because many of these events feature singing and "make and do". Julia Donaldson has long been reeling in audiences with this kind of show, but almost as big a lure was Kristina Stephenson, author of Sir Charlie Stinky Socks, a writer-illustrator who Smyth describes as "a show-maker who packs them out, and entertains the little ones with singing and dancing".
Sometimes it seems as if the ideal children’s book festival event is some kind of kid-friendly gesamtkunstwerk involving singing, talking, reading, drawing, and possibly glue. James Mayhew, the illustrator in residence, is also a musician who dresses up as Van Gogh. Aidan Moffat, formerly of the band Arab Strap, presented his rhyming tale of The Lavender Blue Dress, while the young audience busied themselves creating a dress design. I can see why words are not enough. My kids get restless after more than a few minutes of just talking. After 10, they’re hunting around inside my handbag for entertainment.
Smyth has also observed that this year more people are moving from different art forms into children’s literature. Since David Walliams became the new Roald Dahl, it seems that many a comedian has turned his or her talent to children’s books. Among those at this year’s Book Festival were Mackenzie Crook, Catherine (Catie) Wilkins and David O’Doherty. The connection works for two reasons. One: they’re often famous, which helps sales. Two: they’re funny. And, as Roald Dahl once said of children’s writing, "It’s got to be funny."