A Bookish Adventure

I started this blog to document an extended trip to the US and UK in 2012, introducing children to my Alice-Miranda series. It's hard to believe that it's just on four years since we launched the first Alice-Miranda title - and now there are nine books out in Australia with another five still to come. When I first came up with the idea of this precocious seven and a quarter year old, I had no clue that she would take me on such an amazing journey, not only in Australia but also across the world. I visited 37 schools while we were away in 2012 and gave over 80 talks - it was fantastic. In 2013 I've been on lots of new adventures in the UK - visiting schools from London to Southampton, Lancashire, Scotland, Newcastle and back to London again. After that I headed off to meet readers in Singapore. In Australia I've been to Melbourne, Perth, Albany, Alice Springs and Brisbane. There's a new series too - about a gorgeous little girl called Clementine Rose. She and Alice-Miranda don't know each other yet, but they will soon.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Last Days In New York

Our final days in the US were fantastic.  We had the very good fortune of staying in an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in East 76th Street right near Broadway, so for just a minute or two we felt like we were living the lives of real New Yorkers.  It is a city of incredible convenience – stores are open late, if not 24 hours, cabs are easy to find – except between 3 and 4pm when it’s changeover time – then you can forget it, there are more restaurants within a block than you could eat at in several weeks, the shopping is amazing and there is an atmosphere unrivalled anywhere that I’ve travelled in the world.  You can even run into a famous Aussie just wandering along the street - I caught Toby Allen from Australian band Human Nature taking a photo of their name in lights at the Beacon Theatre. He was very sweet and agreed to have a photo taken with me.  I love New York – in fact I love it so much that I would like to work there, even for just a few months, if at all possible. 

On Wednesday night we had a beautiful dinner with some of our friends from the Hewitt School.  Justine invited us for a home cooked meal, which was delicious.  I think I’ve found in Justine a kindred spirit – her love for what she does is evident in the way that she works with her staff and students – her energy knows no bounds.  Amy and Elaine were there too and Amy’s daughter Christina.  I adore all these women – they are educators like me and we share very similar views on what makes for good teachers and good teaching.  They have an enthusiasm which is tangible and that x factor which makes them all not just good teachers, but great ones.

Last year I had been shocked to learn that Amy was facing a battle with the Big C.  On Wednesday night we celebrated her year being cancer free – it was a privilege to hear her story and understand her bravery and courage and the way she shared her journey with her girls.  I feel such admiration for her and although we have been friends for only a short time, relatively speaking and mostly in a remote way across the seas, I admire her and value our friendship immensely.
Thursday was a great day – we had meetings at Random House, 1755 Broadway (I just love that they are on Broadway) and spent time with Francoise Bui who publishes Alice-Miranda, Beverly Horowitz, the publisher for Random House Delacorte and Joe who is the RH rep for B&N.  They were all very positive about Alice-Miranda and we even had a sneak peak of the cover design for Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead, which I think the US are going to re-title, Alice-Miranda Takes the Stage.  They all seemed impressed with the extent of the tour and number of children across the range of sectors I had spoken to.  Let’s just hope that there will be more Alice-Miranda titles out very soon.  They laughed when I told them about the petition from Kent Place and the Hewitt girls purchasing the rest of the series from Australia.  Hopefully they won’t want to miss potential sales!
Francoise took us to lunch at a restaurant just across the road and we toasted Alice-Miranda and the tour, with champagne of course!
In the afternoon Ian and I headed downtown to the NY Public Library which is one of the must see places in the city.  The architecture inside and out is spectacular and the collection of toys once owned by Christopher Robin Milne of Winnie the Pooh fame is precious.  Amy had arranged for me to meet Betsy Bird, who is the Youth and Children’s Librarian and a fabulous exponent of children’s literature through her blog http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production/
Betsy exudes knowledge about children’s and young adult books and coincidentally she had just met and hosted the very well known and loved Australian author, Ursula Dubosarsky whose book, The Terrible Plop is currently being performed as a musical called Plop in the New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street – how exciting and I wish I had known earlier.  You can find more details here http://www.ursuladubosarsky.com/ I had seen Ursula at the Somerset Celebration of Literature in March and I don’t recall her saying anything about it - she’s so modest.  The play has had great reviews too.

But back to the library and Betsy.  We spoke a little about other Australian titles she has in the library.  Of course there was John Flanagan and his phenomenally successful Ranger’s Apprentice series and Markus Zusak’s Book Thief.  I was excited to tell Betsy that it was Markus who launched Alice-Miranda At School in Australia.  Then she told me about a book called Max Quigley:  So Not a Bully by James Roy and what a wonderful book that is.  She said that it was timely too with all the bullying issues and awareness in the US over the past couple of years.  I was thrilled that she knew it and was actively promoting James who is a friend back home.

I gave Betsy some copies of Alice-Miranda and hope that she has time in her hectic schedule to read them.  Perhaps next time, I come I might even be able to do an event with the library.

Our final full day was spent at Greenwich Country Day School – a fabulous last school visit which I have already blogged about.  That afternoon we headed back to the city and visited Serendipity 3 where they serve a very famous drink called Frozen Hot Chocolate.  There is always a queue to get in – and Friday evening was no different.  We didn’t have to wait too long though and soon found ourselves savouring the delights of what has to be one of the most delicious drinks in the world.  Yes Frozen Hot Chocolate (which Alice-Miranda has on her visit to New York in the 5th book) is heavenly and huge! (Apologies for the photo which for some unknown reason will not allow us to rotate it!)

While we were there a young lad and his grandmother were sharing an enormous fudge sundae.  We got talking (I know, it’s so unlike me) and learned that Sawyer, was staying with his grandmother in the city for the weekend.  She lives there and over the years she was telling us, he’s accompanied her to over 20 Broadway shows.  How special to have a grandmother who shares her love of theatre – and even better that she lives in New York.  We also met a mother and daughter who were visiting the city for the weekend.  Penny is a reading teacher in Pennsylvania and her daughter Taylor was about to graduate from high school.  I gave her a card and who knows – next time I might get to visit Pennsylvania too.

It was lovely to receive an email from Sawyer’s grandmother Diane yesterday.  Apparently after they left Serendipity they stopped by a bookstore called Shakespeare & Co on the corner of 69th and Lexington and Sawyer asked the sales person if they had any Alice-Miranda books.  The fellow said they had three but were sold out.  Diane wrote that Sawyer told the salesperson that it was such an honor that the store was sold out.  How gorgeous is that!

Our time in the US was truly amazing.  In total we visited 24 schools across 7 states; I presented 55 individual talks to over 4500 children, visited lots of bookstores and met so many fabulous people.  It has been busy and at times exhausting but ultimately wonderful.  People in the US are friendly and happy and if anything, this trip just proved to me that in taking a risk, you can be rewarded many times over.  I have always been okay with talking to strangers but this trip has proven that it’s something I love to do.  We left New York bound for London on Saturday evening.  Although my last minute shopping was somewhat erratic, I wasn’t worried because I know that we’ll be back.  Soon. 

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