It's WBD for short. And that's because by the end of it, most teachers, librarians and children's authors are gibbering: "Wuh-buh-duh..." And possibly rocking and dribbling in a corner.
We LOVE World Book Day, of course, but it's pretty intense.
I realised this on my first ever WBD event, ten years ago. I was at a school in Hampshire and full of nerves when the lovely librarian led me into an empty classroom. As my eyes lit upon the tables my little authory heart went pit-a-pat.
For there, laid out at every child's place, was a copy of my very first children's adventure - The Shapeshifter: Finding The Fox. Each book wore a shiny plastic dust jacket. It was a scene right out of my feverish pre-published dreams. My own book! A class reader!
And then I noticed the one book which didn't have a jacket. And worse, had been skewered through its front cover by a viciously sharpened HB pencil. "Aaah yes," said the librarian, "that'll be Benjamin."
Benjamin, it turned out, was quite a character. The book spiking was only a hint of what was to come - for Benjamin was the class weeper. He took his role very seriously. I was warned that Benjamin would cry. Loudly. True enough, within seconds of my presentation starting he was weeping up a storm. He even had a special place to go and do it - a damp, tearstained beanbag in a corner.
The other kids ignored it like background radio static and I did the same. Within ten minutes Benjamin got too interested in what I was doing - with a pineapple, a pepper and a massive pair of pants - to carry on. He quit the weeping and joined in. Was an absolute poppet, in fact, for the rest of my visit.
But it was a good baptism for World Book Day and all it's madness. As the many children's authors who travel the country visiting schools will tell you - always expect the unexpected in schools. Crying, nose-bleeding, pant-wetting and even projectile vomiting. And that's just the teachers.
The day has got a bit hysterical, especially since the supermarkets cottoned on and starting hyping up all the costumes. A photo doing the rounds on Facebook this year shows a store promotion yelling "Read! Read! Read!" What? The care labels? Because there are no books in sight - just mass-produced dressing up gear.
I'll take it though. Getting kids excited about reading is worth all the nonsense. They should be hyperventilating at the thought of reading a brand new adventure and if dressing up is what it takes (even as Wally, although - note to teachers - ahem; nobody ever READ a Where's Wally book, did they?!) I'm all for it.
I often wonder what became of Benjamin though... I like to think that day was a breakthrough for him. Maybe he's an English Lit undergrad now. Perhaps he skewers DH Lawrence and James Joyce these days...
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- Lucy Strange | 'I think it’s so important not to underestimate readers of that age, the complexity of their inner world'
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