Students from Hexthorpe, Ridgewood, Saltersgate Junior, Mexborough Academy, Owston Park and Woodfield waited with anticipation for author Matt Haig and illustrator Chris Mould to arrive at the performing arts hall, Hall Cross Lower School on Friday 20th November, a delay made more exciting by lack of taxis at the train station to deliver them!
Whilst waiting, Committee member Lynne challenged the young people to come up with unusual questions in readiness for Matt and Chris. Then a cheer as they arrived! Committee member Phil introduced them to the crowd and we began. Matt gave the audience a choice of which chapter to hear, which he would read while Chris drew. The overwhelming first choice was for the Evil Aunt Carlotta chapter, which would reveal why our hero, the boy named Christmas, ran away and how his adventures began.
The afternoon was very interactive as Matt asked questions of the audience throughout, such as what they want for Christmas. Note for parents and carers is that ice skates, bikes and phones are popular... Matt also confronted them for good questions to be asked.
As he spoke Matt asked Chris questions about his drawings and we were able to see illustrations from A Boy Called Christmas on whiteboard. We learned about Chris’s technique, for example he uses pen straight away, a normal biro, not pencil.
Matt posed a quiz to which the Doncaster young rose admirably, and managed to name all Santa's reindeers before Matt offered another reading choice: A reindeer chapter with Blitzen being the main reindeer character in book, or one about an exploding troll head. The latter option won by a landslide! This was hilarious as expected from the book, which is a lot of fun.
Then came lots of questions. We learned that Matt became a writer as it is the thing he is least useless at! Chris became an illustrator for similar reasons; he struggled at school and only felt at home once he was sent to art school. Matt started writing when very young, and was obsessed with Star Wars so wrote about that a lot. Chris always drawn, also from a very young age and on anything he could find! Chris has found that many people stop drawing as they get older. He encouraged the young people to carry on drawing and not stop as they get older. Both Matt and Chris hope all will keep their imaginations working. The best question posed to Matt then came... Which character would he be, from the book? After much thought Santa was rejected because he is the only human in the book so is possibly lonely. Matt feels the nicest and kindest character is Father Topo, who also won't age any more as he has reached the perfect age so has stopped aging!
Chris was asked what advice he has for budding illustrators. This was to just keep doing it, and copy work of those they admire to practise, to do hundreds of little drawings on a page and see what happens. Matt encouraged budding writers not to be afraid to make mistakes and these can edited, just be free, enjoy and have fun.