This June, Doncaster Book Award was absolutely delighted to pay host to the ever-popular author Jeremy Strong. We were lucky enough to have two visits, a morning one to Hexthorpe Primary, and an afternoon event at Saltersgate Junior School, where students from Marshland, Owston Park and Rosedale Primary Schools also joined in the fun.
Jeremy’s books are famous for their silliness and zany humour so as we waited for his arrival his excited audience was looking forward to lots of laughs. Since his talk and readings would feature an exploding Mum, a flying cow and a dog called Ice cream, they were most definitely not disappointed!
Jeremy very quickly had everyone laughing when he began his talk by saying how much he disliked his name - mainly because of the confusion caused when people get it wrong. Mistakes to date have included his being called ‘Germany’ instead of Jeremy, which really amused Chloe, age 9, from Saltersgate among many others!
He went on to talk about how he became a writer and how, amongst other things, he uses his own life to give him ideas for his characters and stories and to inspire his books. In one very funny example, Jeremy described an incident from his childhood where he and his brother, while playing in their garden, got a bit boisterous and ended up knocking their baby sister out of her pram. Knowing they’d be in big trouble, they had to quickly scramble to get her back in before their mother realised what had happened. In his much funnier and greatly exaggerated story version, the baby is catapulted like a rocket into the air and ends up flying around the earth!
Jeremy also spoke about his workplace in his garden at home (which he calls a shed and his wife calls a ‘studio’!), and which contains a desk covered in notes, ideas and doodles, with a model of a flying cow hanging above. It also has a fridge full of chocolate and drinks, both, he claimed, an essential part of the writing process - so much so in fact that he encouraged all the children there to demand that their teachers provide one in their classrooms when they have to write stories in school!
It was then time for a reading from Jeremy’s latest book, My Brother’s Famous Bottom Makes a Splash. This continues the adventures of the oddly-named twins, Cheese and Tomato, whom we had met in previous stories. The very funny extract had the terrible twins off on a somewhat eventful holiday that included adopting a stray dog which they named Ice cream, while their father accidentally triggers a massive air and sea rescue operation after he floats out to sea on his li-lo.
To finish each session we had a series of audience questions, so that as many children as possible could ask Jeremy directly about himself, his books (107 to date!) and being a writer. Many of the questions were very interesting but my personal favourite came from Megan of Saltersgate School, who asked ‘If you had to spend a day with one of your characters, which one would it be and why?’ Very impressive!
Here are some of the children’s comments following the morning session:
"He was so funny. I couldn't stop laughing. The best story was 'My Mum is going to Explode'," said Lexi-Mae.
"I liked all the parts. He made really good jokes!" said Joe.
"I loved it when he read one of his books - it was so funny!" said Hasty.
"I love your books - please make more!" said Nancy.
"He is creative and inspired me to make an office and write more books," said Safaa.
"I loved hearing about his childhood and about his latest book," said Skylar.
"Keep making really good books Jeremy Strong!" said Mekhi.
"He was full of comedy. I love his books and he's my favourite author," said Elanore.
A brilliant day and we hope to welcome Jeremy back again very soon.