Jason was invited to share his books with some of the younger guests at the 10th anniversary celebration of Our Yard at Clitterhouse Farm in northwest London.
It’s ten years since run-down farm buildings between Brent Cross and Cricklewood were first regenerated and brought into community use, for activities including children’s playgroups, yoga, craft events and night markets.
Jason joined local restaurateurs, artists and musicians, to entertain the crowds on a warm autumn afternoon. Taking over a corner of the garden area, he set up with his regular props and his ever growing collection of cuddly animals that feature in his latest book, including a snake, an elephant and a cat.
With two babies among the audience, he began with the gentle rhyming of What Can You See? The babies’ mothers joined in with the reading and helped them point at Hannah Rounding’s illustrations of birds, cats, playgrounds and beaches.
Next he moved onto his latest book, A Zoo In My Shoe, with the older children laughing at such notions as a tiger sleeping on top of a fridge, someone having eggs and slippers for breakfast and pizzas covered with fleas. The bold, colourful illustrations from Max Low brought to life Jason’s mixed-up situations, eliciting cries of “That’s not right!”
As he reached the end of the book, Jason thanked everyone for coming, but the children kept crying out for more. They wanted him to read his earlier book, I Like To Put Food In My Welly, too. As more children were arriving, he decided to indulge those calling for more. After getting the same kind of reaction to someone swimming in a cup of tea and drinking an apple tree, he was preparing to end the session, but the children again called for more. “Do the elephant again,” they cried – so, given that the newer arrivals hadn’t heard A Zoo In My Shoe, he returned to his latest book to entertain them with rhymes about chimpanzees stepping on your nose and an elephant cooling down by spraying her daughter.
“This event was a typical case of how you have to be prepared for all eventualities and not get too worried about sticking to a script,” Jason noted. “You have to be able to go with the flow and give the audience what they want. If they ask for more – or even to repeat bits they’ve already enjoyed – why not? That’s why I do it. It’s just so rewarding to see children having so much fun with my words!”