On a busy early December Sunday, Jason shared all three of his books with children at festive events at both ends of the London Borough of Barnet.
With heavy rain around lunchtime, in the northern reaches of London, it felt like the storytelling tent at the Barnet Christmas Fayre might be a washout; for the first time, the organisers of the long-running event decided to promote local children’s authors among the other activities. Waiting alongside Jason for her chance to read her book, The Magic In You, was Lisa Ruggeri, in a Mary Poppins costume, which would perhaps have attracted more young book lovers, if she hadn’t had to cover it with a raincoat. Luckily for her, Mary Poppins carries an umbrella.
But as the rain started to subside, streams of families stopped by the tent for some rhyming fun. Jason treated them to a slimmed down version of his usual presentation, with more of the books and fewer of the toys, given the seasonally wintery weather, but the laughter from the children wasn’t at all impaired by the puddles underfoot.
For the youngest children who turned up, Jason read excerpts from his pre-school rhyming book What Can You See?, with some clever toddlers even managing to finish the rhymes before Jason did. Older children were treated to some of the surreal situations thrown up by the anarchic rhymes of I Like To Put Food In My Welly and A Zoo In My Shoe, such as swimming in a cup of tea and pizzas covered with fleas.
“One good thing about the books being more about playing with language than telling a story,” Jason noted, “Is that people can just turn up and join in whenever they like, without having missed anything, which is perfect for this kind of weather-hit festival setting.”
Later in the afternoon, Jason returned to Our Yard at Clitterhouse Farm, near the southernmost tip of the borough, for a reading at their Festive Fair. Last year’s event was so bitterly cold that it was hard to hold the books and move his lips, but this year, the reading was held inside.
The crowd included some children who’d heard the books before and some who hadn’t. “It was particularly gratifying to hear the reaction from those enjoying the books for the first time,” Jason observed, “Their laughter was tinged with incredulity, which just sounds great – that’s exactly what I was going for.”
As he was packing up, Jason was approached by one father whose daughter had bought a copy of A Zoo In My Shoe at a previous event. He told Jason that he laughed so much when he read the book to his daughter that he couldn’t believe more people didn’t know about it.
“Authors like me, with small publishers and almost no publicity after the publication date, need people who love our books to tell everyone else about them,” Jason concluded. “That dad probably had more followers on social media than I do!”