Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Frank Cottrell Boyce at the Southbank Centre

What a treat to attend this event last night. Cottrell Boyce spoke about the importance of reading in his life, but this was no dry academic discourse: a pupil at a boys school, reading was the only way he could find out about girls. (Quoting Raymond Chandler to a girl at a bus stop turned out not to be the best way to go about things.) Surely there can be no-one else in the world who can put their marriage down to the influence of the Moomins.

I love The Unforgotten Coat, which he wrote for the fabulous Reader Organisation, and it was great to hear about its inception. It is based on the true story of a young Mongolian girl, whose coat was left behind when she was taken away in the middle of the night and deported. Cottrell Boyce does not in any way downplay the tragedy of his protagonists’ plight in the book, but despite this, it’s packed with humour and warmth. He read out several wonderful passages. The Reader gave away 50,000 copies for the Our Read campaign, and it is on the shortlist for the Costa Children’s Book Award.

The children in the audience had loads of fantastic questions, and Cottrell Boyce’s responses were brilliant. On their advice, he is going to take up the offer of the NASA reading group, which read Cosmic and have invited him to go on the delightfully named vomit comet.