Award winning children's author John Dougherty gave a world premier reading of his latest page-turner to The King's School Infant & Junior Department pupils on World Book Day.
The critically acclaimed Northern Irish writer, originally from County Antrim, read from The Hare Shaped Hole, a picture book which is very much a departure from his usual comedic style.
John, who rediscovered his love of children's literature when he trained to be a teacher 20 years ago, said: "It is a rhyming picture book about loss and grief and I am really proud of this one. It’s even had a few adults in tears and is very special to me."
An author who has been often short-listed for children's literature top prizes, John read from his works to a star studded audience of fancy dress characters. Paddington, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Gandalf, the Billionaire Boy and even super scary Wednesday from the Addams Family were among many of the literary figures hanging on his every word.
John said: "If I could distil the secret of what makes a good children's book, I'd be a very rich man, but for me it is most important not to talk down to children. Children are not stupid, far from it, but they just have less information, and one of the key ways they acquire information is through reading, so you want them to engage and not feel talked down to."
He added: "I really am indebted to the deputy head at my first teacher training placement, who said, "If you're going to teach children's literature, you really must read it and every night I went home and read and read and rediscovered my love for children's literature. After a week I was totally hooked." The international best seller has now written some 40 books and travels the country giving lectures, seminars and readings of his work, as well as continuing with his own writing.
The World Book Day event was organised by King's Infant & Junior Division's Head of English, Soulla Costanda, who doubled as Cruella de Vil, one of many King's teachers who got into character for the day. Soulla said: "It was wonderful to have John for the full day and as he has such a range of work he could read to every age group.
"World Book Day allows us to come off time-table and get back to basics, trying to inspire a genuine love of reading; asking the children to think about the characters they love and the stories that fascinate them. We were also able to join the rest of the country on line at 11am and take part in the nationwide live lesson, which was a great thrill for everyone."