Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre visited Manchester Children’s Book Festival today for the fantastic Oliver and the Seawigs event and parade, inspired by their illustrated children’s book. Around lunchtime, seawig-wearing visitors waited at Manchester Metropolitan University for the parade to begin. We bumped into Ann Lam, who knits sea monkeys in order to raise money for the Festival’s partner charity, ReadWell. “I really enjoy making the sea monkeys,” a smiling Ann told us, “And I’m really looking forward to Sarah and Philip’s parade.” Ann – and her two children Yasmin and Joseph – were wearing fabulous sea monkey hats that we just had to snap a photo of.
The sea monkey parade kicked off in the afternoon and began on the first floor. Groups of children wearing colourful seawig hats and masks marched after Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve, following them down the stairs into to the main atrium of the building. Sarah and Philip were wearing their own sea-themed costumes and the parade drew a huge crowd! Plenty of visitors had gathered to take photographs and admire the seawigs.
Shortly after the parade, a special Oliver and the Seawigsevent took place in one of the university’s large lecture halls. Debra Conroy, from Manchester Libraries, introduced the event, saying, “I’ve been involved in The Manchester Children’s Book Festival since the beginning. This year is turning into one of my favourites, because we’ve all fallen in love with the seawigs and sea monkeys.”
The children were on the edge of their seats as Sarah and Philip began to talk about Oliver and the Seawigs. They told the crowd how they met and formed the idea for the book. “We met at the Edinburgh Book Festival and discovered that we liked the same things. The same jokes made us laugh. So we decided to write a book together,” Philip told the audience.
Sarah added that they wanted the book to be exciting, which was why they decided that Oliver’s parents would be explorers. The book also includes plenty of seawigs, a mermaid named Iris, and a villain called Stacey de Lacey, plus his huge army of sea monkeys! After reading passages from the book, Sarah and Philip invited the children to draw their own sea monkeys, guided by Sarah.
Children then asked the pair questions about Oliver and the Seawigs. One child asked, “What inspired you to write the book?” Sarah McIntyre laughed before explaining, “I was in a meeting run by CWIG. I was bored and started doodling on sheets of paper. I thought the letters CWIG sounded like seawig. Then I started thinking about an island with wigs on its head.”
To the delight of the children, Sarah and Philip announced that they are working on another book, Cakes in Space. Then, in spectacular fashion, they grabbed a couple of ukuleles and performed a musical sea shanty with the children singing the chorus. It was a fun-filled event and it was great to see the children being so enthusiastic and getting involved.
After the event, Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve moved back into the atrium to sign copies of Oliver and the Seawigs. We took the opportunity to ask a few children what they thought of the event. “The best part was when they taught us to draw the sea monkeys,” said Oliver Harrison, aged 6. “It was also really exciting to find out they are doing a new story called Cakes in Space. I think Philip definitely looked the best.”
Oliver’s sister, Rose Harrison, age 4, disagreed. “No, Sarah looked the best,” she told us. “But they were both very pretty, even Philip. Iris the mermaid was very beautiful. My favourite part of the day was making the seawig masks for the parade and waving to the pirate.”
The Family Fun Day may be over, but there are still plenty of exciting events to enjoy at the Festival! Visit the website to find out what’s coming up tomorrow and next week.
Read Part 1