Little white lies. Y’know, those innocent, throwaway comments people tell you so they can have an easy life. Well, according to Guy Bass, they don’t exist. Carrots make you see in the dark? Well, that’s a horrific lie. Spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them? Total fib. Swallow an apple pip and an apple tree will grow in your guts? You guessed it, another big fat whopper. The truth’s out, folks, and Guy Bass isn’t pulling any punches.
Okay, you’re probably in need of a little ‘lie’-down after all those shocking revelations, so I’ll give you a moment to recover. Meanwhile, I’ll fill you in on the man, the myth and The Legend (of the Frog) that is Guy Bass. Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Guy is he’s a Blue Peter Book Award winner. With TV’s most prestigious seal of approval to his name, everyone present at the glorious Manchester Central Library on Monday afternoon knew they were on to a good thing – grown-ups included!
A firm favourite with the Manchester Children’s Book Festival crowd, Guy was in town to tell us about his new book, The Legend of the Frog. Published earlier this year, this sci-fi-action-fantasy hybrid tells the tale of Prince Frog, who lives a very sheltered life, protected from reality by the belief that the end of the world is nigh. To stay safe, Frog is told he must never leave home. So, what do you think Frog does? Yes, that’s right, his curiosity gets the better of him and off he hops. Of course he does. Guy explains the character of Frog:
“With Frog specifically as a character, he’s so relentlessly positive, so I wanted the lies to be ways to chip away at him and see what happens. For me, the best stories are ones where you take your main character or characters and you put them in as much trouble as possible and see them claw their way out, and that’s what happens with Frog. I guess the book gets a little bit darker as it goes on and he gets in scrapes and troubles and all sorts, which all started from this relatively simple lie with lots of connotations. When you’re a child, these lies don’t really mean anything to you but you look back and realise that these decisions can have big, significant consequences.”
Aha! That brings us back to the lies. I do hope the opening paragraph didn’t contain too many spoilers for you. Once Frog gets out into the big wide world, he begins to realise all is not quite as he was led to believe and instead of being met with an apocalyptic scene, Frog encounters a magical kingdom. Shock. Horror. Armed with his trusty stick, Basil Rathbone, a pair of Catastrophe Pants and his newly acquired sidekick, Sheriff Explosion the sheep, Frog sets forth into the unknown.
Following a side-splittingly funny tour of Guy’s embarrassing family photo album and an exposé of the lies he’d been fed as a child, Guy treated us to a reading from The Legend of the Frog. Too traumatised from the ridicule he’d faced when, as a boy, his mum told him the sheep was the best character in the school nativity to make him feel better about having a lesser part (lie!), Guy called upon a member of the audience to be Sheriff Explosion, complete with sheep mask and embarrassing noises. The whole scene had Guy’s audience in stitches.
After the event we spoke with some audience members, including Rosa who played the sheep, to find out how they’d heard about Guy’s talk and what they thought of it.
Rosa, age 8, said: “My mum looked it up on the internet and I thought it looked really good so I decided to come along.” “He told me to do some acting and put on a sheep mask and he gave me a script and written in bold lettering was just, ‘BAA!’ I hadn’t read any of Guy’s books before but I definitely will now.”
Zara, age 9, said: “I hadn’t heard of Guy Bass before and I wanted to meet a new author…I’m also going to see Liz Kessler.”
Flora, Zara’s mum, won the prize book draw and was awarded a signed copy of The Legend of the Frog. She said: “I didn’t even expect to win but I’m very glad to be the lucky one!” With Guy’s talk entertaining both grown-ups and children alike, I doubt Flora will be surrendering her prize to Zara without a duel!
We caught up with Guy after the event, who told us how much he enjoys coming to Manchester Children’s Book Festival. It sounds like he had just as much fun performing as we did watching him:
“This is the third time I’ve come to the Festival and I always have an absolute whale of a time. I find it genuinely exciting coming here. It’s always well organised and everyone I’ve ever met who’s associated with the Festival or the libraries here in Manchester is just enormously passionate about books, so that makes my job a lot easier.”
Well, Guy, we’re not gonna lie – we wouldn’t dare – watching animated and entertaining authors like you makes our job a lot easier, too. Shall we pencil in your return for 2016, then?
This event was brought to you in association with IHSSR. The Institute for Humanities and Social Science Research.