By LOUISE THOMASON
Pupils in Shetland got a treat last week when acclaimed children’s author Steve Cole visited various schools as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour.
One of the visits was to Aith Junior High School on Thursday morning, when instead of their usual classes, pupils in S2 and S3 classes got to listen to an animated talk by the author.
As well as reading samples from his latest book, The Bloodline Cipher, Mr Cole covered what inspires him to write books, the characters in them, language and the difference between writing exciting scenes and dull ones.
And far from being a boring, dry talk about English and writing, subjects which teens are often not enthused by, he entertained the youngsters with stories and fascinating facts, accompanied by demonstrative energetic bursts of action around the room.
They also got to take part in some role play: two members of the audience were asked to join him in acting out a fight scene. Using three variations on a fight, they showed how language makes a difference to how exciting and a scene can be.
Two Aith pupils who thoroughly enjoyed their morning were Liam Anderson and Greg Tulloch, who took part in the role play.
Greg, 13, said: “It was fun, the fighting scene was great. [He’s] the first author I’ve seen and it was really different.”
Liam, 14, agreed: “It was really good and interesting. He was really good fun.”
Mr Cole is the author of the hugely popular children’s series, Astrosaurs and Cows in Action. He also writes for teenagers and has written novelisations of the BBC series Dr Who as well as other plays and novels.
His writing centres around adventure and action stories, particularly with his teenage collection. These are genres that he enjoyed immensely as a youngster and which led him to write in the first place.
Mr Cole said: “The stuff I was reading [inspired me], superhero comics and Dr Who. I was a huge Dr Who fan and ended up writing [Dr Who] books, which was strange, I never thought I’d end up doing that.”
In today’s technologically-driven world of computer and video games Mr Cole feels that getting youngsters into reading is just as important today than it’s ever been.
“It’s more so in a way. The fact that our leisure time is centred around the internet . . . it’s important to understand language. [Books are] another entertainment form which is just as relevant.
“[There’s] such a wide amount of choice now, which is great. There are books to speak to everybody; there’s a very vibrant publishing scene in Britain, I think Britain publishes more books than anywhere else in the world, which is great.”
Although he has done several tours around the world, this is the author’s first trip to Shetland and the response has been very positive.
“It’s been really enjoyable. We’ve gone to some quite remote schools and some of the classes have been bigger, some smaller.
“I’ve done events all over the Britain and in America and what comes across is that kids are pretty much the same all over.
“The reaction has been really good though. We’ve had lots of enthusiasm from teachers and pupils. It’s important to get young ones excited about reading and writing and make them aware that it can be a lot of fun.”
English teacher at Aith Charlene Storey said she thought the visit was a great way of engaging pupils with English.
She said: “I thought he was excellent, he was very engaging and enthusiastic which translates to kids as they get excited. I liked how interactive it was as it makes it more memorable and interesting for the pupils.
“It’s brilliant that the Scottish Book Trust are able to offer this to more remote places and I hope they keep coming back.”
Run through the Scottish Book Trust, the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book tour has been running for around 10 years to bring authors to schools across the country to engage children with English and develop writing and drawing skills.