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Fantabulous volumes – a children’s bookworm trail for Roald Dahl Day

September 13, 2013
by Laura Canning | events

George's Marvellous MedicineHappy Roald Dahl Day! We don’t need much of an excuse to celebrate at, as it is a fact universally acknowledged that we are geeky about books. Especially kids’ books, which we read while washing down lashings of ginger beer, a phrase that was never actually used in the Famous Five books but that became famous after the Comic Strip’s Five Go Mad in Dorset. (See, we told you we were geeky.)

So we've decided to celebrate this year’s Roald Dahl Day with an addition to our British bookworm’s trail blog just for kids and us big kids – and a look at some of the best festivals and events for bookwormy youngsters. And we might do some colouring in too – and take a Roald Dahl quiz

First up is of course the swishwifflingly scrumdiddlyumptious Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire, which is holding Roald Dahl Celebrations this Sunday (15 September) at the museum and in Roald Dahl’s garden: expect swashboggling storytelling sessions, fantabulous facts and marvellous magic as well as a picnic in the orchard and a peep inside Danny's caravan.

Roald Dahl's Matilda Also in Buckinghamshire, the County Museum at Aylesbury has a Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery with original Quentin Blake drawings, Matilda’s Library and a Great Glass Elevator to the Imagination Gallery (very lucky youngsters with top parents can even book a Whizzpopping birthday party).

Stay near both with a tent pitch at Home Farm Camping and Caravan Park from £30 for 14 and 15 September.

Next, to Oxford: the quad at Christ Church College was used in the Harry Potter films and the college and city are packed with references to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (author Lewis Carroll taught at Christ Church for 26 years and the dean’s daughter Alice Liddell provided the inspiration for the inadvertent traveller).

Oxford was also the home of Narnia author CS Lewis who taught at Magdalen College and set up literary group The Inklings with JRR Tolkien.

Oxford has an Alice Day and Alice exhibitions; Alice’s Shop (the ‘old sheep shop’ in Through the Looking Glass); Alice walks and a Mad Hatters Tea Party cruise to start off with – ‘Drink me’ tea and ‘Eat me’ cake included.

Once you’re all Aliced out, take the Pottering in Harry's Footsteps Tour for more Hogwarts hijinks, go on a a CS Lewis walk then stroll to the blossoming Story Museum, recently set up to celebrate children's stories and with year-round events for all ages.

Oxfordshire also has the Wind in the Willows exhibition at Henley-on-Thames's River and Rowing Museum, with 3D models and audio guides telling the tale of Ratty, Mole, Badger and the very naughty Mr Toad (the part Matt Lucas was born to play).

The museum is half a mile from Swiss Farm Touring and Camping, which has pitches from £14.

The BFG and Sophie Dorset next for some sleuthing: the countryside and villages around Poole and Purbeck were haunts of the Famous Five as they tracked down criminals and found a staggering amount of secret tunnels.

Corfe Castle was the inspiration for George’s Kirrin Castle, and Whispering Island in Five Have a Mystery to Solve is Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour.

The Enid Blyton Trail [pdf] starts from Poole or Wareham and goes to Swanage via Corfe Castle: stop off at Corfe for the Ginger Pop Shop to pick up toys, Blyton-era memorabilia and out of print Enids.

Then, as you want the above  to have fired up the offspring enough to later write a bestselling kids’ book series that will earn enough to buy you a mansion and a boat, take them to The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh with kids’ and storytelling events all year round.

(Stop off at Cumbria’s The World of Beatrix Potter and broomstick training at Northumberlands Alnwick Castle, aka Hogwarts, on the way north; then buy a trolleyworth of tomes at The Edinburgh Bookshop, now merged with The Children’s Bookshop to provide a wizard collection of bairns' books).


Children’s book festivals are the very bestest, and we’re not just saying that because we’re off to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival this year to meet Malorie Blackman and watch Lord of the Flies (anyone who knows kids also knows that story never gets old). Here’s our roundup of what’s on offer:

Willy Wonka of chocolate factory fame Bath Children’s Literature Festival

From 28 September to 6 October in lovely Bath. Michael Rosen’s there with Fluff the Farting Fish; Lyn Gardner talks about her fictional theatre series, and there are dozens of events like horror writing workshops and a look at ‘the blood and gore of ancient Rome’. Fab.

Stay two miles from the city centre at Newton Mill Holiday Park, with pitches during the festival from £10 a night.

Peek a Book! Children’s Literature Festival, N Ireland

Authors including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and former Children’s Laureate Anne Fine OBE will be in City of Culture Derry from 1 – 5 October at the Waterside Theatre.

The LegenDerry Zombie Walk is on 5 October too: it’s never too early to educate the anklebiters about a possible zombie apocalypse.

Henley Literary Festival

The Henley festival from 30 September – 5 October has several children's events including Gareth Edwards's Disgusting Sandwich, pranks with Sharky and George, and a Young adult crime fiction panel. (Irvine Welsh is there too for literary grownups.)

Festival at the Edge

An international storytelling festival that takes place on the third weekend of each July in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, and which celebrated its twenty-second year in 2013.

The children’s festival runs concurrently with the main one and mixes specially commissioned children’s performers with some performers from the main event.

Manchester Children’s Book Festival

Devised by Carol Ann Duffy and held in schools, community settings, theatres, museums, galleries and libraries all over Manchester. The festival is biannual and the next one is 26 June – 6 July 2014; the full programme is due to be announced in January.

It's here!Edinburgh International Book Festival

There’s been a Children’s Programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival since it all started in 1983, with events on children's fiction, ebooks, comics and poetry.

Next year’s festival is from 9 – 25 August and the programme will be announced in June.

See also

Children’s Book Weekfrom Booktrust, 7 – 11 October: events and activities around the country celebrating books and reading.

The Children’s Bookshow: annual tour of children’s authors and illustrators, starting in London on 23 September and ending in Southport on 21 November.

Anything we've missed out? Leave your splendiferous suggestions below!

First image courtesy of; all other images © Quentin Blake. All images used with permission.