Last week was busy. I visited five schools in Singapore over the course of five days and recited Hogart the Hedgehog Turns Nink 23 times to a total of 1450 kids! My voice was worn hoarse by all the different character voices I use for telling the story, but I got through it fine and enjoyed nearly every moment. The only time things went awry was the first session at Stamford American school when I got a bit nervous trying to lever my language down for the 6 year olds. During the reading I lost my place in the text at least twice, which thankfully doesn’t happen too often.
On the Monday I went to Chatsworth International School, a relatively small school on the east coast of Singapore where I had three sessions with Years 2, 3 and 4. It was the first time I’d recited Hogart in about 3 months, and it was fun and fresh, and I found myself really getting into the language with the right feeling. This set the tone for the whole week, and it took until Friday before I finally began to falter a bit. I recall some great question & answer sessions with the kids. It was only a morning session so I didn’t get to see much of the school, but I was surprised at how many kiwi teachers were working there.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at the very large and very new Dulwich College in far-flung Bukit Batok. I had 13 sessions over the course of two days seeing Years 1, 2, 3 and 4. Exhausting, but never boring. Again, lots of great questions, and I recall that someone in Year 4 asked me what my favourite line in Hogart was. I explained how pleased I was when I discovered that the answer to 9 x 9 x 9 x 9 fell within the range of number of spines on a hedgehog’s back (5000-7000). And even better still was the discovery that the result of nine to the power of four – six thousand, five hundred and sixty-one – came out perfectly anapestic. Half these readings were held in the large spacious and airy upper primary library, and half in the lower primary library.
On Thursday I had two sessions at ISS international school followed by a small book fair and signing session. In all of these schools the author is well taken care of. Plenty of water, tea, coffee, and always a technician on hand to make sure the equipment is working. Once again, the kids were wonderful, all paying attention and responding with great questions about writing and where stories come from. I was really in my element by this stage and thought these were the best performances of the week.
Finally Friday came round, and I had to rise very early in order to catch a bus from the middle of Singapore almost out to the airport, a 90 minute journey. One World International is a small school with only 100 pupils ranging in age from 5 to 14. The hall was a sort of outdoors gymnasium gazebo area, and I arrived just in time to get started. Because it was sort of outdoors, the screen was very hard to see, and at one point I paused in my reading and forgot what page I was on. I couldn’t read the words on the screen so everyone waited while I picked up a copy of Hogart and found my place in the text. Embarrassing, but no one seemed to mind. This trip was short. I saw the whole school in one 30 minute assembly session, so we were heading back into town by 9.15 a.m.
My last four readings were in a mini-lecture theatre at Stamford American School by Woodleigh station with about 12 classes of Year 1 students. They loved to put up their hands and add comments during the talk or ask questions. These were short 30 minute sessions so I really had to figure out how to edit Hogart down in order to make time for talking about poetry and rhythms. My sessions for Hogart usually start with a talk about Dr. Seuss and anapestic rhythm and why that works for poetry in a storytelling mode, but with only 30 minutes to do that and tell the story, I found myself a bit rushed in the first session, and had to make some rapid adjustments. I recall one teacher laughing all the way through Hogart so it was good to see someone enjoying the humour.
All up, a productive week of reciting Hogart in Singapore, and introducing all those kids to the fun of anapestic rhythm. Much thanks to Denise Tan of Closetful of Books who acted as my go-between and who had set up these school visits. Denise has read thousands of children’s books and now runs her own business liaising with authors and schools and selling books at school book fairs. I had a blast.