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Last Updated: Thursday June 01 2006 14:22 GMT

Blood and bogeys at book festival

Darren Shan
Blood and guts, bums and bogeys.

Not what you'd expect from your average children's book festival.

But the kids loved it!

Newsround Online's Clare Youell reports from the Hay Fever book festival.

Every year thousands of kids flock to the Hay Fever festival in the sleepy little book town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales.

But this is no quiet, bookish little event.

There are celebrity kids' writers, book signings, fake hands, play-acting, sunbathing, chocolate tasting, ice creams, you name it.


Jacqueline Wilson, Darren Shan, Michael Morpurgo, GP Taylor and Charlie Higson are just a few of the big names at Hay Fever this year.

Darren Shan on stage
It's a gorgeous setting for a book festival too - surrounded by rolling Welsh hills dotted with fluffy, white sheep.

And yet inside some of the celebrity talks, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd wandered into a gig or even the London Dungeons.


Take Darren Shan for instance.

The spooky writer starts off by getting four kids up on stage to help him act out a scene from Cirque de Freak - the first book in his Darren Shan vampire saga.

Within seconds there's a boy growling on stage, pretending to be the Wolf Man as he bites a girl's hand off. Complete with fake rubber hand, the girl screams and swoons across the stage, while Darren Shan reads the narrative.

Sunbathers at Hay Fever festival
Whoever said books were boring?


Darren then tells the audience about his new book called Slawter - the third in his Demonata series. He says the book is "shocking but more light-hearted than the other Demonata books".

Darren answers lots of questions from the fans too. He admits he was a "different" sort of child. "When I was five, I had a big picture of Dracula on my bedroom wall," he said. "My friends had pictures of pop stars and I had a picture of the Lord of the Undead. Some would say that was a sign of things to come..."

Then a boy tells Darren that his teacher has banned his books, and asked what Darren would say to her.

"I would say that lots of teachers have used my books and found they've been really effective, particularly with classes where kids don't really want to read much," he said.

Then, with an evil glint in his eye, he added: "If they don't like that answer, tell me where they'll live and I'll eat them!"


GP Taylor on stage
GP Taylor, author of books like Shadowmancer and Tersias, also knows how to open a festival with a bang.

The Reverend, who was once asked to leave a school for saying the word 'fart' in front of pupils, jumped up onto the stage and started telling funny stories.

He revealed how he accidentally shot his best mate in the foot with a bow and arrow when he was a child, and how he once got caught outside in his pants after chasing a fox away from his chickens in the middle of the night.


The Hay Fever festival is in Hay-on-Wye in Wales
The kids in the audience were in hysterics. They were fascinated.

Once he had their attention, GP started explaining how to come up with cool characters and how you can use your real life experiences to write books.

And GP makes no apologies for his full-on ways of grabbing kids' attention at book meetings. "Yes I do use the words poo, fart, bum and bogey, but the kids love it," he told Newsround Online. "What other word are you going to use for fart? Trump? Botty burp??"


But there's a serious side to GP too. He's can't talk enough about how he wants to get more kids reading.

Kids queued for ages to meet their favourite writers
He told Newsround about his upcoming plans for a new type of book, called the Tizzle Sisters. It's a book which starts off with lots of pictures, and speech bubbles, and some text, and by the time you get to the end it's mostly writing. So the pictures lure you into the story and hopefully make you keep on reading.

It's about twin sisters in a children's home and how they cope when one of them is adopted by a rich lady in a spooky house, and the other is left behind.

"I just want to get more kids reading again," he said. "I'm passionate about it."

And that's what the whole Hay Fever festival's about.

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