Budding bookworms got a sneak preview of writer Jacqueline Wilson’s new book during a talk at Kingston University this week. The children’s laureate, who grew up in Kingston, tested out her autobiography Jacky Daydream on an audience of 300 excited school children from around the borough. Ms Wilson, a double BAFTA-winner who is actively involved in promoting children’s reading, also answered questions and signed books at the event organised by the University to mark the renaming of the former Main Hall at the Penrhyn Road campus in her honour.
The author captivated her young audience reading from her new book, which is still a work in progress and due to go to print next March. “The children were the first to hear excerpts from the book which is just going through the editing stage, so I was really keen to hear their feedback,” Ms Wilson said. “Although I have written around 80 books, it was still a nerve-wracking experience reading my work for the first time. The book is written very much from a child’s perspective, telling the story of my life from the day I was born until I went to secondary school. I was a prolific writer from a very young age, even filling exercise books with long works of fiction in those days.”
Eight year old Talya Riggs, from Grand Avenue Primary School, cannot wait to add the author’s latest work to her collection. “It was great to listen to her new book, especially since Jacqueline Wilson is my favourite author,” she said. “My favourite story is the Cat Mummy, which is the book that got me into reading in the first place.”
A three-time winner of the Children’s Book of the Year trophy, Ms Wilson, whose first novel, Ricky’s Birthday, was printed in 1972, has gone on to have more than 80 novels published, the majority aimed at youngsters aged between eight and 14. Her stories about Tracy Beaker have been turned into a television serial on the BBC making the character a household-name. “I think children are incredibly lucky now because it is a real golden age for children’s books whether they enjoy fantasy, adventure or family stories – there are so many different exciting books around and also some wonderful classics still available,” she said. “I know many children groan and say classics are boring but I really try to encourage young readers not to just look at brand new books.”
Pupils from Grand Avenue Primary, King Athelstan Primary, Latchmere Junior, St John’s C of E Primary, St Joseph’s RC Primary and Coombe Girls’ Schools attended the hall renaming ceremony. “I was particularly pleased to meet children from Latchmere Junior School and Coombe Girls’ where I was once a pupil,” Ms Wilson said. Coombe Girls’ pupil Sariah Paracha, who is the proud owner of 15 Jacqueline Wilson books could not believe she had actually had the chance to talk to the author. “It was brilliant to meet her. I like the fact that her stories are so real, like the Suitcase Kid, where the main character’s parents are divorced and she can’t choose between her mum and her dad,” the 11 year old said. Aspiring writer Anna Lancaster, nine, of Latchmere Junior School, was also keen to pick up tips from the writer. “The way she writes is really entertaining and exciting,” she said. “To get my book signed by her was absolutely amazing. It will always be something very special to me.”
Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Peter Scott said it was a real privilege for the University to play host to such a prestigious author. “Part of the University’s role is to support intellectual development within the wider community, so we are delighted to be working with Jacqueline Wilson to inspire children in the area,” he said.