All in the memory, by Geraldine Brennan

Pop Up Festival Presents, from Pop Up Projects, provided a free summer showcase of some of the best books for children and young adults.

24 authors, illustrators, poets and translators brought literature to life in classrooms in 700 schools between 14 and 18 June 2021.

Over 46,000 pupils and their teachers from primary, secondary and special schools took part in a variety of readings, performances, stimulating activities and creative challenges. Thousands enjoyed singing and dancing along with the author of the Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson. Teachers posted their pupils’ questions about how they first became authors and what inspires them, and were invited to access free class resources on Pop Up Hub.

Geraldine Brennan, Resources and Reviews Editor of the Times Educational Supplement (TES), tells us about some of the events she attended as part of Pop Up Festival Presents.

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All in the memory, by Geraldine Brennan

We’re off! With author Smriti Halls’ pot of festival gold.

“Rather than ‘write what you know’ or ‘write what you love’, I would say ‘write what you remember’,” Smriti Halls tells a very excited Key Stage 1 audience at the first Pop Up Festival Presents workshop. 

Smriti’s first name is itself the Sanskrit word for “memory”.  “Say ‘rhymes with pretty’ if you’re trying to help grown-ups,” she advises. Her story Don’t Call Me Sweet! is based on years of being called “sweet” and “cute” by her older sisters, when what she really wanted was to be “a scary monster”. Not That Pet! resulted from her many unsuccessful pleas for a cat, and Mabel the persistent pet-lover is the child missing from the books she read, “with brown skin and black hair like me, and scruffy like I used to be”.

Smriti’s best-selling books have been shortlisted for a whole host of prizes and awards, winning several. 

Today is all about rainbows, in honour of Rain Before Rainbows with poetic text by Smriti and nature-rooted illustrations by David Litchfield. It tells us how inevitable sadness, despair and hard times are balanced in life and in nature by hope, comfort and new shoots of joy. A small girl and her silent fox companion – “the fox can only be with her, not protect her” – make a perilous journey and fight dragons and other foes, before being carried to safety by their fellow creatures.

So, after solving Smitri’s colour riddles, we decorate our coloured-in rainbows with the people, places and things that sustain and comfort us and make us happy. Smriti’s rainbow place is the library, her rainbow food is iced buns and her rainbow person is still her Mum, although she never did let her get a cat. 

Next step: write your own rainbow poem capturing it all.

Rain Before Rainbows, written by Smriti Halls and illustrated by David Litchfield, is published by Walker Books.

Click here for Smriti’s resource for Rain Before Rainbows. Suitable for KS1