Last weekend, S and I were happily wandering around town, minding our own business, when a lady walking past handed us a flyer and told me there was a Story Time starting at Waterstones in half an hour.
We went along to see what it was all about... imagine our surprise when we realised it wasn't just any old Story Time! Oh, no. This was Story Time with Abie Longstaff, the fabulous children's author. She was reading her latest book when we got there, and then read another book, and then showed the children some photos of her working, and drafts of her new book, explaining how she and her illustrator, Lauren Beard, work together to create the book we'll see in the shops soon. She had even brought dolls with hair accessories for the children to play with, which I thought was lovely.
I bought S a copy of The Fairytale Hairdresser , which was Abie's first book; she told me it's probably the one best suited to a two year old. She's written lots more though: many featuring the Fairytale Hairdresser (there's even one featuring Father Christmas), and many with other characters.
What I absolutely love about this book is that although the story and pictures are very much original creations, they incorporate many well-known fairytale characters. When I was little, I clearly remember being given a story book where a post man brought letters to the three bears and Cinderella, among others. It was my favourite because it felt like I was catching a glimpse of what happened in these characters' lives after they all lived happily ever after! I watched as Abie read her books to the children, how excited they all were to point out the characters they had spotted in the books. The first page of this book alone has the Giant, Red RidingHood, the wolf (he runs an opticians: all the better to see you with!), goldilocks and the three pigs.
At the moment, S is still a little young to be familiar with fairy stories, or to care much about them. I'm fairly sure she likes this book because she's just discovered she has hair - and thanks to my sister buying her some My Little Pony hair clips while I was away last week, she's also discovered she can play with her hair and have it tied up prettily.
Kittie the Fairytale Hairdresser is the best hairdresser in all the land and brushes and cuts all of the characters' hair. In this book, she helps Rapunzel to escape the wicked witch keeping her prisoner and to find her prince by taming her long, messy hair and pulling it into one big plait.
S loves the bit where Kittie is climbing back down the tower on Rapunzel's hair. I do too; it's a funny take on a traditional fairy story. A sure sign that this is a new favourite is the fact it's been in the house a week, and hasn't found its way to a shelf or book box yet. It's usually on the beanbag or the sofa, ready to be read at a moment's notice!
What I really like about this book is that for the moment, it's a nice story for us to read together - but it feels like a book that will last a long time for her. As she grows older and learns the classic fairy stories that all children learn, the book will take on a different meaning for her as she searches out all of the characters she's seen elsewhere.
Since S is quite small, I've never had cause to notice when children's authors came to our part of the world. This is the first time I've known a children's author to come, and to me it made a real difference. When you go looking for children's books, you're faced with a sea of brightly-coloured books, and you've really no idea of what your child will think is fun, or what they'll think is boring. S has loads of books she reads, but also lots she doesn't read. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for notices about more visits from children's authors - and hoping they're all as fun to see as Abie Longstaff!
Note: I was not asked to write a review of this book; I have written it because S and I have both enjoyed reading it!