Hay Festival boss tells kids what they can expect at the book fair in Abu Dhabi

Peter Florence is in the hotseat

Hay Festival boss tells kids what they can expect at the book fair in Abu Dhabi

What can families expect at the first ever Hay Festival Abu Dhabi?
We have a wonderful programme of events for families on Friday morning, (28 February), and some of the world’s best storytellers coming to entertain schools and audiences throughout the week at the Manarat.

Why Abu Dhabi?
We love the diversity, the sense of a city so rich in cultures and stories and languages

Who are your favourite children’s authors?
Onjali Raúf and Andy Stanton are among my very favourites. Onjali is so good with what it means to be young, Andy is so funny. Ed Vere is my favourite illustrator. He somehow captures the animals he draws with wit and warmth.
And your favourite book from your own childhood?
I had a picture book called Myths and Legends, which collected tales from around the world that I read maybe a hundred times.
I still see those pictures when I can’t sleep and need to focus on something familiar and wonderful.

Any literary protagonists that you most empathise with?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss. I feel he puts on a festival show!

Favourite literary hero and villain?
Hero is Hermione Grainger in Harry Potter. My favourite villain is Julius Casear, as he appears in the Asterix books.

You have four sons. What were their favourite books?
They all loved two series – How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, and Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness and I think of these as the twin peaks of contemporary children’s literature; then individually – well they were voracious readers once they started and they followed their own paths.
Which book did you read to them at bedtime?
We read everything together. There’s nothing lovelier than an hour cuddled up together adventuring into other worlds before sleep.

Fiction or non-fiction?
I love fiction and poetry best of all. Non-fiction that is wonderful to read for pleasure is very special. 
We have two of the greatest narrative historians at the festival – Bettany Hughes and Jung Chang. They conjure  up characters and plots like the greatest novelists. And there’s Marcus du Sautoy who makes even a dunce like me understand and love maths.

Favourite genre of children’s book?
Adventure stories. Always. Tales of tricksters and cunning stunts. And stories that make me laugh.

What are you most excited about at the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi.
I love meeting readers. Everyone comes together and shares time and ideas. It’s such a joy being together with people who love stories.

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