Horrid Henry and Dr Death to join stars at the Family Book Festival

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THE 2012 Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival is being touted as the biggest and best literary event ever to be staged in the region with Sir David Frost, John Sessions, Ian Rankin, William Boyd and Rory Bremner just a few of the headliners set for Melrose from June 14-17.

Another strand of the Harmony House event, aimed at younger readers, will also showcase immense talent in the hugely competitive and diverse genre of children’s literature.

The Family Book Festival (FBF) began in 2007 in a bid to widen the appeal and extend the inclusivity of its bigger brother, which had taken its first tentative steps three years earlier.

“On our first outing, we booked Michael Morpurgo and Julia Donaldson to talk about their prolific works and their shows went down a storm, not only with the children, but also with the mums and dads,” said children’s programme director Paula Ogilvie.

“Since then, Michael has become a household name with his book War Horse becoming a stage hit and, last year, a silver screen sensation with the movie directed by Steven Spielberg, while the popularity of Julia’s most fabulous creation, the Gruffalo, shows no sign of abating.

“In the same way our Family Book Festival has really taken off and we expect several of our shows to sell out, so early booking is strongly advised.”

The FBF will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17, with the last show starting at 3.15pm each day. One standout feature will be Francesca Simon, creator of everyone’s favourite naughty boy, Horrid Henry.

On Sunday at 1.30pm, the British/American author will talk about the success of a series which has now sold more than 12million copies in the 24 countries in which it has been published.

Francesca will describe Horrid Henry’s weird world, including his nemesis Moody Margaret and his annoyingly angelic little brother Perfect Peter. The audience at the show, aimed at kids aged six and over, and their families, will also be introduced the 21st book in the series – Horrid Henry’s Monster Movie – and have the chance to hear Francesca read an even newer story. 

The Where’s Wally? series of picture books, created by British illustrator Martin Handford, has become an international phenomenon which this year celebrates its 25th birthday.

Readers are invited, amidst a range of characters in detailed double page spread illustrations, to find Wally – with his distinctive red and white striped shirt, bobble hat and glasses – and the franchise has spawned a television series and video games.

A real-life Wally will be at the festival though visitors must remember that he will wave and smile, but he does not speak!

Cardboard Wallys will be hidden throughout the garden with lots of prizes for those who find them and there will be puzzles and activity sheets for the young searchers to take home.

Another literary smash with younger readers is the time-travelling Dr Death who will, courtesy of his creator and alter ego Simon Watt, bring his fascinating Medi-Evil Medicine Show to the festival on the Saturday.

Described as a “a scientifically accurate panto for children and other generally childish people”, the show will take the audience on a comic journey of medicine through the ages, reminding us that some of the treatments could be worse than the illnesses.

Watt, presenter of Channel 4’s award-winning Inside Nature’s Giants and The Elephant: Life After Death, will tell stories of mad mistakes, evil experiments, drugs, dissections, body snatching and even murder.

Festival patron, prolific children’s author and supreme communicator Vivian French is returning with a treat for those aged three to seven – her entertaining introduction to the Buttons Family. Vivian will also lead a Picture Book Picnic and, on the Sunday, talk about her magnificently evil new characters Mercy Grinder and Fiddleduster Squint.

Another coup for the FBF is hilarious and legendary fact-finder Philip Ardagh who will enthuse about his Book of Howlers, Blunders and Random Mistakery.

In 2005, Ardagh collaborated on Sir Paul McCartney’s first children’s book, High in the Clouds. At Melrose, he will explain how the Pope got confused with a potato, how the footballer ate the referee’s notebook and why it is a bad idea to have your name and date of birth tattooed on your neck.

Not only have prices for the FBF been pegged, with even the most prestigious event costing no more than a fiver, but organisers are again offering a special family day pass for nearly all of the keynote events. The pass costs £25 for two adults and up to three children per day.