Launching the Cheltenham Children’s Book Festival

A few weeks ago Tracey and I were invited to launch the Cheltenham Literature Festival Children’s programme ‘BOOK IT; the festival for families and young adults.’

Of course we leapt at the chance, what a great opportunity to help raise awareness of such a great festival.  I knew straight away that I wanted to do a lovely Shifty McGifty window display that could somehow involve the children of Cheltenham who came along for our event.

I got my thinking ears on and looked through our book to see which spread might make a nice display and this one leapt out at me;

I thought it would be great to base the interactive window on this dramatic climax – it includes all the main characters from the book and has lots of elements that could hang in a window.

Best of all, I realised that the children could help us to make the jewels, crowns, rings and tiaras that are falling – perfect!

We ordered large prints of the characters, placed them onto foam board, cut them out carefully (always slightly stressful, one slip and Kitty’s tail could be a goner!) and then all the elements were ready to place into the window.

Here I am placing the main sections of the design into the window starting with the police dogs and skyline.


Then in went Kitty floating in the centre of the window and the bespoke Shifty 2 bunting

All the staff at Waterstones Cheltenham really threw themselves into the day and did a great job at promoting both our event and the festival.

The freshly new attired Shifty and Sam toys took pride of place atop their pyramid of books!

Once all the main elements were in it was time for me to draw the Shifty and Sam lettering onto the window – I’d never used chalk pens or written backwards before so I was a tad apprehensive, but it wasn’t so bad!

By this time, lots of children had started to come into the shop and already started to make crowns and even some bouncy spiders (the necklaces are the authors own!).

Then the window was complete, ready to keep adding more and more of the children’s creations – this is when I joined Tracey who was busy storytelling in the children’s department…

Tracey writes:

It’s always exciting to do something different and so doing a live, interactive window display was something I was very much looking forward to. I’ve done lots of events at Cheltenham Waterstones before and have always had such a great time, so I was thrilled when we were invited to help publicise the Children’s Festival. 

Steve and I met last month to talk through the day and decide exactly what we’d both do. Obviously he was going to be fantastic at creating something brilliant in the window, and I was more than happy to entertain children and parents with stories, craft, and buckets of gems and glitter! Then the children accompanied me to the window to proudly hand over their decorated creations for Steve to display them falling from Kitty’s swag bag. Numerous bouncy spiders walked up the walls too, or dangled down twinkling with glitter! 

The wonderful children’s booksellers were on hand throughout the day, thoroughly ‘living’ the event – dressing up, providing refreshments for me and Steve (in stripy black and white mugs!!) and ‘jewel sweets’ for parents and children, (thanks, Barbara – even though I wasn’t a parent or a child – the orange ones, I have to say, were particualary yummy!) and generally sparkling with their enthusiasm all day long! It felt like a real team effort, which was fantastic.

Here I am above reading Shifty 2: it’s the moment in the story when Sam is overjoyed to have found such a little star in Ruby. Little does he know what she has in store! 

There are times when you read to children when you know you’ve captured their imagination; that they’re actually there with Shifty and Sam, in the moment. This was one of these times. The children filled in the words when I stopped and that was such a magical moment because you know that they’re captivated, but also that the rhymes are pitched just right! As I read, the crafting went on and it was great to see parents and children not hurrying off but wanting to sit a while and talk (and do yet more bouncy spiders!). When life is typically so busy, sharing such relaxed times with a book is such a treat.


Here I am with Kitty by the fish. Kitty liked that they were ‘gold’ fish! She can just about see through her mask here – the mask went on and off several times during the day as little ones played with her and generally had fun. Thanks to all who came along to see us!

We had a wonderful day at Waterstones Cheltenham and we can’t wait to come back for our festival event on Sunday 11th of October!