This is a very belated post. We actually went to the Gala last Thursday. When I say ‘we’, I mean me and Alex. Because my husband was actually invited too! Woo! It’s a rare and lovely thing.
Which brings me to the invitation. It arrived in a bottle. Wrapped up in straw in a box. A message in a bottle. It was SO. EXCITING. But to what? And why?
Turned out, it was a bash organised by The Book People, to celebrate children’s books. They held it as part of a festival at the Royal Festival (appropriately enough) Hall. And it was for ‘the great and the good’ of children’s publishing. And, apparently, me and Alex. No idea how we made the list. Don’t care. It was a chance to don our gladrags, stand *this far* from Patrick Ness and Michael Morpurgo, admire Philip Ardagh’s umbrella, see Jackie Wilson (Dame Jacqueline to you and me) sneak off early, chat – actually CHAT – to Robert Muchamore over a James And The Giant Peach Bellini and eat food provided by Jamie Oliver.
Here’s what it looked like:
There were about 400 of us there, and it was lavish. Children’s publishing doesn’t do lavish outside of Harry Potter movies, but on Thursday they did lavish in spades. The attention to detail was amazing. The canapes were based on Captain Pugwash (or Treasure Island, can’t remember: they were sea-based, anyway). The wine said ‘Drink Me’. The pudding was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There were colour-themed candles and sweetie jars on every table.
And there were speeches. Lots of speeches. Lots and lots and lots of speeches. (The best one was by Anthony Horowitz.) All about books and reading and how important it is for children to have a chance to read books they love. And that was really what we all had in common: passion for children reading.
Which I think is why, despite ourselves, we love The Book People. And the general feeling at my end of the table anyway, was that, despite ourselves, we do. One of the reasons they can afford to be so lavish is that they sell books at a massive discount, which means our royalties from them are not lavish at all. But the reason they are so successful is that they pick books that people want to read, and they back them, and they make them really affordable, and easy to find (you may have seen them in your school or office), and package them beautifully. And it’s hard to have a problem with that.
In my case, they were the first to sell the Threads trilogy as a series, beautifully wrapped, for £4.99. Which meant I could tell children who’d loved Threads in their local library that they could get all three. So much more appealing to the author than some other booksellers (not my favourite independents), who thought it would be a good idea to sell book 3 on its own, without access to the other 2, and drove this particular author INSANE with why-the-hell-would-you-do-that frustration.
Seni and Ted, the movers and shakers behind The Book People, love books, and on Thursday it showed. A whole bunch of book-making people loved them back. And then, after all the speeches, we said goodbye to our friends, moved out into the starry London night, hoped that one day there would be another night like this, and went home.