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Schoolchildren shocked to meet author idol behind How to Train Your Dragon at books project launch

Cressida Cowell looks at dragon journals created by the pupils of St Michael's Primary School in Highgate Cressida Cowell looks at dragon journals created by the pupils of St Michael's Primary School in Highgate

Sunday, July 13, 2014
8:00 AM

Schoolchildren were stunned to meet one of their idols at the launch of a London-wide project to celebrate reading, by creating dozens of book-shaped benches that capture the essence of Britain’s best-loved stories.

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Pupils from St Michael’s Primary School, in North Road, Highgate, travelled to London Bridge last week to see ornately decorated seats that have been dotted around London’s streets for a summer literacy campaign.

They had no idea they were also to meet children’s author Cressida Cowell, whose How to Train Your Dragon series the children have been studying all term.

English co-ordinator Rebecca Austin said: “We didn’t have any idea we were going to meet Cressida Cowell, so they were a bit overwhelmed.

“The questions they were coming out with were incredible.”

Ms Cowell read from one of her books at the launch event on Wednesday of last week before answering questions and looking at pupils’ hand-made dragon journals, which they have been writing this academic term.

Ms Cowell told the Ham&High: “I was so impressed by the St Michael’s children’s journals, each one lavishly covered in decorations and the children’s own illustrations.

“They asked highly intelligent questions, such as, ‘What did I feel about having my books made into movies?’ The answer to which is, I feel wonderful.”

Ms Cowell is one of several contemporaneous authors to be involved in the Books About Town project, which runs until September 15.

Her bench, created by artist Gerard Strong, shows a large blue dragon breathing fire as it raises its head above the ocean and sits near London Bridge station.

St Michael’s has been given its own book bench to decorate in what will become a dedicated reading space for children at the school.

Pupils in each year group will design book covers to decorate the bench, but teachers are calling on any local children’s authors or illustrators to help them design an inspirational seat.

Ms Austin added: “We really want to promote opportunities to read not just in the classroom but outside the classroom as well.

“Research from the National Literacy Trust reveals that children who read outside of the classroom are five times more likely to be above national expectations.”

The other benches, most of which pay homage to renowned children’s authors such as Jacqueline Wilson and J M Barrie, will be sold off at the end of the campaign to raise money for project organisers The National Literacy Trust, a charity that works to raise literacy levels in the UK.

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