Author SF Said discusses his work with Year 4 pupils from Croydon ‘Varjak Paw’ won the Smarties Prize Gold Award; but what makes it such a good book? The author, SF Said, spends an afternoon with Year 4 teacher Carl Taylor and his class at Applegarth Junior School, Croydon. All big fans, the children introduce the book for us and seize the opportunity to ask SF about his inspirations. The children explain their identification with some of the characters; Guardian critic and CLPE co-director Julia Eccleshare comments on the strengths of these books in particular and on the role of fiction in children’s lives.

SF deconstructs some of Dave McKean’s powerful and cinematic illustrations, and explains some of the roots and resonances of the big themes of trust, authority and friendship. Discussion ranges from gang war and fascism to the muppets as he and Carl ‘do the voices’ and read aloud to the children, who have the last word on the moral of the story.

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