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Book events

Remember the round window, the square window and the arched window in the BBC's Playschool? Opening this year's programme of Edinburgh International Book Festival schools' events, you will find countless windows on the world, each shaped by the personality and imagination of an author, poet or illustrator.

Here is the cuddly weirdness of Axel "The Gruffalo" Scheffler's view, the Jamaican exuberance of Valerie Bloom's poetic lens, the gentle but penetrating gaze of Mairi Hedderwick, creator of Katie Morag, the beguiling visions of Tim Bowler, author of Storm Catchers and Starseeker; and the burnished reality of children's laureate Michael Morpurgo's panoramic outlook.

Reading is not a substitute for life but it is a way of discovering realities. The book festival, which runs from tomorrow until August 25, opens wide the whole singing, dancing, whispering, shouting, laughing, crying, hating, loving match.

On August 21, 22 and 25, both primary and secondary pupils have a feast of author events to choose from. In addition, for the second year, the festival is open for an extra day to schools only and this year it is aimed specially at primaries.

Schools Gala Day is August 26, when a treasure chest of experiences opens up for primary pupils with a taste for adventure. They can write their own stories with the festival's writer-in-residence Vivian French, make pop-up and picture books with artist Rachel Hazell, explore the excesses of The Outernet galaxy with Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore, discover Roman life with artefacts expert and author Caroline Lawrence and join a jungle expedition with teacher and traveller Simon Chapman.

Fun and imagination are balanced on gala day by events which look at global realities. Dan Jones, an education officer for Amnesty International, is hosting a workshop on asylum and refugees, investigating statistics, politics and geography and following the story of a family fleeing oppression. Pupils will be asked to decide who should stay or go and will experience something of the immigration process.

Primary 6-7 pupils will have the opportunity to find out more about how government works with the Scottish Parliament education and outreach team.

It is hoped that MSPs will be available to discuss issues with pupils and there will be a chance to follow this up with a taste of life in the debating chamber.

Secondary pupils will warm to the books of Karen Wallace, a Canadian-born writer whose novels Raspberries on the Yangtze and Climbing a Monkey Puzzle Tree are informed by a childhood spent in a log cabin in the backwoods of Quebec. Her clear-sighted stories will fascinate all those facing the challenges of early teenage years.

Carnegie Medal winner Beverley Naidoo will open up new areas of experience to the same age group with her books about conflict and courage in South Africa. Anthony Horowitz will unveil the latest adventures of his teenage hero Alex Rider and talk about writing for television. In a session of badinage and debate, writers Julie Bertagna and Keith Gray will look at such issues as whether there really are boys' books and girls' books.

The festival is always delighted to welcome favourites such as Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo, but is also keen to introduce young readers to new voices. Kevin Brooks published his first novel, Martyn Pig, last year and his second, Lucas, in January. "I am so pleased he is coming to the festival," says children's programme director Karen Mountney. "It is great to be able to widen young people's reading and his books are just such a wonderful read."

She is also pleased at the inclusion of Cornelia Funke, one of Germany's best-selling children's authors. She has published more than 40 books but her magical detective thriller The Thief Lord, set in contemporary Venice, is the first to be published in English.

Of course, children don't have to rely on their school to take them to the festival. Every day there are children's events, ranging from a Tolkein workshop with model-making, readings and music, to a chance to wallow in the delights of the Scots language in the Itchy Coo's Manky Mingin Dinosaur Show!

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