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Favourite authors open up about books

Pupils anxious to know the fate of Harry Potter, or to find out what inspired his bestselling creator, are to have the opportunity to pose their questions to the one person able to answer accurately.

To mark World Book Day, on March 4, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, is to take part in a one-hour online chat. Pupils across the country are invited to submit questions they would like Ms Rowling to answer, and the 12 winning entries will be thrown at her during the online session.

Angela Loughlin, librarian at Leyland St Mary's comprehensive, in Lancashire, will be encouraging her pupils to enter. She said: "Children love talking about Harry Potter and what's going to happen in the next book. This enables them to get involved, to feel like they have a stake in the books."

This is an idea that Year 10 pupil Siobhan Gough, 14, welcomes. "Before Harry Potter, I didn't read at all," she said. "But Harry Potter is amazing. I'd love to speak to JK Rowling and find out whether anything happened in her life to inspire her."

World Book Day was launched last year, when online author conversations attracted participants from more than 60 countries.

This year, the JK Rowling chat will open a series of internet discussions, held throughout the day. Participating authors include children's writer Jacqueline Wilson and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

Sue Stewart, festival manager for World Book Day, hopes that these discussionswill encourage pupils to see authors as fellow readers, rather than inaccessible celebrities.

She said: "Writers aren't born out of fairy dust. They have a reading life, which evolves as they grow. We hope children will be inspired to read their favourite author's favourite book, and to broaden their reading horizons."

But broad reading horizons are not limited to World Book Day participants.

Silv Harrison, languages teacher at North Manchester high, has won 100 books in a prize draw at the British Library, held as part of the BBC's Big Read campaign.

She has been presented with every novel in a list of 100 favourites, nominated by public vote. BBC viewers will vote for their best-loved novel on December 13. Miss Harrison said: "I am delighted with the prize. But there will be an awful lot of reading ahead of me."

And a number of recommended children's authors were also rewarded this week, when food manufacturer Nestle presented its Smarties prize for children's literature (see Friday magazine, p17).

At a ceremony in London on Monday, SF Said, former speechwriter for the Crown Prince of Jordan, was awarded a gold medal for his first novel, Varjak Paw. The book tells the story of a kitten who learns martial arts.

Other gold medal winners included David Almond, whose first children's novel, Skellig, was an international bestseller.

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