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Last but not least I

Edinburgh's book festival has again inspired young readers to find out more about the best writing, Karen Shead reports

On Tuesday this week, the sun was shining and children were scattered across the lawn of Charlotte Square Gardens, scarcely an adult in sight.

Gala Day at the Edinburgh International Book Festival is for primary schools only, so children can wander around freely in a safe environment.

They can choose to attend just one or two events from a total of 16, but many classes go for the whole day, taking packed lunches and squeezing in as many events as time allows.

Kicking off the morning were writer-in-residence Vivian French, S. F. Said, who was talking about Varjak Paw and kung fu for cats, and Joan Lingard, who has attended every book festival since it started 21 years ago.

Lingard read extracts from her novels Tug of War, Natasha's Will and Tell The Moon To Come Out. She talked about Rags and Riches, which is set in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, and gave her audience hints on how to write stories of their own. When it came to questions, there was a sea of hands from children keen to tell her about themselves and ask about her characters and books, her favourite stories and authors.

In other tents Pat Gerber was discussing environmental issues in her work and, in the imagination lab, Pam Wardell was helping children to create their own soundtrack using voices, music and sound effects.

Other favourites of the day included Aileen Paterson and Maisie the cat, and Itchy Coo writers Matthew Fitt and James Robertson performing their King O The Midden show, introducing the Boggin Beasties, Mrs Tam o' Shanter and some hairy oxters.

Their show was described in the programme in a way that could surely sum up the whole children's book festival: "a dynamic memorable experience for the modern wean".

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