What teachers, parents and children say...

Debi visits Doncaster primary schools
This week, Doncaster Book Awards have been playing host to author Debi Evans as she made a series of visits to six primary schools around the Borough to talk about her ‘Adventures of Rolo’ series. I was fortunate enough to accompany her on one of the visits, to Saltersgate Junior School, a very enjoyable afternoon.

Despite the heat and the packed hall, the students were fascinated as they listened to Debi talk about how she became a writer, and most especially once she got on to the star of her current series of books, the wonderful Rolo, an amazing, time-travelling Jack Russell. Rolo the character is based on the real Rolo, a very cute Jack Russell whom Debi got as a rescue dog from Dog’s Trust. He is a real character, very funny and mischievous, and Debi explained how she got the idea to write about him when he ‘photobombed’ a photo session she was doing with a magazine journalist in her garden. The journalist was there to interview Debi about her previous series of books, the Dragon Protectors, but seeing how Rolo dominated the picture made Debi realise he would be a perfect subject for a new book and so the series was born.
Using a mixture of pictures of the real Rolo and illustrations from the four books, Debi spoke about how the series begins with Rolo discovering a secret trapdoor under her sink one night while the family were asleep upstairs and sneaking out to some nearby woods. There he discovered a very special tree, one with its own tree dragon, Athelstan. If that wasn’t amazing enough, Athelstan went on to tell Rolo that he is the chosen one, and that inside the tree is a magical time tunnel which he can use to go off on a series of amazing adventures!! As the series progressed, Rolo has visited, among others, Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age, been up in the very first ever balloon flight in France, brought along the football for the famous Christmas football match in WW1 and even met the Bard himself, William Shakespeare! Nowadays he also has his own blog which he sneaks on to Debi’s laptop to write when she is out of the room and even his own Twitter and Instagram accounts, so is a very busy little dog.
After the presentation, Debi took a series of great questions from her audience, who were keen to find out about the writing process and becoming an author, and also to know every single detail about Rolo himself! They even gave Debi some ideas for future stories, including having Rolo meet Nessie and Bigfoot. Debi was able to give a few writing tips too, including advising the children who wanted to write to keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas, to look at ordinary day-to-day things and events in their lives and think about how to make them extra-ordinary, and finally just to keep on writing, a little bit every day.

All in all, the whole afternoon was great fun and I am sure it won’t be long until we are inviting Debi, (and hopefully Rolo!) to come back to Doncaster for a return visit.

Lyn Hopson
Secretary, Doncaster Book Awards Ltd.

Schools visited; Denaby Main, Saltersgate Juniors, Hatchell Wood, Intake Primary, Tickhill Estfeld (Year 3) and Hexthorpe.

Visit to Hexthorpe Primary School 

'It was a pleasure to have you back Debi and thank you for inspiring the children yet again!  Huge thanks again for coming to work with our children'.  I bought a Rolo book for my son who is 12 and I can’t get him to switch his light off at night “just one more page Mum”! J, Abbott's Ann Primary School

'Thank you for getting my reluctant reader interested in books.' J. Parent, Inkpen school

Dear Debi, Just a quick note to say many thanks for sorting the book for my daughter G.   It made her Christmas and she was found tucked up on her bed reading it on Christmas day!  Already read twice she is now waiting with baited breath for the next book!

'Saw you in action at Ramsbury school,thought you were fab'.

Thank you for these ideas. I think the children were inspired by your writing and some have been busy writing already! It was lovely to meet you GP. Brinkworth

'It was a very engaging talk and a few teachers commented on how you engaged those children who find it difficult to concentrate or sit still for any amount of time. You wove  a kind of magic around them that many of us were jealous that we are not as successful as that to engage those children. Excellent'. SD Teacher, Rushall Wiltshire

'My daughter met Rolo and Debi today at Lethbridge school. She thinks Rolo is very cute, and has been inspired today - thank you'

'Debi is a speaker that we would thoroughly recommend for schools and adult groups'. URCHFONT WOMEN'S INSTITUTE

'I have just finished reading Rolo to my Brownies. They want to know when the next one is coming out!' JG Brown Owl.

Thank you so much for coming in yesterday - the children absolutely LOVED it and have come in this morning talking about it.  we would love to see you back here soon! Many thanks, Helen teacher

I just wanted to say thank you  for what your books have done for my son.  He is 9 an has Aspergers. He is a good reader but loses interested very easily. He came to watch you in the big hall at school which he hardly ever goes in with all the other children, for someone who doesn't do noise and crowds this is great and he now wants to write his own books. Thanks we are really grateful. parent, Weymouth

'Everyone at my school has got a book and actually I have never see my friends so happy to read a book and share how much chapters they have read. I think you have really impressed the school when you came in and you inspired me to write. You did a great job. Thank you and hope you write some more books because they are great'.  KS2 pupil 

@debievans7 my daughter has not stopped talking about your visit today! You have a new fan! Retweeted by A O’D

Thanks, Debi, I know everyone was enthralled by your stories. So glad you were able to share your talents with us. Head Kennet Valley School y

'Thank you so much for visiting our school. The world of education is a challenging place at the moment - with the current government changes to assessment, the curriculum and so many other things - teachers are often caught up in a whirlwind of assessment, data and Ofsted.

Today, however, was one of those wonderful moments that supersedes all of the bureaucracy and brings the purpose of our jobs sharply into focus: it's all about the children. Seeing the awe, wonder and curiosity on the faces of every single child as they listened to your talk was incredibly inspiring. It made me remember why we do our job - to create lasting memories and experiences that children will never forget. Today really was one of those moments. Thank you.

I was sitting next to a little boy who has a long history of challenging life experiences. I have never seen him so inspired, engaged and motivated. At lunch time, Rolo was the focus of most conversations and children were discussing his time-travelling adventures. Your talk has not only inspired the children to read your books, but also to write! A girl in my class has already written a chapter ofher dragon based story...' F D teacher Wessex Primary School 

Debi Evans Signing Books in School