On Saturday 19th September, I spent the afternoon at one of my favourite places in the world, The Story Museum. I work there as a volunteer, and that day, I was particularly glad that I did, because that was the afternoon that Chris Riddell came to visit.
I’ll admit it – I was distraught when Malorie Blackman’s tenure as Children’s Laureate came to an end. But however distraught I was, I was equally overjoyed when it was announced that Chris Riddell would be stepping into her shoes. (Not literally. That would be rather unlikely).
I’d seen Chris Riddell’s illustrations all over the bookshops I visited and the stories I read. I also got to watch him drawing live, at a fantastic event where Neil Gaiman read his novella Fortunately, The Milk. I was blown away by how quickly he could put together a beautiful drawing – and then move on to another one as the story shifted.
So, I knew I’d probably see some fantastic live-drawing on the 19th. What I didn’t realise was that Chris Riddell has another talent. He can not only draw while doing a talk – he can be incredibly funny at the same time. Mr Riddell isn’t just a brilliant artist, he’s what I suppose I would have to call a sit-down comedian, telling (and drawing!) anecdotes that had us all giggling. My favourite one was his tale of how a German friend of the family, having slightly mixed up her words, congratulated him heartily on becoming the new ‘Children’s Launderette’. This was accompanied by a drawing of Chris Riddell with an overflowing washing basket, filled with the dirty laundry of all the previous Children’s Laureates, including Michael Rosen’s trousers and Malorie Blackman’s pants. The children in the audience were in stitches, and the adults weren’t too far off.
At the end of the talk, several of the kids in the audience were invited up to the front to show the characters that they’d been drawing throughout the event. (Most of them had done aliens, because, well, why wouldn’t you draw aliens?) Chris Riddell chatted to each and every one of them, and talked around their characters in a way that brought them even more vividly to life. I kind of wish I’d been able to scribble down a sketch while I’d been listening. Mind you, I think I would have stood out a little amongst all the six-to-ten-year-olds.