Cressida Cowell - children's author, new Children's Laureate, old Marlburian - is coming to LitFest with her very new book

Written by Tony Millett on .

There is one visitor to the tenth Marlborough LitFest who is really very difficult to pigeonhole - Cressida Cowell.  The event in the Town Hall starring this very popular children's author on Saturday, September 28 - for eight year-olds and upwards - is already sold out.

After her talk, the author famed for her How to Train Your Dragon series, will no doubt be signing copies of her brand new children's a book.  This will be the third book in her Wizards of Once series - it's called Knock Three Times and is published on September 19. 

The queue at the LitFest Café to get copies signed, could well be joined by parents and grandparents wanting to talk her too.  She is the new Waterstone's Children's Laureate and has great advice about the importance of reading. 

She was appointed in July and has published her Laureate's Charter (see below) setting out what 'Every child has the right to...' as regards books and reading. 

Congratulating her on this appointment, picked up on her aim to make her role ‘fun’ and about the ‘magic' of reading.   How, we asked, will you spread this fun and magic around?

The magical Laureate medal of power will help to amplify my voice! And I’m also going to be asking my fellow authors and illustrators to spread the word with me. I also have Waterstones, Booktrust, the League of Laureates and my publisher to back me and help to implement the Laureate Charter, which I announced in July, asserting that the magic of books ought to be available to EVERY child.

Central to availability of books to all children has long been their local libraries - which have become a political issue. We asked whether she was prepared to - or planning to - enter the political fray?

No, but I am planning to work with policy-makers, campaigning to make school libraries statutory and making the argument that public libraries and librarians are still relevant in the modern world, and ought to be funded properly. There are plenty of people out there who still need them, even if they aren't the policy-makers.

Libraries aside, how can parents be persuaded that reading is vital to their child’s future?

It is my belief that the single most important thing you can do to help your child read for the joy of it is reading aloud to them. When you read aloud to your children you can read to their intelligence rather than their reading ability, they are physically close to you, and the shared joy sends a vital message: books are important, books are powerful, magical things, that can make your dad cry, or your mum laugh, and have the sort of wisdom in them that can change your life.

In her new book, Knock Three Times, Xar and Wish face their most dangerous task yet in their search for the last two ingredients of the LOVESPELL.  The book - complete with Cressida Cowell's trademark 'scratchy' illustrations - fizzes with magic and introduces a host of new characters, amongst them bears, 'piskies' and magical pins and needles. 

Cressida Cowell was a student at Marlborough College.  So, with tongue firmly in cheek, we asked: 'Do any of her characters or stories come from memories of her Marlborough school days?' 

Marlborough was my first exposure to how boys talked to one another, because prior to that I had been at all girls' schools, and my own brother was a lot younger than me. So the tone of the conversations between Hiccup and Fishlegs and both boys and Snotlout is very much based on my memory of how boys interacted at Marlborough.

I guess the character of Xar is also partly based on boys I remember from Marlborough who were often in trouble with the teachers. They MEANT well, but they acted first, and thought later... 

Her LitFest talk is for those who are 'eight and upwards ' - really?  Is there a limit about the 'and upwards' bit?  I would really like to hear about the LOVESPELL and the young heroes Xar and Wish.  But I'm too late - it's sold out.  Still, there are plenty of other events for children (and parents) this LitFest (26-29 September).

You can find details about them out at - and there you will also see how to book/buy tickets.