Friday 29 December 2006
As a fan of Tom's Midnight Garden, I once went to hear Philippa Pearce [obituary by Nicholas Tucker, 23 December] reading from that great book at Book House in Wandsworth,
writes Samuel West, but through an accident of planning I was the only teenager there. The place was, however, full of five-year-olds.
Rather than balk at an unexpectedly young audience, Philippa got the children to make up a story, which she told as they went along. All the children's suggestions were incorporated and a thicket of hands shot up as they realised that they were doing the writing. We ended up with a mad tale about a handsome princess losing her kite, and a prince frightened of a maneater (which turned out to be a misheard manatee, much less frightening).
Throughout, she wove the suggestions with wit, good humour and patience; the children were entranced.
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