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World Book Day: Cressida Cowell chats to the Recorder ahead of Stratford talk

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 March 2017

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell will introduce young readers to the characters of her new series at Stratford Library today, as part of the Discover Children's Story Centre's World Book Day celebrations. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown

How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell will introduce young readers to the characters of her new series at Stratford Library today, as part of the Discover Children's Story Centre's World Book Day celebrations. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown

© Debra Hurford Brown

A charming tale of a dragon named Toothless and his human friend Hiccup landed in bookshops in 2003, ready to entice young readers with a dynamic blend of fantasy and adventure.

America Ferrera attending the How to Train Your Dragon 2 gala screening. Picture: Suzan Moore/EmpicsAmerica Ferrera attending the How to Train Your Dragon 2 gala screening. Picture: Suzan Moore/Empics

Author Cressida Cowell had no expectations, proud to have had her first fiction book, How to Train Your Dragon, published.

Fast-forward 14 years, and the story has spawned 11 sequels (and other related works), a television series and two motion pictures, with a third due to follow in 2019.

And that’s not the end of the excitement, as Cowell is publishing a brand new series in the autumn, set in the Iron Age, which she is speaking about for the first time at the Discover Children’s Story Centre’s World Book Day event today.

The author told the Recorder: “It’s the beginning of a new era, I’d written picture stories before but How to Train Your Dragon was my only fiction series.

Cressida Cowell attending the How to Train Your Dragon 2 gala screening. Picture: Suzan Moore/EmpicsCressida Cowell attending the How to Train Your Dragon 2 gala screening. Picture: Suzan Moore/Empics

“It’s a big day for me, launching it on World Book Day. It’s really exciting.”

Cowell, who lives in London, has always loved transporting herself to other worlds through books, but had no idea that she would go on to such spectacular success.

“I was just happy to have my books published, I wasn’t expecting How to Train Your Dragon to be at all successful,” she said. “I suppose you don’t really think about it.

“When I was a child, I loved writing stories and read a lot. I spent a lot of time in Scotland on this island where we didn’t have a telly and so I read masses, all sorts of different things. I loved Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and fantasy series like that. Lots of fantasy, lots of adventure, Enid Blyton... All these books were what I wanted to do as a writer.

The Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford is hosting a full programme of World Book Day activities. Picture: Isabel InfantesThe Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford is hosting a full programme of World Book Day activities. Picture: Isabel Infantes

“But I would have been amazed to know that I was going to be a writer, I wouldn’t have believed you at all. That’s what I want to convey to children.”

Four-hundred youngsters will descend on Stratford Library, The Grove, at 10.30am today for Cowell’s session, part of a day of fun the Discover Centre is hosting for the 20th World Book Day.

“The new series is not coming out until September, so I’m just going to be giving them a taste, introducing them to the main characters and sharing illustrations,” said Cowell.

“It will mostly be about my How to Train Your Dragon books. I’ve kept quiet all this time about the new series, which is quite amazing, I find it hard to keep secrets! It’s great getting children excited about stories and ideas.”

The author has been a keen supporter of the Discover Children’s Story Centre, High Street, Stratford, since it launched and always enjoys sharing her work – which is designed to be read aloud – with youngsters.

“It’s lovely, they are incredibly honest and have bright ideas, they are very, very smart. You can be looking at the environment, or what it means to be a leader, and kids just respond to it.

“Once, I was giving a talk in the centre and was drawing Toothless the dragon. This two or three-year-old said, ‘It’s a giraffe!’, he was so excited. I love that about kids, it was good fun.”

With the 20th World Book Day upon us, Cowell has spoken of the important work it does: “I love World Book Day, it’s not only about celebrating books and getting children excited about stories, it’s also about every single primary school child getting a book to keep, which I think is an amazing thing.

“I love films and the telly as well, but with books you have to use your own imagination: that’s really good for sparking creativity in kids, even if you don’t go into my line of work imagination is so important.

“Books should be for everybody.”

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