M.G.Leonard: Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival

March 24, 2017 by

My house is full of beetle ‘knickery-knackeries’, and even a beetle teapot – beetles have taken over my life. If my beetles Motty and Hector could speak, they would ask for MORE strawberry jelly!

Beetle Boy is a children’s novel about an inquisitive and persistent thirteen-year-old who goes in search of his kidnapped father. In his search, he discovers the wondrous world of beetles, and a villainess with a startling and sinister interest in insects.

Before writing it, I hated all insects, I thought they were put on this planet just to scare me – I thought they all needed to be poisoned! It was Dr Sarah Beynon, entomologist who helped me overcome that fear. In three words, the book is: Dastardly. Action. Funny.

I’ve got so many beetle related things. I’ve got an entire wardrobe – and I mean an entire wardrobe of beetle themed clothing. The only item of clothing I don’t have that has beetles on it would be lingerie. There’s a huge gap in the market, clearly.
Through Sarah, who owns the Bug Farm with her partner who runs the onsite café-restaurant, I’ve eaten a variety of insects as an adult. If you know how to season them they’re quite delicious (the black ant crusted goat’s cheese and cricket cookies are some of their specialities.) However, my phobia of insects as a child would never have gotten me close to one, let alone to eat one.
I’ve been very fortunate to receive three letters from Sir David Attenborough and would love to ask him if he’s ever been frightened by any of the creatures he’s encountered, and how I could best help his endeavours to persuade people to conserve the wildlife that is left.

I discovered, after the publication of Beetle Boy, that entomology is an endangered science. There is currently no undergraduate course in the UK that will allow you to study insects. I have also encountered wonderful entomologists who work hard to get the message out about the importance of our relationship with insects, and consequentially I have become a passionate advocate for mini-beasts and the science of studying them.

I had to research a lot of Latin words for the novel and my favourite includes Coleoptera, which means ‘sheath wing’ and is the name given by Aristotle to describe beetles.
A museum to honour my life, would be an eclectic and weird place, filled with a lot of 16th century theatre, and a lot of ballet exhibitions. And of course, there would be an entire wing dedicated to beetles.

Children’s Literature has so much to offer – I’m currently reading the final book in the Geek Girl series by Holly Smale.
My youngest son is 3 and loves anything by Julia Donaldson, but other personal favourites are Oliver Jeffers’ books and Rob Biddulph. My oldest son is 11, and we read Wonder by R. J. Palacio together and I think it is incredible.
M.G. Leonard, author of the best-selling Beetle Boy and its sequel Beetle Queen will join forces with Pembrokeshire entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon on Sunday, March 26, to host a fact-filled bug-tastic workshop covering stats like bombardier beetles being able to shoot acid out of their own bottoms and rhinoceros beetles having the strength to lift 800 times their own body weight.

The latest chapter of Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival kicks off this weekend and is the bilingual festival’s biggest yet.

For the fifth year authors and illustrators will be making their words and pictures come to life with amazing tales and performances featuring a cast of wonderful characters.
Highlights include Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner Andy Stanton, festival favourite David Solomons, Hugless Douglas creator David Melling, the BBC’s Mike Dilger, Clara Vulliamy, and Anni Llŷn (Bardd Plant Cymru / Children’s Poet Laureate.)

Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival runs at iconic venues across the capital city for two weekends from March 25 – April 2. www.cardiff-events.

Photo David Myers

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