Hundreds of Cramlington children have been given a special insight into their new school, as well as the world of an award-winning author of murder mystery novels.
American-born Robin Stevens – who is working on the sixth book in the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries – was the ninth writer to visit Cramlington Learning Village this year. She told students from Cragside, Hareside and Shanklea primary schools how she developed a love of adventure and mystery stories when she was very young.
She had nobody to play with at the Oxford University college where her father was the master. “But I found lots of friends in the books I read by writers such as Enid Blyton,” she said.
She was sent to Cheltenham Ladies College – which she described as “like Hogwarts, but no magic and no boys.” – where she started reading stories about Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. “I loved these books but they were about old people. Wouldn’t it be good if there were stories for kids?” said Robin. “Nobody had done it, so that’s what I decided to do after university.”
Her books are set in the 1930s in a school based on Cheltenham Ladies College. Her detectives are pupils called Daisy and Hazel who, in the first story, investigate the murder of the science mistress. “My books are full of nice cakes and food, as well as deaths,” she said.
Students from town’s primary schools were invited to meet Robin during one of their transition visits to Cramlington Learning Village. “It’s an incredibly beneficial experience for them and really whets their appetite for what’s to come for them at this school,” said Caroline Bilton, the assistant head teacher at Cragside Church of England School.
Cramlington Learning Village has worked in partnership with Blackwell’s bookshop in Newcastle to organise the appearances of Robin and her fellow writers who – over the past few months – have included Alex Wheatle, Alex Scarrow, Siobhan Curham, Abi Elphinstone, David Solomons, Liz Kessler, Teri Terry and Chloe Daykin.
“It means every Key Stage 3 student has met at least one author this year. Our message is that it’s not just about reading for the sake of it, it’s about creating enthusiasm for reading and introducing students to a wide range of books they might enjoy. If students learn to love reading then their achievement will improve,” said Cramlington Learning Village librarian, Eileen Armstrong.
Robin Stevens, who earlier this month received an award for the best children’s crime novel, said: “I really like meeting fans and readers. Telling young people about books and getting them excited about detection is one of the best things I do.”