The winners of the Junior School 500-word short story competition all received their prize today – a trip to Meet The Author events at Derby Book Festival.

The six winners from Years 5 and 6 met Joseph Coelho this morning at Derby Theatre. He talked about his books and tested the boys’ knowledge on collective nouns. Who knows what a group of bears is called? Danny did, it’s a sloth.

He then talked about his book A Year of Nature Poems which has a poem for each month of the year based on his childhood memories. He told the boys about what happened and how some of the things he experienced influenced his writing – like frogs in February, camping in July and apple scrumping in September.

Joseph spent time signing autographs for the boys and answering their questions. George (Year 5) said: “I’ve really enjoyed it, it was interesting to hear his stories and how he became an author.”

Iósaif (Year 5) added: “I asked him if he ever needed any extra help with spelling when he is writing. He said he had people that helped him with that if he needed it.”

The Year 3 and 4 boys met Jeanne Willis later in the day who inspired them all with tales of the animals who appear in her stories, most of which she keeps as pets. She showed boys the photos of them all and even had some props that she pulled out of a box, like snake skins and a rhinoceros beetle (which was not alive!). She also had soft toys: a tadpole that turned inside out to be a frog and a pupa that changed into a beautiful butterfly.

She read to the audience from her book, Bog Baby, before answering their questions.

Daniel (Year 4) asked her what her favourite book was when she was a child. Her answer was that it was Charlotte’s Web, because it was about a spider.

Charlie (Year 3) said: “She started writing when she was five and has written over 400 books. I liked seeing all of the animals she showed us.”

Mrs Sly, Head of Primary School, said: “It was a wonderful day for both groups of boys. They were so inspired by the authors.

Reading is so important and our boys all read widely and create some magical stories. We were delighted to purchase some books from each author to add to our school library. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and enjoyed seeing the boys absolutely entranced by each author!”