Hello world. Again. Nevermind a winter hibernation. I needed a long sabbatical. But I’m back. That is, until my next hibernation/sabbatical.
I started volunteering at the V&A Museum of Childhood. When my fellow volunteers started talking about the current exhibition, Daydreams and Diaries: The Story of Jacqueline Wilson, I asked who she was. “YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF JACQUELINE WILSON?” they both said in unison. Reminding them I was born and raised in the US, they immediately removed the shock from their faces and proceeded to explain who she was. Wilson is a children’s writer, and millions of children grew up reading her books, including my fellow volunteers. She’s still writing and will soon release her 100th book so girls today are still reading her books. I thought back to books I read as a child – Nancy Drew, Goosebumps (just found out a Goosebumps film will be made and will be released 2016!), and Babysitters Little Sister (a spin-off from The Babysitter’s Club). I remember with the latter series, one book in particular I read was about the main character, Karen, having to get glasses. It was that moment I wanted to get glasses too. I even made glasses out of construction paper to wear. Although I still like wearing glasses in a fashionable since, I do wish I could tell my 8 year old self how much it is a nuisance not being able to see. However, I do look pretty cool in them.
Back to Wilson, I watched a BBC Breakfast interview with Wilson (at the Museum of Childhood) and I’m always amazed when writers are motivated to write every day. It’s taken me weeks to write this blog post!
I saw the exhibition for the first time the other week – starting off with her childhood including a replica of her room, then describing her move from the south of England to Scotland at just 17 to become a writer for a teen magazine called Jackie. Which reminds me – I had drinks with my colleagues and one of them revealed that Flash Art (a magazine that focuses on contemporary art) agreed to feature his first article – they didn’t realise he was only 17 year old and found out when he asked them to write out a cheque to one of his parents as he didn’t have a bank account.
Back to the exhibition, it also focused on some of Wilson’s characters such as Tracy Beaker, Hetty Feather, and The Illustrated Mum. In conjunction with the latter character, I thought it was so cool and almost daring to have an activity encouraging children to draw their own tattoos. Although the exhibition was about this well-known children’s writer, it also featured Nick Sharatt, the illustrator of Wilson’s books, and visitors were given the opportunity to trace some of Sharatt’s illustrated characters including one of Wilson herself (complete with her fingers full of large rings – her trademark look). Visitors ranged from babies throwing around plush toys and children who were obviously fans to even adults who came to visit for pure nostalgia. One child in particular told me she didn’t read her books but wanted to start reading them after visiting the exhibition.
The last part of the exhibition featured some of the letters and gifts Wilson received throughout the years. As a 30-something year old being introduced to this author for the first time, I wondered if I missed out as a child. But would I have enjoyed her books? Some of the topics Wilson has also written about are quite difficult but important – divorce, death, abuse, and mental illness. I’m glad there are children books that address these topics.
A fun and inspiring retrospective exhibition – Wilson must be proud of her career. This is a lighthearted break from the at times self-absorbed and convoluted contemporary art scene I’m used to.