All About Dave Cousins
Abandoning childhood plans to be an astronaut – or Batman – Dave Cousins went to art college in Bradford, joined a band and was nearly famous. His writing career began aged ten, drawing comics and penning lyrics for an imaginary pop group. Dave says that reading and writing stories helped him navigate the bumpy roads of teenage life and hopes that his own books will play a similar role for today’s readers.
Dave’s books have been hailed as “teen realism with action, humour and heart”. Published in over twelve languages, 15 Days without a Head was a Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, a Junior Library Guild Selection in the US, and has won awards in both the UK and Europe. Waiting for Gonzo won the Grampian Children’s Book Award, and was shortlisted for the prestigious German Children’s Literature Prize in 2017. Gonzo also has its own original soundtrack album and music videos! Both books were nominated for the Carnegie Medal.
Dave is also the author/illustrator of the Charlie Merrick’s Misfits series – highly illustrated novels for slightly younger, or less confident, readers. The first Charlie Merrick’s Misfits adventure Fouls, Friends & Football was described as “football—Tom Gates style”. It was selected for the Book Trust School Library Programme and the First Minister’s Reading Challenge in Scotland. The next installment, I’m a Nobody, Get Me Out of Here! was chosen as one of The Times Best Summer Reads.
Dave’s School Visits
Dave’s events have been described as “stand-up with books”, or as one student put it: “well funny!” A mix of anecdotes, pictures, readings and leaping about, with the underlying message that we all have a story to tell, and if one ordinary bloke from Birmingham can achieve his childhood dream—anyone can!
Dave works mainly with Key Stage 3 and older Key Stage 2 pupils (years 5 and 6). He has over six years experience of presenting to audiences at schools, libraries and festivals all over the UK and abroad.
Dave invites pupils to follow his journey to becoming an author: from ambitions of joining the NASA space program and making comics in his bedroom, to writing songs and forming a band. They will hear about the moment Dave discovered that books were like opening a ‘magic escape hatch’, and how it took years of stubbornly getting up at 5am and learning to ‘sleep-type’ before his first book was published. Dave will share the sometimes heart-breaking, often hilarious, true events that inspired his books, and give a reading before rounding off with a Q&A session.
Talks are designed to run for approximately an hour, but can be adapted to suit your timetable. Dave is happy to talk to as many students as you can fit into the available space, and will be delighted to spend time signing books and chatting to students over lunch or at break-time. He brings free postcards to every event so that all pupils can take something away whether they buy a book or not.
Requirements: Dave likes to show a few images during the talk which he will bring on a USB stick, so access to a laptop/screen/projector is useful.
Dave’s writing workshops are designed to help students generate and develop ideas, with tips on how to get their stories down on paper, and what to do if they get stuck! Starting with a prompt that draws on personal experience, Dave encourages the students to write a story they have a real connection with, in a genre they would like to read. The group then discuss and brainstorm ideas, before moving onto Dave’s ‘scene checklist’ which includes using the senses, and characters’ wants and fears to spark ideas and get writing. The session ends with some individual writing, before a share and feedback session to finish.
In his drawing workshops, Dave outlines the process he uses for the Charlie Merrick stories, then shares a few simple tricks for creating different characters and expressions. He explains how drawing a character can be the starting point for developing story ideas and invites pupils to have a go. For students who think they can’t draw—Dave will demonstrate how everyone can tell a story using simple stick people and the secret of the “magic eyebrows”! In Dave’s comic drawing sessions, pupils learn the basic storytelling building blocks in order to create their own single page comic adventure.
Workshops are designed to run for approximately an hour, but can be adapted to suit your timetable. Ideal group size – 15-20 students (max 30).
Requirements: A whiteboard or flipchart is useful, plus paper for the students and a room in which they can work comfortably. Dave will provide all other resources needed for the session.
Visit http://www.davecousins.net/schools-events/ to download a number of FREE resources—library posters, class reading notes, activity sheets, and writing tips.
An example day could run as follows:
Session 1: talk to year 7 full year group in the hall
Session 2: talk to year 8 full year group in the hall
Session 3: workshop with selected year 7 students in the library or classroom
Session 4: workshop with selected year 8 students in the library or classroom
(Plus book-signing/informal chat/meet with book group over lunchtime/break)
Dave suggests that workshops are more effective when the students have already seen the talk as this helps to put Dave and the work into context for the participants.
“teen realism with action, humour and heart.”
“15 DAYS WITHOUT A HEAD” (11+) Key stage 3 (real-life, action, humour, family)
Dave’s debut novel about two brothers fighting to keep their family together, was a Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week, and has won awards in both the UK and Europe. Author Paula Rawsthorne described it as: “a tough tale with humour, warmth, and a cast of beautifully depicted characters” — which sums it up rather nicely!
“Incredible lightness of touch and humour but also seriously weighty . . . reminded me a lot of Frank Cottrell Boyce.” Anthony McGowan
“Great characters, snappy dialogue and most importantly, huge of heart. Magic.” Phil Earle
“Some books you read and find entertaining. And some books you read and never forget. This is one I will have in my mind for a long time.” Paula Hardiman
“I want to put this book in every teenager’s hand.” Serendipity Reviews
“This heartfelt well-told debut is a delight.” Nicolette Jones, The Sunday Times
WAITING FOR GONZO (11+) Key stage 3 (real-life, action, humour, family)
The story of a 13-year-old disaster magnet called Oz, who learns that sometimes even the biggest mistakes can turn out to be for the best. Waiting for Gonzo won the Grampian Children’s Book Award and was shortlisted for the prestigious Deutscher Jugendliteratur Preis in Germany. It also has its own original soundtrack album and music videos!
“Dave Cousins applies his subtle, humorous touch to big issues in this wonderfully fun, yet poignant, novel.” Keith Gray, The Scotsman
“Simultaneously funny and thought-provoking.” Booktrust
Both books were nominated for the Carnegie Medal.
Classroom notes can be downloaded at https://www.davecousins.net/downloads/
CHARLIE MERRICK’S MISFITS (8-12) Key stage 2 & 3 (Humour, action, friendship, football, adventure) Highly illustrated. Popular with fans of Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates.
The first Charlie Merrick’s Misfits adventure FOULS, FRIENDS & FOOTBALL was described as “football—Tom Gates style”, and saw Dave return to his first love: drawing and writing about the beautiful game. While proving to be a winner with football obsessed readers, the story is ultimately about friendship, and has been enjoyed by non-football fans also!
“Football fans, and even those who aren’t , will be delighted by Charlie Merrick’s Misfits in Fouls, Friends, and Football.’ Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian Children’s Books
“Full of action, both on and off the pitch, this book is bang on target.”
ReadingZone (5 star review)
The next instalment, I’M A NOBODY, GET ME OUT OF HERE! was chosen as one of The Times Best Summer Reads. The story finds Charlie and the gang stranded at a bush-craft and survival training camp, and features a number of real survival tips.
“Fun, gung-ho stuff with great cartoons and endearing characters.”
The Times (Best Summer Reads)
“Funny, accessible and deliciously irreverent . . . perfect for thrill-seeking boys and girls of all reading abilities.” Lancashire Evening Post
“Brilliant! An inspiring performance that really engaged the students.”
Janet Rothwell, LRC Manager, Langley Grammar School
“Seeing 200 faces rapt, involved and amused by Dave talking about his inspiration for writing was a joy. Introducing them to new books in such a lively manner will undoubtedly lead to more reading enjoyment.”
Hilary Sutton, Librarian, Bishop Stopford School, Northamptonshire
“Dave Cousins was funny and energetic, engaging with the year 7s and holding their attention for the whole hour. They were so inspired that we sold out of his books and have had to buy many more copies for the library. Thank you so much.”
Susannah Phillips, Librarian, Skinners’ Academy, London
“My son, in year 8, absolutely loved Dave’s visit and talk. This is a fantastic way to inspire young people. Well done CVC.”
Parent of a student at Cottenham Village College
“I enjoyed the workshop because it was fun and I enjoyed learning new techniques to make my story interesting.”
Year 7 student, Lawn Manor Academy, Swindon
“Dave Cousins was very generous with his time and made some really honest comments about being a writer – something that is always valued by students. It was a very useful experience with some great insights being offered for all budding writers.”
Louise Sautschak, Librarian, Northwood School
To Make a Booking
To make an enquiry about Dave Cousins, or any of the other authors, poets & illustrators listed on this website, please phone Trevor Wilson on +44 (0) 1535 656015, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org