MG Leonard Visits St. Mary's

On Friday 19th May we were thrilled to be visited at school by MG Leonard, author of “Beetle Boy” and new title “Beetle Queen”.
MG Leonard arrived with the Mainstreet Trading Book Van, a custom-converted ex-fire engine that serves as a magical pop-up bookshop and place to chat with writers. Hot on her heels were children from Gordon and Langlee Primary Schools, who joined Forms 4 – 6 in the Morrison Hall for a whole morning of writing chat and beetle education.

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We learned how MG Leonard’s original idea for “Beetle Boy” evolved and changed as she adventured through her fascinating creative process; we also learned that it took fourteen drafts to get it ready, which made all of us feel a bit better about not creating perfect stories on the first attempt.
Having discovered that the definition of a beetle is an insect with two overlapping pairs of wings, one hard and one soft, we delved into their world, including that of the most vital of creepy-crawlies, the humble dung beetle. Via a colourful and attention-grabbing presentation, MG Leonard taught us about battling stag beetles, beetles who can attach themselves to leaves via static electricity, beautiful jewel beetles who bend light to appear iridescent, and fireflies, who glow as they zip about the sky. She showed us the life cycle of a stag beetle, including the amazing transformation they undertake during their metamorphosis from larva to beetle. We felt a little sorry for them, given that they spend five years eating mouldy leaves underground in preparation for only a few short weeks as an adult beetle, and will be sure to remember the instruction NEVER to step on a stag beetle as a result.
The use of beetles in fashion was a theme of MG Leonard’s talk – from Ellen Terry’s incredible beetlewing Lady Macbeth dress, to some of Lady Gaga’s costumes in the modern day – and a very relevant one, given that the villain of “Beetle Queen”, Lucretia Cutter, is a fiendish fashionista. While some of us could imagine wearing the delicate, shimmery dresses, only a minority were prepared to accept that (intentionally!) eating insects would become an everyday occurrence in the future. MG Leonard strolled around the room popping crickets in her mouth as she explained how brilliant a food source creepy-crawlies are: healthy, economical and environmentally sound. She made it look super-cool… maybe we will convince Cheffy to rustle up some cricket-burgers?
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Everyone had a chance to ask plenty of questions about bugs and books, but the best bit of the morning was when MG Leonard read to us. Using all her dramatic flair, she brought the scene of the starlet trying on the ‘Snow White’ beetle dress to life fantastically, and everyone sat on the edge of their seats.
Plenty of children were picking up copies of “Beetle Boy” and “Beetle Queen” from the Mainstreet Van after the event: if your child was one of them, I’d heartily recommend pinching the book for a read once they’re done. This was a really inspiring and imagination-firing event, and we are very grateful to MG Leonard for stopping off at St. Mary’s, and to Mainstreet Trading Company for bringing her.
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Miss E. Simpson

Jules Birdsall, 23/05/2017