On the 16th June 2007 Val and Gumdrop visited Newbury and I received this e-mail from Denise who is the Children's Specialist at Borders Books, Newbury and who arranged the visit.
The staff and customers of Borders Newbury waited with eager anticipation on Saturday, as they knew that Val Biro would be visiting the store with Gumdrop.Many fans, old and young, were there, some of them clutching Gumdrop books from their childhood days. Val had signed some of these books many years ago and now the children of those children were here to get their own book and have it signed too. Val met up with a friend, Clive, who was bringing his own vintage Austin from his collection. This was a 1938 Austin London taxicab called Jones, Gumdrop approached through the car park just after noon and there was much excitement. I can’t deny that I shed a few tears of joy at seeing Gumdrop again after so many years. The two cars parked and we unloaded the projector, screen and other bits and pieces that Val had brought with him and set everything up in store. Although we were not due to start until 1pm, we had attracted quite a crowd and Val was happy to sit and chat and tell little stories to the waiting children and parents. He signed some of the books that had been brought in and even did a little sketch in one of them. At 1pm Val started his address to the crowd that had gathered. The seats were filled and there were many people standing. He talked about Gumdrop and drew a picture, which I had hoped to own at the end of the day, but when he invited a young girl up to draw on Gumdrop’s horn, I felt that she should take the picture home with her. I knew the picture was going to a good home as I had got to know the young girls mother, Helen, and knew she was a big fan. Val then told two stories with the help of the projector for everyone to see the pictures. He told the story of ‘Gumdrop finds a Ghost’ which appears to be everyone’s favourite and he told the story of ‘Gumdrop and the Dinosaur’ The children and adults alike were captivated with the stories and I don’t think any of us wanted them to end. I know I could sit and listen to Val tell his stories all day.
The children were eager to join in and answered questions with enthusiasm. They were particularly delighted when he showed them Gumdrops horn and how it could make a noise like a trumpeting elephant.After the stories, Val chatted with his fans giving each person as much time as they wanted and signed books old and new. He was happy to have his photo taken and answer the many questions that he was asked. He even signed the dozen old books that I had brought in. Before he left, he gave members of the Borders staff a trip in Gumdrop. This fulfilled a lifelong ambition of mine and I couldn’t have been happier. Val is a generous, kind, lovable gentleman and we hope to have him back in Borders at Newbury next spring when his ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ should be published. As Val left in Gumdrop, I’m afraid I shed a few more tears, this time of sadness that such a glorious day had ended. The day will stay in my memory as one of the best ever. I cannot thank Val enough for making it such a wonderful event. I hope you can use the attached photographs for your web page.
Denise JinksChildren’s specialist at Borders, Newbury.