The Power of Books

Imagine being told that a multi-award winning author was visiting your school… In order to launch Book Week next week and as we study Varjak Paw, I had organised for SF Said to visit.

The excitement of SF Said’s forthcoming visit was too much for some of our pupils to contain. They had been whispering in the playground and in corridors for weeks! SF Said’s celebrity status spread through the school, like wildfire. I was slightly nervous about containing the excitement but need not have worried.

On the morning of his arrival, pupils were squealing with delight and literally jumping up and down. Their enthusiasm became infectious and this developed into a huge buzz of hysteria.

A few days earlier I’d asked my class if they were going to buy some books and I noticed that one boy did not raise his hand. I asked him why, to which he replied that they did not have enough money. I had to do something about this, so I explained why it was important to read and thought that I may well have to intervene. 

We entered that hall still squealing as the classes began settling down. As SF Said started talking, a calmness descended and the pupils were hanging on his every word.

The entire visit was inspirational but my favourite part was when he explained how he got his first book published. It took him five years to write his first book, Varjak Paw and he had to edit it eleven times.

Realising the importance of editing, the pupils continued to sit in silence, with the occasional gasp of awe and wonder. Then came the best bit, SF had to go to ninety publishers with his book and each one refused to publish his book! Ninety publishers!!!! I could see the shock spread over their faces, including the staff’s faces.


The ninety first publisher eventually published Varjak Paw. SF explained the importance of never giving up. Look where he was now, with a fourth book on the way.  Not only were the pupils inspired but so were the staff, myself included. As adults, we also need to be inspired.

When the round of questions began, one of the pupils asked what SF stood for. SF explained that it was a long Arabic name. You can predict the next question, with 98% of our pupils being Muslim, they asked if SF was Muslim, to which he replied, yes.Well that was it, they had found something in common with an author and his celebrity status increased even further in their eyes.

After having a questioning round, the pupils could not stop clapping. They clapped three times for him. I had never seen them do that before, for any visitor. But this was not any visitor, this was an author.

As we left the hall, they crowded around him and we had to prise them away, with great difficulty.

My son with SF Said

I was not only surprised by the number of pupils and staff, who bought a book that day, but also by their enthusiasm. It was like we had a pop star in the building!
The next day pupils and staff could not stop talking about the visit.

One of the teachers had bought a signed copy for her son (he is only in year 2!). He was so inspired that he read Varjak Paw in one evening!

Thank you SF for your inspirational visit. Thank you to all AUTHORS out there. Not only do you change lives but you give us the hope and courage to continue with what we believe in.
Returning to the boy who said he could not afford to buy a book. Guess what? He did. He flew out of the hall, waving the book in the air and  shouting ‘Mrs Mughal, I have bought a book!’

I could have cried. 



by Anoara Mughal 25th February 2017


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