Author Archives: bookwitch

Gifts on a road trip

Why do children grow older so fast?

I have unearthed an embarrassing number of books, mostly children’s, that I had stashed away to give people in place of flowers and stuff. They last so much better than flowers. Or chocolate, or wine. Last better than the children, too. Or perhaps I mean they last better than childhood. The children are still here. Just older.

As for giving English language books to Swedish children, there is a thin line between the books being too childish or the English too hard. If I can’t give these books to someone now, it’ll have to be the Salvation Army next.

Or, possibly, someone’s grandchildren, if people could only acquire some and have them grow at a suitable speed. Actually, as I moan, I have realised that one old/new friend got herself a grandson three weeks ago. I hope he is a fast learner.

We are setting off on a road trip. I hate travelling, especially driving. But we have some people we want to see, who are best seen by driving, and too far away for a comfy day trip. Besides, we are being dis-located. Son and Dodo are coming, and they are bringing Dodo’s parents and siblings, which means the Resident IT Consultant and I have to clear out for a week.

The house is boiling. They are welcome to it.

Potty

They are, when it comes to royal princes. After The Queen’s Knickers (how very dare they?) and The Royal Nappy, Nicholas Allan has come up with The Prince and the Potty. Now, do we have a royal baby birthday coming up, or not?

(It’s today.)

It stands to reason that a boy who had to have a royal nappy must be equally regal in the potty department. There are lots of potties. Some are better than others. But when you are out representing great-grandma you can occasionally be caught short, in which case any potty will do.

Even an ordinary one.

9781782952572

Michael Rosen has been known to be slightly potty, I believe. (I mean that in the best possible way.) Here in Wolfman, illustrated by Chris Mould, in a special Barrington Stoke dyslexia friendly edition, there is a wolfman on the loose.

He scares everyone he meets, and he appears to be after the Chief of Police. The reason for that is slightly potty, too.

Wolfman-01

Those who have nothing

To continue with my book-eating shark topic, I was reading Den luttrade bibliotekarien’s blog and what she gave up on reading. Like many others, she has only more recently begun allowing herself to give up on books.

It made me think of what we used to say back in the late 1960s; ‘eat up’ and think of the poor starving children in Biafra. Not quite sure how me stuffing myself with food I didn’t want, was supposed to help those with no food.

Reading to the end could almost be the same idea. You should be grateful you have a book, however bad or boring it might be, because there are people who don’t have any.

As with food, what’s fascinating is that we all feel differently about what is good, or bad. And in times of real need we will be thankful for whatever comes our way.

I tend to cherry-pick what I pack for my holiday reading. I don’t want to be stuck with nothing, so take more than necessary. If I’m going to carry books back, I want them to be good enough to trump the something nice I could buy to take home with me. Those I’ve given up on stay in Sweden. I sometimes think that if I came here unexpectedly with nothing else to read, I’d be grateful for what I’d find, and give whatever it is a second chance.

And on that cheerful note I suppose I ought to ban anyone from ever being allowed near my shelves, because you will see what I didn’t carry home again. (Some are doubles, though!!!)

Books I have eaten

I mean read. Of course I do.

The thing is, I have been let down twice in a row here, and I have nothing for you. Put one book on hold, and put one book down. Although not literally. I just saw no point in continuing.

So while I swelter in the summer weather, I can only offer you teeth. Not reviews.

Shark

Some Edinburgh trams for you

What enabled us to waste all that time on the coffee with the ridiculously large dollop of whipped cream for the Resident IT Consultant, was the fact that he insisted on getting to the airport the long way round. I mean, why spend 30 minutes when you could make it last almost two hours?

So, we got the train and then got on the famous Edinburgh tram. Which is now actually running. It can’t have taken them more than ten years to build. It’s a very strange feeling to look down the tram tracks and see an actual live tram coming towards your stop. Almost as if you were in Manchester, or Gothenburg.

It was quite a nice tram, with wipe-clean seats (I sat on one of the priority seats and the Resident IT Consultant almost died with shame) and plenty of suitcase racks. We had combined train and tram tickets, but the conductor still had to give us a real tram ticket. It bears the words ‘Edinburgh trams’ at the top.

When I see that, I see the word ‘trams’ and in Swedish that means rubbish. The nonsense kind, not what you put in bins. And I suppose that when you take into account all those years we were despairing of ever travelling on a tram, you could possibly label it Edinburgh nonsense.

Other than making me get out of bed two hours early, it was a fine way of travelling. Not trams at all.

(Not like Son and Dodo who made sure they were on the very, very first tram on the first day. That’s a bit trams[igt]. Albeit fun and dreadfully important for every self-respecting nerd.)

Airborne books

‘Can I look in the bookshop?’ the Resident IT Consultant asked. I was tempted to say no, but gave my permission. We were at Edinburgh airport with too much time on our hands, and after using up the full Caffe Nero card which entitled him to a free drink (naturally he chose the most expensive concoction, something topped with whipped cream), he was dying to look in The Bookshop.

I looked in there myself, and they didn’t have much. Even WH Smith had more. By some coincidence we met up there after deciding to look around on our own. Neither shop stocked Into A Raging Blaze, special airport edition or not. We had both looked.

WHS had their fiction mostly arranged by numbers, a sort of books chart. We couldn’t work out whose chart, i.e. who decided, nor how to find any given book, short of looking at all of them. ‘There’s a blog there,’ said the Resident IT Consultant suddenly. I looked. ‘Where?’ I asked. I couldn’t comprehend the idea of a blog sitting anywhere on those shelves, but felt I needed to check.

Turns out he meant that the difficulty of finding a specific book could be turned into a blog post… Duh.

I had actually walked in there thinking I just might pay for a book. But only the recent fourth James Oswald novel. It’s Scottish, so maybe they’d stock it for that reason, I thought. But, no. Once I’d turned round a few more times I discovered some books arranged in the conventional alphabetical way, and there was a James Oswald book. The wrong one. Or the right one, depending on how you look at it. Not the one I was after. But for the Oswald novice it’d be good to find the first one, seeing as you mustn’t start anywhere else.

For children it was the usual suspects; The Gruffalo, David Walliams, Horrid Henry. I believe I’ve said this before. It’s excellent to find easy to read, good, fun books. But not if you’ve already read those. Then you need something more unusual.

And Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam made it to the non-fiction.

But will it travel?

I was talking to Son the other day. He was reading a book, for money. This happens occasionally with foreign books, because how can the linguistically challenged publisher decide whether or not to buy a foreign book, even when it is a big seller in its country of origin?

You can’t be sure it will do as well in your own country, and better to pay someone a smallish sum for an opinion, than spend loads of money on publishing a book that won’t sell.

I remember my foreign reading challenge from a few years ago. Not only was it difficult to find the books; a new country every month for a year, but it can be hard to love anything too far removed from your own back yard. Even when you are the open-minded soul that - of course – I am…

It wasn’t actually the Swedish book I liked the most, or that I felt I could identify with. You’d think so, but I couldn’t.

The title was snappy and very catchy, and that goes for the one Son is reading now, as well. I can’t tell you which book it is, as that would be wrong. I had heard of it, and sort of admired the slightly ludicrous title, without feeling tempted.

What enraged Son were some facts that strained credulity. Unfortunately – for him – I could confirm that in this case it was actually pretty realistic. Strange and unusual, but it happens/happened in Sweden. As he’s not all that far from having been a teenager himself, his reaction is probably more similar to the intended readership here, than most older readers would be.

So the incredible facts, as well as some general loose living among the main characters, might make him give negative feedback. Maybe not. We both agreed that the gatekeepers who would ease or prevent British mid-teens from reading this book would not like the idea of what goes on.

While I’m not someone who believes in too much guarding, in this case I reckon the gatekeepers might save readers from a book that simply hasn’t travelled well.

Blue and yellow

Feeling quite inspired by two colourful picture books in nicely Swedish colours.

Bluebird by Bob Staake is a rather special book. Longer than average and wordless, it still tells a marvellous story. The illustrations are something else, and all in tones of blues and neutrals. I’d happily frame a page and put on my wall.

Bob Staake, Bluebird

Set in New York, by the look of things, it tells the story of a lonely boy, who is befriended by a small bird. There is bullying and a sad, but beautiful ending. Wonderful to look at, and if you can adapt your own words to your own child it should suit almost everybody.

In Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, we meet another little bird in this tremendously yellow book. The chicken pops into the farmhouse to use the farmer’s computer every night. She buys things, thus confusing the poor farmer.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Chicken Clicking

And then, then she makes an online friend. This is a cautionary tale about online safety. You just never know who will pretend to be your friend. Do you?

This chicken finds out…

Pebbledashed

We are not sure of the significance of the decrepit looking balls this poor chap is balancing on his birdbath.

Garden ornament

In fact, he is looking almost as pebbledashed as the wall behind him.

Whereas I’d never knowingly buy a boy balancing anything at all on a birdbath and put it in my garden, I seem to have done that very thing. And I’m keeping him.

Actually, if there was one kind of house I’d never buy, it would be a pebbledashed house. I seem to have done that, too. Oh well. Can’t be helped.

Hail, hail

During the last year it seems that J K Rowling has learned to hail cabs. The Tube still appears to be a mystery to her, however.

I’m reading the new Robert Galbraith. Last year it was the London travel scene that provided the only slight doubts I had about J K’s new criminal venture. I deduced – possibly erroneously – that when she was poor she’d either not spent much time in London or – understandably – not travelled much by taxi.

And once she could afford to hail cabs, she presumably was forced to travel less publicly, so never got to practise this art of getting around. That will be why she had her detective phone for a taxi, instead of waving one down in the busy street.

Cormoran Strike (that’s her detective) really can’t afford cabs, but as I read, he has just hailed one.

But I had to wince when the poor man and his hurting leg caught the Tube from Tottenham Court Road to Goodge Street. He’d have been better off walking, and better still taking the bus.

I don’t agree with the people who have said Robert Galbraith waffles, and that there is too much detail in the books. There are many crime devotees all over the world who like to see where the character in a book is going. They can follow Cormoran on the map, if they want. If they’ve been to London, they might have been to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, and will be delighted to read about it.

I know I would have, once. It’s the Midsomer Murders effect, and one which natives find hard to grasp.

Just please, please, get Cormoran an Oystercard and show him a bus map!

(Or, I suppose, there’s always brooms.)