Category Archives: Authors

Sisters and Friends

Tant Brun

I know we did colours yesterday, but permit me to add a colourful, literary lady; Tant Brun. She is one of Elsa Beskow’s three tants, Green, Brown and Purple. This one appears to run a café in Sigtuna. I was so full of having been ‘thrown out of’ another Sigtuna café the other day, that I completely forgot to mention Tant Brun. I bet she wouldn’t dream of behaving like that.

Bokhandel, Norrtälje

‘All’ postcards of Norrtälje that I have ever received, have featured this bookshop. I found myself buying the same card myself, and sending it, despite there being many others. But the shop is quite pretty and as the Resident IT Consultant remarked, it grows inside and goes on and on. Rather like Blackwell’s in Oxford.

Norrtälje Bokhandel

Norrtälje has another bookshop, too. Not as cute, but still a bookshop. (Last time in Norrtälje I bought four plastic fish-shaped soap dishes. Not in a bookshop, I hasten to add.)

As you will know if you called in yesterday, we drove south. After enjoying another breakfast on the terrace overlooking Mariestad harbour, we went to visit my oldest sister. I have met her a few more times than her little brother, whom we saw last week. Unlike him she has no lake, but her flat boasts a larger garden than Bookwitch Towers, and much more forest. Very nice.

Then we drove even more south and ended up at School Friend’s house. The weather continued fine, but it was the first time in over a week that I could sit still without breaking into a sweat. (I know. One shouldn’t mention perspiration. But sometimes it’s all a witch can think of.)

Today is Mr School Friend’s birthday. I’m hoping for cake. And a party. Coincidence is an interesting thing, and I am fairly certain I will see Brother of School Friend, who was once – a very long time ago, it has to be said – class mates with oldest sister (which is stranger than it might seem to you).

The road atlas

This is the book that brought us all the way north (well, more north than I am used to) and back again. Whenever the Resident IT Consultant asked how far it was to somewhere, I always replied ‘about an inch,’ because strangely enough, it always seemed to be. The atlas can rest now. We know the last part of the journey well enough to manage without help. Although it is a wee bit further than an inch.

Zeki Loves Baby Club

How to sing an Irish baby song in Urdu.

I was a lazy mother. Taking Offspring to playgroup was intended to take a load off me, for a couple of hours. The other children were meant to entertain, and so were the adult playgroup leaders.

Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson, Zeki Loves Baby Club

Here, in Zeki Loves Baby Club, the lovely parents all join in and play and sing with their child. True, the presence of the other babies means Zeki enjoys his Wednesdays, but there is a lot of adult playing and singing.

It’s a very sweet book, with quite irresistible illustrations. It makes you want to go to this baby club, where children and adults alike have a great time, and the children doubtless grow up to become good people.

At the back of the book you get the words to all the songs, including Rolly Polly in Urdu.

The ferried witch

Friday was Furusund day. Well, Furusund morning, anyway. Furusund – which features in Evert Taube’s songs, as well as having been the holiday home of Astrid Lindgren – was smaller than expected. Nice, but there was no ‘downtown’ Furusund to speak of. You sit there looking at the sailboats, when along comes a monster boat.

Furusund

And when we had looked our fill at Furusund, the Resident IT Consultant – with little consideration for lunch – drove us to Kapellskär, which is near-ish, and where the big monster boats to Finland and Åland depart from. There wasn’t much there either, if you overlook three monster terminals for very very big boats. (Son and Dodo and Dodo’s family passed through a few days earlier, as Son day-tripped his out-laws.)

Kapellskär; the way to Finland

There was a beach we tried to look at, and a campsite we didn’t. And there was a ‘Loppis’ – a local flea market – which sold tea and ice creams as well as other people’s cast-offs.

I really wanted a wall hung telephone table, but ended up with a table cloth instead. (Will fit the suitcase better.)

Secondhand books, Kapellskär

Beach at Kapellskär

The Resident IT Consultant asked to be allowed to look at the secondhand books after he’d drunk his coffee. So we both looked at books. In the children’s corner they had plenty of Mårten Sandén novels. I didn’t need any more books, however, and the one sporting an English title on the cover which the Resident IT Consultant found, turned out to be in German.

Secondhand books, Kapellskär

The Book of Beasts

Carole Barrowman and her brother John have developed as their trilogy of books has progressed. I couldn’t wait to find out how they would end the Hollow Earth mystery, and well, I’d like to know what they are doing next. Perhaps I could twist an arm or two and find out?*

Animare twins Em and Matt were both in trouble at the end of book two, and in The Book of Beasts they need to use all of their fast emerging talents at drawing themselves out of trouble to save each other and their family. Although possibly not their father, who isn’t the best of role models as fathers go.

John and Carole E Barrowman, The Book of Beasts

We meet horrifying creatures (and how they smell!) and humans, who are almost worse than the beasts. The past smells. A lot. But it also features brave and intelligent people, and you can make friends across the centuries.

As before, what I like is the Scottish-ness and the use of art in the fight against evil. Some nice humour and a bit of romance add to it. I’d like to return to Largs and Auchinmurn Isle and Era Mina. I’d like to know if…

*I suspect they are not done with these characters. They are crying out to be developed further and put through more torment. OK, I’ll get my arm-twister out…

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!!!)

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…