Category Archives: Humour

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.

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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

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.

Mcbf, the end is near – for now

There has already been afternoon tea in Manchester. Today – on the last day – there will be more afternoon tea, and a quiz. I’m trying really hard not to mind.

While I’m busy not minding, I give you some more borrowed/stolen photos from the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. It is run (or do I mean organised?) by Kaye and James. They work very hard. By today they must be absolutely shattered. I know I am, and I wasn’t even there.

That’s why I will show you their happy smiles as they rubbed shoulders with the great and the famous this week. The one at the beginning was Curtis Jobling, who they worked pretty hard. Here they are with Curtis and his hat.

Kaye Tew, Curtis Jobling and James Draper

Then James seems to have got Sufiya Ahmed to himself.

Sufiya Ahmed and James Draper

After which we see James wondering what on earth Kaye has to laugh about. Are they not there to work? Their boss, the Poet Laureate is looking on.

Kaye Tew and James Draper

And look, here is James with his arms round Carol Ann and Kaye. He looks right at home.

Carol Ann Duffy, James Draper and Kaye Tew

More ladies for James; Jenny and Rachel.

James Draper with Jenny and Rachel

And with that Cerri Burnell off television.

Cerri Burnell and James Draper

Then luckily we have a break from our pair, as Kevin does his fan stuff with Guy Bass.

Kevin with Guy Bass

But then it’s back to more hanging out with authors, with Kate Pankhurst. James is testing out the intelligent look.

Kaye Tew, Kate Pankhurst and James Draper

Next is Justin Somper with our hard-working couple.

Kaye Tew, Justin Somper and James Draper

Imtiaz Dharker speaks at the poetry event. Proper grown-up it looks, and no Kaye or James. (Though I’m sure they were there…)

Imtiaz Dharker

Andrew Cope is looking pleased to have avoided the camera happy organisers.

Andrew Cope

Oh no, here they are, back with Andrew.

Kaye Tew, Andrew Cope and James Draper

Steve Cole got the whole line-up of mcbf helpers instead.

Steve Cole and mcbf volunteers

Cathy Cassidy and ‘her boys’ who, as I’ve said before, are among the nicest in children’s fiction.

Cathy Cassidy

Former MMU student Liz Kessler was back with her pals Kaye and James.

Kaye Tew, Liz Kessler and James Draper

And finally, Ali Sparkes with, surprise, surprise, Kaye and James.

Kaye Tew, Ali Sparkes and James Draper

But you know what I’m really trying to say, don’t you? These two lovely people work, and work, and they organise a rather nice and most friendly book festival. They deserve to be photographed with their guests. They deserve the limelight. Because they do this so well, with an ever present smile on their faces. Well, two smiles. One for each face.

There was no witch to ask to see James’s socks this year. No witch to send to the back of the room. And no cake for the witch. Or tea. Or quiz, which I would surely have won. Had I been there.

(The photos are by the mcbf photographer. I simply smuggled them onto my flickr account, because earlier this week I produced a nice post which suddenly lost half it’s pictures because someone went and pruned the mcbf gallery…)

Aliens Stink

Isn’t it odd how two of the books I’ve read this week, to make up for my non-attendance at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, are about aliens? Being one myself, I feel drawn to them. (In moderation, obviously.)

Steve Cole, Aliens Stink

Let’s face it. The cover of Aliens Stink would not tempt me to pick up the book. (But then it’s a while since I was ten years old.) What does, is that it’s got *Steve Cole’s name on the cover, and that is always a recommendation and counterbalances ugly aliens and the word ‘stink.’

In this case I only had to pick it up off the Grandmother’s doormat, because Steve sent it to Daughter as a thank you for her help (so her name is in it). She told him astrophysical facts and he ignored them. That’s how they cooperated. I didn’t feel I needed to read the book. I’m glad I did, though, and even the Grandmother read a couple of chapters before I removed it from her hands.

It’s great! It’s fun. It’s pure entertainment. It’s the kind of book I look at and think it’d be both fun and easy to write, except I suspect it’s much harder than it looks. Luxembourg has disappeared under a blanket. Parts of Russia is covered in a yellow substance. The world is strange. Better than before, but no one knows why.

Poor Tim and his goldfish Herbert are not having a good time, however. Tim’s father is a weird scientist and he is needed to save the world. Hah. Herbert listens patiently to Tim’s woes, but what can a goldfish do?

Things come to a head and Tim and his dad and the goldfish suddenly find themselves somewhere else. All of them need to adjust to this new situation.

This is a book about good aliens and bad ones. It’s about clever children (not Tim) and aliens, and stupid adults, and aliens. You just have to love it. (And your pets. Always love your pets.)

* Steve was at mcbf on Wednesday. I’m sure everyone had a great time. Sniff…

A moving account

This is your second-hand witch speaking to you. (Blogging, really, but you knew that.)

We moved in yesterday. Well, the furniture moved in, and when it had done so there was no room for us, so we are biding our time until such a moment that we have cut a path through the house.

And because of this, as you already know very well, I am not swanning around the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. The lovely people there have their own blog and you can read what they get up too. They have said I can borrow their photos, so I shall jolly well do so, and here are some of them. Doesn’t it look like they are having a good time?

Curtis Jobling started off the whole book festival and I can see he’s up to his normal tricks, cartooning away. He looks a little hairier than last time, but the man does write werewolf books.

Author of the Wereworld Series and Illustrator of Bob the Builder Sketches a Bob-the-Builder-Turned-Werewolf

These two people I always ‘manage to avoid.’ No matter how many festivals they and I go to, we never coincide. I’m in despair, actually. Who wouldn’t want to be dazzled by the very pretty Sarah McIntyre, and the almost as pretty Philip Reeve?

Authors of 'Oliver and the Seawigs' - Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre and the Sea Monkeys

As for avoiding, you can see what the green bear is doing, can’t you? He’s got James Draper on his blind side, which in effect must mean James wasn’t there at all.

Festival Director James Draper and Humphrey the Hospital Bear

Iris Feindt and Livi Michael look like they think it’s their festival. That they can play on the furniture. (Oh, I suppose it’s all right.)

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And my blogging colleague Kevin with – the to me – unknown lady passenger is having a fun time, too.

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Kaye and Claudia are posing with two lovely St John Ambulance men (the Resident IT Consultant was also unavailable, for the same reason as the witch). I do hope they weren’t needed. SJA, not Kaye and Claudia. They are always needed.

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That path I mentioned before? I reckon the best thing would be to burn all the books. There can be no earthly reason for us keeping all those books. The boys from Tillicoultry clearly thought so, as they staggered in with thousands of book boxes. (I swear – pardon – they must have been breeding in storage. The books. Not the Tillicoultry boys.)

(I – probably – didn’t mean that. I am just in a jealous mood, festival-wise, and wishing I could see my new house for boxes full of books. My heart is in Manchester. Which is an odd phrase, but why not?)

The surprise factor

How can you be sure if any subsequent book by author A is better than the first one he or she had published? It’s just about possible to say that an OK book wasn’t quite as wonderful as the first. But if it is a really fantastic novel, can I appreciate it properly?

I’m thinking here of three ladies, whose first books I adored. They are – in chronological order – Meg Rosoff, Candy Gourlay and Elizabeth Wein.*

How I Live Now had such an impact on me, that I simply do not know how and where on a scale (stupid things, anyway) I should put Meg’s other books. They are all exceptionally good. Some have been more enjoyable than others. But I had been wondering if anything could ever beat HILN.

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay wasn’t just all right. It kept surprising me and I was left feeling very happy afterwards. As someone I ‘knew’ before I read her debut book, I was also relieved Candy could actually write. Shine was another fantastic book, leaving me glowing. But was it as good?

And as for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, that was the second best thing to hit me after HILN. (Never mind that I couldn’t even remember the title of it recently. That was merely a senior moment. I’d have been able to tell you the whole plot.) So when Rose Under Fire followed CNV, could it be as marvellous?

I know authors are supposed to get better with writing more books. Many do. Some remain excellent throughout. And I suppose some never quite manage what they wrote the first time round.

But I think what I’m getting at is that the sheer surprise of coming across one of the best books you’ve ever read, is one thing, while any subsequent book by the same author will never be a surprise. You know what they can do. You expect it. You hope for the very best.

So I wonder how I’d have felt about any of the later books by Meg, Candy and Elizabeth, if I’d not read their first novels. And if I’d then got to their debut books, would they have changed anything?

When you take a person’s details (schools, etc) people sometimes write down where in the sibling group they belong. Because it matters. Perhaps the same can be said for books? What might have happened to the sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird?

*I know. I know. It wasn’t Elizabeth’s first. It was my first, so it felt like it ought to have been hers too.

The Farmer’s Away!

Baa! Neigh!

You know that feeling of standing outside your barn at the end of the day, when a mouse wearing a ballgown runs past? That’s what The Farmer’s Away by Anne Vittur Kennedy is like. The animals do their version of ‘when the cat’s away,’ only here is a farmer working really hard in the field, and all his animals go out for some fun for the day.

I’m a bit puzzled, as I didn’t know farmers had snakes. Or frogs. Never mind, though. All the animals are in this together. They picnic. They water ski. They go to the theme park.

This story has no words. It goes oink, honk, cluck and moo. And countless other sounds. You’d better be good a being silly when you read this aloud, but soon your child will out-oink you. Splish. Neigh. Cock-a-doodle-doo.

Very funny. At least as long as I don’t actually have to quack, baa, ribbet.

Anne Vittur Kennedy, The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh!

Foggy fogs and fezes

It feels like it was a mere few weeks since I read the first Badger, the Mystical Mutt book, and here its authors McNicol and Jackson are intimating they’re on book number six! I suppose I have to believe them. It’ll be in my best interests to be on good terms with literary Scotland, so let’s celebrate Badger’s sixth publication day on this 2014 Walpurgis night.

He’s throwing a party in Badger the Mystical Mutt and the Flying Fez. It’s Old Year’s Night and he wants to gather the whole gang. But he’s missing his spotty ‘Chief and things aren’t going well. There is the foggiest fog Badger has ever seen (although I would say it’s unlikely you would see anything in such foggy circumstances).

McNicol & Jackson, Badger the Mystical Mutt and the Flying Fez

This is where a very naughty Fez called Otto appears and tries – pretends – to help. Most of the gang is also present, and everyone does their bit. Pickle is upset because she is missing someone special, but that’s what you have friends for. And the Badger books are there to show what friends are for.

(Badger was very helpful during Hurricane Sandy. He was a bit stuck in New York, so jumped in and did some work where it was needed, impressing the British Consulate in the process.)

Even the Dog Catcher seems to be friendly. Or is he? Perhaps Old Year’s Night is a time for change.

This is a Badger book, so you can rely on things being sorted out, despite Otto doing his worst.

Scotland for Beginners

1314 an’ a’ that. Well, you can’t say I’ve not picked a good year to move to Scotland. Or place. In fact, by the time we have somewhere to actually live, I suspect we’ll be hitting the Battle of Bannockburn celebrations almost squarely in the face. 700 years…

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little hazy on Bannockburn. Who did what to whom and why? The where is more obvious. We have decided Bannockburn is too far out for us, but there have been some attractively priced houses to consider.

Anyway, Daughter felt I needed a book to help me get by, so she gave me Rupert Besley’s brilliant Scotland for Beginners. I think it helped that she knew I’ve collected his postcards for decades. (They’ve been packed in some box for the move.)

So, it’s got a little bit of everything. It begins with your arrival. Apparently you drive in the middle of the road. And I will do just fine if I say ‘dinna ken’ all the time.

‘A wee way’ is further than ‘no far.’ It mentions the West Highland Way, without which I’d not have had a Resident IT Consultant. (Although I didn’t know the footpath was pioneerd by a motorist in 1980 who set off south from Ben Nevis in search of a phone box. I think he found one in Glasgow.

This useful guide has something to say on kilts, midges and dead haggises (they make good sporrans).

And even without the book I know not to get my hopes up if someone tells me I’ve already had tea. (It’s a tad mean, if you ask me.)

Because I learned to talk while living in southern Sweden, I will have no trouble with the ‘ch’ sound. I just don’t want to be mistaken for a Sassenach.

Rupert Besley, Scotland for Beginners

Scam on the Cam

Cambridge, Cambridge… what’s going on? More crime. Another young detective. Another college theologian. I’m beginning to feel Cambridge might not be as safe as the romantic view of this place of learning would have you believe.

Clémentine Beauvais, Scam on the Cam

Clémentine Beauvais sends her Sesame Seade out into seedy Cambridge for a third adventure, Scam on the Cam. As the title suggests, it’s water based and it’s about the famous boat race. The poor young men who row for Cambridge are dropping like flies. Who is poisoning them and why?

Or are they falling ill for some other reason? There are frogs, and a handsome young boy from one of the other schools in town. There are ze zieves. (thieves, you know) It’s enough to make Sesame shplutter.

I love the humour and the use of language (and she is French! Young, too…) and there is nothing about this rather innocent crime series and its 11-year-old detective that makes it unsuitable for old people. Quite the contrary. I hope the quality of the writing isn’t wasted on the young (like so much else).

(Illustrated by Sarah Horne.)