It’s missing a bedroom upstairs

Did I tell you about our tiny kitchen? We thought it was all right – apart from the cobwebs, the dust and the food stains – in its own modest way. However, all our prospective buyers looked at it and wanted it to be bigger. But you just don’t get farmhouse kitchens where the children can do their homework and get in your way, as you swig wine while making dinner, in Mancunian suburbia. For that price. Besides, if you did, the estate agent would have mentioned it.

As for ourselves, we obviously make perfect house viewers. We have read the description of what we are about to see, and if the kitchen looks a bit small, we are too polite to ask why it isn’t bigger. A person can adapt, can’t they?

One agent said about the house he showed us that other viewers complained that it’s ‘missing a bedroom’ upstairs. As if a bedroom could just up and leave. Again, if the description mentions two bedrooms upstairs, I’d say you’d be unlikely to find three.

Besides, after reading about houses online, I rebuild. So far I have rebuilt, extended or otherwise changed half  the properties for sale in Stirling. In my mind. It’s very easy and it’s fun. There’s not even all that much dust once you’re done.

Cough. Ouch. Didn’t see that lintel there.

We are now halfway along in the famous Bookwitch relocation saga. We used the services of Snape, Defense Against the Dark Estate Agents…

Marcus Sedgwick on horror and sheds

The Marcus Sedgwick interview is ready for your entertainment today. I wish you could hear Marcus, as well as just read. He laughs a lot and he talks ‘just right’ by which I mean that he is interesting on whatever stupid question someone like me might ask, and he spends time on them, but not too long.

Lagom, as we say in Sweden.

He is someone who has been on my interview radar for years, and it’s mainly coincidence that it was his new adult novel, A Love Like Blood, that caused us to meet and talk (I ‘blame’ the very helpful Kerry at Hodder), which is why I used up some of our ‘adult’ time on talking about his – slightly – younger books as well.

Marcus Sedgwick

And his shed. (It’s not necessary to buy a house that has a good shed. You can actually build a nice shed once you’ve found the house of your dreams.)

Marcus claims not to be obsessed by horror, but he is a man who scares me a lot, through his books. They are the kind of books you read hiding behind the sofa.

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.)

The curtsey

‘And you just disappeared,’ said Mother-of-witch as we were out walking one day. I was probably about eight. I didn’t disappear. I curtseyed. Because we’d just walked past my headmaster in town, and you had to curtsey to people like him. Or so I’d been told. I was very obedient.

So I bobbed down, which was what she meant.

I blogged about an earlier curtsey a while ago, and felt like a dinosaur. (Do dinosaurs curtsey?) Back then, Swedish girls were brought up to bend their knees on all sorts of occasions. With adults. Teachers and other school staff. The King, if you happened to meet him. Maybe you didn’t have to for school staff outside school. I don’t know. To me a rule was a rule. You just did. And Mother-of-witch apparently didn’t recognise my headmaster.

(He probably didn’t even notice me.)

These days I doubt anyone curtsies. I wonder when they stopped instructing girls to do it? Boys had to bow, so it wasn’t just the one sex who had to be polite. They also had to take their hats/caps off.

The trouble is knowing when to stop, and by that I mean, when are you old enough not to be required to dip down? It becomes instinct, thus is hard to stop doing. I stopped very early. Partly because I felt like an idiot, and partly because Mother-of-witch told me not to do it when we visited England ‘because English girls don’t curtsey.’

When I arrived at the G’s house, at the age of 21, I was simply the latest in a long row of Swedish students they’d had living with them. Mrs G sounded amused and a little embarrassed when she told me that the other girls had curtsied to her on arrival. She must have felt rather Queen-like, I imagine.

That in itself made me pleased I’d given it up, because I could see that I too, would have ‘disappeared’ downwards. Purely from habit.

Dead Silent

Have I said this before? There isn’t enough crime in YA fiction. I don’t know why. Crime is so popular with us ‘slightly’ older ones, that I can’t see why there isn’t more straightforward murders offered to YA readers. Sharon Jones’s Dead Silent is like a breath of fresh air, as long as you like your corpses coming thick and fast.

Very briefly, I worried that my promised murders were going to disappear in a haze of teen sex, but it didn’t. Not having read the first Poppy Sinclair book (Dead Jealous) I didn’t know what to expect.

Sharon Jones, Dead Silent

Poppy is in Cambridge with her boyfriend Michael, who has an interview for King’s. She has sex on her mind, and whereas he wouldn’t mind, the murders rather change the pace of romance. Poppy’s dad is chaplain at Trinity, and it’s in his chapel that the trail of bodies begins. After that they are all over Trinity.

Did dad do it? That’s the question. And why are the bright young third years behaving so strangely? Can Poppy really speak to the dead? Are the angels real?

This is very nicely – if atypically, I trust - Cambridge. Snow. Students. Professors, policemen, a Dean and even a Master. Lots of surprisingly helpful and friendly porters at all the colleges.

Great fun and quite exciting by the time you have suspected almost everyone of being the murderer. Blood on snow looks so striking, don’t you think?

William

I have been reliably informed that little boys get a lot less coverage in picture books. It’s those pesky, pretty pink girls who get in the way.

Claire Harrison and Felicity McElroy, William

So here is William, to make up for all that. He is brown. (He’s a monkey.) And he is everywhere. If he can, he will.

And no matter what he does, his mum points out that she loves him. (I never realised I had to do that. I felt that my love would be obvious. Although Son never swung from trees, as far as I can recall.)

Claire Harrison’s book, with pictures by Felicity McElroy, is very colourful. I was going to say no pink at all, but there are dots of pink here and there. But it’s mostly ‘all the other colours.’

And that of course, is what is missing from so many toys and clothes. Pink is not the only colour. And boys get a raw deal, with more boring colours, and not much to match pink. Boy-pink, so to speak.

Let’s hear it for boys!

Long and narrow

Three picture books, all about animals who are long and narrow.

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Boa's Bad Birthday

It’s poor Boa’s birthday and all he wants is a nice present or two. But can he play the piano? No. Or wear mittens? Sunglasses? It’s the thought that counts, according to his mum. But he’s still disappointed. Until one friend gives him something… Boa’s Bad Birthday by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is as enjoyable as you’d expect. Jeanne knows how to convey feelings with just a few words. And a boa with tears in his eyes? Well.

Sofie Laguna and Craig Smith, Where Are You, Banana?

In Where Are You, Banana? Roddy somehow loses his dog called Banana (dachshund, I’d say). The family look everywhere, but no Banana. Not until Roddy hears a noise and looks more closely so he can see where Banana has disappeared. How to get Banana back, though? Lovely story by Sofie Laguna, and great illustrations by Craig Smith, which convey a boy’s love for what is actually a fairly ugly dog.

Dianne Hofmeyr and Jane Ray, Zeraffa Giraffa

Finally we have the true story of the giraffe in Africa who became a gift for the King of France. The book follows Zeraffa’s journey from Egypt to Paris, a trip where everyone comes to see this strange animal as it passes through. They all love Zeraffa, and none more than the Princess in Paris. And on warm evenings, if he looked south, Zeraffa could almost imagine himself back in Egypt.

Rather sad, really, and so strange you would barely believe it actually happened. Exotic illustrations by Jane Ray accompany Dianne Hofmeyr’s words.