Tag Archives: Hilary McKay

Bookwitch bites #126

If you didn’t read Hilary McKay’s Binny for Short when it came out last year (and why didn’t you?), I can tell you it has just been issued in paperback, and it is still as good. The singing ought to bring out the goosepimples on any but the hardest of my readers.

Cathy Cassidy

In the exciting run-up to whether or not Scotland will drift off into the North Sea next week, I have two book festivals on home ground to look forward to. First it’s Stirling Book Festival Off The Page. It has all sorts of events in libraries and schools and theatres. For fans of children’s lit there is the dystopian Teri Terry, the amusing Chae Strathie, sweet Cathy Cassidy, illustrator Kate Leiper, and the magical Linda Chapman.

Off The Page runs seamlessly into Bloody Scotland, where much murderous stuff will happen. They are even putting forensics into Stirling Castle, to find out who killed the Earl of Douglas back in the 1400s. Good luck to them.

And if you too want to be able to write like the authors who are coming here to talk about their books, then you could do worse than to have a go at the Connell Guides essay prize. If you are lucky, Philip Pullman might read what you wrote. You do need to be of an age to attend sixth form, but we are all young at heart here. You can submit from September 15th until January 15th.

Good luck!

And read Binny.

The long Carnegie

I was surprised to read that publishing the longlist for the Carnegie was a new idea. Surely I’d got that wrong, somehow?

Ah. Have checked. I know what’s new. The longlist. Before, the long list used to be all the nominated books, and then you got to the shortlist. So presumably we are skipping the very long list this time. Glad to have sorted that out.

It’s a good list. Some I have read, others I’ve not had time to get to. And yet more I have not got close enough to, to be able to consider reading. Two are from my own best of 2013 list (I’d like to think they visited and compared notes), so I’d be especially grateful if they could hand out the medal to Binny or to Brock.* If not, any good book will do. The better the better, though, if you know what I mean.

2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal longlist

As far as the picture books go, I haven’t read a single one. I don’t recognise the titles either, so have hopefully not shown a shocking lack of interest in what will turn out to be a really magnificent book.

2014 Kate Greenaway Medal longlist

*It is especially nice to find a Barrington Stoke novel on the list.

Numbers and meat cleavers

This is for people with a fondness for ‘interesting’ dates. And even for people who couldn’t care less. Today is the 11th day of the 12th month in the 13th year (well, you know what I mean!). But I will not now provide a list of the year’s best ten books. Or best 14.

I need to slim these lists down, but when I looked at the possible contenders for best Bookwitch book 2013, there were so many wonderful reads that it’s as hard as giving up cake and cheese and go on a diet.

Cough.

Let’s continue.

I have a bunch of six books, where I can’t say that one is an overall winner. I would like to, but can’t. One thing that has made me pick these over some others, is that they provided that special glow of happiness. Scary and good is obviously good, but happy and good wins every time. (Apologies for excessive soppiness.)

I’ll list them in first name alphabetical order:

Anthony McGowan, Brock

Debi Gliori, Dragon Loves Penguin

Hilary McKay, Binny for Short

Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co – The Screaming Staircase

Marcus Sedgwick, She’s Not Invisible

Sam Hepburn, Chasing the Dark

If you – or your favourite book – are not on the list, please be gentle with that meat cleaver! Let’s face it; there are lots of wonderful books out there.

Fillers

Please, where can I find a needy motorway? I have stuff to get rid of, and there is landfill, and then there is landfill (to build roads, or so Hilary McKay has been saying for far too long about her own wonderful books). The latter strikes me as the much more sensible option, if there’s nothing else you can do with your unwanted books.

And when I say unwanted, I am not referring to Hilary’s work, nor am I suggesting that the unwantedness stems from the Resident IT Consultant so much. They just happen to be his books. Most of the ones from the back row on the double rows of books. They are unwanted by me. And looking at them, I am shocked ‘we’ ever wanted/bought/kept them at all.

Future motorway?

But now that he has been a very good Resident IT Consultant and cleared them out (when I say that, I mean onto the floor in the front room), they need to go a little bit further. Where to, though? The Grandmother was consulted, in case Oxfam could pass them on, but she felt they were beyond even that.

They are not allowed in the paper and cardboard recycling bin our local council has provided. As far as I have been able to find out, there is nowhere to take them. Except to the general hole in the ground for all general things that don’t fit the description of any recycling category at all.

I suspect books are something you are not meant to have very many of. Meaning you will have no problem giving them a comfortable forever home, and books are sacred and Can’t Possibly Be Got Rid Of! Hence the lack of a recycling category for them.

Now that I have had them declared unsacred, I will have to get them out of the house quickly (if only so I can use that bit of floor to pack, reorganise or dispose of other belongings), and the only way appears to stick them in the boot of the car and point it at the local tip. But that makes me feel sick.

Bra Böckers Lexikon

I am the proud owner of two sets of the same – Swedish – encyclopaedia (one here, one there…) and neither is especially useful in this age of Google. The ‘one there’ can remain for the time being. But the ‘one here’ will have to go. Presumably also into a hole in the ground. And not of the new motorway variety, either.

(Perhaps… no, probably not. You can build houses out of straw. And stuff. The ideal thing would be to build a new house out of books.)

A writers’ writer

For the aficionado Hilary McKay barely needs an introduction. Not everyone is as slow or as stupid as I was some years ago, thinking Hilary was just your ordinary girls’ books author.

She is anything but, and my ways have been truly mended. I still have a few of her, mostly junior, books to read, which makes me very happy. Because reading Hilary’s books makes me happy.

It was very kind of her to come to Bookwitch Towers to subject herself to an interview. She wants the minimum of fuss, so isn’t an obvious interview subject, really. But I was very glad she came, and that she could put up with it all.

Here she explains her philosophy of how nice people are. I’m beginning to think she might be right. (Except for her idiotic notion of how it would be better to use her books for building motorways.)

Modest and much admired

She’s going to kill me for that. Except Hilary McKay is too nice to kill anyone.

She asked for balloons by the gate. Not too much to ask for, but whereas I do have balloons, I have no gate, so it was foreign flag on the door instead. We’ve not actually been that festive since some birthday over a year ago. And Hilary brought the most beautiful flowers! (Which I got the Resident IT Consultant to find a vase for, seeing as my regular photographer-cum-putter-into-vase assistant was unavailable.)

You’ll soon be asking what I had to offer someone like Hilary, to make her journey all the way from Derbyshire worthwhile. Scones. Nothing more. Just that. Hilary even phoned to advise me of her ETA, and offered to delay if she was too early… You can see the headlines, can’t you? ‘Whitbread winner seen walking and waiting outside witch’s lair.’

Hilary McKay books

In my usual bad hostess mode I did my interview with Hilary first. She had modestly suggested there was nothing to ask her, while I knew I needed the business side out of the way, so I could fully enjoy the chatting and the gossiping (only nicely, obviously). I enjoyed it so much that I have no photos to show for the afternoon, which is probably how my visitor prefers it.

Apart from one hairy moment when Hilary was all for kidnapping me and go visit St Sioux, we were fine. I decided it wasn’t too cold to sit outside, so she suffered through tea and scones on the deck, only protesting as New Neighbour started lopping branches off his apple tree. With apples on them!

After conversations about family and gardens and double garages in Scotland, I forced some books on Hilary as she got ready to leave in her beautifully blue car (which she talks to).

I think I must make the effort with balloons next time. It’s the least I could do.

The Resident IT Consultant asked permission to eat the crumbs left over from the scones orgy. In view of his services with both flowers and tea making I said he could.

‘The more the merrier’

Perfection again. Except for my timing. Forever Rose is really a nativity story. And now it is summer. Not December.

But a Casson story is never wrong. The wrongest thing about it is that it’s the last one. What am I supposed to do now?? No more Cassons… Or could I possibly be wrong? Please tell me there’s hope.

Rose is sad. People keep disappearing, and everyone but her seems to know what she’s getting for Christmas. Even I could work it out.

Caddy is gone. Caddy’s Michael avoids Rose. Saffy is rarely at home, and Indigo is running after Sarah. Eve is ill in her shed. Daddy Casson is unhappy in London, but still in London. Even the pets have vanished, one by one. Rose has a horrible teacher. He’s not as gone as Rose and her class would like. And poor David is there. Poor David.

Hilary McKay, Forever Rose

There are drum kits and there is blood, and zoos play an important part. A baby Jesus is required, and Sarah and Saffy are forcing Rose to read. Rose just Does Not Read!

Friendship and family play the main roles, again. By the end Rose doesn’t feel quite as alone as she did at the beginning. Eve was right, ‘the more the merrier.’

As ever, it’s hard to describe what happens in a Casson family book. Very little, in a way. But it makes you smile. Or you could cry (with happiness).

I envy anyone who has not yet started on the Cassons.