Tag Archives: Kate Leiper

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.

Launching Ghost Soldier

Ghost Soldier launch

The plates of cake just kept coming. So did the sandwiches. That’s how you launch a book! Obviously the book matters, but people’s tummies do too. Especially if people are me.

Mr B at Ghost Soldier launch

Theresa Breslin launched Ghost Soldier in Glasgow yesterday afternoon, at The Penthouse, and they do very nice cake. And sandwiches. Lots and lots. Scones, with cream and jam.

While I’m on the cake front, there was a book cover covered cake, too. And Mr B had been put to good use selling books, while wearing his speciality book cover t-shirt, and his usual big smile.

Ghost Soldier

Ghost Soldier launch

I came across Kathryn Ross in the foyer, accompanied by Theresa’s illustrator Kate Leiper (who not only does beautiful kelpies, but has worked on Ghost Soldier too). Upstairs I found Cathy MacPhail, and had my first encounter with Kirkland Ciccone (he has never been to Spain, in case anyone wants to know), who is – probably – my nearest children’s author. Geographically speaking.

Kirkland Ciccone

Ghost Soldier launch

We chatted (about things like how Kirkland is young enough to have been a Theresa Breslin child fan), gobbled cake and admired Theresa’s fishy shoes. (That’s one of them, right there, being swung in mid-air for people to see, which explains the blur.) Then Theresa leaned on the Resident IT Consultant for balance. (Yes, dear readers, I brought him along. He needs to get out and meet interesting people. Besides, he’d never have believed me about the shoes.)

Theresa Breslin

After a suitable delay there were two beautifully brief speeches and Theresa read the first chapter from Ghost Soldier. She also told us the background to why she wrote the book, and how some of the unlikely things that happen in it had actually ‘sort of’ happened in real life, making them not so unlikely after all.

Theresa Breslin

She assisted the young girl, who had named the dog in the book, in cutting the book cover cake, which then was devoured by the other children present. There were loads of children, which was nice.

Ghost Soldier cake

Ghost Soldier launch

The Resident IT Consultant and I beat a retreat soon after, due to exhaustion. Perhaps it had been a mistake spending several hours at Ikea beforehand. Even the Resident IT Consultant needed to sit down at one point, and that is simply unheard of. In the end the people in charge of the premises paid us to leave, which was nice of them.

It’s a mercifully quick drive home from Glasgow, even if you include a diesel stop in Cumbernauld. I blame that on Cumbernauld-boy Kirkland. Plus we needed the diesel.

The 2013 Carnegie longlists

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals

When the Carnegie longlists were made public on Monday, I was too busy with reviews to blog about them. Besides, I thought it would be good to let everything sink in a little.

It was quite nice to see that the Daniel Finn book I was reviewing right when I received the notification of the longlists had made it on. If not – I mean if I hadn’t read it just then – it would have been yet another book I’d neither read nor heard of.

I’ve been counting. Not an easy task because the longlists are long; I think 68 for the Carnegie Medal and 64 for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Then I counted some more, to see if I’d read a reasonable number of them or not. I must admit it’s more towards the ‘or not’ end. 21 and 6 respectively, of which one features on both the lists.

It’s too early to have witchy feels. But I reckon that An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales by Kate Leiper and Theresa Breslin would be a pretty worthy winner.

When I reviewed Code Name Verity at the beginning of the year, I did say it was one of the best books ever, so I would obviously have no objection to Elizabeth Wein winning the medal. Several more of the 21 will make it on to my 2012 favourites list. They are all fantastic books. More of the longlist lie waiting in a fairly orderly fashion. Some will get my attention, and others won’t, despite their certain excellence.

Others, I have heard of. And many I’ve not. The question is why not, because they are hardly the Mills & Boon equivalents that I give a wide berth these days.

Taken together, the longlisted books are about as many as I have the capacity to read and review in a year. Seeing as I have read many others that haven’t made it on to the lists, despite being quality books, as well as recent enough, means the world is full of good reads.

See you for the shortlists in March!

Kelpies and other beasts

Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales

It’s not all Grimm. Or Asbjørnsen and Moe. Now we have Theresa Breslin’s An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales, fantastically illustrated by Kate Leiper.

You don’t actually need Theresa’s stories to enjoy this book. And you know me, so you know I’m not saying anything bad about either Theresa or her stories. It’s simply that the pictures by Kate Leiper are really something. Theresa thinks so too, which is why I dare suggest her stories aren’t everything.

When I saw Theresa back in August we stood around, just staring at the beautiful kelpie in this book. I’m so glad this picture of the kelpie exists, because it helps me imagine Seth MacGregor’s ‘horse’ so much better.

Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper, An Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales

In a way, these are the same stories we have heard many times before, only now wearing Scottish clothes. But that’s the whole point about folk tales. They get told, by folk, over and over again. They change a bit. Or they don’t.

Sometimes it depends what you heard first, what you will remember, and perhaps re-tell. Because that is what you do; you tell the stories. It’s less about reading and more about sharing tall tales. You know, the one about the clever boy who worked out what to do in a bad situation. The poor woman who wanted a baby. The man who really loved his dog, who loved him in return.

This time it’s Theresa Breslin’s turn to re-tell stories she heard as a child, or learned about in some other way.

It is all very, very Scottish. (And if you are not, there is a handy glossary for Sassenachs.)

The Kelpies Prize

Not all Scottish books for children feature a kilted man rowing across a loch. But it’s what it felt like to Theresa Breslin, many years ago as she contemplated what there was for Scottish children to read. She wanted something that was them, something which spoke their language.

Writer's Retreat

Theresa was at the Writer’s Retreat in Charlotte Square last night to present the Kelpies Prize to the 2012 winner. Floris Books support the prize, which is for unpublished manuscripts, aimed at boys and girls aged eight to twelve, and set in Scotland. The winner receives a cheque for £2000 and the promise to be published by Floris Books.

Winner's cheque

It was my first party at the book festival, so I was excited, but relieved it wasn’t me who was wondering if they’d win. I had a drink, looked at the nibbles, spoke to Vanessa Robertson of the Edinburgh Bookshop, and to Theresa, who later introduced me to Lari Don, a former winner of the prize.

Janis MacKay

Someone from Floris spoke about the history behind the award, and then Janis MacKay who won in 2009 read excerpts from all three shortlisted books, by Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson.

Top Secret envelope

Then it was Theresa’s turn to speak (and she really didn’t need to say anything about me), which is when the kilted danger to literature was mentioned. As she spoke, I noticed a man creeping up towards the open door, and I wondered about gatecrashers, until I realised it was simply Mr B, wanting to enjoy his wife’s speech and to take photos of her. (I had been told he was engaged in something football related!)

Tracy Traynor

It’s always hard when you don’t win, but I am really pleased for Tracy Traynor who did, and I think she’s got a promising sounding book in Nicking Time. (I had been admiring her purple dress beforehand, so perhaps I sensed she was the one.)

Debbie Richardson and Lari Don

My photo-grapher was indisposed, and as you can see, so were my own photographic skills. But it was dark. And very red.

It was good to meet Benedicte and Chani from Floris, and they very kindly gave me a copy of Theresa’s new book called Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales, which has been gorgeously illustrated by Kate Leiper.

(The runners-up were Debbie Richardson with Pick ‘n’ Mix Mums, and Rebecca Smith with Shadow Eyes.)