Tag Archives: Lucy Hawking

George and the Unbreakable Code

Civilisation as we know it does not necessarily take much to break down. Give people what they ‘want,’ like unlimited cash or free plane tickets, and all hell could break lose. Lucy Hawking is playing around with how the world works in her and dad Stephen’s fourth George book, George and the Unbreakable Code. And it is surprising how scary that is.

So is finding old allies having a ‘funny turn’ and ending up so unreliable that you need to use all your skills on solving problems without them. George and his best friend Annie’s relationship with super computer Cosmos suffers rather. What’s got into Cosmos?

And what about the robot who arrives on Annie’s doorstep looking just like her dad? Friend or foe? That’s apart from this ebot dad-look-alike behaving in embarrassing ways, like parents do.

Lucy and Stephen Hawking, George and the Unbreakable Code

With the world gone mad, and seemingly Cosmos as well, what do you need? Well, parents to depend on, maybe. But Annie’s dad Eric is needed elsewhere in this crisis, which leaves George’s family, and their self-sufficient life style. And the woman from Bletchley Park.

Needless to say, this book is as exciting as the other three, and you can’t wait to see how George and Annie will save the world. There is no question as to whether they will. We know our cool heroes, and Cosmos or no Cosmos, they have the brains and the courage.

This story touches on disability and on understanding how society works, as well as what is most important in life. As always there are essays written by Lucy’s friends in the academic world, including one by her father. They are roughly on my level, so should suit young readers well. And there are the usual ‘pretty pictures’ from space. (Me, I want to be like Annie in her spacesuit. Cool.)

Science fiction as it should be.

Bookwitch bites #121

I was a bit busy last week, so will have to join the rest of you in catching up on my favourite physics teacher, Lucy Hawking (here). You get a whole forty minutes of Lucy talking interesting stuff, courtesy of the Scottish Book Trust. Lucy has a new George book out – George and the Unbreakable Code – and you will hear more about that a little later. (My copy has had a close encounter with a black hole, mainly filled with water. Not of my doing!)

Lucy Hawking

More online fun for a new book can be found on various blogs this week, as Helen Grant spreads herself out with guest posts and things, to celebrate the publication of The Demons of Ghent on Thursday. Needless to say I bagged the 5th of June itself.

Helen Grant blog tourThe water-filled hole apart, the holiday reading chez Bookwitch Vacations is going well. Yeah, OK, so Birdie read complicated textbooks, but Daughter was wanting to prove my prediction on the likelihood of non-reading wrong, so has read several recent box office titles. She went to see the films and then decided to read the books (possibly to see what they got ‘wrong’).

The Resident IT Consultant, on the other hand, reads what he finds. I sometimes have to forbid him to go for what I need to read next, and he has been reasonably obedient. He did go looking for the charging cable for his Kindle, and was a little surprised when I said it was in the flower pot (I thought that was a good place for it). His main concern was whether it had been watered (like George, I suppose), but you don’t water artificial plants.

At least, I hope you don’t.

Bookwitch bites #104

Waterstones Children's Book Prize Winner Annabel Pitcher

When Jimmy Savile trumps US murderers, you know it’s a strange world. Very pleased for Annabel Pitcher who has gone and won something yet again. Her Ketchup Clouds won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize this week. ‘Unsettling’ story is how the press release described it. Then I read in the paper that Annabel had had a narrow escape, by abandoning plans to have her heroine write letters to Mr Savile. Death row prisoner is nowhere as awful.

El Mundo es Nuestro is about another world. Daughter and I went to see this Spanish film at Cornerhouse on Monday night, enjoying both it and the Q&A with the actors and the director and the producer that followed. The world the film is about is the [imagined] financial crisis in Spain (this was in 2009), and it is very funny. It’s been ignored by Spanish television, presumably because you don’t talk about stuff like this.

Alfonso Sánchez

The actors were relieved to find the Manchester audience laughed at the same things as they did. In fact, they have a facebook page where they were quite interested to see what the ‘English journalist’ thought of the film. (That’s me, btw…) What I think I’m trying to say here, is that we are more alike than we think. And it’s good to have learned languages, especially when visiting actors do their Q&A in Spanish. (Not to mention the DVD the week before that came sans subtitles. But ‘anyone’ can watch Spanish OAPs learn about sex…)

I did a book review over on CultureWitch yesterday. It felt more appropriate doing it there since it was the 1986 autobiography of Roger Whittaker, So far, so good, and it was Roger’s 77th birthday yesterday. I reflected on how much easier buying books from across the other side of the world is today, than back when I needed to find it (a local bookshop said they would, but failed).

On discovering Mr Decorator working down the road from Bookwitch Towers, I summoned him to come and relieve me of more books. The poor man staggered out of the house with another three bags of reading material. Not only am I trying to keep track of his children’s ages, but I’m targetting their cousins, too. Baad witch.

Lucy Hawking and Helen Giles

After a pretty lengthy delay* since she conducted her interview with Lucy Hawking, Daughter has now published their January chat. The additional wonderful news is that Lucy and her Dad are writing another two books about George. That’s the thing about trilogies. Some are longer than others.

And now Daughter’s off to chase more scientists in Edinburgh. The Science Festival begins today.

*Random House needed time to formalise all the Georgian plans before they were released.

Riots and other black holes

Trust the two witches to pick the day with ‘snow’ to travel to London. But we got there, and we made it home too. Daughter and I each had an interview to conduct, wanting to kill two birds with one Pendolino train. Two, if you count the return journey.

And what birds we got!

We played it safe by snaring Lucy Hawking for a scientific fiction chat at the Euston Ibis. On account of her being intelligent, and likely to talk about complicated stuff to do with black holes, etc, she was Daughter’s to deal with. I relaxed and took unbelievably blurry photos.

Lucy Hawking

She brought us the new paperback of George and the Big Bang. The one where she has altered something at the end to acommodate the Higgs Boson discovery last July. Lucy apologised for having folded the corner of a page. She’d read her own book on the way to see us…

Not content with giving us a book, she pressed a copy of The New Scientist on Daughter. And once the interview was over, they settled down with more science and space talk, with Lucy looking pretty relaxed in her armchair.

When it was school home time, Lucy had to dash off to do motherly stuff, while we had an iPod to feed before our next bird.

Adrian McKinty had flown all the way from Australia via Seattle and Ireland to meet us. And the BBC, but still. We forced more tea down Adrian’s throat, which could be why he appeared to have overdosed on caffeine. Or it might have been jetlag.

We began by talking brothels, about which he seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. It was mainly a discussion about us not meeting in one, since I had come to the conclusion that the Wellcome Collection’s Café might be better after all, despite well-meaning advice on facebook. Especially as it had a Death exhibition on. (Not on a Monday, obviously.)

Adrian McKinty

Adrian talks a lot, even for an Irishman. At one point he broke off after a long monologue, wanting to be reminded what the question was. How should I remember?

My Photographer was relieved to find Adrian didn’t look like his mugshot which she’d found online. I was relieved he’d had the sense to run away when he encountered unexpected riots in Belfast at the weekend. I mean, if the M&S Foodhall is that empty, you should suspect riots round the corner. The armed police could also be a clue.

We could easily have gone on forever. Before Adrian’s publicist dragged him away, I forced Adrian to doodle in my copy of I Hear the Sirens in the Street. He did so – almost – as well as he writes books. Daughter’s gasp had more to do with how it looked upside down.

And we really do want to see that YA space adventure!

Bookwitch bites #88

As I was hinting in yesterday’s review, authors really can’t make their minds up, can they? Eva Ibbotson has very sweet, vegetarian abominable snowmen. Derek Landy’s version are the worst possible. They tried to… (oops, spoiler)

Never mind.

And then there is that J K Rowling who has a new book out that dares not to be about wizards. I like that. It’s not even about vampires. And I gather the only dystopia is our own. As it already is, and all that. I’m supposed to be getting a copy. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll let you know. Do you reckon after Harry and Barry, the next hero will be called, erm, Larry?

I could kill that Ian Rankin for spreading rumours J K was writing a crime novel. He should stick to balls in BSL.

Although, sticking to things aren’t always for the best. Stephen and Lucy Hawking have new covers for the George trilogy, and for such a stick-in-the-mud, I do like the new covers better than the old ones.
Lucy and Stephen Hawking, George trilogy
Aren’t they cool? Surely any child would want to read these? I would almost want to be a child again. Almost.

Whenever I receive information as a member of the Jacqueline Wilson fan club (yes, really) I do feel quite young. The message from Dame JW herself in celebration of the newly re-designed website makes me want to worship at her knee.

And there is Emerald Star still to enjoy. It was published this week, but whereas super fan Daughter has read it, I had to stand in queue and will get to it shortly. Time she grew up and let me be the child. After all, I am the shortest.

George and the Big Bang

I thought I was behind with my reading (I was, actually), when I realised I was almost perfect in my timing. I was, too.

Lucy and Stephen Hawking’s trilogy about George came to an end last year, and not a moment too soon, as Daughter said, seeing as the Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs Boson happened shortly afterwards. 4th July, to be precise. And the world didn’t explode, which will be a bit of a spoiler in George and the Big Bang.

My impeccable timing has to do with the paperback editions of all three books being published tomorrow. So go out and get them, if you haven’t already. You are living history at the moment (strictly speaking, I suppose we always are, but…) and it’s good to read something light and fun on the subject of this Boson.

I’m not claiming I actually understood everything in those excellent essays on Physics and Maths that are dotted around this book for young readers. I wonder if it might be that the younger you are, the easier they are to understand. Children come with fewer blocking mechanisms, whereas I have worked up some intolerance of complicated thoughts about string theories and wormholes. All very interesting, but somewhat incomprehensible.

The story, on the other hand, is easy to grasp and great fun. The baddie, Reeper, pops up again. He is supposedly reformed. But is he? Someone is being bad. Could it be someone else, or both, or just Reeper?

And what have pigs and cats and hamsters got to do with the LHC? The computer Cosmos has been misbehaving a little. George is shocked to find that Annie’s dad might be in trouble, and why has Annie seemingly got herself a new best friend?

Let’s just say that George finds more use for his spacesuit, and that understanding about Schrödinger’s cat is not a bad thing. (I am almost there.)

Like the previous two books, this one has several sections of colour photographs of space. They are absolutely fascinating, and what makes them better than most is that they are not pictures we see every day. Between these photos, the drawn diagrams of ‘stuff’ and the essays written by Stephen Hawking and some of his fellow Physicists, as well as other encyclopaedic information, this is the perfect book for budding scientists, and even for those who ‘just want to know.’

I will need to read about the Big Bang a few more times, but am hopeful I will eventually get – some of – it.

Below is one of Garry Parsons’ fabulous illustrations for the book.

George and the Big Bang, illustration by Garry Parsons

(It is virtually impossible to find images which don’t somehow turn into something from a certain television show…)

Happy 70th Birthday to Stephen Hawking

At Bookwitch Towers we have entered some sort of physics mode, which is an odd thing to do, for someone who did less well at physics than most other school subjects. Whereas I was relieved there wasn’t too much bubbling or generally cooking in cauldrons in physics, it was still mostly beyond my capabilities. (The cauldrony stuff turned up with chemistry, unfortunately.)

Space was the furthest, but strangely the most accessible. That’s where Stephen Hawking, whose birthday it is today, would like to go. I wouldn’t, but I wish him luck with his ambition. He’s got very far for a boy ‘who would never amount to anything,’ so why not further still?

Professor Hawking counts as being famous. He has also written children’s books, co-authored by Lucy Hawking. But I think in this instance I am happy to say that I don’t mind in the least. In fact, I would positively encourage more books like the ones about George.

As for me, I still have the third, George and the Big Bang, left to read. Lucy reckons it’s the best, so I’m keeping it as a treat.

And I hope there will be a few treats for all the Hawkings today; cake, candles to blow out, dancing. I read somewhere that Stephen Hawking likes dancing.

Goldilocks and the exoplanets

You know, I felt so inspired after getting rid of my budding astrophysicist that I turned straight to the Hawkings, Father and Daughter. I’m ashamed to admit that George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt has had a long wait chez bookwitch, but when I got to it I realised it was all for the good. Before this last academic year I wouldn’t have known about the Goldilocks Zone, nor about exoplanets.

Stephen and Lucy Hawking, George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt

But after Daughter’s projects last year I have heard quite a lot about them. And I have to say that whoever complained about the frivolousness of the Goldilocks Zone (calling it that) can’t be too close to professor Hawking. If he can tolerate Goldilocks, then so can we all. (I loved the description and the illustration of Earth as Goldilocks. Whereas the Resident IT Consultant only muttered about distances…)

OK, I’m getting sidetracked here. The second book about George has him going on a treasure hunt in space. It might have to do with exoplanets, which are sort of Earth-like planets on which life can live comfortably.

Grannies rock. Where would we be without them? Not in deepest space, anyway. And a computer with attitude is amusing, if a wee bit worrying. Sweet Cosmos.

I was wondering about who the baddie would be this time. I apologise to Emmett for half suspecting him. He’s a sweet supernerd, that’s all. Just not good with travelling.

As with Lucy Hawking’s first book about George, this is an exciting tale for children, interspersed with some serious science. I came away from this one feeling that the short essays on all manner of spacey stuff could easily be used to teach people older than ten about astrophysics, too. There is something about getting the cream of space/physics/astronomy to write on serious subjects, but aimed at young children.

Stephen and Lucy Hawking, George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt

As I’ve said before, I want Lucy for my teacher (should I find myself back at school). And George will do very well as a textbook. In fact, having discovered that Daughter hasn’t read this one either, it will have to make its way to Scotland. It could come in useful.

It’s not only astrophysics you get. There is a fair bit on the environment, too, and not all through George’s parents, who are rather Green. Plenty of food for thought in here.

I believe George number three is on its way to me. Can’t wait!

(The illustrations are fantastic. Not only the drawings by Garry Parsons, but the photos from space. You often get the same tired photos over and over, whereas this book has pictures that I’d not seen. Wonderful!)

Edinburgh 2011

It is pretty dreadful. But on the other hand it could have been a lot worse.

I’m talking about the freshly released programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. And before you jump to the erroneous conclusion that the programme is bad, I’m simply bemoaning the fact that I will miss ‘a few’ people by not getting there for the first week.

EIBF

No doubt it will come as a relief to Meg Rosoff and Tim Bowler and Cathy Cassidy that they will miss me too. Not to mention Julie Bertagna and Lucy Hawking. Derek Landy, arghh. Elen Caldecott. Lots of lovely people, who all write great books.

On the plus side, we have Nicola Morgan with Celia Rees, and there is always Patrick Ness and Darren Shan. Janne Teller and Fabio Geda from my foreign reading challenge, and also Mal Peet, Morris Gleitzman and Debi Gliori. And many more. So plenty of little rays of sunshine, in the shape of authors. We know more than well that last year’s lack of mud must be compensated for, so it will rain. Plenty.

Jacqueline Wilson and paparazzi

How will I find the strength to do all this? Last year – sunny weather notwithstanding – nearly finished me off. Would they frown very much if I were to erect a tent in Charlotte Square? Silly me, the place is full of tents. No need to bring my own. It would be convenient, if a little uncomfortable and against the rules. So I guess it will be the Stirling commute again. All that walking is good for me. (To and from the train. Not all the way.)

As for the programme, it looks very, very tempting. It was at this point last year that I threw caution to the wind and opted for the whole caboodle. I can’t this time, so I won’t. Which doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t there.

Some more photos for you…

if you haven’t already had enough. In fact, here are more photos even if you have.

Ian Rankin 2

Lynne Chapman and Julia Jarman 2

Gerald Scarfe 2

Linda Strachan and friends

Judith Kerr 2

Neil Gaiman

Val McDermid 2

Debi Gliori signing 2

Henning Mankell

Michael Morpurgo

Malorie Blackman 4

Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud

Anne Fine

Keith Gray 2

Rachel Ward

Michael Holroyd

Steve Cole

Jacqueline Wilson

Klas Östergren

Lucy Hawking

Henning Mankell

Theresa Breslin and Adèle Geras

Nicola Morgan

Keith Charters 2

Gillian Philip 2

Marina Lewycka 2

Philip Ardagh

Patrick Ness 2

Melvin Burgess

Elizabeth Laird 2

Bali Rai 3

Louise Rennison

And that’s it. So called ‘normal’ service will resume here really soon.