Tag Archives: Lucy Hawking

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.

‘This boy will never amount to anything’

Well, he did. Last week he received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama, accompanied by his daughter whose ‘charm is no substitute for hard work.’ I’ll get back to this father-daughter team later.

Steve Cole

I will never ever get teenagers. Ever. Given the choice between seeing Jacqueline Wilson or Steve Cole on Sunday morning, Daughter went for Steve’s talk about his Astrosaurs. She enjoyed it a lot, although she felt she was the oldest child there. Wrong thinking I said; she was the youngest adult. Steve was so noisy I heard him through the walls. The press people apparently wondered what was going on next door to their yoghurt pod.

Jacqueline Wilson

Meanwhile, the witch went to see Jacqueline, along with a vast number of girls and mums, and a sprinkling of dads. Jacqueline wore black jeans and a black and turquoise top, and the famous rings shone along with the bangles on her arms. She talked mainly about her teens, because the subject for the day was My Secret Diary which was out in the spring. And she did say that she might write a third autobiographical book about her time in Dundee, writing fake horoscopes and readers’ letters, as long as she can censor her diary notes a little. Sounds good to me.

Per Wästberg

As I raced along to the talk by the ‘lazy’ girl from paragraph one, Daughter was anything but lazy. Her task was to shoot Per Wästberg, part of the Meeting Sweden programme (How did they know I was going to be there this year?), when he emerged for his photo call. Except he didn’t, so when she saw a likely Swede she inquired, in Swedish, if he was Per. The poor man said he wasn’t, but took her all the way into the authors’ yurt ( a real no-no) and put her in front of this famous Swedish writer, who was even more confused with the idea of the Bookwitch blog, but posed anyway.

Lucy Hawking

When the witch goes back to school, she wants to have Lucy Hawking for her science teacher. I can’t think of anyone who can talk so well and so sensibly on physics and space and anything else related. Lucy kept the attention of her roomful of children, while explaining dad Stephen’s ideas, which they have turned into two books for children. George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt is new this year, and there will eventually be a third book about George. Lucy and Stephen are, of course, the people mentioned above. I think they turned out OK in the end.

We got to see how (not) to gargle in space. Asparagus will be a suitable crop on Mars, when the time comes. Comet’s go ‘very fast’. Robots don’t get homesick in space. The questions from the children were really very good, but not many people can say what went before the Big Bang or why it happened. Not even Lucy. And look out for the toothbrush in orbit round earth, if you happen to be up there. I asked Lucy if she wants to travel in space, and she does. Preferably to the moon. I was too shy to ask for the phone number for her co-writer for book one.

Henning Mankell

Lunch was gulped down fast, in order to catch Henning Mankell’s little publicised signing in the childrens’ bookshop. In fact, there was hardly a soul there, but I don’t think that was why he was pleased to see me. (Anyone would be pleased to see me, wouldn’t they?) He looked so morose that I addressed him in his own language, though his English is very good. The ‘mini interview’ went something like this:

‘Hello, we’ve met a few times in Gothenburg.’ ‘ Yes, I remember you.’ ‘Uh-oh, that sounds ominous’, said Daughter. ‘What do you mean?’ asked Henning. ‘Only that you may remember me for all the wrong reasons. I could be one of those bl***y old women you get everywhere.’ ‘I don’t think so. I’d have remembered. But there are a few of them around.’ ‘Yes, and I’m often one of them.’ He looked remarkably happy after this exchange. But you would, wouldn’t you, when ‘one of those’ leaves him in peace.

Klas Östergren

Next victim for a photo shoot was Klas Östergren, except he didn’t show, initially. Just as we were leaving for our next rendez vous he turned up in the rain, and as we departed he had someone’s lens half an inch from his nose. The man’s quite good looking, but that’s ridiculous.

The two witches had been invited to afternoon tea at the Roxburghe Hotel by the very, very kind Theresa Breslin, so the road was crossed, and the comfortable lounge was found. Daughter has clearly been deprived, and was very excited by the posh surroundings. Thank you Theresa, it was wonderful. The perfect respite to a busy day. And I’m not averse to similar offers, if anyone is feeling generous. Not all at once, though.

Adèle Geras

Back across the road to see Adèle Geras, and photograph her. We enticed her round the back, where all the big names get shot. As she left again, Theresa turned up, so we all trotted back to the ‘studio’, whereupon the paparazzi fell out of their little pod and descended on Theresa big time.

Theresa Breslin

Resting in the yurt, Klas Östergren appeared, looking for a place to be interviewed, so we offered our seats. He was also quite grateful to be encountering Swedes in a Mongolian tent in the middle of Edinburgh. He’s been brought up properly, so we shook hands.

Bali Rai

In case nobody has noticed, my social calendar for Day 5 was quite full, really. We met up with Clare from Random (a really Randomy weekend), and apart from the fact I thought she’d have blond hair, it was as good to meet her as I’d thought. Clare brought out Bali Rai for a short chat. And more photos round the back. Predictably the paparazzi emerged again, just needing reassurance that Bali was indeed a real writer and a little famous. Even my copy of his book, City of Ghosts, was photographed. Don’t think Bali knew what hit him.

Adèle Geras

Jonathan Stroud

We breathed for a few minutes before trotting off to the talk by Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud. Really liked the way the two of them had planned it, with short introductions, followed by a reading, and ending with them asking each other questions, before letting the audience loose. Good way of doing it.

Our final port of call for the day was back in the same tent again, for the much awaited discussion with Rachel Ward, Melvin Burgess and Anne Fine. Daughter said she didn’t want to miss the Anne-Melvin encounter for anything. I wanted to see if they’d both survive it, and I think Melvin had wondered the same thing. There were one or two references made to the blasting Anne did of Melvin’s Doing It some years ago.

Melvin Burgess, Rachel Ward and Anne Fine

They were all alive and well when we left for the day. And the discussion was good.

(Photos by H Giles)