Tag Archives: Michael Rosen

Choosing Crumble

I found myself wanting a little hidey-hole under my stairs where I could place a dog’s basket. And that is so bad. I neither want nor need a dog, but Michael Rosen’s Choosing Crumble was most persuasive. Or was it the pictures by Tony Ross?

Michael Rosen and Tony Ross, Choosing Crumble

Here is everything you need to know about getting a dog. If the dog will let you, that is. Crumble is an unusual dog. He interviews his prospective owner, who in this case is Terri-Lee. She goes to the pet shop with her Mum, and soon finds herself answering questions.

Crumble wants home made food. He likes being tickled. He doesn’t want fifty words when one or two will do. He is a boy and will certainly not be called Lassie.

He chews. It’s what dogs do.

Terri-Lee is determined to have him. It’s what little girls are like.

Choosing Crumble is an adorable little book, easy to read on your own, or to have someone read with you. If you didn’t want a dog before, you’ll want one after. Even if they chew.

Bookwitch bites #112

‘One of the best writers in Texas’ died this week. I didn’t know John Graves, either as an author or as a person. But as I mentioned here a while back, in this crazy online world, I sort of know his daughter Helen. I had no idea her father was a writer, nor that he was well enough known to merit an obituary in the New York Times. He sounds like a lovely and very interesting man. John would have been 93 on Tuesday. This may sound simple, but I appreciate it when people share their friends and families with the rest of us. It’s good to know about people.

Someone who got shared a little too much for Michael Rosen’s liking, was little George, whose birth was registered this week. He – Michael, that is – wrote a poem about being told what he likes. Much as I enjoyed baby George for his parents’ sake, I have to agree with our former children’s laureate. There is much I really do not need to know. And I don’t necessarily feel the same way about it as you do.

Mind by Michael Rosen

To get back to online friendships, I found someone’s opinions so off-putting this week that I nearly de-friended them over it. It’s rather like Michael’s poem; I know that others disagree with me and try to allow for it, but am amazed that some of them seem to have no concept that I might see things differently from them.

Someone who is always wise, with – mostly – sensible thoughts on a variety of topics is Norman Geras. His blog was ten years old a week ago today. I don’t share his fondness for cricket, but that just makes things more interesting. Not less.

And you know other people telling you about their holidays? Can be boring, but not when it’s done like this. Theresa Breslin blogged about her long suffering husband, who has finally had a holiday where doing research for Theresa’s next book didn’t come first. In fact, might not have happened at all. (I don’t read The History Girls every day. I should. They are always interesting.)

I will leave you with a great cartoon of another children’s laureate. Here is Malorie Blackman as seen by the very talented – and slightly crazy – Sarah McIntyre. When I grow up, I want to be able to draw like Sarah.

Malorie Blackman by Sarah McIntyre

Walker Books and a witch with wet hands

As usual it was a case of waving your hands (or in this case, my hands) under the drier for absolutely forever, wipe them on your clothes, or go wet, hoping there’d be no hands to shake. You can guess which I chose, and what happened next, can’t you?

I was at the presentation of Walker Books’ and Constable & Robinson’s Autumn Highlights in Manchester on Wednesday evening, when I came face to face with Jo for the first time, and had to quickly get out of the handshaking she had in mind. This flustered me so much I forgot to mention my name. (But everyone knows me, right?) Besides, I’d already got the decrepit old woman treatment. Staff at the venue saw me negotiating the steps outside (which had NO handrail) and quickly bundled me into the lift before I caused more trouble.

Wally bag

Super-Jake was there, but I forgot to check his footwear. Representatives of our local LitFest and bookshops and that most Wondrous of blogs could also be seen. I was quite restrained prior to the talk, as I noticed there were partybags in one corner, which meant I did no stealing or anything beforehand.

Constable & Robinson went first, and I’d not realised that books on prescription, which I have heard of, is for non-fiction self-help type books, rather than patients being made to feel better after a dose of Pride and Prejudice…

They are big on halogen oven books. (Don’t ask.) They are the leaders in cosy crime. You can have books on WWII pets for Christmas. Obviously. C & R have begun offering children’s books, and they had an instructive video on how to fight zombies. (Head removal is recommended.) Gross. Shaun Ryder on UFOs. (It would have helped if I knew who Shaun Ryder is.) Joan Collins is nearly 80, in case you wanted to know. They have a book titled Going on a Bar Hunt. Droll.

This being very much a presentation for booksellers, I now know a lot more about which books are commercial, something I rarely consider in my narrow little world. There will be joke books for Christmas. And they have just begun a relationship with Brian McGilloway, who I am very interested in.

Vivian French bookmark

On to Walker Books, who are planning a picture book party. I think that means they have lots of picture books to offer. Vivian French has something new going; Stargirl Academy. Looks good. Pink. Anthony Browne is a Marmite author, which I can understand. That gorilla still scares me.

Cassandra Clare was there last year, before she grew so big that she doesn’t do this kind of talk. She has a film on the way. Nice for her.

Walker have travel guides, and there is new stuff for fans of GHMILY (Guess How Much I Love You books). Mumsnet have done a story collection. In fact, I reckon there is one thing parents want more than anything else. They want their children to fall asleep. Lots of books for that purpose.

Manatees and bears. A book about someone pecking (I’m thinking – hoping – woodpecker) all the way through.  Going on a Bear Hunt is out again. Michael Morpurgo will be 70, and four of his books are being re-issued, including one about funny old men who are famous artists.

Speaking of funny, Tommy Donbavand has a new series called Fangs. Walker are really really really really thrilled to be working with Anthony McGowan and his new book Hello Darkness. Patrick Ness wasn’t there except on video, where he did his best to sound interesting while not giving too much away about his new novel More Than This. His Chaos trilogy, meanwhile, is being revamped for old people.

My notes say ‘spider skeleton.’ I think there’s a book about things like spider skeletons. Kate DiCamillo and her dog spoke to us all the way from their Minneapolis dining room. While the dog made dog noises, Kate told us about her mother’s obsession with her 1952 vacuum cleaner and what would happen to it after she died. Kate’s new book Flora and Ulysses also features squirrels.

Anthony Horowitz has finally come to the end of his Power of Five books, so has had time to write Russian Roulette, the Alex Rider prequel he has had in mind for absolutely ages. He is quite satisfied with it.

Lizzy Bennet (I apologise for sounding so informal) wrote a diary in her pre-Darcy days, which will give us an opportunity to find out all kinds of stuff.

Finally, Walker are publishing the Little Island imprint, which is foreign fiction. I spied a Swedish title in among the covers they showed us, and think it’s high time there are more books from other countries.

Walker Books autumn books

As you can see, they had a lot to tell us. They hadn’t rehearsed, so were surprised to find it took them so long. But at the end there were canapés and more drinks and even a few authors; Steve Tasane, Sarah Webb and Katy Moran. Someone else, too. At least I think there was.

Wally bag

I grabbed my partybag and hobbled away home. There was NO handrail on the way out either…

Rosen on Dahl

I wonder if Roald Dahl caused Bookwitch to be born? (Yeah, I know. It was Meg Rosoff.) But even so. It’s because I am old. So old that I never read Roald Dahl’s books as a child, and it was this deficiency that made me read some of them when Son was Dahl-age. I had to know if they were any good, because you can’t leave it to those little boys who read nothing but Dahl.

And if I hadn’t done that bit of catching up, I might not have continued on a life of reading children’s books, third time round.

Michael Rosen, Fantastic Mr Dahl

For Roald Dahl day this coming week, there is a new biography by Michael Rosen, Fantastic Mr Dahl. To me this is one funny man writing about another funny man. And in a way there is nothing new here. Michael says he has based the book on what you find in those other biographies, which I have also read. But he writes in his own kind and thoughtfully funny way, adding his own experiences at times. (Like when Dahl talked to Rosen Jr about his dad’s beard. Or comparing his own father’s life with Roald’s.)

Because Michael is writing for young readers, this biography is probably more accessible to fans than Roald’s own Boy, for instance. And as befits a Dahl/Rosen book, it has been illustrated by Quentin Blake. Obviously.

Michael likes the way Roald (as I write this, I find myself saying Roald in my head, the Norwegian way, and not ‘in English’) made up his own words. I wonder if it is actually less strange than he thinks. It feels natural to me, and perhaps also to a fluent Norwegian speaker?

There are Roald’s letters home to his mother, both amusing and a little heart-breaking. I remember feeling desperately sad when reading his own book about his time at school, but Michael has thought about this, and has some comfort to offer.

Divided up into three parts, boy, man, writer, Michael finishes by teaching his readers literary analysis. It might not be necessary, but it happens so rarely that I found myself quite fascinated by it all. And it goes well with the way Michael and Roald both treat their young readers as intelligent individuals, with feelings, and a sense of humour.

Becoming a little retrospective about mcbf 2012

At the safe distance of nearly a week, I feel almost ready to re-visit mcbf. How about the rest of you? I guess that even James Draper might have finished sleeping by now.

MMU

There are things I didn’t do, apart from author events I just had no stamina to attend. I didn’t make it to Cornerhouse for a screening of The Witches. And it would have been so very suitable too. (Swedish witch, and all that.)

I still have the war books exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North in mind, and will do until it ends.

James had a hard eleven days of it. At one point I thought he would have to finish the festival wearing espadrilles, when his pointy shoes gave up the ghost. And was it tired eyes that caused the spectacles to emerge one day?

Kaye did all right, wearing some lovely outfits and still seeming to feel up to starting to plan mcbf 2014.

There were others who did a wonderful job as well. Claudia travelled all over Manchester, and Kevin smiled in the face of exhaustion whenever I met him. Duncan was elegant in his suit until the bitter end, and Iris continued with her bright spottiness. Anyone else I’ve omitted mentioning will just have to forgive a confused old festival-witch.

I’ll leave you with some more photos, chosen with no plan or reason whatsoever.

Holden Gallery

MCBF audience

Jackie Kay

Liz Kessler

Steve Cole

Cathy Cassidy

Jacqueline Wilson and fan

Sherry Ashworth and Philip Pullman

Josh Degenhardt and Julie Bertagna

Michael Rosen

John Sampson

Carol Ann Duffy

The day I turned into Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is the sort of person I’d like to have come round to my house. He simply helped himself to tea from one of the tables (I suspect they might have omitted laying out tea for the star of Afternoon Tea at the Midland) and then plonked himself in the empty space in the middle of the room and started being amusing. I.e. not where he was meant to be.

Michael Rosen

This had the effect of freeing up his original ‘high’ table, so three of us sat down there, and I had a slight inkling of what it’s like to sit at the signing table in the middle of ‘the stage.’

But since Michael probably won’t be popping round to Bookwitch Towers, it’s as well he came to the Midland to entertain a roomful of children. They were fairly small ones, with parents in tow. Like the born entertainer he is, he seamlessly chatted and made jokes and poetry, as though we had known each other for a long time.

Michael Rosen

It could have turned into a short acquaintance, seeing how he made the assembled fans hold their breaths. According to Michael you have to expect quite a few children not to make it. At least that’s what it was like during his schooldays in 3rd year juniors. (Yeah, they spoke funny in those days.)

Michael Rosen and helper

I suspect what he did was teach/read us a poem while having people flap pretend school-desk lids in the air, breathing behind the non-existent lids. After his massive lie about the death toll at school, Michael opened the floor to questions, and I have never heard an author deal with the inspiration question better. Basically it’s got to do with standing under Hungerford Bridge and screaming, and then feeling the bridge supports.

You do get what he meant, I hope?

Michael Rosen - 'The Noise'

We found out how his Dad dealt with noisy children. (Apparently Michael and his fossil of an older brother were naughty and noisy and needed dealing with.) You rest your hand on your temple and say ‘The Noise’ in a longsuffering kind of way. While describing the antics of the little Rosens, Michael accidentally taught his audience lots of bad behaviour.

Maybe Michael is the only person to have discovered the Secretary of State for Education in Jabberwocky, but do have a look. He is in there. This worthy poem got a mention because Michael likes to make up new words. With his parents he was never quite sure if what they said was in English, Yiddish or plain made up. Neither did his mother.

Michael Rosen

Someone inquired about her names (strange questions are good), and as a bonus we learned that Mr Rosen’s middle name is Wayne. He is old for a British Wayne, but not the oldest. The oddest place he has ever written in was a headteacher’s toilet, and while we are on a plumbing theme, one embarrassing moment in Michael’s life happened at medical school when he was mistaken for the plumber, come in to fix a leak.

He likes raisins and chickpeas, and the person he envies the most is James Draper of the mcbf. (Because James has a school for writing children’s books, and gets to wear a suit, and because MMU has Carol Ann Duffy.) Michael was very nicely dressed in a purple V-neck, so there was no need at all to covet those three-piece suits.

Soon after mentioning a new book called Fluff the Farting Fish, Michael realised he might be preventing his audience from partaking of their afternoon tea, so he stopped talking. Sort of. He went round to individual tables and chatted instead.

Michael Rosen with fan

(I have been forbidden to use the best photograph of the day. Apparently my photographer has her own blog where it will go. Hmph.)

When James and Kaye nearly killed Michael Rosen

Nearly. And only with hard work.

It’s one of the hazards for authors and book festival organisers alike. But Michael is coming back for more, which just goes to prove what a good festival James Draper and Kaye Tew are capable of putting together.

Kaye Tew and James Draper of the Manchester Children's Book Festival

And to think I had the temerity to interrupt their hard work to ask intrusive questions about their qualifications to do what they are doing (I never ask authors that), and if they read books. Honestly, some interviewers don’t know when to stop.

You’ll have to read the interview to find out the answers, and to discover why they do what they do.

The Manchester Children’s Book Festival will begin in exactly one week, on Thursday 28th June.

Bookwitch bites #82

Do you remember Nicola Morgan’s brain? The one that got caught out at Belfast airport? Now she’s doing other brain talks, and she has very kindly – sort of – included Daughter’s brain. On Nicola’s new ‘at home with Nicola on a Friday night’ blog, she mentioned a recent talk on brains. She illustrated it with a photo of Daughter’s room.

I am so ashamed.

(But I will have you know it’s not the one in this house. That at least has good bone structure. This university accommodation style of architecture makes me shudder.)

To ensure that more children have a good start in life, at least as far as books and reading are concerned, Bookstart are doing some good work. Michael Rosen and Jamie Oliver and many others are pledging to share 20 books. And there can always be more. Pledge away, if you feel like it!

I have to admit to being most impressed with the names of Jamie’s children. (I’m guessing this proves I don’t read the right magazines, or I would already have known about them.)

The ‘items’ in that photograph mentioned above have now migrated here. We can still almost walk a path between the assorted boxes and bags. I’m pleased to see my books back, and just as pleased that Daughter read many of them and enjoyed her reading.

That’s what I hope will happen to the Y7 children who get to take part in Bookbuzz, starting in September. A ‘free’ book for all, at least if schools apply to take part.

The books listed below are the ones chosen for children to pick from.

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis
Journey to the Centre of My Brain by James Carter
Rivets: Lifters by Joe Craig
Heroes by Paul Dowswell
The Messenger Bird by Ruth Eastham
Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge
Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans
Shadow Forest by Matt Haig
The Secrets Club: Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins
Lost Riders by Elizabeth Laird
The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres
Don’t Wipe Your Bum with a Hedgehog by Mitchell Symons
Spook Squad: The Beast of Hangman’s Hill by Roger Hurn
Boffin Boy and the Temples of Mars by David Orme and Peter Richardson
The Dragon Machine by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson
Call Me Gorgeous by Giles and Alexandra Milton
Hello Dudley by Sam Lloyd

I hope it works out as intended. There appears to be a book about brains, so that is promising. And, has that Giles Milton been eavesdropping? I’ve met people who in all seriousness described him as Gorgeous Giles. (I know. It should really be me.) The hedgehog bumwiping book has passed through my hands (ew), and looked pretty good, albeit in bad taste. I imagine the other Chosen Ones are similarly suitable for Y7s.

Bookwitch bites #70

Sisters and socks and television this week. I’ve been watching far too many daytime shows for my comfort, in order to take in most of the interviews with John Barrowman and his lovely sister Carole.

Then there was Blue Peter who had ‘some sort of ‘ book programme this week. The quotation marks are there to point out that I think they could have had more on books. I now also know stuff about escorting sharks in elevators – and surviving – which I dare say might come in tremendously handy one day, but which was not fully book related. Lucy Coats was lovely, talking about one of the books I have not read. Michael Rosen and others were also there to enthuse about the various Blue Peter shortlisted books.

David Fickling

Here is an ‘almost television’ programme, a video featuring Jacqueline Wilson and her books in general, and her new The Worst Thing About My Sister in particular. Jacqueline answers questions from an audience of children, and reads from TWTAMS.

This week’s sockman, Nick Sharratt is also in there. In retrospect I began wondering whether Nick got his sock inspiration from David Fickling of red socks fame. That’s DF from David Sockling Books, you understand. And in this week’s sock relay, it was to Oxford and David Sockling/Fickling that Nick headed as he left our ‘blissful, lovely’* Sockport.

Big Book Babble with Jacqueline Wilson ans Nick Sharratt

* That’s almost a literary quotation, but I’m afraid I can’t divulge who said it, for fear of repercussions.

Bookwitch bites #64

The winners take it all. And the longlistees who haven’t won yet, might win later. One of them.

Andy Mulligan

I would say this, but I kept feeling that my feeling that I wanted to lay my hands on Andy Mulligan’s Return to Ribblestrop, just might mean he’d do well in the Guardian children’s fiction prize. And he did, but just so you know, I haven’t yet succeeded, so that will be why. And maybe the fact that it’s a tremendous book. I’m sure of that, even in my pre-reading state. It seems that Andy managed to be present at the prize event on Thursday evening, despite this photo showing him in some un-Londonesque high rise.

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize winners Liz Pichon, Peter Bently and Jim Field

It’s been quite a humourous week, if you don’t count my miserable week with a literary cold. The Guardian winning book didn’t have to be funny, except this time it was, but the Roald Dahl Funny Prize winners have to be. This year they are Liz Pichon, Peter Bently and Jim Field, and to be extremely fair, I haven’t read any of their books. But the people below have. I wouldn’t normally go for photos of judges, but then I thought they looked so nice, so why not?

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize judges Felicity Dahl, Francesca Simon, Michael Rosen, Danny Wallace, Grace Dent and Tony Ross.

The Carnegie longlist was announced last week, and as usual it’s a long list, full of excellent books. I have read 19 of them, which actually leaves rather a few still un-read. I won’t issue any predictions at this stage. The shortlist is easier to manage, so my tea leaves and I will get back to you then.

Someone who is both popular and funny, is Jeff Kinney who writes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid (and I’m afraid I can only manage to think of burgers). This successful man is about to appear at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature on December 3rd. Yes I know, it does seem as if he’s a wee bit late. The festival was on in September, but apparently if you’re very big, they will make an exception. So if you’re into funny and angsty American cartoons, this event might be for you. The organisers wanted me to come to Bath for it, but you know me and my recent travel ban. I’ll stay put while they have all the fun.

Jeff Kinney at Bath Festival poster

I understand a couple of the actors from the film will be there as well. All glamour, in other words.