Atlas of Miniature Adventures

Do you recall Atlas of Adventures? It was a most excellent atlas, but it did have a slight drawback. Size. It was enormous. My arms didn’t stretch that far, so it was more a ‘read on a table’ kind of book. Nothing wrong with that, though!

Here is its complete opposite, also illustrated by Lucy Letherland, and written by Emily Hawkins; Atlas of Miniature Adventures. It is an admirable size. Normal book size. Normal weight. Suitable for short arms, and no tables required.

It is not just the book that is smaller, but the adventures are ‘smaller’ in that they all deal with tiny somethings, be it smallest butterfly, a bonsai village, tiny penguins, hobbits or pygmy kingfishers. The list is endless. In a small way. A big endless could be really long.

I can see the attraction of this. Not only is it fun to discover new things in general, but tiny things are always fascinating. And I feel this could be a miniature kind of goal for children, to visit as many mini attractions as they can.

Lucy Letherland and Emily Hawkins, Atlas of Miniature Adventures

(I accidentally read the above as smallest tortilla…)

The goat

I nearly always read the news one day late, and sometimes not at all. But one morning this week my attention was drawn to the short piece about the goat in a Carrickfergus shop.

Goats are nearly always fun, but I primarily noticed it because of Carrickfergus, where I’ve never been, but which is home to one of my most favourite detectives, Adrian McKinty’s Duffy.

Then, for some reason, I decided to dive into my junkmail, which I hardly ever do. (I ought to really, as it often contains important stuff.) Found a tweet by Adrian McKinty about funny books, and followed the trail to Adrian’s blog, thinking it was odd how he cropped up twice in a morning.

On the blog I followed the trail further to Adrian’s new website where – naturally – there was a goat. In Carrickfergus. In a shop. You couldn’t make it up.

Except Adrian did. The *new, as yet unpublished sixth Duffy (yay!) has a scene where Duffy encounters a goat in Carrickfergus.

Duffy and the goat

The annoying thing about this deliciously funny coincidence will be that in future people will say Adrian borrowed the incident from the news.

*Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly.

Aidan Abet Teacher’s pet

Guy Bass, Aidan Abet Teacher's Pet

In his dyslexia friendly book Aidan Abet Teacher’s Pet, Guy Bass really, really doesn’t go where you expect him to.

Aidan Abet is being bullied at school. So far he’s been saved by sucking up to his teacher, who then deals with the bullies. But when there is a new teacher, what can he do? Especially as Miss Vowel is a rather unusual teacher.

He tries his sucking up. It sort of works. And then he makes a dreadful discovery, and he knows he has to do something about it.

And, well. It’s a plot with an extra twist to it.

Diary of a Provincial Lady

I can so see myself as a provincial bookwitch, diary-writing and coping with a hopeless husband and two child-like children, not to mention my difficult staff!

E M Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady

Never having read E M Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady before, I am finding this is exactly my kind of thing. I’ve not quite finished it, as I am wanting to make it last until Christmas, but wanted to tell you that you might need this book, or you could slip it into someone’s stocking.

Because this little volume is so gorgeous and so small and so pale blue (with a most attractive painting of a reclining bookwitch on the dustwrapper), with gold edged pages, and so small (yes, I know I already mentioned this) that it will actually fit in people’s stockings, unlike many other stocking fillers. And I’d not realised it’d be so small, but that just makes it more perfect. It will fit in your pocket, or your small handbag, while still offering nearly 200 pages of diary.

‘Shall she, says Lady B., ring for my car? Refrain from replying that no amount of ringing will bring my car to the door all by itself, and say instead that I walked.’

Now, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d want to write in a diary? It’s so tiresome to be ‘poor’ and be chased by the bank, when the Lady Bs in your life require you to live above your means.

The one thing that would make reading the diary better, would be an instant knowledge of French; as there is a little too much – that matters – in that language. But then, I suppose in my diary I will have to make a feature of lack of French. And I won’t have three staff, while regularly visiting the pawnbroker.

First published in 1930, you feel you are there.

(There will be 100 books in the Macmillan Collector’s Library. That’s a lot of stocking fillers.)

The First Hunter

First catch your zebra.

By the time you’re twenty pages into Robert Swindells’s The First Hunter for Barrington Stoke, the characters have eaten a piece of stolen zebra, and one of them has been killed by a bear.

Robert Swindells, The First Hunter

I don’t think I’ve read many stories set further into the past than this one. I’m not certain where this group of people lived, but in the illustrations they look African. They have not learned to hunt, so have to live off berries and things, plus what they can steal from the real killers, such as lions.

It’s steal, or be killed. Sometimes both.

The fear and anger they feel when one of their group dies after a close meeting with a bear, means that someone – the group’s ‘idiot’ in fact – begins to think of alternatives.

And that’s how they discover hunting.

This is so informative in a way I’d never even considered.

Why not me?

The lists are gathering all over the internet. I am gathering a few books myself for my 2016 list, which is fairly imminent. Some people I admire, who are very knowledgeable about children’s books, are moaning and asking if this ‘list is any good?’ because they haven’t heard of a single book on it, or at least not read them.

And I’m rather like that myself. Not the moaning, obviously. I never moan. Except when I do, like now.

On most of those lists I have managed to find one I’ve read, and liked, and occasionally another I’ve heard of or even received but not read. My own gathering list already has too many books on it, even when I stick to my rules, children’s books published this year, which automatically disqualifies great adult crime and some really excellent books that were last year’s. But you have to have boundaries.

So I’m not short of wonderful books. I’m merely pondering why so many of the ones on other lists have not passed over my threshold. Or, it seems, a number of other thresholds either.

It is well nigh impossible to request books you don’t know exist, or I would do. And by the time enough people have enthused about them somewhere, there is less scope to jump on the bandwaggon. If they were by authors I know and have read before, the chances of hearing about their new books is greater. Except, even those writers who first became published during the Bookwitch era, and are considered – by me – to be established authors, seem to find it difficult to have their new books bought by publishers.

And at the same time there are countless debut authors. It makes me wonder if publishers actively go for new rather than established, because the established ones have failed to write the next Harry Potter, so the debut writers are seen as more likely to do a JKR? OK, so she was a beginner, but surely a new Potter success could come from anyone? Clearly not on quite the same unlikely scale, but still big.

Is a hitherto unpublished writer more likely to strike gold than the author who has had four really good novels published, but who is now not having any luck with their latest offering? Surely it must be possible to have plodded along for ten years before hitting on just the right thing at the right time?

Unless the only money publishers are looking for will be coming from celebrity books, ghost written or not?

Whatever.

The Queen’s Present

Even Queens can encounter problems when it comes to buying Christmas presents for their little ones.

Steve Antony, The Queen's Present

In Steve Antony’s latest picture book, his very active Queen embarks on some serious world travelling to find the perfect gifts for the Prince and the Princess. She has some help from the man in red, who just happens to call in at Buckingham Palace, and who lets her come with him as he crosses the globe.

This way the reader can see many of the world’s most famous landmarks as the Queen and Father Christmas fly past. But no matter how grand the place, it seems she will never find the right thing.

If you look carefully, you will see that Her Majesty starts her travels sitting at the back of the sleigh. But as they go, she ends up closer and closer to the front, until she finally has the reins in her hands.

That doesn’t help, though, and she has to give up the hunt, and Father Christmas sends her on her way in the same manner he himself enters most houses. Hence the Queen’s sooty appearance at Sandringham, where the Prince and Princess get the best gift from Grandma.

(I’m still pondering whether a generation has been lost, or if Steve is merely ‘Grandma-ing’ the Queen for the sake of simplicity?)