Dear Meg

It’s how they addressed her last night. Dear Meg Rosoff, they said, and then they said lots more nice things. It was time to actually let her receive the Astrid Lindgren award, after a week of hard, but lovely, graft, touring like some kind of rockstar.

Stockholm Concert Hall

As Meg’s sisters pointed out, the city is full of posters of their sister; the one who can write. They came over from America to celebrate this special moment in their family, along with a stepmother (who was truly lovely), as well as ‘Mr Rosoff’ and ‘Miss Rosoff.’ So it’s hardly surprising that the Bookwitch and the Resident IT Consultant had come to cry too. Because cry we all did, with happiness, but tears nevertheless. And I think Meg’s mother is quite correct in telling her friends it’s the Nobel. It very nearly is.

Stockholm Concert Hall

The Stockholm Concert Hall is a grand affair, on a nice scale. We’d got seats next to the Royal Box, and it looked rather like the King was going to film the whole shebang. Or maybe it wasn’t him, but a film crew, behind the red velvet curtain. There were some Excellences present, but I don’t know which ones.

Bo Kaspers Orkester

Malena Ernman

It was a compact one hour event, packed full with speeches and entertainment, with no one lingering or getting boring. Lots of music from Bo Kaspers Orkester and opera singer Malena Ernman giving us You’ll Never Walk Alone. Hamadi Khemiri read from What I Was, and there were presentations of some of Meg’s books.

Meg Rosoff and the ALMA award, with Alice Bah Kuhnke and Katti Hoflin

There were talks from Staffan Forssell from the Swedish Arts Council, the Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, ALMA jury chairman Boel Westin, and finally from Meg herself. Meg’s was a good speech, where she managed to fit in her gratitude and a neat comparison between books in Sweden and the British Government’s treatment of the country’s young and the closure of libraries. She received a standing ovation.

Meg Rosoff

Astrid Lindgren was keen on children’s rights, and on them playing and reading. Even daydreaming. So not quite how it’s done at our end.

Compere Katti Hoflin was excellent, and had a nice way with the sheep on stage. You can never go wrong with sheep, I feel. Baah.

Meg Rosoff, Alice Bah Kuhnke and Boel Westin

It was all done extremely well, and we finished off with drinks and top quality nibbles in the Grünewald Hall next door, which is where I eventually found both Meg and her whole family for a chat. And as I squeezed my way through (never was a witch more determined) after checking with the Resident IT Consultant that he knew what I look like, in case we got separated, I ended up speaking to Astrid’s daughter Karin, for the first time in my life. And that was only minutes after I’d admitted to the Resident IT Consultant that I’d never met her…

Meg and family had another grand dinner to go to, while we called in at the nearby 7-Eleven.

And did I mention there were party bags?

Meg Rosoff ALMA party bag

How We Live Now

Just in Case.

Bob willing, this is what the Resident IT Consultant and I will be occupying ourselves with. (Although I must point out he is ‘only’ along for the ride because he found out I was intending to travel by train and he wanted to do that too.)

ALMA invite

Picture Me There. I am no longer What I Was, thanks to my fairy Blogmother. There will probably be no dogs, unleashed or otherwise.

And this is only a temporary Bookwitch’s Farewell. Until tomorrow.

Well, we’re here, anyway

Have safely arrived at Holiday Bookwitch Towers, and it is still standing. Every time I have this irrational thought that maybe we shouldn’t buy food on the way, in case the house, and thereby the fridge, has somehow perished while we weren’t looking. But then I tell myself it’s better to have the food, regardless. With or without a house with a fridge.

Our airline wanted us to accept payment not to fly. We said that while we could see why they were asking, we had so many commitments that we really couldn’t agree. I suppose they got someone else to sacrifice themselves.

I spent the flight reading a new book, which I’ll be telling you about soon. I always travel with at least two in my hand luggage, in case one is a dud. This one wasn’t the slightest dud-like.

We drove over The Bridge. Not a corpse in sight, but then I had my eyes closed, which might be why. The Resident IT Consultant asked if I’d never driven across in that direction before, and if I could manage. I pointed out that I was perfectly capable of shutting my eyes in either direction, and that I’d be fine.

Then we stopped and had pizza at Bjärreds Pizzeria. It was lovely! Both the place and the pizza. Just the right blend of Swedish corner/village pizzeria feel. We’d decided we needed to stop for a feed soon after The Bridge, and I had instructed the Resident IT Consultant in advance to search online for a small village just off the motorway; one that was bound to have a traditional takeaway pizza place with a few tables outside.

And when they gave me my change back on paying, they pointed out I was getting one of the lovely new twenties, featuring none other than Astrid Lindgren. So that was pretty topical too. As Son said earlier, it’s a shame Astrid gave the boot to Selma Lagerlöf, but I suppose one token female is all you get on bank notes.

Since the fridge was still operational when we turned up with milk and Turkish yoghurt (I’m investigating how it differs from Greek), all was well.

(And, erm, it’s Mother’s Day. The Resident IT Consultant pointed out I’m not his mother, so I’m guessing there will be no secret walk in the woods to pick lilies of the valley. Or a cake decorated with Turkish yoghurt and strawberries… I don’t really do Mother’s Day, and this way I get to not do it twice; once for each country I’m in.)

The disappointment

Just say ‘thank you’ if you receive a compliment. You may not feel you deserve it, but thanking the person complimenting you is both the quickest way and the politest.

I shouldn’t really be preaching here, as I’m very bad at receiving praise. It’s odd how it feels easier to say several grumbly things, rather than just the one ‘thank you.’

It was reading Johan Norberg in Vi, and how he finds compliments hard to deal with, that made me think about this. Because he had once come across his favourite author and done the fan thing, only to be told that the author considered himself a fraud and also totally un-interested in what he had written about.

And that was that. Johan lost every positive feeling he’d had about these books and their creator. In some odd way he even lost the pleasure of what he’d read in the past; not just that he wouldn’t want to read anything new by this writer.

The question is why anyone would respond like that when meeting an admirer. Better to say ‘I’m glad you liked it’ even if you happen to know you did a poor job of whatever it was.

I don’t believe I have had anyone say anything of the kind to me, but I do find that with some people, just meeting them in real life changes how I feel about their work. Obvious, I suppose. Some you come to adore, but there’s always one or two I wish I’d not actually met.

Follow Me

I believe one of the young people at Yay!YA+ in April told Victoria Gemmell that her debut Follow Me was the best book they’d read. I can understand that. While as a terribly responsible and boring adult, and for that matter, as the sensible teenager I used to be, I want to run screaming the other way, when I read about how teenagers stomp straight into trouble and then go even further in the wrong direction, rather than be cautious.

Victoria Gemmell, Follow Me

But after feeling scared and also pretty annoyed with Kat in Follow Me, I got to the stage where I couldn’t let go and had to hurry to see who was the bad guy. Because Victoria spreads suspicion all over the place and you’re not totally sure who the evil character is going to turn out to be.

Kat’s twin sister Abby committed suicide, one of several teenagers to take their lives in this small town. And it all seems to have had something to do with a place called the Barn, which Kat hadn’t heard of until she meets Rob, who is one of the ‘founders’ of the Barn.

Handsome and charismatic, Rob seems very suspicious, as does his friend Michael. Whereas Callum who works with Kat is your archetypal heroine’s love interest, and kind and sensible too.

As Kat stumbles round the Barn and the woods, asking questions and falling in love with Rob, you just want to shout that she needs to be careful and to look out! There’s a reason there were so many suicides.

Terribly gripping, even though I really didn’t want to be anywhere near that Barn or the weird types frequenting it. Whatever you do, don’t follow!

Full circle

I received a phone hug last night. This is a technically complicated feat, but it can be done. I sent Son to (a former) prison. Actually no, he went of his own accord. Långholmen is rather nice these days, when you’re not inside for all the wrong reasons. Daughter and I spent a few days there ten years ago, and now it was Son’s turn (I believe it was some kind of conference). And since he was going to be in the actual Stockholm at the actual same time as Meg Rosoff, I instructed him to go to her public event at Kulturhuset yesterday.

Meg Rosoff and Maria Lassén Seger

Son elbowed the competition out of the way and managed to get close enough to the ALMA winner to receive a hug, which was to be passed on to me. Which he did over the phone. I’ll accept that.

The programme for this year’s Gothenburg Book Fair arrived yesterday as well, and lo and behold, they have invited Meg to come. (I just hope she is still upright by the time September comes round.) I consider this all my doing. First I badgered anyone I could for years about how they must have her. And then, as I reported a couple of months ago, I gave up. Decided it would never happen, and it was better to face facts. This is always a good technique, I find. Makes things happen much faster. (Should have thought of it sooner.)

I think I may have to go. Even if Bookwitch Towers is being rebuilt, or something, I must be able to abandon ship for a long weekend. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with builders in the house?

Anyway, the circle. We went eleven years ago, Son and I, as complete rookies. That was when his favourite won. Now mine has won. It’s only fair. He can come, if he wants. And like eleven years ago, Jonathan Stroud will be there. Plus a selection of archbishops and other famous people, such as our favourite French phycisist, Christophe Galfard.

Yay!!!

Five Hundred Miles

Five Hundred Miles is just wow! Kevin Brooks has done it again, and Anthony McGowan needs to look out. Generally I find the harsh settings of Kevin’s books quite hard to cope with, as I do the bleakness in his books. This one is no more cheerful, except the title tells you there might be something to look forward to.

Kevin Brooks, Five Hundred Miles

Cole and Ruben are the sons of a feared criminal, and live in a breaker’s yard in East London. You feel they are good boys, even though it becomes quite clear they are capable of both theft and violence.

When they unexpectedly come across a teenage girl who’s wanting to rescue a monkey from some gangster types in a pub, it’s not only the fact that she looks like their dead sister that makes them jump in to help.

I ought to dislike everything these boys stand for and what they do, but the way Kevin writes about them you just want to love them and be their friend. This is the kind of book I want to put into the hands of dyslexic teenagers everywhere, as well as capable readers. No one could help but love this book!