Bookwitch bites #134

Kathryn Evans’s launch earlier in the week went very well, as I might have mentioned. Books selling out and bookshops being tightly packed and all that. Here is a photo I may have stolen from Candy Gourlay, which shows how happy Kathryn was and how they couldn’t possibly have fitted me in.

Kathryn Evans

On the same day the list of authors taking part in the 2016 Yay! YA+ in Cumbernauld was announced, after organiser Kirkland Ciccone had had me on tenterhooks for a long time. Some I know, some I don’t.

And the programme for Glasgow’s Aye Write! has now been made public, and you can get your tickets very very soon. Please do! They always have so many people coming that I want to go and see, that I have to give myself a stern talking to and remind me that I don’t have the stamina for traipsing to Glasgow all the time. But there is one event I must go to. Have a look through the programme and see if you can work out which one.

It was National Libraries Day yesterday, and the Guardian published love letters to libraries by people such as Meg Rosoff and Ann Cleeves.

The Branford Boase longlist was announced this week, and I have read precisely one of the books on it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… And the odd thing is that even though it’s for first novels, I could swear some of those authors have been around for years. It’s probably just me again, isn’t it? To the list:

Othergirl by Nicole Burstein, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, edited by Penny Thomas (Firefly)
The Bolds by Julian Clary, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press). Illustrations by David Roberts
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster)
Captive by A J Grainger, edited by Elv Moody and Christian Trimmer (Simon & Schuster)
Seed by Lisa Heathfield, edited by Ali Dougal (Egmont)
Deep Water by Lu Hersey, edited by Sarah Stewart (Usborne)
Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House)
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt, edited by Jessica Tarrant (Hachette)
The Next Together by Lauren James, edited by Annalie Grainger (Walker)
The Unlikely Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House). Illustrated by Ross Collins.
Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre, edited by Stella Paskins (Egmont)
The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin, edited by Clare Whitson (Oxford). Illustrated by the author.
Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, edited by Genevieve Herr (Scholastic)
My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons, edited Kirsty Stansfield (Nosy Crow)
Birdy by Jess Vallance, edited by Emma Matthewson (Hot Key Books)
Hamish and the Worldstoppers by Danny Wallace, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster). Illustrated by Jamie Littler
One of Us by Jeannie Waudby, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford edited by Nicholas Lake (HarperCollins)
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, edited by Bella Pearson (David Fickling Books)
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, edited by Alison Dougal and Hannah Sandford (Egmont)

Nine

Half-baked cake and dining out with men I’m not married to. That, apparently, is what I wrote about on my last two blog birthdays. I never know what to say, so decided to go all historical and see what worked on previous occasions.

While it was quite entertaining (yes, I’m the kind of witch who laughs at her own jokes), it provided me with no inspiration whatsoever.

But, well, the thing is. We are nine years old, Bookwitch and me. Who’d have thought? Much greyer, and much fatter. Less spring (I accidentally typed sproing…) in our step. More autumn, probably. But that’s what broomsticks are for.

We’re happy though (when we manage to stay awake), so will soldier on for a while longer. We’d like to do some more interviews. The face-to-face kind, so if a few people wouldn’t mind coming round here?

Pass the half-baked cake! I’ll have cream with mine. And I’ll enjoy it in the company of the Resident IT Consultant, and not some other man.

A Dark Trade

Mary Hooper, A Dark Trade

Mary Hooper has done what she does so well, which is to take the tales of poor servant girls in the past, and put them in a book that anyone can read. So often this kind of story only comes as an old, fat classic of 500 pages or more, and with small print to boot. Thank you to Barrington Stoke who understand that everyone would want to read this.

In A Dark Trade we meet orphan Gina, who at 16 is ready to leave the cruel orphanage and go to work. In her case a seemingly lovely big house in London in the mid-1800s. But of course it doesn’t work out like that. Big houses, however beautiful, come with their own problems, and in this case it’s a young master with the wrong idea of what a girl servant is for.

Gina makes a run for it, and disguises herself as a boy. But it’s the usual fire and frying pan scenario, and she is no better off as a male shop assistant.

Mary occasionally lets a book end less well than you’d hoped for, so I wasn’t sure what she might have up her sleeve this time. Read the book and find out!

Wildwitch Wildfire

My first Lene Kaaberbøl book, but possibly not my last. Wildwitch Wildfire is book no. 1  in what looks like a series about Clara, who is small and shy and completely normal, until the day she is attacked by a – very large – black cat.

Lene Kaaberbøl, Wildwitch Wildfire

She becomes quite ill, and she discovers things about herself and her family. And then she ends up living with an aunt, who is a bit of a witch, and whose task it is to make Clara a fully fledged witch herself.

It seems to be less of the evil witch stuff (apart from the kind of evil you need in a book) and more a case of living in harmony with wildlife. To do good things; to fight what is bad.

Our heroine proves much more resourceful than she expects to be, and she is very brave when she has to be.

And that cat? Well…

(Translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, and illustrated by Rohan Eason.)

Scared off

In my past I have surprised people by not being scared of the head teacher; either my own, or Offspring’s. I have been surprised at the people who were. They were the ‘cool’ ones, and I was never cool. But how could you be scared of the head teacher? (By which I mean, scared because they are the head. If someone is really scary as a person, then that is different.)

I suppose it’s what you are used to. As a teacher’s child, I grew up with creatures such as head teachers.

Just like Lucy Hawking grew up surrounded by scientists. I recently read this very enlightening article in Vogue India, about what it’s like to be the daughter of Stephen Hawking. (I’d say that sometimes it might be nice for her to be asked about herself, and not just because of whose child she happens to be.)

One discovery Lucy made was this;  ‘I didn’t reject science because I was scared of it, because I felt nervous or afraid. I simply wanted to do something different with my life. And with what I now recognise as the lack of a wider perspective that a Cambridge and Oxford education gave me, I didn’t think other people strayed away from science for anything other than personal preference either.’

That’s what I imagined too; that you move towards something that you want, more than away from something you aren’t ‘supposed’ to be doing, like science if you are a girl. She describes how girls tell her they don’t ask questions in science lessons, in case they ‘get it wrong.’ (I was only ever nervous of talking in class in general, because I didn’t want to be noticed.)

And it wasn’t until Lucy’s article that I realised that the recent cases I’ve come across on sexual harassment at university level, where an older academic male has got involved with a female student, was anything other than poor judgement in picking a sexual partner. I hadn’t stopped to think that they might do this because deep down they don’t feel that a female student belongs in the science department.

So it’s very good indeed that Lucy talks about science, and that she writes fiction for children, about science, where the budding scientist is a clever and sassy girl. We need more of this kind of thing. I still despair that the sexes will ever be equal in science, but it’s worth a try.

(When I was 14, my then chemistry teacher was the kind of teacher who shared openly with the class who had done best. I was a little surprised to find I was one of the two – along with another girl – but I was far more surprised to discover how furious the boys were. Not because it wasn’t them as individuals, but because all the males had lost out to girls, in a science subject. I was also surprised that they had the nerve to say so out loud. Whereas the teacher simply suggested they might want to work a bit harder in that case. Whether he had an agenda, or was just tactless in letting results be public, I have no idea.)

Knights of the Borrowed Dark

What do they put in the Irish water to cause so many fantastic, funny, fantasy thrillers to be written? The latest person to put his brand new debut novel in my way is Dave Rudden, and much as I hate it when books are described as being the next Derek Landy or Eoin Colfer (Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan…), in this case it’s pretty accurate. Of course, it remains to be seen if Dave can keep his Knight of the Borrowed Dark going, but I have faith. (He’s awfully young, too. Sickening.)

Denizen Hardwick is a hero to compete with the best of them. A 13-year-old orphan with no knowledge whatsoever of his origins, he is described as small and nothing special. Nice enough, and with a collection of different frowns. Until one day someone turns up at the children’s home [a place that can be decribed as ‘nice. Sort of a bleak, hopeless charm about it.’] in the west of Ireland to collect him. Someone rather unusual.

Dave Rudden, Knights of the Borrowed Dark

It’s a bit Harry Potter, but the point about this is that it’s what we readers like. It works. Apparently there is an organisation of Knights, who fight dark monsters, the Tenebrous. They are unknown and anonymous, suffering badly while doing their duty to save us ordinary humans. And with Denizen it’s as if he was born to it.

He still makes mistakes. Serious ones at that. But he wants to work for the greater good, and if that means fighting creepy monsters, then he will do it. Leaving his best friend behind in the orphanage, Denizen meets an aunt he didn’t know he had. He meets others, who all belong to the Knights. This work is neither easy nor safe, but someone has to do it.

Intelligently written, with plenty of fun, and some nice humour. What more could I want? The next book in the trilogy, obviously. This first one will be published in April, so make a note in your diaries.

(Denizen likes books. And how can you not adore a boy who has read The Politics of Renaissance Italy?)

More More of Me

Do you recall More of Me, which I reviewed the other day? Good.

Well, not only does Kathryn Evans have two launches planned for her first book (one of which is tonight), but there appears to have been an explosion of other ‘covers’ of More of Me on social media.

So, a lot of people are being featured on a More of Me *cover, and below is my version. It’s not often I am a book cover – although I have to admit I actually do see myself as your archetypal cover girl – so must make the most of it.

More of Bookwitch

And I suppose that there being lots of More of Me covers fits in with the topic of the novel; lots of copies of the same thing. Almost the same, but not quite. And therefore a little bit creepy.

(Link to Ellen Renner’s blog about her friend Kathryn.)

* Usborne design by Hannah Cobley.