Order of the Teaspoon

I gave away some used teaspoons this week. Their former owner doesn’t need teaspoons any longer and the new owner will hopefully find them useful. You can’t go to university and not have anything to stir your tea with.

And then by sheer coincidence I read that the Order of the Teaspoon has been around for ten years now, and that in turn made me think of the book How To Cure a Fanatic by Amos Oz, which is what started the whole thing.

Right now we need the kind of wisdom that Amos offers in his book more than ever. You can put out a fire with a teaspoon. If that’s all you have, and there are enough of you – us – and enough teaspoons. I’m wishing for lots of teaspoons both on a local scale in Britain, as well as on a more global scale where it seems there is a new atrocity taking place every week.

Please bring out your teaspoons, and urge everyone else to do so too! We can make a difference.

Billy Button, Telegram Boy

Billy Button is a Little Gem in more ways than one. Sally Nicholls has written the loveliest little tale about young Billy who yearns to be a telegram boy. Except he’s too young, and a bit on the small side.

But he’s got a big heart and quite a lot of initiative, and when Billy does something, it turns out well in the end. And that’s what we want.

Sally Nicholls and Sheena Dempsey, Billy Button - Telegram Boy

Set in the past when we had village shops with post offices as well as telegrams and telegram boys, this is a sweet and slow story about the Button family and angry old Mr Grundle.

Luckily – for both Billy and Mr Grundle – the regular telegram boy falls out of a tree, so Billy has to step in and take his place. And where would Mr Grundle be if that hadn’t happened?

As everyone would agree, some rules are there to be broken. Whether you are old enough to be telegram boy, or whether you are allowed to, well, read other people’s telegrams…

It’s a bit Miss Marple-ish, minus the murder.

(Sweet little illustrations by Sheena Dempsey.)

They have all been young

More thoughts on older, former child characters in books. In the Guardian article one author didn’t feel that reading about Jo March as a mother was quite as wonderful as when she was one of four young sisters. And someone else didn’t care for Anne Shirley as a mother.

I felt the opposite way about these two characters. It was a bit of a shock to find that young girls grow up and become old, and mothers, even vaguely sensible. But not all that sensible. There is still a bit of the girl in there.

Which to me is important to learn. I never knew what Mother-of-witch was like as a girl. I obviously knew she had once been one, and I have the photographs to guide me. But in some odd way I gave the girl in the photos exactly the same personality and level of maturity as the woman I lived with.

It wasn’t until I heard the story of how her older brother teased her when she was doing the washing up, that I could see how it might have been. She was six and he was twelve. She tried to retaliate by throwing water at him with the help of a jug she was washing up. Only, it slipped from her hands and broke.

And the tale of her plaits. Her father wanted his little girl to have girly long hair, but this was the early thirties and all the other girls at school had the new bobs. Her ten year older sister – always a very practical woman – cut off her plaits when their father was away, and then there wasn’t a lot he could do about it. (Whereas I had looked at her school photo and assumed plaits were what she wanted.)

So, I like having known Anne and Jo as girls, and then seeing them as women and mothers. It sort of explained to me how life works, and I felt you could always see the girl in them. Anne might be telling her own child off, but she remembers what she herself had been like. And so does the reader.

I’m very much in favour of finding out what happened after, as long as the author hasn’t lost their touch and written a dreadful book. That’s what matters, not the age of the character.

Besides, I know how childish I am, deep inside.

To remain young forever

Or not.

First let me say how boring I often find the Guardian Review. A few short snippets don’t make up for pages and pages on things I have little interest in, or written in such a way that I find I don’t much care anyway. I know that children’s books can’t dominate a section of the newspaper that is aimed at everyone, but I do wish there could be more.

So this past weekend I was suitably – but pleasantly – shocked to find the first four pages set aside for children’s authors to muse on the question of letting child characters grow old.

OK, so it was caused by Harry Potter appearing as an adult in The Cursed Child, but that’s fine. They had an excellent selection of children’s authors, who expressed interesting and varied opinions on letting fictional characters mature, and many of them seemed to have read the Harry Potter books, instead of sniping about something they know nothing about. It was a pleasure to read.

And because they wrote their own short pieces, there was less scope for misinterpretation, which is another of my bugbears.

An adult Horrid Henry sounds perfectly horrid, and a jaded, older Alex Rider somehow lacks the necessary charm we have come to expect, so I’m glad this is not about to happen. But as with most things, people don’t have to agree, and characters aren’t all the same, so what’s right for one will be wrong for another.

Mind Writer

They are good at scaring me, these old favourites of mine, who have new books out with Barrington Stoke. This time it’s Steve Cole, dabbling in reading minds.

Steve Cole, Mind Writer

In Mind Writer Luke has discovered he can read people’s minds, which to begin with seems rather convenient. Knowing what a teacher is going to ask, for instance. But suddenly Luke reads exactly what goes on in people’s heads, and he finds he doesn’t want to know.

And then a girl called Samira turns up and she can make people do what she wants, including Luke. She puts thoughts into their heads.

Now there is nowhere for Luke to go, and he finds himself having to do what Samira says, which brings them to…

You could hate Samira, who seems evil. Or you can hang in there and wait to see what happens.

A Target for Tommy

A lot of Tommy Donbavand’s friends – who by funny coincidence – are all authors, have got together to write their own Doctor Who-related short stories for the anthology A Target for Tommy.

Currently Tommy is out of hospital, and we are hoping for his speedy recovery. Meanwhile, he and his family still need to pay the bills, and that’s where this anthology comes in.

Please consider buying a copy, or two, of the book. Details can be found here. You can buy either an electronic copy, or a proper printed book; it’s up to you.

I’ve ordered mine, and will get back to you when I’ve had a chance to read it.

A Target for Tommy

The Royal T

Little-cousin Volvina called in at Bookwitch Towers this week. It was mainly a mistake on her part. Not that she didn’t want to be here, but her reason for travelling went a bit wrong at one stage.

She brought both Double-O and Volvinita as well, not to mention the Queen’s tea towel. The day before they’d done the guided tour on the HMY Britannia, and very satisfied they were too. But they hadn’t had the tea there, and instead bought me a tea towel, under the impression that it’s some grand thing involved in the Royal serving of tea.

HMY Britannia tea towel

When actually it’s what you dry the dishes with. More useful, if you ask me, as I rarely have elegantly served tea around here, with some uniformed chap wearing a tea towel draped over his arm, or whatever you’re supposed to do with it.

So that’s what they learned from me. They’d not been before, but thanks to online maps they could tell I’d changed my garage doors…

The more telltale proof they’d come to the right house was the oystercatcher in the window. And Gunnar Sträng, Sweden’s former (very former) chancellor of the exchequer. He’s also in a window, although not sharing with the oystercatchers.

I offered them refreshments and they were keen to have tea, seeing as they’d missed out on the Royal variety. I wasn’t sure whether they thought I’d surpass the Queen, or if their expectations had been quite low at the Britannia. In the end I didn’t even manage side plates, and we simply peeled the wrappings off the little cakes from Sainsbury’s, eating them as they came.

But that’s all right. They won’t know how low my standards have sunk.