Monthly Archives: February 2007

Lily, and other ghosts

World Book Day sees the publication of a new batch of Quick Reads. One of them is Lily, A Ghost Story by Adele Geras. I wouldn’t advise reading it just before bedtime. There’s a whiff of Rebecca about it, somehow, though the story line is different. I hadn’t felt as uneasy since reading The Centre in Adele’s A Lane to the Land of the Dead, a short story collection set on our home turf, Manchester. After The Centre I’ve not been entirely happy going into the Arndale, particularly certain parts of it. And I still think of the story whenever I go there.

This reminds me of City of Shadows by Celia Rees. I love her books and wouldn’t have thought there’d be any I’d avoid. But after reading the first volume, I have not gone on to read the next two. Cowardly, isn’t it?

Otherwise the most frightening book in recent years has been Philip Pullman’s The Tiger in the Well, the third book about Sally Lockhart. The first two weren’t exactly a picnic for Sally, but you sort of expected her to continue having adventures while surrounded by her trusty friends. And Sally being a capable kind of girl I fully thought she’d know how to look after her own child. But Philip Pullman peels away her friends and protectors one by one, and Sally turns out to know little of the practicalities of day to day childcare. And then the monster strikes. After a while I told myself this might be the last book in the series, and I’d just have to let (?) Pullman end it all with a big disaster.

Daughter couldn’t find anything scary about it at all. That should be a lesson to me for reading books not aimed at my age.

David and Goliath

My local bookshop was voted Children’s Independent of the year 2006. Among those defeated by them were Foyle’s. You know, that rather large and famous shop in Charing Cross Road in London. Being so big and famous, it seems they were surprised not to win. So surprised that last week they sent someone to the local shop, which is very small, to see what they should have been doing.

I understand they found some merit in what their small competitor does, and maybe in future they’ll know that big and famous isn’t everything. Even if they have got rid of that quaint custom of theirs where you queued three times to buy one book. Ah, the English queue…


I haven’t read the winner. Yet. I only had time to read the children’s book shortlist. They were all good, but some better than others.

I was pleased Linda Newbery won with Set in Stone, or SinS as she calls it. Our family read it on holiday last summer and the difficult reader (Daughter 13) loved it. We went to the beach for a swim. She sat on a sand dune and read. We went to an art gallery. She sat on a bench and read, moving to the next bench as we went along. Thought Linda might be interested in the effect her book had, so I emailed her. And she apologised for ruining our holiday! Aargh!

Always thought how hard it must be for the winner not to go round grinning like some Cheshire cat after they’ve been told and before the news has been made public. Who do you tell? And how do you avoid inadvertently letting on you’ve won? Heard about some of the non winners on the shortlist emailing each other to see how they’d done. A couple even discussed it in the school playground, what with their children going to the same school. And if you’ve won, do you say so, or do you lie through your teeth? While grinning.

The fashion report from the Costa Awards ceremony is black. How come all these exciting writers and other types who get to go still only do black? (Please invite me next time and I’ll show you!) Though Jacqueline Wilson didn’t wear black for a change. Adele Geras admits to her shoes, non black, killing her, but says she’ll wear them soon again. Really. I’d have thought they wouldn’t have survived ploughing through the snow to get home. The shoes, I mean.  Anne Fine’s agent wore a black tie. Literally. Carol Thatcher talks a lot and Sophie Kinsella is very small and wore a properly sticking out skirt. It’s entirely possible that Esther Rantzen’s jewellery was real, and she once shared a boyfriend in Oxford with Adele Geras.

Having a great deal of understanding for agoraphobics I will now go and read the winning book. Which, horror of horrors, was written by an author who’s not been to Canada. As someone commented in the Guardian’s blog, Douglas Adams presumably never went to Betelgeuse. Or maybe he did?

Surely this is what a good writer does. Makes things up.


Good news. We have a title for Meg Rosoff’s third book, due out later this year. She was getting desperate a few weeks ago, and blogged about it in the Guardian. People had plenty to say in response, and their suggestions weren’t all of the entirely decent variety either. I rather favoured Great Title Goes Here. It didn’t help that none of us had read the book, though that wasn’t enough to stop the majority of readers from having an opinion. What did people do before blogs? (Me, I did the ironing. Occasionally fed the children.)

The title? What I Was.


I like authors. I even like their books. As a fifty-year-old teenager I like children’s and young adults’ authors best. Maybe it’s because their books are still not always considered “proper” books, that they have maintained a sense of proportion.

If I write them a fan letter or email I tend to get a reply back. What’s more, they often sound both surprised and grateful that someone wrote in to say their book is very good. You’d think they hear it all the time. I have even had personal emails later on to let me know that the next book is out, in case I wanted to know.

It’s even relatively easy to get to meet authors, and not just after standing in a long queue at a book signing. My local bookshop, which was voted Children’s Independent Bookshop last year, organises quite a few special events, where I’ve met loads of lovely authors.

One of them I have since invited to my house, for what can best be termed literary Tupperware. My friends all came, the author entertained them with tales of her life and then signed books supplied by the shop. Andrew in the shop clearly thought I was mad, but everyone else could see what a good idea it was.

I used to volunteer in my children’s secondary school library, where we had an “Author of the term”. If we were lucky the author would come and visit, and I could never understand how they sometimes told horror stories of other school visits where they would not be looked after or appreciated. We’d be excited for days and plan the whole visit very carefully. On one occasion I had a go at bribing an author to come, as the school had no money for his fee. Speaking of money, that tends to be what the children are interested in. When the question “How much money do you earn?” doesn’t get answered, they want to know what kind of car they drive. Only a Fiesta?

While on the subject of money, this liking authors and their books doesn’t come cheap. Five years ago I’d happily buy books the cheapest way possible. I still go to charity shops for books, but now I also go for first edition hardbacks, rather than wait for the paperback edition. So my bank balance isn’t what it used to be.

Proofs are always welcome. Last year Meg Rosoff, who is very lovely indeed, promised me a proof of her new book. Only, the publisher ran out of copies. Gave them to the wrong people, more like. So Meg set about buying one on ebay, put there by one of the wrong people. Pearls before swine, I say.

That’s what I like about authors. Buying their own books on ebay to keep a fan happy. The number one fan, admittedly, but anyway.