Monthly Archives: April 2007

New website

The bookwitch really thought it’d never happen, but it has. A website for Meg Rosoff, at long last. Check it out.

The dogs are cute.

Carnegie predictions

There have been complaints. A real bookwitch should predict the winner of the Carnegie medal. Preferably she should also get it right. The real reason there was no forecast earlier was the slight confusion about having read all the books. Or more accurately, not having read the whole shortlist. But witchy feelings are just that; feelings. So, I’m not saying who I think wrote the best book or which one I like the best.

My vibes say Anne Fine. With a slight tingle in the direction of Siobhan Dowd. Definitely not a man.


Do you know the answer?

I’m fairly sure that I started to write my own Famous Five story, a very long time ago. Not being good at sticking to things, other than plastic seats in hot weather, I didn’t get far before giving up. Writing your own sequel was pretty much all you could do in those days when your favourite series of books came to an end.

Now, however, we have quiz books and things. Two have recently entered our house and started living on Daughter’s floor. They are Mates, Dates and You by Cathy Hopkins and The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book by Caroline Lawrence. I suspect the fact that these books reside next to the bed means they are sort of useful and attractive.

What can I say? They are perfect for fans. This way the books come back to life again, and if you’re good you can answer the questions. If not, then you can re-read the books or search through them for the right answer. Have to admit that I can’t remember very many details at all, but that will be due to those failing grey cells that mysteriously have started to bother this young witch. (Heard a rumour that Caroline herself has failed to answer some questions. But not because of anything age related, I’m sure!)

Just take question 60 from the R M quiz: “According to Pliny’s Natural History, the fiercest watchdog is a hybrid from India. It has a dog for a mother. Which animal is its father?” Now that’s what I call knowledge.

And from Mates, Dates: “How long did TJ take to beat Lucy’s brother Steve at arm-wrestling?” There’s a good female role model for you. And it’s romantic. My favourite quote is from Lucy’s T-shirt slogans: “Your village phoned. They want their idiot back.”

I’m on my way.

Historical House

Time to hit the bookshops again, for three books if you please. The second batch of The Historical House books is out now.

Adele Geras, Linda Newbery and Ann Turnbull are back at 6 Chelsea Walk with new stories about the people who have lived there. The first lot of stories covered the mid-nineteenth century to the second world war via the suffragette movement.

This time round Ann Turnbull’s Mary Ann & Miss Mozart takes us back to 1764. Adele Geras’ Cecily’s Portrait is set in 1895, covering the next generation along from her first story. Linda Newbery’s book Andie’s Moon is barely history at all, taking place during the moon landing in 1969.

I have to confess to a passion for houses, so I enjoy every minute of trying to visualise this house in its various guises. I believe the house is real, except with a different address. And I think it was Linda who met a man at a party who actually turned out to have lived there, and had written a book about it himself. Weird, isn’t it?

As I may have said before, I’m not incredibly interested in history as such, but this series of books is very fascinating. I’d like to think that what Ann, Linda and Adele have made up could very well have happened. Imagine meeting Mozart at the age of eight. Think of the childhood of photography over a hundred years ago. And consider two girls who wanted to make something of themselves. In contrast, it’s easy to see Linda’s Andie, as she’s very nearly my own age. Except I didn’t know Chelsea in the sixties, so that’s a revelation.

I understand from an interview the three of them did with Mary Hoffman for Armadillo Magazine, that Ann and Linda both wanted the same period. I think Linda won, in which case I’m grateful to Ann for her wonderful story from a long time ago. I didn’t know most of what I learnt from Mary Ann & Miss Mozart. And I’m glad Adele continued with the same family as last time, because you get to know them so well.

Last time I was in London I desperately wanted to go along and look at the house. Lack of time and aching feet prevented me, but I will go there one day.

When I’ve mentioned to people that the books are published by Usborne, there’s an element of surprise. “Do they publish real books then?” Seems they do. Don’t know if you can still go to Usborne parties, but if you can, these books are perfect.

Happy Birthday Melvin

Happy 53rd birthday, Melvin Burgess. I don’t normally keep track of authors’ birthdays for the simple reason I don’t know when they are. Melvin’s was listed in the Guardian today, but usually my kind of author doesn’t seem to rate in birthday lists. I can only assume newspapers find authors so much less interesting than all the other “famous” people they list instead.

I recently worked out the birthday of Adele Geras, from the clues in her latest newsletter. And that was only because I really wanted to know. But when I think of it, I know lots of things about some of “my” authors, home address, family members, etc, but hardly ever birthdays. Feel free to tell me!

Or perhaps it’s just a Guardian anti bookwitch thing, as my most favourite singer, who IS famous, doesn’t get a mention either.

And the Publicity Director

Not all authors go on book tours accompanied by a PR person who also writes. Cathy Cassidy came with Puffin’s Adele Minchin. Her name had leapt out at me from the shelf at offsprings’ school library soon after I first came into contact with her at Puffin.

Adele’s book, for teenagers, is called The Beat Goes On, and is about HIV and Aids. The story contains a lot of things that makes you think. It’s so easy to believe that you can understand the awfulness of HIV and Aids, but you don’t. This book is an eye opener, and I can really recommend it. I’m only surprised there aren’t lots more books out there on this subject. There should be.

Anyway, publishing world PR types don’t go on tour, unless they are selling some other author. So I finally came face to face with Adele Minchin yesterday, and turned the tables so that she had a book to sign too.

Sorry about that Adele, but I see no reason why you should escape.

Another Cathy

For all my claims of being young at heart, I don’t always jump at very pink books. I really must change. If Meg Rosoff hadn’t told me that Cathy Cassidy is lovely, I would most likely have stayed clear of her pink and shiny book covers. Which would have deprived me not only of some good books, but also of meeting Cathy and her camper van. Well, I daresay one camper van more or less isn’t the end of the world (though the flowers on the side brought me straight back to the late sixties), but you can never have too many Cathys.

Cathy and her (chauffeur driven!!) van turned up at the watering hole yesterday, in the rain, for a Friendship Festival, with colourful cushions, bracelet making, muffin decorating, hand painting, ice cream sundaes and lots more. There were so many girls there. And some of them didn’t want to go home at the end. Cathy’s the kind of lady girls take to. I had to stop myself from sitting down at her green booted feet, and leave it to the younger fans. (For one, I’d never have got up from the floor again.)

I don’t know where to start. The books maybe. Her fifth, Sundae Girl, was published a couple of weeks ago. There was also a free book with Mizz magazine last week. Cathy’s books are described as similar to Jacqueline Wilson’s. They are, and again, they’re not. Can’t quite put my finger on it. But they’re good. The latest one mixes alcoholism and Alzheimers, Elvis impersonators and ice cream vans. You laugh and you cry. And I shouldn’t really admit this in public, but I do like Cathy’s boys. If they are based on real people, please introduce me to them.

Cathy favours daydreaming, and she gives advice on how to do it and get away with it. Not that I need such advice, having perfected my act long ago. She also steals from her fans. She takes their names, in case she wants to put them in a book. She notes how their hair looks. Their clothes. (Cathy, I fully expect to feature in your next one, and preferably not as the horrible teacher/ neighbour/ whatever.)

I’m not sure what I’m recommending here. Cathy or her books? Well, anyone can read her books, so I’d start there. Then go on her website. And have a go at finding an event to meet her.

Cathy Cassidy flower

Dead detective

I’m a bit wishy washy and never know whether to think for myself or to say what others might approve of. But I did like Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant. I don’t know if it’s true that he’s been paid a seven figure sum for this book and the next two, and it seemed rude to press him on this when we met yesterday. Derek has Spielberg and Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio phoning, and he reckons he never needs to go back to the family farm to work again. This is enough to make most of us pretty envious.

I assume HarperCollins know what they’re doing and that they’ll get their money back from sales. Skulduggery Pleasant is already no.1 in Ireland, though as Eoin Colfer pointed out it doesn’t take that much to top the Irish bestseller list, being a small country.

The comparison with Eoin and his Artemis Fowl stories is easy to make. Both are Irish, both are funny, both are fantasy and crime. Though as Derek said, Skulduggery is mostly crime, apart from the small fact that his detective is dead. Skulduggery and his twelve-year-old sidekick Stephanie chase evil forces through Dublin, with plenty of action. It’s a little bit Harry Potter, but not much. What makes the book worth reading is the humour in the dialogue. Action is action to some extent, but I found the relationship between Stephanie and Skulduggery a nice one, and I look forward to meeting them again.

Although Derek admits to only getting out of bed at noon; once he has walked the dog and played video games, he writes for ten hours until early morning. And he enjoys it.

So far Derek appears to have kept a couple of feet on the ground. He also looks very normal and ordinary, so it seems as if new stars in the publishing world don’t absolutely have to be young and beautiful, or super confident public performers. Derek stammers, but this doesn’t get in the way much. He comes across well in his meeting with the group of thirty young book reviewers at Simply Books, and he does a nice line in faces to order when signing books.

In his new celebrity life Derek has been interviewed by a turkey puppet on Irish television. Maybe this stops him from missing the cauliflower and celery on the farm.

Carnegie shortlist

Six authors have been trying to keep quiet about this for some time now, but at long last the world can be told as well. The shortlist for the Carnegie medal for children’s books is Marcus Sedgwick, My Swordhand is Singing; Meg Rosoff, Just in Case; Ally Kennen, Beast; Anne Fine, The Road of Bones; Siobhan Dowd, A Swift Pure Cry; and Kevin Brooks, The Road of the Dead. So, as usual it should be difficult to decide who wins in the end, as these are some very fine authors.

The bookwitch isn’t even going to try any magic this time, but will close her eyes and wait.

And as you seemingly can’t have too many polls or lists they have also come up with a top ten of past winners. A good list, but perhaps too concentrated on more recent books.


Is the modern equivalent of boring people stiff with photos of your darling children, to blog about them? I don’t have many photos (backlog since 1998 in the album department) or see all that many people face to face. I do draw the line at whipping out the family album at the greengrocers.

When I had the children I imagined they’d mostly be useful for carrying things for me, after a few years of nappy changing. Now I’m astonished to find they make wonderful blog fillers, too. And they’re taller than their mother, so can reach things on the highest shelves.

Yesterday I hung out Son18 in the Guardian’s blog to show what a perfect, lying cheat he is, pretending to have read books he hasn’t. And getting away with it.

I was even paid the most charming compliment by one of the other bloggers for the quality of my post, that was so good it may not even be true. (You weren’t being sarcastic there, I hope..?) Thing is, with a son like mine, I don’t need to make it up. Truth is more amusing than fiction. And Philip Pullman; please tell me you’re not reading this! Son was made to read The Prisoner of Zenda immediately after our conversation.