Monthly Archives: May 2007

Roman Mysteries and the BBC, again

According to Caroline, who was met by 88 emails when she got to an Egyptian internet cafe, the BBC postponed the Roman Mysteries because of the disappearance of the little girl in Portugal. The next episode is about kidnapped children. I can’t help feeling that they could have announced this decision to let the viewers know.

Hostage taking

As I have mentioned on occasion, Son has been threatened with being disowned if he does not read a certain book, “now!”. Daughter works differently and threats do not work so well. Taking her hostage can work. I say can, not necessarily that it will.

A couple of years ago I really wanted her to read How I Live Now, my favourite favourite book at the time, and still, in fact. I put us on the train to Scotland (we did have a reason for going to Scotland, other than reading) with only HILN available. What Daughter did not finish reading on the train, she continued with at our destination, long after the tired old witch had fallen asleep.

Holidays can work well, too. Daughter is currently marooned in the beautiful Swedish countryside, and on Monday she finished two books and read an entire third book. All without me even suggesting reading.

If you want to know what books Daughter read, they were a new Michael Morpurgo which has not yet been published called Best Mate, Does Glitter Count as Camouflage by Helen Slater, and Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler.

The reason Daughter had two books on the go at once, was that Frozen Fire was not really a book she could read at night, which is where DGCaC came in as a safe option. And Tim, I will have you know that if that book had been less exciting, Daughter might not have bitten her lips quite as hard, drawing blood. Just so you know.


I would never have chosen this book. So it’s a good thing the Resident IT Consultant discovered this new branch of Oxfam bookshops in Bloomsbury, just as he had a pressing need to buy Christmas presents. Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira-Kira became mine. It’s a Newbery medal winning book from a few years ago, about two Japanese sisters growing up in 1950s Georgia.

Why do we read so few American children’s books here in Britain? I feel incredibly ignorant as I struggle to come up with more than a few examples of good writers. They must exist, surely?

Anyway, the cover is boring and with an odd title as well, it would never have been picked by the bookwitch, who’s a fool and should know better. It’s an absolutely wonderful book, about childhood innocense and hardship and illness. Last year I read a Canadian writer on a similar subject, retro childhood kind of thing, which I really didn’t like at all. But Kira-Kira felt just right. I’d never considered the Japanese in America, so it was interesting to learn about them too. Curiously, the descriptions of the factory in Kira-Kira reminds me of several of Sara Paretsky’s books. Something about American factories, maybe?

Half term flying

As a witch I ought to know. But I don’t. And as a witch I could always fly on my broomstick instead. Too much luggage, though. Daughter and I are intending/hoping to go away for half term. But the airline’s cabin crew might go on strike. “We can’t say yet”, said Danish call centre yesterday. “What strike?”, said same call centre today. Quite.

If we do manage to go, there might be somewhat fewer postings on here for a week. Thunder hit the holiday modem last August, so no Internet, except in the library. The local authority’s, not my personal library. But at least it’s fitting that a bookwitch should be forced to go to the library. It’s a lovely new library, so no real hardship. Very stylish and spacious, floating over the river. But the computers; I can do @ and å, ä, ö here at home. But can I find the right keys on this foreign keyboard? Very embarrassing having to go and ask librarian where she keeps her @.

So, we’ll see.


Write about what you know, is a good piece of advice, which I will now proceed to ignore.

Today I met Gwyneth Rees who writes about fairies. And for once I had not managed to read a single word beforehand. I hear she has bookfairies, who must surely be a little bit related to bookwitches. And she described a Scottish one that has pink and hairy knees. Now, who does that remind me of? With a thistle on his head.

I’m sort of on the old side for fairies, but I found it fascinating that so many little girls wanted to dress up as fairies to come and meet the author of the fairy books they like so much. Did you lot even realise there is a tremendous number of different kinds of fairy wings?

Gwyneth signs her books with what I’m sure is a pink peony. The fairies thought it was a rose, but roses don’t come that fat. I think.

What, no Roman Mystery today?

Sorry, but I don’t know either why there was nothing on television this afternoon. I have asked the BBC, but they may take some time to answer. And Caroline is currently floating away on the Nile, so may not know. This is no way to treat us, though, is it?

Linda Press Wulf’s new book

I have a fascination for what I’ve begun to call “Jewish books”. A new one out recently is The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf. It’s unusual in that it’s not a World War II story and it’s not about Germany.

This book deals with the persecution of Jews in Poland in the early twenties, with flashbacks to the first World War and the years just after. Linda’s story about two orphaned sisters, Devorah and Nechama, tells of their journey from their Polish orphanage to their new homes in South Africa, as well as explaining what happened to their family before they were orphaned.

I find it hard to decide whether this really is a children’s book. It clearly appeals to the adults who have read it, but I would hope children will also read the book and learn from it. With modern hindsight it’s interesting to see South Africa as a haven for poor Europeans, and it’s certainly taught me things.

Can we have too many of this type of story? I’ve seen suggestions that the Jewish market is full and writers should look elsewhere. But we are not tired of love or crime or magic, so the idea that a genre can be too full seems a silly one.