Monthly Archives: May 2007

Fowl deal

This is another instance of the paperback being different from the original hardback. I mean apart from the obvious difference of hardbacks and paperbacks.

Eoin Colfer’s fifth Artemis Fowl book is just out in paperback. And the slow cheapskates who waited this long get more. For less money. Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony has a picture of Fowl Manor and one of Haven City. There’s a spotter’s guide to “the people” and a page of the gnommish alphabet. I’d always thought you had to work it out yourself. Hah!

Like the four earlier Artemis Fowl books, this one is great. (Though I don’t entirely recommend reading it just after an episode of Doctor Who. I’m still shaking.) There’s a hint we may not have to wait too long for the next one. And there’s a sneak preview of Artemis Fowl, the graphic novel.

The photo of Eoin has persuaded me that I could (possibly) have been wrong last year when I didn’t believe Eoin’s claim to owning only one jacket. Read my interview here for more information on Eoin’s shirt and jacket status, and a few other irrelevant facts.

Made in Heaven

Adele Geras’ Made in Heaven is out on May 18th in paperback. I wouldn’t always mention something turning up in paperback, but for the real collector this is an opportunity to have a book that has been altered since the hardback came last year. The beautiful dark green bridesmaids’ dresses have gone pale green. Blame it on the book cover artist who made Adele change it all.

The book is a romantic tale about wedding plans and family secrets. What I’m most interested in, though, are the goings-on in these writing courses where people go to improve their writing skills. I will have to go somewhere like that. To improve my writing skills.

Now stop them from reading

On the Guardian’s blog last week Dina Rabinovitch put forward some suggestions on how to help younger boys to continue reading. Unlike many other blog posts this one got few comments. So, do we assume that children’s reading is a dead boring subject? Not something you can make clever comments about, to show off with?

The mobile library started coming to our street when Son was ten. Wanting to be supportive of the service I went religiously every time, laden with books for all the family. Son wanted audio books to listen to in bed. The child ones quickly turned into more grown up ones, like Agatha Christie, Bill Bryson, Douglas Adams, Wodehouse. Cassettes cost less for children so I always took them out on Son’s library card. Until the day the librarian said children couldn’t borrow adult cassettes. “But I’m his mother” I said, “and these are very innocent ones.” No, it seems there were rules. Closer interrogation of the librarian revealed that the worst possible author for under sixteens would be Terry Pratchett. I had then just visited Son’s future secondary school and vaguely remembered seeing a shelf full of Pratchetts in the school library. A school for under sixteens.

I went on to buy my own audio books instead, and Son still falls asleep to a good selection of books. Kim, The Riddle of the Sands and The Moonstone are favourites, nearly worn out. And he’s read an awful lot of Pratchetts over the years. So, well done librarian, for wanting to censor a child’s reading. I thought your job was the opposite, but disapproving is so much more fun. After all, that’s what I’m doing right now. The mobile library no longer comes this way.

Talking to my bookshop last week about Horrid Henry, I learnt that whereas children love him, many (insecure?) parents come in and complain. They are presumably the ones I used to observe at home time eagerly checking school bags for new reading books. The ones (unlike me) who sat down every day and made their children read the reading book. And once they’ve learnt, they disapprove of what they like to read.

Some years on, when Son was fourteen, his school was visited by Tim Bowler. Generously, Tim spent a lot of time talking about his friend Melvin Burgess’ latest book Doing It. This was shortly after Anne Fine had wanted to burn it for being too filthy. Tim persuaded the three adults present that we wanted to read the book, and we all did. I’d say it’s not the ideal book for a middle aged woman, but that wasn’t Melvin’s target group. The school’s copy of Doing It is still sitting on the shelf in the office, as very few parents would allow their child to borrow it. So why do all these parents and teachers work so hard at getting young children to read? Just think how many unsuitable books could be avoided, really easily, if the child doesn’t learn to read in the first place.

On of my most recent reads was Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, which won the Newbery medal. Except I gather many libraries in the US banned the book because it has the word scrotum in it. Shock horror. If I hadn’t known, I’d have thought it was a sweet and enchanting story about a young girl. But then I grew up with a mother who had Lady Chatterley on her shelf. Very bad.

Roman links

The super organised Caroline Lawrence has sent me these links, with a special hello to readers outside the UK.

The trailer for the television series can be found on YouTube. What would we do without it?

Last Sunday’s Go4It on Radio 4 is available until the end of the week. Very interesting, so hurry before it disappears.

For the games players try the CBBC website that offers the interactive games Caroline helped write. They also have a free audiobook of The Thieves of Ostia, which is the first Roman mystery that barely gets a mention in the television series.

And what do people think now that the first two episodes have been broadcast? Daughter and I love them. They are well done, considering that an hour per book is incredibly little time. What has to be in there is there, and it’s very attractive.


Books mostly for boys

When Steve Cole’s mobile rings it’s a Dalek saying “exterminate”. Worryingly, there also appears to be a Dalek at the other end that Steve needs to get rid of. Or maybe it’s a trick. After five or six hours in Steve’s company I can report that next week’s episode of Doctor Who will be scary. And he met David Tennant recently and got to go in the Tardis.

Steve’s been travelling the country talking about his new books about the CIA. That’s Cows In Action, to you, and I’d say it’s pretty much Doctor Who, but about cows, and for younger readers. There’s the enemy, the FBI, or Fed-up Bull Institute. Time travelling cow agents. Whatever next? There are two books out now, The Ter-moo-nators and The Moo-my’s Curse. More to follow. The books are short and fun and crammed full of corny puns. I suspect they will also teach readers about history, on the quiet. The first one’s about Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. There’s a lot of moo-ing going on, and poor Steve will get a sore throat if he keeps moo-ing his way around the country like this. Though I do feel he’s got his cows and bulls somewhat mixed up, as there are male cows and female bulls. Never mind.

For anyone who’s got the urge to go and buy a CIA book or two I suggest you get on with it. I understand they are sold out at the publishers after only a week.

Older readers will enjoy the books about Jonah Wish, written by Stephen Cole. He’s a bit schizofrenic with his two personalities. He has to remember who he is before he signs a book. Not to mention cheques. Anyway, Jonah is a delinquent teenage computer expert who travels the world getting into all sorts of adventures with his four companions and their horrible boss. I read The Aztec Code earlier this week, and it’d be perfect for boys in their early to mid teens. The age when girls’ bras are of great interest.

For more action adventure Stephen also writes some of the Doctor Who books, most of which appear to have made their way to our house. And it’s Daughter who reads them, so it’s not strictly boys only stuff.

I’d like Steve/Stephen’s books as audio books, read by himself. He does some great readings from the books, with voices and accents and body language reminiscent of David Tennant. Though that, obviously, wouldn’t show in an audio book.

Steve has come a long way since Death on the 747, at the age of fourteen. That was a few years ago. He left London and his noisy neighbours to write in Oxfordshire instead. Now he blames not writing, on his son jumping on him.

Cows In Action


No, not another book called Take Off Your Party Dress, just another blog about it. I simply can’t understand why Dina Rabinovitch’s wonderful book should be so hard to sell. Thought her publishers ought to be grateful they got to publish the book. Now it almost seems as if they put more effort into not selling it. I must be mistaken.

I don’t feel any author should have to work as hard as Dina does to sell their own book, when it is so good. Yesterday she was out selling 25 copies, and was surprised it made her feel tired. And I haven’t come across a situation where readers are offering to take the book out and sell it. If nothing else, it shows what a marvellous book TOYPD is. (When you next see a dishevelled woman selling TOYPD in the street, it might be the bookwitch.)

Many bookshops have one or two titles displayed by their tills. How about putting Dina’s book there?

The Book Thief

Must begin by saying that I thought this was a very good book. But it took forever to read, and not only because of its six hundred pages. It got put to the side, frequently, as other books had to be read by a certain date, and The Book Thief was in no hurry at all. It also lent itself well to interruptions as it was easy to continue with. What wasn’t so easy was holding it. My hands are small and this is a big book. Attractive, but unnecessarily large.

One of the fascinating aspects of The Book Thief was the narrator, Death. He came across as really quite nice and caring, all things considered. His literary style is very similar to that of Fate in Just in Case by Meg Rosoff. I suppose it makes sense that Death and Fate should speak like each other, as they are sort of related. Though I do think Death was kinder than Fate. (Fate worse than

Anyway, Markus Zusak’s book is about Germany during the second world war. It’s about a young girl who steals books. It’s a lot about humanity and the kindness of ordinary people. It’s also a fascinating read about Germany from the inside. Until recently most war stories were either set in England, or told the tale of Jews leaving Germany. I like seeing the war from the other side for a change.

The only things that grated were details such as calling a street Munich Street, rather than München Street. There was so much German in this book that an address in English felt wrong. There was a Himmel Street, so why the inconsistency?

I’ve written before about the importance of learning to read. The story about the book thief makes this very clear, though I can think of easier books to begin with than a gravedigger’s manual.

I cried a bit at the end, but not for the expected reasons.