Monthly Archives: June 2007

Boys’ stuff

I have found the solution to what boys want to read. Chris Ryan. Now, don’t sniff, I’m serious. I have just witnessed three hundred boys of all ages queue up to buy Chris’s books and to talk to him.

Chris came to sign books at the watering hole, before giving a talk to the “Lads and Dads” at Daughter’s school. They loved every minute of it, and most of them went home with at least one book.

I have read Flash Flood, and I must admit to liking it. He knows what he writes about when it comes to helicopter rescues and other macho things. (Less reliable on train rolling stock, so not nerdy enough.) Anthony Horowitz may write better stories, but Chris knows his stuff best.

It’s not great literature, but it’s not at all bad. And if it gets them reading… I’m fairly immune to sales tricks, but when I read the first chapter of another series at the end of the book, I was all set to start on that next. Except I don’t have the time.

Daughter is slightly jealous, but she got to meet Andy McNab a while ago, so I reckon I was entitled to meet Chris Ryan. And it was my Parker pen that signed the books. Chris was only defeated by the pen situation, and by the fire brigade setting fire to a chip pan in the school car park. The SAS training didn’t cover this.

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More Carnegie news

I’m sure you all know this by now, but not only did Meg Rosoff win the Carnegie medal yesterday; the all time Carnegie award went to Philip Pullman. The bookwitch household is happy.

Philip Pullman (and ice cream) signs

Please note the matching clothes and ice cream colours.

Meg wins

Meg Rosoff won the Carnegie award today. I know I predicted a different outcome, but what I was really trying to do was some sort of reverse witchcraft. I really, really didn’t think the judges would have so much sense, so I should apologise to them. But they obviously do recognise a wonderful book by a wonderful author when they see it.

If there is anyone out there who hasn’t yet read Meg’s book, it’s high time, you know. Just In Case. You can never have too many neurotic and funny teenagers with imaginary dogs and wise little brothers and loyal friends. And the goat, well…

I’ll get back to this subject soon, but just needed to spread the news. Just in case.

I’m so pleased I feel as if I won the award myself.

Meg Rosoff

The A-level effect

Yesterday Son sat his English literature A-level exams. So no more English for him. Ever. He is very, very happy about that. And that’s a shame, really, but I can’t blame him.

It would be nice to think that school and college can make their pupils keen on particular subjects. Granted, GCSE English was compulsory. But Son enjoyed it enough to pick English for one of his four A-level subjects. Even after doing it at AS-level he didn’t feel ready to drop it, which he could have done.

Towards the end of this last school year Son (who is fairly dutiful and well behaved for an 18-year-old) attended rather fewer English classes than were on the timetable. He also went to a lot of trouble “forgetting” to write essays on what he found incomprehensible and uninteresting.

Question is, Son is a keen and able reader, so what could EngLit do to someone less committed? His disgust with the subject has almost curtailed his private reading too. I hope it picks up, once the pressure from school leaves him alone.

As a parting gift, he bought all his teachers books. They were a good mixed selection of things he himself has enjoyed over the last couple of years. With the one for his English teacher he was hoping to open his eyes to something different. I forget the exact choice of books, but some were Arthur & George by Julian Barnes, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke and Tarquin Hall’s Salaam Brick Lane.

More Asperger books

I got it wrong again. I mistakenly thought you so called normal people might have an interest in Asperger fiction. Well, I daresay some of you do. But I had seriously underestimated the needs of Aspies. No, I hadn’t. I had failed to grasp that many Aspies haven’t yet found the books I’ve found. So the blog last week got an enormous number of hits, and all from one place; an Asperger forum in Sweden, of all places. Hej, hej.

The desperation for suitable books is interesting. Almost even more interesting is the fact that these prospective readers don’t baulk at the idea of reading in English, if that’s what it takes. Beat that, you neurotypical monolinguals. (Otherwise known as normal people.)

So I searched the bookshelves for things overlooked or forgotten, and came up with a few more books. Like the last lot, not all are openly Aspie, but the characters fit in really well with Aspie minds.

First of all, how could I forget Roman Mystery no. 12? The Charioteer of Delphi by Caroline Lawrence. Caroline openly says that her character Scopas is autistic. He was very likeable, and well done Caroline for introducing him into the series.

Then comes a French book by someone called Kochka. The title is The Boy Who Ate Stars, and it’s very good. It’s a short and easy read.

My own take on Geraldine McCaughrean’s The White Darkness is Aspie or “different loner”, and I think it fits the bill well. Needless to say this is one of the books that has turned into a running family joke, as I keep suggesting it and Daughter keeps refusing to read it.

Finally, confession time, with a book I didn’t finish, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. This is an Alex Rider trying to be Harry Potter type story, about the Greek Gods living in New York. It seems that Rick has a son who has ADHD and he wrote it for him, which makes perfect sense. There are now three Percy Jackson books, and more on the way I believe.

My last Aspie blog nearly had Kate Thompson’s The Last of the High Kings in it. There is a very Aspie character in the book, but she turns out to be a fairy, which possibly explains her behaviour. On the other hand, it could be that all Aspies actually are fairies. Or Greek half gods. So maybe read it anyway.

Young reviewers

What to do with all those proofs? This time it’s not my problem, but the bookshop’s. They are drowning in proofs, and however keen they are on books, there’s only 24 hours in the day. Their solution has been to start a young reviewers book club. Two groups of twenty children each, aged 8-13 meet once a month, over handmade biscuits and smoothies.

They tell each other about what they’ve read, hear news on events, and choose new proofs to take home and read. They fill in a reviewer’s form and hand in. The most interesting reviews can be read on the shop’s website, and when the books are published they write “shelf talkers” to put with the book in the shop. And the books sell. Buyers seem to take a great deal of notice, and some books sell surprisingly well because a local young reader has recommended it.

What I find most encouraging is that they see right through hype. It doesn’t matter if the publishers are tying themselves into knots, coming up with ever weirder sales ideas for their new books. If it’s a rubbish book, the children say so.

A tip for publishers; if you really want your proofs to be read, send them in a readable format. In the end, if time’s short, and it always is, you pick a book that looks like a book. If it’s loose bits of paper kept together by a rubber band, you’d have to be very keen to tackle it.

As a special treat, the children get invited to author events, either exclusively for them, or are given priority. There’s a waiting list for the club.

Harry Potter preparations

If you’re in the Manchester area on Harry Potter night, may I suggest coming to Bramall Hall? The local bookshop will be launching the last Harry Potter book in grand style, transporting their customers on the Knight Bus (hot chocolate and all, I believe) to the local Tudor mansion, set in a beautiful park. Lots of things will be laid on, before book boxes are opened at midnight.

For those who can’t stay awake, Diagon Alley will magically appear in Bramhall, for one day only, on the Saturday. Drinks at the Leaky Cauldron, anyone?

Bloomsbury seem to have issued an embargo on Harry Potter quizzes, from what I hear. Sounds like megalomania to me, as I can’t see how we can be prohibited from having a quiz on a well known public subject. I’m particularly interested in this, as I’m supposed to write the quiz. My legal advisor is currently swanning around China, so I don’t know who to ask. Though Meg Rosoff has promised to visit me in jail, so that’s OK then. (What I want to know Meg, is what’s your baking like? Can you do cake with a file in it?)