Monthly Archives: October 2007

Books on radio and television

Listen to Malorie Blackman on Radio 4 today at 16.00 or the repeat on Thursday 25th, same time. It’s the Open Book programme, and Malorie will be talking about her new book, The Stuff of Nightmares. The cliffhanger, if you recall.

Recommending Richard & Judy comes a long way down my list of priorities, but why don’t you watch the special this Thursday at 20.00 on Channel 4? It’s Richard & Judy’s Best Kids’ Books, and it should be interesting.

And I’m not sure when this will be broadcast, but the recording is tomorrow, and I’m almost in tears because I can’t be there. Sara Paretsky talks about her first novel, Indemnity Only, for the BBC World Service at 18.00. Admission is free, but you need to book. (020 7557 1619)

Meg’s news

It’s worth tuning into Meg Rosoff’s website every now and then. She changes the page about herself and you can have fresh news. How truthful she is I don’t know. I’m fairly certain her family isn’t the Addams family, but Meg would know best.


Pancakes coming your way

After spending all of August trying to persuade Daughter to make me a pancake cake and failing, the witch was pleased to find that Findus of Swedish pancake fame is coming this way. The sensible people at Hawthorn Press are publishing Sven Nordqvist’s hilarious tale of crusty old Pettson and his cat Findus, who has three birthdays a year. (Between you and me, I always associated the name Findus with frozen peas, but that’s beside the point.) Offspring have enjoyed the pancake tale for years, and now it’s your turn, at long last.

Pettson and Findus live in a little red cottage in the country, and in this first story they encounter some obstacles to their plans for birthday pancakes. But obstacles are there to be overcome, aren’t they?

Sven Nordqvist, author and artist, grew up in the same town as the witch, though I don’t think our paths crossed. The Retired Children’s Librarian remembered that Sven made the posters for an event at the library as he was local talent. And I did come across the man in Gothenburg last year in my search for more signed books for the collection. (Artists do good signings.)

More coincidence here for the Pullman quote mad family – Philip is a fan, and this is what he has to say: “It’s not often that we come across books with such immediate and lasting appeal as Sven Nordqvist’s Pancakes for Findus and his ‘Findus’ series. The stories are ingenious, the characters are quirky and original, and the illustrations are absolutely delightful – I’ve seldom seen such an endless, apparently effortless flow of invention. Readers young and old will spend happy hours poring over them to find all the details, and revisit them again and again. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Hurrah for Findus!”

Hawthorn’s contact with my local bookshop mentions the book as being liked by the witch, and by Pullman. And it’s not often that the witch and Philip get bracketed together like this, so I shall shut up here and leave it to Pettson and his pet to charm you.

And then go make some pancakes.

Pancakes for Findus

Introducing Findus

Findus in the kitchen

This is Findus. He’s ready to make pancakes. Read more about him tomorrow.

Who gets on with a Scorpio?

More book snatching around these parts, and as usual it’s the fault of Cathy Hopkins. The latest batch of two Zodiac Girls books arrived, and the witch found them removed from where she put them and devoured by daughter. So possibly one can deduce that the reading apathy has changed again, as it so often does when Cathy has a new book.

These new ones are Brat Princess, which does exactly what it says on the packaging, and Discount Diva. Both of them find that they are Zodiac girl of the month, though obviously not at the same time. And it can change their lives. Cathy is very much into this Zodiac stuff and knows a fair amount. I think.

Daughter’s complaints would be that she shouldn’t get on with either me (well, she really shouldn’t) or with one of her best friends. So, who to believe? We are now eagerly waiting for the next lot, where Scorpio appears and we might get some answers. It’s going to be called Double Trouble, and how apt is that? Hah.

Cathy is just back from some star spotting in Cheltenham, which I understand was hard work. But that might be because she’s a star herself. Keep your star signs coming, Cathy.


While on the subject of murderous women, I was quite impressed with Cleopatra. Adele Geras has a new book out about Cleopatra, and I’ve learnt a fair bit that I didn’t know before. It’s either a reference book with a story, or a story book with a reference part. It is heavily illustrated and has an attractive jewel inset front cover, which is just right for young girls.

Adele has written a story about ten-year-old Nefret who becomes Cleopatra’s handmaiden. The reader gets to follow Nefret’s life at court through her diary. There’s also the reference part with a lot of historical facts, maps, family tree and a glossary. This should work as an excellent complement to history at school.

I have to admit to having been quite ignorant about Cleopatra’s goings-on, but now I know that she went through at least a couple of brothers, both called Ptolemy, as husbands. That would be her own brothers, and they came to sticky ends. After them came Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. And the snake.

IT for witches

Anyone who called in for any kind of interesting reading at lunchtime today will have got more than they bargained for. You will have thought me madder than before, even. If that’s possible. I published some temporary test blogs in the interest of education.

That will be my education we’re talking about. Ever since getting this wonderful Macbook in the summer (note that even a laptop has the word book in it where I’m concerned) I have been learning. Or attempting to. This is a completely free ad for that fruit company Forrest Gump invested his money in.

For those who live within easy distance of an Apple shop there is a lot to learn. For those who are willing to admit that they need it, that is. I have this Resident IT Consultant at home, but I suspect it’s rather like teaching a family member to drive. It doesn’t work too well. So, I jumped at the opportunity to have one-to-one sessions with Apple experts. For the price of two litres of milk (!) I get an hour a week and I can ask as many stupid questions as I like. They don’t shout, they don’t sigh, they are kind and polite throughout. And next week I can ask the same stupid questions again.

So, today we were working on putting links in blogs, and it wasn’t going too well. But with some luck you will find plenty of working links in blogs to come. I hope.

I suspect it’s also good for the soul to have an hour a week where you freely admit to being an idiot. Then I can come back home and feel slightly more professional for six days. And I occasionally get to teach the Resident IT Consultant a thing or two. Or I can say that my Apple friend says to do things differently! And ladies, so far all my Apple friends have been male.

Group murder

I can’t cooperate with anyone, so admire those who get on well enough to write books together. I listened to a group of them in Gothenburg.

Three women writers who kill together, both for adults and for children, recounted their plotting experience. They plot in cafés. One time they noticed that the café had gone very quiet, and they had to work out what they’d been saying.

It went something like this: “I don’t think X should be allowed to live. Let’s kill her, but try and get it to look like suicide. I’ve heard that electrical cable is very good for hangings.”

Makes your cake that little bit more exciting. Hope it was for an adult book.

Another hazard encountered was finding they had the wrong murderer when they got to the end of the book. Should have had a longer discussion over the cake.


I finally got round to checking out Penguin’s (or is it Puffin’s?) new teens “online book community” this morning. I had had some reservations about it, thinking they were trying to be cool, and would have to fail. On the other hand, I’m so ancient that I have no right to say what’s cool. And anything I like is so likely not to be, that I’d better stop going on about it because I’m sinking deeper and deeper.

But I think it’s all right.

The young contributors had the good taste to interview Meg Rosoff, so I had the pleasure of hearing Meg’s voice over breakfast. They had some good questions and the old witch learnt a few new facts as well. Something about capers and adverbs which I thought very intelligent, and will keep in mind until I forget it.

It seems that like me, Meg likes being a foreigner. She put it so well, and I think it boils down to not having to be embarrassed about Luton. I’m also trying to get my head round the fact that she put Justin in the Orkney islands for a while, when Luton is such a good place for him. I too have a strange past at Luton airport, though nothing as dramatic as Justin’s.

There was much more on the spinebreakers site, but a morning is only so long. I’ll return to it later. Maybe see you there?

Pink and purple princesses

I adore the colour purple, so I hope it’s really mauve that Mary Hoffman rants against in yesterday’s Guardian. But, she’s quite right in that anything intended for little girls is pink or purple (mauve!) and possibly also covered in silver glitter. I was surprised earlier when I read her new book Princess Grace to find that the book had a princess theme. But all has been explained. Mary was wanting to lure the traditional lover of pink to read her book and then get a new message by reading it.

Mary’s heroine Grace starts looking at what princesses do and she comes up with quite a few good role models in the end. The book has a satisfyingly pc conclusion.

I had to laugh when reading about Mary’s daughter Rhiannon’s wish, aged seven, to dye her hair blonde. I think that’s something a lot of us dark haired girls want at some point or other. What I found odd, was to have a daughter who’s blonde, wanting to dye her hair dark… To look like the rest of the family. There’s no pleasing some people.