Monthly Archives: November 2007

So many books

It feels like Christmas nearly every day. The book parcels keep coming, and it’s very nice. Thank you, publishers. We were discussing Christmas presents last night, and I said that this year I don’t think a book will be the most welcome present as far as I am concerned.

Some years ago we redesigned the way we buy Christmas presents, anyway. Now it’s strictly charity shop purchases, which does away with wish lists. You just go to an Oxfam or two and stare at what they’ve got, and surprisingly often something that would be perfect for little X pops into sight. The book about Mornington Crescent comes to mind. Or the gold angel.

And the underlying agreement is that we can take it back to Oxfam in January, should it be all wrong. We just want something to unwrap on Christmas Eve. Which is why I’m thinking of this now. It’s the 24th today, so exactly a month to the unwrapping. (And I’ve saved an awful lot of the middle pages of the Guardian to wrap the stuff in.)

We’re off to the Christmas fair at the Scandinavian church. If you’re anywhere near Liverpool, it’s on from 12-3, in Park Lane. I’ll sell you a calendar if you come.

Silver lining

Fiona Dunbar is very funny and very friendly. After I met her at Siobhan Dowd’s memorial service, she responded to my plea for information about her books by sending me her latest. And she understands perfectly how to sign a book.

Toonhead is about seeing into the future, which is also a very witchy thing. Whatever you do as parents, don’t name your son Pablo, unless you’re Spanish. The Pablo in Toonhead has artist parents with a fondness for Picasso. Twelve-year-old Pablo is more into cartoons, once he discovers them. The book’s cover is a dazzling blue and red with a Picasso-ish flavour.

Pablo can see the future, which seems quite good, until it turns out to be quite bad. He, or rather Fiona, has a nice and amusing way with words. I really enjoyed Toonhead, and I’m glad to have discovered a new (to me) author. Check out Fiona’s website – it’s great fun to read.

Only drawback is Fiona will only reply to your email if you tell her your age…


No room at the Plaza

And let me start by saying this has got nothing to do with the nice people at the Plaza.

This is where I would have told you all about last night’s glittering ceremony for the Stockport Schools’ Book Awards. Quite logical to cover something so close to home, for a change, with no tiring travel. I thought so. The organiser with the library service thought not. I hadn’t been invited. (So, invite me.)

After months and months of helpful behaviour from publishers and friendliness from authors (thank you), I should have known better than to expect anything at all from those whose pay comes from our rates. They are from the very same organisation which informed me that my (then) eleven-year-old shouldn’t read Terry Pratchett. They are working for the same local council that refused practical assistance for child on crutches to get to school.

Anyway, after I found out about the event (Daughter was invited through school), I spent ten days trying to work out who to contact about getting a ticket/invitation/whatever. You’d think they would have a website/page that can be found. (But I now know that Stockport has a Curry Chef award.)

So, knowing that Tim Bowler had been shortlisted, I asked him. He was coming, he said, but any information would be with his publisher. So, on to OUP, where I now have contacts, and they put me in touch with the right person. She in turn gave me the name of the one who then took such delight in saying no.

A book award in Stockport doesn’t sound like much, but I understand it’s good. Many excellent and well known authors are shortlisted. For Key Stage 4 (where Daughter voted) we had Tim, Michael Morpurgo and John Boyne. In another group Lee Weatherly. This is why I persevered, when I’d normally give up. But my “sparring partner” was made of stronger stuff. What I read in her replies was that I was a suspicious character trying to sneak into a children’s event. (According to Daughter one of my friends was there…)

A very last minute plea to Daughter’s headteacher got a sympathetic reply, but I was too late. At least he was nice.

I don’t know if the Stockport Express was there. They have a larger readership than I do. However, my readers are interested in books, and cover the globe, and my blog reaches parts the SE doesn’t. But who cares about spreading the word about their book awards scheme?

You’ll be pleased to hear that Tim Bowler won the KS 4 award. And from another source of information I believe that Alan Durant won in a younger category.

And you’ll be even more relieved that after this little outburst the witch will attempt to be her normal sunny self for a long time to come. Attempt to, I said.

Costa shortlist

I’m losing touch with reality and would most likely forget my own birthday, let alone remember that it’s Costa time again. Thank goodness for newspapers that remind me.

The children’s shortlist (sounds nice, almost as if children had chosen the books) is:
Ann Kelley, The Bower Bird
Elizabeth Laird, Crusade
Meg Rosoff, What I Was
Marcus Sedgwick, Blood Red Snow White

I don’t know Ann Kelley at all, I’m afraid, but the other three books are definitely good choices, and I’m sure Ann’s is too. And I’ll try not to blush, but the Resident IT Consultant beats me on the number of shortlisted books read.

Six weeks until we find out who’s won. (Meg, I’ll come up with a prediction some time, only not today.)

Free Cleopatra

Yesterday’s Guardian Education had the good taste to offer free copies of Adele Geras’ Cleopatra for your child’s school. It’s not impossible to win, as the witch (who never wins anything) managed on her first attempt some years ago. Worth a try.

Collector’s item

I generally subscribe to the belief that any old copy of a book will do fine. After all, the words tend to be the same, no matter how dog-eared or covered in coffee stains the book is. And I have lots of books like that (stains usually supplied by someone other than the witch). Some are ex-library editions, but that’s fine when they only cost 10p. (Though I think I once saw a Linda Newbery ex-library book on Amazon’s marketplace for £100.)

But sometimes even I get seduced by a goodlooking book. Classic Penguins, anyone? And the reverse happens, too. You just don’t want to buy the book when it’s got “that cover”. So, for example, some of the Pullman books for sale on Saturday were definite no-nos, because they had the new film style covers and Sally Lockhart had Billie Piper. Now, I quite like Billie as Sally, but the older Victorian covers are really good.

Today’s post has yielded some real gems. The collector’s edition of His Dark Materials. Thank you Scholastic! I think I could even just sit and stroke these books. They are so beautiful. Black and white engravings on the covers and Philip’s own illustrations inside, of course. I can visualise him in his shed with the music on high as he drew the pictures. For The Subtle Knife there are also the useful little pictures on each page helping the reader keep track of which world they’re currently in.

As the name suggests, the edition is limited, so hurry!

I’ll just stroke some more.

Collector's Northern Lights

Collector's Subtle Knife

Collector's Amber Spyglass

The Pegasus Theatre

Does any reader out there have £ 1.6 million that they have no immediate need for? The Pegasus Theatre would like your money, and I think it would be a nice gesture on your part if you gave it to them.

Idiot that I am I hadn’t bothered finding out much about the Pegasus before this trip to Oxford. The name Pullman was enough. Now I rather wish we lived in Oxford, or that we too could have a Pegasus near us. Because it sounds great.

On Saturday night at St John’s we were shown a brief (almost too brief) film called Hands On Pegasus. They do so much, for so many children. Films like these are often a bit boring. Not this one. I may have to see how my piggy bank is doing, and send them some money.

Son and I spoke to a nice Pegasus trustee over drinks. They have some caring, interested people involved. Spoke to more than one parent with children at the Pegasus. I’d like to join myself, although I’m slightly on the old side.

For a Pullman fanatic it came as a surprise to find that there were probably rather more Pegasus supporters at St John’s than Philip Pullman fans. Son had no problem grabbing a seat right in the middle at the front. I counted about 150 people altogether, and the auditorium was almost full.

The publishers supplied Philip Pullman’s books to sell, with 50% going to Pegasus. They even had Milton’s Paradise Lost to buy. Foreword by Pullman. They were very keen to make money. They sold raffle tickets, and at the end they even auctioned off the flower arrangements from the stage. I kept worrying I’d win the orchid…

Just about everyone we spoke to were so very nice. The regret now is that we won’t be able to go and see lots of plays at the Pegasus, either now in their run-down and possibly dangerous old building, or later in the lovely new theatre they are fundraising for. They put on Philip’s I Was A Rat a couple of years ago, and I understand it was really good. Philip thought so. And Son says they handed out chocolate rats to everyone, which is exactly what one wants.

Raffle for Pegasus