Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Bog Baby

The Bog Baby

Sometimes I suspect I fall so in love with an illustrator’s style, that I’ll like anything they do. But with Jeanne Willis you get a number of different illustrators, so I don’t know why I keep falling in love.

What I was saying about having picture books read to you, applies to this one as well, because Jeanne read this herself. What could be better?

The Bog Baby is her most recent book, and with adorable pictures by Gwen Millward. Bog Babies are round and blue and jelly-like, and they are SO lovable. This story is about loving and learning to let go.

I want a Bog Baby!


Meet Wild Boars

No, that’s not an author, it’s a book title. Meg Rosoff has a new picture book out, and this is not it. Trouble is, not even Meg has a copy of the new one yet, so I’ll go for the old one.

When I bought Meet Wild Boars a couple of years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, until Daughter read it to me. Then it made sense. Well, you know, not sense, but it was as it should be. It’s easy to forget when the children get so old that they don’t have books read to them, that sometimes that is exactly the point of some books. And picture books more than others.

So thanks to Daughter I learnt that Wild Boars has to be read out. But not necessarily to a young child. Boris, Morris, Horace and Doris are pretty awful. They’re boars, and I’m guessing invented by or for Meg’s daughter. They have their uses, those girls.

The illustrations by Sophie Blackall are not pretty, but intentionally so. The information on the book jacket about Meg and Sophie, is at least as good as the book. And I found one review saying the book was so awful they threw it away. Don’t believe it.

Meet Wild Boars

Last night Daughter, feeling a bit depressed, started reading Wild Boars to me again. She had forgotten that Meg had signed the book to her, so coming across that very friendly greeting, cheered her up considerably. So to jump to the purpose of having books signed; that could be one. Making the signee happy.

Continuing the book signing saga

in the Guardian today. So if you’re feeling you could be Shakespeare, go in and comment. For the modest, a comment as yourself will do nicely, too.

Talking to Catherine Forde

The tale of last Monday’s meeting with Cathy Forde can be found here. Cathy is lovely, and it’s good to meet someone new, to me, that I can like instantly. Don’t know why this matters, but it’s nice. I’ve combined this interview with a brief review of Cathy’s latest book, Sugarcoated. I started reading her Fat Boy Swim while waiting for Cathy to turn up, but she was so early that I got almost no way at all… Looks promising, is all I can say.

How old should you be?

It seems we are to get age guidance on children’s books. The question is whether this is helpful or not.

Some quotes from yesterday’s Guardian Review; “which seven-year-old?” and “it’s not the age that’s important, but who the child is”. True. But if the book says age 7+ and you are buying for an exceedingly clever seven-year-old, you might decide to go for a 10+ instead. And some people are so out of touch with children’s reading, as well as with the child they are buying for, that any guide will be a help. Kind of the book equivalent of remembering that a two-month-old will neither resent the fact that her older brother gets chocolate for Christmas, nor that she won’t be able to make much use of the chocolate buttons offered as being more baby-ish.

Last week’s meeting with Derek Landy I was accompanied by a borrowed nine-year-old. Giggly, spontaneous and friendly, and so very mature. I wish they were all like that…

Some years ago I picked up a very tatty copy of Nina Bawden’s The Witch’s Daughter (how apt!) in the school fair. It was the original Puffin from the sixties, and the reading age was given as 8+. I thought it sounded a bit young, for me, but decided to push on with reading it anyway. Not only is it a good book, but it’s not that easy a read either. I came to the conclusion that an eight-year-old forty years ago was supposed to be more advanced in their reading.

Dumbing down. So, consider who gives the advice, and how many decades ago. Then adjust to what your needs are.

My Sister Jodie

Jacqueline Wilson has done death before, so I don’t suppose I should say that she seems to have caught the latest death book bug. The cover is very nice, all purple and to my taste. The story even has a witch or two in it, seeing as it covers Halloween. Should have been an autumn book, really.

Daughter loved My Sister Jodie, and was most affronted when I said I didn’t, to be quite honest. Maybe it was something about that boarding school, which didn’t feel right. And I’ve never been a fan of Jacqueline’s mothers, but this one really annoyed me.

Loved Harley and the badgers. Even quite liked the bad gardener. Contrary, is what I am.

Sara Paretsky and Crime Always Pays

I introduced Declan at Crime Always Pays to Sara Paretsky, and he fired off his standard list of questions at her.  Sara has now answered and you can find the results over on CAP. He found a great photo of her, too, so go across and have a look.

The Scottish graphic novel


Don’t know if we have to be superstitious about this graphic book. Maybe not. After all, I’m sort of in it. I mean Macbeth, in his new graphic form. And he meets some witches, but none of them are anywhere near as good looking as I am.

As one of the enthusiastic quotes on the back says, it’s surprising nobody has done Shakespeare in graphic form before. It’s such an obvious thing. And an easy way to proper literature, I’d say. Thinking back to my university days, far too many people seemed to read the study guides instead of the book, rather than as well as. Not me.

On the other hand, I had never read Macbeth before, so this was a nice way of doing it. Shakespeare as a comic, albeit with a good many complicated words. But the pictures really help, and I’d hope the illustrations would entice young readers of the Bard. It can’t even count as cheating, surely, as it’s all there.

A comic full of well known quotes, half of which I didn’t know where they came from. But now I know it’s Macbeth. And a Harry Potter rock group, if I’m not mistaken.

If schools had money, this would be a good book to buy. But they never have any.


Authors have been like buses here. Several days have passed with no author in sight, and then you get two in 24 hours. Catherine Forde and Derek Landy have both called in at the local bookshop, while the owners are away. So, the witch has played at being a shop owner, with none of the inconvenient hard work they have to do. Just swan in and greet people and have tea and chat to them. Not bad.

Catherine is doing a tour this week to talk about her new book Sugarcoated, a teen thriller. She turned out to be lovely, despite professing a wish to kill off her main character.

And we already knew Derek is a sweetie, but it doesn’t hurt to check again. He, too, has a tour and a new book, Playing With Fire. Derek admitted he quite liked killing his characters, so that makes two murderous visitors to start the week with.

I got to act as go-between, as well. We’re back to coincidence here. Cathy had a desperate need to send a thank you card to Derek, but didn’t have his address. Seeing the posters advertising his imminent arrival, she wrote a card and asked the witch to revert to her old profession of postal worker for a moment. I’d like to think it was MEANT. What’s more, I remembered to do it.

As a new idea, I met both Catherine and Derek in the company of two young readers, thinking I could get them to do my work for me. Not a bad idea, at all. I don’t have to think so much, and get to feel good with starry eyed fans who like meeting authors. The coconut cake can also be recommended.

The results of these interviews will appear here. Some time. Hopefully soon.

Page 123

This week’s game would seem to be some blog tagging exercise where the victim has to bore their readers with three sentences from their nearest book.

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

I am rather belatedly reading Jacqueline Wilson’s latest book, My Sister Jodie. Sentences number six to eight on p123 go something like this:

She kicked too hard and hurt her foot. “Ow!” she moaned, hopping on one leg. She wasn’t good at balancing on just one high heel and nearly toppled over.

This mad chain blog thingy could only have come from one place, Crime Always Pays. You silly man. Haven’t you got nappies to change and sleep to catch up on? Oh, well. But you people who I’m about to tag had better remember it’s nothing to do with me. The lucky victims are Lowebrow, Julie Bertagna, The Green Knight, Sara O’Leary and Jen Robinson.