Monthly Archives: June 2008

The P-Puffin p-party

London did what it does best on Monday night. It offered one of those balmy evenings, when it’s a pleasure to stroll along the South Bank, with the lights and the sights. The witch household had shivered under blankets as she left, but it’s a well known fact that it’s warmer in the south.

The people at Puffin felt compelled to express their love for the witch and a few others behind their successful publishing business, by throwing a party. The noise level at the Tate Modern rose a little too much, so most of my chatting happened early. And do you have any idea of how fast Nicholas Tucker can walk in a party crowd? He, and some other prey, will simply have to be caught some other time, when I will avail myself of a broomstick.

My technique for sidling up to people and start a conversation with the opening line that I haven’t yet read their book/s, needs some improvement. Worse still, was having to admit that I’d not got further on one book than I had at our last meeting, five months ago. Bad witch. Could always talk about the weather, I suppose.

If I name drop now, I’ll forget someone, or it could be that I just didn’t see or recognise some people. Kevin Brooks was there. So were Linda Chapman, Lauren Child, Linzi Glass, Charlie Higson, Graham Marks, Meg Rosoff and Ed Vere. And absolutely loads of the lovely Puffin ladies, some who weren’t ladies, and many others who do things that have to do with books.

And an EastEnder. I’m the kind of person who knows so little about soaps, that I was able to have a Coronation Street neighbour without knowing it. But I think Ross Kemp is in soaps. Which reminds me of the time I wanted to buy soap and googled Mitchell’s wool fat soap, and got EastEnders instead. Television! Bah!

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Pirates!

Now strikes me as a good time to dip into the past, as far as my reading goes. With Celia Rees busy defending her most recent book Sovay, I hunted out the one that came before it, Pirates! from a few years ago. This is another of Celia’s historical adventures, and a wonderful story. I was reminded of it during my recent trip to Bristol, as that is where the book begins in 1722.

I think I would always love a story about pirates, but what makes this one rather special is that the pirates are female, and not just one token female, but two girls from widely differing backgrounds. This novel took me straight back to my childhood, when I devoured adventure books, and it’s got a nice whiff of Mutiny on the Bounty (another old favourite) about it.

Not appreciating Pirates of the Caribbean quite as much as Daughter, I don’t know how the stories compare, but there is a good traditional “slave owners and slaves” plot set in the West Indies, which also reminds me of older books.

This is a perfect choice for anyone who likes a good old fashioned adventure. Just writing about it has reminded me of someone who would love it.

Who’s afraid of socks?

Not me, but that’s not to say socks aren’t dangerous.

Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, is a new picture book. It’s so new it’s not out yet in Britain, but there’s always the internet.

Jumpy Jack & Googily

J J & G is better even than Meet Wild Boars, and as another blogger pointed out, the author information on the dustcover is almost funnier than the book itself.

Jumpy Jack is very jumpy indeed, and scared of monsters. So it’s interesting that for a best friend he has chosen a, umm, a, well, someone blue with pointy teeth. This someone is really quite kind and caring, so he couldn’t have a better friend.  J J is pretty good at being a good friend himself, too.

This book gives a new meaning to monsters under the bed.

And the winner is

Derek Landy.

I love Derek and I love Skulduggery, so the win was no surprise. But it would have been nice if it had gone to one of those authors who were present in Bolton Town Hall on Saturday morning. It was a friendly affair, with lots of children and parents and teachers in the audience.Jill Hucklesby

A lively Liverpudlian poet by the name of Terry Caffrey looked after things, and engaged even the Mayor in musical style poetry. The children talked about their favourite books, and introduced the authors, and generally did a good job. Some of them also won prizes for book cover designs and for a writing competition.Colin Bateman

After the prize ceremony all five authors present signed books, and they all had nice long queues, and I really approve of the piles of books some of the children were clutching. As the unofficial entourage of Nick Green, I have to say how pleased I am that all his Lulu printed copies of Cat’s Paw sold, and that’s not counting the ones I had bought. I’m still counting on those paying for my pension one day.Cat Weatherill

Did I set up that club for authors’ wives that I was talking about months ago? I feel Mrs Gatti will do well there.

What is it with cats?

The cat subject was started inadvertently, I promise. But it now seems to have a life of its own. On Friday afternoon the witch met up with Nick Green in Bolton where he had gone for the Bolton book awards this morning. And as you well know by now, Nick’s book is The Cat Kin.

The other shortlisted books are Colin Bateman, Titanic 2020; Will Gatti, The Geek, the Greek and the Pimpernel; F E Higgins, Black Book of Secrets; Jill Hucklesby, Deeper Than Blue; Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant; Jenny Valentine, Finding Violet Park; and Cat Weatherill, Wild Magic.

Nick GreenSome of the other authors had also made it to Bolton, and we ended up sitting in the sunshine in the beautiful hotel garden over cups of tea. I never like admitting to people that I’ve not read their books, but this time I had to. Luckily they had just spent the day with school children who had read all the shortlisted books, and they had aching arms from all the book signing they’d had to do.

Nice bunch of people, and it’s always interesting to hear what different experiences writers have had. The eagle eyed among you will have spotted that two of the authors are called cat in one form or other. And the hotel cat kept sauntering across the lawn where we were sitting.

It would be good, if somewhat confusing, if they all won the award this morning. Can’t be done, I suppose.

The Mock Turtle

This is not going to be about Alice. Much. It’s more cream teas and cake in vast quantities.

I first encountered Nicola Bayley with the cat pictures through my friend Pippi (the one without longstockings), when she wanted me to search my new country for cat books by Nicola. So I did. We keep asking each other for strange things, that we send to each other.

Pippi was the one who cemented the Mock Turtle teas as well. As students in Brighton many many years ago, somebody came up with the bright idea of debriefing after exams at the Mock Turtle tearooms, and this quickly became a tradition. Scones are good when you’ve just made a mess out of your vocab exam.

Once back home, Pippi suggested meeting up at hers for cream tea after another exam, and so a group of us took to meeting and making scones in turn. And all these meetings were filed under the Mock Turtle. Don’t know if we ever mentioned Alice. Literary teas are nice. Offspring have been taken to feed at the original Mock Turtle, and it’s still good.

Souvenir cat

We took a cat home when we visited Penzance a couple of years ago. I know you should avoid holiday cats, but this was the best kind; a book cat. We are real cheapskates around here, but sheer luck made it possible to book a few days in the Egyptian House in Penzance, which didn’t cost the earth. Landmark Trust holidays are lovely, but not for those with thin cheque books. Anyway, our Egyptian middle floor flat came with books, as all Landmarks do, and in particular, local books.

The Mousehole CatSo, I finally sat down to read The Mousehole Cat, thinking “it’s just a picture book”. It’s not. It’s a good story, and it even made me cry this morning, as I re-read it. And it’s got Nicola Bayley’s cat pictures.

It’s about cats keeping humans as pets. Well, not really, but it’s the idea that you can look at a relationship two ways that’s fun. Mowzer, and his fisherman Tom, live in Mousehole in Cornwall. Life is idyllic until bad weather stops the fishing. Tom and Mowzer go out and behave suitably heroically, and then the reader can cry a little at the end.

After this we had to go to Mousehole for a look. It’s a lot of expensive homes, these days, and less of the fisherman stuff, but the harbour wall is there.

And the book had to be bought to come and live with us. It’s easier to know what to do with a book, than all those shells Daughter recently discovered she had carted home from Cornwall.