Monthly Archives: November 2008

A different interview

Well, hopefully all my interviews are different. And this is a little special, because it’s not primarily about writing fiction, though Charlotte Moore does that too. What sets it apart, is that we didn’t talk all that much about Charlotte herself. We talked about her two eldest sons, George and Sam, as it’s through them that Charlotte reached a big audience in the Guardian, some years ago. It’s not just that the boys are important in themselves, but I feel it’s how Charlotte talks about her sons that shows us what she is like.

And I’m still as full of admiration as I was.

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Intelligent horses

When I read about clever horses twice in less than 24 hours, I knew it’s more than a coincidence. I was looking for my “new cat” topic, and I’m sure that I’ve found it in horses.

First it was Temple Grandin, the well known autistic writer and animal expert, who writes about horses in her Animals in Translation, which I began reading the other day.

Then Meg Rosoff goes on about horses, too. And I think she’s saying pretty much the same as Temple. Horses know what they are doing, whereas we humans don’t always.

Horses are also quite big, unless you go to Shetland, where they are a very nice size. I’m not sure how high 16 hands is, but I’d like Meg to remember she isn’t still fifty (Nice try, Meg!), or even fifteen.

Before discovering brooms I went on horses several times. That was also before I discovered common sense, which is that I don’t belong on horses. The pony at Skansen (Stockholm tourist place; look it up!) that I understood to be a size six, which is what it said on my ticket, turned out to be enormous. But then I was only four years old. That’s old enough to scream my way round the whole of Skansen, with a very determined Mother-of-witch by my side. The Retired Children’s Librarian sat on a bench and laughed. She still talks about it, too.

Then there was the farm horse belonging to my friend’s uncle. The horse was called M******t; same as the Retired Children’s Librarian, so there is a connection of sorts.

The only thing is that according to Temple I’d feel a lot better if I socialise with horses.

Stockport Schools’ Book Award

I will restrain myself this year. The Stockport Schools’ Book Award event was on last night at the Plaza. I had spent some weeks trying to find out the date, again, because the council is not very active in updating its website. It has also not yet published the results, which is a shame when they go to so much trouble to organise the whole thing and get the children reading and voting.

So, I can tell you that the Key Stage 4 category was won by Tabitha Suzuma, for From Where I Stand. She is right now swanning around the local schools and chatting to her fans.

My detective work yesterday also led me to Siobhan Dowd, who won the Key Stage 2 category with The London Eye Mystery. I’m busy thinking how lovely it would have been if Siobhan could have been here too. I gather from my informant that David Fickling wrote a nice speech to be read out last night.

And that’s it. There are several more categories, but my detective skills didn’t tell me who won those. And it shouldn’t really require sleuthing in the first place. A press release next year, perhaps? (And SMBC, I am on your side really. We all want to promote good reading, so please join the 21st century.)

Witch in London

Leaving the Stopfordian drizzle behind for some London sunshine was actually quite nice. It helps having dry weather for when one wants to sit on park benches to munch on packed lunch. It also helps greatly if the park has benches. Green Park, please note, I want more benches. I found one eventually, with a view of the Queen’s home in the distance. The scrunchy leaves for the day were Lyme. I think. Until recently I’d have called them Maple, but I believe there may be a difference in continent. Or language. Whatever they are, they are Lönn in the language I’m best with when it comes to nature.

Malorie Blackman

The interview, which was with Malorie Blackman (slight hint yesterday), went very well. Malorie had no idea who to look for, so willingly let herself be hijacked by the witch. The ever efficient Nina at Random had decreed we should meet at the fifth floor café of the large bookshop in Piccadilly. The building is very lovely, and I’ll have to return to stare at the architecture a bit more one day. However, I do feel the children’s books department is nowhere near big enough for a shop that size. Can recommend the Chai Latte, particularly if you don’t have to pay for it. Thanks, Malorie.

Once in the neighbourhood I decided to revisit Albemarle Street, where I used to go regularly in my younger days. This time I actually walked past Brown’s Hotel and carried on to the Royal Institution. I guessed the large building at the end of Albemarle Street had to be it, until remnants of my common sense kicked in and told me that as I have a painting on the wall at home of that very building, of course it was the right place. One day I must bring my young Faraday descendants there to check out Great-great-great-great-great Uncle’s old haunts.

The Thames

The witch dragged her aching legs all the way to the South Bank, stopping to admire the late afternoon light over Westminster from Waterloo Bridge. I like the concrete ghetto around the National Theatre. The NT itself is a good place to hang out and pass the time. It seems to act as a meeting place, but mainly for the elderly, I’d say. Perhaps it’s the same people who used to come when they were young and the NT was new. Tea and cake from the little Espresso bar in the corner while I waited for the platform (you are meant to click on this, you know) reading by Bill Paterson in the Cottesloe. Hearing Bill was originally intended as a way of staying warm and sitting down, while waiting for train home, but it was a fantastic event, and one I’m glad I decided to go to. There’s something about a Glasgow accent…

Madness, or what?

Should I be doing this?

I’m off on a train to London, again, to interview someone. Again. Is it a good idea? 

As I said at the very beginning of this blog, I do like my authors. What makes them mine? They write good books, and most of them are really very nice people, and interesting to meet. There are those of you who claim that the writer doesn’t matter. But that would mean that I personally could have written Northern Lights or Noughts & Crosses.

I myself like reading about people; both ones I know well, and those I’ve never even heard of before. What matters is that the interview is well written and interesting.

Oh, dear.

Am I just a star-struck fan? Probably.

Well, let’s hope the train is on time…

Christmas wishlist

Dear Father Christmas I suppose it’s soon time for Christmas shopping. I’d rather not think about it, though I am planning a foray into the charity shops of Altrincham today. Don’t tell the family, please. Here are two new books for those who need something fresh.

Father Christmas features in both these picture books, as well he should. In Dear Father Christmas by Jeanne Willis you even get his address, so you can write to him yourself. I won’t, but the stickers in the back of the book will be nice to put on my other Christmas post. I love stickers! The story is about a girl’s letter to FC, and she is refreshingly uninterested in worldly goods, so I hope that’s a message which young readers can adopt.

In Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess we have a little wolf longing for a teddy bear of his own to help him sleep. Many traditional story characters turn up while he is searching for his bear, including Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. I like the colours in Russell Ayto’s illustrations and there’s a nice retro 1960s feel to them.

Where Teddy Bears Come From

Cereal books

And then there are the books that narrowly avoid getting covered in milk.

The gaga-meter in these parts is hitting the roof more often than not. When Eoin Colfer said that The Legend of Spud Murphy is one of his own favourites, I decided I must read it immediately. Daughter very obligingly pointed out that we had a copy at home, saving me buying it.

When I sat down to read it, I discovered that I had, of course, already read it. Honestly! Old witches aren’t what they used to be. But I just couldn’t remember buying it. Could it have been another World Book Day book? Nope. It bears the name of a cereal company on the back, so will be one of the Shreddies offerings.

That’s also a good way for new readers to find books to read. Cereal freebies are perhaps less often “real” books, but if they get children reading, then so be it. This is the subject of Eoin’s book, as well. Spud finds a love of reading in the library, where he’s been banished along with his brother. There’s a lot of Eoin in Spud. He has a love for swords and excitement, but is not above reading a romance.

Eoin wrote Spud for his son, after a complaint that he “never writes books for his own children”. The complaint from Eoin goes along the lines that his son never bothered reading the book after all. Sounds like a normal son. Perhaps they could experiment with breakfast cereal?