Monthly Archives: March 2009

Culture’s first

interview. Practice may make perfect, but not yet. But at least I have practised on the cream of children’s authors, and that is a very good place to start. I have slaved over this hot interview for long enough, now, so am feeling lazy. Nothing very bookish here for you today, so have a quick look at Culture’s first. And for anyone who simply must have a book connection, I recommend Roger Whittaker’s early autobiography, So Far So Good, which has a gun situation on the first page. Whittaker and witch 2

And for those of you who have yet to meet me in person; please leave my hair alone when the time comes.


Witch Baby

As the title suggests, Witch Baby and Me, is a perfect book for a bookwitch. It’s aimed at younger readers, but Debi Gliori is so clever with her use of language, that it’s fun to read even at my vast distance from the age of eight, or thereabouts.

When the really ghastly witches up in Scotland want a baby, they do it the ‘easy way’ (hah) and let someone else give birth to the witch baby. Trouble is, the Witch Baby has a once in a blue moon kind of older sister, and she can see the new baby is a witch, even if nobody else can. But poor Lily can’t make anyone believe her.

So that’s OK, then.

Witch Baby Daisy has a sometimes visible dog companion called WayWoof, which she adores. It smells rather. And Daisy does not like vampies. (I think we may be dealing with werewolves and vampires here. Very fashionable.)

WayWoof and Witch Baby

Then it turns out that once in a blue moon people are less rare than imagined, and the witches need to act. They also need to learn about the internet.

Lots of fun, and I believe there is more, and more to come. Adorable pictures, Debi! WayWoof is cute, and I can’t smell him from here.

Pullman news

It was worth waiting for, even if it took a long time. Philip Pullman has a new re-vamped website, which looks pretty good. Neater looks, but above all, easier to use. Though I would like to suggest one or two additions, perhaps.

There is also a new interview with Philip in the Times, which is worth reading.

The sudden demise of the DFC means that the story about John Blake that Philip started writing for David Fickling, needs to be finished by other means. Philip says he will write it as a film and as a graphic novel.

I just hope it won’t slow down the Book of Dust even more!

Neil Gaiman in a suit

As a cleaning-the-house avoidance technique, surfing around other people’s websites and blogs is lovely. I succumbed to just a little of it yesterday, and simply have to share. One or two of my regulars may not already have seen Neil Gaiman appear on The Colbert Report. (It would seem to be another of those jolly American television programmes where you come and sit and chat to some mad show host or other.)

Not having worked out how to borrow the clip in some better way, here is a link to Neil’s journal, and you need to admire Maddy’s teeth first, but scroll on…

Flood and Fang

Marcus Sedgwick has branched out with a series of books for younger readers, and the first one is called Flood and Fang, and is out now. The Raven Mysteries (and it’s not every book that has a raven as its protagonist) should appeal to the customers of Lemony Snicket and Philip Ardagh. It certainly appealed to me, although I might not have chosen it in a shop, on account that it looks a little young for me.

Edgar (that’s the raven) is considerably older than me, than most other creatures, in fact, so the story is in good hands. He’s a little vain, but he’s also intelligent and caring and brave. His people, the Otherhands, are a bit strange, rather in the vein of the Addams family.

In Flood and Fang the Otherhand Castle is under threat from, well, a flood, and some fangs. Quite a few fangs, actually. The castle has a mind of its own, which I suppose can come in useful, though not in this book. Maid-eating monsters are always interesting, and luckily the Otherhand family have a few maids to spare.

This is an intelligently written book, with an interesting use of language. Futhork. Gasp. Urk.

Lovely illustrations on every page. And the Otherhand daughter, Solstice, is a beautiful Goth, and very fond of Edgar. So we like her. You will, too.

Troll Blood

It’s such a relief that books don’t go away, and that they don’t go mouldy. Having read Troll Fell when it had just come out, and Troll Mill before publication, I have no good explanation for my long delay in reading Troll Blood. I saw to my dismay, and slight hilarity, that the name on the accompanying press release nestled inside my copy of Troll Blood was of someone who has worked for another publisher for at least eighteen months.

Katherine Langrish’s first two books were really enjoyable, even for someone who doesn’t jump with joy over Viking historical fiction. I met Katherine for the launch of both her other books, and we talked about her next venture (this one) and it was fascinating to hear about her hands-on experience of sailing a Viking boat. I may have thought it was taking things too seriously at the time, but I can see now how useful Katherine’s Viking sailing class turned out to be.

Troll Blood is a fantastic story, and why on earth did I leave it so long? All I can do is urge others not to delay further. At a pinch I’d say you can read Troll Blood first, if you can’t wait.

Where Troll Fell and Troll Mill were set in old Norway, in a small community with trolls and other ‘fantasy’ creatures, Troll Blood is the tale of a trip across the sea to Vinland, and further adventures once the crew reach the new country far away.

The main characters are still the young boy Peer and his (girl)friend Hilde. The two of them set sail with the other people on the boat, some of them nice and ordinary and others not quite so pleasant or friendly. There is an interesting subplot set in amongst the ‘Native Americans’, if I may call them that. I wouldn’t mind reading more about them.

My over-sensitive eyes would have preferred Peer to be called Per, and I have never come across an Arnë with an umlaut. But that’s a minor quibble. Read Troll Blood. Soon.

ALMA 2009

This year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award goes to the Tamer Institute for Community Education in Ramallah. They have been working for twenty years to get children and teenagers in Gaza and the West Bank to read.

It was founded to help children read and receive an education when the unrest meant that they couldn’t go to school. They hold writing workshops, and help train librarians and they supply libraries with books. Since the start they have also published over a hundred books, as there were practically no Palestinian children’s books at the time.

They have an annual reading campaign, and some of the teenagers involved also help make a magazine with poetry and other pieces of writing. Some of the children have gone on to write books as adults.

So, a very worthy sounding winner, and however much an individual author may deserve the five million kronor prize money, an organisation like this one can make far better use of it. Prize ceremony with Crown Princess Victoria on June 2nd in Stockholm.

WBD witch

Not me. It’s Winnie to the Rescue, which is two stories; Itchy Witchy and Winnie’s Book Day (clever use of the letters WBD).

Soon after I joined Facebook, Korky Paul popped up as a potential friend, but I had never heard of him. (Sorry, Korky!) Weird name, but one mustn’t be prejudiced. Somewhat unusual face, too, but who am I to talk? Anyway, we seemed to share a lot of Facebook friends, so he was worth investigating. I found that Korky does have a conventional name and a more conventional face, too.

Winnie the Witch

And now my WBD purchases have provided me with a Korky book about a witch, which is clearly my kind of thing. Itchy Witchy reminded me of Horrid Henry and the head lice, except here it’s fleas on cats that jump all over the place. Winnie’s Book Day is all about exploding libraries, I think, and the magic that can be found inside books. Well, we knew that!

According to Korky’s comment on Facebook, this WBD book is doing well.

A blog visit

It was an internet kind of weekend, if you don’t count the hotel which was unable to connect me to it. “Has madam ever used her laptop before, and has she gone on the internet in the past?’ Well, you tell me! Do you reckon I have enough internet experience after two years of boring you stiff?

Take away the internet, and I probably would have had to help the Resident IT Consultant mow the grass, instead of basking in the German spring sunshine. As it was, I was close to entering a competition with Lowebrow on our respective domestic dust levels at the very moment the Resident IT Consultant removed the dust I was about to boast about, from the chandelier. 

We both agreed that we waste a lot of time on the internet. But it brought us together, and many other valuable connections would also have remained unconnected. We spent a whole afternoon talking books and writing, and if there had been no plane to catch, we’d still be at it. 

Coming from a bilingual household, it was good to visit another, with a different mix of languages. I still don’t think it’s impolite to speak the ‘other’ language in front of people, and I quite liked being allowed to listen to German without having to try and speak it.

And it’s very useful to have found someone who wants the books I’m finished with. My suitcase very nearly burst with books, and that was before we added the Cheddar. Also fun to find a mother more forgetful than myself at times. Fancy asking your son if he takes sugar!

On the other hand, I’ve already forgotten if Gypsy is an English speaking dog or a German speaking one.

Culture goes to Köln

Darjeeling with Roger Whittaker

Today – what’s left of it. Hotels who fail in the internet access department are not my most favourite ones… – you just have to head over to Culture for her review of the Roger Whittaker concert in Köln. She and Daughter worked very hard all Saturday, what with the Chocolate Museum, having tea with Roger and then going to the concert.

But when you think about it; someone has to.