Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tsunami boy

Blast that Michael Morpurgo! First he has me reading Running Wild, sort of enjoying it, but grumbling to myself that the voice is all wrong. Then I decided that it was OK, because the message was important and that’s what mattered the most. And in typical Morpurgo style he had me crying for the last 27 pages, at the end of which the man comes up with an explanation as to why the voice was all wrong. Double blast.

OK, so I should have paid more attention when Michael was talking about this book in Edinburgh. I know he wanted to write a ‘tsunami novel’, but had to wait until it wasn’t so fresh and until he’d worked out how to do it. He kills off nine-year-old Will’s parents, first one, then the other. And Will gallops off away from the tsunami on the most marvellous elephant, Oona.

I want an elephant now.

It’s Robinson Crusoe meets I Am David. Will and Oona walks the jungle, meets the most fascinating and adorable orangutans. It being a Morpurgo novel, and one with a message, bad things happen. This is enough to make me throw all my belongings away and live a better life. Michael stuffs both the tsunami, the threat to our jungles, greedy horrible people, the uncertain future for orangutans, the war in Iraq, and green living into one relatively short book.

I’ll just go mop my eyes.

(The voice I was moaning about sounded too old. Will can only be fifteen now, and can’t tell a story as though he’s looking back from fifty years hence.)

Not bad, MM.

Nation and London

Nation at the National Theatre by Johan Persson

It was my second tsunami of the week. (Although you have to wait until tomorrow for the first one. Wrong order, I know, but it can’t be helped.) It’s funny how things just happen like that. With madness running in the witch family, Son dug himself out of his Uppsala bed pretty early (3.15 GMT, as he kept pointing out) and flew over to London for Random’s preview evening of Nation at the National Theatre last night. (For carbon footprint purposes this didn’t actually happen…)

Lovely evening. Free drinks and nice company, and the play was very good, too. But if you want to know more, you’ll have to head over to Culture for your theatre review. It’s a wonder how anyone can produce a stage drama featuring a believable tsunami from a novel never intended as anything other than a book.

Exhausted from wandering all over London in the afternoon, Son and I headed for north London and the house of Sally Gardner, for beds for the night. I’m still absolutely amazed that someone would offer accommodation on such very short acquaintance, but I always knew children’s authors are the loveliest bunch of people. Arriving at the unsociable hour of the middle of the night, Sally served us tea – which she turns three times in the pot like her grandmother – and digestive biscuits, both of which were real life savers.

Two dachshunds and friendly conversation in the kitchen of a house that needs to appear in a house magazine, was a nice way to finish our day. It’s that arty north London kind of thing, which impresses peasants from the north of England.

This morning I packed Son off to his plane, and hung around for a while, but when the mouse catcher arrived I took my leave. ☺Pure coincidence.

(Photo © Johan Persson – Jason Thorpe as Milton the parrot, Emily Taaffe as Daphne and Gary Carr as Mau)

The Booktrust Teenage Prize 2009

Just a brief extra snippet for today, in case tomorrow’s blog runs late. I’m off to London this morning and will be some time. Most likely until Thursday afternoon. I may post a blog before I get back. Then again, I may not.

So, the good news is that Neil Gaiman has just been awarded the Booktrust Teenage Prize for The Graveyard Book. Very nice for Neil, and a wonderful book.

Though some of the other extremely good shortlisted books have authors who probably could do with the £2500. There’s something biblical there, I think. Goes with graveyards, perhaps.

A pity I wasn’t invited to the ceremony, seeing as I’m heading in the right direction, and it’s not clashing with the ‘other thing’ I’m doing.

Other than that, it’s been a Gaimany/Pratchetty sort of week.

Moving Pictures

It wasn’t all bad that I ended up buying a book the other week. Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures was fun, although halfway through the book the Resident IT Consultant discovered he’d already read it. Ah, well.

I hadn’t, and that’s what counts. It’s funny, but Discworld’s Holy Wood reminds me quite a bit of somewhere. Similar name, too. It’ll come back to me, no doubt.

Victor and Ginger act their way through countless romantic adventure clicks, and Holy Wood grows almost overnight. Clicks are big business.

I adore talking dogs, especially intelligent ones like Gaspode. Even the more brain challenged Laddie is quite charming, and very brave. Troll romance, truanting wizards and a swinging librarian all play their parts. But I didn’t quite understand the dormant ‘thing’ to end all those dreams. Is it a Pratchett invention, or does it, too, have a counterpart in those California hills?

Banged grains. Hah.

Reading in the bath

I don’t. And that’s because I don’t have baths. (I know. Too much information.) But I understand it’s an occupation appreciated by many who engage in it.

As I said in my recent blog about the previously wet DaVinci Code, bathwater isn’t good for books, whether or not you want to resell the book. This is why I am constantly monitoring the Resident IT Consultant and his behaviour. He does read in the bath.

I allow him to read paperbacks, unless they are very special paperbacks, for some reason. Hardbacks I try to keep track of, and I remove the dust wrapper, because wet and later dried dust wrapper is not one of my most favourite features for a book. Crinkly and horrible.

What do others do?

And why can’t people wash, and then read?

(For obvious reasons I’ve had to give up on the idea of embellishing this post with a photo.)

The Day of the Jack Russell

I’m beginning to feel I can’t stand the man. I can’t tell you who, really, because he has no name. He tried pretending to be Raymond Chandler in this new book by Bateman (I know I said I’d only ever call him Colin…), but he’s not. What he is, is an insufferable bookshop owner (there are a few of those around), with a girlfriend who is far too nice for him, and he has the mother he deserves. And he solves crimes.

The Day of the Jack Russell

He has a touch of Tourettes about him, and he’s a grade one coward (takes one to know one, possibly), and the rest of the time he’s quite obnoxious. But, he does solve crimes.

The Day of the Jack Russell is the second novel about this, well, we don’t know, do we? Private Eye, and ostensibly the owner of Belfast bookshop No Alibis, except he isn’t.

The Jack Russell is stuffed, but you can still be allergic to it. His girlfriend is pregnant. Not the Jack Russell’s lady friend. ‘Mr Chandler’s’ sidekick-cum-girlfriend. If it’s his, that is. She’ll get on well with the mother from hell.

So, stuffed doggie, decorators, Amnesty International, MI5, the Chief Constable and Starbucks combine to make another very, very funny crime novel. It’s the sort of book I could write. If I could write books, which I can’t. But I’d make my ‘hero’ a little nicer. After all, he has to deserve the lady.

The cover has , yet again, been designed with me in mind. I like. Very much.

There is a launch at No Alibis this evening, but Colin has banned all those who listen to jazz.

Under the bridge

Have I ever stopped and looked properly at the books for sale under Waterloo Bridge? Don’t answer that. You can’t know. Even I don’t, and I’m in a better position, having come along on most of the occasions that I’ve walked under the aforementioned bridge.

But I did this week, so now I have. Couldn’t tell if there was a system to what goes where. Signs saying poetry and sci-fi/fantasy in neon green poked up in places. What that meant for the remaining books I don’t know.

I saw a battered DaVinci Code, and simply had to check what they expected to be paid to have it taken off their hands. £3. That includes interesting remnants of tea or coffee, plus bath water, or some such thing. And it was dog eared, which always looks better on a dog than on a paperback for sale. Then I found another, almost pristine, DaVinci Code, which was £3.50, so it’s 50p for the difference between dry and dipped in liquids. Quite a few more copies waiting to be adopted, but who’d want to pay that much? I thought even Oxfam was trying to hand them out for free on the pavement…

Does anyone know who it is that sells the books under the bridge? Is it a big business, or a few plucky stall holders? It’s a good tourist trap, but not necessarily good value.

At least now we all know I have stopped and looked. Please remember in case I need to ask again.

Auf Deutsch

Earlier this year I was contacted out of the blue by a publisher in Germany, who had discovered the Eoin Colfer interview from Cheltenham last October. It’s the one where I had Charlie to do the actual work, and it is a good interview, if I say so myself.

Anyway, they wanted permission to put part of it in some educational book about Eoin Colfer (great education, I’d say) that they were doing. Charlie’s Mum and I decided it would be OK, and we also asked for a copy of the finished book.

Then we heard no more until the other week, when the parcel from Germany turned up. It’s more of a collection of tasks for students to do, based on Eoin’s The Wish List, discussing everything from Eoin himself to bullying, with wordsearches and quizzes and stuff. I think it’d be good to see something like it in British schools, too.

Quite weird to read Eoin’s answers in German…

A Little Love Song

It was the oranges that did it for me. A few years ago Offspring had some friends round for a sleepover, and the witch was feeling depressed. Not because of the sleepover, but I was left with that kind of feeling where you need comfort of some kind. So I got out Michelle Magorian’s A Little Love Song, which was waiting to be read. Once the young people were busy with whatever they were busy with, there was a whole evening in which to read.

So I read. And I read. When I got to the part where Rose goes to the dance, and is offered oranges, and said oranges gather momentum due to the jitterbug, I began to laugh. Soon I was laughing so much I could barely contain myself. So I stopped feeling depressed. Ever since, when I think of this book, I think of sleepover, and then oranges, and then of the explosion of laughter.

This is the story about two sisters in the second world war, who by accident end up living by themselves in a cottage in the country. They don’t know anything about looking after themselves, cooking and the like, but they learn. The opportunity to live alone seems so great to them, that they grasp it when their chaperone suddenly becomes unavailable.

Both girls meet love, although it’s not straightforward for either of them. There is also a mystery to do with the cottage, which is linked to someone Rose meets in the village.

A Little Love Song is the perfect romantic war story, with the same authentic war atmosphere which all Michelle’s novels have. In a country where television companies are crazy about period series and films, this book would be a very suitable one to adapt. Instead of a new version of Austen every five years (or is it every three years now?), it’d be a really good idea to take on all of Michelle Magorian’s books for a change.

Good Omens

Should I have words with the person who told me that Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman was nothing special? I wouldn’t have delayed reading it for so long, had I not been convinced it was a perfectly missable book. Couldn’t quite work out why it should be thus, since neither Neil nor Terry have a habit of writing outstandingly bad books. But I suppose it could have been some chemical mix gone seriously wrong.

I found it was a tremendously successful mixture, all things considered, which kept me entertained and smiling all the way through. What balanced the thought ‘I’ve left it far too long’ was that other thought ‘but at least I can read it now’.

I’m always a bit suspicious of two people writing together. How can you manage the practical aspects, and how come the reader doesn’t fall into the gap between one writer and the other? It’s reassuring to se that neither of the authors can remember quite how they did it, or who wrote what.

Armageddon is always a nice subject for a book. A selection of angels and little devils and demons (what’s the difference?), a God or three, people on bikes and some ordinary weirdos make for a fun story. There is a lot of truth in the idea that you have more in common with your opposite number, than with your own superior. And not all angels are totally angelic and there is some good in some devils.

Small children can think and act for themselves. Just look at the Famous Five. Dogs are good fun. Americans and witches are useful plot devices. But I do wonder what happened to the American baby? Did he fall off the continuity sheet?

Love your neighbourhood. Things don’t have to be what someone else says. You can have an opinion of your own, and you can change fate.

I would have liked to put in a quote here, but Good Omens is 350 pages long, and I don’t feel up to retyping the whole book.