Monthly Archives: November 2010

Meet Lucy-Ann

They caused a path of destruction, those books from yesterday. But thanks to nosy neighbours, I trust things will be fine.

Otherwise we could devise a job list for the white van man which goes something like this: 1) Drive to xxxx  2) Demolish porch on arrival  3) Look around furtively  4) Leave parcel of books  5) Drive off

No, not my porch and not my nosy neighbours. (Not sure mine are, actually.) And in the end they weren’t my books, either.

For National Non-Fiction Day I had an offer of the books I blogged about yesterday, which came via Lucy of NNFD. Books didn’t arrive. They turned up at her house, so she sent them back. It turns out that despite them being addressed to me, they were for her. So they had to be redelivered, which she missed.

On the third attempt of delivery she was still not in, but at least the driver didn’t miss. He hit her porch, and then did the things listed above.

The parcel was still addressed to me, however.

So while we hope the poor porch will be successfully repaired at someone else’s expense, we have decided on a new identity. We are now Lucy-Ann. As Lucy-Ann told me, it has a nice ring to it.

It certainly does, and such a literary ring, too. Straight out of Enid Blyton, and I always did want to be in her books.

Best wishes, Lucy-Ann

Maths and Science

You’re quite right. I’m not qualified to say much on the above subjects. But that has never stopped me before, so I will go ahead regardless. (Though I did well at these subjects at school, giving them up in the nick of time.)

For National Non-Fiction Day last week, I had requested Maths, A Book You Can Count On, by Basher and Dan Green, and also Really Really Big Questions about Space and Time by Mark Brake. It’s just that I didn’t have time to read them by Thursday. Or rather, I didn’t have time to farm them out to those who know better.

Luckily for me I had both the Future Maths Teacher and a possibly Very Future Physics Teacher to call on.

Maths, A book you can count on

One early question all three of us faced was the target age for these books. Both look like young picture books, inside and outside. If you disregard the text. Which you are not supposed to do.

The Maths book is intended for 8+, although the Future Maths Teacher felt some of the mathematical concepts were actually quite complicated. There were even things he didn’t know. Oops. It has amusing manga style illustrations, and its appeal probably hinges on whether children like that or not. Hopefully the hint of Teletubbies will not deter the right age group from having a look at this Maths book. Because the Teletubbies fan would not be able to do the Maths.

The book on space and time has great illustrations. Both I and the Very Future Physics Teacher say so. Although it too could be mistaken for a pre-schooler’s book, while being aimed at 9+. The VFPT liked what it has to say about space and all that stuff, whereas your elderly witch had slight issues with the coloured background to every page. Presumably the 9+ reader will feel more capable tackling the colour. Interestingly, the VFPT found the blue page with black text quite borderline for readability.

Really really big questions about space and time

Let’s just say it’d be a good idea to turn every single light on.

I think I would have liked the space book many years ago. I would like to think I would have liked the Maths book, too, and if I didn’t, it’s because of the subject and not the book.

Writer’s help

It was in the paper on Saturday. Again. The best job ad I’ve ever seen for a part time job. Luckily I don’t live in London, so have never been tempted to apply. If I did, would I live for much longer? I’m curious as to what writers in Notting Hill do to their home helps.

Has anyone else noticed the ad, and does anyone know what’s going on?

‘Home helps needed by female writer in Notting Hill Gate. Employer is slightly disabled. Several mornings during weekdays. £9 per hour. Housework, shopping and whatever comes up. Over-qualified people welcomed. A sense of humour helps and you’ll need to be reliable, practical, keenly helpful and able to commit to a minimum of 6 months. References required.’

I first saw this (presumably quite expensive ad, as it’s the Guardian) a few years ago, and liked the look of it. Who wouldn’t? Noticed it again a week later, which is normal, unless you consider the cost. To see the same ad repeated every few weeks over several years is worrying. Or just intriguing?

Either it’s not genuine, or this writer eats her amusing and well educated home helps. Or worse.

I was going to put a vampire picture here, but just looking at them made me feel wobbly. Use your imagination. I did.

Relevant expertise

When you know something, should you point it out? That’s more or less what Monica Edinger asked recently on her Educating Alice blog.

I have complained in the past about people who don’t know their own limitations, but this is the reverse. Do you need to state your credentials? And if so, when?

We’re already having an Aspie kind of week, and as this was prompted by a review of an Aspie book, I thought I’d mention it. I find I sort of agree with the reviewer that I’d like to know if an author has specialist knowledge of the topic of their book. But I’m not sure why. As is frequently pointed out by authors; they are meant to be good at making things up.

I have at least once written to a publisher – I’m almost blushing – asking for information about an unknown author. Despite the relevant novel being really good, there were a few things that made me so uncomfortable that I needed to find out why the author had made what I thought were mistakes.

I frequently set my teenage novels in Los Angeles. That’s the novels I started as a teenager and which usually ran to a couple of pages. Los Angeles must have seemed glamorous, and it’s a certain sign I watched too many American television series. Knowing absolutely nothing about LA, the stories would have been abysmally bad.

Even compiling my list of Aspie books here on Bookwitch I feel a bit of a fraud. It’s as if I should know more, or be able to prove something.

Do people ask Mark Haddon what he knows about Asperger Syndrome, I wonder? For some reason it’s as if books on Aspie subjects need the writer to have close personal experience for the book to count. But do we ever challenge Mary Hoffman about her nighttime stravagating to Talia? I suspect she made most of it up.

Bookwitch bites #30

I was getting ready to tick ‘like’ on facebook on Friday, and to leave a comment, but within a minute it became clear that most of my facebook friends appeared to be on the Carnegie longlist, and the liking and commenting that would have been required to cover them all was more than I could manage. So you can go and have a look yourselves, because just listing them will be a who’s who for children’s authors. Suffice it to say that most of my own longlist for best of 2010 were there. Well done everyone, and good luck!

Linda Strachan is already lucky, having just won the Catalyst prize. She beat Tim Bowler and Paul Dowswell, which is good. That didn’t come out right, did it? Lovely for Linda that she won, but I’m not saying Tim and Paul deserved to be beaten. I’ve not read Spider, but if it’s anything like Dead Boy Talking, then I’m not surprised.

Tim Bowler, Linda Strachan and Paul Dowswell

Another Scottish piece with a link to a short story by Keith Gray for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. There is a list of specially written short stories by some of the authors who were at the book festival, and I’m linking to his since it was Keith who drew my attention to this. The other stories might be quite good, too. ; )

Meg Rosoff has been blogging about how she writes and getting very poetic about it. Although the next day she posted more on writing, so perhaps she’s just too preoccupied with the subject. Or procrastinating.

In a recent review of the latest Artemis Fowl I read that The Atlantis Complex is the penultimate Fowl. I had no idea Eoin Colfer has decided to ‘end it’, but some people are better informed than others. I just wish she hadn’t given away so much of the plot, though. And I liked Orion. Sometimes you need a complete change in plot pattern.

Also new is the Harry Potter website which was unveiled this week. It has games and stuff, and a facebook page. Naturally. I can’t say I’m into games, but I do like the next generation covers. If it wasn’t so ridiculous to fill one’s house with multiple copies of the boy wizard books I’d say I want the new books, too.

Sweethearts

The leap couldn’t be bigger. From the two Aspie books straight to a girls’ book which is anything but. Jo Cotterill’s Strictly Friends is purely for the Neurotypicals of this world, but very nicely so. I have to admit it took me a while to work out the title. It’s a book about dancing. Duh.

14-year-old Megan moves from Yorkshire to ‘the south’, and she does so extremely unwillingly. She didn’t want to move. Her parents did. But here she is, in a new town where she knows no one, and where it seems she can’t even continue her ballroom dancing. Bad enough that her partner Jake has been left behind, and now she has to find something else to do.

There is the gorgeous Danny in the park, who lives for danger. He skates and he is into bikes and go-karting. Megan falls for Danny and she starts to enjoy what he does. She also goes to salsa classes – for beginners! But at least she meets the local girls and makes new friends.

Great book about how hard it is to move house, and about how important real friends are. The dancing makes it quite irresistible. What’s not to like about silver shoes and glittery swirly skirts?

The excerpt from book two looks pretty tempting as well. I can tell that Jo must have danced and skated her way through lots of activities for this series. And she probably went to the Cathy Cassidy Factory For Really Wonderful Boys. Wish I knew where it is.

Aspergirls

Do you remember the weird girl who used to sit two rows ahead of you in the classroom at school? Or that other girl who was really boring, and who wanted to be your friend but didn’t get the message that you didn’t feel the same way? Not to mention the odd woman who lives across the road from you?

National Non-Fiction Day

For National Non-Fiction Day (that’s today) I have been reading a book about those girls. I would have read it regardless of the day, because the moment I saw the title I knew it was going to be good. I actually went on the Jessica Kingsley website to look for another book, but Aspergirls trumped everything else, so I asked for that instead.

Isn’t it a brilliant title? Or rather, isn’t it a great word play to describe females with Asperger Syndrome? Rudy Simone is an Aspergirl and she’s the one who wrote this lifeline for other Aspergirls. Anyone above the age of about ten would find this the most useful book imaginable. If you have Asperger Syndrome you need to hear that you’re not alone. Someone else has felt just as you do. Another girl has done what you do.

If you aren’t an Aspie, you still need this book. When you’ve read it you will be an expert (well, nearly) on Aspergirls and your understanding of the weirdo at school will make you regret you didn’t befriend her a little, and in future you will be really good at seeing that someone is about to have an Aspie meltdown and maybe you can even help. Not help her melt down, help her survive the ordeal. It may be a party to you, but to her it’s the worst thing imaginable. And she needs to get out NOW.

National Non-Fiction Day

This cute logo for Non-Fiction Day might seem inappropriate, but remember that for some Aspergirls he is the only friend she has. Sometimes by choice. Sometimes not.

Aspergirls

If you think the cover of Aspergirls looks a bit dreamy, don’t let it deter you. The inside is pure dynamite, and I have rarely read so much sense on Aspergirls as in this book. It takes one to write about them. I may have said this before: Specialists’ books are all very well, but what people really, really need are the ‘case histories’ told from the inside.

And so far, this is the best I’ve seen. Aspergirls is a mix between Rudy’s own experience and that of other Aspergirls, as well as pure advice, both to other Aspies as well as to Neurotypicals.

There are chapters on most things in life from early schooldays to marriage and having your own children. As for the two-page list of female Asperger Syndrome traits, it’s pure gold. You may even discover you’re an Aspergirl yourself. There’s an explanation to all your little quirks. And if not, you’ll develop an understanding for why your neighbour always…

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

The likeliest thing here is that author Jacqueline Houtman has given me up for dead. It’s how long – and then some – I’ve taken to read her book about young aspie inventor Edison Thomas. My only, and feeble, explanation is that I’ve read it as a pdf and I turn a very blind eye to anything I’ve put on the desktop for visibility. That’s logic for you, and Edison would not be amused.

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is about a boy with an unfortunate name to live up to. He is twelve and he invents things. He is also a typical aspie (which, of course, is hard to be as all aspies are different) and he has only one friend.

Except he doesn’t realise this friend is not friendly at all, and throughout the book Eddy struggles with the concept of friendship. He has some help at school, but in the end it’s another boy – one who is marginally like himself – who shows him what friendship is, and teaches him how to develop a little and move on.

So we follow Eddy as he invents things, and as he tries to make sense of the neurotypical world.

If I have any criticism to offer it’s that Eddy is perhaps too typically aspie and he also has too many different talents and special interests. But it all makes for one very charming boy and both his talents and his shortcomings lead him along an interesting route. It’s when his mother asks if he he knows anyone with purple hair that we know he’s growing up.

This is also a very American story. And very enjoyable. Though I have to admit to not quite ‘getting’ Eddy’s inventions, and I sort of ignored all the Latin names for tuna and lemons and all the rest. That was maybe one aspie trait too many.

Midweek miscellany

That’s early midweek if you only count weekdays.

I was childishly pleased with Halloween this year. Those who know me are aware I’m rubbish at saying anything very nice or sensible to people, and for years I’ve struggled with trick-or-treaters. You know, coming up with something complimentary to say about what they are wearing.

‘That’s very nice dear’ sounds really lame. Pretending to be scared is also hard. (Though I’m inching towards the idea of wearing a mask myself next time, because it’s so tempting to think that I can have them running screaming down the road.) So this time I told them how horrible they looked, and believe me, that was so much easier. ‘You there with the green face; you look awful’ or ‘I’m trying to decide which one of you looks the worst’ slipped out quite nicely whenever I opened the door.

Something else that is rubbish is the local waste system. We have just graduated to more recycling, which is good. I grabbed the leaflet that came with the new bins, thinking there would actually be a recycling calendar with it – as before – and found there wasn’t, which was rubbish. It seems it was posted to us, ‘and if you haven’t received it you can look online’. Maybe people can’t? Some taxpayers with rubbish could be such rubbish people that they don’t use computers.

Anyway, from this week we have to put our uneaten sandwiches and any other food not eaten, in a special bin. Trials have told the council most people fill three of the enclosed bags in a week. Well, my week is almost over and I have managed to put some eggshells in, and the crust of one sandwich, two strands of spagetti and three currants which escaped from the Christmas cake.

Filled in my diary for 2011. Reminders of birthdays and college dates and such like. College has issued a parents’ list which I used. Then I double checked with the students’ journal, and it seems they don’t get any Easter holidays, except they have to return from them. February half term starts on different days, depending on what you read. Upper sixth students leave on 20th May. Unless it’s on the 27th.

Who cares?

Going viral

There is a new novel, not yet published, popping up in the letterboxes of bloggers and reviewers all over the place. Or popping may be a little optimistic, seeing as it’s a brick of a book. It’s going to be the next big thing in the adult book world.

I don’t think it will be, but it’s not for want of trying. I’m searching my mind for a recent novel that has been pushed like this and which actually delivered by becoming a million seller. Harry Potter went quite slowly to begin with, and it was successful more by word-of-mouth for the first three.

Personally I only heard of Stephenie Meyer when she had three books out, and I don’t know why I missed Twilight before that. But I’m guessing that it owes much of its success to girl readers who just happened to discover it and then told all their friends.

Stieg Larsson came to my attention just before publication of the first Millenium book. That was mostly journalists musing on the bad luck of their colleague who died just as his books were accepted, and maybe some surprise that he had actually written all three by the time he died. I’m sure his publishers knew they had some good books on their hands and hoped they’d do well, but no one could have imagined the worldwide sales the books have had. It happened. It wasn’t forced.

This new large brick in my life ticks so many boxes you can barely believe it. It’s not trying to be one, or even two, recently popular genres. It’s trying to be all things to all men. Or more likely women.

I googled it to see if I could find out more, and worked out that most book bloggers in the English-speaking world probably have a copy by now. Many have already blogged about it (I think the American ARCs were sent out earlier) and all are so enthusiastic. I wonder if they are feeling flattered. Many are only repeating what the press release says, but it makes for a massive online presence.

Despite this, I don’t believe in the book.

I was tempted to blog about it, mentioning the title and naming the author, but felt it would mean me adding to the buzz and I was hoping not to. Hence the anonymity. The book has even been personalised for me, which I took to mean they were hoping to prevent me selling it, until I noticed they also suggest I pass it on after reading, so they really are thinking viral.

So not only are we readers only given what the publishers feel safe publishing, but they have the nerve to tell us what will sell well. Surely that is what happens when we find we really really love their book?