Monthly Archives: December 2012

At least there were some children’s books

It’s the Guardian top 100 bestselling books of 2012 I’ve got in mind. Maybe I’m wrong to feel pleased there are 23, or 24 if you count The Hobbit, children’s books in the top 100. It’s children from the Hunger Games age group down to the Julia Donaldson age level, with The Wimpy Kid and David Walliams in the middle.

There are rather a lot of Wimpy Kids and David Walliams books on that list, at the expense of more individual fiction. But if the books have been bought, they have most likely been read too, because that’s the kind of books they are. And that has to count as A Good Thing, surely?

The Hunger Games film caused hundreds of thousands of books to be bought, and if the Bookwitch Towers experience is anything to go by, they were definitely read, and very quickly, too. Not by me. The film was enough. But I recognise that fervour, awakened by a cinema visit. I saw Five On a Treasure Island before reading the books. Almost before I could read, but that didn’t stop me. And look where it got me.

War Horse stage play

Even theatre can cause book buying, as evidenced by Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. I would guess the books are bought by adults, but most likely read by children as well. Or was it ‘just’ the film effect again?

War Horse film

Whereas I am – reluctantly – conceding that it might be mainly adults who bought and read John Grisham’s latest Theodore Boone, simply because they are Grisham fans. Or possibly because they didn’t realise it’s a children’s book.

But what of Terry Pratchett’s Dodger? It comes in the top twenty children’s books in the 100 list, but has not made it into the children’s top twenty. Might that be the adult fan reading everything by their favourite author again?

The fact that Jacqueline Wilson is not in the top twenty, is an indication of how well the film industry sells books. (Did I just say that?)

Wimpy Kid film poster

What makes me happy, is that at least a couple of million readers benefitted from the top twenty titles. I hope they will also be reading other books, lower down in the sales league, and that they will continue reading. Always.


If she sees one coming

Grandmothers! We were enjoying tea and Christmas cake (except for me. I had Stollen, on account of sensitivity to all that brandy I had been pouring over the cake since October), and as so often happens, the conversation strayed to Maths and other intellectual topics.

When that last happened a few days earlier, Son moved closer to his mother in order to escape the numbers and funny words discussion, in exchange for something suitably light for the two of us.

But at this point the Resident IT Consultant entertained his mother – the Grandmother – by showing her the new Brewer’s. She browsed for some minutes before pointing out they’d got Fermat’s Last Theorem wrong. She read it out, with the Resident IT Consultant and Dodo all nice and alert, and Son and me turning our eyes heavenwards.

As it happens, she was right. It is wrong.

We moved on to secondhand bibles, as you do. The Grandmother works in an Oxfam bookshop, and they get lots of Bibles in, and they sell like hotcakes. She displays all the various kinds of Bibles, and when she returns they have all sold and she has to start over again.

What a ‘shame.’

Something they also have lots of but which doesn’t sell the way of the Bible, is The Da Vinci Code. It might once have been an Oxfam bestseller, but if she sees one coming, she throws it out.

That’s the spirit!

After Fermat, they moved on to Faraday’s complete letters. Someone found a letter where it was mentioned that Mrs Giles would have been very happy to see him. Faraday, that is. The Grandmother was surprised to find the volume she was holding only covered a few years of Faraday’s life (there are six in total), and marvelled at quite how many letters got written back in the olden days.

I’m thinking the stamps didn’t cost 50 pence in the 19th century.

A Christmas apocalypse

Barry Hutchison, The 3 Wise Men of the Apocalypse

Following in the footsteps of last week’s failed apocalypse, I can tell you how much I enjoyed Barry Hutchison’s little Christmas prequel to The 13th Horseman. He was asking fans to sign up for his newsletter, by offering a very special Christmas story – to arrive for Christmas – to those who did.

I did. But did I receive the story? No. Well, yes. I did. But I had to cry a little, and nudge, rather indiscreetly. I am very sorry for being so awkward. I do it well, but even so…

My tears have dried now, and I have read my apocalypse, which is humorous and fun. Perhaps not so much for the camel. But other than that it was amusing. It makes up for the wait for the sequel. Although that is not an encouragement to dawdle over The Book of Doom.

Bad Dad?

Christmas in jail. Is this an OK subject for a picture book? I think it is, even though we skirt fairly quickly past what Dad did to end up in jail. (He stole something.)

Liz Weir and Karin Littlewood, When Dad Was Away

In Liz Weir’s book When Dad Was Away, with illustrations by Karin Littlewood, Milly finds out about her Dad’s fate in the worst way; from the other children at school. But her Mum explains what it means and the family have to get used to their new life. They eventually visit Dad in prison, showing the reader how visitors are searched.

Dad records stories on a CD for his children to listen to, so apart from the stealing he is clearly A Good Dad. And they get to go to a Christmas party in the prison. This should reassure children who have members of their family in jail. I only hope the description is an accurate one.

In Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? Julie Middleton writes about a very different Dad. This one takes his son Dave to a dinosaur museum. He assures Dave that all dinosaurs are dead.

Julie Middleton and Russell Ayto, Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?

But are they? Well, what do you think? This is a picture book, and its dinosaurs are nowhere near as dead as we’d like them to be. Russell Ayto’s pictures could just about be interpreted as being all in Dave’s mind. That the dinosaurs really are extinct.

Except with the last one. Dad and Dave are dangerously close to becoming more dead themselves.

They RUN.

Happy holidays

OK, people. I am resting. Not in the snow (we don’t have any) and not on this bench (it belongs to the neighbours). But I might have.

Bench in snow

What I’m trying to say is, I have nothing interesting to say. I have holidayed (not counting the kitchen duties, the recycling or the laundry) and I watched Borgen with Daughter, in order to facilitate the start of season two next week. (What do you mean you didn’t know?) (She didn’t watch back when, but is busy remedying this dreadful state of affairs.)

So that took time. I read. Not much, but I will get through my book before too long. We just need to give up on all this Christmas food. The Resident IT Consultant and the Grandmother are doing jigsaws, and I am letting them.

Basically, I have been uncharacteristically laidback. Yesterday I only remembered I needed to make dinner when it was almost time to eat it. I’d overlooked the fact that it doesn’t jump into the oven and from there on to the table by itself. (I was about to say I wish it did, but that would actually be quite scary. If you can imagine.)

Did a good deed in amongst all this lazing about. The neighbours’ daughter needs to bake a ski lift this week and their electric whisk broke, so I lent them mine. Pardon, the one belonging to the Resident IT Consultant. I married him, as well as his whisk. It’s an antique.

My Penguin


Yes, ours is a very small fireplace.

But I do admit this is a pretty large ‘book.’ Even Daughter – who got it for me for Christmas – said it was a lot bigger than she had expected. The hazards of online shopping…

Don’t know where I’ll put it, but it looks great and it’s a fine game. We played it on Christmas Eve, and enjoyed trying to show off how much we know about books. (It’s a Penguin-look book version of Trivial Pursuits.) Obviously I lost. Not as much as Son did, but I do wonder how come the Resident IT Consultant always gets the easiest questions. S’not fair!

After the game Daughter spent some happy time sticking fake little book covers on the fake little books. They now look adorable. The idea of winning books and putting them in your little bookcases didn’t work so well, however. Unless full, the books fall out. But you can work round that. And we hardly noticed the Petrograd/Leningrad confusion. Really.

Rounding it off


I feel it’s safe to say no one at Bookwitch Towers will be offended to hear I wouldn’t have objected to one of these ‘in my stocking/under the tree.’

If they could have given me one, I’m sure they would have. And one day when we are richer and roomier than now, maybe…

(Mind you, I would have less of the plants and the ornaments and more the real business. Obviously.)

A true story for Christmas

You must ‘click through’ and read this! Even on re-reading the true story by Eva Ibbotson (from the Guardian) I found that my eyes developed some inexplicable dampness.

It’s about libraries, war, refugees and more. Eva Ibbotson is no longer with us, and our libraries seem destined to go the same way. Wouldn’t it be lovely if stories like this one could stop library closures, while also opening our hearts more to those who have had to leave their homes, through no fault of their own?

Kensal Rise library

Here is to knowledge and reading and friendship and languages, in and out of libraries!

Gingerbread baby

Gingerbread boy

He looks good enough to eat, don’t you think? He’s not for sale, despite the fact that I found the picture in a mail order catalogue. It’s only the clothes you can buy. If they’d been around twenty years ago I would have bought them like a shot. Although I was quite impressed with the red pyjamas with white trim that was readily available at the time.

We’ve had a few gingerbread boys (never girls, I think) at church the last few years, and it’s a nice soft start to taking part in the traditional festivities for the youngest.

Or so I thought. You just can’t be politically correct enough these days. In the old mother country schools have been known to ban the gingerbread men. And they have banned the accompanying song.

For complete consistency they have banned the biscuits, too.

(Someone might be offended. Never mind the children who are upset because of this.)


So, how are we? All present and correct?

I’m not one to buy into this end of the world stuff. I had actually managed to escape the latest ending of our world until quite recently, when I read in Vi magazine what was happening. Their reporter had been to France and was amused by the restaurant he came across, that offered a spectacular last night meal with entertainment.

Perhaps he has not read Douglas Adams? I suspect the restaurant people might have, unlikely though it sounds.

But it set me thinking apocalyptic thoughts. There is Tim Bowler’s Apocalypse; bleak, but not quite the end of everything. (Unless I got it all wrong?)

There is/was – or maybe not – Nicola Morgan’s novel which tried to be Apocalypse, but changed into The Passionflower Massacre ( a much better title, now that I stop to reflect) in deference to Tim.

Most likely there are apocalypses everywhere with our taste for dystopias and horror. (Quick search in online shop only netted a couple more, surprisingly.)

Some years ago the Resident IT Consultant returned home and mentioned he’d seen a film while away. I asked what film. He said it was called The Day Before Yesterday. Or something. Personally I find his a more interesting title than The Day After Tomorrow (which is what he did see.)

Let’s get on with today…

Hello, is anyone there?

Anyone at all?

Maybe it was a mistake to set this blog post to appear automatically?