Monthly Archives: May 2013

Space Blasters

You have to love Philip Caveney’s cinema books! Here we are again, all ready to pop into the latest ‘Star Wars’ film. Or not.

Philip Caveney, Space Blasters

Kip, whose Dad runs this Stockport cinema with a difference, has decided once and for all that he will not go into any more films, however much Mr Lazarus tries to tempt him. And Mr Lazarus, the 120-year-old projectionist, respects his wishes. Things went wrong last time. And the time before that.

Dad is happy, because his cinema is finally doing well. He has no idea why, though, which could be the reason he is stupid enough to talk to the press. So, Stephanie from the Evening Post works out all is not as it seems. Kip has to try and deflect her interest in Mr Lazarus and his putting-people-into-films machine.

Unfortunately that doesn’t go well. Unfortunately, Mr Lazarus has a younger brother, who at a mere 117 is a little boisterous. Unfortunately, Kip ends up having to sort out what goes wrong between these two old men, leaving his girlfriend Beth holding the fort.

Meanwhile Stephanie’s curiosity leads to an unexpected meeting with Zeke Stardancer, while Emperor Zarkan also has various unexpected things happen to him.

Thank goodness for bratty little sisters! Kip’s, not Zarkan’s. And Dad can work out how his projectionist managed to grow a beard in a few hours. Or maybe not.

It’s a slice of fish, really.

(I believe this is the last cinema book by Philip. That’s good, insofar that it’s often best to leave a party when you’re having the most fun.)

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Happy Birthday, Emil!

I have it on fairly good authority that Emil in Lönneberga is fifty today. Although – as you probably know – he must be quite a lot older, really. Something like just over a hundred, maybe?

Astrid Lindgren’s Emil lived at the beginning of the last century, and to start with he was a little boy. (When he was a fully proper adult he became chairman of the local council.)

But, today it’s fifty years since Astrid needed to calm her grandson who was having a tantrum, and so she came up with Emil. Hujedamej.

The theory is that if Emil was a child today, he’d be diagnosed with something or other. And then he’d be given medication to take for it. (Only in some countries, I’d say.)

To be perfectly truthful, as a child I found Emil a bit too boisterous for my comfort. I like a quieter kind of fictional hero. He got up to so many naughty things, all the time! But there was good in him, I could see that. I was very grateful I wasn’t his sister, being raised to the top of the flagpole. But she did ask.

When the film version came, I was really too old, but this being a National Treasure kind of situation, I went to see it, along with the rest of the country. We can all still hear Allan Edwall as the screen Dad shouting Eeeemmiiil!!!

Soup tureen

And the soup tureen adventure always worried me more than it should. I inherited a soup tureen, and all I can think of when I see it is to imagine Emil’s head stuck inside.

I should start thinking of soup.

Our visiters

The New Librarian is over from Sweden. She came with a group of 25 librarians to check out our libraries. To be cynical, it’s good they came while there are still libraries to check out. It’s a EU thing, apparently. They have been travelling all over the place to see and learn stuff.

Son and I went into Manchester on Tuesday evening to eat pizza with her. It was nice to see her here again. We do see her in Sweden, but it’s been a while since she popped over to Manchester on a regular basis to hear outlandish bands in concert. We’re dreadfully cool.

They had done Oldham; the main library and one branch. Today they are covering a university library and one other. Tomorrow it’s a new library in Birmingham, followed by one in London on Friday.

Before the New Librarian Mrs Pendolino called, to make us beautiful again. That was very necessary.

Steve Cole

And in between the two ladies we had Spiderman come round. It’s not something that happens often. I wish it did, because he’s a real tonic.

He was, of course, Steve Cole. I could tell, because he didn’t have his mask on (presumably it’s harder to drive a car if you can’t see). He’d been doing some school events in our neck of the woods, and a bookshop signing. When he was done, he texted to tell me to put the kettle on. (Politely, obviously.)

It was a flying visit, but a very nice one. Son and I gave him tea and a raspberry muffin, which he found hard to grip with his Spidey fingers. And I hadn’t really considered the questionable wisdom of pouring tea down the throat of someone who might well not have been out of that suit since some kind lady zipped him in that morning.

Steve is touring schools to talk about his new book, Magic Ink. He brought me a copy, and a postcard. I will read it and come back to you. We didn’t talk as much about it as I’d expected. It was more about Steve’s 96 hour deodorant and the comic book he made as a boy, and David Tennant’s Doctor Who ties.

Steve Cole

Before setting off to drive home, he struggled out of his Spiderman outfit (in the shower room) and then spread it out on the floor so he could fold it up neatly.

I’m sure Steve had no actual need to visit Bookwitch Towers while flying around the country like this. But it’s much appreciated that he did. I’ll probably go round grinning for days. As for Son, he had simply not been able to imagine such a crazy, funny person.

Steve Cole, Magic Ink

(Yes, I can spell.)

The Unicorn Hunter

It was only as I studied the cover of Che Golden’s second faerie book, The Unicorn Hunter, that the penny dropped. I’d been thinking the cover was fantastic, but also that it made Maddy, the heroine, look too old. She looks a cool 14, while she’s really only ten. I think. She acts more like 14, too. But back to the cover illustration. If you have Maddy looking ten years old, and add a picture of a unicorn, and if you made it pinker, it would be something straight out of My Little Pony.

Thank goodness for cool looks.

Che Golden, The Unicorn Hunter

A year has passed since Maddy and her cousins Roisin and Danny went over to the other side to find a snatched human boy. Halloween – the day when the boundaries can be breached – is almost here again and a unicorn has been attacked. Someone has to find out who did it, and that someone is Maddy.

To be honest, I’d been wondering if another adventure meant it would be the same as before, with the children popping across and dealing with the faeries. I was relieved to find that most of the excitement takes place in the real world, in Blarney, and things managed to get quite heated and dangerous before any trips through the mound.

Those faeries can be quite vicious. But Maddy can be quite difficult, if she puts her mind to it, and her cousins are pretty useful helpers, despite being ‘normal.’

Maddy is under pressure to make a deal with one of the faerie houses. Her grandfather does his best to keep her safe. But what can one old man do against Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn?

This is nothing like My Little Pony.

I’ll be waiting for the last in the trilogy. There is an ‘Aunt Petunia’ moment coming up. Bound to be good.

The Dragonsitter Takes Off

Despite my non-pet leanings we once pet-sat a goldfish for some neighbours. The father (of the girl owner, not of the goldfish) indicated ‘discreetly’ that he would not be heartbroken if the goldfish snuffed it during their fortnight away. I had imagined a goldfish would be about as perfect for looking after as you could get. Enjoying that glowing feeling of doing someone a small service, while little fishy swam around in its bowl. Trouble is, that’s what it did. Swam. Opened and closed its little mouth, leaving me thinking it was desperately trying to tell me something, and failing. It was a relief to hand him (her?) back.

So I can totally see what it must have been like for little Edward Smith-Pickle minding his Uncle’s dragon, in Josh Lacey’s new book. He has to send email after email with bad tidings. The main problem being that Uncle Morton has gone to a retreat and is almost internet-less.

Josh Lacey, The Dragonsitter Takes Off

First Ziggy goes missing. Then Ziggy is found in the linen cupboard. It also appears that Ziggy might not be a male. So you can probably work out what Ziggy was doing in the linen cupboard.

Yes, there is soon the pitter-patter of little dragon feet. And soon there is also the earthquake of visiting, cast-out dragon Dad.

Edward’s Mum bonds surprisingly well with her dragon counterpart. Old films and chocolates are always good, even when you’re sitting in your post-dragon visit wreck of a house.

OK, so I know this is a short book for young readers. But I loved it. Was slightly miffed to find out there had been another book before this one, which I HAVE MISSED.

The Felix trilogy

Should publishers keep re-issuing old books? Are they trying to make easy money, or are they catering to a need for classic stories?

Joan Aiken’s Felix trilogy is definitely the kind of reading material you can never have enough of. It’s got everything; adventure of almost every kind you could dream of, friendship, romance, history, travel. Ten years ago when I’d worked my way through the Willoughby Chase novels, one by one, I was desperate for more Joan Aiken, so happily moved on to Felix when I noticed him on the shelves.

How lucky I was to have found that branch of the well known chain that actually stocked these books. So many shops didn’t. Yes, you could order the books, but first you’d need to know of their existence.

Joan Aiken, Go Saddle the Sea

Go Saddle the Sea, Bridle the Wind, and The Teeth of the Gale have recently been re-issued, with great new covers that I hope will appeal to new readers, or to those older people (although old people could obviously also enjoy them) who buy books for young readers.

Joan Aiken, Bridle the Wind

To me these books are timeless, and every generation needs them. Joan wrote them over a period of ten years (actually I don’t know that. They were originally published over ten years, though) and looking at it from the future, where no waiting is necessary, I can’t help but feel it might be better that way. It’s the constant push for sequels every year that could sometimes make for less than perfect books.

I don’t know. But perhaps a good story needs maturing?

Joan Aiken, The Teeth of the Gale

Anyway, this isn’t a review as such. I only want to get more people interested in Felix, who like many other heroes is an orphan, poor, treated cruelly, and who travels from Spain to England to find his ‘family and background’, has good and bad things happen to him, after which there is more travelling, incarceration, love, and a return of sorts to his roots. He grows up, and so do we.

It’s lovely.

Bookwitch bites #109

If my bites didn’t already have such an excellent title, I’d call today’s post Hoffman & McGowan. It’s got a nice ring to it. Solicitors. Or television cops. Yes, that’s more like it.

Ladies first, so we’ll go to Mary Hoffman who has a new website design. Again, you could say, but that’s OK. Mary has been writing books for a while, and needs to go through a few web designs. They are like shoes. You must have them. They wear out. And with so many books, Mary simply has to be able to organise all the information sensibly. And beautifully. Like the shoes.

We’re not leaving Mary yet. Earlier this month she wrote this beautiful blog post on the History Girls blog about her mother-in-law. I find it fascinating to read about the lives of ‘reasonably ordinary’ people. Because once you start looking at an individual, you soon discover that many people have something special or exciting in their past.

The Knife That Killed Me

On to Anthony McGowan, who is excited about his upcoming film. Or more correctly, the upcoming film of one of his books; The Knife That Killed Me. I gather it’s just appeared at Cannes, which in itself is pretty exciting. I’m a little wary of knives, so I don’t know how I feel about watching the film. I found the build-up in the book almost unbearable. Well done, but hard to cope with.

And from the topic of knives, it’s a short step to bullying, and to another couple of ‘solicitors/cops;’ Morgan & Massey.

Nicola Morgan blogged about cyber bullying on the Huffington Post. And about teenage stress, also on Huffington. (I suppose I need to find out how to get blogging there…)

Finally, awards time! You remember how I mentioned David Massey a couple of weeks ago? Like, he was at the Chicken House breakfast, and I helped myself to a copy of his book Torn? Now he’s just gone and won the Lancashire Book of the Year, which just proves I move in the right chicken circles. The ceremony isn’t yet (can’t find when…), but the announcement came yesterday.