Monthly Archives: June 2013

If it’s a quarter past three,

it must be Africa (Ceuta).

Well no, actually. It’s not. Not even close.

That holiday mobile I mentioned the other day. Not only is it noisy, but it emerged with split time keeping. Having been half an hour out, it arrived here with two lots of time to offer me. The right time. And the wrong time.

The wrong time was labelled London, which was vaguely appropriate. I looked at the phone, but failed to work out how to change it, and hurriedly thrust it into the hands of the Resident IT Consultant. Let him work for his name, I thought.

I am not ashamed of my technical shortcomings. It took him half an hour to decide it is really quite tricky. As soon as it wasn’t 2.15 or London, it was 3.15 in Africa. He accused me of having got an app with peculiar settings.

I didn’t even know the clock could be an app (I have yet to understand this app business), so how could I have imported said app to what is his old phone?

Eventually he said I could call it Gothenburg. I was happy enough with that, even though it is not where I am. It was easier to identify with than Ceuta (which I am sure is a lovely place). Somehow.

But when he made it to be 3.15, we were back in Africa. Goodbye Gothenburg.

After a most lengthy consultancy, I now have a clock showing the correct time, and no place at all.

Perhaps that’s why it is fairly relaxing.

Nowhere witch.


It was in the post

There’s no escaping the jiffies. There was one waiting for me at this end, and doesn’t it look nice?

Mårten Sandén books in the post

I heard ages ago that Mårten Sandén’s book Ett hus utan speglar was going to be published in English this summer. I am hoping the translation is winging itself over here as I blog (because I was a little late in thinking about this). But so I could see what the original looks like, Mårten very kindly supplied me with a copy. Actually, it was his dad. He’s pretty good at sticking on stamps, wouldn’t you say?

There was also the bonus book Mitzi i mitten, which I read and reviewed here. (Much good it will do you. Or perhaps the translate thingy will do a better job than I tend to think of it doing.)

So, I am looking forward to seeing what Mårten’s A House Without Mirrors will be like when it has been exported. And I will let you know.

Where will you go?

Well, it sort of depends where you take me, doesn’t it? What it really means is that DSB – Danish State Railways – need a translator who does not have Danish as their mother tongue.

In the end I never went anywhere with them, but hopped on the Öresundståg to Sweden, rather than up the other coast to visit Hamlet. And – apart from the fact that Swedes are seemingly incapable of boarding trains with a view to seeing the bigger picture, and getting out of the way, preferably a little quicker, please – things were fine. The couple in front of me were making out before we even got to the middle of The Bridge. That’s the place where corpses are cut in half…

Before the train muddle we’d been on a couple of planes, the Resident IT Consultant and I. It’s a blessing, really, that our electricity bills are so big. (If you are reading this dear, of course they are not…) We hardly ever shop at T*s*o, so it’s primarily the electricity which made our ‘free’ flights possible. And I learned such a lot about the stewardess’s new boyfriend with the seven bedrooms.

The BA mozzarella wrap kept me going all the way ‘home’ in the end. Though I’ve never quite grasped why they are so cautious with their meatfree food. It was assumed I’d be wanting the dead bird.

Their onboard toilet had a faulty light. I was informed that they thought the light would still come on when I went in and shut the door. (It did.) It reminded me of the flight when I left three-year-old Son alone in his seat on the plane as I went to use the facilities. The WC was at the front of the plane, which made me look especially inept when I had to buzz the steward to come and get me out. There was no way I could find the ‘door handle’ from the inside…

The loving couple and I sat in the coach displaying a picture of a man picking his nose. I believe that is why it is often easier finding free seats in that part of the train. People are put off by the finger. After having stared at it for a long time, I worked out it’s someone trying to shush you. Not digging out snot.

Just to be safe, the Resident IT Consultant and I conversed in whispers, and when I needed to switch on my very noisy holiday mobile (to call the vet for a car) I stepped outside for a minute. Outside the nose-picking zone, not the whole train.

In Ängelholm we passed a train, bearing the name of an ancient easy listening singer, going in the opposite direction. None of this Flying Scotsman business when you can have Östen Warnerbring. Tyrolean hats come to mind.

We finally got to our penultimate destination, where we swapped Stilton and oatcakes for a Saab. Mr and Miss Vet left a party to deliver us a car, while Mrs Vet sensibly stayed and had fun. We had narrowly missed Miss Vet two days earlier as she was ‘held hostage’ at Manchester Airport in between flights.

With a bus strike just beginning, we were very happy to have some other means of transport. (I forgot the broom, again!) We stopped at ICA Maxi for fermented milk and other necessities, after which the poor Resident IT Consultant most uncharacteristically collapsed into bed.

It was only later I discovered what his chosen reading matter had been. A book with the title Why Most Things Fail.

(Whereas I read a fantastic new book. Find the review here. Soon. Very soon.)

Letters to Klaus

I have been in Klaus Flügge’s office, and have seen the envelopes on his walls. They seem to be well known, which doesn’t surprise me. They are so lovely, that I believe I will draw an envelope of my own to send to Klaus. Let me just get this envelope review out of the way first.

Someone came up with the idea of making a book out of Klaus’s wall decorations, and here it is; Letters to Klaus. Many of this publisher’s picture book illustrators have contributed, but none more than David McKee. There’s a lot of his stuff in this envelope shaped little art book.

Letters to Klaus

It might sound slightly daft, but it’s actually a rather nice experience to leaf through it to see what these clever artists can do. And the stamps were so cheap then!

Speaking of money, all proceeds from the book go to Save the Children.

(I’m pleased to have discovered that Klaus is most likely Flügge rather than Flugge. It’s understandable that the umlaut disappeared here, but I rather like it, and the name flows more easily when you’ve dotted your u.)

Klaus Flügge's office

Is it in the post?

Do you recall that post a while back, where I whined about the non-appearance of a book? It had interesting effects on people.

I received a really worried email that morning from one publisher asking ‘it wasn’t me, was it?’ before apologising profusely for a fault not committed. If you can call it a fault.

At the opposite end I had an email from an author asking if the latest proof had arrived. And another, asking had it arrived now?

Some digging ensued, and I was asked for my address so that I could receive one of the author’s own proof copies. But I’d gone out for the rest of the day. My mobile (which can receive emails now…) was switched off, because it had to be.

So on my return to the office I had an inbox full of ever more frantic emails, almost culminating in an ADDRESS NOW OR ELSE! message. I have promised never to leave the house again. Ever. (Or I suppose if I don’t have to turn the phone off, it could work. Not sure I’d be capable of typing an address on those tiny keys, though.)

So if you happened to see your neighbourhood author out at the postbox late one night, it will have been my personalised proof, getting itself posted before midnight, when – apparently – it would have turned into a pumpkin.

Don’t tell me I don’t know some very kind people.

(Of course, there should be no need for midnight trysts with postboxes.)


I loved this book! Anthony McGowan has written the most perfect badger book imaginable, and it’s dyslexia friendly. It had been compared to Kes, which alarmed me somewhat, although I did realise it was meant as a compliment.

For a dyslexia friendly story, this is a long book. Sometimes I hesitate to recommend the rather short books to normal readers, simply because the book will be over almost as soon as you’ve begun. This being 130pages – and so very good – I think everyone might want to read it.

Knowing from the blurb that animals would be harmed, I calmed down as soon as I met the old badger in the first chapter. He knew things weren’t going to end well, but he had a job to do and he was courageous. It helped knowing him.

The book also has issues, which is another thing I’m not dead keen on, but this is handled so well that it just makes you happy and satisfied. Nicky (I’m not sure of his age. I’m guessing 13?) has to look out for his brother Kenny who is ‘simple,’ as their dad is in a bad state after their mum left.

Then there are the local teen thugs, with their dogs. And there are the badgers. You can imagine.

But good can come from bad, and it does. I almost cried.

Black Dog

Levi Pinfold’s lovely book Black Dog is a more than worthy winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. It is beautifully illustrated and beautifully made, with a soft, mother-of-pearl kind of cover, that just begs to be stroked.

Levi Pinfold, Black Dog

The pictures are a little in the style of Shaun Tan, with a dash of Oliver Jeffers, and you can’t go wrong with that.

The Hope family live in the most wonderful and strange house, and at times I almost forgot the story, because I was so fascinated by what their house looked like.

One morning Mr Hope discovers a black dog outside the house. It scares him, and he over-reacts quite a bit. Then Mrs Hope sees the dog and does likewise. Each time someone in the family sees the black dog it grows, and so does their fear of it.

That’s until the very tiny Small Hope takes charge of the situation and shows her family that there is no need to hide. By the time she does so, the dog is Very Large Indeed.


David Massey

Admittedly, when I heard that David Massey had won the Lancashire Book of the Year with Torn, my immediate internal comment was ‘oh, so it’s that good then, is it?’ My reply, which I will share with you, is ‘yes, it is. Really, really good.’ David, who was at the Chicken House breakfast a couple of months ago, was one of the authors present who didn’t read from their book (presumably because it was published last year).

I wish he had. But luckily I helped myself to a copy anyway, and as I didn’t have time to go to Preston for the award yesterday, I read the book instead. I’m not at all surprised he won.

Set in Afghanistan in the current war, the main character is a female soldier. Ellie has just arrived and everything is new. On her first morning some male soldiers play a prank on her, and she doesn’t get on with the girl she shares her quarters with.

But this isn’t selfish moaning, and Ellie and her fellow soldiers do the work they’ve been sent there to do. They encounter some local children with weapons, and there is a mysterious girl who appears in the middle of gunfire and bombs going off.

There is fun and there is romance, but above all this is a war thriller mystery, and it is very exciting. People die. You have to be prepared for that, and it’s not only the bad guys either, because this is war.

What I found so refreshing was that it’s not an ‘issues’ kind of story. Yes, we may have doubts about the governments who sent these soldiers there in the first place, and so do these characters. But above all this is an adventure, and most of us have probably seen some film or other which helps us picture what it’s like.

Torn will win more awards, given the chance. Look out Teri Terry and Barry Hutchison!

The Secrets of Stonehenge

Let’s face it. I didn’t pay enough attention during history lessons at school. And what I did catch, I soon forgot. I’m a disgrace.

But I think I will actually remember what I’ve learned about Stonehenge from now on. That’s because Brita Granström and Mick Manning have done again what they do so well. They find a topic and then they find out all there is to know about it, after which they make a deceptively simple non-fiction picture book about whatever it is.

This time it’s Stonehenge, which also feels rather topical, considering the summer solstice has just been. They might have banned the ‘crazy hippies’ from Stonehenge these days, but its significance has not lessened.

Brita Granström and Mick Manning, The Secrets of Stonehenge

In their book The Secrets of Stonehenge Mick and Brita show us quite how enormous those stones are (I haven’t been. I really must go and see for myself.) and how big a job it must have been to get them all there. And like many big jobs, it’s not just the thing itself that needed a lot of people. The men who put those stones there needed to be fed and watered and housed and clothed, and probably for longer than a weekend.

I suppose I’d like to know why they really went to all that trouble, all those thousands of years ago, but we can’t ask them, and they didn’t exactly leave a diary behind to explain their giant stone Lego.

But it is fascinating. And they did leave us the stones.

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)