Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tommy’s fight

Tommy Donbavand has cancer. Normally I wouldn’t mention anything so private on here, but because Tommy has gone public with his illness, I feel I must do so as well.

To share what it’s like, Tommy has started a blog called Tommy v cancer. It makes for painful reading, and it is tempting to skip past the bad bits. But if Tommy can put up with what’s being done to him, the least we can do is read about it. You need to be well to be strong enough to deal with cancer treatment. (Luckily we do still have a free health service.)

Another thing that’s easy to forget is what happens when an author, who of necessity is freelance, can’t do what it is they usually do to earn money. Writing is one thing, which perhaps you can do from a sickbed. But it’s the money brought in by doing school visits and similar, which suddenly stops coming. Apart from wishing to be well again, Tommy obviously wants to provide for his family.

What you can do to help, is donate money. Tommy has a PayPal button on his blog, or you could become a patron of Patreon to support him financially. I’d find it hard to ask for money, and I know Tommy does too. But he has to. Please consider if you could help a little.

He has some great friends, and none better than Barry Hutchison, who even sneaked in on Tommy’s blog one day and wrote his own post, which tells rather nicely of their friendship, and what lovely men they both are. Humour helps when things look grim.

I hope for the very best for this kind and funny man, who has such a knack for wrapping little children in toilet paper.

Tommy Donbavand with dragon and others at Sefton ScareFest

A Great Big Cuddle – Poems for the very young

From words by one children’s laureate to illustrations by another. That’s A Great Big Cuddle, by Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell, and to be perfectly honest I didn’t think it’d be for me. I’m glad to report I was wrong, again. This is truly lovely.

Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell, A Great Big Cuddle

Some of the poems are not much more than words stacked together, but it would appear that when someone like Michael Rosen does the stacking, it works. There are nonsense words, as well as totally meaningful sentences covering ‘everything’ in life. You know, like if you are a bear cub with a splinter?

Burps and sick, a mother’s love, baths with an elephant, corn on the cob, being lost. Being found. Being loved. Cuddles.

Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell, A Great Big Cuddle

And whatever Michael throws at Chris, Chris comes back with the best pictures. For instance, was the hot dog meant to be a dog, rather than a sausage? You can’t be sure. And when Chris draws a cuddle, that’s one satisfying cuddle.

We Are All Made of Molecules

I had intended to read Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules before her The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen, but didn’t. We can’t all be perfect. And that’s what this book is about, among many other things. Being perfect, or not, and whether that is important.

Ashley likes things to be just so; your body should be perfect, and your clothes too, and you should pick the most perfect friends, according to her criteria. Luckily her family is physically just right. That is, until her dad comes out as gay and moves out. Although not as far as this might suggest.

And then her perfect mum falls in love with Stewart’s dad, and they move in with them (with Ashley’s dad basically living in the garden shed…). Stewart is perfect too, but only according to his dad and his recently deceased mum. He is gifted, and quite possibly on the autistic spectrum, and would quite like to have a sister, except it slowly dawns on him that Ashley doesn’t want to be that sister.

Susin Nielsen, We Are All Made of Molecules

This is lovely and amusing, while also dealing with LGBT issues, families, friendship, bullying, abusive relationships and being clever, and courageous. Stewart’s bounciness is what makes things as right as they can be. Ever the optimist and kind and fair, albeit clueless on some fronts, he does his very best for everyone, despite Ashley working hard to stop him.

In the end they turn out to be quite good for each other, and both sets of parents are fully entitled to feel proud of Stewart and Ashley. You also learn how much other children have to offer, once you see past their less than perfect exteriors. It’s down to our molecules, really.

I reckon it’s the sky

Forgive me if I seem to come across a bit Terry Pratchett for a moment.

Last week as Meg Rosoff and I worked our way through the veggie thali in Glasgow, she asked – again – why I’d moved all the way to Scotland. And If I like it in Stirling. (Well, we can’t all have lofts in central London!)

I went a little poetic on her, which probably came as a bit of a shock. But I have genuinely felt that one reason it’s lovely ‘up here’ is that there is so much sky. I marvel at it every day as I shuffle round the local streets, or even while taking the rubbish out to the bin.


There is a lot of sky here, compared to leafy Manchester suburbia. Which was very nice, in its own way, and we were happy there.

I used to stop and marvel at the blue sky every time I went to visit Daughter in St Andrews. Somehow I put it down to being near the sea. Now I realise it was more the absence of tall houses and trees. Like here.

And as I think about it, I wonder if I would not particularly like New York. From the sky point of view, anyway. I always imagined the reason I loved the landscape of my childhood were the flat expanses of open ground. Now I believe it might have been the sky above them.

End of poetic gibberish.


These two chaps look a wee bit tired. Unless the leaning aspect of the bigger one has to do with the over-indulging of, well, of something.


Chocolate eggs maybe. Or scrambled eggs. With salmon.

I’m sorry, I’m only capable of thinking about Easter Sunday brunch. The Blåkulla flight last night was tiring. I’m the one who should be leaning against walls. But we’re definitely not having chicken.

Easter witches

It’s Easter Saturday and it’s time for the witches to fly to Blåkulla, wherever that is. It’s odd how you never stop and ask these questions, but simply accept what you are told.

Maybe I should get out some [veggie] sausages to burn over a bonfire, too.

Here are the two witches I grew up with. They look quite content with life, which I expect is because they haven’t seen the giant chicken behind them…

Kyckling med påskkärringar

Although age is beginning to tell. One has lost her kettle (so easily done), and the other has a broom that is more stick than broom. Oh well.

300 and counting

It was quite satisfying to stray from the books on Tuesday. I think I’ll do it again.

After all, it’s not every week that not only has your favourite singer turn 80, but your favourite television show clocks up 300 episodes. In other words, I have watched NCIS since well before I became your favourite Bookwitch. And as with Roger Whittaker, I blogged about my love in the Guardian. That time it was because I got furious over the offhand way their television reviewer mentioned the start of, I think, the 4th season. No one seemed to watch it, and it was OK to mock.

Palmer, Gibbs and Vance

Now, NCIS is the most watched show in America. Last week the 300th episode aired, and it was a good one. They were a bit shaky last year, but that’s how it is with ‘family’ and you love them for better and for worse. We’ve had a very good run recently and I’m thinking the show could survive the planned departure of of one of the original characters. Just don’t kill him!

Abby and Ducky

(I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that both photos – © CBS – are from Autopsy…)