Category Archives: Authors

Aidan Abet Teacher’s pet

Guy Bass, Aidan Abet Teacher's Pet

In his dyslexia friendly book Aidan Abet Teacher’s Pet, Guy Bass really, really doesn’t go where you expect him to.

Aidan Abet is being bullied at school. So far he’s been saved by sucking up to his teacher, who then deals with the bullies. But when there is a new teacher, what can he do? Especially as Miss Vowel is a rather unusual teacher.

He tries his sucking up. It sort of works. And then he makes a dreadful discovery, and he knows he has to do something about it.

And, well. It’s a plot with an extra twist to it.

Diary of a Provincial Lady

I can so see myself as a provincial bookwitch, diary-writing and coping with a hopeless husband and two child-like children, not to mention my difficult staff!

E M Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady

Never having read E M Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady before, I am finding this is exactly my kind of thing. I’ve not quite finished it, as I am wanting to make it last until Christmas, but wanted to tell you that you might need this book, or you could slip it into someone’s stocking.

Because this little volume is so gorgeous and so small and so pale blue (with a most attractive painting of a reclining bookwitch on the dustwrapper), with gold edged pages, and so small (yes, I know I already mentioned this) that it will actually fit in people’s stockings, unlike many other stocking fillers. And I’d not realised it’d be so small, but that just makes it more perfect. It will fit in your pocket, or your small handbag, while still offering nearly 200 pages of diary.

‘Shall she, says Lady B., ring for my car? Refrain from replying that no amount of ringing will bring my car to the door all by itself, and say instead that I walked.’

Now, isn’t that just the kind of thing you’d want to write in a diary? It’s so tiresome to be ‘poor’ and be chased by the bank, when the Lady Bs in your life require you to live above your means.

The one thing that would make reading the diary better, would be an instant knowledge of French; as there is a little too much – that matters – in that language. But then, I suppose in my diary I will have to make a feature of lack of French. And I won’t have three staff, while regularly visiting the pawnbroker.

First published in 1930, you feel you are there.

(There will be 100 books in the Macmillan Collector’s Library. That’s a lot of stocking fillers.)

The First Hunter

First catch your zebra.

By the time you’re twenty pages into Robert Swindells’s The First Hunter for Barrington Stoke, the characters have eaten a piece of stolen zebra, and one of them has been killed by a bear.

Robert Swindells, The First Hunter

I don’t think I’ve read many stories set further into the past than this one. I’m not certain where this group of people lived, but in the illustrations they look African. They have not learned to hunt, so have to live off berries and things, plus what they can steal from the real killers, such as lions.

It’s steal, or be killed. Sometimes both.

The fear and anger they feel when one of their group dies after a close meeting with a bear, means that someone – the group’s ‘idiot’ in fact – begins to think of alternatives.

And that’s how they discover hunting.

This is so informative in a way I’d never even considered.

Why not me?

The lists are gathering all over the internet. I am gathering a few books myself for my 2016 list, which is fairly imminent. Some people I admire, who are very knowledgeable about children’s books, are moaning and asking if this ‘list is any good?’ because they haven’t heard of a single book on it, or at least not read them.

And I’m rather like that myself. Not the moaning, obviously. I never moan. Except when I do, like now.

On most of those lists I have managed to find one I’ve read, and liked, and occasionally another I’ve heard of or even received but not read. My own gathering list already has too many books on it, even when I stick to my rules, children’s books published this year, which automatically disqualifies great adult crime and some really excellent books that were last year’s. But you have to have boundaries.

So I’m not short of wonderful books. I’m merely pondering why so many of the ones on other lists have not passed over my threshold. Or, it seems, a number of other thresholds either.

It is well nigh impossible to request books you don’t know exist, or I would do. And by the time enough people have enthused about them somewhere, there is less scope to jump on the bandwaggon. If they were by authors I know and have read before, the chances of hearing about their new books is greater. Except, even those writers who first became published during the Bookwitch era, and are considered – by me – to be established authors, seem to find it difficult to have their new books bought by publishers.

And at the same time there are countless debut authors. It makes me wonder if publishers actively go for new rather than established, because the established ones have failed to write the next Harry Potter, so the debut writers are seen as more likely to do a JKR? OK, so she was a beginner, but surely a new Potter success could come from anyone? Clearly not on quite the same unlikely scale, but still big.

Is a hitherto unpublished writer more likely to strike gold than the author who has had four really good novels published, but who is now not having any luck with their latest offering? Surely it must be possible to have plodded along for ten years before hitting on just the right thing at the right time?

Unless the only money publishers are looking for will be coming from celebrity books, ghost written or not?

Whatever.

The Queen’s Present

Even Queens can encounter problems when it comes to buying Christmas presents for their little ones.

Steve Antony, The Queen's Present

In Steve Antony’s latest picture book, his very active Queen embarks on some serious world travelling to find the perfect gifts for the Prince and the Princess. She has some help from the man in red, who just happens to call in at Buckingham Palace, and who lets her come with him as he crosses the globe.

This way the reader can see many of the world’s most famous landmarks as the Queen and Father Christmas fly past. But no matter how grand the place, it seems she will never find the right thing.

If you look carefully, you will see that Her Majesty starts her travels sitting at the back of the sleigh. But as they go, she ends up closer and closer to the front, until she finally has the reins in her hands.

That doesn’t help, though, and she has to give up the hunt, and Father Christmas sends her on her way in the same manner he himself enters most houses. Hence the Queen’s sooty appearance at Sandringham, where the Prince and Princess get the best gift from Grandma.

(I’m still pondering whether a generation has been lost, or if Steve is merely ‘Grandma-ing’ the Queen for the sake of simplicity?)

Don’t Worry, Hugless Douglas

Hugless Douglas and I are both feeling the chill. The difference is he’s got a new knitted hat to wear, while I haven’t. (Too vain.)

David Melling, Don't Worry, Hugless Douglas

But then something happens to his lovely hat. While showing off to his friends, it sort of becomes unravelled, and there is very little hat left and quite a lot of ‘string and fluffy clouds’ all over the place.

Many of his friends discover alternative uses for the hat as they find it, and this hardly improves matters. It’s certainly not a Rabbit burrow hole plug, nor should it be used to line any birds’ nests.

Douglas is very sad and also worried what his dad who gave him the hat will say, but as Rabbit points out, his dad is nice, and Douglas should tell him the truth.

That’s always good advice. There will be a solution to most things, as David Melling shows us. It’s my first Hugless Douglas. Might not be my last.

Troll Stinks

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Troll Stinks

It looks like Jeanne Willis has her heart set on educating young readers, and what better way than through poetry and catchy illustrations?

This time Jeanne and Tony Ross are tackling cyberbullying, and high time, too. (It ends better than Chicken Clicking, in case you’re worried…)

Jeanne rhymes her way through a different version of the Billy Goats Gruff, where a young silly Billy  finds a mobile phone and decides to get up to no good with it, along with his friend. They take selfies and send horrible text messages to Troll.

And then they go off to visit Troll. Aren’t they brave?

Well, no, they are bullies. The thing is, just as goats – maybe – have the right to cross bridges; perhaps trolls are entitled to try and prevent them?