Category Archives: Awards

Life-changing longlists

Immediately on reading through the Guardian’s longlist for its children’s fiction prize, I felt grumpy.

Yes, as people said on social media, it’s a really good list. They would say that, of course, and you noticed that I did too. That’s with only having read two of the longlisted novels; Malorie Blackman’s and Tanya Landman’s. And they are award material.

But I liked the description of most of the other books. And I did come across one of them at Yay!YA+ in April, where I heard Martin Stewart read the first chapter of Riverkeep about three or four times. It wasn’t out yet, at that time, and whereas it was available to buy early that day, you know me; I don’t buy books. And Penguin haven’t offered it to me. If I was Martin I’d want my first book to be mentioned to people.

Perhaps some of the other books are also only just out in the shops. That was certainly the case with my life-changing book, How I Live Now, in 2004. I read about it on the longlist, and then found I couldn’t buy it just yet, so had to wait. That turned out quite well for both me and Meg Rosoff.

Brian Selznick seems to have another book out, which is promising. Then there are two authors – Alex Wheatle and Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock – whom I have only heard of because they are in the Edinburgh programme this summer. The remaining two are completely unknown to me, and one of them has a book with a cover so tempting it’s all I can do to stay calm. That’s G R Gemin with Sweet Pizza, along with Zana Fraillon who’s written about refugees, which I also like the look of.

G R Gemin, Sweet Pizza

Hopefully one or two of these will find their way to me, and hopefully they will inspire me, and lead to great things for the authors. Just like in 2004. And hopefully I’m grumping now because no one has done publicity yet, and it’s all to come…

New arrivals

New children’s author Horatio Clare won the Branford Boase last night for his book Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, edited by Penny Thomas, with whom he shares the award. Chris Riddell was there to do the honours. I couldn’t help thinking that this is a book I don’t know, but that’s the whole point. This prize is always for a newcomer, which is why I can’t remember anything else Horatio has done. And what a name!

Horatio Clare, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot

You will hopefully understand my need to return to my review from last year, of Here I Am, by Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez. It’s a beautiful, wordless, picture book about a young immigrant, by someone who herself was an immigrant. We need books like this one.

Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez, Here I Am

And do you need Harry Potter? I was amused reading Blind Date in the most recent Guardian Weekend. You just never know whether the two people, new to each other, will like the other person; whether they will be polite, or honest, in the ‘review’ of their date. This time the man said about the woman, when asked if they kissed: ‘She had read only one of the Harry Potter books, which weirds me out a little, so no.’

Finally, another award to another – once – newcomer and immigrant. Judith Kerr has been given the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement award. Unlike the Branford Boase winners whom most of us have not yet read, by now surely most people have read something by Judith Kerr? Either for themselves, or with a child or a grandchild. Or they watched the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad last year.

New is good. Outsiders are good. Not kissing non-Harry Potter fans? Well…

Meg in Vi

The most you can hope for in the Swedish press is Jacqueline Wilson. And that’s pushing it. By comparison the British press has articles about and photos of ‘my’ book people ‘all the time.’ So I’m used to encountering familiar faces every now and then.

Meg Rosoff in Vi magazine

And I know there were quite a few articles and interviews with Meg Rosoff in the Swedish newspapers around the ALMA announcement and the prize ceremony. But to find my favourite author number one in my monthly magazine Vi was a bit of a shock. Happy shock, naturally.

It wasn’t exactly a fullblown interview; but more of an invitation for Meg to list three things, in their regular ‘three-thing listing’ feature. And they described her as a terraced house girl, which is a new way of saying… well, I don’t know what they were saying, actually.

Meg Rosoff in Vi magazine

But she likes Catch 22, and Waiting for Godot. And London. Those are Meg’s three things, while in the photo she is brandishing a Sex Pistols mug. They made her grow up. I’m guessing the books, and perhaps London. Not so much the Sex Pistols.

Except, I thought the whole idea was that Meg’s not grown up. She’s our Pippi Longstocking figure, forever young.

The 2016 medals

I was witchier than I thought, yesterday morning. Chris Riddell reported being on his way to the Carnegie ceremony, and I thought to myself ‘he’s not won, has he?’ and ‘no, he’s just going because he’s the children’s laureate.’ It was early. I couldn’t remember who was on the shortlist and who not.

And then I forgot to watch the live presentation of the awards, having only thoughts for my dinner, so I had to consult social media for the results, and watched later. Never having made it to one of these events, it was fun being able to see what goes on, and to hear the winners’ speeches rather than read them.

Sarah Crossan

One won! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Sarah Crossan’s novel in verse, about conjoined twins, is one I’ve not read, and I was so expecting The Lie Tree to win, that I didn’t speculate that much, even in private. Sarah’s speech was a great one, partly in verse, and it seems she might have brought up her daughter in verse, too. Sarah ended with a few poetic lines about an MP needing to use the toilets at the library, which is something they ought to think about before closing them all down.

Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell, who did win [the Kate Greenaway medal] after all, for The Sleeper and the Spindle (with Neil Gaiman), also spoke about how crazy our dear leaders are, and how children should be allowed to read without having to be tested on it, and all that. This children’s launderette (I believe this is a private joke) praised all his co-shortlistees, pointing out how talented they are, and reminiscing about kindnesses shown him in the past, and how he doesn’t like Campari.

‘Reading gives you ideas.’

And that’s presumably what worries them.

Late to the party

She’s by no means ancient, but the Retired Children’s Librarian isn’t as young as she was. So it was much appreciated that she popped round for a couple of days, even if she was late for the party. On purpose.

Plane at Halmstad airport

Flying in from Stockholm to our local, rather small, airport, she wisely refrained from staying with us and went to a hotel in town. We had an Indian dinner, followed by ‘Indian’ coffee, which apparently wasn’t very good. This is a woman who only drinks water and coffee (many years ago when she really wanted to try muesli, she agonised over what liquid to have it with, and opted for coffee…)

I’d hoped to lure her into the – to her – new library, on the way from dinner to bed, but she declared it ugly and said no. I gather she is still in touch with her old boss who keeps her updated on who [from the library] has died in the last year, which is a helpful service to have.

Don Quijote at Särdals Kvarn

We had elevenses at the windmill, and she instantly recognised Don Quijote in the car park. ‘What’s he doing here?’ she asked. I suggested she stop and think about what the good Don usually does, and the penny dropped. (In fairness, my penny took years to drop.)

Went home and I was given my birthday present. We decided this was all right, as she’d not had the official invitation that said presents weren’t allowed. It was a book. Obviously. A new biography of Astrid Lindgren, by Dane Jens Andersen, and it looks very promising indeed.

Jens Andersen, Denna dagen ett liv

Then we fed her leftovers, and she read [my friend] Ingrid Magnusson Rading’s book on the local area, and was most impressed. She enquired about when I last spoke to Meg Rosoff, so I had to own up to having seen her only last week, and went on to show her Bookwitch’s thoughts of it all. The Retired Children’s Librarian is not into computers, so never reads what I write.

I offered her one of our copies of Meg’s I begynnelsen var Bob, but she replied ‘God forbid, no!’ which I suppose was appropriate.

And then she was returned to her hotel. On her request, I hasten to add. She also requested the scenic route via various seasidey places, the best café for coffee and cake, and her old block of flats. Also had a look at where the very young Bookwitch used to live, in the very olden days. A bit overgrown, rather like the witch herself.

Dear Meg

It’s how they addressed her last night. Dear Meg Rosoff, they said, and then they said lots more nice things. It was time to actually let her receive the Astrid Lindgren award, after a week of hard, but lovely, graft, touring like some kind of rockstar.

Stockholm Concert Hall

As Meg’s sisters pointed out, the city is full of posters of their sister; the one who can write. They came over from America to celebrate this special moment in their family, along with a stepmother (who was truly lovely), as well as ‘Mr Rosoff’ and ‘Miss Rosoff.’ So it’s hardly surprising that the Bookwitch and the Resident IT Consultant had come to cry too. Because cry we all did, with happiness, but tears nevertheless. And I think Meg’s mother is quite correct in telling her friends it’s the Nobel. It very nearly is.

Stockholm Concert Hall

The Stockholm Concert Hall is a grand affair, on a nice scale. We’d got seats next to the Royal Box, and it looked rather like the King was going to film the whole shebang. Or maybe it wasn’t him, but a film crew, behind the red velvet curtain. There were some Excellences present, but I don’t know which ones.

Bo Kaspers Orkester

Malena Ernman

It was a compact one hour event, packed full with speeches and entertainment, with no one lingering or getting boring. Lots of music from Bo Kaspers Orkester and opera singer Malena Ernman giving us You’ll Never Walk Alone. Hamadi Khemiri read from What I Was, and there were presentations of some of Meg’s books.

Meg Rosoff and the ALMA award, with Alice Bah Kuhnke and Katti Hoflin

There were talks from Staffan Forssell from the Swedish Arts Council, the Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, ALMA jury chairman Boel Westin, and finally from Meg herself. Meg’s was a good speech, where she managed to fit in her gratitude and a neat comparison between books in Sweden and the British Government’s treatment of the country’s young and the closure of libraries. She received a standing ovation.

Meg Rosoff

Astrid Lindgren was keen on children’s rights, and on them playing and reading. Even daydreaming. So not quite how it’s done at our end.

Compere Katti Hoflin was excellent, and had a nice way with the sheep on stage. You can never go wrong with sheep, I feel. Baah.

Meg Rosoff, Alice Bah Kuhnke and Boel Westin

It was all done extremely well, and we finished off with drinks and top quality nibbles in the Grünewald Hall next door, which is where I eventually found both Meg and her whole family for a chat. And as I squeezed my way through (never was a witch more determined) after checking with the Resident IT Consultant that he knew what I look like, in case we got separated, I ended up speaking to Astrid’s daughter Karin, for the first time in my life. And that was only minutes after I’d admitted to the Resident IT Consultant that I’d never met her…

Meg and family had another grand dinner to go to, while we called in at the nearby 7-Eleven.

And did I mention there were party bags?

Meg Rosoff ALMA party bag

How We Live Now

Just in Case.

Bob willing, this is what the Resident IT Consultant and I will be occupying ourselves with. (Although I must point out he is ‘only’ along for the ride because he found out I was intending to travel by train and he wanted to do that too.)

ALMA invite

Picture Me There. I am no longer What I Was, thanks to my fairy Blogmother. There will probably be no dogs, unleashed or otherwise.

And this is only a temporary Bookwitch’s Farewell. Until tomorrow.