Category Archives: Awards

Treasure your library

It’s not new, this idea of saving libraries. People are working hard to prevent closures, or this idea of ‘merely’ giving the school librarian the sack, leaving the books to look after themselves. Lots of authors, and others, were out marching a couple of weeks ago in London. I wish I could have been there.

And then there was this open letter during the week from Chris Riddell and Malorie Blackman and all the other former laureates, to save our libraries. I don’t feel that this should even have to be on the to-do list for children’s laureates, past or present. The threat should not be there.

Yesterday I mentioned the effect of libraries on a couple of authors, one of whom won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize this week. Alex Wheatle’s obvious joy on winning, and his totally unrehearsed speech on how the library [in Brixton] made him who he is, was very moving.

Whether we blame national government who really could shift spending money from weapons to libraries, or the local councils who are financially squeezed everywhere and ‘must’ save, is a matter of opinion.

Halmstad Library

Melvin Burgess BH library

But it shouldn’t be like in my former home town in Sweden, which has a lovely, newly built library, where clearly no expense was spared, which now has problems with vandalism. Mindless teen gangs come in – maybe because they are bored – and they are rowdy and they break things [toilets, for instance] and generally disturb the users of the library, forcing staff to call in security.

It seems they are now trying ‘youth leaders’ and they will hopefully have a positive effect. Or, they could try putting books by Melvin Burgess [see yesterday’s post] in their hands and making them read.

Let’s hope it’s not too late. I don’t have much hope, but let’s hope anyway.

The effect of jail, and stealing a book

Or how good comes from bad.

Very pleased for Alex Wheatle who won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize last night, with his book Crongton Knights. Congratulations!

I know very little about Alex, who’s not been on my horizon long. But I like the sound of him. The one fact that seems to stand out when people write about him, is that Alex discovered books and reading while in jail over thirty years ago. So something good resulted from a fairly negative event; both the starting to read, and eventually writing books himself. And I believe there’s an MBE in Alex’s past as well.

Another vaguely criminal background story was given some attention this week when Chris Riddell illustrated a story by Jenn Ashworth about how she discovered YA books in her library as a child. In her case it was finding Melvin Burgess’s Baby and Fly Pie and reading it in one morning in the library, before stealing it.

Chris Riddell and Jenn Ashworth 1

Chris Riddell and Jenn Ashworth 2

Chris Riddell and Jenn Ashworth 3

Yes, that’s not to be recommended, but to find yourself in a book to such an extent, and to be guided by this new reading experience into becoming an author feels right.

Sometimes bad leads to good.

(And I seem to have done my normal thing and borrowed very freely from Chris. And I can’t claim never to have taken something that wasn’t mine.)

More of Kathryn!

Kathryn Evans

Somehow I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Kathryn Evans has won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award for her debut book, More of Me.

As they say in the press release, it’s the first time a YA book has won. It’s high time this happened, and I don’t feel anyone should have to point this out. It’s almost as if the quality of YA is lower, so there is less expectation of it doing well in comparison with ‘real’ books. It’s like having a children’s book win the overall Costa award. It’s natural. Any book can be good.

So, maybe it was my witchiness at work, because I really did think Kathryn stood a good chance of winning. And then she did. Proves she’s all right, and so is her book.

(And Kathryn won’t have to skewer anyone with that sword of hers…)

😊

Keep those books coming. And here’s to many more YA books winning things.

A good year

1956. It was a good year. Lots of us amounted to quite a lot of things; Bookwitching, downhill skiing, wrestling, Wimbledon wins, Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards. That sort of thing.

So, Happy 60th Birthday to you, Meg!!!

Meg Rosoff

And that email with Nobel Prize in the subject line is bound to turn up…

How, erm, very Nobel

Bob Dylan eh?

I like it. I mean, I’m not a particular fan of Dylan’s, but I’m not not a fan either. He’s just Dylan.

It’s funny though. Yesterday morning on Facebook people were discussing who it might be, who they wanted it to be, and so on, mentioning names I’d either heard of, or ones I really didn’t know much about. My only comment was that surely the Swedish Academy could only pick someone no one – but them – had ever come across.

Peter Englund

Can’t you just picture it, The Eighteen sitting around pondering who they could possibly find that would enable them to hold their heads up high. And then some bright spark (that could be absolutely any one of them, obviously) came up with the complete opposite to the ‘never heard of him’ conundrum. ‘Let’s go for Bob Dylan! We just need to think up some clever way of saying why we chose him. But we can do that.’

And Peter Englund – probably – said that even the Bookwitch will know Dylan. Problem solved.

(Yes, I know. Peter is no longer their permanent secretary. But I have a photo of him I can use. And he might ‘know’ me. OK, I have photos of two more members, and I have met one, but not so he would remember.)

It has the surprise factor, and the Swedish Academy never disappoint. They just ‘never disappoint’ in different ways every time.

Bob Dylan… This is Swedish protest at its best. (That rhymed. I’m quite pleased with my phrase. Witty. And rhyme, all at the same time. Yes, I know. That rhymed too, but it was totally unintentional.)

Because, it can’t be because some of those old fogeys want to hang out with Dylan? Or that the King said he wouldn’t mind hanging with Bob?

I wonder what Joan Baez is thinking?

Tunnel vision?

Another ‘interesting’ thing that happened at the Gothenburg book fair was caused by me eating Daughter’s ancient saffron bun from December. I grabbed the last one from her freezer and two and a half days later I came to be eating it as I was gathering my thoughts in the corridor by the press centre.

It was dry, but it was food, and after a while the woman sitting in the armchair opposite me asked where on Earth I’d got hold of a saffron bun in September. One thing led to another, so we were soon chatting. I told her about Bookwitch, and she told me about Nya Tider. Neither of us was well informed about the other’s interests.

If you look up Nya Tider on Wikipedia it will describe it as a right extremist magazine. It seems they booked a stall at the fair, and when the fair organisers realised what they’d done, they tried to ban them. But a contract is a contract, so they got in. I’m tempted to feel they have the right to be there, but that all the extra attention was unfortunate.

My new ‘friend’ clearly liked them. They might even have been the only reason she had come. She abhors the tunnel vision you get from the ‘corridor of opinion’ which she kept referring to. Apparently Nya Tider tells it like it is.

It was an interesting conversation, which began in normality and ended up – very politely and in a civilised manner – at some place I’d not expected to visit. She finished by telling me about something she’d read in the Guardian online, and I sincerely hope she was mistaken.

I suppose it was for the best that I’d never heard of the magazine as we chatted, or I’d have found it hard to keep going. Most of my enlightenment has come from looking things up afterwards.

One other thing I found odd. Swedes are crazy about books and that’s why they come to the fair. She was a regular, as far as I could ascertain. I told her about being there for Meg Rosoff. She’d never heard of her, which is fine. But she’d also never heard of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, which is also fine, but seems plain weird.

It was around this point that Meg turned up. I didn’t introduce them. Probably just as well.

Slurp

You might remember that Meg Rosoff left me in the corridor on Thursday afternoon. I was still there when she woke up on Friday morning. Or so I tried to claim. I had returned to the same spot, sorting out my plans for the day, when Meg came up and asked if I’d come for coffee with her.

On the understanding I’d not actually have to have any coffee, I agreed, and that’s how I ended up slurping my own pink blueberry yoghurt drink after all. Meg had one as well, and also coffee (Swedish coffee, where you don’t get to choose what kind) to set her up for the day.

(It must be tough to find that the only person ‘in town’ you know is your long time ‘stalker.’ A bit like when friends of ours moved to a new town and the only person they knew there was the bishop. Talking of whom, the bishop was the only famous person I encountered in the corridors during my two days at the fair. Except I refer to him as the former archbishop. Same difference.)

We talked about amusement parks, and nearly falling off carousels, and I recommended Liseberg [across the road] if she wanted a walk. Anyway, it turned out Meg had even more mini-events to appear at than I’d been told about, so I attempted to steer us towards the Brombergs stall, except in the end Meg did better than me. Oh well.

Meg Rosoff

It’s amazing how at a fair this size, with thousands and thousands of visitors you ever accidentally find people you know. As I was making my way to see Chris Haughton, my attention was caught – with some difficulty – by the New Librarian, who was standing there eating lunch with Pizzabella and School Friend. So we chatted over their Thai food, until it was time for me to eat my own lunch during Chris’s event.

My next event was 45 minutes on horror with Jonathan Stroud and Mats Strandberg talking to Lotta Olsson. And from there I ran to the stage where Meg was appearing, again, and where I’d arranged to meet both School Friend and Pippi. Failed to see School Friend, even with the help of the New Librarian and Pizzabella, who both passed by individually, and who both failed to find their mother. Pippi turned up and we chatted until it was time for me to force a couple of signed books from Meg. At this point School Friend materialised, but when offered the opportunity of meeting Meg she vanished, claiming she had another event to queue for, so in the end Meg only got to say hello to Pippi, who then insisted on buying me tea. And a kanelbulle.

Meg Rosoff

I just might have noticed Sven Nordqvist, of Findus fame, walk past. But on the whole I don’t recognise Swedish celebrities. I decided that gossiping was more important than a third Jonathan Stroud event, and when we were done I sent Pippi on her way to look at books and things, while I chased Jonathan for a signature, but missed him.

And that was that.

I went to pick up my suitcase from Miss Vet’s, called in at a bookshop on the way to the station (because I’d not had enough, and because the fair didn’t have the book I was after), and caught a train to go and spend the weekend with School Friend. And that is where I am now.