Category Archives: Awards

The 2020 ALMA winner

This year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner is completely unknown not just to me, but to some other people who often know a lot more about these things than I do. That’s not to say Baek Hee-na is not a worthy laureate. I wish her all the best, especially in a year when not even the award ceremony can take place in the usual way.

“Baek Hee-na is one of Korea’s most recognized picture book artists. With a background in film animation, her unique visual style features handmade miniature figurines and environments painstakingly lighted and photographed. She has published thirteen picture books that are popular throughout Asia, a number of which have been translated.”

Shortlisted, and short in general

The Carnegie Medal shortlist turned up on ‘our doorsteps’ last week. Perhaps it didn’t get as much attention as it usually does, or deserves, due to other things in the news.

It’s a good one, though. And I say that having only read three of the eight; Anthony McGowan, Angie Thomas and Annet Schaap. (Clearly I went for the As.)

What is sad, is that whoever wins the medal, there won’t – in all likelihood – be an awards ceremony. I’ve never been, and regret it. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know that even though you’re on the shortlist, you won’t be experiencing the celebration of the Carnegie.

On a more general basis, it’s the way it is for those students, who are now not taking GCSEs, A-Levels or a university degree this spring/summer. Students on other levels, will presumably, hopefully, be able to celebrate theirs next year or the year after, with only a longish pause in the studying.

I’m not sure I believe they should try to be a school at home. In my last year of compulsory education, we had a five week hiatus after our teachers were locked out in a strike action scenario. I have a horrible suspicion I was the only one who tried to study at home. And for what? Anything of importance had to be covered by teachers when we returned to school.

Missing your prom, or graduation, or anything else, is disappointing. But so is being dead.

One shot Tanya

Very pleased to announce that Tanya Landman has won the Scottish Book Trust’s Scottish Teenage Book Prize for One Shot, published by Barrington Stoke.

As you may recall, One Shot was inspired by the life of Annie Oakley, but fictionalised so that it is a story in its own right, about another young girl who’s good with a rifle.

This is what Tanya had to say: “I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be good with words, but I find it really hard to describe how utterly delighted and thrilled I am to win the Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2020. One Shot is a really special book to me – it was the one that got me writing again after my husband’s death – so for teenage readers to find it special enough to vote for is incredibly moving.“

I quite liked it too…

The long Carnegie

Well, I have read four of the books on the Carnegie Medal longlist for 2020. They were all excellent. As I’m sure the others on there are as well. Just wish I’d had the opportunity to read a few more. (I know. I could have kept myself properly informed and gone out and got them.)

The list for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal is far worse, when it comes to me. Not a single book. But presumably twenty really good ones, nevertheless.

Grace Dent’s shoe

It was Sherlock Holmes – the real one – who said something along the lines of making a few disjointed comments about unrelated things in order to make you sound genuinely ill and raving. Mention loose change.

I’ve enjoyed Grace Dent’s restaurant columns in the Guardian ever since she started. Almost, anyway. I didn’t take kindly to the change, but I love her now. And, well, with me feeling off colour, I’ve not really done an honest day’s work for over a week. Watering the pot plants takes it all out of me.

So I’ve spent too long hanging over the laptop, and what’s a Witch to do but read her own ancient wit from time to time? So by complete coincidence I discovered the post about my 2008 trip to Godalming to the Queen of Teen event! I believed I’d never see my home again.

I had thought of that day only recently. Something to do with The Book People going bankrupt, and me feeling that maybe they shouldn’t have arranged these pink limo events, however fun.

Where was I? Loose change. Yes. So the first thing I noticed was Grace Dent’s shoe. I remember it well. I recall thinking I needed to get a shot of shoe and leg, and it seems I succeeded. Didn’t remember whose shoe at first, but then it all came back to me; Grace, her teen books that I had not read and that she willingly dressed up in frills and pink for a day.

Long before eating all that food on our behalf. For which I am grateful. Obviously. Having got this far I had to look her up, and discovered she went to the University of Stirling…

Anyway, anyone – almost – can write teen novels. I’m really enjoying those restaurant columns. And my temperature is down.

Bookbugs and more giveaway books

It’s not only country singers who give away books. The Scottish government has been handing out book bags to different age groups of children for years now, and the 2020 Bookbug Picture Book Prize, The Station Mouse by Meg McLaren, is one of this year’s books.

‘The Bookbug Picture Book Prize celebrates the most popular new picture books by Scottish authors or illustrators. The runners-up were The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Jez Tuya, and Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood, illustrated by Ella Okstad.’

A free copy of each of the three books was gifted to every Primary 1 child during Book Week Scotland in November, in the Bookbug P1 Family Bag.

Have we read everything, then?

I have often wondered. I know I have neither the time nor stamina or even motivation to read everything ‘put in front of me.’ The idea of being a judge for a literary award strikes me as prestigious and maybe fun, but something I’d rather not touch with a bargepole.

It’s not only that it would take time away from pleasure reading and any other book activities I might want to engage in. But in some cases I simply don’t see how it’s possible to read all that an award’s scheme requires.

Likewise the needs of a professional reviewer. There are simply too many books. And you could be wanting a private life as well. It’s not unreasonable. Knowing how hard I find it, I have on occasion asked others, including proper, well-known reviewers, how they handle the influx of books, and at what stage they give up on one, and that kind of thing.

The answers tend to be that they read everything, or at least give every book quite a chance before leaving it. And I would like to believe that. I really would. But somewhere, something has to give. And I think it’s the truth, and not people’s lives.

So the fuss in the media about the Saltire Society Literary Awards when one of the judges claimed the others hadn’t read all of the books, was interesting.

There are other areas in life where I seriously doubt that people can have done quite as much as they say. It leaves me feeling inadequate. But I can’t claim I’ve done all sorts of things I haven’t. The time I couldn’t finish the book I reviewed – because it was scaring me – I said so. When I can’t read a book due to time pressure, but would like to mention it, I do exactly that. I mention it.

I am very lazy. I am also getting much slower with age. Both these facts are behind me doing less than I’d want to. And I definitely do not give every book that crosses my threshold the opportunity to grab me for as long as the first 100 pages. The ‘triage’ situation is anything from put aside immediately to read over a third of a promising book and then give up in disappointment.

(This blog post was made possible by the fact that someone else cooked my dinner. Lovely.)

That’s Noble, that is

‘Who on Earth is the Princess Sofia?’ I asked myself a week or two ago. Odd, as the Resident IT Consultant and I, prompted by a viewing of The Crown, had just a day or two earlier discussed how big the Swedish royal family is. And by that we meant how many of them actively go out cutting ribbons and the like. I guessed an answer, but exile doesn’t help with names of new royals.

I follow Kungahuset on Facebook – yes, really – so should be better at names. Anyway, I read that Prinsessan Sofia had opened a primary school. Or was it a secondary school? It was one she has attended as a child, now rebuilt or enlarged or improved. She’s the ‘ordinary’ girl who married Prins Carl Philip, son of the King. A few days later I learned it was her 35th birthday.

And then, after a few mutterings from Daughter on Tuesday night, I cyber stalked a bit more and discovered Sofia was the one who was escorted into the Nobel dinner that evening by none other than Didier Queloz, who you all know shared the Nobel Prize in Physics. Hence the mutterings all the way from Berlin.

Prins Carl Philip med Esther Duflo, Nobelpristagare i ekonomi, Prinsessan Madeleine med William G. Kaelin Jr, Nobelpristagare i fysiologi eller medicin och Prinsessan Sofia med Didier Queloz, Nobelpristagare i fysik. Foto: Pelle T Nilsson/SPA

His former PhD supervisor Michel Mayor was also in Stockholm, at the same dinner, since they shared the prize. He, in turn, got to share Crown Princess Victoria at dinner with the third, but first, Nobel laureate in physics, James Peebles.

Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz are Daughter’s former colleagues from Geneva, and they have – more or less – done research on the same kind of thing. The other two have a head start on her, so we’ll have to wait.

But what I really wanted to know was whether my Cousin GP was there, pouring the wine.

The Ruth Rendell Award

I first met Tom Palmer eight years ago, at Media City in Salford, where he arranged games of rugby in his book event for the Manchester Literature Festival. I have to admit I only went because it was one of fairly few children’s books events on offer. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself, even if I didn’t join in with the ball playing. (It was on the fifth floor..!)

Tom Palmer

A year later he was back, and so was I. This time it was football in Manchester Town Hall.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Tom writes sporty books featuring both team sports and running. Things he likes. Things that many boys like, and because of that they read his books. This is the man who didn’t read as a boy, unless maybe it had to do with sport. Tom knows what it is not to read.

Many of us well meaning book experts don’t actually understand enough about this. Which is why I’m so terribly pleased, and not in the least surprised, that Tom has been awarded the Ruth Rendell Award for his outstanding contribution to raising literacy levels in the UK. I didn’t know there was such an award, and it couldn’t have been given to anyone more deserving.

I haven’t read quite all Tom’s books, but I have read more than my share of these energetic tales, and they are all extremely good. I intend to keep reading them, and to keep telling others to do the same.

Last week when the Resident IT Consultant and I discussed abridged and adapted classics for children, and I listed examples of books that the little Bookwitch had enjoyed, he said ‘but they all sound like books for girls.’ And he was right. I pointed out that what we need for boys are books like Tom’s.

The next day I learned of his award. Very well deserved!

Sara Danius, and two new Nobel laureates

I was saddened to learn Sara Danius has died. The news, coming as it did just after we’d heard who the two new winners of the Nobel Prize for literature were (Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke), seemed almost unreal.

It had been good to have a woman at the helm of the Swedish Academy, and it would have been better still if Sara could have remained at her post when the waters got choppy last year. It seemed as if the men were all right, in the way men often are, while the – seemingly – fault-free woman did the honourable thing and resigned.

With hindsight, maybe Sara knew she was ill. I hope it wasn’t the trouble with the academy that caused her illness.

I wrote about Sara – and had the temerity to compare her with me – a couple of years ago. It was good to discover someone who was so [almost] normal, doing a job like that of permanent secretary. And then I railed against her departure. Maybe it was a blessing Sara didn’t have to die on her chair, though, as you’re supposed to.

But let’s be happy for the two new winners of the prize, Olga Tokarczuk and Peter Handke. Both are names I know, and I recognise their faces, too. Haven’t read their books, but at least they don’t seem as strange as some earlier choices.