Category Archives: Cathy Hopkins

Young and hot, or perhaps not

Mary Hoffman went on a book tour to America last week, leaving us – her blog readers – with some exciting men to think about. I bet she did that on purpose.

She writes about some very attractive young men in her own books, and I trust Mary has done a lot of research to make our reading experience the best ever. But I am too old for her boys. I simply cannot lust after a teenager. Even setting propriety aside I find I can’t. I need older men.

Like the ones I was too young for when I was a teenager. Except in those days there wasn’t much in the way of teen books, so a girl had to lust after grown older men, or not lust at all. Lord Peter Wimsey is one such example mentioned by Mary. (And don’t tell anyone, but I did like him.)

That’s life. Nothing is ever right.

So, in those days I liked the Scarlet Pimpernel (even without Leslie Howard), and I adored Steven Howard in MM Kaye’s Death in Cyprus and Richard Byron in Mary Stewart’s Madam Will You Talk. Various Alistair MacLean heroes, and Carl Zlinter from Nevil Shute’s The Far Country. (Go on, ridicule me!)

If there were any boys, I have forgotten them, which means they can’t have been all that special.

More recently I have liked Margery Allingham’s Campion, Mr Knightley, and Robert Stephens’s voice as Aragorn in the radio version of Lord of the Rings. There aren’t all that many attractive men in modern children’s or YA books, but there is Lupin. And from an old classic we have Daddy Longlegs.

If I absolutely have to find young men in current fiction they won’t be vampires. Not even faeries (sorry, Seth McGregor). I liked Wes in Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, and Sanchez in Ribblestrop by Andy Mulligan is quite a boy. And now that I think about it, the Cathys (Cassidy and Hopkins) do lovely young ones.

Abby and Ducky

Men on the screen, however, have got easier with age. The ten-year-old me knew it was wrong to be in love with Ilya Kuryakin, 23 years my senior. But he was so cute! And this being a lasting kind of passion, it was David McCallum who got me started on NCIS. He is still very good looking for a man approaching 80. And it was at NCIS I found Very Special Agent Gibbs, a man of the right age. At last. I reckon he is a modern Mr Knightley.


So, for me it is No Thanks to ‘hot young men.’ I need them to be grey these days.

(Link here to an older post about pretty boys. I seem to have grown out of them.)



To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed. You’d like to think that the first time will be special, but it wasn’t. Friends, I have just read my first Judy Blume. Forever, because that’s what the then Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen told me to read. At least, I think he did. I asked where I should start and he said ‘definitely with Ralph. Buy a second-hand copy of Forever and the book will fall open at the Ralph page’. I did. And it didn’t. And it won’t after I’m done with the book, either.

I don’t exactly hang out with Michael, but he joined in when I blogged about sex in ‘children’s books’ on the Guardian books blog some years ago. He commented that ‘the first time I read Forever — I couldn’t figure out why there was a little bloke in the room called Ralph, who the couple (boy and a girl) seemed quite excited about. I was 46.’

So at the back of my mind I’ve had this idea to read Judy Blume ever since, as I was so remiss as to totally miss her in my younger days. And I expected more. Not sure more of what, but a bit more.

Forever is my March contribution to the Bookwitch Foreign Reading Challenge, on two counts. First, it is American, and that is foreign. Second, it’s so old (1975) that it counts as foreign ground in that respect, too. Not old enough to be an old classic. But definitely nothing like the books we get now.

It’s so very American. So very middle class, with such bland main characters and such very nice and educated parents. An understanding grandmother, even. No lack of money. No worries about looks or school results. There is just this preoccupation of whether or not to ‘do it’ when Katherine meets Michael. It’s love at first sight, and the love will last forever.

My copy did not fall open at ‘that’ page, so can’t have been appreciated enough. Not like Lady Chatterley, although Ralph does have a distant relative in the D H Lawrence novel.

Bland. Even the attempt to spice things up with (someone else’s) teen pregnancy and a failed suicide somehow fails to deliver. But at the time when Forever was published I’m sure the advice on how not to get pregnant was worthwhile. At least if you were American and middle class.

Boring. The grandmother was OK, and the failed suicide was about the most interesting young character, closely followed by the pregnant teenager.

Today’s teenagers would do better to read Cathy Hopkins, on whether or not to have sex, and they’d get more on friendship, too. Not to mention humour and some action a reader might actually enjoy.

My first time might be my last. But it’s over and done with.

It’s really busy here…

The Book Sale

Well, that’s what she said, the bookshop assistant who answered the phone when we were ‘hanging’ nearby. Yes, she did have people who wanted to pay for stuff, but my idea of busy appears to have been warped by British shops. ‘It’s The Book Sale’ she told the caller, by way of explanation for the busyness.

It was the second day of The Sale, so I trust they had been more swamped the day before. I could move inside the shop. There was the odd inconsiderate person in my way, but it wasn’t too bad.

I was a little disappointed by the books, though. I wasn’t really thinking of buying, except I did get the idea from looking at someone’s blog last week that there was one book I might purchase. Couldn’t find it. Couldn’t find too much at all, to be honest.

Meg Cabot and Cathy Hopkins in The Sale

There was Sovay by Celia Rees, and a couple of Cathy Hopkins books. Big pile of Meg Cabot, and what looked like the collected works by Michelle Paver. All a little cheaper than before, but no giving-it-away prices. What I have still to find out is whether their appearance in The Sale of 2011 means you must give up all hope of buying them later.

I think it does. When I wanted to buy more copies of Adèle Geras’s Facing the Light some years ago I bought the last copy in the country and after that you just couldn’t find it. (I know that makes sense. Last copy should indicate ‘no more’.) When Philip Pullman was given the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005 I believe they had to hurriedly reprint his books in order to have anything to sell. He may be good, but he had been Saled before the award.

On the other hand, selling out in The Sale is a nicer fate than becoming road fill. And if you’re really lucky there might be an award coming, if only because there are no more books.

(There could have been more pictures to accompany this post, had the picture-making facility not had a massive fail. There could even have been a second shop surveyed, had the witch’s legs not had a minor fail. Sorry for any convenience caused.)

In the event of success

Now, I have never been in the position to offer a quiet room in which an author can scream with frustration. Sorry, to rest in. That’s because my only experience of author visits has been as volunteer helper in either a school or a shop, and neither does spare rooms. But I have accompanied an author or two to the toilet. Not all the way, obviously. Just enough to make sure they found their way back again, because school corridors can be hard to navigate. I used to get lost myself.

I’d like to think that Offsprings’ secondary school library wasn’t a bad place to visit, even without a private restroom. We really wanted the authors to come. Due to lack of library space it was always the keen students who were invited. Perhaps that was the wrong way to do it? They will have been better behaved, but leaving less opportunity for an author to convert someone. I was very heartened by the young man in Y7 who was seen carting all (as they were) eight of the Roman Mysteries around.

We remembered the names of our visiting authors, and had we had access to a red carpet, we would have rolled it out. Depending on the programme they were offered tea and coffee with cake or biscuits. Since I can remember eating Cathy Hopkins’ sandwiches, there must have been some of those on occasion. Reasonably good ones, for a school.

But funds were always a problem. Travel expenses were paid. But never a full day’s fee, and that was simply because the school didn’t have the money. Not because no one felt the author deserved to be paid. I offered a bribe once. Which has still not been ‘acted on’.

It surely must be like having guests come to dinner at your house? We can’t all give the same experience, but the dinner guests are not the same either. Or is it more like calling a plumber out? You need their services, but you don’t have to become best friends. Sometimes getting together will be a success, and at other times not. And it’s not always the case that both parties feel the same. I was once overcome with the feeling that an author was ghastly beyond belief, only to have them say how well they thought it went.

So did we get it wrong? Nicola Morgan has some firm ideas about what makes a good author visit. For the author, that is.

The Cathy Hopkins interview

I’m really not sure why I waited three years to nail Cathy Hopkins down. When I set up this blogging industry, Cathy was one of my top choices for an interview. Could be it’s like you never go to the art gallery in your home town, while visiting every gallery you come to on your travels.

But with Cathy’s new series just starting, and her doing several events near me, I felt it was time to strike the hot iron. Luckily Cathy thought so too, so we met up on the borders of Wilmslow and Alderley Edge. Cathy looked like she belonged there, whereas I’m fairly sure I didn’t. Football is not my thing.

We talked about Sophie McKenzie while I fiddled with the recording equipment, because she was also around somewhere that day. Cathy was having dinner with Sophie later. As we were talking, the photographer discovered a fancy car coming through those gates we had had such trouble negotiating. ‘Oh I got brought in one of those. Felt like a real celebrity,’ Cathy said, laughing.

It’s not every author that invites me to see their bedroom afterwards…

How To Survive Summer Camp

Not only have I lost Millions (the Frank Cottrell Boyce kind, as mentioned the other week), but I can’t find my sense of humour. Which is a real nuisance, as I was going to do a fabulous blog about it. Oh, well. Some other year, perhaps.

Michelle Lovric did a nice blog post on humour on ABBA a few days ago, and I fancied doing something very similar. I have a good collection of funny somethings. Somewhere.

You’ll be wondering what all this has to do with summer camp, and the answer is that I’m in more of a muddle than usual because we’re just getting ready to go off on our summer holidays. It may not be a camp, but the witch who runs the place is not nice, and she has no sense of humour. Having just lost it. As I was saying.

So, 25 years on Jacqueline Wilson’s How To Survive Summer Camp is being republished. Unlike other similar occasions this really means that a new audience can be reached, since the target reader wasn’t born in 1985, and there is a possibility, however slight, that the parents of the new reader knows the book from childhood. Almost.

I read it a long time ago, and remembered it as less Jacqueline Wilson-y than it actually is. We still have a typical JW heroine who finds herself in a new and unwanted situation, and who has to get used to it and sort things out. Stella sorts quite nicely in the end, and summer camp isn’t as bad as she expected.

An added bonus are the activity pages at the back of the book. Tips, recipes, wordsearches, crosswords and things to make. The child who takes this on holiday is well catered for.

As for me and the witchlings, I will not have time to do all that I need to before leaving. I’m still short of a complete outbreak of hysterics, but it can’t be ruled out. I have the Cathy Hopkins interview to finish baking, and I had various chores which there is now no longer time for. And I just know there will be some discovery (and not of Millions) that will come as a nasty surprise.

Excuse me. I just have to go and do my Kermit impersonation and scream a little. Will feel better soon.


In the lap of luxury

The good news is I’m not too old yet for Cathy Hopkins, although I may have stopped feeling like a 14-year-old. Cathy is back writing about this age group, because it’s just right; not too old and not too young.

Million Dollar Mates (I voted for another title on Cathy’s facebook page, but this one is OK) is Cathy’s new series about a girl who moves in with the mega rich. It’s not just another fluffy story about the wonders of wealth, or fame, however, but it looks at what matters.

Motherless Jess and her brother Charlie move in with their Dad, who’s just got a new job as manager of a luxury apartment complex in Knightsbridge. First Jess doesn’t want to move, and then she changes her mind. Then she changes her mind again, because what at first seems ideal turns out to be not so nice after all.

They are surrounded by rich people, while being nothing more than the children of staff, and very low in the pecking order. Having moved they are also some distance away from old friends and from their grandmother.

I did wonder if I’d find this a little too insubstantial, but as usual Cathy mixes ordinary teen life with some humour and with social observations, and in the end it’s not about rich and poor, but more about what to wear to a party and will the fanciable boy notice her?

Cathy still manages to fit in little snippets of sensible advice to teens in the plot. So along with the glamorous film star family from Hollywood, and the rich Russians who have yet to turn up, the readers get support for dealing with grief as well as how to make up when you fall out with your best friend. As usual there are gorgeous clothes and more of Cathy’s favourite oriental style decorating.

In fact, I used to feel I’d have to complain to her about putting ideas into girls’ minds, and now I actually have. I suppose the next step is to go out and get some fuchsia paint. And something orange.