Category Archives: Christmas

Adventing on

As I was egging Daughter on to tackle her double Advent task of reading two books every day, instead of merely opening chocolatey windows, it dawned on me that I wanted to do that too.

I gave her Cornelia Funke’s Hinter verzauberten Fenstern for her birthday, with the notion that it’d give a her some starter German reading practice, which she might succumb to because it’s the run-up to Christmas, and she likes that. Besides, there’s already the Jostein Gaarder she tends to read every year. At least when I/we/she haven’t lost the book… We now own several copies of The Christmas Mystery.

But what I really had a yearning for was neither of these two excellent Advent books. It was Rosamunde Pilcher’s Winter Solstice. I looked at the book I was reading. Then I got out the Pilcher, and it wasn’t long before I was lost in the sad beginnings of Winter Solstice.

What remains to be discovered is whether I will be able to slow down. Once the introductions have been made, you can read this novel more or less ‘in time’ with your own December. But not if you want to do it in one sitting. Well, maybe two, considering it’s nearly 700 pages.

I’ll let you know. (But I already feel better for having rebelled, and for being back in Rosamunde’s wintry Scotland.)

The Snow Queen

I appear to have come to a Hans Christian Andersen spot. It’s a nice place to be, now that December gets a move on, and it’s Advent. It doesn’t all have to be Andersen, however. Even though The Snow Queen originally is his, this version is by Geraldine McCaughrean.

But however great they both are, and you know they are, what really truly makes this book are the illustrations by Laura Barrett. The are simply fabulous, and I’d be quite happy to ‘read’ only her pictures, with no words at all. Done in silhouette in black and white with some pale blue, this is the most beautiful volume.

Geraldine McCaughrean and Laura Barrett, The Snow Queen

The story is the same it always was, about two young friends torn apart when the Snow Queen whisks the boy away to her palace. And then the girl searches everywhere for her soulmate, never giving up until she finds him.

It’s all very satisfying, at least if you don’t have to endure the cold, and it’s nicely romantic, and just as a fairy tale should be.

Not so super, but okay

After looking round at my reading possibilities, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing belonging to Super Thursday, which was this week. I have a couple of mid-October books, however, and I know some publishers stagger their dates.

In a way it’s a relief, as that pile would usually sit there until I felt I’d caught up and then it would be Christmas and the January books would arrive as the last thing done by publicists before going home to their mince pies.

The Resident IT Consultant went and bought an Observer two weeks ago. We usually find the Saturday Guardian lasts us just fine. I let the last bits of the Observer sit there, in case I ran out something to go with my morning yoghurt. I was on the verge of throwing out the New Review, though, believing it was mainly the television schedule for the week already past.

I’m glad I kept it, because that’s how I discovered a whole lot of dream books I’d had no idea were even coming. Nor that some had already arrived, so to speak [as I’d not got them].

But what with authors having changed publishers, I didn’t know who to email. In the end I did the thing that shouldn’t be necessary, and emailed the authors. They all responded, and the biggest name responded the fastest of all. None of them too grand to help out. It’s just not their job, though.

And I’m a little excited again.

I Used To Know That

Yeah, so Christmas was a while ago. But the order from our hosts, Dodo and Son, was to buy lots of non-targeted stocking-filler type presents. These were to sit in a basket and could be opened by anyone at any time during Christmas Day. You know, for when you got bored…

They said they’d started by buying some cheap books from charity shops.

This one – I Used To Know That – was probably one of them. I have to admit to having picked book-shaped parcels. Not that I needed books, but I felt I needed silly gadgets or socks even less.

It’s quite fun, actually. Caroline Taggart has gathered ‘stuff you forgot from school’ in a short, humorous and easy to read format.

The Resident IT Consultant and I discussed whether we’d forgotten the same things, and I pointed out that to some extent we would have been given sufficiently different material from which to forget. So, no, we have blissfully put different stuff behind us. Me more than him. I have always been the type to learn for the moment (=exam) and forget quickly to leave room for more like that. And so it went on.

Maths might have been ‘the same’ were it not for the two countries (languages?) having different ways of describing it. Grammar is both the same, and not. Classic authors? Not the same. Well, a bit. The more foreign, the likelier. Science? Hmm, not always easy wherever you do it.

History; I had my kings and he had his. US Presidents were the same, but we didn’t feel they were all that important. Dates to remember… well, I knew some of his, and him being special, he clearly knows about Freden i Knäred – as do I – but do you?

Then there are the planets, and they depend entirely on how old you are. How many did you learn, that you could later forget?

I had never come across litotes, but now that I have – thank you, dear book – I can tell you it’s something I use a lot. Whereas all I recall about anapaest is that it is one.

So there you have it.

On a Cold Winter’s Night

It’s that time of year, again, when proud dad Declan Burke shares his daughter Lily’s Christmas short story with the rest of the world.

Those of you with really good memories, will recall what I wrote about Lily last December. If not, you just follow the link, and the link there-in, and so forth. It’s good to feel good right now, about how we might have new authors to be excited about some time in the future.

This year’s story is called On a Cold Winter’s Night, and Lily very kindly sent it to me to read:

‘Kate sank down into the squashy armchair in the living room, having just had dinner. She had eaten in silence, staring into space. This is what she did most days, since May the 4th, 1998, when Paddy had his terrible accident. Kate shivered. She went to…’ (continued on Crime Always Pays)

Lily is ten. I’m guessing her parents will force her to finish her education before she gets to write novels full time, but I am hopeful.

Wishing you a ‘God fortsättning!’ as we say in Sweden.

Happy Christmas

BW Towers in snow

Wishing all my readers a lovely few days, and I’ll see you the other side of the turkeys and hams and whatever else you like. And hoping we’ll all enjoy some kind of Christmas book flood, even if not on an Icelandic scale.

A bike for Christmas

One of the things I treasure the most about my Bookwitching, is getting to know people in the children’s books world. It’s not just meeting authors, but occasionally learning about, and even meeting, their families. Finding out about those other aspects that are not to do with books or writing.

Sharing good news, but also hearing about the sad news. We’re of an age where parents die, and sometimes a spouse. And then there is that worst of all, when someone’s child dies.

Because he has made it public almost from the day it happened, I hope I may share what Alan Gibbons has shared about his son Joe, who died in September. He seems to have been someone who knew how to live, and was popular with friends and workmates. And not surprisingly, the Gibbons family got everyone together for some fundraising activities in Joe’s memory.

It appears that at some point in his life, Joe met a boy who was very distraught because it was bring your bike to school day, and his family couldn’t afford a bike. Joe gave him his.

And with the money raised now, there will be many more bikes for Christmas for children in Liverpool.

Makes you cry, doesn’t it?