Category Archives: Jacqueline Wilson

Bookwitch bites #137

No, no, no. David Walliams is not ‘the biggest name in children’s books.’ He just isn’t. He’s a famous man, and he writes books many children enjoy, and they sell well. But he is not the biggest, no matter what festivals such as Bath say in their sales emails. I realise they are happy to have him coming, and I’m glad they are happy, but for bigness we need to look elsewhere. Or even in their own festival programme, where surely Michael Morpurgo is a not inconsiderable name.

Michael, since we’ve moved on to him, opened an exhibition at Seven Stories this weekend. I’d have loved to go, but somehow Newcastle appeared to be further away than I had hoped. I’m guessing it’s a similarly informative exhibition about Michael and his work, rather like the Jacqueline Wilson one a few years ago. It should be well worth going to.

Moving on to adult crime, Marnie Riches is yet again in with a chance of winning an award for her George McKenzie books. This time it’s the Tess Gerritsen Award for Best Series, and if you click here you can vote for her. (Or someone else, should you be so minded…) I did, and it was easy. Marnie might want to kiss you for it, or so she says, but if you run fast enough this can – hopefully – be avoided.

There’s no end to awards that can be won, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for Adrian McKinty and his Rain Dogs in the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award. His publisher has made this page for Adrian, where you can read about when he met Jimmy Savile, as well as Adrian’s future with colouring books. I’m sure it’s going to be bright.

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.

MCBF – ‘a festival to grow up with’

It’s almost that time again. The Manchester Children’s Book Festival launched yesterday. Without me, but a launch is still a launch, and they have Carol Ann Duffy.

I like the way they describe their programme, suggesting that if you’re a little bit older than you were six years ago when they began – oh so beautifully! – you might have grown from younger books to some of the older, YA books and their authors. I really like that idea; that you grow up with a festival.

James Draper and Kaye Tew

And it goes without saying that once grown up you can still never be too old. After all, just look at the festival directors. Do Kaye Tew and James Draper strike you as old? No, I thought not.

I fear this may be another festival where I miss Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve. I have seen them, but they feel like my forever missing act. I don’t even know if I’m going this year. I’ll wait and see if I’m suddenly afflicted by energy, next week, or the week after.

The other side of Jacqueline Wilson, MCBF 2012

They have a lovely patron in Curtis Jobling (I’d like to think I made the introductions, but that could well be fake memory syndrome), so I don’t see how they can go wrong. And I love the fact that on their home page there is a photo of Jacqueline Wilson from a few years ago, with Daughter shooting away in the mid-background, and a virtually invisible witch next to her. We’ll never go away!

There’s a poetry competition, with judges of the highest calibre. If I wrote poetry I’d love the opportunity of being read by the poet laureate, and her Welsh counter-part, Gillian Clarke.

So, for two weekends MCBF takes over various venues across Manchester, including the library and Waterstones, where on the last day you can check out local boy Danny Weston with Sally Green [she’s not a boy].

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

In my taxi

You hear taxi drivers boasting about who’s been in their taxi.

And in my former post office job a long time ago I would ponder if I’d had any famous people in my queue. I did, a couple. A major Swedish actor and singer and celebrity in general, who none of you will have heard of. Also a local singer songwriter who none of you will have heard of. One of them knew exactly what he was doing, while the other one hadn’t got a clue and shouldn’t have been there at all.

But in my taxi, I mean, in my queue on Bookwitch; who have I had?

Who haven’t I had? So many lovely and more or less famous people in the book trade have popped in, either once, or regularly. I imagine even the Queen reads Bookwitch, but she never leaves comments, so this is hard to prove.

Two lovely ladies who are no longer with us, are Siobhan Dowd and Dina Rabinovitch. I’m very pleased they made it on here.

I was surprised to find Sharon Creech on the premises, as it were, but then again, why not? Edwina Currie. I definitely didn’t see her coming.

In a way it wasn’t surprising that Jacqueline Wilson popped by to comment. It’s just that you need to have an email address to do it, and she didn’t (then) do email, which means a bit more effort had to go into the commenting. It was kind of her.

I feel that you are in very good company when you visit Bookwitch. You just don’t know who you might have a conversation with.

Retiring Philippa

My pangs of envy and regret started even before Philippa Dickinson’s retirement festivities got under way on Monday. When you’re online you can see what everyone else is doing and quite a few people announced they were heading that way, making me wish I was too. But there are drawbacks to moving to Scotland, and the spontaneity of sudden trips south is one of them.

So I wasn’t there, and now I can follow – online again – those who were, and there are more pangs. But I’m glad there was a party, and that it was good, and that – almost – everyone else was there. Because Philippa deserves to be celebrated.

Philippa Dickinson

Back in 2009 when I was introduced to her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it felt a bit like meeting the Queen, although perhaps more relaxed. And six months later when her publicists invited me to actually come and spend a day in Ealing, I was impressed with her again, and not only for remembering me a little.

Random House Children’s Books felt like the most active publishing house at the time. And she might have been the MD, but Philippa was still hands-on (editing Terry Pratchett, the lucky thing), working like a normal person. During our brief meeting in her office, she made a point of showing me her personal recommendation and arranging for me to have a copy of Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza.

Philippa and I are almost the same age, and occasionally I have stopped and asked myself what I have achieved with my life, and why I couldn’t be a bit more like her. (Answers on a postcard, please.)

Sometimes when I think of Philippa and wonder what made her better or more interesting than other publishing bosses, I realise that apart from a few directors of smaller publishing houses, I didn’t meet or get even a little acquainted with anyone else.

So maybe that’s why. You need to be out there, possibly rubbing shoulders with the little fish.

The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature

The second edition, that is, rather nicely written and edited by Daniel Hahn. Although, as he acknowledges, he had a little help from his friends. And a foreword from Michael Morpurgo.

It seems Daniel is not a stranger to this business of reading a book and getting it signed and loving it to bits. He was once eight years old and met Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake and had his copy of The BFG signed by both of them. And here he is, a few years later, having actually edited The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature.

Thirty years earlier the Resident IT Consultant had cottoned on to the fact that I quite liked children’s books, despite being married and old and all that. He went out and bought me (us, really) a copy of the first edition of the Companion, by Humphrey Carpenter and Mari Prichard. It is this text Daniel has edited, partly by removing a few old entries and partly by shortening some, in order to find room for all the exciting things that have happened to children’s literature in the intervening period.

It’s not just Harry Potter (the longest new entry). Try to imagine a world without Jacqueline Wilson, or Philip Pullman! Or all those other lovely writers and illustrators. Both the ones who made it into this edition, and the ones Daniel was forced to leave out. (I’ll have to speak to him about a few of them.)

I couldn’t help getting my (our) old copy out and making some very random comparisons. Roald Dahl has not only doubled in length, but he has died. Dick Barton is still in, as is Dido Twite. (I did mention it’s not only the authors, but their characters and various other types of entries that are in this book, did I?) And Daddy Long-Legs makes it.

The – to me – completely unheard of Hesba Stretton is still in. Carolyn Keene hasn’t changed, and I reckon Robert Heinlein and KM Peyton are both mostly intact. Likewise Joan Aiken, although she has been updated, obviously. There might be less of Peter Pan; I’m not sure, not having counted the words.

For a while I thought the entry on racism was bound to be a modern phenomenon, but it existed and was recognised in the 1980s as well.

There are about 70 more pages in the second edition, plus some very useful appendices on awards.

Carpenter, Prichard, Hahn, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature

If you like children’s books, there is no question about it; you need a copy of the second edition. As for me, I suspect I won’t be able to part with the first, even though I can see that the new edition will be much more useful in my ‘work’ as well as for my own private enjoyment. The two volumes will look good together. And I might not last until a third edition comes along.

Earle at the Castle

You learn something new about Jacqueline Wilson all the time. Chatting to Phil Earle is no exception. I suppose we all have a JW experience to tell.

Phil also had plenty to say about his own writing, and generally what a lucky man he is, and how much he enjoys what he’s doing. I mean, he loves school events!

Phil Earle

I’ve grown a little lazy, or am simply short on time, so these days I do very few ‘real’ interviews with authors, however nice and interesting they are. Sometimes I know them too well to interview them properly. But Phil was like Baby bear’s porridge. Just right.

It was a great conversation, and here are the highlights, because I just couldn’t keep this very promising author from you. Remember to read one of his books too. Preferably before he has suddenly published another four books.