Category Archives: Meg Rosoff

Ready, steady, go

Really? Can they do this to me?

I had coldly calculated that I’d start my Edinburgh International Book Festival late this year. That way I can have a slightly longer/later August holiday and still be there to take in the generally excellent authors coming to do school events in the second week.

But the programme, which was made public yesterday, is busy scuppering those plans. I will have to talk to myself and see what I can do. My favourite author is appearing on one of the first days! But at least she [Meg Rosoff] is appearing.

And there are others. In fact, I think I can confidently state that there will be authors, good ones, almost every single day for the 17 (18 if you count the school finale) days the book festival is on. That’s without me even checking the details of adult authors who are going to be there. Authors for adults. Most of them are adults in themselves.

Then we have the news that the festival is spilling out of Charlotte Square and onto George Street this year. This is both exciting and slightly worrying, for those of us who like things to be exactly the same as it always was. How can I imagine an event in a venue I’ve never seen?

It will be fine. Well, it will be, setting aside the vaguely annoying fact that my Photographer has plans to, well, not to be there, this year. She claims to be as upset about it as I am. For the inconvenience, you understand.

Charlotte, and George, here I come!

Seeing Catherine Clarke

Well, no, I haven’t. Not recently.

But I was pleased to hear that literary agent Catherine Clarke – responsible for Meg Rosoff, among many others – has been chosen Literary Agent of the Year. Which is very nice.

My impression is that Catherine works hard. She is ‘responsible for’ by far the most sightings of any agent I am capable of recognising when out and about. Once in London, I reckon Daughter and I managed to come across her three times in one day.

A couple of years ago Daughter reported seeing someone on the tube as she travelled through London, someone who ‘had to be an author, and who could it have been?’ I told her people look the same.

Then when she arrived in Oxford, she ran into Meg Rosoff, which made me a bit jealous. I don’t run into my favourite author, just like that. And within minutes ‘that woman off the tube’ appeared as well, at which point it became clear she really had recognised her, because it was Catherine. Who also must have accidentally run into one of her authors.

So basically, she’s everywhere, and I’m sure that helps in knowing what to do about authors and their books. If I hear that an author is looked after by Catherine, I feel that is a recommendation in itself.

Congratulations!

The Bookseller - Catherine Clarke

(Apologies to The Bookseller for borrowing their page.)

Good Dog McTavish

Meg Rosoff can’t let caring dogs lie, it seems. After Jonathan Unleashed, where his canine flatmates made sure Jonathan was all right, she unleashes McTavish on younger readers in Barrington Stokes Conkers imprint.

Meg Rosoff, Good Dog McTavish

The Peachey family have discovered that mothers are the best. They do most of the work, after all. But when Ma Peachey has had enough, something has to happen, and after some initial domestic mayhem, the remaining Peacheys decide to get a dog. Luckily they find McTavish, who’s prepared to take them on, despite them not being ideal humans for an easy – dog’s – life.

What to do about the laundry mountain, the shoe mountain and everything being in the wrong place? Getting out of bed on time?And when that’s fixed, there’s the cuisine. A dog can only eat so much pizza.

McTavish has many plans, and believe me, they are necessary. But sooner or later a firm paw will work wonders on a misguided family.

I foresee a run on rescue dogs after children – and maybe their adults – have read Good Dog McTavish. Not by me, obviously. Here at Bookwitch Towers we are virtually perfect. Especially me. But needier souls will want a McTavish in their lives.

(Illustrations by Grace Easton)

Where are the girls?

Well, mostly not in yesterday’s book, Kid Got Shot. It’s a pretty male book, and apart from Garvie’s mum and his teachers, the female part is played by the gorgeous Polish girl everyone – including Garvie – falls for.

As I believe I tried to suggest when telling you about Mother-of-witch last month, I was brought up in such a way that I never felt women were worth less or that you have to constantly count the sexes and make sure they are balanced.

Am I weird? No, don’t answer that!

I happily read about musketeers and anybody else offered in the books I came across. Thinking back, I wonder if I found it hard to identify with girls in books when they were not the kind of girl I was, and then I felt that if I’m not going to be like them, I might as well read about male characters. In the end it didn’t matter as long as it was a great story.

But I recognise that not all girl readers have such belief in themselves, and they do need to see more female characters in books. In its article Balancing the bookshelves, the Guardian wrote about the need for more girls. It is not wrong, but I didn’t absolutely agree either.

When I think of the ‘new age’ of reading that to my mind began with Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, I don’t think of the sexes or any balancing. Yes, Lyra is a girl and a strong one, too. But her daemon is a boy. Harry is a boy who hangs out with best friends Hermione and Ron, making up that traditional fictional trio of two boys and one girl. The Famous Five are two of each, if you don’t count Timmy the dog, and you forget about George being George.

I’ve not really stopped to check whether there are more boy characters because more men write books. When it comes to children’s or YA I believe, without having counted, that there are more female authors. And many of them write about boys. I see no reason why they shouldn’t.

Looking at my three favourite books, we have [primarily] one girl, two girls, and then a boy. All three authors are women. But while Meg Rosoff has Daisy in How I Live Now, she has also written some wonderful male main characters. I don’t feel that is wrong. In fact, I assume the stories demanded it. Can male writers manage good female characters? Yes, they can. Look at Marcus Sedgwick’s girls! I’m guessing his books needed females.

I think it’s too easy to get worked up about the sex of a character. What we need is a society where all are equally valued, albeit not all identical. But obviously, if reading about a particular person in a book turns into a life-changing experience for a young reader, then I’m all for it.

From ALMA laureate to ALMA laureate

My immediate reaction this week when the new Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner was announced, was the usual one; that the members of the jury are really good at picking obscure people. But then, I dare say others thought that about my favourite, last year’s winner Meg Rosoff. We can’t all have heard of everyone. Besides, I’d been expecting an organisation to be chosen this year. I felt it was time.

So Wolf Erlbruch was a completely new name to me. Except, the mention of tulips rang a vague bell in the deepest corners of my memory. And Meg was so happy about the winner. She clearly knew Wolf.

And I Googled, as I tend to do. Yes, she had definitely mentioned Wolf Erlbruch in the past, and the tulip. And apart from her review in the Guardian of his book Duck, Death and the Tulip, I am fairly certain she had enthused about it privately to me as well.* As I said, it rang a bell, and the ringing got louder the more I thought.

My next memory was that I had read it. Except, I don’t believe I have. I’d have reviewed it myself if I’d read the book, and I hadn’t. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) But I distinctly recall being sent a book that supposedly was the one Meg loved so much, and me reading it. Because I remember the publisher and where they are based.

I am so confused. I obviously must make amends and get on and read something, and tulips seem like a Bookwitchy place to start.

This award winning is like a relay; one winner absolutely adoring the next one, and so on…

*Yeah, looked it up. She did, and perhaps I happened to ignore her advice.

Bookwitch bites #140

The London Book Fair was last week. There was plenty to tempt, but very little time and energy on my part, so I’ll hold out until some other year. The family was represented by Son, who sleepered south one night and sleepered back north the next night. In between all that ‘sleeping’ I imagine he did book-related work. So many people were there, and I have actually not asked him who he saw, but I do know he met up with/ran into Daniel Hahn.

Daniel did lots of things at LBF, most of which I’ve no idea what they were. (If you feel this is looking like me telling you very little, then you are right. I am.) I understand there was an event with Son’s colleague, fellow translator Guy Puzey. I’d hazard a guess they talked about translations.

Daniel Hahn radio

While on the subject of Mr Hahn, there was a piece on the radio the other week, where he talked about Good Books.

The Carnegie shortlist has been announced, and that has good books too. Mal Peet is on there, with Meg Rosoff, as are Glenda Millard, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Zana Fraillon and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Carnegie shortlist 2017

Damien Love who self-published his exciting book Like Clockwork a few years ago, now has a fantastic book deal in the US where it will be published some time in 2018 as Monstrous Devices.

Damien US deal

And finally, Debi Gliori tells the world about my marvellous baking skills in a recent blog post on her new blog. It’s very sweet of her. If I didn’t know what a great baker she herself is, I’d say she’s too easily impressed. In fact, I think I’ll say that anyway. Too easily impressed.

But you know, it’s not every culinary attempt of mine that ends up having a professional portrait made of itself.

Semla by Debi Gliori

Let’s keep them out

Or kick them out, in case they already sneaked in.

I’m afraid I can’t leave the state of the world’s affairs alone. There are days when several hours pass without me thinking about this, and there are days when they don’t.

Where to start? Last week at least the children’s books world cried out when Australian author Mem Fox was detained by US immigration officials and treated as though she was a threat to their country. There is very little I can say. I don’t know whether this was done through sheer ignorance, or knowing full well what they did and that that was the whole point.

Maybe on to Australia after that. It seems no country is better than the rest. Luckily it appears that a last minute intervention has saved the deportation of a [Bangladeshi] doctor and her autistic daughter, who it was feared might become a burden on Australia and its tax payers’ money.

While we’re in the medical world, let’s move on to Sweden, shall we? A week ago a 20-year-old pregnant woman was refused entry to the antenatal clinic in a leading Gothenburg hospital, because she looked like a muslim. She is muslim. Born in Sweden, but still. She had phoned in about a concern in her pregnancy and been told to come in. Except when they saw her staff didn’t want to open the door.

Sticking with medical issues, my thoughts went to Malala, the foreign girl from a country so many don’t want immigrants from, who was permitted to come to Britain for her life to be saved. And we all feel so good about that, and we admire her for what she’s gone on to do after recovering. She’s become a National Treasure, unless I’m mistaken?

The same goes for Nadiya Hussain, who bakes and writes books and is so popular you need to queue up to get her autograph.

On Saturday a Facebook friend of mine, author and journalist Hilary Freeman wrote an article for the Guardian about her worries for her family’s future. She has a young child and the father of the child is French. He hasn’t been here long enough to qualify for anything, nor does he earn enough money. The article is very well written, and manages to cover the concerns of many, even if our individual cases vary.

Thinking some more about authors. Two of my top three favourite books were written by immigrants. I keep those books in my ‘special’ bookcase. Had a little look to see who else is there, and counted up to eight ‘foreigners,’ including Italian Scots, before the shelf disappeared behind the armchair. But you get the picture; lots of fabulous books have a non-British background. Even when ‘we’ think it’s good old English stuff.

If I did to my bookcase what the Davis Museum in America did when they removed art by immigrants (for the best of reasons), it’d soon look pretty deserted.

And there is always something that can be done, putting people in their place. Quoting Wikipedia, Tamarind Books ‘was founded in 1987 as a small independent publisher specialising in picture books, fiction and non-fiction featuring black and Asian children and children with disabilities, with the mission of redressing the balance of diversity in children’s publishing.’ This is very worthy and I have the highest opinion of Tamarind. But now that it is also an imprint within a much larger organisation, has it become the place to stash away the slightly foreign authors? You know, ‘you will be happier next to your own kind’ sort of thought.

As for tax payers’ money, I always believed it was there for the burdens in life.