Category Archives: Philip Ardagh

Lobbying for Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Not all of us who would have wanted to, could make it to London on Monday for the mass lobby to save school libraries. Luckily, quite a few people did. Authors, librarians, readers.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

I didn’t even get the t-shirt.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Looks like they had fun, too.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Some people clearly didn’t take it seriously, at all…

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

I’m hoping it doesn’t say ‘The Best Ardagh’ on this sign.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Thanks to Candy Gourlay for the photos.

Mary Hoffman’s blog.

Coat wins the Guardian children’s fiction prize

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Philip Ardagh

You know what? It’s the middle of the night, and I’ve celebrated a birthday (not my own) and watched trains vanish into thin air (might have been the infamous Fife haar), so I have simply returned to my temporary base and I am not above stealing photos from Philip Ardagh. If he minds, I will deal with him later.

Because this is not about the tallish man with the beard, but about his pal on the left, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who won the Guardian children’s fiction prize on Wednesday evening. Very well deserved win, for a fantastic book (The Unforgotten Coat) by a marvellous author. (And he’s not short. He was just misguided enough to stand next to Ardagh. Even I would look short under such circumstances.)

Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Un-Forgotten Coat

It would have been great to have been in London, but I wasn’t. I sent my stand-in with the beard. He likes to hang out with successful people. Come to think of it, so do I.

Frank, meanwhile, has joined a long line of really very great writers who have won the Guardian prize. As he said about the award: ‘It would be amazing to win this award with any book I’d written but it is a special joy to win it with The Unforgotten Coat, which started life not as a published book at all, but as a gift. Walker gave away thousands of copies in Liverpool – on buses, at ferry terminals, through schools, prisons and hospitals – to help promote the mighty Reader Organisation. We even had the book launch on a train.’

And speaking of trains, I do wonder what happened to my disappearing one?

Rain and fizz

Steve Cole

Were you scared? Could you work out that Spiderman was really – only – Steve Cole? See, nothing to worry about.

Steve Cole

Steve came out of his lunchtime event fizzing. So did his Pepsi. All over the signing table. Hence the ‘handy-with-a-cloth’ Spiderman you can see here.

Steve Cole

Most unusual sight. Make the most of it.

We’d heard about the suit. Seeing it was almost better than the anticipation. Didn’t see much of the squirrels, though. Those that weren’t appropriated by the audience had already been stashed into a bag. (And they looked like teddies!)

Let’s see how long we can spin out our last weekend in Charlotte Square. There will be more detailed reporting on events, but the general goings-on come first.

We began by getting the first train out of Stirling, in order to go to Michael Grant’s morning event. It was worth it. Once you’re actually out of bed and dressed and all that, it’s not too bad.

Michael Grant

He had a very long signing queue, but after more than an hour we were permitted to drag Michael behind the tent to the dustbin area for a private photocall.

We hung on for Steve Cole’s signing, having found two well positioned chairs to watch from. I couldn’t help but admire the ‘Cole Mothers’ who were still smiling after over an hour waiting with their children.

Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson sat on her chair for a considerable time, and her ‘Gruffalo parents’ were very patient indeed. Her event was on first, and she was still there, signing away, hours later. Julia’s trusty musician entertained the crowds, and the Gruffalo did his bit.

The Gruffalo

A lovely message came via facebook, with the news that Jenny Colgan – who doesn’t know us at all – had managed to find Daughter a ticket for her Doctor Who talk that evening. It made our day.

Steve Cole

We trailed after Steve back to the yurt, where everyone jumped at the chance of seeing him jump. He jumped for a solid ten minutes for Chris Close while director Barley watched, along with Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Patrick Ness, Melvin Burgess and many more, who happened to be passing.

Found Holly Webb in the children’s bookshop after her early morning event. Very long queue.

Holly Webb

Once things quietened down, we sat out in the yurt ‘garden’ again, until I spied Theresa Breslin and Nicola Morgan and we ran over for a signature in Theresa’s new book, Spy For the Queen of Scots. I made the mistake of telling the Guardian’s Michelle Pauli it wouldn’t rain. Hah.

Peter Englund

Back to photocall with Peter Englund of the Swedish Academy. He was bemused to be getting instructions in his own language on how to turn. In typical Swedish fashion he shook my hand. I suspect that is as close as I’ll ever get to a Nobel Prize. Oh, well.

As we ran to get to his event, we spied Philip Ardagh, so stopped to chat briefly. That’s when he decided to lean on me. Someone will have to tell him it’s not good manners. Besides, the cool red shoes of 2011 are no more. He’s back to black brogues.

Mrs, Baby and Mr Wigtown and Philip Ardagh

Philip introduced us to Mr and Mrs and Baby Wigtown, which was nice of him. Apparently they have nine star hotels in Wigtown. (Like I believe that!)

Mr Wigtown and Philip Ardagh

Then we ran on, and after Peter’s event the heavens opened. It’s a most effective way to make people take cover. If they have a cover to take, that is. We really, really needed to go and eat lunch, seeing as it was coming on for five pm, so covered all our techie stuff in polythene, looked at the one umbrella between us, and panicked. All was not lost. In the entrance we found people covered in some delightful white bin liners with the words The Guardian on the front. We bought an Observer and got ourselves two ‘free’ bin bags to wear, and the afternoon was a little drier. So were we.

On second thoughts, we could have sheltered under Ardagh’s beard. Should have.

Post lunch we returned for Daughter’s eight o’clock Doctor Who talk, which she very much enjoyed. A quick chat with Jenny Colgan over signing, followed by a dash for a train.

We are now officially back at Bookwitch Towers.

Silly Sunday

Spiderman called in at Charlotte Square on Sunday. (Sunday. What a joke. First we were lured into believing the weather would remain dry and bright. And then it rained… Have you any idea quite how soggy a blue carpet can become?)

MacSpiderman

Anyway, Spiderman’s Scottish cousin Mac turned up. (I consider it cheating to wear a kilt over such a nicely clingy pyjamas.)

Philip Ardagh and victim

What can I say? I never should have allowed it. I knew Philip Ardagh to be cruel, but I never imagined it would go this far.

Keiths bearing gifts

‘The real deal,’ is how Keith Gray described his co-eventee Patrick Ness. This time we had Patrick round the back for a photocall and that might be ‘bizarre,’ but you do need to treat a double (or should that be triple?) Carnegie winner as the star he is.

Patrick Ness

While we waited, we sat outside the yurt in the sunshine. My photographer in one of the fun deck chairs, and myself more modestly on a plastic, blue folding chair. It was a good spot. We watched Chris Close making Vivian French play the toy guitar, while waving her leg in the air.

The deck chair

And just as we started feeling lonely, Keith Charters came past. He stopped to talk, because he’s such a lovely man that he even chats to witches. Especially to witches. And as he regaled us with tales of Gillian Philip finishing writing her latest Sithe instalment while balancing on a li-lo in Barbados, he sat down on the somewhat soggy carpet at our feet. Which was so not a good thing. He resorted to kneeling after a while. That’s how I like them.

When Keith heard I didn’t yet have my Wolfsbane, he went and got me copy. Just like that!

While he was down, the other Keith (Gray) arrived, and joined us. He, too, brought a gift. Which was very nice of him. They are a bit like that, those Keiths. Then we talked about lack of sleep and courgette baby food. Admired the second Keith’s blue and yellow lanyards. So very Swedish!

After the Keiths wandered off, a semi-Swede came up to chat, and the Guardian’s Claire Armitstead joined us, doing a good impression of knowing who Bookwitch is. She’s rather like the Head Girl and I’m a little scared of her. But she’s lovely.

The time for Patrick’s bizarre paparazzi moment came, which was when Chris Close borrowed him for a bit, having him hide his face behind his hand, and later, rummaging through the recycling bin… (If that’s not bizarre, I don’t know what is.)

I had time to re-connect with Patrick’s new-ish publicity lady Sarah, and when they went to get ready for Patrick’s event, we wandered off to find Philip Ardagh and Axel Scheffler signing after theirs.

Philip Ardagh

Axel Scheffler

After which I headed towards the Corner theatre queue, to listen to Patrick and Keith argue about who’s boss. But that – as they say – is another story…

The next place

Keith Gray, Next

I really wonder what goes on in the head of Keith Gray! First he writes a book about boys travelling round with their friend’s ashes. And then he comes up with this short story about death (again) which is similarly unusual in looking at dead friends.

In Next, Keith has edited an anthology on death. He got together a fabulous group of YA authors and made them write about death, and this they have done in the most varied fashion. They are all good. I thought ‘this is the best one’ for each and every story.

Take purgatory. I never stopped to think about what it actually is. It was just purgatory. Now it is so much more.

Jonathan Stroud has got a downright weird tale and I’m not sure I want to be in his world. Philip Ardagh, on the other hand, offers up death with muppets and humour. Naturally. Julie Bertagna is romantic, killing abruptly, and trying to fool the reader into thinking… something else.

Gillian Philip covers the kind of sensational death to which people seem to be addicted (unless it’s their own, maybe). Malorie Blackman writes about evil twins as though she has personal experience. Death isn’t always the worst thing that can happen to you.

Religion is less obvious than you’d expect in a book about death, but Sally Nicholls knows a thing or two. I was about to say that Sally is no stranger to death, but that actually goes for all of these writers. Frank Cottrell Boyce, finally, kills on something like facebook, and whereas I first thought that would be rather boring, it turned out to be very chilling indeed.

It’s fascinating to consider how many different deaths these eight people could come up with. I wonder if any stories were too similar to any of the others and had to have their view of the next place changed?

The afterlife anyone?

Bookwitch bites #75

If I’d known about it I would have wanted to be there. Here is a short video from when some other people spoke up for libraries, with Alan Gibbons at the forefront ‘as usual.’ The others are, in no particular order, Lucy Coats, Candy Gourlay, Philip Ardagh, Gillian Cross, Fiona Dunbar, Chris Priestley, Pat Walsh and the librarian of librarians, Ferelith Hordern. And probably some others I didn’t catch enough of a glimpse of to be able to identify them.

It’s easy for us to take libraries and the whole idea of them for granted. I had no idea that when Candy grew up in the Philippines there weren’t any libraries. And the elderly gentleman in the video who talked so passionately about borrowing books to read… well, it makes me want to cry.

Charlie Brown had access to a library. Probably even Snoopy had a library, unless it was ‘no dogs allowed.’ It can be easy to lose or forget a library book, but as long as you don’t ‘spill coffee’ on a book on purpose, you might be forgiven.

Charlie Brown library cartoon

The coffee spilling was a technique I learned about at work, back in the olden days. Not very honest, and not something I have ever practised.

Finally, here is a link to a radio programme on Monday 26th March, about Scandinavian children’s books, presented by Mariella Frostrup as ‘always.’ Let’s hope it won’t be only the same old stuff, despite the description. I am particularly interested, because I was party to a request for contributions to the programme from the Scandinavian church in Liverpool. Nice that they asked, but not sure who they hoped to find there. (Having said that, I will clearly be faced with all my friends at Gustav Adolf…)

When characters come alive

Literally.

These days there is no escaping some characters. While a few not terribly good authors struggle to make their creations lift just a little from the pages of their books, there is no stopping others.

I think I mentioned that deranged person who was one of my earliest followers on Twitter, back in the days when I didn’t tweet?  Seth MacGregor, Gillian Philip’s charming faerie. Didn’t know they did Twitter back in the 1600s. And because I’m the only person in this world who is not in love with Seth, my heart stayed perfectly intact as I discovered the identity of my follower.

And then you have Pest, who has taken to blogging. Although I suspect that his master, Barry Hutchison, has been helping him with some of the technicalities of blogging. I know it’s a little gloomy always being ill, and having unmentionable stuff bursting forth on your skin every day, but Pest nevertheless manages to be reasonably upbeat and amusing in this blog of his.

You know how people put their cats and hamsters on facebook? And Philip Ardagh even allows his staff to facebook and have ‘real friends.’ Now we also have book characters with their own pages.

My most recent find is the dreadful Drake Merwin, with the Whip Hand, from Michael Grant’s Gone. (Exciting though that is, I didn’t think that they had access to the internet in the FAYZ, nor that someone with a snake for an arm could type.) Some of the others, like Sam and Caine, are also there.

But it was on Drake’s status that I finally found what I was looking for. I had tried Michael’s website. His blog. Then his facebook page. Nada.

It was only my continued leisure surfing on fb which drew Drake to my attention, and I clicked, just for the fun of it. And there it was! So easy to find, when you know where.

Book Power 100

I had so hoped to be on it. Or would have, if I’d known it was being done. ‘It’ being the oddly named Guardian list of the most powerful people in the book world. The top one hundred names, except they have cheated by having pairs of names for some entries, making it 100+.

Unlike other commentators I am not horrified by having J K Rowling at no. two. I see no reason why she shouldn’t be. It’s quite interesting to see how they have picked people I know quite well, and also people I’ve never heard of.

First I went on the website showing the lucky one hundred as un-named photos, and came to the conclusion I recognised about twenty of them. Furnished with names I ‘recognised’ a lot more. I have spoken to six, and met another two.

And I finally know who that chap with the wild beard is. Not Ardagh. The other one. (Have already forgotten his name…)

The thing is, I have talked to people who know many of these important ones. Or who have met them, or heard some juicy gossip about them. And somehow, when that is the case, it’s harder to take them seriously. There is one author in particular, highly thought of by many, who sank considerably in my estimation on hearing a personal account of their behaviour.

But then, they can behave as they wish. It’s their books that matter. I do find that the best books are written by decent human beings. At least in the children’s books world. And they haven’t been forgotten here.

Good to see so many women on there, and interesting that so many CEOs are female. Two Swedes, albeit one dead, which didn’t go down well with some. (Bet he’d have preferred not to be dead, too.) And it’s odd, what I know. I couldn’t have put a name to Nick Barley. But seeing his photo I could have told you he is the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, as he is a visible kind of leader, who is always out and about in Charlotte Square.

Books 100

And it turns out that I am indeed on the list. I made it as no.100, which is a round and pleasing figure. Rather like myself.

Today

I can’t do it. It’s been done everywhere this last week, not to mention for the last ten years. As a columnist in my daily paper said, it’s time to move on. Which is not the same as saying it’s not important.

Amazingly, I got through on the phone that day to both Massachusetts and to Moscow.

I never listen to the radio and rarely put the television on for anything but scheduled entertainment. But Son’s secondary school had been rewired or something, over the summer holidays. This being Britain, the work hadn’t been completed, so the students all had an extra week at home. Which is why he was at home, and being someone who listened to the radio constantly, we both heard the news as it unfolded.

Left him in front of the television to go and pick Daughter up from a non-rewired school that was open and in business. Continued in front of the television until the Resident IT Consultant phoned from Moscow, where he had inexplicably gone to work. It was the same there. He wanted me to call the Brother-in-law in Massachusetts. So I did. It was the Nephew’s 5th birthday.

Any earlier problems of remembering his birthday have now ceased. So here’s a Happy 15th Birthday to the Nephew!

And while we’re thinking positive thoughts, Happy 40th Birthday to Steve Cole! And by lucky coincidence, Happy 50th Birthday to Philip Ardagh!

Steve Cole

Philip Ardagh