Category Archives: Picture book

A Bookwitch interview

Only it’s the other way round. This time I have been interviewed, by the Swedish Book Review, in their autumn edition which is mainly about children’s and YA authors.

They have translated short pieces by several authors, and they have interviewed publisher and translator Julia Marshall. And me.

Swedish Book Review

The authors are Per Gustavsson, Annelis Johansson, Cilla Nauman, Frida Nilsson and Malte Persson. All good, honest Swedish names, and no, I don’t know much about these writers, either. But then they are not part of my area of expertise, and perhaps I don’t really belong in this illustrious company.

But there I am anyway.

It was fun to be included, although now I can see how hard it is to be on the other side, coming up with answers to what might not be the questions you’d imagined someone would ask.

Swedish Book Review

Swedish Book Review

This is Scotland

These two picture books – Tig and Tag, and The Little House by the Sea – are Scotland personified. Benedict Blathwayt has caught both the Scottish countryside and the seaside perfectly. As an older reader I don’t need the stories, although they are sweet and funny; I just crave the illustrations of this wishful-thinking style Scotland.

Benedict Blathwayt, Tig and Tag

Tig and Tag are two somewhat naughty sheep who prefer to live in comfort with the humans, and not with the other sheep. They cause problems wherever they go, but occasionally they can be good too. Like when they chase the dog that chased the other sheep. Or silly, like the time they ran away from home to avoid having their coats sheared.

In The Little House by the Sea we meet a decrepit and abandoned house. Well, not really abandoned, as the ruins give shelter to much wildlife. Until the day Finn the fisherman turns up and gives the old place a makeover, and then comes to live in the house he’s made. What will happen to all those who used to live there?

Benedict Blathwayt, The Little House by the Sea

You can find a solution to everything. And the books are very lovely.

Take Away the A

When your aunt becomes an ant. It does make a difference, does it not?

Here is a new – sort of – ABC picture book, which brings home the importance of letters. All the letters. Michaël Escoffier has written this very clever collection of letters, with little ‘poems’ for each missing letter and how it affects things. ‘Without the A the beast is best.’ How about that?

Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo, Take Away the A

It looks so simple. But the more you read and think, you realise there’s a lot of planning behind all this. ‘Jam I am.’

Weird and lovely illustrations for this ‘alphabeast of a book’ by Kris Di Giacomo.

And without the W I am a mere Bookitch. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Arabel’s Raven

I’m so old I have actually experienced the period in which Joan Aiken’s little book is set. And that’s really quite nice, because I almost felt that it was so lovely that it was all fiction. But it truly was that idyllic once upon a time. (Wasn’t it?)

The kind of time when ravens come and sort your life out. Become your pet, and generally cause mayhem. (Why do ravens feature in fiction more than other birds?) When there were actual unions for people who work, odd – but kind – policemen and children could be independent, thinking creatures.

Joan Aiken and Quentin Blake, Arabel's Raven

Arabel is a very young girl, whose taxi-driver dad brings home Mortimer one late night. Well, he didn’t know it was Mortimer (but Arabel could tell when she saw him that he was a Mortimer), and he was so tired he forgot all about the bird. I believe the bird might have been a wee bit tipsy, due to some unorthodox reviving done by Arabel’s dad.

Anyway, this short book is about more than slightly drunk birds in taxis. It’s a crime story, because someone is going round stealing stuff, and it’s not Mortimer. If anyone can solve the mystery it’s Arabel, who is able to walk all the way where she needs to go on just the one pavement and not cross any roads because small girls aren’t allowed to on their own.

The stool

I have a little stool. It’s only a pine Ikea stool, which has a past as a car and a train and all sorts of things, and is now rather dirty and worn. One day I will paint it or stain it and make it look as good as new again.

Because I need it. I’m short, and many things I need in my room or around the house are a little further north than is comfortable. So to have an ex-train which is easy to carry where it is needed, is excellent.

Except, my room also has far too few surfaces on which to put the incoming books. The ordinary sized books will find themselves reshelved to some temporary place fairly quickly. After all, if I left them on the bed I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

But those picture books… They are large and heavy and when a few of them get together, they are larger and heavier still. They are also harder to put somewhere else when sleep beckons. So they go and sit on the little stool, which handily stands just there, and has the necessary surface on which to put large books.

This means I no longer have that useful tool the stool to get me closer to all those other things I need.

I wonder if two stools would be the answer?

Book’s in the post

When those lovely picture books arrive, the postman will huff and puff until he somehow gets rid of the book. Usually not through the hole in the door, which is better suited to bills and love letters.

So I think it’s a great idea to shrink the picture book a little, until it will go in the post like almost everything else.

Debi Gliori’s The Tobermory Cat has been turned into a postal book. What that means is that the formerly normal sized picture book now looks more like an over-enthusiastic greetings card. You write the address on the cover. You add a message (You’d better enjoy this book!) and stick a stamp on, and post. And it will fit the openings of both the red postbox on the corner of the street, as well as the lucky recipient’s front door or roadside letterbox.

It is a little smaller. Quite a bit smaller, in fact. But somehow you don’t notice, because the book looks just as nice as the original. It’s just as easy to read. And if you have a dozen nieces and nephews or grandchildren; just get the same number of books and post away.

Debi Gliori, The Tobermory Cat

(If someone could advise what I should do, I’d be most grateful. 1) Keep the sweet little thing. 2) Send it to some nice child somewhere.)

The 2016 Scottish Children’s Book Awards shortlist

FREE TO USE - Scottish Children’s Book Awards shortlist is announced.

It’s Scottish shortlist time again. Scottish Book Trust have announced the shortlisted books for the 2016 awards, and here they are:

Bookbug Readers (3-7 years)

Never Tickle a Tiger by Pamela Butchart and Marc Boutavant
Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit Book Burglar by Emily MacKenzie
Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock and Ali Pye

Younger Readers (8-11 years)

The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie
The Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children by Gillian Philip
The Fastest Boy in the World by Elizabeth Laird

Older Readers (12-16 years)

Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
The Piper by Danny Weston (the pseudonym of Philip Caveney)
Trouble on Cable Street by Joan Lingard

Over the next five months, children in Scotland will be reading the three shortlisted books in their age category and voting for their favourite. The three winning books will be announced at a special award ceremony on 2 March 2016.

As always, let the best books win! Especially the Bookwitch favourites. Although that could be difficult, as I have read and liked more than one in some cases.