Category Archives: Reading

Pocket Pirates – The Great Cheese Robbery

I like cheese too. Just like Chris Mould’s ‘tiny pirates on big adventures’ do, as do their adversaries the mice.

These pirates live on one of those ships you might come across in a bottle (not you in the bottle; the pirates and their ship), which stands on a mantelpiece in a junk shop, somewhere. Their lives are not easy. There are many dangers, apart from the mice.

Chris Mould, The Great Cheese Robbery

In The Great Cheese Robbery the pirates find their cat has been kidnapped and to free him it is necessary to travel to the place where it is always winter; the place called Fridge.

As I said mice aren’t the only pirate predators. There are spiders. Spiders are quite big when you are small. The junkshop dog is much much bigger, and also fairly hungry and vicious. I leave it to you to work out how hard it was for the pirates to get their cat back.

The ransom demand was for cheese, and to get at the cheese you first have to open the fridge door.

Great – well, a small great – book for little readers, albeit possibly not as little as the pirates.

One For Sorrow

The third and last time travel adventure from Philip Caveney is probably the best. In One For Sorrow I felt that both Philip and his hero Tom, as well as the reader, have finally got the hang of this time travelling thing. It’s one of the most convenient ways of adding a little something to a plot. You can go forwards and backwards, and possibly even over the Irish Sea…

Philip Caveney, One For Sorrow

As the Resident IT Consultant pointed out when he tackled the book, surely Tom should know better than to get on that train from Manchester to Edinburgh. Things always happen. But if he didn’t, then we’d be none the wiser about Plague Doctors, infamous murderers or, in this latest case, how Robert Louis Stevenson went about writing Treasure Island.

And there is that priceless humour that comes from joking about everything Mancunian. They certainly do do things differently there.

Last time Tom had to leave Catriona – the love of his life – behind in 1829. Now it’s 1881 and she is still alive. What can a 14-year-old boy from Manchester do? Other than influence Stevenson in his career?

The Plague Doctor is still around, still ruining Tom’s life. But other than him, and Stevenson’s pesky stepson, 1881 is a sunnier place to visit than either of the two earlier trips. No plague, no murderers, ‘just’ a lost love and some literary advice.

And quite a lot of fun.

Flying royally

All roads lead to Holiday Bookwitch Towers. Maybe. I told you a couple of months ago about our unusual flight route here, but a witch can always come up with more different ways.

This week I went another unexpected way, and I did it alone. The Resident IT Consultant and I were flying to Copenhagen, yet again (but we are clearly doomed), this time via Heathrow. But with our first flight delayed, we’d miss our second. We have no idea what was going on in Denmark, but judging by the lack of seats on any plane, with any airline, the whole world was heading there.

Meanwhile, poor Daughter who hadn’t had a seat on our planes at all, went ahead with her separate travel plans, also to Copenhagen, but with another airline. She was due to arrive last, joining us driving across The Bridge. Obviously, she arrived first. Also obviously, she ended up catching a train out of Denmark.

Wanting to be around to help her kill any uninvited spiders, I eventually suggested I fly to Gothenburg. They found this a strange idea, but put me on that plane instead, where I ended up sharing the last row with a cello and its player.

The flight crew hesitated each time they made an announcement, but each time – just – remembered we were bound for Gothenburg. Except when we arrived, when they believed we were in Bergen. I heard them giggling behind me, as the two names ‘are so similar.’ They are not. They are not even in the same country.

Unable to drive over any bridges, I also caught a train, which I shared with eight airline pilots (see, even the pilots had no planes!), who – one by one – went off to the toilet to shed their uniforms. Thankfully they had jeans and stuff in those natty little black carry-on cases.

By this point the Resident IT Consultant actually had arrived in Copenhagen, because there was the small issue of a hired car to pick up to drive across The Bridge. And once the witch had been removed from the equation, there was one last seat out that day.

By bedtime we were all here, separate flights notwithstanding. The rather lovely cellist had asked if I’d change seats with her boyfriend, but having been given my favourite seat, I really didn’t want to give it up. I explained to her that I had sent my Resident IT Consultant not only on a different plane, but to a different country, and she conceded that when you’re older you might do that.

Older, hah!

Puppy Academy – Scout and the Sausage Thief

They know who the sausage thief is. Frank Furter. It’s just a case of catching him, and preferably before the village sausage festival in Little Barking has to be cancelled.

Gill Lewis, Scout and the Sausage Thief

Here, with Puppy Academy, Gill Lewis is back with clever doggy students who want nothing better than to be good working dogs. Scout, the German shepherd puppy, wants to be a police dog like her mum and dad.

As you will have worked out, this is not a real school where dogs are trained to be police dogs. This is more a world of dogs who talk, go to school and have jobs, while being pretty much the same as you and me. (Within reason.)

This is a nice little adventure, where poor Scout is working hard at being good, but having setbacks and needing to work even harder at putting things right. Catching Frank Furter is one thing, but who stole the Crunchie Munchies?

A little wolfie gift for you all

Cliff McNish is a very kind man. He has written a lovely fairy tale called The Winter Wolf, and he persuaded his friend Trish Phillips to make him some rather nice illustrations to go with it, and then his brother Michael did some, well, stuff, and here it is, for everyone to download and enjoy.

Cliff McNish, The Winter Wolf

I thoroughly enjoyed this tale about the wolf that howls every winter, scaring the other animals in the wood. They all warn their children against him, saying you can’t trust a wolf. It’s just a trick. But there is – naturally – a tiny squirrel, who wants to find out more, and who goes where he wasn’t allowed to go. He speaks to the wolf, and he wants to believe him. He makes sure he’s out of reach, and…

Cliff McNish, The Winter Wolf

Well, when I got this far I didn’t know whether to believe the best or the worst. I was interrupted twice, and nearly shouted at those who dared disturb me at such a critical moment.

According to Daughter you can’t possibly have a wolf eating a squirrel in a book for children.

You can’t?

Precious and the Zebra Necklace

I used to love sitting down with the latest novel about Mma Ramotswe. To begin with I kept up with each new book as it came, but when Bookwitch got going, a few pleasures fell by the roadside, and my crime sprees in Botswana were among them. I still drink my redbush tea, though.

Alexander McCall Smith, Precious and the Zebra Necklace

So I was happy to reacquaint myself with Precious Ramotswe in Alexander McCall Smith’s shorter books about our favourite detective as a child. She was just as sweet then, as the woman she became.

In Precious and the Zebra Necklace, she makes a new friend at school, and when she discovers this girl has a sad mystery in her past, Precious sets out to solve it.

Like the adult ‘crimes’ this is more about human nature and simplicity and ordinary things going wrong. A bit of thinking about things, and talking to people gets you a long way.

Short and sweet.

Is it all because of Ladybird books?

Would I even be here if it weren’t for Ladybird books?

Years ago I blogged (rather peculiarly, it strikes me now) about Ladybird books, and how they were not part of my past, and how I almost resented this. But now it seems to me as though that one book I bought at the age of ten and could barely read, might have set me up for life. Where would I be if I hadn’t?

I have always ‘blamed’ my fascination for the UK on Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie, and while it is still true that they inspired me, I now feel I must add my sensible Ladybird book. People here think back to those days, when both they and Britain were different. I actively went in search of this charming country where children walked around in those T-bar shoes and boys wore shorts and had haircuts like they did in old films.

And there was cake.

I so wanted to go and see the Ladybird exhibition in Bexhill; not just for the books, but for the De La Warr Pavilion as well. But it was all too much at the other end of the country to be realistic. The exhibition is in London now. Can I make it to London? I don’t know.

The article in the Guardian a few weeks ago made me feel many things. It was fascinating to read that someone’s real birthday party actually ended up in the book. I mean, surely that’s the complete opposite of today’s fantasy books; finding your own reality in a book. I knew I wanted to be part of it, except you can’t wish your own past away.

Perhaps I can take up collecting Ladybird books? Not terribly original as ideas go, but maybe I can fake a new past? I never did wear shoes like that. The one time I got close to it, the woman in the shoeshop pointed out I was an adult and couldn’t have them.