Be Brave Little Penguin

Easier said than done, this being brave stuff. But with arctic conditions closing in on me, I felt for this poor little frightened penguin. His dad is a bit tactless, but his mum is lovely.

Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees, Be Brave Little Penguin

Giles Andreae has written this story about little Pip-Pip who doesn’t quite dare go in the water. It could be cold. (Probably is, down there.) There might be monsters. (Might. Probably not though.) Icy and fresh illustrations from Guy Parker-Rees didn’t do anything to entice me to consider getting in the water. I’m totally with Pip-Pip on this.

But, you know. Once dad has said his dad type comment on bravery, mum takes over and suggests that another possibility is that it could be absolutely fine, if Pip-Pip would only take the plunge. Literally.

And Pip-Pip does, and …

Sweet little story, showing young readers that fear is OK, and you will overcome that fear. Eventually.

But the water looks awfully cold, I have to say.

The English Companion

This ‘Idiosyncratic A-Z of England and Englishness’ was put in the get rid-of-pile during our last clear-out of books. The grown-up books.

We decided we’d grown up, and away, from this previously much enjoyed volume by Godfrey Smith. The book is over thirty years old and the information in it pretty out of date. Much of it can presumably be found online if you need to look anything up.

So I decided I’d blog about it and then bin it. Sorry, probably meant Oxfam it. Not sure. Once we might have known who Godfrey Smith was. I have a feeling we did.

Godfrey Smith, The English Companion

He did [does] have a nice way with words, though, both the selection of which ones to include, and how he explains them. Much of this Englishness I have discovered for myself, in real life. You know, make a child call you mummy, and then wait to see what they do a few years into your relationship. Awkward, is what it is.

Afters versus puddings. Or sweets. He quotes George Mikes a lot, and that is definitely good. The English are interestingly quaint.

There are not very many words or names to look up, which in my opinion is an admirable way to go about things. You can so easily have too much to find out about.

So in a way this re-visit to my past didn’t go as planned; quick look-through followed by bye bye. There are problems if I am to keep the book, however, as it is literally dying in my hands. The spine is collapsing and the pages are fluttering loose, and I suspect that any subsequent reading wouldn’t be much fun.

What to do?

Another A G

She looks nice, my saviour from Not Reading. And the odd thing is that I – who obsess about meeting the people I admire – have never even Googled Ann Granger to see what she looks like. But by complete accident I came across this short interview with Ann talking about her new crime novel, The Dead Woman of Deptford, a couple of days ago.

There are a number of authors, whose books helped make me the Bookwitch I am, and Ann is one of them. In fact, she is the only one to encounter me at the stage when I was not reading books. At all.

With both Offspring fairly young I read to them, and perhaps managed a quick glance at magazine if they had the decency to sleep. At the same time. (I think we can deduce that I didn’t cope well with stress.) The Resident IT Consultant travelled a lot, so it’s not as if I was going anywhere.

Ann Granger, Say it with Poison

One day I went into the newsagent’s and bought a magazine purely on the basis of the free crime novel that came with it. This was the first Mitchell & Markby book, and as soon I’d got rid of Offspring in the evenings (by which I mean putting them to bed), I read one chapter every night. Even at such a slow pace, sooner or later you get to the end.

Not only did reading make me feel calmer, but it showed me the error of my ways; that I needed time for me, and that reading regularly – however little – was A Good Thing.

Because I really liked the Mitchell & Markby books, I worked my way through every one as they appeared. The drawback being that after the first few I had to wait for them to be written.

Then came the Fran Varady books, which I liked even better. And in between waiting for Ann to write, I read other books, and when Son started reading, I moved on to Roald Dahl with him, and then further upwards and outwards.

By the time Ann Granger began her third and fourth crime series, I was no longer able to keep up. But I always intended to give them a go…

Thank you, to the other Ann G! I owe you a lot.

Give us a hug!

Awww… Hugless Douglas is so sweet! And so, well, confused. But cute.

Douglas, who is a very young and very brown and pretty big bear, wakes up one morning, needing a hug. Not being all that clued up on who would be likeliest to give him his hug, Douglas wanders off in search of one.

David Melling, Hugless Douglas

He likes them big. And he likes them tall. But rocks and trees aren’t the huggiest of creatures. And sheep might be soft, but unwilling. And so it goes.

Douglas does try hard, but you can’t force the local wildlife to hug you if they are not huggers.

Luckily, Rabbit has the solution. (I believe it was Rabbit who was the sensible one in the other Hugless Douglas book as well.)

Mothers are often a good bet if you are after a hug. Not the only ones, but fairly dependable for a good squeeze. Come here!

(By David Melling. I fell so hard for Douglas that I almost forgot to mention his creator…)

Intelligent?

The Resident IT Consultant was despairing over politicians, again. He said how ‘in the olden days’ – that’s when he himself was younger, not hundreds of years ago – politicians were usually intelligent people. Even if they represented the wrong party. And let’s face it, some people did.

This in turn led him to ponder what intelligent people do now. For a living, that is.

I strongly suspect that many of them write children’s books. There will be other jobs for intelligent persons, but it seems less likely that intellect is combined with the making of lots of money.

I’d like to be wrong about that.

Before, whenever I heard that an author had previously been a teacher, I used to think ‘how clever they were to be writing books now.’ Yes, terribly condescending of me. I must have felt that teachers were rarely of author calibre. And, teachers are not what they used to be, either.

My mistake will have been to assume that the teacher-to-author shift was some kind of accidental move, rather than what I now believe, which is that teachers are extremely capable people, who teach as they dream and plot books. And then at some point they leap.

The first children’s author about whom I thought this was Michael Morpurgo. And then it was David Almond. Yep.

I’d say they have proved their worth by now, and I don’t expect they will be needing to return to the classroom to make a living.

And as has become apparent, there is not much intelligent life in the Bookwitch. I might as well run for Prime Minister.

A Monster Calls – the film

This was the film we tried to go and see all week. We should be grateful it made it to the local cinema, because who would want to be deprived of a good long cry? As it was, Kleenex were required, and there was a bucket too.

A Monster Calls

I can no longer recall the exact details of the book* by Patrick Ness, and by that I mean the minor characters and any minor plots. I think there were some. They are not in the film, which is good, as you don’t want anything to detract from the main story about Conor, his dying mum and his angry grandma. And the school bullies, because to be beaten up every day as your mother is dying is obviously [not] what a 13-year-old boy needs.

A Monster Calls

The film let us concentrate on Conor’s nightmares and the subsequent meetings with a tree monster who comes to the house (voiced by Liam Neeson) to tell him stories.

Then there is grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver, doing a good British accent, while going around being at least as angry as her grandson. And who can blame her; she is losing her child, and gaining a grandchild who hates her.

A Monster Calls

At first the film went so slowly I was afraid it would ruin things but, almost imperceptibly, it sped up and before we knew it we were hooked, by Conor’s dismal daily life, and his mum’s sufferings, and you could literally see her getting worse.

Beautifully filmed in the Northwest, it looked like home to us (not quite as I’d imagined it from the book or from Jim Kay’s illustrations).

And it was only on the way out I remembered I had tissues in my bag, after casting around in my mind what we could possibly use to mop those tears with.


*Based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd

The Glump and the Peeble

Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown, The Glump and the Peeble

We often want to be what we are not. That goes for me too, but I can sense I am more Glump than anything else. I don’t think I’ve got even a little Peeble in me.

But then, it could turn out that other readers of Wendy Meddour’s and Rebecca Ashdown’s new picture book The Glump and the Peeble are my complete opposites, and are Peebles wishing for more Glumpness.

This is a book about being brave enough to try being the other way. Just a little. There’s nothing wrong with what you are, but any hankering after the other way of life could indicate you should have a little go.

So as the Glump sits in his cave, sighing over the imagined fun Peebles have, it seems there is a Peeble who would like to slow down and sit and think somewhere quiet. And once their minds have permitted them to rethink how they live, it turns out they can be a bit like the other one. While still being themselves.

Wendy Meddour and Rebecca Ashdown, The Glump and the Peeble

Fun and colourful, with lovely verse from Wendy, which begs to be read out loud, and so much colour in Rebecca’s illustrations. Even I would almost want to be Peeblier if I could be that pink and furry.

Almost.