Tag Archives: Alison Murray

My day 2 of the 2018 EIBF

Thank goodness for favourite publicists! They have a way of making a witch feel better. Just before leaving Charlotte Square on Tuesday afternoon I went to Lindsey Davis’s signing, and no slight intended for this amusing and successful crime writer, but I popped by to say hello to Kerry Hood. We chatted, she asked after Offspring – all these many years later! – and we sort of competed on who was the oldest and most confused of us.

We both won.

After discovering I had a problem with my book on the train to Edinburgh (it was too short. The book. Not the train), my day started with a woman on the bus who was not prepared for what you do on buses, which is pay, and to have your purse standing by to do it with. That cost me the photocall with Frank Cottrell Boyce. Oh well. I got to see him at his event.

Frank Cottrell Boyce

Ate my Three-Men-in-a-Boat cheese sandwich watching Chris Close photograph a fairly reluctant author. And then it rained. I also discovered I had pockets, having spent the morning mourning the loss of them.

Louis de Bernières

After Frank’s event I battled the bad light in his signing tent, toing and froing between him and Louis de Bernières, while also trying not to miss Lindsey’s photocall. In the end I did that thing which works when waiting for the gasman, except instead of going to the bathroom, I popped back in to see Frank and also opened the door for a young man carrying 16 pints of milk, and there she was. Works – almost – every time!

Lindsey Davis

Bumped into Sally Gardner and we had a chat, and then I went over to the children’s bookshop to see if I could corner Alison Murray who was supposed to be there. While I waited I snapped Sibéal Pounder signing books, and chatted to Ann Landmann who had chaired her event, which sounded as if it had been great fun. I then proceeded to show my writer’s credentials to Ann by talking about the light across the square as having been badder. Worser. Or it was simply brighter where we were…

Sibéal Pounder

Alison Murray

Then it was time for Sally Gardner’s event with Sophie Cameron, where I encountered L J MacWhirter again. Instead of brandishing a prawn sandwich at her, we talked about hen parties and fangirl moments. Charlotte Square is good for the latter.

Sophie Cameron

Back out to photograph Sally’s gorgeous new hair in the bookshop. It’s a sort of cerise. Her hair, I mean.

Sally Gardner

That’s me back at the beginning, telling Kerry about Offspring and her saying I shouldn’t keep them waiting.

So I didn’t. Even if Son had mentioned I’d be better not arriving too early…

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Dino Duckling

Dino Duckling is a very lovely, and kind, story, about a dinosaur egg and what became of him when he was born.

Alison Murray has written and illustrated her new picture book, ‘inspired’ by The Ugly Duckling. It’s not until you’ve read about Dino and his mother and siblings that you properly understand how harsh Hans Christian Andersen’s story is.

Alison Murray, Dino Duckling

This is the book Alison read to us at the 2017 Bookbug Conference, and I knew then that I needed to read it.

The Dino egg is much larger than those his siblings are born from, but his mother makes absolutely no difference in her treatment of her babies. This duck mother is both loving and sensible, and that’s what we need to read about.

What’s more, Dino’s siblings don’t taunt him for being different or for what he can’t do. They play together and their ducklinghood is a happy one, until the day comes when they need to fly south…

Dino tries his utmost to fly, when his duck siblings take off, but –

This story teaches us that there is a solution to most things, if only you are willing to think outside the box. Love helps.

Melling and Murray

I know. They sound like solicitors, don’t they?  But they’re not. At least, I don’t believe they are. Unusual combination; picture book illustrator/author and solicitor.

For some time now I’ve been casting my eyes on David Melling’s D is for Duck! which is just as loveable an ABC picture book that you’d expect from Hugless Douglas’s Dad.

David Melling, D is for Duck

Duck is a magician and he magics lots of little animal friends out of his hat for his ABC, with himself as D. All goes well until he happens to magic up a Lion. A Lion that might want to eat his A to I. (J is Jungle and K is King.) Duck quickly needs to think of something, so he does…

In my Bookbug conference bag I found Alison Murray’s Apple Pie ABC, which I enjoyed a lot. I’m less used to ABCs that use short phrases to get round the problem of what you choose as your your letters, while also managing to tell a story, because there is more to work with.

Alison Murray, Apple Pie ABC

Here we have a dog who is plotting to eat the Apple Pie, which is being Baked and Cooled and Dished Out, and so on. The dog is both clever and surprisingly obedient until, well, until something happens to the pie.

Both books have gorgeous pictures and both have rather charming, if not perfectly behaved, main animal characters. We’re yet again in the situation when I need someone to read aloud to.

The Power of Picture Books: Building Communities, Families and Futures – 2017 Bookbug Conference

Arriving slightly late to the 2017 Bookbug Conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday morning, I was shown to a chair. Unfortunately it was the Chair’s chair, so I went to sit on the side, which suits me best, and Chair Jenny Niven kept her chair.

My arrival coincided nicely with the start of Dr Vivienne Smith’s talk on Reading as a Playful Act, which was one of the best talks! Ever. The slides might have ‘gone bananas’ as Vivienne put it, but her research on young children’s reading was so interesting. I chanced upon super-librarian Yvonne Manning in the break and we both agreed on how great it had been.

Vivienne Smith

Basically, reading should be like playing, and none of this sounding out words letter by letter, which will not give the young reader the right experience. In one experiment, even the keen readers from bookish families chose the Lego and the dinosaurs before the book. But from another group, a couple of young children were so taken by the toy version of book character Beegu that one of them invited him to her birthday party, and the other wrote him a letter, two years later.

There is little emotion in the reading that happens at school. Reading can help your well-being, like disappearing into Pride & Prejudice every time you move house. You learn empathy from reading, and more so if you read ‘worthier’ books, where you are forced to think more. They make you likelier to vote, to volunteer, to recycle for the good of the environment, and so on.

You learn that life can be changed, made better. As Flaubert said, ‘read in order to live.’ For the well-being of society we need children who read!

I could have listened to Vivienne all day, but we had to take a break and drink tea and eat banoffee tarts and chat to people. Which was nice too.

A panel on The Power of Picture Books followed, with Vivienne again, and illustrator Alison Murray, Dr Evelyn Arizpe from University of Glasgow, Rowena Seabrook from Amnesty International and Nicholas Dowdall of the Mikhulu Trust (South Africa), chaired by Jenny Niven.

Picture books panel

They started by choosing a picture book each, one that meant something special to them. Nicholas showed us a short video of a tiny boy in South Africa reading with an adult, and his surprised and delighted reactions to what happened in the book. Evelyn mentioned a Mexican, version of Red Riding Hood, which led Vivienne to say that for this to work well, you first need to know the basic version, which is ‘cultural capital.’

Alison likes a balance between the sexes of her characters, and Vivienne said how we are ‘all so flipping middle class’ making assumptions and taking things for granted. Rowena mentioned a description of a book with an ungendered character, which still contrived to gender the character (male). Nicholas pointed out that in the townships they need books which are not about things that readers won’t know. To make picture books work well, you must read them out and read them well.

Replying to a question Vivienne said that it’s fine to be disturbed by the content of a book. It makes you think. And you have to remember that children can only take on what they understand, so a lot would simply go over their heads.

This panel discussion could also have gone on for much longer, but there was lunch to be eaten.

Mark McDonald, minister for Childcare & Early Years started the afternoon session. He didn’t have long, as his work in Parliament was ‘pressing’ this week, but he mentioned the First Minister’s reading challenge, and how reading takes you to magical places. 80% of a child’s development comes from what they do outside of school.

Mark McDonald

He talked about his children and their reading. The daughter likes Fairy Ponies, and next time Mark needs to vent about their quality he has learned not to do it to the publisher in question. Oops. His son, who is on the autistic spectrum, finally became interested in books via Nick Sharratt’s illustrations, so he is their god. (I know that feeling!)

Mark appreciates what we (that will be the teachers, librarians and other community workers) do, and ‘his door is always open’ if we want to speak to him. A yellow party bag saw Mark back off to Parliament.

Sabine Bonewitz

The next session was a talk by Sabine Bonewitz from Stiftung Lesen, the German Reading Foundation. She talked about encouraging parents to read with their children, spreading the joy of reading. Sabine had statistics to show us, she talked about their bookbags which feature a kangaroo (big steps) and finished by astounding everyone with German McDonald’s collaboration for reading, offering books with their Happy Meals.

Following this Happy idea, we all went our separate ways to different workshops. I had chosen to hear Alison Murray talk about Navigating the Story Arc. Important facts about reading picture books is that you do it in company, and that the paper can be tactile, and you might even want to sniff it. Boardbooks you can ‘eat.’

Alison Murray

Alison showed us a sketch of John Dewey’s shape of stories, showing how it fits almost every book; reading us her own Hare and Tortoise. Before finishing she read us her new picture book, Dino Duckling, a kinder version of The Ugly Duckling. It was lovely.

All in all, delegates will have gone home with much to think about, and lots to try on their own small ‘customers.’ As for me, I went in search of eldest Offspring, who was once much smaller than he is now.

Bookbug and the Bookwitch

You know it’s bad when you spy someone like Ross Collins across the room, and instead of scurrying over to say hello, you remain seated, because you’re so knackered that nothing will make you give up sitting, now that you have bagged a chair. (Not literally, I hasten to add. I have every reason to believe the chair is still at the National Library of Scotland.)

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize 2017

It was the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize last night, and despite my home town throwing heavy-ish snow at me, I made it to Edinburgh, where they had no snow at all.

All three shortlisted authors were there, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Nick Sharratt. There was mingling – or there was sitting on a chair, in my case – over wine/specially ordered tap water for me – and canapés. The nice men who were offering round the eats almost became my bffs through their sheer insistence that I have another one. And another one.

Bookbug mingling

Spoke to a very nice librarian who had come much farther than I had, and also through snow. We talked about how wonderful it is that all P1 children in Scotland have been given their own copies of all three shortlisted books. She asked which was my favourite (none of this bland ‘have you read any of them?’), and luckily we agreed on which one was best (out of three very good books).

Nick Sharratt, Alison Murray, Ross Collins and Bookbug

Then there were speeches, and after that the prizes were handed out, with Nick Sharratt being the overall winner with Shark in the Park on a Windy Day. Bookbug himself arrived and seemed really pleased to see us. Nick had to make a speech, which he claimed made him nervous. He did well.

Nick Sharratt, Ross Collins, Bookbug and Alison Murray

Vivian French was in the audience, and I made a special point of going over to introduce myself after all these years. She’s not so scary after all.

Balancing a small container of lettuce and prawns with tiny plastic spoon, I made my way over to Ross Collins, who I’ve emailed with but never met. He took my presence well, and he could chat while holding not only his own prawn thing but a glass of wine and his prize and an envelope which he hoped contained money…

As I did my last turn round the room I happened upon Scottish Booktrust’s strawberry milkshake Beth, so we chatted about her next book van passenger, who just happens to be Nick Sharratt, who will be driven to Liverpool. Where, he told me when I caught up with him, he’s never been. ‘My nice librarian’ got to him first, and had her photo taken with Nick, who was wearing an arty combination of three-piece tweed suit with orange tie.

Nick Sharratt and librarian

After this I Cinderella-ed myself away, since the trains still are doing inconvenient things like not running late enough. Walked past my cathedral which, even if I say so myself, looked splendid in the dark, with the moon hanging over its shoulder.

St Giles' Cathedral

And there was still far too much frozen snow when I got home.

Nick Sharratt and Aoife (3) read Shark in the Park on a Windy day

3 bookbug picture book treats

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

It will always be the first time for someone, even with a well known tale like the one about the Hare and Tortoise. I like the version by Alison Murray which, along with the other two books mentioned below, has been shortlisted for the Bookbug Picture Book Prize.

The illustrations are both sweet and funny, and there is something satisfyingly endearing about the silly hare and the hardworking tortoise. It works every time.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

In Ross Collins’s There’s a Bear on My Chair I didn’t predict what was going to happen, which made it much more fun for me. The pictures are lovely on their own, or you could just ‘read’ without reading if you wanted to. The poor little mouse who has to think of ways to get silly big bear off his chair. It’s poetic, too, and reads rather like a Dr Seuss story.

Lovely book.

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

With Nick Sharratt’s Shark in the Park, on the other hand, I could see exactly how it must end. It’s the cry wolf scenario. You keep thinking there’s a shark in the park, and then it turns there isn’t.

Until, well, until there is.

As always, cheery colours, in that loveable style Nick has. Just watch how you go in the park. It might even be preferable to have a bear on your chair. Or to be the silly hare.

Little Bookbugs

FREE TO USE - Kids in Scotland Illustrate a Love of Reading with first-ever Bookbug Picture Book Prize

Can you tell what this is? Dear reader, below you have the happy faces of three illustrators whose books have been shortlisted for the very first Bookbug Picture Book Prize, set up to celebrate the most popular picture books by Scottish authors or illustrators. It is run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Creative Scotland.

Ross Collins

Alison Murray

Nick Sharratt

Ross Collins, Alison Murray and Nick Sharratt are the worthy hopefuls. The winner will be announced on 12th January next year. Shortlisted authors and illustrators receive £500 per book, and the winner will receive £3,000.

Ross Collins, There's a Bear on my Chair

And there’s even more to smile about, as all three books will be handed out to every child in Primary 1 during Book Week Scotland in November. Long may this continue! (With new books every time. Obviously.)

Alison Murrey, Hare and Tortoise

Nick Sharratt, Shark in the Park on a Windy Day

I just don’t know which cover I like the best, as they are all rather sweet and funny. Best shirt prize will have to go to Nick Sharratt, however, and that’s not counting the chair back that gets me every time…

(Bookbug photo by Rob McDougall)