Tag Archives: Andrew Norriss

Your inner Mike

Last time Andrew Norriss had a ghost. In his new novel Mike, it is more a voice, although according to one witness, Mike is quite good-looking, so has a body too.

Floyd is the next Andy Murray. The 15-year-old plays tennis very well indeed and his future looks both obvious and great. But he keeps seeing things. Well, to be precise, he keeps seeing Mike, and it’s hard to concentrate on your serve when someone is walking across the tennis court.

His extremely tennis-minded family gets disturbed by Mike’s presence, and before long Floyd is seeing a psychologist. A real one, not imagined. Talking through the problem that is Mike, he learns a number of useful facts.

Andrew Norriss, Mike

I won’t say what Floyd does next, or even what Mike has to say, but it’s interesting. Andrew claims this is a true story, albeit with many fictional aspects to it. I believe this is why in some ways it feels different from a ‘normal’ novel. At the same time, it’s anything but normal, as I don’t reckon it’s possible for most of us to be seen so promptly by specialists, and ones who are reasonably useful and intelligent, at that.

Even if you are not a tennis prodigy, or anyone else with access to great health care, the message in this books is a good one, and it’s well worth thinking about your life before you need a Mike.

I certainly felt better for having met Floyd’s Mike.

Good, better, best

2015 is a rare year. Its best book happens to be my third best book ever. So no contest as to who sits at the top of the Bookwitch Best of 2015 Books list. It’s

Sally Gardner with her The Door That Led to Where. Among many stunning books, this is the stunningest of them all. The Door That Led to Where is a novel that has it all, to my mind. Just getting it out to look at again as I write this, I feel all twitchy.

It is red. Perhaps that is a sign I can re-read it over Christmas? It’s been almost a year. (And on a different note, I was pleased to see Sally’s book finally reviewed in the Guardian this weekend. High time indeed. And I’m not the only one to think so.)

Sally Gardner, The Door That Led To Where

So, now that this obvious choice has been announced, I come to the rest. Eight books stand out as having been that little bit more ‘stand-outy’ than others. They are books that made me feel all warm inside as I read them. (Apart from Helen Grant’s book which made my blood go cold. In a good way.)

These warm ones are, in alphabetical order:

Stephen Davies, Blood & Ink

Helen Grant, Urban Legends

Andy Mulligan, Liquidator

Sally Nicholls, An Island of Our Own

Andrew Norriss, Jessica’s Ghost

Ellen Renner, Outcaste

Jenny Valentine, Fire Colour One

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove White Raven

On the longlist were another 25 books, so the tip of the iceberg was pretty big. But the point of a best of list is that it is a litte bit short.

Thank you to all who wrote these, my bestest books of the year. You make a difference.

Jessica’s Ghost

What a perfect book! I’d long wanted to read something by Andrew Norriss, and Jessica’s Ghost was a great place to start. It’s the kind of book that makes you glow gently as you read, and you feel you want to go on forever.

Andrew Norriss, Jessica's Ghost

I’ve seen it described as a death book, but while any book about a ghost is obviously about death, I wouldn’t give it that label. It’s more about standing out because you’re different, lonely, and depressed.

Francis has no friends, and is bullied at school, so when he meets Jessica – who is a ghost and also dead – by the school playing field, he is simply happy to have made a friend. They share an unexpected interest, which is the one that sets Francis apart from his peers. He also has a mother, who does what I have been known to do; sets up her child to meet someone else’s child ‘because she is sure they will get on.’

This matchmaking friendship stuff has unforeseen consequences, which perhaps are somewhat unrealistic, but then this is a book where one of the main characters is a ghost. So that’s all right.

Jessica’s Ghost doesn’t necessarily take you where you thought you’d be going, and that’s understandable as Andrew says he had no plans when he began to write it. The plot just happened.

It’s quite funny, and also empowering. And what’s not to like about a story that features a Victoria Beckham zebra dress on the second page?

Archie’s Unbelievably Freaky Week

Andrew Norriss, Archie's Unbelievably Freaky Week

I was thinking of Andrew Norriss only the other week when it was the Stockport Book Awards, as it was here that I ran into him a couple of years ago. Archie’s Unbelievably Freaky Week is the first of his books that I’ve read, however.

And what a fun book it is! The cover depicts a spider, a woman wearing patterned knickers and man with a WC on his head, and I don’t generally fall for this kind of thing. But it seemed to be intelligently written, so I gave it a go.

Archie is accident-prone. Or perhaps they are not so much accidents, as just plain weird things that keeps happening. You just wouldn’t believe it. Staff at Archie’s school do believe it, however, because they have got used to it. Still a bit hard to deal with these unexpected and ridiculous scenarios.

Luckily for Archie, he has a good friend who helps him out, unless she’s also stuck inside one of his freaky incidents.

It is all most unlikely. Fun. And plenty of happy ever afters.

(All freaky happenings suitably illustrated by Hannah Shaw.)

From garret to glamour

‘You’re going to have to take my necklace off’ is what Cathy MacPhail said within seconds of meeting me last night. And I tried. I really did. But that necklace went nowhere. Very glamorous it was, but perhaps not the thing for showering in.

Apart from my lack of necklace-removing skills, I had a new modus operandi going yesterday. I waylaid the winners of the Stockport Schools Book Award at their hotel, which conveniently is only a few minutes away from Bookwitch Towers.

So, I started with Cathy, whose novel Grass won the Key Stage 3* group. I admitted to Cathy that I had looked at her book lots and lots of times, and every time I had chickened out. She thought that was shocking (and possibly other more unprintable thoughts), but I have since gathered Cathy likes horror films, so I’m sure my instincts were right.

We sat in the bar discussing all the other book awards Cathy has won, which is quite a few. They are all different from each other, but Cathy has also won in Stockport before.

As we chatted, Rachel Ward appeared, suitcase in hand and looking very film starry straight off the train – having narrowly missed missing her connection down south – and she was immediately roped in to remove Cathy’s necklace, which she did. They’d never met before, either. Then Rachel ordered some tea, which I would guess the situation required by then.

Rachel won KS 4 with Numbers, and she hasn’t won quite as many awards as Cathy has, but then Numbers is her first book. And, I’m sorry, but this will be a necklacey sort of blog, because she was wearing a really interesting necklace, too. Just like last time I met her.

Stockport Plaza

The two ladies decided to share a taxi to the Plaza later, and Cathy went to change while Rachel and I talked about her poor, ill dog. And children and universities. Then she too went to get dressed in her finery, while I waited to snap them both getting into their pumpkin.

From Cathy I gathered that the Early Years award and the KS 1 award were both won by Julia Donaldson, but that Julia was heading directly to the Plaza without passing Go, which is why I didn’t see her.

That just leaves the KS 2 award, and let me tell you how much time I’d spent googling and trying to second guess who the winner would be and checking author’s photos online so that I might be able to tell who it was, if I ran into them. And as I was sitting there, I did see a couple dressed up very nicely and thought they could be KS 2. Except she didn’t look like any of the faces I’d seen in my search.

Easily explained by the fact that she turned out to be Jane Norriss, wife of Andrew, the author of Ctrl-Z. So, some back-to-front sexism here. I was expecting a woman… Andrew was really pleased to meet Rachel (well, who wouldn’t be?), and they were all three extremely keen to be photographed together. I’m not used to that. Normally one has to struggle with these garret types.

Rachel Ward with Andrew and Jane Norriss

Worried pumpkin driver turned up, but Cathy didn’t. She eventually sauntered in ten minutes late. So, hurried photo session with her while the others fled out the doors to calm the driver down. They weren’t going anywhere fast, though. Still trying to cross the A6 when I hobbled home.

Cathy MacPhail

That’s Frockport for you.

This morning, or even all day today, they will be singing for their supper by going round the local schools. Two for Cathy and three for Rachel.

* KS 1 = ages 5 to 7, KS 2 = ages 7 to 11, KS 3 = ages 11 to 14, KS 4 = ages 14 to 16.