Tag Archives: Anthony Browne

Arty

Some picture books are artier than others. And when – to be honest – some are too cute or too childish (for me), I love it when I see pages filled with pictures I simply enjoy looking at. No matter what the story is, if there is one.

Red Sledge by Lita Judge is almost wordless, apart from expressions such as Eeeeee and Fluomp. It doesn’t need words.

Lita Judge, Red Sledge

The pictures are quite Christmassy, a little bit Nordic in their snowiness, and just nice. The small child who leaves the sledge outside has no idea what the wild animals nearby get up to at night. They all want a go at taking the sledge down the steep slope.

Gadung. Alley-oop.

David Weisner’s Mr Wuffles is delicious to look at. I don’t totally know what I’m looking at, and neither does the cat, Mr Wuffles. But he’s intrigued. And who wouldn’t be, when a miniature spaceship crewed by weird, but minute, aliens turns up right next to him.

David Weisner, Mr Wuffles

Being played with by a cat can make the bravest explorer travel sick. But they are at least as determined as Mr Wuffles.

Determination plays a big part in Anthony Browne’s What If…? where young Joe is going to his first party, and he and his Mum search the street for the right address. He’s scared, and who wouldn’t be when some of the houses are full of the wrong people?

Anthony Browne, What If…?

But when Joe finds his party, it looks just right. His Mum worries, the way Mums do. But ‘it’s only a party.’ Fantastic illustrations of the kind I’d happily put on my wall (if there was room).

Three of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales have been reproduced in the volume Stories for Children, illustrated by Charles Robinson. It’s the original artwork from a hundred years ago, and it is dreamlike and beautiful.

Oscar Wilde & Charles Robinson, Stories for Children

This is the kind of book that will definitely appeal to grown-ups. I’m hoping young readers will also enjoy the illustrations, which are so different from what picture books today are like.

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Walker Books and a witch with wet hands

As usual it was a case of waving your hands (or in this case, my hands) under the drier for absolutely forever, wipe them on your clothes, or go wet, hoping there’d be no hands to shake. You can guess which I chose, and what happened next, can’t you?

I was at the presentation of Walker Books’ and Constable & Robinson’s Autumn Highlights in Manchester on Wednesday evening, when I came face to face with Jo for the first time, and had to quickly get out of the handshaking she had in mind. This flustered me so much I forgot to mention my name. (But everyone knows me, right?) Besides, I’d already got the decrepit old woman treatment. Staff at the venue saw me negotiating the steps outside (which had NO handrail) and quickly bundled me into the lift before I caused more trouble.

Wally bag

Super-Jake was there, but I forgot to check his footwear. Representatives of our local LitFest and bookshops and that most Wondrous of blogs could also be seen. I was quite restrained prior to the talk, as I noticed there were partybags in one corner, which meant I did no stealing or anything beforehand.

Constable & Robinson went first, and I’d not realised that books on prescription, which I have heard of, is for non-fiction self-help type books, rather than patients being made to feel better after a dose of Pride and Prejudice…

They are big on halogen oven books. (Don’t ask.) They are the leaders in cosy crime. You can have books on WWII pets for Christmas. Obviously. C & R have begun offering children’s books, and they had an instructive video on how to fight zombies. (Head removal is recommended.) Gross. Shaun Ryder on UFOs. (It would have helped if I knew who Shaun Ryder is.) Joan Collins is nearly 80, in case you wanted to know. They have a book titled Going on a Bar Hunt. Droll.

This being very much a presentation for booksellers, I now know a lot more about which books are commercial, something I rarely consider in my narrow little world. There will be joke books for Christmas. And they have just begun a relationship with Brian McGilloway, who I am very interested in.

Vivian French bookmark

On to Walker Books, who are planning a picture book party. I think that means they have lots of picture books to offer. Vivian French has something new going; Stargirl Academy. Looks good. Pink. Anthony Browne is a Marmite author, which I can understand. That gorilla still scares me.

Cassandra Clare was there last year, before she grew so big that she doesn’t do this kind of talk. She has a film on the way. Nice for her.

Walker have travel guides, and there is new stuff for fans of GHMILY (Guess How Much I Love You books). Mumsnet have done a story collection. In fact, I reckon there is one thing parents want more than anything else. They want their children to fall asleep. Lots of books for that purpose.

Manatees and bears. A book about someone pecking (I’m thinking – hoping – woodpecker) all the way through.  Going on a Bear Hunt is out again. Michael Morpurgo will be 70, and four of his books are being re-issued, including one about funny old men who are famous artists.

Speaking of funny, Tommy Donbavand has a new series called Fangs. Walker are really really really really thrilled to be working with Anthony McGowan and his new book Hello Darkness. Patrick Ness wasn’t there except on video, where he did his best to sound interesting while not giving too much away about his new novel More Than This. His Chaos trilogy, meanwhile, is being revamped for old people.

My notes say ‘spider skeleton.’ I think there’s a book about things like spider skeletons. Kate DiCamillo and her dog spoke to us all the way from their Minneapolis dining room. While the dog made dog noises, Kate told us about her mother’s obsession with her 1952 vacuum cleaner and what would happen to it after she died. Kate’s new book Flora and Ulysses also features squirrels.

Anthony Horowitz has finally come to the end of his Power of Five books, so has had time to write Russian Roulette, the Alex Rider prequel he has had in mind for absolutely ages. He is quite satisfied with it.

Lizzy Bennet (I apologise for sounding so informal) wrote a diary in her pre-Darcy days, which will give us an opportunity to find out all kinds of stuff.

Finally, Walker are publishing the Little Island imprint, which is foreign fiction. I spied a Swedish title in among the covers they showed us, and think it’s high time there are more books from other countries.

Walker Books autumn books

As you can see, they had a lot to tell us. They hadn’t rehearsed, so were surprised to find it took them so long. But at the end there were canapés and more drinks and even a few authors; Steve Tasane, Sarah Webb and Katy Moran. Someone else, too. At least I think there was.

Wally bag

I grabbed my partybag and hobbled away home. There was NO handrail on the way out either…

Writing for children

I can’t believe it’s almost five years since my Arvon course. It was one of those things I very much wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t use up funds while there was no money coming in. But I felt it so very strongly that in the end I signed up anyway, when there was just the one place left at Lumb Bank.

Arvon, Lumb Bank

Of course, I didn’t do writing for children. Mine was a sort of non-fiction, general course, which suited me just fine. I see that in this year’s programme they have something for people wanting to get started on blogs and other online writing.

In 2007 I think they offered one, possibly two, weeks for hopeful children’s writers. This year I was impressed to see they do four, and that’s before I discovered it’s actually six weeks. Three of writing for children, two for young adults and one for young people. That’s a lot. It must be due to popular demand, and why wouldn’t people want to come and spend a week in the company of real children’s authors tutoring a group of likeminded budding writers?

I heard about Arvon when Caroline Lawrence reported on having just taught at one of their centres. And I believe she had previously done one of their courses herself. That seems to be the way it is. Lots of current authors have been, and many are now taking up tutoring as the next step.

Just look at who you could rub shoulders with in a kitchen in some beautiful countryside setting; Julia Golding and Marcus Sedgwick, with Mary Hoffman as the midweek special. Or there’s Malachy Doyle and Polly Dunbar, with guest star Anthony Browne. It’s not everywhere you get to hobnob with Children’s Laureates, ex- or otherwise. The two MBs, Malorie Blackman and Melvin Burgess, with Aussie special Simmone Howell. Now that one would be really interesting!

You could have Joan Lennon and Paul Magrs, with yet another Laureate, Julia Donaldson. Martyn Bedford with Celia Rees, and Bali Rai doing the star turn. And finally Gillian Cross and Steve Voake, with guest dramatist Christopher William Hill.

If laureates are your thing, there is always the hope of a week with Carol Ann Duffy, but then you really have to be good. At poetry, I mean. That one is decided on the quality of your poems. Which is not going to be me.

Plus any other kind of writing. All with people who know their stuff. It isn’t cheap, but there are schemes for financial assistance. No internet, and you have to cook your own dinner in groups, so better hope for budding writers who can peel potatoes.

Ms M at Lumb Bank

(We had our own laureate connection – on wall, above – during my week. That’s as well as the house having belonged to a former Poet Laureate.)

‘Thank goodness I became a children’s writer’ – Jacqueline Wilson at Seven Stories

The first thing I did in Newcastle was litter the station, and I don’t mean by simply being there. Was afraid I’d be arrested if I enquired about their (seemingly non-existent) litter bins. That’s my pear core, in case you were wondering.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Yes, I finally made my way not just to Newcastle, but to the fantastic Seven Stories. It’s shocking that I’ve taken this long, but at least I had the most incredibly good day once I went. They have a new exhibition (opens to the public on Saturday) on the life of Jacqueline Wilson, complete with her childhood bedroom, the pink chaise longue on which she writes her books, and some replica fluffy cat impostors. Even her childhood monkeys were present.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

You can also admire the green dress Sapphire Battersea wears, meet Radish the famous rabbit, and sit on the Dumping Ground sofa, fresh off the latest BBC series of Tracy Beaker.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I very nearly said hello to someone I recognised on the press tour. Luckily I didn’t. I paused long enough to work out who she was, and the only reason I ‘knew’ Kirsten O’Brien is my misspent middle age in front of CBBC. I had also nursed vague hopes of ending up on Blue Peter (this coming Monday), but not only was it something they filmed earlier, but it was so early as to have been ‘yesterday’ even when I was there.

Insisting on your child being tidy will most likely backfire. The young Jacqueline had to put away all her dolls into her chest of drawers every evening, which will be why she now surrounds herself with dolls all over her house. And after the end of the exhibition she hopes to buy back the picture that the tireless people at Seven Stories managed to find on eBay. (Where else?)

After the press conference where Nick Sharratt needed to ‘shut up before I blub,’ we queued up to have our books signed. Nick seemed to be aware of having featured on Bookwitch before (I thought we’d been so discreet…), and Jacqueline said she also wanted to be called Bookwitch. Sorry, there can only be one and that’s me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories with Nick Sharratt

Nick admitted to having done 170 pictures for the next book, The Worst Thing About My Sister, so that’s something to look forward to. And right now Jacqueline is seven chapters into the third Hetty Feather book, which is another nice thing to look forward to.

For the photocall I did what one has to do under these circumstances. I hid behind the pros, and piggybacked off their fancy flash equipment. It would also help if I learned the difference between the button that takes pictures and the on-off button.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

More filming and interviewing was necessary after this and us ordinary visitors had some spare time, so me and some magazine people from Dundee spent a while riding the lift up and down in a fruitless search for where we needed to go next. Random’s Philippa Dickinson was found, and then lost again. Eventually it was teatime and we repaired to the café. I’d like to think I was first in because I needed to take photos of the food before it was all eaten.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

I hid in a corner with my plate, and that’s how I met the B family from Leeds. Lovely people, despite some trouser issues… I found out why they were there, and I also learned who the two boys milling about were. I clearly haven’t been wasting as much time in front of the television as I used to. They are the stars of the current Tracy Beaker series, and the B girls were very excited. (Chris Slater and Joe Maw, if you have to know. Polite boys. They even shook hands. With each other.)

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

The tea was wonderful! So often these things look good and taste of cardboard. Here they looked good and tasted great. (I ate too much again, but only with a view to surviving until I got home late.) And the two women in front of me looked particularly Swedish, and so did the boy with them. But you can’t go around accusing people of being Swedish all the time.

On the other hand, when they then speak Swedish behind your back, it’s perfectly all right to accost them for a chat. At that very moment I worked out that the younger one was Brita Granström, the illustrator who I have just missed at so many events, and she was with her mother and one of her sons.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

We met in the attic, as you do, where someone had spent hours tying large bows on the chairs. As you do. Very pretty. The whole attic was lovely, with books hanging from the ceiling and special purple sofas just for me.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

It was speech time. Lots of speeches, all admirably short and to the point, and just right. We were shown an excerpt from the film a group of teenage girls had made about Jacqueline, which was excellent. I got the impression that Jacqueline and Nick both come to Seven Stories quite often, and they spoke of the work in the community done by Seven Stories.

Jacqueline’s speech was ‘short and sweet’ and then Nick started blubbing again. This time the rest of us joined in. It was good, and it was special. Time for a good cry. So it was lucky that Jacqueline once saved Nick from a herd of stampeding heifers. Working together has been good, but it’s their friendship that matters the most.

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

In place of ribbons to cut, they were given flowers. Nick’s matched his orange tie and lime green shirt. And surprisingly Jacqueline was wearing black again, but what a dress! She always hoped to be a successful writer one day, but she never imagined she’d have her own exhibition.

It was a good day. Super-organiser Nicky Potter and Lindsey Fraser shared a taxi back to the station with me. Lindsey bought us tea, and to make sure we didn’t expire en route for our homes, she also equipped us with flapjacks. Large ones. The children’s books world is a nice one. Did I ever mention that?

Bookwitch bites #55

On the move.

As you may have gathered, I am on the move again. It’s just a brief trip to Sweden to mow the lawn. You know. And it really wasn’t long ago that I returned home from some trip or other and decided I never wanted to go anywhere again. Or at least for a long long time. Sometimes it’s best when ‘nothing’ happens.

Another recent thought was that I want things to be neat and tidy. So, I would set about tidying and pruning. A little.

It was at that point Son turned up bearing all his worldly goods that weren’t already with us. Plus some of Dodo’s, which just slunk in for the fun of it.

And here we are, Son and witch, on our lawnmower-related travels, a mere five days later. Mad, is what it is. Barely a thing has been put in place, which means that now is not the time to go gallivanting.

Helen Grant has also made a move. This week saw the Grants, including the little Grants and the Grant pets, make the long drive from Belgium to Scotland, where their new home is. Moving is one of the most fraught things you do in life, and gerbils don’t make it any easier.

Moving wasn’t the only thing Helen got up to in early June. Her third novel was published, and that’s the sort of thing that can be quite exhausting on its own. Wish Me Dead, is finally here, and I truly hope both the move and the book will prove to be successful.

The Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne, moved out of his laureate’s office and Julia Donaldson moved in. There has been discussions on who is best suited to do this laureate stuff, and there is quite a lot of truth in what someone said about picking a name that people have heard of. Julia will be very well known to many readers and their parents. I have seen her queues, so I know. They barely move.

If you don’t get a move on right now, you won’t be in with a chance of winning Caroline Lawrence’s first Western Mystery. Chop chop!

Finally, the Harry Potter actors are moving on, and they have one word to say about that.

Play the shape game

This is actually a book which encourages you to draw in it. I should have had one when I was the right age to draw in books.

The age I was when I really did look at the shape – and size – of things. In detail. It was January 5th, 1959 and I didn’t have a toy like these newfangled ‘fit the round peg in the square hole’ ones. Didn’t matter. I had a raisin. And a nostril.

You get the picture?

There I was, sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen of Grandfather-of-witch. It was Twelfth Night and he was babysitting. All the others were out making themselves beautiful for the big dinner and dance that night. I wasn’t invited, as I was only two. And a half. Old enough to be annoyed at the lack of inclusion.

Anyway, I realised that the raisin I held in my hand was just the right size and shape for my nostril, so up and in it went. And that’s all. It wouldn’t come out and Grandfather-of-witch was not happy.

When Mother-of-witch returned from the hairdresser’s we had to go straight out for some emergency raisin-removal by some doctor or other who was still on duty on this public holiday eve. Him and his half dozen nurses who held me down. I’ve never been particularly brave.

But you can’t fault my eye for shape matching.

Play the shape game

Back to Anthony Browne, who came up with these shapes that he asked various famous people to do their own picture from. Lots of authors, as well as actors and other celebrities too numerous to tag here, have drawn and played, all in the name of charity.

Bookwitch bites #19

I just have to point out the wonderful Mythic Friday Interview with Anne Rooney over at Scribble City Central. They have all been good up to now, with the possible exception of the witchy one in mid-May. But how to follow this one?

We have a Garth Nix alert. He’s coming. Garth will be in the UK for a short tour in August, starting with Seven Stories in Newcastle, and then going on to the Edinburgh BookFest and then to Bath and Norwich. I know very little about Garth, other than that he seems to have really keen fans. I’ll know more after his Edinburgh event. I hope.

Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne has been persuading the great and the good among his colleagues and other famous people to be creative with crayons and things. In other words, they appear to have gone all arty and the fruits of this artiness is offered in an auction which ends tomorrow. Check the piggybank and put in a bid before it’s too late. I’m afraid I have already missed the boat, so to speak.

To finish, a photo especially for Sara O’Leary. I’m ashamed to say that the mirror smoothness of the sea has been in shorter supply than previously. But the scene below was exciting, at least. And it did have the distinct advantage of getting us thoroughly wet without us going into the water. One has to be grateful for small things.

Surfing in the sand dunes