Tag Archives: B R Collins

Odyssey – the Aarhus 39

We have a lot in common. But also, we don’t. That’s no bad thing, though.

Daniel Hahn has edited this collection of translated short stories. I think there are 21 in this, the older, group of stories of journeys from around Europe. If the list of names looks longer than 21, that is because the stories have both illustrators and translators as well as authors. So it’s been a big job to do, this collaboration with the Hay Festival in Aarhus. The Aarhus 39 stands for all the authors involved, as there is a collection for younger readers as well. (And personally I’d prefer to write Århus, but I can’t have everything.)

Odyssey - Aarhus 39

Anyway, this is very interesting. Daniel points out how similar [young] people are, wherever they come from. I agree, but it’s also obvious that we are different. Equal in worth and importance, but a little bit just ourselves.

Another thing about all the languages the stories were written in. You look at the name of the author and you think you know what language they use. But you could be wrong. So many seem to have made a journey or two themselves, and their stories are in a new language. This is fascinating and points to a new kind of Europe.

The Nordic short stories seem to be more into drugs, bullying and illegal behaviour. Further south it is more weird and entertaining. But none of that matters; they are stories about being young, and the journeys are either actual journeys, or about someone learning something about themselves.

I can’t possibly describe them, either their contents or the style. There are too many and they are too varied. The stories are short (yes, that is what a short story is), and mostly easy to read, and interestingly illustrated. They make you think.

If I were to criticise anything, it’s the size of the font. It is too small. And the very worthwhile list of all the contributors at the back; well that font is even smaller and made my eyes ache. But this is such a good idea, and we want more of it.

Just in bigger print.

Look out for…

… these people. Not that they are dangerous, but I think they are names in the children’s book world that are on the way up.

I quite like the idea of being an oracle, and my witchy feelings tell me that there are some authors who will do well in the next few years. (And I don’t mean you will all be as rich as you deserve, but more that you will produce great books.)

My criteria for choosing has been writers of two books, or thereabouts. So, enough to go by but not too well known yet. They are Nick Green, Gillian Philip, B R Collins and Helen Grant. And as a little guess from me, I think that newcomer Keren David, whose first book is out next week, is a name to take note of.

Perhaps I can return to this topic in a few years’ time and see how things have turned out.

A Trick of the Dark

Bridget Collins’ second book reminded me a little of Tim Bowler. Or rather, of his books. It’s got a modern setting, with something inexplicable happening. Some teenage angst and the supernatural.

A Trick of the Dark

I know you can’t really explain the supernatural, but I wouldn’t have minded understanding A Trick of the Dark a little better. I was left with questions. Had the story ended differently I would have been prepared to read a more ordinary meaning into what happened.

It’s almost purely about teen brother and sister Zach and Annis, and after a while I found myself longing for more characters. Their inadequate parents are there to begin with, but even for fictional purposes I found them wanting. There are a few very minor characters at first, who then just disappear. There is a neighbour/friend at the end, and by then I was desperate for people, so he was most welcome.

This is a dysfunctional family, but mainly on a superficial level. Something odd happens to Zach, witnessed by Annis. The rest of the plot is about what follows this event, and we never really understand it. At least, I didn’t. Both teenagers fall out with the parents big time, as they struggle to grasp what’s going on.

The struggle to grasp uses up an unnecessary middle third of the book. I felt that with so much detail, surely something useful would come of it. Bridget’s first novel, The Traitor Game, was exceptionally good, with some interesting and likeable characters, and quite a lot of action on several levels. That’s why this sudden change in A Trick of the Dark really puzzled me.

Zach looks very promising initially, but his ranting throughout made me lose patience with him. Annis is desperate to please her older brother, although that’s almost impossible. And as for the parents, they are barely normal, even for fiction. So I’m left hanging.

The 2009 Branford Boase photos

Many thanks to Paul Carter, who took these photos at the Branford Boase evening at Walker Books on Thursday, and to Mary Byrne for her dedication in sending them on to the witch so very early on a Friday morning. No thanks at all to the witch, who being seriously handicapped on dial-up has had to restrain herself to only a few photos, because it would have taken most of the holiday to access many more.

There is also the embarrassing fact that while looking over all the photos, there were an awful lot of well known faces – to me – but what are their names? I went completely blank, and can’t blame it on dial-up, so it will be age related… (But I did recognise you. Honestly. We have met. And you don’t remember me either, which is only fair.)

B R Collins and Emma Matthewson

So, here are the two winners; B R Collins who wrote The Traitor Game, and Emma Matthewson, who edited it. I wonder what it’s like to do a job where the less you are noticed, the better? I rarely think of editors. (Sorry!) Because if they’ve done a good job, you can’t tell they were ever there. When they haven’t, or when it looks like they might have been on holiday that week, that’s when I moan about editors.

Ian Lamb, Bloomsbury

This lovely man is the lovely man who sent me The Traitor Game in the first place, and who then sent lots more to people on this blog who entered a competition to win a copy. Thank you Ian Lamb!

Jacqueline Wilson at the Branford Boase 2009

Here is Jacqueline Wilson, back in her own shoes. I hope Philip Pullman didn’t stretch them too much last year when he wore them. Jacqueline certainly looks very radiant in all the photos from Thursday, and this isn’t the first time now that I’ve seen her not wearing black. Nice! (Not that black isn’t nice.)

Philip Ardagh at the Branford Boase award 2009

Speaking of big shoes I’ll move seamlessly on to Philip Ardagh, who not only has the same taste in ties as Philip P, but who wears big shoes. For a reason.

(Photos © Paul Carter)

The Traitor Game wins the Branford Boase award

B R Collins

I could have been rubbing shoulders with the great and the good again, at the Branford Boase award event last night. Instead I was sitting in the Swedish sunshine, but never mind that. I’m pleased to find that another of my sudden witchy thoughts last week proved well founded, with B R Collins winning with The Traitor Game.

Having been too rushed to blog about the shortlist when it turned up, I’d half forgotten who was on it, until I went and had another look. And it’s really such a marvellous selection of first novels that I couldn’t have said which one I preferred to win, but as people may remember, I did like The Traitor Game very much.

Win a copy of The Traitor Game

The witch used to have a talent for winning the tiebreaker, if it was about guessing the number of peas in the jar or how many pages in this book, and that kind of stuff. I have no luck whatsoever, so have always assumed it was witchery. Now it’s time to turn the tables. Or something.

Over at Crime Always Pays they have these book winning capers all the time, with each question worse than the last one. The witch has won more than she has entered for, so I’m not sure what’s been happening. But that kind of funny business will not be allowed here. I have no Irish sense of humour, so will have to resort to more mundane techniques. But I can tell you the answer won’t be 42.

Eager to enter the gambling world, I sent a second email to Ian at Bloomsbury. The first, if you recall, was after chapter two. This time I begged for copies to give away, and like a lamb the nice man said yes.

So, to win a copy of The Traitor Game you won’t have to do much. See these sweets in the photo?

Boiled sweets

Leave a comment and tell me how many there are. Could be less today than when the photo was taken, as people have been known to eat sweets. But it’s the number in the picture that you need to tell me about. In case I feel like using a tiebreaker, you could also hazard a guess as to how many Maltesers Daughter put on the cake she made the other day. Sorry, no picture of cake. It got eaten. And for an added bonus, how many Smarties did she add?

I will then get the Resident IT Consultant to help me put the laptop into a hat and I will somehow find some winners. Assuming you’re using real email addresses I will write and ask the winners for where to send the book.

Comments/answers before Friday 8th of August, please.

Try this new writer

When I’d read two chapters of The Traitor Game by B R Collins, I emailed Ian at Bloomsbury to tell him how good it was, as though the man wouldn’t know. I usually wait until I’ve finished a book to say stuff like that. But anyone who has been tortured by Linda Newbery and Malorie Blackman must be good.

Sorry, that should be tutored. Bridget (that’s who B R really is, and I think J K R is enough, so no more of this initials rubbish) went on an Arvon course with Linda and Malorie, although Linda says Bridget had already written The Traitor Game by then, so won’t take any credit for the book.

The Traitor Game

Did anyone notice me saying what a good book this is? Sometimes I despair a little when the jiffybags keep coming (I’m grateful, really) and I see book after book I’m not desperately keen on reading. This time, however, the book spoke to me immediately, and I just knew it’d be good. Must be the witch in me.

The Traitor Game is about Michael and Francis. They have a secret fantasy world, which takes on a life of its own in this story. So, part of the book is fantasy, but most of it is boy problems in and out of school. Bullying and being gay, are right up there with betraying your best friend. This is set in a private school, so the background is “nice”.

And speaking of nice; Francis is very nice. It could be that real boys aren’t like him, but I do hope they are. I love him. Funny and intelligent and just wonderful. And his “twin” in the fantasy world is almost as lovely. It is a little weird with the fantasy elements, but I believe they helped make the story stronger in the end.

I hope boys will read this, whether or not it was written by a female. That must be what this initials game is all about. We all read Harry, so why not this?