Tag Archives: David MacPhail

White Feather

It is the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 years on. I can’t think of a better way to mark it than with White Feather by mother and son Catherine and David MacPhail.

Catherine & David MacPhail, White Feather

Ostensibly about a coward soldier in WWI, we discover early on that Charlie, who was shot as a deserter, is believed by his mother and younger brother Tony to be nothing of the kind. And the awful thing is that neighbours even handed Tony a white feather, on behalf of his dead brother.

Tony sets out to discover what might have happened to Charlie, and to clear his name. This is a short, dyslexia friendly, story, but it packs a lot into those few pages.

And today we can think back to Charlie’s terrible fate, and that of many other unfortunate soldiers, and we know they were all brave, whether or not they ran away from the fighting. How could anyone thrive on the horrors of this war? Today we know that it didn’t stop other wars from happening.

Let’s remember all who suffered through this time, one hundred years ago. They did it for us. What have we done for them?

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From lunch to launch – Mary, Queen of Scots style

A hug from a man wearing a Mary, Queen of Scots t-shirt is exactly what a witch requires on entering Waterstones Argyle Street in Glasgow, having cut her travelling uncharacteristically close. The man was, of course, Mr B who always supports his wife’s latest book launch with a new personalised item of clothing. Last night we were there for Theresa Breslin’s new picture book, Mary, Queen of Scots, Escape From Lochleven Castle.

Theresa Breslin

I was returning a scarf left behind by Mrs B at Bookwitch Towers the day before, but judging by how many people were there, it won’t have been done on purpose so I would come and launch the book with her.

Mary, Queen of Scots cupcakes

Encountered David MacPhail eyeing up the specially baked little cupcakes. They were for the children! Found a good chair to sit in and then switched to the one that appeared next to it, thereby engineering a more comfortable chair for me, and a free seat next to me for David. Well, he couldn’t eat all those cakes standing up, could he?

People

Apparently children today don’t have an interest in Mary, Queen of Scots. It’s because they don’t know her. This new book is intended to introduce them to Mary, so that when they next encounter a sign proudly claiming that ‘Mary, Queen of Scots, slept here’ they might get a little excited. It’s a picture book – illustrations by Teresa Martinez – but much of what happened to Mary is not exactly child friendly, so Theresa carefully chose Mary’s escape from Lochleven Castle as a safe topic, with no backs being stabbed, or anything.

An early review from a very young lady pointed out that it would have been good to know why Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven…

Quite.

Theresa compared Mary’s life to that of Diana, the way she had to live her life being watched by everyone. She mentioned how all Mary’s half-siblings fought for power, and how her half-brother believed that he could seize power by telling her what to do.

Theresa Breslin

After a short reading from the book, her publishers gave Theresa flowers, and then it was time for the book signing. And it was pointed out to us that we should remember to pay for the book before leaving!

Theresa Breslin and David MacPhail

There was quite a bit of evening left, but Theresa needed it in order to sign all those books. The queue was massive. I had plenty of time to chat some more to David, and I was also introduced to Victoria Williamson. Much interesting stuff on writing and publishing was said, and when David went to get his book signed at last, I liberated the last cupcake. (I’m short, so nearly a child.) Seems no one had ‘had their tea’ yet and they were all starving.

Theresa Breslin and Mr B, with the team from Floris

I believe I’m beginning to recognise members of the ‘Breslin’ clan now, and it’s good to see all the grandchildren turning out for every new book.

Theresa Breslin

I decided to leave before they locked us in, only to discover they had locked us in, but a big bunch of keys was produced, and as I walked up Buchanan Street I joined all the other people being chucked out of Glasgow’s shops.

It was a wonderfully sunny evening, and my train ride home was beautiful. Those Ochils… I wonder if Mary saw them like that?

Meeting Danny the Granny Slayer

Charlotte Square comes to Cumbernauld. I might have mentioned before that the Edinburgh International Book Festival have decided to branch out, and are touring five New Towns in Scotland over the next year and a half, with little pop-up festivals for a weekend, and this is the Cumbernauld weekend. The first weekend, and with a really good looking programme.

I could have wanted to do more, but limited myself to the children’s event on Saturday morning. I couldn’t resist David MacPhail, Lari Don, Barry Hutchison and Jenny Colgan. Barry unfortunately couldn’t come and was replaced by Mark A Smith, but that was also fine. Not that I knew Mark, but he had a very jolly song for us.

Lari Don and Macastory

As did Macastory; two oddly dressed men from the future who sang a lot, and required hands to be clapped and shoulders shaken and other energetic stuff. The venue got changed to the pop-up Waterstones in the shopping precinct, which I thought was odd until I understood there was no ‘real’ Waterstones there. I did see the yellow buckets I’d been told about by Kirkland Ciccone, however.

The Resident IT Consultant came along to make sure I found the way, and he discussed getting lost – or not – with David MacPhail as we waited. David was first up and had some fun Vikings he told us about. I liked the polite one best, who apparently was modelled on David himself… He read a bit from one of his Thorfinn books, and then he told those brave enough to ask, what their Viking names would be. We had Danny the Granny Slayer on the front row.

David Macphail

Lari Don came next and talked about her Spellchasers trilogy (I know, I covered this a few weeks ago), and she wanted to know if any of us had the urge to be turned into an animal. One girl wanted to be a dragon, with an interesting idea for how to deal with the 45th President while in her dragon state. Long live creativity!

Lari Don

Mark A Smith followed, talking about his hero Slugboy, who seems to be some kind of anti-superhero. Unless I got that wrong. He Slugboys it out of St Andrews, which I felt was rather posh for slugs. Mark, as I said, had a song written about his hero, which we had to sing, to the tune of Glory glory halleluja, so it was terribly uplifting and all that, as well as a clever idea for audience participation.

Mark A Smith

Last but not least we had Jenny Colgan, who brought ‘her child to work’ and then proceeded to use her – fairly willing – son to hold the iPad to illustrate her Polly and the Puffin story as she read it to us. We had to do the puffin noises, so thank goodness for Macastory who didn’t seem to mind making fools of themselves.

Jenny Colgan

They also provided fun interludes, with songs and commentary, and we learned some sad facts about the future.

And that was it. The Resident IT Consultant led me safely back to the car (free parking in Cumbernauld!) with only one wrong turn. I’m hoping the authors were suitably accompanied back to somewhere they wanted to be, too. If not, there are authors to be discovered in downtown Cumbernauld.

Cumbernauld New Town Hall

Yeti On The Loose

David MacPhail, Yeti On The Loose

Who doesn’t love a yeti? They might be large and a little hard to handle on occasion, but we love them, really. David MacPhail has written a short and funny story about a yeti smuggled into Britain. It’s exactly the kind of tale that young readers – probably mostly boys – will love.

Pippa and her brother Brian have an unpleasant great uncle, who unexpectedly returns from ten years abroad, accompanied by a rather large trunk. It’s heavy too. There are smells. There are noises. Pippa and Brian have to investigate. Of course they do.

Things will never be the same again. The children are both intelligent and caring, unlike most of their relatives, whom we meet at a family wedding. The question is who will win? Brian and Pippa, the yeti or great uncle Jeremy? Will their cousin Tonga live happily ever after?

You can never be too well dressed.

The long day

You can’t get into Charlotte Square before 9.30. I’d do well to remember that, and I could – and should – stay in bed for longer. But a witch can always read, so on Tuesday morning time was killed with Theresa Breslin’s Ghost Soldier.

Thanks to Theresa’s generosity I was able to be her husband for the morning. Not as nice a one as her regular Mr B, but I did my best. And I can confirm that while I was in the authors’ events prep area, I didn’t hear anything. At all.

Theresa Breslin, The School Librarian and Mary Hooper

Then I went along to Theresa’s school event with Mary Hooper, and afterwards in the bookshop I listened in amazement as Theresa asked a female fan (obviously in her upper teens) if she was the school librarian  – from one of the visiting schools. It was quite clear that she was a mature upper secondary school student. No. Apparently she was the head teacher. (The librarian was the greyhaired ponytailed gent next to her.)

Eating a sandwich very fast before my next event, I ended up letting four Swedes share my table. I didn’t share my Swedish-ness with them, however. I listened as they speculated on the nature of Charlotte Square. Apparently it’s a bookfair of some kind. ‘But where are the books?’ one of them asked. Quite. The book festival as a mere coffeeshop for tourists.

Ran into Keith Charters, who was clutching 60 copies of  David MacPhail’s Yeti On the Loose. Did some heavy hinting, which resulted in Keith handing over 59 copies to the bookshop. I mean, he had promised me one ages ago.

After school event no.2 I chatted a little with Linda Newbery, Tony Bradman and Paul Dowswell, getting my anthology signed by all three, each in the right places. Then went in search of Cathy MacPhail’s son David, and found him where I thought he’d be but not where Keith had said, along with his mother and a lovely baby. I’d been told he’d be a slightly taller version of his mum, which as Cathy drily pointed out wasn’t hard to achieve. I forgot to take a picture, but got my Yeti signed with an extra generous RAAAAAR! Then I admired the baby.

Wrote yesterday’s onsite blog post, before learning that Son and Dodo were coming over to entertain me, and to have coffee. It had got unexpectedly warm and sunny, and Son complained. We chatted, saw Ian Rankin arrive, noticed the longbearded gent from earlier years, and came to the conclusion that the scones which used to be of almost home made quality, were just dry and boring.

Son and Dodo went off to search for more Maisie books, and I had my Dyslexia event to go to. Glimpsed Nicola Morgan and Val McDermid (not together) and then it rained and got unexpectedly cold. I repaired to the yurt for a restorative sandwich and an even more restorative sip of cola to keep me awake, as well as find that cardigan I suddenly needed.

Arne Dahl

Anne Cassidy

Waited for Arne Dahl to turn up for his photocall, and did the best I could when he did, considering how dark and wet it was. He seemed bemused by the attention. While waiting for Arne’s event with John Harvey (whom I’d have snapped too, had I known who he was…) I walked over to the children’s bookshop and caught Anne Cassidy and Emma Haughton (who does not have long brown hair, after all) signing post-event.

Emma Haughton

And after a much longer day than someone my age should attempt, I limped along Princes Street for my late train home. Someone at Waverley told me to smile. He’s lucky I’m a peaceful sort of witch.