Tag Archives: David Walliams

Whoever had, has been given more

Until some years ago I admit I often felt grumpy when seeing among the books most sold during the year, the names of Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson. I recognised their greatness and that being ‘names’ and very popular, it made sense that adults bought lots of their books for little readers.

I just wanted there to be a few more children’s authors on the lists. Usually there was someone, but not many.

But at least they were there, alongside Jacky and Julia.

Now I feel grumpy beyond belief when having a quick look at the 2018 list of the 100 bestselling books of the year.

Yes, I am glad that children’s books make up a third of that top list. Although I have to take the Guardian’s word for that, since I was unable to identify all 33. And that’s so wrong. As the Bookwitch, even if I haven’t read them, I ought to know who’s who.

A third of the third – i.e. 11 of the bestselling titles – belong to the well known comedian David Walliams. This is wrong in so many ways. Jeff Kinney is there, but I can allow that. Three Harry Potters, thank goodness, one Julia Donaldson, one Kes Gray. Also one Michael Bond and Wonder by R J Palacio, both of which will be movie-related.

And some more celebrity-penned books, not all of which I actually recognise, despite people’s fame.

It seems both wrong, and unkind, to leave 2018 in a bit of an angry mood, but this is not right. Children deserve better. The world is full of really good books. I hope many of them found their way into children’s hands anyway, despite the big names hogging everyone’s attention.

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How to rewrite books, and other Christmas television

Due to, erm, technical difficulties when trying to access Christmas University Challenge, we were faced with something unpleasant on live television last night. Several times, due to several technical hitches, before Jeremy Paxman was able to tease some more of his volunteer ‘celebrities.’ As he said, some of them really weren’t very good at this.

The unpleasant live snippets happened around a quarter to eight on Boxing Day on BBC One. Without thinking very much about it, I registered I was seeing something I really would not choose to watch. At any time. Then it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing; the 2018 Christmas David Walliams children’s book dramatisation. In a way I was glad, because it explained why I found it so unpalatable.

On social media I read people’s comments on the new ABC Murders, with the new Poirot. They really didn’t seem to like it. It wasn’t merely a case of the BBC rewriting an Agatha Christie, but a dislike for an un-Poirot-like Poirot, and getting the retro bits wrong, and the cosy murders were too noir. Or so I believe, anyway. I might not bother, but will stick with Paxman.

We watched Carols from King’s on Christmas Eve, followed by the reindeer in Norway, which struck me as a thoroughly Nordic kind of entertainment. Slow. Cold and white. But sort of fascinating. The reindeer herders had to stop traffic on the E6 for them to cross the road. Luckily it’s not as busy in northern Norway as it is in our bit of Sweden, or even near Rome, when the E6 went to Rome. (I’m not sure why and when it stopped. The E6. To Rome.)

When we arrived at Son’s and Dodo’s on Christmas Day, we discovered the elder Dodos were watching Carols from King’s. That was swiftly followed by the full Reindeer walking through Norway, again. They crossed the E6 again. Again, it was quite restful as entertainment goes. And much pleasanter than the DW misogyny the following day.

All those ghastly women

Now, I obviously don’t mean that. But it doesn’t mean that certain people don’t think along those lines.

Not having read anything by David Walliams, I am no expert. But it appears he’s not keen on women. If they get a mention in his books, it’s the horror version of the female of the species.

This is so wrong. No one should write children’s books if they can’t get rid of their unwanted women in a more elegant way. And if the author can’t do it, perhaps an enlightened editor could suggest a less crude way of describing, and even removing, any surplus females?

I accept that mothers, even grandmothers, and maybe the odd sister, could get in the way of the character[s] in some stories. They could be killed without being described as grotesque. The [child] character could be distanced from its females in some other way. This has always been done.

There’s an author I’ve read at least a couple of books by, and the reason it didn’t end up being more, was I didn’t care for the unpleasant way he dealt with the women. I just hadn’t realised that DW now does something similar.

And of course, Roald Dahl, hero to so many, had a way with women too. I remember reading and re-reading the bit where the plan is to poison the grandmother in George’s Marvellous Medicine, simply because I couldn’t believe you were allowed to put something like that in a children’s book. But I suppose if the book’s old enough, and ‘classic’ enough, you can be [c]rude to women.

That way the future is secure. There will be more writers who believe that this is quite an OK thing to do.

Walliams and the scandal

There are gay children’s authors. Yes, really. Not so odd, as there are plenty of gay non-authors as well. I understand that because they are people who write for innocents, some publishers want to keep their sexuality a secret. Whether gatekeepers such as parents might be aware of their child’s favourite author’s inclination is something I don’t know. If they do, my guess is that parents find this abhorrent, I mean grown-up, enough to keep quiet about.

Then there is at least one children’s author whose behaviour has now turned out to be a lot more scandalous than even I had credited him with. I’m actually disappointed. I’d much rather have found that David Walliams walked out of his first gig at the Presidents Club, head held high, shocked at what went on there. But it seems he didn’t, as the event this week wasn’t his first. I suppose it must have been the lure of being paid £150 to entertain rich men that became so irresistible.

Or maybe the famous comedian was paid more than the attractive young ladies in scanty clothing? Or did he do it for free? For the honour, so to speak.

What I’d like to know is what his publishers are going to do about all this. Whether his young readers find out about these goings-on, their parents will know. Will they stop buying his books, or are they so grateful that little Jack reads, that they can overlook the scandal? Is DW a more decent person in their eyes than someone who is gay?

I’m relieved that DW was described as a comedian in this instance, rather than a children’s author. Although, since you could pay money to name a character in one of his books… Well, I don’t know. Is this opportunity now gone, the same way the money for Great Ormond Street Hospital was given up?

As for most of the other men at the Dorchester, I’m not surprised they did what they did. Merely surprised that they are stupid enough to believe they won’t be found out, or that if they are, that people won’t mind.

What (not) to buy in 2018?

It was the Resident IT Consultant who mentioned it first. He noted that that David Walliams seemed to be everywhere in the top 100 books sold in 2017. I wasn’t surprised, but wish I had been. I’ve not counted the DW books on the list. Daughter did, but reckoned I probably didn’t want to hear how many.

I am pleased that a children’s book came second on that list. (Also pleased that it was – considerably – outsold by Jamie Oliver.) But I really would have wanted it to be a different book. I know; it’s good that children read. Or at least that someone is buying the books, whether or not they get read.

If it was any other book, I’d also be happy for the author who was financially rewarded, along with his or her publisher.

To return to my previously mentioned lesson learned from Random House, we should be grateful these books make money, because they help publish other books that simply don’t sell in great numbers. Well, all I can say is that on the strength of the DW sales, HarperCollins should be able to support an awful lot of ‘smaller’ books. Children’s books at that.

I don’t know this, but how much of such revenue goes to happy shareholders? Instead of being re-invested in more book products. I’m aware that DW has a past of doing charitable things, even if that was a stunt requiring other people to cough up the cash. Does he support any worthy causes with the income from his books?

In the same Guardian there was an article about a businessman who has received rather a large bonus, an amount of money that it was suggested could do a lot of good if used to solve the sad state of the homeless. My guess is he won’t do this. (Although, think of how he’d be remembered for all time – in a positive way – if he did!)

So, DW and publisher: Is there any likelihood of you doing this kind of good deed? We only require so much money for our own needs.

But back to the list. I’ve not read much on it. This is usually the case, as most of the big sellers are generally adult novels I don’t have time for, or recipe books and biographies of or by people I’ve barely heard of.

This year Philip Pullman is in tenth place and I’ve read his book. Of older books there’s obviously Harry Potter, and I have at some point looked at a Where’s Wally and the Wimpy Kids books.

The usual suspects such as Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Dan Brown, are there; but interspersed with countless DW titles. Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, often the biggest contributors to children’s books on the list of bestsellers, are at the bottom end. There is Wonder, which presumably has reappeared because of the recent film.

While horrified in general, I am hoping that this willingness to buy lots of children’s books will continue. And I’m hoping for more diverse purchases, which will be made possible only when publishers don’t only push celebrity titles. I’d like for there to be more excellent children’s titles, but the truth is that there are countless terrific books already in existence. They ‘merely’ need to be sold to the buyers of books. Use some of that money on telling the world about your other writers.

I’d like to mention a few recent HarperCollins books here as examples, but I’ve not been told about many. The new Oliver Jeffers book was ‘sold’ to me. I asked about the Skulduggery Pleasant book myself when I discovered its existence. I was offered an adult crime novel on the suggestion by the author. And someone emailed me to say she was leaving the company. This is not to say there weren’t heaps and heaps of great books. Just that there was no publicity coming my way, and possibly not going to others either.

Happy New Reading in 2018!!!

What they bought

Feeling grumpy again. And I’m going to ignore Thumper’s mother for a few minutes.

It is a good thing that of the 100 biggest selling books in 2016 17 were children’s books. I reckon that’s more than it used to be. But I am trying to work out if I believe it’s a good thing that eight of them are by David Walliams.

Five are by J K Rowling, two are Jeff Kinney’s and there’s a Mick Inkpen and a Roald Dahl. The last two were World Book Day books, which might explain the numbers.

On the one hand, I like that people are buying books for children, and I like the fact that lots of children are reading. But I would love for many more of those books to be by other authors.

I can understand why the book business bow and scrape to David Walliams. He brings in a lot of money. And presumably, if publishers didn’t go for his books, there wouldn’t be the same number by others sold, nor even published.

But I do mind. If the books are bought because they truly are what a child wants, then OK. I hope that after they will move on to other kinds of books, by other writers. Writers who take more part in the writing process.

But I hate the fact that books are bought because you recognise the name off television. And not in a literary way.

I’m relieved that the top selling spot is occupied by a Harry Potter related book. Anything to avoid the celebrity book effect.

As long as children read… And I suppose, as long as someone buys books for them. I remember reading pretty light and flimsy books myself, and craving more. They were all by different authors, however, and many of the books were borrowed. It’s the fact that it appears that children’s publishing stands and falls with one man that bothers me.

I hope his success means there is plenty of money to put into publishing real children’s books.

Bookwitch bites #137

No, no, no. David Walliams is not ‘the biggest name in children’s books.’ He just isn’t. He’s a famous man, and he writes books many children enjoy, and they sell well. But he is not the biggest, no matter what festivals such as Bath say in their sales emails. I realise they are happy to have him coming, and I’m glad they are happy, but for bigness we need to look elsewhere. Or even in their own festival programme, where surely Michael Morpurgo is a not inconsiderable name.

Michael, since we’ve moved on to him, opened an exhibition at Seven Stories this weekend. I’d have loved to go, but somehow Newcastle appeared to be further away than I had hoped. I’m guessing it’s a similarly informative exhibition about Michael and his work, rather like the Jacqueline Wilson one a few years ago. It should be well worth going to.

Moving on to adult crime, Marnie Riches is yet again in with a chance of winning an award for her George McKenzie books. This time it’s the Tess Gerritsen Award for Best Series, and if you click here you can vote for her. (Or someone else, should you be so minded…) I did, and it was easy. Marnie might want to kiss you for it, or so she says, but if you run fast enough this can – hopefully – be avoided.

There’s no end to awards that can be won, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for Adrian McKinty and his Rain Dogs in the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award. His publisher has made this page for Adrian, where you can read about when he met Jimmy Savile, as well as Adrian’s future with colouring books. I’m sure it’s going to be bright.