Tag Archives: Debi Gliori

A Birlinn rendezvous

There is a certain freedom – not to mention a sense of adventure – in standing at a railway station as a train comes in, and you’ve got a trainload of alighting passengers to choose from. Who to go and ‘have coffee’ with. Well, to be truthful, I had already googled Sally from Birlinn, so I had an idea of who to look out for, and she knew to find a short, fat witch. And she did.

Sally was coming all the way to me, to talk about the many good children’s books Birlinn – who are an Edinburgh based publisher – are about to let loose on the world this year. I walked her to the Burgh Coffee House, as she confessed to earlier youthful trips to the Rainbow Slides in Stirling. What’s more, she came here from Linlithgow, and the less said about this lovely place and me, the better. (Actually, Sally has more or less sold me on the town, now. It has a good bookshop just by the station, apparently, so as long as I manage to get off the train in the first place…)

Joan Lennon, Silver Skin and Joe Friedman, The Secret Dog

So, Birlinn. Sally brought me books by Joan Lennon and Joe Friedman, which both look promising. She talked me through their whole 2015 catalogue, and plans include a Peter Pan graphic novel, books by Alexander McCall Smith about the young Precious Ramotswe, history by Allan Burnett, the Polish bear Wojtek, Lynne Rickards and the ever orange Tobermory Cat by Debi Gliori. There will be poetry and there will be naughty young lambs.

The books all have some connection to Scotland, be it setting or author or anything else. I knew it already, really, but it’s worth saying again, that Scotland has books all its own. It’s not just an appendix to England. If Norway can have a publishing industry, then so can Scotland.

There was a bit of gossip, too, and a secret that can’t be mentioned. And after that Sally ran for her train back to the big city, hoping that someone else would have done all the work by the time she got back to the office.

Triggers

Whenever I think of the run-up to my interview with Debi Gliori (almost six years ago!) I feel ashamed. Ashamed, because she wanted to feed Son and me, and I gave her a very long list of what not to give me. In a way it doesn’t matter. As I made clear last week, I can always not eat the chocolate dessert, but it’s easier not to in a restaurant where I won’t worry too much about anyone’s hurt feelings. But I know that if I’ve slaved over a hot stove to cook something for a visitor, and it turns out to be the one exact thing they simply can’t eat, we’d both have been happier if there’d been a list. Even a long list.

Do not feed Bookwitch

(And in the end Debi went for simple and utterly delicious and I can recommend her kitchen to anyone. Which she might not thank me for.)

But you’d think that when I cook my own dinner I’d know what to do. Or not to do. And I do, but sometimes I have my moments. On Monday I could either have put no onion in the soup, or used a little, frozen, onion. I put lots of fresh onion in instead and didn’t cook it enough, and as a result you are now not reading about James Oswald’s visit to the Stirling branch of Waterstones.

C’est la vie. Sleeping off migraines is all right, too. Apart from my date with James I have the time, so it could have been worse. Perhaps I’ll write myself a list to look at in the kitchen, before I start telling others what to do.

I’m reminded by what Asperger guru Tony Attwood told the audience at a long ago conference I attended. Some people have found they get a bit more ‘normal’ by following a fairly strict diet. Or less ‘aspie.’ Tony was having a meal out with aspie child author Luke Jackson and his mother. Luke followed this diet, so his mother asked for various things to be taken into account when ordering his food.

Tony said that after a while they became aware that Luke was behaving unexpectedly badly. They asked the waitress if any of the things they’d mentioned might have ended up in Luke’s meal anyway. It had.

‘We didn’t think you’d notice,’ she said.

We hear you, Gloria

This week I found a rather lovely video by Debi Gliori on her blog, Fiddle and Pins. I clicked on it, expecting a few minutes of something, but what I got was 25 minutes of Debi-history.

Debi Gliori video

She begins with her birth, which Debi draws with surprising accuracy (I assume she really remembers this being born stuff), and then she continues to draw her childhood and school years.

There are drawings of her pet dragon (I just knew that’s what Debi would have had) and the nuns at school, and her own first baby.

It’s all very Debi, and just as she was grateful for the library which supplied her with a lifeline in the shape of books to disappear into, there are some of us who are pretty grateful for all of Debi’s books, and those ‘doodles.’

And unlike that silly nun, I do know Debi isn’t Gloria (although it is quite a nice name).

(My own, now quite ancient, interview with Debi isn’t a patch on this video. I should have asked about her dishwasher-like birth…)

The Tobermory Cat 1 2 3

The Tobermory Cat is back. This time he – and Debi Gliori – teach young readers to count.

Debi Gliori, The Tobermory Cat 1 2 3

He’s such a hungry cat that I was reminded of Six Dinner Sid, although TC appears to have a mere five houses in which to have lunch. How he can possibly have room for snacks before dinner is beyond me. But TC is a clever and capable cat.

Still as orange as ever, TC thinks, and dreams, mainly about food, from breakfast to his bedtime drink. Between meals he fights wasps, sleeps on cars and has his photograph taken by lots of people. Whatever he does, we can count it.

This is a great start to Book Week Scotland. There are one, two, three, four, five, six days left. Isn’t that right, Tobermory Cat?

Alfie in the Garden

The best thing – for me – about little bunny Alfie’s adventure in the garden was not the exotic animals he found. (I suspect that was mainly his imagination at work.)

Debi Gliori, Alfie in the Garden

As almost always with Debi Gliori’s books, it’s the mother-child relationship that is so beautiful. Her latest picture book, Alfie in the Garden, is no exception. Little Alfie comes out to help his mum in the garden. He has a watering can, and he knows how to use it.

He goes exploring, and he is a lion. He finds an elephant. He befriends and plays with a host of big but mostly smaller animals.

Until he is very tired and then he goes to find his mum, and she knows exactly what Alfie needs.

Dragon Loves Penguin – live

In the end there was no 90-year-old fiddle-maker in the audience. But Debi Gliori had me, and that was embarrassment enough for one day.

Dragon Loves Penguin is one of my most favourite of Debi’s books. Not so much because I love dragons (certainly not with the passion Debi reserves for them), but because I love mummies who love their babies. It might sound boringly traditional – not to mention obvious – but it needs to be said. ‘Love and time, the greatest gifts of all.’

Debi Gliori

After explaining how she came to write – and draw – Dragon Loves Penguin, Debi read the whole book to us. Not just a bit, but the lot. It can still make me cry.

Debi started off by drawing us an egg. Come to think of it, she ended by drawing us an egg. Too.

Her life long ambition has been to put penguins and dragons in one book, and she showed us her older books The Trouble With Dragons, and Penguin Post, about a daddy penguin who attempts to hatch a parcel. (You can’t.)

This was a great event. Sometimes a young audience can be too young, but here they were just right, and what amazing questions they asked!

How do dragons fly? Well, it helps if Debi has remembered to draw wings (she has been known to forget). But it’s probably by magic.

How did the egg end up on the ice? Yes, how? The baby penguin (in the egg) will freeze to death if left unattended for more than two minutes, so we decided that dragon had been very fast, because ‘a page is a long time.’

What does a dragon’s egg look like? Lovely, is the answer. And orangey, but with some magenta in it. And did you know that charcoal is merely a burnt stick?

Debi mentioned my old favourite Ffup, who makes toast by breathing on bread. It strikes me as most efficient. I’d like to do that, too.

Debi Gliori

(As you can see, Debi spent a lot of time actually talking to fans. I think this was about school.)

Friday the 15th

‘As usual’ I had a quick rest on Willie Johnston on my way to Charlotte Square. I can see that he – or more accurately his bench – and I will be seeing more of each other.

Zeraffa Giraffa

I had a carefully compiled list for Friday, in order to fit as much as I could in. Finding a mutually convenient time to have a spot of lunch with wonderful publicist Nicky proved just about possible. Her charges were busy all day, and first I went to find Jane Ray – who is very good with giraffes – at her signing. She had been making giraffe masks at her event, and the shop was full of tiny human giraffes. Very nice to meet publisher Janetta Otter-Barry (hers was a regal sort of presence…) who was there to oversee the proceedings.

Jane Ray

Nicky gave me lunch in the authors’ yurt, and we had a little chat about families as well as about books. I came away with two new books, and having surprised her with my weird interests, there might be more. (I now have a flag sticker book!) In return I tipped her off that Craig Pomranz (of Raffi knitting fame) was due a photocall session after lunch.

Debi Gliori, who was next on my list, popped in for a cuppa before her event, and was slightly disturbed to find I’d be there to heckle from the back. But as long as I vote the right way in the referendum we are fine…

Speaking of politics, by the time I’d decided I could tug on Peter Guttridge’s sleeve (as instructed by himself), Paddy Ashdown ‘got in the way’ and there was Ming Campbell and many others whose names could be dropped. So, no sleeve-tugging. Yet.

Ever the involved publicist, Nicky has taken up knitting to join in with Craig’s and Raffi’s scarf making. But the biggest help had been a very, very young girl in the audience who spontaneously organised Craig’s event for him.

Debi Gliori

I went off to get to Debi’s event on time (more of which in separate post), and after it I trailed her to the bookshop where she doodled for her fans for about an hour and a half. One of her talented picture book colleagues, Jackie Morris, was busy painting in the grown-ups’ bookshop all afternoon.

Jackie Morris

Then it was time for Craig Pomranz to sign after his second knitting event, and he unravelled (no, I don’t mean that… he got out) Raffi’s actual scarf and proceeded to wind it round a couple of small fans.

Craig Pomranz and Raffi's scarf

Me, I went back to the yurt and waited for Gordon Brown. There was some discussion between two people as to whether we were about to get the former PM or the Scottish crime writer. I knew it was the politician, and they rather hoped it would be.

We were lined up at the front of the yurt long before the ’round-the-square’ queue for Gordon Brown’s event with Alistair Moffat had even begun to move into the main theatre. Authors and others who actually had to pass us looked disconcerted, apart from the ice cream man and Tom Conti. And that other Scottish Italian, Debi Gliori.

Debi Gliori

This time it wasn’t the police so much as Men In Black who milled about. James Naughtie was there. So was insect repellant. There were also midges. Even after the spraying.

Alistair Moffat and Gordon Brown

And at last he came. Mr Brown, as they addressed him. He went on to his event, and I waved to Willie Johnston on my way home. It’s nice this. I’ve never gone home from the book festival before.