Tag Archives: Diana Hendry

Fun, and hardly any rain, in Charlotte Square

It was an odd moment. There I was in the [authors’] yurt, and the two people the two Offspring aspire to be like, were both present. I don’t see how that can ever happen again.

Anyway. We had to be up early to get to Edinburgh in time, so actually got up even earlier and had breakfast before doing any festival work. Then we queued outside the Spiegel tent for our first event, with Dr Sheila Kanani, who just happened to be Photographer’s mentor at Space School many years ago.

Sheila Kanani

And afterwards as we hung around for the signing in the bookshop, we spied Frank Cottrell Boyce, looking rather like Chris Riddell’s alter ego, complete with flapping shoelace. Before we got round to tying it, I found Lynne Rickards, so had a nice chat with her, and I believe it was the day’s first mention of cellos.

Also chatted with Sarah Broadley, who was Sheila’s chair, before we all walked back to the behind-the-scenes area, for – well – more chatting. Discovered Jo Nadin in the yurt, sitting right where we all tried to fit in, which meant that the number of Doctors in the yurt went up again. We all had lots to talk about, and we were literally left holding a baby. Twice. I suppose we looked trustworthy.

Daniel Hahn came over to say hello from Son. I think this must be why I don’t see Son so much. He sees other people instead. Chris Close did planet stuff with Sheila, so we are looking forward to seeing the resulting photo after her workout in front of his camera. Meanwhile, Frank Cottrell Boyce came in, with a couple of young Cottrell Boyces. They seemed very nice.

Since I had agreed to meet the publicist from Sandstone, we said goodbye to the assembled doctors and went to buy a salad before finding Ceris, who was sitting outside the other yurt with a group of my ‘colleagues.’ Lots more chat, including the second cello reference of the day. There was also more space talk, and the books by Astrid Lindgren came up.

Frank Cottrell Boyce

Then we had to run for Frank’s event, chaired by Lindsey Fraser. It rained. It wasn’t supposed to rain. In the bookshop afterwards I was finding out why Lindsey had her arm in a sling, when Diana Hendry came up to ask the very same thing. Seems like you just had to stand still, and authors would come from all directions.

Chris Hoy

After some ‘light’ sustenance, the Photographer and I hit Charlotte Square one last time [for Tuesday]. Went to have a look at Sir Chris Hoy signing books in the company of his author Jo Nadin and illustrator Clare Elsom. They had a Very Long Queue.

Jim Al-Khalili

The last attraction of the day was Jim Al-Khalili, another doctor and professor and scientist and all that. Photographer went to speak to him, as one scientist to another. And possibly had a photo taken with him.

I tried taking a picture of one of the ducks, but that failed spectacularly. And then we went home. It was a mostly fine day. With much science. And space.

Duck

See, that’s the duck there, right on top of Chris Riddell.

(Most photos by Helen Giles)

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Hugs all over

Hugs, love, and cuddles to all.

Today’s three picture books are adorable, each in their own way. Hugless Douglas is almost sensible. You can have a star for a pet. Sort of. And I’m sure you can really cuddle a crocodile, especially between shapeshifters.

Diana Hendry’s You Can’t Cuddle a Crocodile, about the boy with a sister who is always something else, be it a monkey or a bear or the uncuddleable crocodile, keeps the reader on his or her toes. But we can all pretend, can’t we? If it is pretend. Those parents do look a bit funny.

Diana Hendry and Ed Eaves, You Can't Cuddle a Crocodile

Whatever the situation is, the animals are nicely drawn by Ed Eaves.

In Corrinne Averiss’s My Pet Star, the tiny protagonist discovers a star one evening. It has fallen and hurt itself, but is picked up, cuddled and nursed back to health. The star is a lovely pet, apart from not being around in the daytime to eat ice creams in the park. The two grow close until the day comes when the little star needs to go where stars go.

Corrinne Averiss and Rosalind Beardshaw, My Pet Star

Sweet illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw. I could want my own pet star.

Hugless Douglas is attacked by a bird’s nest, when it falls out of its tree, with eggs in and everything. Doing some egg-sitting while mummy bird gets a new nest together, he finds he needs advice and help. But that’s what bunnies are for. You can cuddle eggs warm, and when you do, well…

David Melling, Hugless Douglas and the Baby Birds

David Melling’s Hugless Douglas and the Baby Birds seemed even more adorable than the usual Douglas. But at least he didn’t sit on the eggs!

All three books make you want babies and toddlers to read to.

My Father as an Ant & Other Stories

What a treasure to discover! Diana Hendry, who writes children’s fiction, and also poetry, gave me this collection of some of her adult short stories when we met last month. I took the relatively small volume with me on holiday, and I am so glad I did.

Diana Hendry, My Father as an Ant & Other Stories

The stories are mostly low-key observations on what people are like, with a beautiful retro feel to them and some wonderful humour. Except, I don’t believe they are retro, but were written quite some time ago, in some instances, and might refer further back to what was old when Diana wrote them. It’s like finding a time capsule!

Although presented as a mix, some of the stories are clearly about the same people, at slightly different times of their lives. Many are set on the Wirral or in Liverpool, and are so much the better for it. Several of the stories feature a young girl, through whose eyes we see the ‘drama’ develop, reporting on what she sees and hears, without necessarily understanding what is really going on.

Others are about people perhaps regretting how their lives turned out, or enjoying a dramatic change in circumstance. There is even a slightly James Bond-y sort of tale which made me laugh. The stories are about family, sibling rivalry, marriage, death, friendship.

And what made me so happy was the return to a time I didn’t actually know, but where I felt comfortable to travel. I can’t recommend this collection highly enough!

Whoever You Are

I recognised the warm, comfortable glow I felt as I began reading Diana Hendry’s second book about her ‘crazy’ family, the Coggins, living in what seems to be a clifftop sort of Moomin house. It was the same in the first book, where we met 11-year-old Oliver, who shops and cooks for his family, being the sensible one, as Pa Coggin forgets his duties and goes off to do science in a secret location.

Diana Hendry, Whoever You Are

Pa is still not father-like enough and Oliver still struggles. His sweet, but slightly crazy Ma has a favourite author – don’t we all? – and she writes to A C Hennessy, asking her to come and stay, despite Pa Coggin having said everything has to be secret. Because Pa has an enemy who will stop at nothing.

And A C Hennessy does come. Or does she?

So we enter the world of dreamy readers, bad villains (i.e. not very good at it), dutiful sons and hopeful families. A horse. And with some help, things become manageable. A good librarian is always nice. Besides, you really can’t go wrong with a Harley Davidson.

Funny and lovely, with a view of the publishing world more from the past than today.

Out of the Clouds

Hope. That’s what the name of the Polish boat means, and it’s what Oliver Coggins needs. In fact, what all the Cogginses need. Diana Hendry’s Out of the Clouds is a sweet, traditional story, and we don’t get anywhere near enough of them.

Diana Hendry, Out of the Clouds

Oliver lives with his family in the rambling, tower like house his father built for them before he took off with no explanation. Dizzy Perch as it is called, is some distance outside the village of Starwater, where Oliver goes shopping every week. He pops in for food, which he then cooks for his family, and to hopefully ask – every week – if there is any post. There never is.

Well, there are occasional parcels of library books for his Ma, to read or to use for home schooling lessons, never to be returned (which worries Oliver considerably). Despite having two siblings, a mother and a grandfather, Oliver is lonely, and he wants his father to return. He counts the days. It’s been over six months.

He tries to be all things to all his family, but you are left wondering what more they could be to him. [I think] he is about 11, which is too young to shop and cook and clean, while not being deemed old enough to know what his father is doing.

The family is charmingly sweet and eccentric, but you can’t help wishing for more normality for Oliver. Eventually he makes friends with the Polish boy from the boat Hope, and he also decides he must take the mystery of his father into his own hands.

Even if he’s not meant to.

The Scottish novelists

Lists will rarely be complete. But some are more complete than others.

On Monday Herald Scotland published a list of Scottish children’s authors.* What prompted this seems to have been Julia Donaldson’s decision to leave Scotland and move back to England. It felt like an ‘oh god who do we have left in Scotland if Julia Donaldson moves away?’ kind of list.

Don’t worry, J K Rowling is one of their ten ‘best.’ So are others that I know and admire, along with a few names I have never heard of. Which is fine, because I don’t know everything, and I’m sure they are great writers. I don’t even know who counts as Scottish for this purpose.

Although, with J K topping the list, I’m guessing they allow English writers living in Scotland. That makes my own list rather longer. Harry Potter isn’t particularly Scottish as a book, even if Hogwarts is in Scotland. Do Scottish authors living in England, or god forbid, even further afield qualify? (I’m not so good at keeping track of such people, so I’ll leave them out for the time being.)

As I said, I have no problem with who is on the Herald’s list. But along with quite a few Scottish authors, I gasped when I realised who weren’t on it. Catherine MacPhail and Gillian Philip, to mention two very Scottish ladies. Linda Strachan, Julie Bertagna and Theresa Breslin, who are also pretty well known and very Scottish indeed.

Keith Charters and Keith Gray. Damien M Love and Kirkland Ciccone. John Fardell. Lari Don, Lyn McNicol, Joan Lingard and Elizabeth Laird. Cathy Forde. Dare I mention the Barrowman siblings, Carole and John? Alexander McCall Smith writes for children, too. Roy Gill, Jackie Kay. Cat Clarke. And how could I forget Joan Lennon?

I’m guessing former Kelpies Prize shortlistees Tracy Traynor, Rebecca Smith and Debbie Richardson belong. (There is one lady whose name is eluding me completely right now, but who appears at the book festival every year and seems very popular…) Have also been reminded of Margaret Ryan and Pamela Butchart. (Keep them coming!)

Most of the above have lovely Scottish accents and reasonably impeccable Scottish credentials. But what about the foreigners? We have the very English, but still Scottish residents, Vivian French, Helen Grant and Nicola Morgan. Americans Jane Yolen and Elizabeth Wein. Ex-Aussie Helen FitzGerald.

And I really don’t know about English Cathy Cassidy, who used to live in Scotland but has more recently returned to England. I think she counts, too, along with all those writers whose names simply escape me right now, but who will wake me up in the night reminding me of their existence.

I’m hoping to get to know all of you much better once this wretched move is over and done with. Unless you see me coming and make a swift exit, following Julia Donaldson south. Or anywhere else. I think Scotland has a great bunch of writers for children. (And also those lovely people who write adult crime, and who are not allowed on this list, even by me.)

Sorry for just listing names, but there are so many authors! One day I will do much more. Cinnamon buns, for starters. With tea. Or coffee. Irn Bru if absolutely necessary.

Theresa Breslin's boot

*For anyone who can’t access the Herald’s list, here are the other nine names: Mairi Hedderwick, Barry Hutchison, Chae Strathie, Claire McFall, Daniela Sacerdoti, Debi Gliori, Caroline Clough, Janis MacKay and Diana Hendry.

Bookwitch bites #93

Luckily I didn’t run into either of these two chaps as I haunted Edinburgh this week. Twice. That’s twice I didn’t see them. In fact, I forgot to even think about Philip Caveney and whoever that is behind him. ‘He’s behind you!’ Lucky, seeing as I was running around all alone in the dark.

Philip Caveney with Plague Doctor on The Close

Lucky too, that I had not yet come across Chris Priestley’s A Creepy Christmas, the story he has written for 247 tales. That is another thing you don’t want to have on your mind as you’re out alone, in the dark or otherwise. Good to see that the 247 tales are still going strong.

Pleased to hear that Bali Rai won one of the categories at the Sheffield Book Awards this week; his quick read The Gun. Obviously, other books won too, and even more were commended. Read all about it here.

Have been alerted that Sophie Hannah – who seems to be successful at just about everything these days – has been shortlisted for the Nibbies. The event is on Tuesday next week. Lots of other authors are also on the various shortlists, and pirates would appear to be in as far as children’s book titles are concerned. (It was hard to find the lists, however. Something wrong with google? Can’t be me, can it?)

But I did find it a little tricky to discover the Costa shortlist, as well. (So definitely not me, then.) Sally Gardner, Diana Hendry, Hayley Long and Dave Shelton are this year’s hopefuls. I’ve read two.

Barry Hutchison, The Book of Doom

And speaking of awards, I was very happy to hear that Barry Hutchison got married last week. He had proposed in a fairly public sort of way, by putting it in one of his books. Glad it paid off, and that he has now been made an honest man of. More good Hutchison news is the arrival of the cover for The Book of Doom. Would quite like for the rest of the book to get here, too. Fast.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Bone Trail

Fast is what another book would have managed, had I not been so busy running around a darkened Edinburgh. (See top.) A very early incarnation of The Bone Trail, the last in the Wyrmeweald trilogy by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell has been made available to me. I happened to mention I wasn’t feeling especially patient.

Arrived home to find DHL had missed me. (Miss you too.) I arranged for redelivery on Monday. Except they turned up yesterday. As I squeezed the package (to find out what it might be, the way you do) it felt like a rucksack. Couldn’t see why Random House would send me one of those.

I will now stick a plain sheet of A4 to the back of The Bone Trail to prevent me accidentally looking at what seems to be the last page of the book. A witch likes some element of surprise.