Tag Archives: Dina Rabinovitch

Remembering Dina

I remember the morning well, even though it’s been ten years. I was with my new laptop at the Apple shop in Manchester’s Arndale for our weekly lesson. I’d got myself up on the barstool and was opening the laptop while waiting for my Genius.

That’s when I noticed the new email in my inbox, and because I could see the beginning of it, I had to read it there and then, despite realising it wasn’t the right place to do so.

It was from Adèle Geras, breaking the news that Dina Rabinovitch had died a few hours earlier. And even though it wasn’t unexpected, it still was, and very upsetting. I’d admired Dina so long, and had willed her to live. And so had she, obviously.

After the lesson was over, I went home and blogged about Dina. It wasn’t the first time and it wasn’t the last. There was always plenty to say about this wonderful children’s books reviewer at the Guardian. Someone who interviewed like I could only dream of doing. Her ‘duel’ with Eva Ibbotson on which of them was the most ill, for instance.

Well, Dina won that one.

Less than three weeks before, I’d hoped to meet Dina for the first time. She was supposed to be doing an event, but became too unwell to go through with it. I went [to London] anyway, and had a different sort of day, instead, and Dina was interested in hearing what I’d done. I looked at the Tate Modern, and I went to the National Theatre. When I think back to that day, I see it as Dina’s gift to me, somehow.

Then there are the friends found through her blog, which I’ve written about before. Dina did so much, for so many.

And now it’s ten years since she died. I realise her little boy is no longer little. I hope her children are well, and happy.

Dina Rabinovitch

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In my taxi

You hear taxi drivers boasting about who’s been in their taxi.

And in my former post office job a long time ago I would ponder if I’d had any famous people in my queue. I did, a couple. A major Swedish actor and singer and celebrity in general, who none of you will have heard of. Also a local singer songwriter who none of you will have heard of. One of them knew exactly what he was doing, while the other one hadn’t got a clue and shouldn’t have been there at all.

But in my taxi, I mean, in my queue on Bookwitch; who have I had?

Who haven’t I had? So many lovely and more or less famous people in the book trade have popped in, either once, or regularly. I imagine even the Queen reads Bookwitch, but she never leaves comments, so this is hard to prove.

Two lovely ladies who are no longer with us, are Siobhan Dowd and Dina Rabinovitch. I’m very pleased they made it on here.

I was surprised to find Sharon Creech on the premises, as it were, but then again, why not? Edwina Currie. I definitely didn’t see her coming.

In a way it wasn’t surprising that Jacqueline Wilson popped by to comment. It’s just that you need to have an email address to do it, and she didn’t (then) do email, which means a bit more effort had to go into the commenting. It was kind of her.

I feel that you are in very good company when you visit Bookwitch. You just don’t know who you might have a conversation with.

Thanks, Dina

The Retired Children’s Librarian laughed with glee when I told her of our plans. That’s Son and me. We’re in Germany this weekend, and I’m trusting my baby boy to sprechen for me, as he ought to be less rusty than I am. At the height of his studies he also had got to be a lot better than the old witch.

Roger Whittaker and CultureWitch

Where was I? Oh yes, Germany. We are here for Roger Whittaker, as all you dear friends will have guessed. The best singer in the world is doing another last tour, and in case it is, here we are. And Son is not too cool for Roger. Or me.

So, Germany, where we are staying with someone I found on the internet. I do everything I tell others not to do. Roger is singing in Köln, and Bonn is close enough, so we have come laden with books for another book lover. I met L Lee Lowe over on Dina Rabinovitch’s blog. In those days Lee had another blog, but you can’t keep a good writer down, so she has moved on to somewhere she can publish her stuff (like real novels) online.

And isn’t that what’s so fantastic about the internet? It is very bad, or can be. But you can also meet like minded people who unfortunately don’t live next door to you or work in the same office or have children in the same school as yours.

It is now far too long since Dina died in 2007, but what an amazing thing she left behind! Neither Lee nor I met her in the flesh, but from that online presence something has grown. I found someone I could send my child to for a language booster, someone who actively seemed to want to entertain the Resident IT Consultant when he was in Germany on business, someone who introduced me to Nick Green and his marvellous books, and someone who will take some of my surplus off my hands. And still offer hospitality to a mad witch and her Son.

Köln

I’m forever grateful to Dina.

Saying goodbye to Eva and Hazel

I was sad to learn two days ago that Hazel Townson has died, and only a day later that Eva Ibbotson died on Wednesday this week.

With Hazel being a local children’s author I can’t gauge how well known or not she was in the wider world, or even further afield in Britain. She was tireless in doing school events, and I witnessed her appeal to young children at first hand when Daughter required every single one of the books available to buy when Hazel came to her school. I remember it was this time of year, because Hazel signed a book saying Happy Birthday, which made it even more precious.

More recently Hazel gave up her work with the Lancashire Book of the Year, handing over the task of overseeing everything to Adèle Geras.

Eva Ibbotson was such a special author for so many. Her name always came up whenever authors expressed admiration for a colleague. But I never needed to hear that, because reading her Journey to the River Sea was enough to convince me I’d found a real star.

As another foreigner I suppose I was particularly happy to find someone who could write so well in another language, while retaining that different outlook on both Britain and Europe. It was good to read novels set in Europe as though it wasn’t abroad.

I’ve been a little slow in working my way through Eva’s books, and her recent shortlisted novel for the Guardian prize is high on my tbr list. The Secret of Platform 13 was another one that waited for my attention for far too long. But at least this way I know I have a few to keep me going.

I did nurse a secret dream to interview Eva, but felt I could never hope to improve on Dina Rabinovitch’s chat with her in 2004. I have to admit I would have quite liked for Eva to win the Guardian prize, if it’s OK now to show favouritism.

Which Witch? This is the Bookwitch saying thank you, and goodbye.

Cousins removed and cute babies

The rather flooded witch was relieved to have a weekend away from her working holiday away. There has rarely been so much rain all at once in a few June days, as last week. So dark, so dismal. The little rays of sunshine consisted of seeing dentist – always lovely – and having assignations with both the plumber and the electrician. All three were very tanned, as usual. Wonder where they got the tan?

So packing laptop and other necessities she pondered the ridiculousness of taking a computer and a telephone to go and visit friends and family. What would we have thought of that, thirty years ago?

First on the agenda was GP Cousin, who on hearing of my approach had swiftly invited every relative he could think of, and not all were so put off the idea that they stayed away. In fact, a surprising number, for us, turned up. Daughter was furious when she heard, but what could I do?

Wolf grandson

The mind struggles to order cousins into first cousins and second cousins, with the once removed added in places. We rarely get together, and me being UK based doesn’t help, so it wasn’t just the 11-month-old grandson of my Wolf cousin who was new to me. After some baffled thinking, I concluded I’d never met Wolf’s youngest son, either, and he is 18. Years. I suggested he might want to befriend Offspring on Facebook. He thought he might.

Our hostess, Swiss Lady, struggled to keep track of anyone at all, often giving people new names. Didn’t matter. We nameless ones were too busy dealing with our jealousies and inadequacies while admiring her garden, where the sun was beating down.

Swiss Lady's garden

The next morning I took off for the next place, after giving GP Cousin a long lesson on blogging. He had asked for it. I left him with a copy of Dina Rabinovitch’s Take Off Your Party Dress, which will be a much better read for him than The Da Vinci Code. The third cousins had been sent off the previous evening with some English children’s books, which their poor parents will have to deal with, since even Swedish 6 to 8-year-olds don’t read foreign languages.

On the train ride on a minor train line, I got excellent service by the guard. She happily accepted three forms of payment from me and changed my prepaid plastic tickets into something fresher (they are going Oyster) without batting an eyelid. And handed out new timetables to all the passengers, seeing as it had just changed. That’s service.

Pizzabella and the New Librarian picked me up at the other end, which is so worrying. Being in a car without their mother School Friend feels weird. Babies grow up. It was Pizzabella’s 22nd birthday party, so another load of assorted relatives landed. Pizzabella doesn’t like cake, however, so in its place we always get a large plate of fruit. Lovely, but you can be too healthy, you know. She has recently learned to eat peas. About seven is deemed the right amount for a meal.

Kitten Saver's baby

New lot of cousins, but not mine. School Friend served up tea called Blåkulla, which is the place that witches fly to on their brooms. After that, I could only be grateful that the Cousin-who-saves-kittens-dumped-by-the-motorway let me hold the cutest baby of them all, the 34-day-old Italian Painter.

Aahhhh… Thank you, Kitten Saver.

This lot of people were left with Mary Hoffman’s The Falconer’s Knot in Swedish (thank you, Mary) and Gillian Philip’s Crossing the Line, and Pizzabella who does things with paper, got plain-ish paper. Poor Bird Watcher got nothing, but he’s probably used to it.

Varberg Railway Station

Reading their local morning paper, there was an article about the best friend of GP Cousin, which is an odd coincidence. We once studied literature at university together. Small world.

As she passed through Varberg again on her way back, the witch thought she caught a glimpse of herself, aged about three, on the platform.

Report from Oxford

The trip I made to Oxford the other week has finally resulted in another interview. Put down on the computer screen, I mean. The interviewing all got done on the day. Mary Hoffman was kind enough to spare some time to see me over pots of tea at the Q I Building in Turl Street. That counts as Pullman territory, so felt just right.

My other reason for travelling to Oxford, apart from enjoying a day out, was to meet Lowebrow, of blog fame. I first came across Lee on Dina Rabinovitch’s blog last year, before she ventured over here for a look. So, in effect, I did what I wasn’t too keen on Son doing a couple of years ago – I went to meet someone I’d met on the Internet.

It was a good day, and lovely to meet several interesting people. And thanks to Mary, Lee and I had a great Lebanese dinner. It could easily become a standard watering hole for the witch.

Dina’s target

I have good news for you. The fund raising event last Sunday in London, which was inspired by Dina Rabinovitch, was very successful indeed. They raised £8700 with their Kosher Komedy, which means that Dina’s target of £100,000 has now been reached with a good margin. At the moment it stands at £109,913. There is until the end of February to donate, so any spare cash lying around would find a good home here.

I’ve been sent a brief video from the event, which I understand was great. I’d have wanted to be there.