Tag Archives: Eleanor Updale

Itch Scritch Scratch

For us it began the night before Norway’s national day, some years ago. I’d never met nits up close before. But when I did, I did so with a vengeance. There was nothing for it though, we had to go to the 17 Mai celebrations, nits and all. (If anyone reading this remembers catching nits soon after; that wasn’t us. Definitely not.)

Eleanor Updale and Sarah Horne, Itch Scritch Scratch

I’m scratching even as I write this, just like I scratched when reading Eleanor Updale’s beautiful – or fun – poetry on nits. Itch Scritch Scratch is being reissued in a dyslexia friendly format, with adorable nit illustrations by Sarah Horne. (Did you know nits play the banjo and dance, and have cute little babies?)

Itch.

As I was saying, this is scratchy, but fun. If I’ve understood the principle behind this book correctly, it’s a picture book that can be read by dyslexic parents to their children. Because it’s not just children who are dyslexic and need books. Nor adults who might want to read for their own enjoyment. Imagine wanting to read to your child, and not being able to?

I think this would be a great book to treat your child to, whoever you are. Who doesn’t love nit poetry?

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Hanging on, and forgetting

I forget. Not quite everything, but an embarrassing amount.

When there is a new book once a year, even if it’s part of a series I really like, I need to work hard at remembering ‘how we left things.’ Usually I can pick up quickly enough, especially if there’s some coarse hint somewhere near the beginning.

Keeping up with Harry Potter was never a problem. I remembered his name and those of most of his friends and teachers. What’s more, I remembered what they’d done in the last book too.

If someone were to chat to me about when a certain thing happened in Skulduggery Pleasant, I would remember it. What I’d be less sure about is which book it was; the latest one, or one or two further back?

Maybe this is normal for my age. It’s not that I don’t obsess about the books. I do. I especially enjoyed it when, erm, you-know-him did that, thing, at that place…

And how can I forget cliff-hangers? It’s in their very nature that you mustn’t forget. Can’t forget.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency Returns

So now that I have this new-found interest in Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency, maybe it’s a good thing I am looking at reading all the books in a short period of time. That way I’ll remember what just happened.

I know this isn’t an option when you have to wait for books to be published. And whereas it can’t be the same if you come to Harry Potter now, having missed out on the media frenzy and midnight trips to bookshops, it must feel good to be able to move from the fourth book to the fifth and not have a three year wait.

To return to Eleanor and her books, I was intrigued to see that both Johnny Swanson and The Last Minute are published in paperback within weeks of each other, along with Eleanor’s own reissued Montmorency books and the new fifth book. Someone is wanting an Updale book bath.

Montmorency

After being introduced to Eleanor Updale over four years ago, I vowed to find out about Montmorency. As you do. But reality kept me in check, and when I was provided with one of Eleanor’s new books, I read that instead. And then last year there was another brand new one, and poor Montmorency slipped further into my black reading hole.

Until… just last week, in fact. Eleanor wrote to tell me she’s not only got back ownership of all four Montmorency books, but she has done what fans have been clamouring for, and written a fifth book, finally rescuing the man from the cliff he has been hanging from for some years.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency - 3 covers

And would I like to read Montmorency Returns? Well, yes. But perhaps I ought to find out who he is by starting at the beginning, and that is what I’ve done. I told myself that reading the first book might be enough background, because to read all four very quickly, seemed a tall order. Only, I believe I will have to locate books two, three and four as well. If only to ascertain what kind of cliff-hanger, and to feel I’m up to speed on everything. Plus the small matter of my enjoyment.

Halfway through Montmorency I wanted to stop. Eleanor had done that thing again, where I am so worried I’m absolutely certain I can’t go on. I knew she’d have to do something bad to Montmorency, and I didn’t want to see it being done.

It’s curious, really. I shouldn’t cheer a thief on, or care what happens to him. The other thing is, the book has no child characters at all. Montmorency is an adult, and so are all the people he consorts with, in and out of jail. That doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘young’ book. It is, in much the same way as my childhood classics often were about adults, but written in a way that would attract younger readers.

Montmorency is a kind of Arsène Lupin; a gentleman thief, in Victorian London. Because he has to live off something. It’s fascinating to see how prisoner 493 spends time in jail, and how he plans what to do if and when he is free again, and then how he starts off once he does get out.

It involves sewers, and these ones are smellier and generally yuckier than the ones in Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. But it’s the same principle.

In the end Montmorency copes well with what the author throws at him, and I was able to continue. Did I mention I might have to read them all?

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

Some travelling thoughts

It’s travel time again. A quick dash north, and an equally quick one back. Or I hope it will be. I suppose I have jinxed the trains by saying/thinking this.

My bag isn’t full of things this time, so much as simply being a bag. OK, there are a couple of new reads for Daughter; Eleanor Updale and Marie-Louise Jensen. But I am primarily bringing the bag that ‘someone’ was unable to take last time. I’m the bag lady.

But you know, back in my childhood, who’d have thought you’d be able to sit looking at a small machine on your desk or kitchen table, checking if your train is running to time? (Or running at all.) On the other hand, back then who’d have thought there would be a need to? Trains ran. Often on time.

And, isn’t it slightly weird that I can slip the complete works of Sir Walter Scott and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the King James Bible into my pocket? The trains might run late, or encounter the wrong kind of snow, but that’s a lot of reading in one pocket. Trollope, Twain, Wilde. And so much else. (Don’t worry; I won’t Kiple or Scott too much. I’ve got other books I need to read. Even one ‘real’ book.)

I was excited to see that Sophie Hannah is doing an event in Dundee this evening. I’ll be close, but not close enough. After her event I’ll be freezing on the platform at Dundee, while she is no doubt warm in a hotel somewhere.

Too far away for Barry Hutchison’s launch of The Book of Doom in Aberdeen. Also tonight. It feels funny to be closer than usual, but still too far away. Maybe I should move to Scotland? There are things going on here.

Train to Scotland

(Decided I was allowed to borrow this photo, on account of bag lady duties, and the fact that the bag contains Lent buns, even if they are late Lent buns.)

Publication day, or the liquid ebook

Most months you have one or two dates when all the new books emerge into the world. Usually the Monday and/or Thursday at the start of the month. And then you have November and December when not so much happens. It all happened back in October, in good time for Christmas. The poor reviewer is lulled into a false sense of security, believing they have finally caught up with The Pile. And then the January books start rolling in.

This January we seem to have several publication days, starting today. Which is a lovely beginning for the new reading year, albeit rather early, because we haven’t yet surfaced from the Christmas excesses.

I promised to remind you about Eleanor Updale’s new novel, The Last Minute, out today. Consider yourselves reminded of what must be one of the most interesting books in 2013. You have survived the recent Christmas shopping. Now see who survives in Eleanor’s story.

I woke up in the night, wondering how to blog about it a second time. Worked out what to do, and slept some more, obligingly dreaming a whole blog post. I do this a lot; dreaming about books and authors. I wonder why?

So, what follows is my Orson Welles style book launch dream. It features liquid ebooks. You don’t know what they are? Neither do I.

“Eleanor is about to launch The Last Minute, sharing the day with Liz Kessler, whose new book North of Nowhere is out in two week’s time. These January ladies had an event organised at the end of the platform in my usual underground railway system, at the Wolverhampton end. It either happened on the platform, or in the two old railway coaches parked there.

They poured their books from petrol cans, into smaller bottles, asking me to carry them further along the platform. Unfortunately, the bottles had holes in them, so there was ‘no book’ left when I got there. It’s hard to have a book launch with no book to sell, or sign. We panicked  a bit.

With nothing to display on the white, temporary shelves, I was unsure what to take photographs of. I had my photographer there, but I was in charge of the camera, which seized up and wouldn’t work. The launch was at 13.30, but since the guests were school children who couldn’t come until school had finished for the day, we had some time to think about our bookless options. I considered stealing books from Waterstones, since they had organised this – very expensive – event, which was such a failure.

Anyway, no one came, which is just as well, when your books have literally run out in the sand (or in this case, the platform).

Later on we were given some nifty little survival kits for going on boats (Liz’s book is about boats), but which I felt would also work well for the people in Eleanor’s bomb blast.”

And there you have it. The ultimate, shared book event (and proof that the witch is nothing, if not crazy). Just take care as you pour your ebooks.

The Last Minute

I defy anyone to put this book down before you’ve got to the end. I really mean that. There are many fantastically good books where you can break off and do other things in the middle of reading. If you have to. With Eleanor Updale’s The Last Minute I had to forget about doing anything I had planned, as well as telling Daughter I couldn’t talk to her on the phone until I was done.

It’s a most unusual concept, featuring the last sixty seconds in the lives of the people on the High Street in a small town. Just before Christmas, just after nine in the morning, there are lots of people out doing what people do. Shopping. Having coffee. Getting buried. Picking up dog poo. Delivering the post. Chugging. Going on a school trip.

Eleanor Updale, The Last Minute

Feeling happy, worried, tired or excited. Procrastinating, painting, having a bath, running, bidding on eBay. Sitting on a plane about to land at the nearby airport. Repairing the gas mains.

A minute later there will be an explosion, killing many of the people you’ve just met and got to know so well, in their everyday worries and concerns.

The prologue ‘helpfully’ shows the reader what has just happened, leaving no illusions as to the possibility of a happier outcome.

The Last Minute shows a realistic cross-section of life in Britain today, and most of us will recognise ourselves in one or two of these people. I won’t call them characters. They were always people.

A little reminiscent of Under Milk Wood in the way the story darts between all of them, except faster. It’s amazing the number of actions and thoughts we can cram into sixty seconds.

Just writing about it has my heart rate going all over the place.

(It won’t be in the shops until early January, I’m afraid. But you needed to be told now.)