Tag Archives: Eoin Colfer

Aarhus 39

Sigh.

I’m absolutely green with envy.

This is the Aarhus 39 weekend (if that’s what it is when it begins on a Thursday), and I’m not there. Meg Rosoff is swanning around in the company of Eoin Colfer and Chris Riddell, two ex-children’s laureates. Two of my favourites. They, in turn, are swanning around in the company of Meg, favourite everything.

I don’t see how it can get much worse. For me, that is. They and Aarhus are probably having a great time. They are probably swanning around with Daniel Hahn, assuming he’s in a position to swan with anyone.

This Astrid Lindgren nominated whirlwind has gathered at least two more ALMA nominees – Maria Turtschaninoff and Ævar Þór Benediktsson – as well as most of the other 37 Aarhus 39ers. That’s them in the jolly photo below.

Aarhus 39

No doubt they are mostly swanning too.

And the lucky citizens of Aarhus will have been going round to all these book events, most of which appear to have been free.

I hope this means that it might become a habit, and that maybe next year I can swan somewhere. Unless all the laureates are worn out by then.

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Illegal

I must begin with part of the same quote by Elie Wiesel that Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin use in their graphic novel Illegal; ‘no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. … How can a human being be illegal?’

There was never a more important time to remember this than now. We believed we had moved on, learned something. Even that we were fairer and more aware than we (or ‘people’) were decades ago.

Illegal is a disturbing graphic novel about two brothers from Africa trying to reach Europe, for a better life, and hopefully to find their sister who left first.

Giovanni Rigano, with Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Chris Dickey, Illegal

Anyone who says our immigrants come for the easy life of ‘our’ benefits is ignorant. These people work so hard. So very hard, because they need to earn enough money to pay the people-smugglers who put them in unseaworthy vessels and send them out to sea, to drown, or hopefully reach land on the other side.

And when [if] they arrive, they hope to be allowed to stay, and they will look for work. And they will work.

In a way the story about Ebo and his big brother Kwame is not new at all. I’ve read similar tales over and over in books like this, or in the newspapers. But as a graphic novel the horror becomes more apparent, because you see what they are going through. Where they came from, what the – usually very long – journey was like, and the horror of fearing for your life trying to get to a place where they are not welcome or wanted.

This is a beautiful book, with illustrations by Giovanni Rigano and a story told by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, and lettering by Chris Dickey. Or it would be beautiful if the pictures could tell a sunnier story. Instead we see these two boys and their fellow travellers being cheated, robbed, threatened and even turned back when they’ve tried for so long. And after that come the boats, small inflatable ones or big ships overcrowded to the point of sinking.

Some people make it safely all the way. Many don’t.

It’s so easy to root for Ebo and Kwame, but whether or not they are successful, there are countless others who never will be.

I hope the fact that this is a graphic novel will mean that the book can reach readers who might otherwise not read this kind of thing, or learn the truth about our world. A world where a drowning mother might well thrust her little baby into the arms of a young boy who can barely swim, in the hopes of saving her child.

No benefits in the world can make up for this kind of experience.

That’s funny

Much as I don’t enjoy the trend of famous comedians suddenly discovering that they need to write a children’s book, and doing very well and getting plenty of publisher attention for their efforts, it has caused one improvement to the state of things. Humour is now seen as something worth considering.

I have always liked humorous fiction. I have long felt there’s not enough of it, and also that it’s been so wrong to look down on it. As though humorous fiction is to children’s fiction as children’s fiction is to Booker prize type fiction; i.e. inferior.

It’s not. In fact, I’d suggest that just like writing for children requires more skill, and not less, to write good humour means you have to be really excellent at what you do. Not everyone can do it, or do it well, but when they can, the results can be spectacular.

A couple of weeks ago Adrian McKinty blogged about his twenty funniest novels and it’s an interesting list. I agree with his choice, about the ones I’ve read. I might have picked others, and it could be Adrian doesn’t find them funny, or that he’s not read the same books I have. These things happen.

I do agree with him about this, though: ‘It’s got be funny throughout too. One really funny scene as in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim for example just doesn’t cut it. I’m also not allowing anything that people say is funny but which actually isn’t or perhaps used to be funny but isn’t anymore. I’ve read Gargantua and Pantagruel and they are not funny. Shakespeare’s comedies are not funny. Dickens is not funny.’

There’s a lot in life that’s not funny. But there’s also a lot that is. And yes, I hated Lucky Jim the first time I read it. Loved it on the second read. But Adrian is right; one funny scene isn’t enough. (Apart from The Vicar Of Nibbleswicke, I don’t reckon Roald Dahl is funny. Not in that way.)

I’ve not thought this through enough so I can give you my own list, but Terry Pratchett is obviously on it. Would be, I mean, if there was a list. And even if I stick to children’s books, I reckon Douglas Adams has to be on it. From there it is a quick jump to Eoin Colfer and from him to many other Irish authors (it must be the water?), and then jump again, to Frank Cottrell Boyce, Joan Aiken, Morris Gleitzman, Debi Gliori, Barry Hutchison, Hilary McKay, Andy Mulligan, Kate DiCamillo. And last but not least, my fairy blogmother Meg Rosoff. She doesn’t only kill goats.

My apologies to anyone not mentioned. I didn’t go about this scientifically, but merely wanted to mention that being funny is a good thing. A good read is good for your wellbeing, and a funny read is even better. Go on, find something to make you laugh! Preferably until you cry. The hankies are on me.

Letter to a fan

Or more accurately, postcard to a fan. Postcard to an old witch, in fact, who although a fan, wasn’t expecting this.

It is very nice, and kind, and generous, when an author writes back to a fan. There obviously comes a point – for some – when they just can’t, but they want to and they do. Sort of.

I haven’t written any fan letters (ever, I think) to Eoin Colfer. Not that he doesn’t deserve them, because he does. But a witch needs to keep herself in check and not overdo things.

Eoin postcard

But there clearly was a time when I needed to communicate with Eoin, and I really don’t remember what it was about, and I didn’t have a good way of doing so. Maybe I wrote via the publisher? I’m not sure. It tends to work surprisingly well. You suspect your missive will disappear into that vast black hole that is the publishing house, but I think I’ve managed to hit the spot every time.

So too, with Eoin. I don’t know how it’s done. I assume he has someone who opens letters and then sends out the ‘personalised’ pre-written response, that can be so generally worded that it fits almost any fan.

Eoin postcard

Except when the writer was a witch on business. But it was nice enough to receive a postcard, and I like seeing what the fans of Eoin do get sent.

I’m pleased he feels my writing shows promise. One lives in hope.

Bookwitch bites #136

The rain is very wet as I write this. There is lots of it. We’ve got men working on making a new front garden and the Resident IT Consultant is feeling guilty for leaving them out in the rain. I told him they must do this a lot, so are used to it, and that they can’t very well put paving down inside the house anyway.

Here is Adrian McKinty reading the first chapter from his latest novel, Rain Dogs. It’s the one where Duffy meets Muhammad Ali. It’s rather nice hearing Adrian’s voice. It brings you closer to Carrickfergus.

Whether the weather was drier in Wexford when Eoin Colfer was a boy, I have no idea. But the photo the Guardian used for their column looks lovely and sunny. Here is the Laureate na nÓg musing about slightly illegal behaviour during his childhood. Me, I use my own photo to avoid argument (other than Eoin being told off for waving at me). It’s from the same occasion as theirs.

Eoin Colfer

Someone else who is very friendly and has a fancy title is the new Scottish Makar, Jackie Kay. I have to admit to being rather hazy on what a makar actually is, as I only encountered the term after moving north (for some reason you don’t talk so much about particularly Scottish things down south). Looking it up on Wikipedia the answer is poet or bard. And Jackie certainly is that. I’m so pleased they chose her as our new Makar.

Jackie Kay

And, there is the Manchester connection, too. Jackie still lives there, while being thoroughly Scottish.

The Seal’s Fate

One way or another, Bobby, in Eoin Colfer’s re-issued story The Seal’s Fate for Barrington Stoke, won’t club the seal to death. You know this. But how will he avoid doing so?

Inspired by something Eoin’s father told him, this is set in an older Ireland, in a fishing village where things are not going well. There is less fish every time, and now they feel it’s the seals eating their catch that is the problem. And the solution is to offer the children money for every seal they kill.

But Bobby doesn’t feel like a seal killer. On the other hand, he can’t disappoint his fisherman father. His friends all seem far cooler about this clubbing of seals, too.

I couldn’t work out how Bobby was going to get out of it.

Eoin Colfer and Victor Ambrus, The Seal's Fate

(Wonderful illustrations by Victor Ambrus.)

W.A.R.P. – The Forever Man

That FBI. It gets everywhere, including the 17th century. But that explains a lot, actually. And it’s lucky they wear those fetching overalls, with the letters on the back, so you will know it’s them. And there is always one more wormhole through which any combination of characters can fall, to some time other than their own. Quantum foam. Hah.

Yes. So Eoin Colfer thought it’d be more normal to write about time travelling FBI agents than leprechauns. It’s easy peasy getting your head round tunnelling dwarves and foil-clad centaurs, but my head always gets confused when it tries to think about time travel. Like, if so-and-so did this then something would/would not happen. And you mustn’t meet yourself.

Eoin Colfer, The Forever Man

I enjoyed The Forever Man, which is the last instalment of Eoin’s W.A.R.P., the time travel-based witness protection scheme which put people safely in Victorian London. I wasn’t sure I would, as the time travel slipped back to Cromwell’s days – which I’m not keen on – and Riley’s old boss was going to reappear. I’d really hoped to have seen the last of him. But that strange thing happened; where you find yourself almost fond of the baddie, because you go a long way back and familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt.

So – the now unkillable – Garrick is back, and his latest hobby is to burn witches at the stake. And he decides Agent Chevie is a witch. Riley needs to free her, but the trouble is that he and Garrick know each other so well, that it’s almost impossible for one to trick the other. Luckily the FBI has one or two tricks up its sleeves, and not everyone in this witch-hunting village believes that burning witches is a marvellous idea.

This is exciting, and romantic – yes – and funny. It even restored my faith in the FBI.

Eoin; please consult me if you need more timetravelling Swedish bores. Sorry, boars. Or similar. Especially if they are to be called Olaf.