Tag Archives: Frank Cottrell Boyce

London Book Fair

I made my London Book Fair debut this week. You already know why I was in London, and I happened to have an afternoon that needed filling with something, and it seemed silly not to test the waters at Kensington Olympia now, rather than travel to London specially for it, without knowing whether it’d be for me, or not.

Because that’s what I’d been told; that it’s not for the likes of me. Didn’t matter how many nice and supportive people said the opposite, when it was one person’s comment that stayed in my mind. Because I believe it was said on the basis that bloggers are wee little things who like reading books and reviewing them. Nothing about the bigger picture, or meeting up with book people in general.

In the end I didn’t see many people I knew at all. Partly because I’d not planned ahead – which I will do next time – either as regards arranging to meet, or to check what talk will be on where and when.

Mary Hoffman at London Book Fair

As I arrived I could hear a voice that sounded like it belonged to Mary Hoffman, and it did. And there she was, at Author HQ, talking to an audience about Author Collectives. I saw her briefly afterwards, lovely red hair and – I swear, purple lipstick – as she and husband Stephen Barber ran for something or other, hands full.

I wandered round the Children’s Publishing area upstairs, and with hindsight I understand it wasn’t merely full of people and companies I know, because it was mainly children’s publishers only, not the ones who do everything. So I saw Usborne’s sweet little ‘house,’ and I saw Andersen, with an active Klaus Flugge chatting to someone in the corner.

Andersen Press at London Book Fair

The next event at Author HQ was hopeful authors pitching their books to agents, which I only stayed briefly for. Eavesdropped a bit on another talk on non-author based books, which had a big and attentive audience, which is why I stayed on the sidelines.

Author pitch at London Book Fair

What I wish I could have caught, but was too late for, were events with Daniel Hahn, something else on children’s publishing until 2020, and the star turn of the day, Judith Kerr in conversation with Nicolette Jones. (I did run into Nicolette at the Barbican in the evening, so found out it had been good, that Judith had trended on Twitter – and that she had had to ask what this meant – and that she had refused the wheelchair laid on by her publishers on account of her recent hip operation, but Judith preferred to walk next to the wheelchair…)

FCB tea

I understand that by the third afternoon the LBF would be quieter, and it was certainly nothing like it is in Gothenburg, say, where you can’t move for people. I was offered the opportunity of winning a Kindle or an iPad, and for some reason I declined this… Maybe I could have won?

Had a cup of tea from what I will now think of as Frank Cottrell Boyce’s little moneyspinner; the FCB Artisan Espresso Bar. (It’s probably got nothing at all to do with Frank.)

Walking foot at London Book Fair

I happen to know that a reasonable number of people I know were there on Thursday. It’s just that I didn’t know where. Or when. As I said, I could have found out, had I not left it until the last moment to decide to go. I witnessed a girl carrying her head in her hand, and there was a padded foot walking about with its minder. Which was nice.

Kensington Olympia

The glass topped building of Olympia is beautiful, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it empty one day, the better to appreciate it. I walked up a purple staircase, and decided it was so tall that I’d get the lift down… There were men pushing those big trolleys around that you see in films, where they hide the corpses. Here I suspect it was mainly rubbish, and not lots of dead bodies.

Speaking of which, I glanced at some of the LBF publications lying around and learned that there is a new Albert Campion being published, not written by Margery Allingham. And I don’t know what I think of that…

Ted Rules the World

Wanting to influence the Prime Minister is something I suspect most of us would love to do right now. In Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Ted Rules the World, nine-year-old Ted finds that he actually can do that, much to his surprise.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, Ted Rules the World

Just about everything he suggests or talks about starts to happen. I mean, who wouldn’t ask for free Premier League Cards if they had the PM’s ear? If that’s not an end to bullying, I don’t know what is.

The thing is, Ted hasn’t met the Prime Minister. All he does is talk to his best friend, and occasionally to the lady at the till in the local shop. And she remembers that Ted supports Stockport County (yeah, I don’t know how that sneaked into a proper book).

It could be she is not a real till lady. Or maybe she is, and the lesson to us all is to speak more to the people who take our money.

And why Ted? Even if he didn’t support Stockport County, he is still only a small boy.

This book has not one, but two, illustrators; Chris Riddell for the front cover, and Cate James for all that happens inside the covers. It’s a true Little Gem.

The Astounding Broccoli Boy

This is a very green book. It’s also most enjoyable, but you just can’t escape the green-ness of it. Escaping being green – all over – is impossible for the two boys in this book by Frank Cottrell Boyce. His green heroes are Rory, the smallest boy in his year at school, and Tommy-Lee, the boy in his class who has bullied him every day since they started Y7. They are both as green as broccoli, and no one can work out why.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Astounding Broccoli Boy

Rory might just have tried to kill Tommy-Lee (or Grim as he called him then) with a biscuit, but he didn’t mean to.

And here they are, in a hospital isolation unit, very green, prodded daily for blood and urine and things. And then Tommy-Lee starts to sleepwalk, on the 12th floor. Naturally, Rory follows, to see what he’s doing. He discovers that they both seem to have some super powers, and they get up to some weird stuff on their nightly escapades, including teleporting, a little.

But why did this happen, and can two such different boys ever be friends? And the penguin, and the lion and the hippo; how did they end up roaming London? What could the Killer Kittens virus have to do with being green?

We meet some interesting and unexpected people, and we witness a lot of bravery, mostly well beyond Tommy-Lee’s blood sample giving (although, it depends what you are scared of, if you are to be praised for showing courage).

As always with a story by Frank, The Astounding Broccoli Boy is a lovely and thought provoking, not to mention extremely entertaining, book. It is green, though.

(According to the afterword, there really were green children once. And Frank has really teleported. Also once.)

Desirable

Oh how I needed this book! I know, it’s been waiting for my attention a bit longer than it should have, but I was truly grateful for Desirable once I got to it.

You know, slightly bad day and you need something reliably uplifting and fun. That’s Frank Cottrell Boyce for you. Desirable. (That’s the title…)

George is a loser, and it’s brought home to him when even his Grandad can’t quite be bothered to do much for his birthday. No one else came to the party, and Grandad left pretty swiftly, after having given George the very same item that George’s mum once gave her dad (I believe it’s called re-gifting).

Although, perhaps Grandad knew what he was doing? George’s boring life suddenly changes. He becomes desirable. Not that that is necessarily as desirable as you’d think before you reached desirablity.

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Cate James, Desirable

This story is as heartwarming and funny as you would expect from Frank, and with very ‘undesirable’ illustrations from Cate James, in a desirable sort of fashion, if you know what I mean?

Those teachers are downright weird. Just saying.

Dung beetles in Salford Quays

When the Resident IT Consultant heard that I’d asked another man out to dinner, I had to placate him by lending him a copy of Grk and the Phoney Macaroni. That’s because the man was none other than Josh Lacey, who is also Joshua Doder,* who writes about the adorable Grk.

I then added to my dinner guests by trawling through the shortlist for the Salford Children’s Book Award, and apart from those who were ill or otherwise indisposed, or who claimed to be telling 2000 people in Derry what to do, I found Dirk Lloyd (aka the Dark Lord, aka Jamie Thomson) and Gill Lewis, who both courageously sacrificed themselves to dinner with the witch. (I suppose it beats a dry sandwich alone in a hotel.)

Dining – and wining – authors is almost better than going to awards ceremonies. (Think Disney’s Snow White and a certain witch.)

Speaking of hotels; they shouldn’t be allowed to name and build them in such a way that authors don’t know where they are staying. We almost led someone astray after the meal.

I found Josh and the Dark Lord in the bar at the Lowry last night, where I had gone to warm up, and they for a glass of something. Before long I forced them to go out and search for Gill, who had abandonend the end of a very good book to dine with us.

We talked about a lot of things. The Dark Lord talked the most, and he is very keen on games. And similar stuff. He knows about smörgåsbord, and there was a rather unfortunate conversation about eating elk.

Some people go to awards nights away to sleep, when sleep is hard to come by at home. (On that basis, maybe there should be even more events away for the sleep deprived.) Gill, who is a vet, writes about animals, and the Dark Lord got busy thinking one up for her next book (which, if it mentions too much gamesy stuff is all his fault) to top ospreys, dolphins and bears. It seems dung beetles are the answer.

There was some speculation as to who will win today’s award. Most of our money is on Frank Cottrell Boyce, but I’m sure we could be wrong. It might be one of the dinner guests. Or Barbara Mitchelhill, David Logan or Lissa Evans. Who knows?

I gather Alan Gibbons is doing the talking again this year, so I wish I could be/have been there. But as usual, I’m happy for the children of Salford who have read and voted and hopefully generally enjoyed this year’s award work.

And my fellow diners might never have the same kind of bank balance as JKR, but they are great company, and only ever so slightly slow at ordering food. At least one of us was starving, and another very sleepy. Actually, that makes two of us.

There was some speculation on the feasibility of a Jacqueline Wilson sci-fi novel, and why not? The odds are better than for me getting the hang of modern mobile phonery. I tried texting my guests. I tried answering my phone. I’m pretty useless at it all.

Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner that I don’t distinguish between more and longer. I meant longer. I never knowingly insult children’s authors.

Thank you, Gill, Josh and Jamie.

PS Gill Lewis and her Sky Hawk won!!!

* I am sorry to have to tell you (well, not that sorry, actually) that Joshua Doder is now dead. Kaput, as Josh Lacey put it. He is taking over his alter ego, and from now on Grk will belong to him.

Bookwitch bites #92

Thank goodness for these bites where I can complain on a variety of subjects almost every week. Occasionally I have lovely news as well. Let’s see if I can find some.

I don’t often (like never, obviously) receive invitations from the Canadian High Commission in London, but this week I had to make myself say ‘no thanks’ to them. But as Disney’s Cinderella says, what could possibly be nice about a visit to Canada House? (Only all of it…)

Came across the programme for Book Week Scotland at the end of November. Can’t go, even though I can be found north of the border that very week. So no Frank Cottrell Boyce. No Debi Gliori and no Steve Cole. Nobody.

Offspring are my reasons for travelling, and Son had some news this week, relating to the literal translation he did earlier this year. We are finally able to say it was Strindberg, for the Donmar at Trafalgar Studios. The Dance of Death. Will get back to you on that.

Before leaving Scotland, let me just mention the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2013. Apart from Patrick Ness who is on every single shortlist these days, the shortlisted authors are Barry Hutchison, Cathy MacPhail, Mark Lowery, Dave Cousins and Annabel Pitcher. Tough competition.

South to Newcastle, where the good news is that Seven Stories can call themselves National Centre for Children’s Books, as the only ‘national’ place in the Northeast. Well done to a special place!

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Actually, I am coping with the happy business, after all. We’ll finish with a decisive jump across the water to Ireland, where they have The Irish Book Awards. You can vote, but you might want to follow my example and only vote in categories (they have so many!) where you have read the books. Luckily I didn’t have to choose between Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty. Not quite so lucky with Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, though.

A witch can always flip a coin.

Coat wins the Guardian children’s fiction prize

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Philip Ardagh

You know what? It’s the middle of the night, and I’ve celebrated a birthday (not my own) and watched trains vanish into thin air (might have been the infamous Fife haar), so I have simply returned to my temporary base and I am not above stealing photos from Philip Ardagh. If he minds, I will deal with him later.

Because this is not about the tallish man with the beard, but about his pal on the left, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who won the Guardian children’s fiction prize on Wednesday evening. Very well deserved win, for a fantastic book (The Unforgotten Coat) by a marvellous author. (And he’s not short. He was just misguided enough to stand next to Ardagh. Even I would look short under such circumstances.)

Frank Cottrell Boyce, The Un-Forgotten Coat

It would have been great to have been in London, but I wasn’t. I sent my stand-in with the beard. He likes to hang out with successful people. Come to think of it, so do I.

Frank, meanwhile, has joined a long line of really very great writers who have won the Guardian prize. As he said about the award: ‘It would be amazing to win this award with any book I’d written but it is a special joy to win it with The Unforgotten Coat, which started life not as a published book at all, but as a gift. Walker gave away thousands of copies in Liverpool – on buses, at ferry terminals, through schools, prisons and hospitals – to help promote the mighty Reader Organisation. We even had the book launch on a train.’

And speaking of trains, I do wonder what happened to my disappearing one?