Tag Archives: Gill Lewis

Eagle Warrior

Gill Lewis could make me an avid nature fan, and rather more interested in wildlife than I am now. That’s how good she is when she writes her ‘nature and animals’ stories. The stories are great, and the facts are presumably more correct than in most books, because I understand Gill knows her stuff.

Gill Lewis, Eagle Warrior

In Eagle Warrior we meet Bobbie, who lives on a Scottish farm with her family, which includes her grandmother, with whom she has much in common. The two look out for the golden eagle that has been seen nearby, and they worry in case the rich landowner might kill the bird.

There is so much in this short book; wildlife, family relations, education and getting on with your neighbours.

Bobbie doesn’t just need to keep the eagle safe, but she has her own future to consider, and there are many ways of looking at what is important in life.

I loved this story.

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Run Wild

Gill Lewis weaves her magic every time. There’s no other word for it. She pulls you in and you live with her characters and you want the best for them but can’t work out how that’s going to be possible.

In a book like Run Wild, which is dyslexia friendly and therefore short, you feel that it will be even harder to arrange for that happy ending. There is one, of course, but as always it’s not impossibly sugary; just rather nice.

For instance, in Run Wild Gill’s characters meet a wolf on a derelict gasworks site in London, and how can you save, let alone keep, a wolf?

Gill Lewis, Run Wild

The children stumble across the wolf and various other wildlife in their search for some place to skateboard. They are children, and they need somewhere to play, somewhere to just be, to walk barefoot.

This is so good. I’m almost jealous of anyone who hasn’t yet read Run Wild. But I can always reread.

Of dung beetles and other creatures

I miss those dung beetles. And the dinners.

When I got in touch with Gill Lewis a few weeks ago, after having reviewed her most recent book, Gill said she’d just re-read my post about the dung beetles. And because I had reminisced about the Salford book award dinners shortly before it, I re-read the post as well. Had forgotten them, but never the man who suggested writing a novel about dung beetles; Jamie Thomson. Crazy, but lovely, man.

And that was the point; the reason I had been thinking about the dinners and missing the diners. Despite me wondering if I’d gone mad each time I set off to meet another batch of half unknown – to me – authors for dinner, after having emailed them out of the blue to suggest we meet up.

Those dinners were successful, perhaps because we were a bunch of ‘strangers’ getting together. We weren’t strangers afterwards. Strange, maybe. (Remember the dung beetles!) So in hindsight I’m really very grateful to the Salford book award organisers, for having no evening plans for their visiting authors.

It was one of the things I wanted to take with me when I moved. But around here most visiting authors are well looked after and don’t need a witch to make overtures and suggest meals out. Shame, really…

You can thank me when that bestseller about dung beetles appears.

Sky Dancer

What is it about Gill Lewis that she can make me read and love books about wildlife? I know that children and animals are a great combination, but I tread with caution if it gets too wildlifey. Unless it’s Gill who’s written the story.

Gill Lewis, Sky Dancer

With Sky Dancer, I didn’t know how she’d pull off a satisfactory ending. It just felt a bit hopeless. Set in the north of England on a famous grouse moor, it is the rich landowner against his lowly gamekeeper on one side and the angry villagers on another.

Joe’s dad was gamekeeper, until he did something stupid and went to jail and then he died there. The whole family is suffering, and Joe’s older brother Ryan seems to be a clone of their dad, and the two boys don’t get on. Joe is friendly with the landowner’s daughter – Araminta [Minty] – and also the new girl next door, Ella, even if she strikes Joe as a bit feeble.

When a hen harrier is discovered on the moors, Joe doesn’t know what to do. Their livelihood depends on the birds going, but he doesn’t like killing wildlife, and besides, it’s illegal.

The story is lovely, as you watch the three children doing their best regarding both the future of the birds and their own. But what really makes this special is learning about the cause and effect of what happens on moors such as this, and what changes could happen and what they might entail.

Very inspiring. And just the right amount of exciting.

Day 7

Let me tell you about Keith Gray. Eight years ago, on our seventh and last day of our first Edinburgh Book Festival, Daughter and I happened upon Keith Gray signing in the children’s bookshop. It had been a bit of a learning curve for us, and we realised when we discovered Keith sitting there, that authors might be there even if we hadn’t gone to their events, and even when we didn’t know there was an event.

Keith Gray

Back then I was less shy about being forward, so walked up and introduced myself, and we had a nice chat. Over the years Keith has tended to pop up in Charlotte Square at some point, and there have been other Scottish-based events as well. But ever since that day – the 26th of August 2009 – in my mind he has personified the happy coincidence of the bookfest.

Yesterday was also the 26th of August, and Keith and his family had organised farewell drinks in Charlotte Square, for their many book friends, because they are moving away from Scotland. It was lovely of them to do so, and they will be missed. Much less coincidental popping in future, I suspect.

Jasmine Fassl and Debi Gliori

So, it was especially nice that Daughter was able to be there with me, freshly extricated from the Andes. She was able to say hello to Frances in the press yurt, and – oh, how convenient – she was able to take photos for me as I had an interview to do. I’m nothing but an opportunistic user of my nearest and dearest.

Claire McFall

The interview was with Claire McFall, about her astounding fame. In China, in case you were wondering. She’s lovely, and didn’t even complain as we almost cooked her in the ‘greenhouse’ café. (There will be more about Claire later.)

We’d already spied Michael Rosen, and I’d caught a glimpse of David Melling with Vivian French as they walked over to the Bosco Theatre (which meant I missed out on their signing in the Portakabin) for an event. The signing no one could miss was Julia Donaldson’s, still taking place right next to us in the greenhouse, a couple of hours after her event.

Kirkland Ciccone and Sharon Gosling

Pamela Butchart

Despite not dressing quite as loud as usual, we still managed to see Kirkland Ciccone, signing next to Sharon Gosling and Pamela Butchart. Who else but Kirkie would have posters of himself to sign and hand out? Pamela wore some rather fetching furry ears, but it wasn’t the same. Also milling about in the children’s bookshop were Danny Scott and Keith Charters. The latter chatted so much to Daughter that I had to do my own photographing…

Keith Charters

I believe that after this we managed to fit in eating our M&S sandwiches, before keeping our eyes peeled for one of Daughter’s heroes; Catherine Mayer of the Women’s Equality Party.

Catherine Mayer

We searched out some shade after this, enjoying a wee rest next to the Main theatre, where we were discovered by Kirkie and Keith C and chatted before they departed for home.

Cressida Cowell

Noticed Gill Lewis at a distance as we sped across the square to find illustrator Barroux in the children’s bookshop, and then straight over to the main signing tent for Cressida Cowell. Her signing queue was most likely of the two-hour variety, and necessitated the services of her publicity lady as well, so no chat for me.

Barroux and Sarah McIntyre

And as it seemed to be a day for dressing up, we lined up to see Sarah McIntyre sign, in her queenly outfit. You can join her but you can’t beat her. Barroux, who was still there, seemed to think so, as he stared admiringly at Sarah.

John Young

After all this to-ing and fro-ing we had covered all the signings we had planned for, and we went in search of the drinks party out in the square. Debi Gliori was there, before her own event later in the afternoon, and she and Daughter had a long chat, while I talked to Keith Gray himself. He introduced me to a few people, including debut author John Young, whose book I luckily happen to have waiting near the top of my tbr pile.

Philip Caveney and Lady Caveney turned up, and so did a number of other people I knew, but mostly people I didn’t. We were all charmed by a lovely young lady, who spent most of her time smiling and playing on the grass. If it had been socially accepted, I reckon Daughter might have taken her home with us.

Little M

Daughter and I had placed ourselves strategically by the path, so that when Philip Ardagh strolled past, we cut him off, forcing him to chat to us for a little, while also giving Keith an opportunity to come and say goodbye. And then Philip made Keith take the photo of him and the witches. It only looks as though we are of different height. In reality Philip’s arm on my shoulder was so heavy that I sank straight into the mud, making me look a little short…

Philip Ardagh and witches

We’d never have got away if we hadn’t had a train to catch, so we got away, and the train was caught, but not before we’d encountered Jackie Kay on the pavement outside. Seemed fitting, somehow.

A Story Like the Wind

The tears threatened to come by the third page. Gill Lewis’s A Story Like the Wind is that kind of book.

Gill Lewis and Jo Weaver, A Story Like the Wind

It is unlike Gill’s other books, but just as good, or better. This is a shorter story, illustrated by Jo Weaver, set in a small boat filled with refugees. Because there are only eight people – and a dog – in the boat, we feel as if we get to meet each of them properly, even if not many words are used.

The main character is the boy called Rami, who has nothing left but his violin. With the help of the instrument he tells the others a story. It’s a story from the past, about a wild horse, and it makes everyone in that tiny boat see their own story. And they learn what they have in common.

This is so beautiful. And at the same time, there should never have to be a need for books and stories like this one. Refugees shouldn’t ever have to risk everything to travel somewhere else, having paid a fortune without even being sure they will arrive safely or be allowed to stay.

Puppy Academy – Scout and the Sausage Thief

They know who the sausage thief is. Frank Furter. It’s just a case of catching him, and preferably before the village sausage festival in Little Barking has to be cancelled.

Gill Lewis, Scout and the Sausage Thief

Here, with Puppy Academy, Gill Lewis is back with clever doggy students who want nothing better than to be good working dogs. Scout, the German shepherd puppy, wants to be a police dog like her mum and dad.

As you will have worked out, this is not a real school where dogs are trained to be police dogs. This is more a world of dogs who talk, go to school and have jobs, while being pretty much the same as you and me. (Within reason.)

This is a nice little adventure, where poor Scout is working hard at being good, but having setbacks and needing to work even harder at putting things right. Catching Frank Furter is one thing, but who stole the Crunchie Munchies?