Tag Archives: Gill Lewis

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.

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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?

Of birds and bears

So maybe Gill Lewis is the next big thing? She had a long queue outside her venue yesterday morning, and the EIBF director came to listen (I imagine it’s like having the head teacher sit in on a lesson) and everything was great. Long queue in the bookshop afterwards, which meant I didn’t get to say hello until much much later.

They handed out clipboards to the audience, and even the adults were allowed to have one. Gill began by showing us some rock art (as in ‘caves,’ not music) in Zimbabwe (along with her husband holding a plastic carrier bag) – which apparently is like Dartmoor, but different.

Gill is not quite sure why she writes, but rock art has something to do with it. So she asked us to draw an animal and to try and get into that animal’s mind, see what its life might be like. She herself begins a book by drawing animals and people and seeing where it takes her. She’s also very good at it, in the kind of way that makes you jealous because someone seems to be far too talented at too many things.

Having talked to young carers, Gill found that what most of them fear is their family being broken up, so they use a lot of time and effort to pretend everything is fine. She used this in Scarlet Ibis, her latest book.

Gill Lewis

Thinking back to her own childhood, when she certainly wouldn’t have been able to do all the chores that Scarlet does, she told us about a dare in her group of friends. They went to the garden belonging to Mr White, who they just knew was a vampire, and they went to look inside the wooden box where… No, I can’t tell you. It would ruin the excitement for you if you ever hear Gill talk. She then read the dare scene where Scarlet goes to the house where an old woman is known to boil children and eat them.

Not content with being a vet, and a writer, Gill is keen on nature in general, and wants to help re-wild the urban landscape. It’s easy; you might have a birdbox, or leave a tree stump to rot, or grow nettles. Ever the expert, she then tested us on some easy, and some pretty difficult, pictures of wild animals, before asking people to make up a riddle about their drawn animal from earlier.

Very interesting.

And I’m glad I have two of Gill’s books still to read.

Lizday

At 9.59 there was considerable panic among Horrid Henry fans. Parents were seen running with their children across Charlotte Square, and then back again a minute or so later. It’s also known as ‘I didn’t need the toilet before but now I do.’ The event started at 10.

Liz Kessler

Francesca Simon

My first – literary – port of call was with Liz Kessler. I then had half an hour in which to take pictures of her signing, run across the square to see if I could catch Francesca Simon still at it, and then get myself to my second event with Gill Lewis. That’s when I remembered I had a book I wanted Liz to sign, and being a popular sort lady she still had a long queue and I wasn’t anywhere near the front of it. So I thrust the book at her publisher Fiona Kennedy and asked her to see to it that Daughter got an autograph. Surprisingly, Fiona seemed to know who I was.

Gill Lewis

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

After Gill’s event I had slightly longer, so had time to take pictures of her, and to dash across the square for Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart in the other signing tent. Had to remember to go back to base and get my hopefully signed book back. Then I went to meet Caroline Lawrence, whose Saturday event I had been forced to miss, but who very kindly sacrificed some of her time on me today.

Norse monster

Norse monster

Norse monster

Kate O'Hearn

We decided there was time for an ice cream – because we both carried spare food in our rucksacks, so didn’t need lunch – and we exchanged news and discussed what’s hot and what she’s working on now, and then she ran on to hear Kate O’Hearn, whose rather fantastic team of Norse monsters were a sight to behold. I caught up with them in the bookshop an hour later, where they chatted to babies (who will never forget this early literary experience) and posed and were generally rather unsusual.

Michael Rosen

Meanwhile I had found Michael Rosen signing across the square, talking to his young fans with his normal charm and performing facial acrobatics. He too had caused a late rush on the toilets, so that seems to be a hazard with young fans.

Simon Armitage

‘Backstage’ I found Carol Ann Duffy and I saw Peter Guttridge at a safe distance from sleeve-tugging. Again. While I waited for Simon Armitage to come to his photocall, Kate O’Hearn and her monsters returned, and thanks to Chris Close I got another opportunity to snap these fantastic creatures.

Kate O'Hearn

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Laird

Chris Riddell

My final event this book festival was another couple of Elizabeths; Laird and Wein. I even had a few minutes during which to take photos of Liz and Liz, as well as of Chris Riddell who was still signing away an hour after his Goth Girl talk, before I ran off to find a tram to the airport. It was high time to collect Daughter from her Californian adventure.

Telling stories about story tellers

Scarlet, in Scarlet Ibis by Gill Lewis, is a story teller. It’s what she’s good at, and it also serves to keep her autistic younger brother Red calm and happy. Similarly in Jo Cotterill’s Looking at the Stars, Mini makes life bearable for herself and others by telling stories. She makes them up as she goes along, even, not quite knowing where the story will go or how she will end it.

I read these two books close together, and was struck by the similarities. But as I stopped to think about it properly, I realised that many books have a main character who tells stories, writes, draws, daydreams, or all of these.

Jo’s Mini felt very much like a Jacqueline Wilson girl, except in a war torn country. Jacqueline’s heroines frequently, if not absolutely always, tell stories. They are her, really. We know how Jacky herself spent her childhood dreaming about things, making up characters and plots, drawing, and so on. She simply puts versions of herself in her books.

From that thought, I realised that authors are of necessity story tellers. It’s what they do. And if you follow the sensible advice about writing what you know, then the reality of story telling will be close to very many writers.

I don’t know if there really is a disproportionate number of fictional heroines (mostly girls, I believe) who do what their creators do. But I suspect so. More authors/dreamers than accountants or cleaners.