Tag Archives: Jack Gantos

Here I Stand

Here is a book you should all read. Here I Stand is an anthology for Amnesty International, where a number of our greatest authors and poets and illustrators have come together and written short pieces about the injustices in life as they see them.

Here I Stand

John Boyne writes about child abuse and Liz Kessler deals with same sex love. Both stories are hard to read, but at the same time they are uplifting and they make you think.

And it is repeated in every single contribution to this volume, whether by Jackie Kay or Jack Gantos, Sarah Crossan or Frances Hardinge. Bali Rai, Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Laird are others who have important things to say about why life is far from right for many people in the world.

People who can be jailed or executed for the most normal behavior, or those who are simply too poor or too unfortunate in various ways. People for whom we need to continue fighting.

There is much in this book to think about. Please think about it.

Retiring Philippa

My pangs of envy and regret started even before Philippa Dickinson’s retirement festivities got under way on Monday. When you’re online you can see what everyone else is doing and quite a few people announced they were heading that way, making me wish I was too. But there are drawbacks to moving to Scotland, and the spontaneity of sudden trips south is one of them.

So I wasn’t there, and now I can follow – online again – those who were, and there are more pangs. But I’m glad there was a party, and that it was good, and that – almost – everyone else was there. Because Philippa deserves to be celebrated.

Philippa Dickinson

Back in 2009 when I was introduced to her at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it felt a bit like meeting the Queen, although perhaps more relaxed. And six months later when her publicists invited me to actually come and spend a day in Ealing, I was impressed with her again, and not only for remembering me a little.

Random House Children’s Books felt like the most active publishing house at the time. And she might have been the MD, but Philippa was still hands-on (editing Terry Pratchett, the lucky thing), working like a normal person. During our brief meeting in her office, she made a point of showing me her personal recommendation and arranging for me to have a copy of Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza.

Philippa and I are almost the same age, and occasionally I have stopped and asked myself what I have achieved with my life, and why I couldn’t be a bit more like her. (Answers on a postcard, please.)

Sometimes when I think of Philippa and wonder what made her better or more interesting than other publishing bosses, I realise that apart from a few directors of smaller publishing houses, I didn’t meet or get even a little acquainted with anyone else.

So maybe that’s why. You need to be out there, possibly rubbing shoulders with the little fish.

Joey Pigza

Good thing that Philippa Dickinson made sure I had a copy of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos. I would never have picked the book myself. To be perfectly honest, the title is very off-putting to me and the cover, albeit purple, is awful. Apologies to both Jack Gantos and illustrator Neal Layton. Not even the recommendation on the cover by Jacqueline Wilson would have persuaded me. But Philippa spoke so warmly about it, and she knew that I have an interest in aspie books, so she felt I might want an ADHD story as well.

The tale about hyperactive Joey is rather American in style, and I sometimes wonder if you could even have something similar British based. There is a certain US flavour to the way they deal with ‘different’ children in America, and I can’t see it happening here.

Joey is a sweet natured little boy who could be Horrid Henry’s cousin, except that Henry knows what he’s doing and Joey can’t stop himself from going wild. He means well, though. He comes from a long line of overactive people, and has had no real support from either his Dad or his grandmother. Joey’s Mum has her own problems, but still tries so hard to help her son.

They live on their own, on a limited income, and all this seeing doctors and getting ‘meds’ for Joey can’t be easy. But they both try and try, and so do the school staff, even though Joey is more than a handful. Mornings he can be almost OK, and then he goes haywire halfway through the school day.

It takes a bad accident for Joey to end up seeing Special Ed, who isn’t as bad as he’d feared.

With help Joey gets better, and I wish they’d just leave the story there. But there are more books about Joey, and it goes without saying that he will have to face more adversity.

This novel is twelve years old, and I’m pleased that a publisher wants to push for such an old book, when it’d be easier to mention something recent. I’m glad I read it, and I’d hope that children reading about ADHD will make them understand better what it is. Sufferers can see they aren’t alone and that it can be at least partly controlled, and other children will learn that the ADHD child in their class isn’t bad.