Tag Archives: Joanna Nadin

The Incredible Billy Wild

You just won’t go wrong with God. I mean, with a dog. Both, really.

In The Incredible Billy Wild Joanna Nadin lets her hero Billy write to God. It was to be holiday homework over Easter, and Billy really takes this to heart. He writes and he writes. Because he wants a dog and for Seamus Patterson to disappear and to be incredible.

Well, who doesn’t? Preferably a Great Dane, but if not any old dog will do. Most of us have a Seamus we’d like to get rid of, and then there is the talent show on Easter Monday, and it’d be good to be incredible.

Joanna Nadin, The Incredible Billy Wild

Billy has a [midwife] dad and two brothers, one older and one younger, but no mum. Their dad works too much. 14-year-old Johnny smokes and likes looking at his girlfriend’s boobs. Six-year-old Tommo regurgitates Google knowledge round the clock. But Billy’s just Billy and needs to be incredible.

God takes care of the dog bit pretty quickly, when a dog turns up in their garden shed, and Billy wants to keep it, and keep it a secret from dad while he works on some idea to get dad to want this dog as well.

This is incredibly lovely. The dad is lovely; just overworked and tired. Tommo is – obviously – sweet and helpful. And even Johnny is rather lovely, as cool older brothers go. And we can tell from his long monologue to God that Billy is fantastic.

The 275 page letter to God lets us share Billy’s hard work, his hopes, his new friends, and most of all, his Dog. There is a lot of love here. Billy yearns for the Woman’s Touch (so maybe they need a new mum), but Nice Nan has moved away and while Other Nan probably loves them, she is hard to get on with.

Having Dog would make a lot of difference though.

Very funny and so loveable. All of them. Especially Billy. And Dog, and…

White Lies, Black Dare

The little girl inside me had to be dragged kicking and screaming to read Joanna Nadin’s new book, White Lies, Black Dare. The witch on the outside knew it was going to be just as marvellous a book as it turned out to be, but the little scaredy cat could visualise herself at the centre of a dare at school, involving the ‘bad’ girls, and how a young and innocent new girl would end up in the middle of something awful before she knew what had happened.

I hate dares!

But as you read, you discover that Asha (that’s the new innocent) is actively seeking out those other girls, because she wants to be one of the gang, and she’ll do anything to prove it.

Joanna Nadin, White Lies, Black Dare

In fact, Asha does the opposite of what I would have done, in just about every situation. She doesn’t want to be friends with the safe Patience, and she has no intention of behaving well for the English teacher who sees someone like himself in her. Nor does Asha even mention that her mum is ill with cancer, or admit that she’s friends with Joe (from Joanna’s last book).

So Asha does the dares, alienating just about everyone around her, because she wants to be in with Angel (!) and her friend.

White Lies, Black Dare is tremendously well written. It’s as if the words just flow off the page as you read. And that’s despite the dares, and despite the formerly privately educated Asha strewing plenty of ‘innits’ around. And despite my fears.

Innit.

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

A day of politics

I’m afraid we swapped allegiance by going to the Scottish Parliament on Saturday morning, instead of to our intended event in Charlotte Square. (It was sold out, anyway, so we weren’t missed.) Theresa Breslin was talking in Parliament about The Importance of Reading to Children and to Society, along with a few others, and had invited us along.

So down to Holyrood we went, subjecting ourselves to airport style security to be allowed in. Found Mr B in the foyer, and he wished he’d stayed in bed an hour longer. I think we all did, but this was a good cause. As we lined up to go in, Daughter asked me who the people behind us were. She could recognise their voices. I turned round to look (why didn’t she do it herself?) in order to tell her she was hallucinating and why would she know anyone in Edinburgh?

The voices turned out to belong to Linda Strachan and Julie Bertagna, so she was right and I am an idiot. Sigh.

There is a convenient bus between Parliament and Charlotte Square, and we got back fairly painlessly for an afternoon with Lee Weatherly on the subject of Angels. After her signing, and before she rushed off home, Lee posed for photos for us.

Lee Weatherly

We had intended to go ‘home’ after Lee’s event, but when we found that both Steve Cole and Joanna Nadin were taking part in the Amnesty International reading, we went and got tickets and joined them.

Afterwards it struck me that it’d be a good thing to take some photos of Jo (Steve very wisely disappeared…), so we walked over to the yurt area. It turned out to be covered with photographers taking pictures of Seamus Heaney, and there was simply no room for us.

Joanna Nadin

My bright solution was to invite Jo round the back, as it would be empty. Which it was, and we got started. The famous Irish poet must have been quick though, because soon the full set of paparazzi were upon us, and more specifically, on Jo. They wanted in as well. (They do have a soft spot for a pretty woman.) So through no fault of her own, Jo turned this way and that way, and posed like crazy.

Once the mayhem we’d caused was over, we hotfooted it out of there. If I’m lucky, Jo will even remain on speaking terms with me.

The Amnesty reading

We had to go round the corner and cry a little after Saturday’s Amnesty International reading at Charlotte Square. The only blessing was that it wasn’t us doing the reading or sitting next to someone doing it. They really couldn’t start blubbing, although I believe Joanna Nadin was close after her reading.

They get four authors to come and read every evening, and by fluke, or by utterly inspired design, three out of the four were children’s authors, mostly known for being funny. Apart from Jo it was Holly Webb and Steve Cole, as well as the perfectly ‘normal’ Oliver Balch.

You don’t know in advance who will be there, but we had inside information on Steve and Jo, which is why we made a point of going. The world is a cruel and unfair place and many writers are treated dreadfully for simply writing.

Steve read three Mexican poems by José Emilio Pacheco, Homero Aridjis and Javier Sicilia. Then Jo read a Guardian article about Razan Ghazzawi by Jillian C York, as well as a blog post by Razan Ghazzawi herself.

It fell to Holly to read the most horrifying piece of the evening, by Turkish journalist Asiye Guzel. I suspect many of us could have happily left then, but since Asiye couldn’t, why should we?

Finally Oliver read Pain by Shi Tao from China. The evening’s readings were introduced by Louisa Walsh from Scottish PEN, who reminded us of the Russian members of Pussy Riot who have just been jailed.

I’m glad PEN and Amnesty do these evenings, and very pleased the visiting authors give up their time for their less fortunate colleagues.

Bookwitch bites #78

We are all very much for equality here at Bookwitch Towers, as long as people remember I’m a little bit more equal than some. But I was really taken aback when I read the shortlist for the 2012 Queen of Teen. I somehow expected this shiny tiara institution to be a smidgen more traditional than I am.

It’s not. This year we could have a Queen James. Now, trailblazing James Dawson is up against the Cathys, Cassidy and Hopkins, longterm princess Joanna Nadin, as well as Hayley Long, Maureen Johnson, Chris Higgins, Samantha Mackintosh, Sarah Webb and S C Ransom, so might not reach his queenhood. But it’s an intriguing situation, even for an egalitarian old witch.

And because I am presently almost doing my blogging from the bathroom floor, I will leave you with the dog who does his writing on the roof.

Snoopy - the author

Today’s post could have been longer, I know. It could also have been no post at all.

Paradise

It’s good.

We all want to inherit a great old house in Cornwall, or possibly in Scotland. It’s such a romantic idea, and the extremities of the country somehow always appear more charming, even when it rains most of the time.

Paradise is my first Joanna Nadin book. It’s not at all what I expected. As I said, it is good. It’s not that I didn’t expect that. Just different. Paradise is more of a Rosamunde Pilcher for teens in the noughties, if that makes sense. I felt right at home from the start, and I could almost be Billie who inherits her grandmother’s house, only to find there are an awful lot of secrets that come with the house and the small Cornish town it’s in.

She never knew her father, and she moves from London with her Mum and her younger half-brother Finn. They have no money, and soon the house begins to affect her Mum in unexpected ways.

Chapters come from all sorts of points of view, so we see what has happened in the past and what is happening now. We see the thoughts and memories of Billie and her Mum, as well as the dead grandmother’s and a few other people’s. This means the reader can piece together what must have happened, while it takes the main characters quite a bit longer to know the whole truth.

It can be bleak in Cornwall in March. Cold. The gas bills mount up and the seaside doesn’t have its summer charms. But Billie still feels she belongs, especially after she meets Danny. He is as charming and perfect for her as Billie’s real Dad was for her Mum.

And what did the older generation get up to? Really?

This is a wonderful story. Even in the cold.