Tag Archives: Joanna Nadin

Bookwitch bites #144

I am such a grumpy old Witch. I don’t – necessarily – read in parks. I mean, I might. If I had nowhere else to go and I had a book and some time to kill. But I wouldn’t look at the sunshine and rush off to read in the park. Just as I don’t read in bed, or on the beach. It’s so uncomfortable.

My apologies if the person who emailed me regarding reading their book in the park sees this. It’s just that the supposedly tempting scene painted, was anything but. And, if the weather in London has been extraordinarily good and threatens to remain so, that doesn’t mean we at the other end of the country are similarly blessed.

Although, I did sit out yesterday. For a bit. In the garden. And yes, I am blessed, because I have a garden. I spent my time with a mug of tea, staring into space, hoping for rest and inspiration. The reading will happen in my armchair.

It’s time again for the Guardian’s summer reading advice pages. I like the fact that they have taken to printing suggested authors in bold, so you can pick them out quickly and not have to read every famous author’s holiday book suggestion to find what you want. Which in my case was to see if anyone mentioned children’s books.

One did. Someone is going to re-read Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. And the Guardian had one children’s books in its ‘if you only read one book’ column, which was Joanna Nadin’s The Incredible Billy Wild. Very good choice.

That also happened to be the book I’d just finished reading when someone asked me for recommendations a couple of months ago. She made a note of the title and when I saw her last week she was still looking for it, which touched me, as I didn’t feel anyone should take my advice that seriously. Well, they should. I’m only trying to be polite and modest.

It was also time for the Branford Boase award this week. For once my guesstimate re the date was right. (Didn’t get the email…) Anyway, the winner was MG Leonard and her debut book Beetle Boy. I’ve heard much good about it, but so far I have stumbled on the creepy-crawly/insecty aspect. I know. It’s probably the new Kafka. And ever since Thursday I’ve kept seeing MG Leonard’s name everywhere. She’s doing ‘all’ the festivals, including Gothenburg.

Another busy lady is the Queen. She came here this week. That’s Stirling here, not Bookwitch Towers here. They had coned off a road near Sainsbury’s when we went for some essential food. We gather she went to see the spruced-up Kelpies in Falkirk, where she spoke to some real horses and fed one her bouquet of flowers.

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.