Tag Archives: Julia Jarman

Changing what we like

We are all mostly set in our ways, and we don’t want to change. Do we?

Fussy Freda in Julia Jarman’s book, with illustrations by Fred Blunt, certainly knows what she likes. I mean, what she doesn’t like. There is rather a lot Freda doesn’t eat. At all.

Julia Jarman and Fred Blunt, Fussy Freda

And if you don’t eat, then… Told in rhyme, we see Freda’s family trying to tempt her to eat, until the day when… well it’s too horrible to tell.

Let’s just say that common sense has something to do with it.

In Steve Antony’s Unplugged, a black and white tale about Blip who likes her screen time a little too much, it takes another drastic interruption to sort her out. It’s amazing what ‘no power’ will do to someone addicted to screen play.

Steve Antony, Unplugged

You might even be forced to go out there and do normal stuff. You might even like it.

Fresh air, and friends, and suddenly colour enters your life.

Let’s hope these two cautionary tales will give parents hope when it looks as if nothing will make their little ones change.

Not the EIBF – for me

I was so sure I’d be able to fit in a little EdBookFest this year as well. On top of everything else, I mean. But I’m not.

I have enthused about the programme. I have gone through it in detail. I finally picked my dates, allowing me four days in the middle. Yes! It was the mid-weekenders who would have won. Until common sense kicked in and I told myself very sternly that something had to give, and it would be really useful if it wasn’t me.

So, that’s one book festival less for me, and maybe for you, if you were counting on me doing it on your behalf. I spent the other evening undoing what I’d so far arranged to do, hoping that not too many people would be overjoyed by the witch-free aspect.

So that’s no tea with Theresa Breslin and Julia Jarman. Big sob. No meeting with Badger the lovely dog in person. No Jon Mayhew, or Elen Caldecott (finally, as it was to be…) or Charlie Fletcher. Similar fate for Prentice & Weil (who I hope are not solicitors, despite their names), Melvin Burgess and Keith Gray. There will be no Keiths at all for me.

I was going to hear all about Jonathan Stroud’s new book, and even get close to Arne Dahl.

The list could go on. I have it here, right next to me, colour coded and with indecipherable comments, that once meant something.

I would have had to miss Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry. Again. But these ladies at least have something exciting going. You can win their books, if you go here.

As for me, I’m looking ahead to the next thing, thinking if I plan properly – and early – I will not have to cancel more events. But things always look very doable when looked at in advance.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

For all others – and the crouching tigers – Edinburgh International Book Festival starts today. Mind the mud. And the puddles.

And have fun!

ABBA festival!

First they steal my idea, and then they put it into action on a day when I can’t even enjoy it. Pah.

It’s ABBA. No, not the pickled fish and not even those people who used to sing. I’m talking about the Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the festival they are running this weekend.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous. How can you possibly have an online book festival? Can I take pictures of my authors? Can I have my books signed? Are there even any tickets left to all these events, and how do they expect me to get around from one event to the next without a break in-between?

PhotobucketI’m busy today. Very busy. I can’t just sit there and commune with my beloved authors through a computer screen all day long. But I want to. I’ll have to make a timetable of sorts, to see if I can fit in my bestest people that way. Maybe eat with them? (Hey, do you object to crumbs and slurps?)

Just look at that programme!

ABBA festival Saturday

It sort of makes a witch want to skive off for the day. How are they going to pull it off, technically? (My idea was for a normal live kind of in person sort of festival…)

Oh well, see you tomorrow.

Who is it for?

Below is the comment left here by Julia Jarman yesterday:

“I’ve been meaning to write about a disturbing telephone conversation with an Aspie boy’s mum who emailed to say ring her about my book ‘Hangman.’ Ever the optimist, I thought she was going to tell me it was useful, moving, informative etc because I do get quite a few compliments about this book that boost the authorial ego, but OH NO! The lady told me that her son found it very upsetting and it did nothing at all to boost his morale. Far from it. The opposite in fact. All I could do was tell her how sorry I was and murmur that some people liked it, and that I wrote it at the request of an Aspie boy who wanted his story to be told. I’m left wondering – is my book doing more harm than good? – and would be interested to have other readers’ reactions.”

To me it was such an interesting and important question that I felt it would make a full blog post, rather than ‘just’ have a discussion in the comments section, and in the ‘wrong’ thread at that. (I don’t mind things going off topic, but to be useful it’s better if it’s posted under a suitable tag.)

The day I wrote my first Aspie booklist blog back in 2007 I had the wrong target in mind. I thought people needed educating about Aspieness. They do. And I think that’s what Hangman does admirably. It’s for all those who have no inkling what it’s like. It describes the miserable life of an Aspie boy. Not because having Asperger Syndrome is dreadful. But because in this case it’s the reason for some appalling bullying.

So I’m not surprised this lady’s son was upset. He will have seen only the bullying and the danger to Danny in the story, and may not have been able to draw any relief from the ending of the book. He may have been looking for ‘a nice story about’ someone like himself, perhaps like The London Eye Mystery. And that’s not what he got.

But no, I don’t think Julia was wrong to write this book. I think the boy’s mother was at fault. As a parent you must know your child well enough to know roughly what’s suitable at any given stage. As a parent of an Aspie child you would have got used to testing the water much more carefully on a daily basis. Whether it’s a case of facing total meltdown or just mild upsets, you know what to avoid, what to do, and you protect your child to the exclusion of having a life of your own, maybe.

This woman should have looked at the book first. As I say in my review, it frightened me for months before I grasped the bull by the horns and read it. There are plenty of books suitable for a child who needs to see someone like themselves in fiction. There are plenty of supportive non-fiction books that could provide useful support. Eating an Artichoke by Echo Fling comes to mind. It has an imaginative story about dealing with bullying, with the solution carried out by the Aspie boy himself with the help of adults. It was helpful adults that Danny in Hangman lacked.

As it says on the back of my copy of Hangman it’s “for anyone who’s ever been a playground thug or just stood by while someone else was being picked on”.

Julia has written a spot-on tale of bullying with an Aspie flavour. She hasn’t, to my mind, written a selfhelp book for young Aspie children.

I think this mother had a nerve telling Julia off like this. It wasn’t Julia who put the book into her son’s hands. The world is full of marvellous books that for some reason are not right for some people. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been written.

I don’t knowingly put novels about zombies into the hands of Daughter. And there are books on subjects that I myself prefer not even to think about, let alone would consider reading. We can all accidentally give someone the wrong thing, but parents of Aspie children have generally learned to think five steps ahead for even the most mundane stuff. And if we fail, it’s easy to be furious, but it’d be nice not to take it out on an innocent author.

Though I’d be interested to know what the Aspie boy Julia wrote the book for thought. I could see that if I had been the victim of something, that it’d make my suffering more recognised to have a book written about it.

Some more photos for you…

if you haven’t already had enough. In fact, here are more photos even if you have.

Ian Rankin 2

Lynne Chapman and Julia Jarman 2

Gerald Scarfe 2

Linda Strachan and friends

Judith Kerr 2

Neil Gaiman

Val McDermid 2

Debi Gliori signing 2

Henning Mankell

Michael Morpurgo

Malorie Blackman 4

Adèle Geras and Jonathan Stroud

Anne Fine

Keith Gray 2

Rachel Ward

Michael Holroyd

Steve Cole

Jacqueline Wilson

Klas Östergren

Lucy Hawking

Henning Mankell

Theresa Breslin and Adèle Geras

Nicola Morgan

Keith Charters 2

Gillian Philip 2

Marina Lewycka 2

Philip Ardagh

Patrick Ness 2

Melvin Burgess

Elizabeth Laird 2

Bali Rai 3

Louise Rennison

And that’s it. So called ‘normal’ service will resume here really soon.

‘What kind of dog do you want?’

Neil Gaiman

He flicked his hair this way and that. He waved his arms when asked to. In short, he behaved like a professional model, but Neil Gaiman claims that David Tennant is the better looking if there is a contest between them. I’ve got that ‘in writing’. We didn’t get to see more of Neil on Wednesday, although we were able to admire his ten mile signing queue.

Day 1 was a mixed sort of day. It rained at the ‘home’ end, but Edinburgh was dry and warm and far too full of people. So first we got wet in one way and then in another, but let’s not dwell on unpleasant facts. We got our red bands to hang round our necks, which means other visitors think we actually know something and stop to ask for help.

Ian Rankin

With beginners’ luck we then ran into Ian Rankin, so I reminded the poor man that we’d met before, which was unfair of me because he can’t possibly remember that, and asked if he could spare the time for a photograph or two. He could, but then he needed to go get his son from school, as term has just started.

Gerald Scarfe and paparazzi

Some of the time we spent just getting to know the mud and the general layout of the book festival tents. Before the photo session with Neil my photographer had a dress rehearsal with Gerald Scarfe, who seemed more than happy to jump about. I worried a little about the advisability of such gymnastics.

Lynne Chapman and Julia Jarman

Theresa Breslin

I hadn’t really read the programme very well, because we found that Julia Jarman and Lynne Chapman were doing their bit in one of the tents, so we popped along to their book signing after, to say hello. Plenty of people to say hello to there, as Theresa Breslin just happened to be needing a signed book for someone. Mr B introduced us to Linda Strachan who was also hovering.

Linda Strachan

(I don’t think the photo below of Julia is quite as alarming as it may seem. I’m sure that Lynne isn’t really making gestures above Julia’s head. As for what the anaconda is doing; that’s anybody’s guess.)

Julia Jarman

We’re not coffee drinkers, so we abandoned the press yurt for tea elsewhere. (Doesn’t press yurt sound rather like a soured dairy product to you?) They are big on recycling in Charlotte Square, but between you and me there were a lot of paper cups in the plastic cup bin.

Louise Rennison

Louise Rennison had precisely as long a signing queue as you’d expect the Queen of Teen to be entitled to. Nice to see so many teenage girls turning up.

And then it was time for the Ian Rankin event. The dog quote is his. Something to do with historical radio drama, and I think I may have heard it last year in Bristol, too. Ian talked about Rebus as well as his new policeman, who is Rebus’ complete opposite. He mentioned his new venture in comics, feeling there is a gap to be filled for male teenage readers.

It was surprisingly windy in the main theatre tent, which I suppose is preferable to having half the audience passing out due to lack of oxygen. Ian came up with writing ideas for the Brownie leader who practises writing with her Brownies, and he reminisced about some writing venture at Charlotte Square one year, featuring a dead author buried underneath a mountain of books.

Ian’s memory is pretty good, too. He knew precisely how long Neil Gaiman had kept him waiting when they had dinner together last year. He only meant to illustrate the difference in how long they take over signing books. And I happen to know that Neil really was signing for over three hours, because I was there.

I’m glad Ian chucked accountancy. This kind of crime suits him so much better.

(All photos H Giles)

Looking After Louis

I wouldn’t have found this picture book about Louis, who is autistic, without the suggestion from Julia Jarman a few months ago. Lesley Ely and Polly Dunbar have come up with a simple story about a boy and his school, and it really praises the role of the classroom assistant, whose importance is so often overlooked.

Nothing much happens in the book, except we slowly see how Louis spends his time at school, and what he is good at. But it’s the help he receives, which matters most. The other children need to learn that Louis can’t or won’t do certain things, but he can do other stuff instead.

Might be a very useful book to read in pre-school groups or in primary schools where they have children on the autistic spectrum.


Julia Jarman can be for given for thinking I’d forgotten all about her book, but the truth is that every time over the last year when I picked up Hangman, I put it down again. Something about this book, more so than other books about bullying, scared me witless. And when I had read half the book last week, I had to force myself to go on. Don’t misunderstand me. It is a very good book.

It’s almost too good, and quite possibly more realistic on the subject of bullying than many others. That’s why it’s so painful to read. Luckily the second half of the story was more bearable, because I could tell it was leading to a conclusion of sorts, even if it turned out to be very, very bad.

My conclusion, though, is that I’m not upset by the awful behaviour of the boys in the story. Children have always been like that. Always will be. I’m dreadfully disappointed in the adults, and can’t understand how they all could manage to be quite so blind and naïve, and as far as the teachers went, so unprofessional. Not a single parent seemed to know their child. Didn’t stand up for the needy child. The teachers tutted amongst themselves about the bullied boy being a funny one. Not a mixer, and shaking their heads.

Stupidity is far scarier than cunning bullies.

Meeting Julia Jarman

I mistakenly thought that Julia Jarman only writes picture books, when I remembered that I have this anthology called Like Mother, Like Daughter where Julia has contributed with a story. I have set myself the slightly impossible task of getting a signature from all the writers who participated. Meeting Julia at least put me one step further. I can recommend the anthology, which as the title suggests is about mothers and daughters. The other authors include Linda Newbery and Adele Geras.

Julia has also written some YA books, which I will try and get hold of and get back to you about. They sound very interesting. One sounds like I might be scared even reading it, but I’ll try not to be a coward.

When we met, Julia was wearing an extremely nice knitted long coat and had this enormous golden bag with all sorts of things in it. She also carted a soft toy bath around with her, not to mention Thomas the Tank Engine (the ride-on variety). Very grateful the man-eating anaconda didn’t come along. You can tell Julia has grandchildren, because she certainly knows how to deal with a group of noisy toddlers. And she does voices. The train book almost came across as rap. It’s been a long time since I came into close contact with board books. I’m almost surprised the bath book doesn’t come as a, well, bath book. We used to like books in the bath. At least the kind that were meant to go in the water.

Julia Jarman