Tag Archives: Louise Rennison

Bookwitch bites #146

Bookwitch hasn’t ‘bitten’ for a long time. But better late than never.

Danny Weston has a new book out, which he launched in Edinburgh on Friday. He had to do it without me, but I gather it went well enough despite this. It’s called Inchtinn, Island of Shadows. Danny had even baked Inchtinn cakes. I bet he ate most of them himself, or possibly his friend Philip Caveney helped with the eating. (I won’t post that picture here. It is too dreadful.)

Danny Weston, Inchtinn

If it’s dreadful you’re after, you only need to look at this photo from when the witch met Vaseem Khan at Bloody Scotland last month. Vaseem looks just fine, but, well, that creature on the left… Sorry.

Vaseem Khan Twitter

That was the event when we discussed humour and how important it is, while not being taken seriously (!) by enough publishers. This is what Sarah Govett has found as well. After her dystopian trilogy a few years ago, she has tackled teen humour, much in the vein of Louise Rennison. If she’s to be believed – and I see no reason why not – teens are crying out for more funny books. India Smythe Stands Up is the book for you, fresh from Sarah’s keyboard.

Sarah Govett, India Smythe Stands Up

It’s important to keep track of children’s books. Even the Resident IT Consultant seems to feel this. I was a little surprised to find his companion in the holiday reading sofa, but who am I to say anything?

Daniel Hahn, Children's Literature

And, I knew this news was coming, but it’s still good to have it confirmed. There is another book from Meg Rosoff. It’s old YA, or some such thing. And not very long, apparently. We will have to wait until next summer, but the witch who waits for something good… (The Great Godden, since you ask.)

Meg Rosoff book news

Louise Rennison

Louise Rennison died yesterday, much to the shock of her peers, and obviously to her many fans.

I was thinking that I didn’t know her or her books terribly well, but as always when you start to think, memories pop up. 14 years ago as I began my volunteering in Offsprings’ secondary school library, Louise’s Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging topped its informal list of girls’ favourite books, with me busy sitting there never having heard of Louise or her – to me – oddly titled book.

Louise Rennison

That soon changed, but Louise wrote her Georgia Nicholson novels faster than I could read, so I never became a follower. I did buy Angus in Swedish translation, though, to tempt Daughter to read something real in that language, and recall a steamy passage which we read together.

It was the book I brought to Godalming when Louise was crowned Queen of Teen in 2008, and we chatted very briefly about this strange version of her bestseller. A more suitable teen Queen you couldn’t have hoped for; and I’m not surprised her fans voted for her in such great numbers.

Louise Rennison

We met her later in Edinburgh, only to encounter the one time a publicist wanted no pictures taken [for some obscure reason]. The photo above has been widely used and ‘borrowed’ and was taken with Louise’s permission, despite the protective publicist gunning for us again…

The picture below has also been borrowed quite a lot, and was from Louise’s official photoshoot in Charlotte Square a year or two later.

Louise Rennison

And eventually I did catch up with her work, enjoying her Withering Tights. That’s the title, and no reflection on her wardrobe. My vote for best legs in the children’s books world definitely goes to Louise.

(Photos by Helen Giles)

Legs, knees and other funny stuff

Philip Ardagh told me to read Withering Tights. I daresay he felt at home with the long-legged heroine, Tallulah Casey. And I had actually never read a Louise Rennison before. That is, unless you count the couple of pages from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging that Daughter and I perused for her Swedish studies, having bought the book in translation, thinking it’d come in handy for lessons. I seem to recall they were a fairly steamy couple of pages.

So, to the Roald Dahl Funny Prize winner of the witty title. Withering Tights is the kind of title I wish I’d come up with myself. The cover is rather nice, too. Set in Yorkshire (the story, not the cover) obviously, and I do hope Louise has special dispensation for making quite so many Yorkshire jokes.

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Tallulah has long legs with knees. This is a problem. (As an aside I have to say I’m still waiting for a heroine who is short and very, very fat. That, my friends, is suffering.) And Tallulah may never have been kissed, but this book is choc-a-bloc with young men. So many that I couldn’t begin to work out which one, if any, she’d end up catching.

There is a Heathcliff. There are two Heathcliffs, in a way. It’s Yorkshire, after all, and the book is called Withering Tights. Tallulah attends an arty kind of college over the summer. The boys are either local bad boys or ‘bad’ boys attending a boys’ summer something nearby. So Tallulah and her new friends have plenty of boyfriend material to yearn after. There is a Darcy type, too. And an owl.

She doesn’t have breasts. That, too, is a problem. But she hopes for the best and that time will improve matters. The acting is not going too well, either, but there is always Mrs Rochester on the roof. (Hopefully Withering Tights will make Louise’s readers interested in the classic novels she refers to.)

Louise Rennison

Philip Ardagh was wrong. This is not a standalone novel. There will be more, so maybe future readers will find out which boy. I suspect it won’t be Ben. Though in any Swedish translation of the book Ben will be an odd choice of name. It means legs. Tallulah has long ones, as I might have mentioned earlier. And I know one shouldn’t get personal here, but I doubt that Louise has ever worried about legs herself. See photo on the right of the Rennison legs.

Funny Girls

I drank my tea and ate my toast while watching some breakfast television show with Philip Ardagh doing his utmost to avoid mentioning that the Louises had won the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. I kept thinking he’d slip up. (Sorry, P.)

Glad to hear that many children’s authors are both short and funny. Like their books. Which would make a certain person’s books extremely long… (Or is that a tall book..?)

Last year’s winner (that’s Philip again) looked quite presentable (this is turning into some lowlife glossy magazine) with freshly trimmed beard and hair and he seemed to have the tickling of small children down to a fine art. I don’t know where they could have found quite such tiny and cute children. And getting them out of bed even earlier than I had crawled downstairs. The little boy favoured Where’s Wally, which was not on the shortlist, but if you ask a child a question, you get an answer.

Philip wrote in the Guardian on Saturday about the trials (and the odd bit of fun) of judging the prize. It’s a relief to learn that not all funny books are funny. And just because you think you are Julia Donaldson and believe you write like her, doesn’t mean you are or that you can.

Louise Rennison

Louise Yates and Louise Rennison can. Write funny, if not necessarily Gruffalo style. Louise Yates won the younger award for Dog Loves Books, inspired by one of the other shortlistees, Quentin Blake. And Louise Rennison triumphed with Withering Tights, which is such a delicious title.

I have adored the Rennison (here I thought it was going to be labour saving having two winners with the same name, whereas I now have to resort to surnames…) titles for years. I’ve never read her books, but each time I spy a new one I pause and enjoy the sheer wittiness of the title.

As a girl who likes humour, I’m more than satisfied with this double female win.

Bookwitch bites #24

Book launch sign

It’s lists and launch time at bookwitch towers with my bites one day early.

Last night Keren David had a launch party for her second novel, Almost True. I wasn’t present as unfortunately there’s a limit to how frequently I can do the commute to London. And I’m afraid I’m on my way there today, although not to see the Pope if I can help it.

Keren David at her Almost True book launch

Gillian Philip

Gillian Philip has been shortlisted for the Royal Mail’s Scottish Children’s Book Awards, along with Barry Hutchison, Julia Donaldson, Debi Gliori, Elizabeth Laird, Cathy MacPhail, Lucinda Hare, John Fardell and Simon Puttock. Luckily there are several categories so more than one of these lovely people can win. I hope they do. Not sure what they win if they win. Stamps?

The Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2010 judges have also come up with a shortlist, or rather two shortlists, because you can’t have too many lists of whatever length:

The Funniest Book for Children Aged Six and Under

Angelica Sprocket’s Pockets by Quentin Blake

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

The Nanny Goat’s Kid by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross

One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell

The Scariest Monster in the World by Lee Weatherly, illustrated by Algy Craig Hall

The Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen

The Clumsies Make a Mess by Sorrel Anderson, illustrated by Nicola Slater

Einstein’s Underpants and How They Saved the World by Anthony McGowan

The Incredible Luck of Alfie Pluck by Jamie Rix, illustrated by Craig Shuttlewood

Mr Stink by David Walliams, illustrated by Quentin Blake

The Ogre of Oglefort by Eva Ibbotson

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

I gather Philip Ardagh, who is one of the judges, may almost have read too many funny books in the course of duty. I believe it was something like 130, which is enough to put you off even that which you like best.

Right, I have a train to catch. See you tomorrow.

The case of the non-photogenic coffeecup

Geraldine's coffee

I’m quite pleased with my seal. The rabbit looked more like Arthur’s friend Buster, until I added more fluff round the edges. Debi Gliori taught me and one hundred children how to draw animals the Gliori way. She’d gone somewhat ambitious and bought 3000 pencils for this and other similar events. Babies cried and mothers helped their toddlers to draw seals, all on paper supplied by that bank.

She’d rested with a fiddling holiday in Shetland, but now it was straight back to shopping in Princes Street, followed by nine months of bunny-drawing for the new book.

Then the slowest book signer in the west spent the best part of two hours ‘doodling’ in people’s books, and I gave up every hope of speaking to her. But I gather she stopped feeling terrified after a while and stopped wiffling (whatever that is).

Lucky for us that this ‘middle-aged woman who laughs at her own jokes in private’ gave up all plans on becoming a princess, an astrophysicist (the mind boggles) or a doctor, to become a marvellous author and illustrator. Never mind that her kangaroo book is really about foxes. Much the same.

Debi Gliori

As Debi doodled in copies of Stormy Weather I bumped into Theresa Breslin, with beautiful borrowed baby in her arms. It was nice seeing Mr B again, but the poor man felt underdressed without a tie for me to admire, so he began planning what to wear next time we meet.

Swedish bag

Finding the press yurt surprisingly full I withdrew to the London Review café, where I encountered a random Swede. Ian Rankin was sitting around playing with his mobile, as always taller in real life than in my thoughts. Over tea back in the yurt there were tales of wasps eating wasps, which isn’t so charming. Also experienced my first shower, which happened minutes after I’d found a chair to sit on, with the rain coming from a clear sky.

Louise Rennison

We hung out for Louise Rennison, hoping that having an official photo call would mean no telling off this year. She was in the charge of Geraldine, so that was all right. Geraldine, on the other hand, had a wayward coffecup standing in the way of photography.

Michael Rosen

This was the closest I’ve got to Michael Rosen, but his event was sold out, so no luck on that front. He recited poetry while being photographed and delighted the paparazzi with his ‘eye special’. His event was pretty noisy, though, so we could hear him from outside. I managed to get myself to the front of the signing queue, surrounded by fans much shorter than me.

Martin Bell

Miguel Syjuco & Alberto Manguel

Olga Tokarczuk

The photographer was out catching Martin Bell who would be unrecognisable without his white suit. He stopped to chat to the photographers, which felt quite typical. While fishing we also caught Olga Tokarczuk and two gents by the names of Miguel Syjuco and Alberto Manguel. We have no idea who they are, but one of them carried a glass full of apple juice to the shoot. Or was it whisky?

This now has to count as a full working week completed, and the witch has grand plans for sleeping and generally catching up. Something will prevent this from happening. Before braving the train ‘home’ she had a nice dinner at Son’s new flat in a posh street. What’s student life coming to?

2010 Queen of Teen

Do you recall the last – and, I believe, first – Queen of Teen competition? It was two years ago that ten lucky authors for girls were shortlisted for this pink and glittery award. They, and their equally lucky nominators, got to travel round the south of England in limousines, getting to know each other on the way to the pink ceremony in Godalming.

Louise Rennison, Queen of Teen 2008

Some were luckier than most and travelled in the limousine that got a little lost and spent three hours trying to reach the rest of us. They got to know each other better than perhaps anyone wished to. A couple of the limousines were pink, as where the cakes and everything else. Bookwitch excepted, who went for her traditional purple.

Anyway, now you need to nominate candidates for this year’s award, and you have another few weeks, until the 14th of June. Last time it was Louise Rennison who was crowned Queen.

Who will be the lucky lady this time? Nominate away, and authors please start practising wearing pink, just in case. I know so many worthy writers, that I really don’t know what to do. Many, many deserve to win.

On the other hand, it’s more for the readers, really. Getting them interested in reading and in the competition, and maybe getting to attend the grand day. It may be glittery and seem frivolous, but it’s about books and reading.

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.

‘Writing novels is basically lying’

It really was Day 7 despite it being the eighth day, because the exhausted witch and her photographer took a day out. We were going to sleep all day, but didn’t quite manage it. Back to the grind, slightly recharged.

Marina Lewycka

Had hoped to shoot Marina Lewycka first thing, but she was running late, so it was her event which came first. Daughter has no interest in Ukrainian tractors, strangely enough, so it fell to your witch to hear Marina read from her third book, We Are All Made of Glue. That was after Laura Marney, who chaired, had offended most of the audience by accidentally saying she hoped all of us were born after World War II. Not judging by the amount of grey hair, they weren’t. I asked for permission to take a photo of Marina as she signed books afterwards, and she asked if she looked all right! She looked fantastic.

The official shooting of Marina came later, and unfortunately it fell to the witch to do that, too, as the photographer had gone off with Philip Ardagh.

Philip Ardagh

Philip  introduced his new Grubtown Tales, which by the looks of it required his towel again. Good thing Philip is Arthur Dent-ish in his packing. I was very, very sorry to miss the event, but splitting in two is painful. I saw Philip for the signing in the bookshop, and so did my new photographer acquaintance from the press pod, who was keen to come along when she heard who I was rushing off to see. Philip’s fans range from small boys to Queens. The Queen of Teen herself, Louise Rennison, was queueing up to get his signature. If you can call that stamp a signature?

Louise Rennison

Keith Gray

A lovely thing about the book festival is that people you don’t necessarily expect, pop up. While waiting for Mr Ardagh, I turned round and found Keith Gray at the next table, so went up to introduce myself. The man’s got taste. He reads Bookwitch. He even claimed to be pleased to see me. Very charming. And no, I don’t know the identity of the blonde who was photographed with Keith, either.

There was time for tea.

Justin Richards

Then Daughter went off to see Doctor Who. Not David Tennant, sadly, but Justin Richards, who writes Who books. But Who is Who, and can’t be missed. Not having been present myself, I can’t be sure, but she claims she even asked a question. Good grief. Something about science.

Patrick Ness

As for me, I had a sort of half agreed meeting with Patrick Ness. Don’t know why, but I have been haunting the poor boy for a long time, and I expect he wanted to get it over and done with. He had a bit more hair than I had imagined, and he is even more handsome in real life than in his photos. And due to the Who situation, I had to take Patrick’s photo, so it’s not as good as it should have been. Sorry. But we bonded a little over our Nordic-ness. (Hey, that’s wittier than I realised.) Patrick was late into Edinburgh, but seemed really cool about having virtually no time to prepare. Nothing to prepare, by the sound of it.

While hanging around, I came across Vanessa of the Children’s Bookshop. The bookshop bookshop, not the festival one. Didn’t know that she was chairing my next event, which was Elizabeth Laird. Had half hoped to see her too, but running late appeared to be a pattern just then.

On our last evening in Charlotte Square I ended up two-timing Elizabeth and Patrick. My wand had broken, so I was unable to be in two places at once. It’s a nuisance when that happens. So, I spent half an hour listening to Elizabeth tell stories, which was very nice. The children sat on the floor in front of her, as she re-told some of the traditional stories in her new book, The Ogress and the Snake. Old Somalian stories, I believe, which Elizabeth had found in Africa.

Skipped across to Patrick’s discussion with Bernard Beckett, on dystopias in YA books. Patrick has a world where nowhere is quiet, which he thinks of as similar to information overload. (I so agree!) All the texting and Facebooking would have driven him mad when he was younger, or so he thinks. Bernard, on the other hand, likes all this, so they are obviously coming from totally opposite directions. A world that has ice cream is good, according to Bernard. Patrick grew up surrounded by people who had a date for when the world would end. And he’d rather we don’t ask about the dog. So maybe he feels a little guilty…

Elizabeth Laird

With a last train to Manchester to catch, we left early, as did Theresa Breslin, who had sneaked in while waiting to go to some party. We had no party invitation, but did stop briefly to chat to Elizabeth Laird on our way out of Charlotte Square.

(The quote above is Patrick’s. And today the photos are a mix. Bad ones you can blame on moi.)

‘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)