Tag Archives: Lucy Coats

Enough research? The right research?

Complaining is such a satisfying thing to do. Sometimes, anyway. I caught the tail end of something Lucy Coats said on Facebook, and which I feel entitled to mention here as she tweeted it at TES, making it public. Lucy was dissatisfied with their list of recommended books for children.

Keeping in mind my own moan a few months ago, on a similar topic, I read all the comments, feeling quite enraged. Then I read what school librarian and children’s author Dawn Finch said about it on her blog, including her own list of suitable books. Many great books, and I couldn’t agree more.

Finally (yes I know, I should have started there) I had a look at the offending list the TES had put together. It wasn’t as bad as I had feared, especially considering the list had been compiled by asking teachers. I suppose the TES could hardly go around asking accountants for their recommendations, so the question I have is why ask teachers?

Why not the school librarians, while they are still not totally extinct? Is it that teachers are supposed to know more? Or was it to see how little they are aware of books?

The thing is, as I’ve said on other occasions, by asking fewer experts and more people in general, you end up with the same general lists, because that’s the kind of knowledge we have on things we don’t specialise in.

As I said, the list was nowhere near as bad as it might have been. But if the purpose of the listmaking was to guide adults guide children, then they should have asked the librarians.

One of the first things I was involved with at Offspring’s secondary school library, was the voting for favourite books. Admittedly it was probably mostly the keen readers who responded. But it was illuminating for me, who thought I knew it all. Among boys, the two books that stood out were the Guinness Book of Records, and Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called ‘It’ and both surprised me. Had it not been for the school library, I’d have assumed the winner would be one of the well known novels for children. If not Harry Potter, then one of the others that we adults ‘have all heard of.’


This long awaited novel by Lucy Coats has a most tantalising end. She claims she could only end it like this, and she’s probably right. Probably.

Whatever. You will love this story about the young Cleopatra. At first I thought Lucy seemed very well informed, but it turns out she is only guessing, building her story round what little is known about Cleo. And this is absolutely fine. Fantastic. Wonderful. You know, all those words.

Lucy Coats, Cleo

We meet Cleo at the age of ten as she watches her mother die, and her ghastly half sisters turn on her. Seems it was the expected behaviour in those days. Fast forward to four years later, and it’s time for Cleo to ‘do something about it.’

Cleo is a marvellous girl, very capable, and thinks on her feet. She’s also surrounded by a great gang of helpers, and I do like competent co-characters. Some of Cleo’s are among the best I’ve met for a while.

Once you rid yourself – a little – of the image of Liz Taylor, you can move more properly in the right circles in Alexandria. There’s a lot of bad stuff happening. There are gods on different sides, and people can be killed on a whim. Crocodiles, hippos; all the usual weapons.

This is the first of three books, which is logical, as Cleo’s sisters are so bad they will need plenty of time to be sorted out (I hope), and any romance will need to mature, and characters have to be brave in the face of so many hippos, or worse.

The importance of libraries should not be under-estimated even for so long ago. We’re in Alexandria, after all. As for Cleo and her friends, I’d like to say everything will be fine once we’ve got all three books. The question is, will it? I’m sure whatever happens, that the journey will have been worth it.

The book-launching mug

‘That doesn’t look like a book’ said the Resident IT Consultant as he brought in the post.

I looked at the square box and concluded he was right. ‘It’s a mug,’ I said. I knew this because Lucy Coats had very generously said she’d send me one of her special mugs to celebrate the publication of her new novel Cleo. And a witch can easily use a fabulous mug like this one. (Quite handy, actually. I don’t believe there is a single non-sawdusty drinking vessel in the whole house.)

Lucy Coats, Cleo & mug

Once I had negotiated all that parcel tape, however, I could see I had been both right and wrong. There was a book as well.

Very much looking forward to a read and some tea.

Bookwitch bites #122

If you’re up early and you’re near St Andrews, you could still make it to this children’s books day, organised by Waterstones. I had thought I might go, but realised I need to slow down and get some real work done, and not go gadding about, having my face painted. Helen Grant will be at the Town Hall, as will Lari Don and a few others. Sounds nice.

St Andrews children's events day

While I’m in poster mode, I will show you the poster for a blog tour in early July, for Janet Quin-Harkin’s HeartBreak Café. I don’t often do this, but I have my reasons…

HeartBreak Café blog tour

Sorry to have moved away from Sefton Super Reads, which took place this week. Eleanor Updale won with The Last Minute, which is a Bookwitch favourite. Here is Eleanor with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail, and if my eyes don’t deceive me they are sitting in front of that rather nice fireplace I saw last year in Southport.

Sefton Super Reads - Eleanor Updale with Piers Torday and Catherine MacPhail

Eleanor is a busy woman. Today she is at the Borders Book Festival (which I won’t be going to either…) chairing an event with Elizabeth Laird, and tomorrow Mr Updale, aka Jim Naughtie will be doing an event for his book. The day after – i.e. on Monday – Jim will be appearing in Edinburgh, talking to Gordon Brown (the ‘real’ one) and Tom Devine (I have this from Son and Dodo who are going).

From historians and politicians to royalty. Keren David, Keris Stainton and Candy Gourlay were invited to Buckingham Palace this week. It was a garden party to celebrate their good work on getting authors to donate stuff for the Philippines. I’m very pleased for them, and it seems they had a lovely time. (Strangely enough, they weren’t the only ones I knew who had been invited, so I must really know the right people these days.)

Candy Gourlay, Keren David and Keris Stainton

Lucy Coats is another author with ties to Buckingham Palace, and she has been celebrating her new website. I gather she’s also celebrating something else this weekend.

Someone who is no stranger to the royals, is Carol Ann Duffy, who has been involved in making a poetry anthology – Let In The Stars – written by real grown proper poets for children. It will launch at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival on July 1st.

Bookwitch bites #75

If I’d known about it I would have wanted to be there. Here is a short video from when some other people spoke up for libraries, with Alan Gibbons at the forefront ‘as usual.’ The others are, in no particular order, Lucy Coats, Candy Gourlay, Philip Ardagh, Gillian Cross, Fiona Dunbar, Chris Priestley, Pat Walsh and the librarian of librarians, Ferelith Hordern. And probably some others I didn’t catch enough of a glimpse of to be able to identify them.

It’s easy for us to take libraries and the whole idea of them for granted. I had no idea that when Candy grew up in the Philippines there weren’t any libraries. And the elderly gentleman in the video who talked so passionately about borrowing books to read… well, it makes me want to cry.

Charlie Brown had access to a library. Probably even Snoopy had a library, unless it was ‘no dogs allowed.’ It can be easy to lose or forget a library book, but as long as you don’t ‘spill coffee’ on a book on purpose, you might be forgiven.

Charlie Brown library cartoon

The coffee spilling was a technique I learned about at work, back in the olden days. Not very honest, and not something I have ever practised.

Finally, here is a link to a radio programme on Monday 26th March, about Scandinavian children’s books, presented by Mariella Frostrup as ‘always.’ Let’s hope it won’t be only the same old stuff, despite the description. I am particularly interested, because I was party to a request for contributions to the programme from the Scandinavian church in Liverpool. Nice that they asked, but not sure who they hoped to find there. (Having said that, I will clearly be faced with all my friends at Gustav Adolf…)

Bookwitch bites #70

Sisters and socks and television this week. I’ve been watching far too many daytime shows for my comfort, in order to take in most of the interviews with John Barrowman and his lovely sister Carole.

Then there was Blue Peter who had ‘some sort of ‘ book programme this week. The quotation marks are there to point out that I think they could have had more on books. I now also know stuff about escorting sharks in elevators – and surviving – which I dare say might come in tremendously handy one day, but which was not fully book related. Lucy Coats was lovely, talking about one of the books I have not read. Michael Rosen and others were also there to enthuse about the various Blue Peter shortlisted books.

David Fickling

Here is an ‘almost television’ programme, a video featuring Jacqueline Wilson and her books in general, and her new The Worst Thing About My Sister in particular. Jacqueline answers questions from an audience of children, and reads from TWTAMS.

This week’s sockman, Nick Sharratt is also in there. In retrospect I began wondering whether Nick got his sock inspiration from David Fickling of red socks fame. That’s DF from David Sockling Books, you understand. And in this week’s sock relay, it was to Oxford and David Sockling/Fickling that Nick headed as he left our ‘blissful, lovely’* Sockport.

Big Book Babble with Jacqueline Wilson ans Nick Sharratt

* That’s almost a literary quotation, but I’m afraid I can’t divulge who said it, for fear of repercussions.

Sam’s day

You don’t really have to worry about what to blog about after meeting an author. Something is bound to pop up, every time.

So there we were, on my hall floor, trying to cellotape Sam Mills’s suitcase handle back together again. We were on the third roll of tape by the time it almost seemed to work. And I don’t know what happened after that. I called upon the services of the Resident IT Consultant to take our visiting author away, along with her suitcase and her emergency egg sandwich. I’m guessing she went the same way all the rest of them did…

My sleuthing hasn’t gone well this year. I only found out about the winner of Key Stage 4 in the Stockport Schools Book Award, and that’s Sam with Blackout. We decided to meet up, so I went to her hotel. Only, her train ran late (what a surprise!) and we had omitted to exchange mobile numbers, but with the assistance of Lucy Coats and the hotel, we were reunited.

In fact, I took matters into my own hands and told her to stay on the train until it stopped outside my house and spirited her away for a cup of tea, before the cellotape incident. I had also omitted to hoover (for longer than you really want to know), so Sam’s careful avoidance of dropping biscuit crumbs on the floor was extremely unnecessary.

The biscuit was a meagre offering for someone who had not only won an award, but whose birthday it was. I should have baked a cake. I would have, if I’d known. But at least I foisted some surplus books onto her, into her crippled suitcase.

What did we talk about? And who? Wouldn’t you like to know? Incest, sex and swearing, mental health, book awards, school events (I’m sure Sam’s two schools today will be just fine) and a few other things. I’m very pleased for Sam, seeing as we met at the Lancashire Book of the Year in June, where she was the eternal bridesmaid, as she put it.

Sam Mills

This way I didn’t get to see Sam in her posh frock, but at least she has her Rapunzel hair for a true princess look. She claimed to have chopped a bit off, but you wouldn’t know it.

Here’s hoping the event at the Plaza was every bit as special as all the winners – and the voting children – deserve!

Stockport School Book Award