Tag Archives: Morris Gleitzman

Mal was here

Now I feel bad. Mal Peet is such a nice man! And he writes marvellous books. We went along to Mal’s signing to make up for having missed his event.

And the lovely Mal asked if we’d been to see Morris (Gleitzman), which we had. Turns out Mal had wanted to see Morris himself, but I suppose it would be frowned upon to leave your own event to go and admire a colleague. We agreed that in my case it was OK to say that Australian trumps English writer.

But, oh dear, I feel bad. He could at least have seemed more put out.

Mal Peet, Life, An Exploded Diagram

So, there he was, signing piles of copies of Life, An Exploded Diagram, before calling on his wife to come and sign (one that she had written, I hasten to add), while he went outside with us for some photos. Mal leaned against that tree like a pro. He had lost his voice (one of the cons of authoring away in lonely garrets for most of the year and then coming out and talking to crowds), so couldn’t manage too much protesting. Very nice to finally meet Walker’s Ruth, as well.

Mal Peet

We had just come from someone who is used to flashing cameras. Ian Rankin, whose audience was that very minute lining the Charlotte Square boardwalks, posed in front of the collected paparazzi, and when I happened to turn round, I saw some tourists pressing their noses against the nearby gate, trying to see what was going on.

Ian Rankin

A minute or two later someone passed me a mobile phone through that very same gate. She was on double yellow lines and just needed this phone handed to someone in the yurt. Brave of her, and I hereby declare the mobile delivered.

Then we went and dined on M&S sandwiches on the concrete Chesterfields in the mud. Not that I was able to get up afterwards, but that’s another story.


(There are more and/or different photos on Photowitch every day.)

Edinburgh 2011

It is pretty dreadful. But on the other hand it could have been a lot worse.

I’m talking about the freshly released programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. And before you jump to the erroneous conclusion that the programme is bad, I’m simply bemoaning the fact that I will miss ‘a few’ people by not getting there for the first week.


No doubt it will come as a relief to Meg Rosoff and Tim Bowler and Cathy Cassidy that they will miss me too. Not to mention Julie Bertagna and Lucy Hawking. Derek Landy, arghh. Elen Caldecott. Lots of lovely people, who all write great books.

On the plus side, we have Nicola Morgan with Celia Rees, and there is always Patrick Ness and Darren Shan. Janne Teller and Fabio Geda from my foreign reading challenge, and also Mal Peet, Morris Gleitzman and Debi Gliori. And many more. So plenty of little rays of sunshine, in the shape of authors. We know more than well that last year’s lack of mud must be compensated for, so it will rain. Plenty.

Jacqueline Wilson and paparazzi

How will I find the strength to do all this? Last year – sunny weather notwithstanding – nearly finished me off. Would they frown very much if I were to erect a tent in Charlotte Square? Silly me, the place is full of tents. No need to bring my own. It would be convenient, if a little uncomfortable and against the rules. So I guess it will be the Stirling commute again. All that walking is good for me. (To and from the train. Not all the way.)

As for the programme, it looks very, very tempting. It was at this point last year that I threw caution to the wind and opted for the whole caboodle. I can’t this time, so I won’t. Which doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t there.

My Morris Minor

It may be a mere mini-Morris, but it’s still an interview and I like it. I mean, I like him. Very nice, even if that bit taller than expected.

Morris GleitzmanI’m sure he was just being polite in saying nice things about my questions, but I did have concerns over his possible arguments with the church over Grace. But like all great authors Morris had clearly thought through what he was going to write and why. And then he did.

I’ll have to bribe someone for a longer chat some other time. Very grateful it wasn’t me who interrupted Morris mid-sentence… (As if I would.)

The speed-interview relay will continue and conclude tomorrow.

Three Puffins and the Anna Perera interview

It’s been a while. Sorry.

I’d like to say that I’ve agonised long and carefully about how to do my Puffin trio justice, but that would be almost completely untrue. I’m simply late. Too much got in the way.

But I did know that I wanted to publish all three interviews with Anna Perera, Morris Gleitzman and Ruta Sepetys close together. After all, they sort of came in to see me in the Tardis (room) in relay fashion. It’s been busy around here, and finding a gap large enough wasn’t easy.

I’m aware that I didn’t show you a photo from the panel discussion with Claire Armitstead, but now that I have stolen a photo from ‘somewhere’, here are all four.

The Puffin panel - Ruta Sepetys, Morris Gleitzman, Anna Perera and Claire Armitstead

And from there straight on to the Anna Perera interview. I’m guessing Anna was first because she wanted to get me over and done with. Quite understandable.

It was good to meet someone new to me, and interesting to learn the background to The Glass Collector.

They hear voices

That’s what they do. And then they write books.

There was talk of body fluids and worse. Ruta Sepetys, who’s just had her first book, about starving people in Siberia, published, described her style of writing as ‘projectile vomiting’ and later told of her editor advising her to ‘watch her gratuitous defecation’.

Although Morris Gleitzman said that if necessary ‘let there be defecation’.

Morris Gleitzman, Grace; Anna Perera, The Glass Collector; Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray

The witch went to London yesterday for a panel discussion at Puffin HQ between Morris Gleitzman, Anna Perera and Ruta Sepetys, and kept in beautiful order by Claire Armitstead of the Guardian. I knew I liked her!

Before the panel Puffin invited some great book bloggers to a private meeting with the three authors, so there was the old witch in the company of five bloggers all of an age to be my Offspring. Luckily for them they are not.

And before that, I found myself standing in reception at Penguin, saying I was there to see Jayde Lynch. ‘And me’ whispered Anna Perera at my side. She and Ruta had got there before me and Morris arrived soon after, and they were all there because they’d been told they had to see me.

That’s what I like!

Morris Gleitzman

Anna and I agreed that Morris is much taller in real life than he looks in his photos. I had imagined someone short. Maybe I just thought Morris had to be the same size as his pal Eoin Colfer?

The Tardis Room

Jayde came for us and I was taken to the Tardis Room, which wasn’t as big inside as it might have been. But nice enough anyway. I decided on pot luck and they sent Anna in first for our ten minutes (who said I’m greedy?). Next came Morris, who could have talked for much longer than his ten minutes, followed by Ruta. As if by agreement none of them sat down in the same place as the others. I’d like to think of them waiting – NCIS style – to be interrogated and exchanging information on how horrible I’d been and what I wanted to know.

Anna Perera

Down to the 6th floor for the blogger gathering. I’ve only come across Jenny of Wondrous Reads previously, but had checked the others out before I came. She was there for Morris. Mostly, anyway. As luck would have it, he came and sat down next to her, so that was good.

The others were Sarah Gibson from Feeling Fictional and Carly Bennett of Writing from the Tub. Dwayne Halim – who is a girl – from Girls Without a Bookshelf, and last but not least Rhys of Thirst for Fiction. All very young, as I said. Lots of discussion with the authors, and a lack of agreement on e-readers.

I’m having second thoughts about Twitter now, as it seems Rhys was responsible for some successful tweeting on behalf of Ruta’s book. Morris can’t possibly tweet, as he is unable to write less than 30,000 words on anything.

The authors interviewed each other on writing technique, and Morris firmly believes in the ‘ late in and early out of scenes’ way of not dwelling too long on anything and becoming boring. And he plans meticulously. This is where Ruta’s projectile vomiting comes in.

Ruta Sepetys

People helped themselves to the books on the table, stuffing them into their choice of colour Puffin bags. I picked an orange one this time. And then on to the tenth floor, with ‘the best view in London.’ Ruta and I chatted on the way, and she was easily impressed by me actually having met Meg Rosoff. She’s got good taste.

Surprisingly I found Candy Gourlay during pre-panel drinks. Wrong publishing house, but she sneaked in to see Morris. They all love Morris. Hmm. The usual faces were there (along with their bodies, naturally). I took my life in my hands when stepping out onto the balcony thing in order to take photos of the Thames. I did it for you.

The Thames

Candy sat as close to Morris as possible, while I hid by the door in my usual fashion. And I apologise to my neighbour for my snacking. It was dinner time. Adele Minchin introduced everyone, and she made me think. She pointed out that children’s books are for children. I tend to forget they aren’t just for me.

Anna, Ruta and Morris introduced their books, and after some discussion about toilet topics, etc, it was question time. Nicholas Tucker in the audience kicked off with the comment that he felt there could be a need for counselling services after such hard punching topics. People disagreed for the most part, and maybe it is that we get softer with age. Children can be quite hard at times.

Minister Gove was mentioned, and we all felt that the three books we were there to talk about should be on his infamous list. Then we went one step better and decided the list should be much longer, if there is to be a list, which is silly in itself.

One hour can last a long time, but unfortunately last night the hour was the fast kind, so we found ourselves eating pizza slices and falafel before we knew where we were. The real fans queued up to have their books signed, with Candy getting in very early, thanks to her front row seat.


Morris Gleitzman is bound to be in danger of being sent to the hot place downstairs for writing Grace. I’m concerned for his safety. His lovely new (for the UK) book Grace deals with religious fanatics, and this is never a safe topic.

This is a book about fathers. Grace has a lovely father. Her mum also has a father, albeit not quite so wonderful. There is an outsider father (i.e. not-the-right-religion kind) and then there is the father from upstairs, who is made lovelier than ever by young Grace, who must surely be a little miracle in herself.

Small religious sects are on the agenda in the book Grace, except the girl Grace doesn’t know this, because she has only ever lived within her small and exclusive group. They are the only Christians (just over 11,000 of them) who will go to heaven. At least they are not beset by doubts. I’ll say that for them.

Grace’s 4-year-old brothers Mark and Luke often play at smiting each other. Their mum is the daughter of a church elder and the sister of another. Her husband tries his very best, but whereas that makes him a tremendously good dad, he’s a failure in the eyes of the church.

Grace is the loveliest of girls, and the fact that she often misunderstands things is made up for by the fact that she thinks some really sensible thoughts as well. And she has little chats with God. I expect God loves her very much, but he might not be the one that Grace’s grandfather knows.

‘And lo, before I could work out a way of solving our family’s tribulations, things came to pass that made the problem even worse.’

Jonah and Daniel both have parts in the plot, when Grace tries her best to make everything the same as it was, before bad stuff happened. She truly loves everyone, except maybe Mr Gosper, but even for him she thinks nicer thoughts than he deserves. As her eyes open she learns that not everyone is as good and as loving as she had supposed.

So it came to pass that Grace learns outsiders are not all bad. And you can survive eating ice cream without microwaving it first.


Season of lists

Having thought it’d be last Saturday, and found it wasn’t, I naturally assumed it’d be this Saturday, so swept the decks, if not much else, in preparation. And it wasn’t. It seemed. And then, come Sunday morning, I found it was, after all.

‘It’ being the Guardian children’s fiction prize shortlist. When I wrote about those other shortlists a few days ago, I felt this one was bound to follow immediately. As things tend to do. Some years ago I asked to be put on the mailing list (see, another list) for this prize, and was told I would be. I’ve since asked every year, and somehow it’s not happened.

My Sunday morning revelation only appeared in the form of a brief column in the Review by Mal Peet musing on his role as one of the judges. It was well hidden. The column. Not Mal’s role as judge.

I google and still I don’t find them. At times I get the impression that the ‘home’ website for every award is the last one to update itself. One I mentioned earlier this week only listed the 2009 award. I had thought I’d at least get an early-ish warning on facebook, but not this week.

Don’t worry. My moan is almost done now.

So, to the list. (Here is where I have to search my own blog to see what I predicted. I have a dreadful feeling I was seriously out this time.)

OK, check done. I got two right. And here is the list:

Now, by Morris Gleitzman

Unhooking the Moon, by Gregory Hughes

The Ogre of Oglefort, by Eva Ibbotson

Ghost Hunter, by Michelle Paver

Interestingly two of the choices are ‘last book in a series’ books. I believe someone criticised that as not being a good idea. I don’t think it matters. You could sort of get the prize for ‘long-standing service’.

I have only read Now. Which is wonderful. Really want to read about the Ogre. Unhooking the Moon sounds interesting, and the only reason I’ve not read Ghost Hunter is that I never got started on Michelle Paver’s books, so feel I have an awful lot of catching up to do.

Won’t say which one, but I think I may have a favourite.

Worthy books

Some year I will learn that the longlist for the Guardian children’s fiction prize tends to emerge just as I go away for half term in May. I may even write it down in my newly acquired blog diary. Or would that take planning a step too far?

Better late than never, here is the 2010 longlist, accompanied by a worthiness problem further down.

Prisoner of the Inquisition, by Theresa Breslin

Now, by Morris Gleitzman

Unhooking the Moon, by Gregory Hughes

The Ogre of Oglefort, by Eva Ibbotson

Sparks, by Ally Kennen

Lob, by Linda Newbery

Ghost Hunter, by Michelle Paver

White Crow, by Marcus Sedgwick

For me it’s more of an unknown list than I’m used to. Three I’ve read, with another lying in waiting. At least another couple that I like the sound of. That makes the predicting rather harder. Although, predicting is mainly an inner ‘feel’ and not something based on fact or my own tastes. So the shortlist will comprise Theresa Breslin, Morris Gleitzman, Eva Ibbotson and Ally Kennen.


There is one aspect to the list that has always puzzled me, and that is why they pick books not yet published. I have a copy of Marcus’ s book, but it’s not out yet. And if the young critics are to stand a chance, they need to be able to buy the books.

The worthiness referred to at the beginning of this post has to do with a letter in Saturday’s Guardian, where the correspondent was unhappy with the selection. The books are far too worthy and will not attract young readers.

Is he right? I’m not sure who does the picking for the Guardian longlist, but it’s true that awards where children vote, tend to pick more child oriented choices. Who are the awards for? Maybe he’s wrong? Not all children will like the above books, but many will.

As for me, I’m old and will pick like an old person. I can stand aside and say that some other books may suit some readers better. But if you leave it all to children, there are books they will never try, which is why adults are there to push and suggest.


I’m grateful for both sequels to Morris Gleitzman’s Once. I wasn’t sure there could be another book after the first one. But he wrote Then, which was almost better and certainly sadder, while also offering hope. And now there is Now. I would have expected a third book to be set at the end of the war, and it is, if you count 65 years after as after. The setting has moved from Poland to Australia, so nothing is the same, but at the same time everything is just as it was.

Felix has grown old and his Zelda is dead, and now he has another Zelda, in the shape of his granddaughter, who has come to live with him. Zelda II is very much like her grandfather in temperament and courage, and also as naïve. I was crying within the first few pages, and I didn’t dry until the book came to an end.

Now has everything from bullying to bushfires. The first is scary and many of us know what it can be like. The second is a lot scarier, and most of us haven’t got a clue what a fire like that can do, or feel like. Read Now and you will find out.

This is a Morris Gleitzman book, however, so Now also has plenty of humour, and being set in Australia it’s got one or two inexplicable Aussie things in it. I could look them up, but feel the mystery surrounding these Australian words has a certain charm. So I don’t want to know.

Our Felix did grow up to be a doctor, and Zelda II is very, very proud of him. At least as proud as the first Zelda would have been. And the plot has a nice loop of continuity from the beginning to the end, which I barely noticed at first, but it’s even more touching when you do see it.

At a time when we are wondering how to get children to read, these three books are a good starting point. They are easy to read, they are short, and they are fantastic.

When Melvin met William

It was almost ‘ladies only’ at Waterstone’s in Deansgate last night. We’d come for the sex. A little bit of love, too, but mostly sex. I noticed on the poster that it was titled Adult Author Talk, which would explain the ban on under-13s. Melvin Burgess is no longer the only one. William Nicholson has joined him in the very small club of writers who have tackled sex for YA readers, without confusing the issue with vampires and things.

William and Melvin warmed up in the adjoining Costa, and when they arrived in the events room they sat down in the wrong chairs, but dealt with it by swapping their books round to where they sat. Alistair Spalding from Egmont introduced them, and didn’t seem to get them too mixed up.

William Nicholson and Melvin Burgess

The very well spoken and polite sounding William started, on the grounds that it was he who has a new book out, Rich and Mad. (It’s confession time again, because I’ve not had time to read it. Yet. I’d seen the news that William’s doing the Groucho Club tonight, with his book, and been a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it. So a last minute piece of intelligence that he’d be coming here pre-Groucho was more than welcome. I lead such a boring life that I was free. Naturally.)

William Nicholson

He may be 62, but inside he’s still 16, and he told us about his early love life, such as it was and about what passed for p*rn in those days. He feels there’s a need for more books like the one he’s just written, and he and Melvin did that thing where people admire each other’s work. Whereas William’s teen years were quite chaste in his boys’ school with the purposely ugly ‘hags’ employed so as to avoid stirring any sexual feelings, Melvin reckons that a film from his teens would need to be an 18. Yes, well.

Melvin claims to have been scared of girls in his teens, while William was taken to a brothel at 18. He fantasised about American cheerleaders, and Melvin really didn’t like school at all. And as Anne Fine found, he did want to shock when he wrote Doing It. William has been all set for a ‘storm of outrage’ and it hasn’t materialised. Could it be that we are seven years on from Doing It?

We all agreed that the hardest thing with books like these is to get them past the parents of prospective readers. The cover of Rich and Mad might make it hard for it to be unobtrusive, and I heard there was one school that has cancelled an event due to fears of upsetting people. The head teacher read the book between booking William and the event.

Melvin Burgess

Not surprisingly, Melvin wants readers to be ’empowered rather than protected’ and feels that schools are just the right places to do this, if they could just escape their fear of complaints to the press. He told us about Morris Gleitzman turning up at an event wearing his dressing gown which didn’t go down well with the school. On a brighter note, William had a good school event on Wednesday morning, and was heartened by the students’ discussion on love and sex.

Anyone who wants to discuss anything with William is welcome to email him on his website. He describes it as ‘Paypal’ style, where your email address isn’t made available to him, so you’re quite safe. He’s used to silly questions, but would most likely prefer good ones. He’s had mainly good feedback for Rich and Mad, and he read us a short excerpt from the book.

William Nicholson and Melvin Burgess

For the signing afterwards it looked like many in the audience had brought all their favourite books along. Not great for sales, perhaps, but it’s good to see how keen people are. I believe my local blogging colleague from Wondrous Reads was present. I meant to say hello properly, but gaga-hood struck (me) again, and then she was gone. When Waterstone’s staff started removing the chairs I took the hint and stood up. It takes more than some missing chairs to make a bookwitch leave. I hung on to the bitter end, but not so late that it was dark for my walk through Manchester.