Tag Archives: Philip Reeve

MCBF – ‘a festival to grow up with’

It’s almost that time again. The Manchester Children’s Book Festival launched yesterday. Without me, but a launch is still a launch, and they have Carol Ann Duffy.

I like the way they describe their programme, suggesting that if you’re a little bit older than you were six years ago when they began – oh so beautifully! – you might have grown from younger books to some of the older, YA books and their authors. I really like that idea; that you grow up with a festival.

James Draper and Kaye Tew

And it goes without saying that once grown up you can still never be too old. After all, just look at the festival directors. Do Kaye Tew and James Draper strike you as old? No, I thought not.

I fear this may be another festival where I miss Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve. I have seen them, but they feel like my forever missing act. I don’t even know if I’m going this year. I’ll wait and see if I’m suddenly afflicted by energy, next week, or the week after.

The other side of Jacqueline Wilson, MCBF 2012

They have a lovely patron in Curtis Jobling (I’d like to think I made the introductions, but that could well be fake memory syndrome), so I don’t see how they can go wrong. And I love the fact that on their home page there is a photo of Jacqueline Wilson from a few years ago, with Daughter shooting away in the mid-background, and a virtually invisible witch next to her. We’ll never go away!

There’s a poetry competition, with judges of the highest calibre. If I wrote poetry I’d love the opportunity of being read by the poet laureate, and her Welsh counter-part, Gillian Clarke.

So, for two weekends MCBF takes over various venues across Manchester, including the library and Waterstones, where on the last day you can check out local boy Danny Weston with Sally Green [she’s not a boy].

That sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yip yip yip

Finally!! I have actually seen Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve in Charlotte Square. I went to their Chilly Up North event, and I brought the youngest Offspring along. (I think she enjoyed herself more than she expected to.)

There was a long queue and lots of people. Mainly small ones. They handed out sketchpads to the little ones, and even to those adults who wanted to draw. We had to shout yip yip yip to make Sarah and Philip enter. (Personally I’d have stayed away if I heard a whole tent yipping like that…)

Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve

Philip wore yellow trousers that would startle polar bears, and a fetching white Cossack style shirt. Sarah matched him for yellowness, with a rather lovely fur-trimmed yellow dress. In order to avoid crinkles she’d brought her iron.

Their new book, Pugs of the Frozen North, is about a race to reach the Snow-father before anyone else, so you can have a wish. They couldn’t afford huskies, so had to use 66 pugs to pull the sledge (apparently there is a knitting pattern on how to knit your own pug on Sarah’s website). When they mentioned a particle detector for the Northern Lights my personal astrophysicist moaned in despair.

Sarah McIntyre

This was the first time they’d done the show, so they had to feel their way round (‘couldn’t be bothered’ to rehearse, or so they claimed), but it wasn’t too bad. Philip stole Sarah’s pug at one point, but what is a pug between friends? They made a snow game, riddled with dangers such as avalanches and crevasses, not to mention yetis.

Plenty of opportunity for audience participation. There was the snowball throwing, which caused some unfortunate Elvis impersonation, farting and yeti hands, but it wasn’t quite the ‘end of Reeve & McIntyre’ as a member of the audience came to the rescue with their anti-yeti spray. Every performance should have some.

Philip Reeve

We were even taught how to draw our own pug, and it was surprisingly easy. We will be able to take over any day now.

There was an inflatable dice, and there was music and singing and an intricate chorus to sing (yip yip yip). They’re crazy. But popular.

So popular, in fact, that by the time the queue in the bookshop had sorted itself out, I had to give up on making myself known to Philip – again! – as I needed to be elsewhere. And he was so beautiful and yellow, too. It would have been lovely.

Yip…

The EIBF schools programme

Do any of you feel like a school at all? I’m asking because the Edinburgh International Book Festival schools programme was released this week, and it’s what Kirkland Ciccone and others were rushing to Edinburgh for on Friday evening, after the Yay! YA+.

The organisers invited (I’m only guessing here) a group of authors, some of whom are part of this year’s programme, to come and meet the teachers and librarians who might be persuaded to book a session for their young charges in August. And as I keep saying every year; it’s the schools events you really want to go to. Except you can’t, unless you’re local enough to travel and can surround yourself with suitably aged children.

But you can treat the programme as a sort of guide as to who could potentially be in the ‘real’ programme, which won’t be released until the 10th of June, and you are forewarned. Or you might be disappointed when you find that your favourite someone is only doing schools this year. But at least they will be there, and you could get a signed book.

Francesca Simon

I’m already excited by the list of great names, even if Kirkland is also on it. I’m no school, though, so won’t be there. 😉 But perhaps this year will be the year when I catch a glimpse of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve. Or Tim Bowler, David Almond or Ali Sparkes. The list is – almost – endless. I’ve already made a wish list for myself of people to look out for, or whose temporary husband I could be. Perhaps.

A moving account

This is your second-hand witch speaking to you. (Blogging, really, but you knew that.)

We moved in yesterday. Well, the furniture moved in, and when it had done so there was no room for us, so we are biding our time until such a moment that we have cut a path through the house.

And because of this, as you already know very well, I am not swanning around the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. The lovely people there have their own blog and you can read what they get up too. They have said I can borrow their photos, so I shall jolly well do so, and here are some of them. Doesn’t it look like they are having a good time?

Curtis Jobling started off the whole book festival and I can see he’s up to his normal tricks, cartooning away. He looks a little hairier than last time, but the man does write werewolf books.

Author of the Wereworld Series and Illustrator of Bob the Builder Sketches a Bob-the-Builder-Turned-Werewolf

These two people I always ‘manage to avoid.’ No matter how many festivals they and I go to, we never coincide. I’m in despair, actually. Who wouldn’t want to be dazzled by the very pretty Sarah McIntyre, and the almost as pretty Philip Reeve?

Authors of 'Oliver and the Seawigs' - Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre and the Sea Monkeys

As for avoiding, you can see what the green bear is doing, can’t you? He’s got James Draper on his blind side, which in effect must mean James wasn’t there at all.

Festival Director James Draper and Humphrey the Hospital Bear

Iris Feindt and Livi Michael look like they think it’s their festival. That they can play on the furniture. (Oh, I suppose it’s all right.)

P1030176

And my blogging colleague Kevin with – the to me – unknown lady passenger is having a fun time, too.

Untitled

Kaye and Claudia are posing with two lovely St John Ambulance men (the Resident IT Consultant was also unavailable, for the same reason as the witch). I do hope they weren’t needed. SJA, not Kaye and Claudia. They are always needed.

Untitled

That path I mentioned before? I reckon the best thing would be to burn all the books. There can be no earthly reason for us keeping all those books. The boys from Tillicoultry clearly thought so, as they staggered in with thousands of book boxes. (I swear – pardon – they must have been breeding in storage. The books. Not the Tillicoultry boys.)

(I – probably – didn’t mean that. I am just in a jealous mood, festival-wise, and wishing I could see my new house for boxes full of books. My heart is in Manchester. Which is an odd phrase, but why not?)

The 2014 programme – Manchester Children’s Book Festival

James Draper

Would you trust this man to run your book festival? Well, you should. James Draper – with his dodgy taste in socks – and Kaye Tew are responsible (yes, really) for the Manchester Children’s Book Festival, and there is no other festival I love in quite the same way. It is professional, while also managing to be friendly, fun and very crazy.

(While they now have their own teams working for them, and they claim there’s less need and opportunity to see each other all the time, I believed James when he said ‘I see more of that woman than I do the inside of my own eyelids!’)

James Draper and Kaye Tew

The extremely hot off the presses 2014 programme is proof that Kaye and James know what they are doing and are growing with the task (no, not in that way), but I hope they never grow away from the childish pleasure they seem to take in working together. Carol Ann Duffy was wise to give them the job in 2010. She might still have to be mother and stop anything too OTT, but other than that you can definitely hand your festival over to these two.

I’d been told the new programme would be ready by the end of Monday. And I suppose it was. James worked through the night until 9 a.m. on the Tuesday, but that really counts as end of Monday in my book. Then he slept for an hour to make it Tuesday, when he and Kaye had invited me round for an early peek at what they have to offer this summer.

James Draper and Kaye Tew

While James – understandably – got some coffee, Kaye started talking me through the programme. It went well, although if I’d brought reading glasses I’d have been able to see more. There is a lot there, and they have old favourites coming back and new discoveries joining us for the first time.

This year they start their reading relay before the festival with an event in early June with Curtis Jobling, who is launching the whole thing, before spending a month going into schools passing the baton on. I reckon if anyone can do that, it’s Curtis. The month, not passing the baton. That’s easy.

Multi-cultural Manchester launches on the 26th of June with Sufiya Ahmed returning to talk about human rights issues with teenagers.

Olive tree MMU

On the Family Fun Day (28th June) Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve will judge a seawig parade (no, I don’t know what that is, either), they expect you to make sea monkeys (instructions on Sarah’s website), and there will be countless other fun things to do. It’s an all day thing, intended to tire you out.

Sunday 29th offers entertainment at various venues belonging to the festival sponsors; Royal Exchange Theatre, National Football Museum, Waterstones and Ordsall Hall.

On the Monday Guy Bass is back, and newbie Kate Pankhurst is bringing her detective Mariella Mystery. (I think I was told that Kate is getting married before her event and then going off on honeymoon immediately after. That’s dedication, that is.)

Justin Somper will buckle some swash on Tuesday 1st July, and the Poet Laureate is handing out poetry competition prizes, while on the Wednesday Andrew Cope (whom I missed last time) will talk about being brilliant, as well as doing an event featuring his Spy Dogs and Spy Pups. And as if that’s not enough cause for celebration, that Steve Cole is back again. It will be all about me, as he is going to talk about stinking aliens and a secret agent mummy.

Farmyard Footie and Toddler Tales on Thursday 3rd July, ending with a great evening offering both Liz Kessler and Ali Sparkes. (How to choose? Or how to get really fast between two venues?) David Almond will make his mcbf debut on Friday night, which is cause for considerable excitement.

And on the Saturday, oh the Saturday, there is lots. Various things early on, followed by vintage afternoon tea (whatever that means) at the Midland Hotel in the company of Cathy Cassidy! After which you will have to run like crazy back to MMU where they will have made the atrium into a theatre for a performance of Private Peaceful: The Concert, with Michael Morpurgo, who is mcbf patron, and acappella trio Cope, Boyes & Simpson.

If you thought that was it, then I have to break it to you that Darren Shan will be doing zombie stuff in the basement on the Saturday evening. Darkness and a high body-count has been guaranteed.

Willy Wonka – the real one – is on at Cornerhouse on Sunday, followed by a brussel sprout ice cream workshop, or some such thing. Meanwhile, Tom Palmer will be in two places at the same time (I was promised this until they decided he’d be in two places one after the other), talking about the famous football match in WWI. There will also be a Twitter football final.

What I’m most looking forward to, however, is the Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson festival finale, with afternoon tea and a quiz at the MacDonald Townhouse Hotel. (And it had better be at least as chaotic as the one in 2010 where James’s mother was disqualified, and I probably should have been.)

You should be able to book tickets from today, and doing it today might be a good idea. Just in case it sells out. Which would be good (for them), but also a shame (for you).

For some obscure, but very kind, reason they have put my name on the last page. 14 rows beneath Carol Ann Duffy, but only two away from Michael Morpurgo. And I didn’t even give them any money.

MMU

All I want now is a complimentary hotel room for the duration. And a sofa from the atrium area to take home.

 

He ‘can revert at any point’

They are all quite lovely and tremendously interesting, but aren’t they a little weird,* too? I don’t want to be indiscreet, but among Sunday’s crop of authors we found a murder suspect, someone with plans to celebrate a well known politician’s death, a sofa arsonist, a perennial teenager and a writer reluctant to do research in the south of France in winter.

Sunday was literally bursting with great writers for children, and I very nobly only went to see half of what I wanted in order to preserve what little sanity I still have.

We began our day out with a lunch to keep us going until late, and found we could access the wifi and this enabled some ‘office work’ before we walked on to Charlotte Square, which, as I said, was teeming with the great and the good. I so wanted to stop and chat to Philip Reeve as he strolled by, but had neither the time nor the courage. Chris Bradford walked round dressed in black robes, trying to entice people to come and see him.

Sophia Bennett and Sarra Manning

Having failed to keep track of Barry Hutchison through useless email all day, we suddenly found the man himself, recently arrived from the Highlands, en route for a night on the town with ‘the boys.’ My photographer found Sarra Manning and Sophia Bennett signing in the bookshop, and also ran into Keren David who was out enjoying events before her own talk.

One event not to be missed was Theresa Breslin and Elizabeth Laird talking about writing historical novels. They both read from their latest novels, and described how they do research. Theresa had had some luck with a book belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, which she wasn’t allowed to even see, until she came across it almost by accident.

Elizabeth admitted to an unhealthy obsession with Ethiopia. (It’s OK. We all have something to hide.) Liz told us about how breeds of dogs were totally different in medieval times. Theresa mentioned embroidered, encoded spy messages, and both thought that the middle of the book was the worst part to write.

Cat Clarke

That’s something the next pair of ladies agreed with. Keren David and Cat Clarke discussed their contemporary teen novels, and read from their books. Keren chose to read from Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery, and we now know more about exploding breast implants than some of us might have wanted. Cat read from Torn, which she did so well that Daughter immediately wanted to read it.

Both Cat and Keren spend too much time on social media, and reckon chocolate can cure writer’s block. You need to kill parents or divorce them, because how else could you have your characters staying out all night? For the same reason you have an abnormal number of only children in fiction. Siblings get in the way.

Keren David

Cat once wrote a book that scared her so much she had to give up after twenty thousand words, and Keren is very excited that Lia’s Guide is about to be made into a musical.

We had a full programme, so had to dash after Cat’s and Keren’s signing to set up an interview corner at the opposite side of the square. Daughter had persuaded Professor Frank Close to give her an interview, on the eve of his talk about the Higgs Boson. I’m not sure I understood all they talked about, but they do seem to have found something to laugh about. Apologies to the lady who wanted our help. We weren’t really the best people to ask right then.

Photowitch and Frank Close

The evening finished with a Masterclass with Chris Riddell, introduced by Sue MacGregor. It was very dark. Almost too dark to take notes, but I am fairly sure I wrote something about Blair as Bambi. And Clinton, and Cameron, and all the others. Amusing though cartoons are, they are unlikely to change anything, and Chris feels he is politer in colour. (Bring back black and white?)

Chris’s tutor at Brighton Polytechnic was Raymond Briggs, and that’s why he started working on children’s books. When the Economist asked him to do political cartoons on the basis of a children’s book about elephants, Chris enjoyed being allowed to draw lederhosen, onions and bulldogs (I think those signify the Germans, the French and the British…).

The darkness was to allow us to see the slideshow of holiday snaps, no, I mean cartoons, which Chris had put together with help from his clever son. Though I don’t think that’s what he (or was it Sue?) meant when saying we were there to laugh when we think of dark things. It was dark. I’m not sure any longer. Chris gets invited to all the best parties, and he does get edited, but only by being told he can’t do something. He won’t allow interference within a cartoon.

Chris Riddell

At the subsequent signing in the adult bookshop (it was late) Chris met the best kind of fan; someone who turns up with a pile of old and well worn picture books. I wished I’d had some to get signed myself.

*(And speaking of weird, what are those cut-off rabbit’s heads doing on the ends of rows of seats in the Corner theatre? Other than preventing accidents on sharp corners?)

(The title refers to Chris Riddell, who wasn’t sure he wouldn’t revert to being a children’s author, bursting into some unsuitable song.)

Goblins

Believe it or not, but Goblins is my first Philip Reeve! I am a disgrace. (Or does a short story count?)

Philip Reeve, Goblins

Goblins is deliciously green; cover, paper edges, bookmark-cum-postcard, the lot. I wanted to read it, but tested it first on the Resident IT Consultant, who loved it. His notes (he took notes!) mentioned Farmer Giles, Gormenghast, Magic Flute, Wagner, Beowulf and Pratchett. So there you are.

My post-reading notes has anchovies and gazebo and cheese listed. We appear to see things differently.

Like Henwyn, the (human) hero of this book, I had never given too much thought to princesses who need rescuing. I know they do, occasionally, but had never stopped to think about who and what they might be. It would actually be worthwhile doing so. Philip Reeve’s princess is better than most. She is Princess Eluned, or Ned for short.

There is a map of Clovenstone, where the action takes place. What struck me about it is that most maps of this kind of fantasy country tend to look the same. I don’t mean it badly, but there were no surprises, if you get my drift? Anyway, Goblins live in Clovenstone and they are an unpleasant and stupid lot, apart from the (goblin) hero Skarper. He has goblinish tendencies, but is on the whole rather nice, and he is well read, due to the existence of bumwipes.

Power will make anyone mad and bad, whether human or goblin or any other species. That means the search for who is going to be the new Lych Lord can’t end well. Once you have power, you will not improve, and your friends will despair of you.

Henwyn comes from a cheese-making family, and there is an unusual cheese in this story. The gazebo in question is simply one of those nice words Skarper learned from the dictionary which he found among the bumwipes. Gazebo almost makes more sense to Skarper than kindness (the word) does, until he encounters kindness. You’ll know it when you find it.

Anchovies is merely a goblin kind of ‘phrase.’

Skarper and Henwyn and Ned have a bit of an adventure. Thanks to Henwyn’s courage and Ned’s wisdom and Skarper’s well… everything else, their search for riches and power and heroic adventure goes just fine. There is a dragon, three human idiots, as well as a troll and a giant. I’d say all the angles have been covered.

This book offers lots of humour and an exciting adventure, but I especially liked Philip’s use of language. And Ned. I’ll be Ned in my next life. At least if I can avoid some of her more hair-raising, near death experiences.

The Murderous Maths of Everything

Below you will learn about at least one interesting thing you can do with a publisher’s press release. I had no inkling they were so versatile, but let the Resident IT Consultant loose on a maths book and allow him the use of scissors and the previously mentioned press release, and…

I gave up at the Sieve of Eratosthenes. So you will forgive me (or maybe you won’t) for having handed Kjartan Poskitt’s book over to the man with the scissors. Although, having said that, I do feel The Murderous Maths of Everything looks interesting. Actually. It has come too late for me, but I could see myself studying bits and pieces from the book. A little at a time.

But here is the Resident IT Consultant on Kjartan’s book and also an earlier source of happiness for a very young R IT C:

“Where once there was nothing but Mathematics for the Million (Lancelot Hogben, 1936) there are today at least a dozen well-written popular mathematics books for adults published every year. But for children there is very little to satisfy, or inspire, an interest in mathematics. Look at Amazon’s popularity ratings and you find them dominated by study and revision guides.

For more than ten years this has been the sector of the market addressed by Kjartan Poskitt’s Murderous Maths series. Economically priced and heavily illustrated (many by Philip Reeve), these informal and irreverent paperbacks have built an enthusiastic following from children aged eight and upward. Kjartan’s latest book, The Murderous Maths of Everything, has one important innovation: it is in colour.

It looks very attractive. With something of the feel of a comic book it addresses a wide range of topics ranging from the Sieve of Eratosthenes through the probabilities of being dealt different poker hands to topological theorems that are not normally encountered outside university mathematics. I particularly enjoyed the double spread on mobius strips which introduced me to a demonstration (cutting around a pair of loops made out of a paper cross) which I hadn’t previously seen.

Kjartan Poskitt, The Murderous Maths of Everything

The book reminded me of a book I received as a seventh birthday present, Irving Adler’s Giant Colour Book of Mathematics (Golden Press, 1958) and I thought it would be interesting to compare the content. They are almost exactly the same size, in physical dimensions and number of pages: Adler’s has 92 pages, Poskitt’s 96. Adler’s book has an index, and is much more respectful in tone than Poskitt’s, though just as colourfully illustrated. Poskitt’s is much more entertaining. Neither book is afraid to use demanding vocabulary when the need arises.

Irving Adler, The Giant Colour Book of Mathematics

The two books cover a surprisingly similar range of topics including prime numbers, the Fibonacci series, mathematics and music, conic sections and Pythagoras. Both state the irrationality of the square root of two but neither attempts to explain it. Poskitt’s book provides more detail in some areas: there is much more on the application of probability to a range of games, the uses of prime numbers (Adler was writing long before their use in cryptography), and, surprisingly, Euclidean geometry (was Adler rebelling against its historical status?). It also covers several topics not included in Adler’s book: cycloids, mathematics in space, time zones and topology (including the fixed point theorem).

Kjartan Poskitt, The Murderous Maths of Everything

I was really impressed at how comprehensive a coverage of mathematics Adler’s book provides: projective geometry, great circles, infinite series, integral calculus and complex numbers are all touched on briefly and simply. Important concepts such as coordinate systems and algebra are introduced in easy to understand ways. A child familiar with the content of this book would find nothing to frighten them in secondary mathematics.

Irving Adler, The Giant Colour Book of Mathematics

Of course Adler’s book is only available second hand today while Poskitt’s can be bought easily. The style of Adler’s writing might strike a modern child as old-fashioned, possibly even slightly patronising in places. I find Poskitt’s style a little brash in place, but then I don’t belong to his target audience! For an eight to twelve-year-old with an interest (or a potential interest) in mathematics it would be ideal.”

I foresee an avalanche of little mathematicians in years to come. Apologies for the lenghty review. He’s not reviewed anything for days, so presumably felt deprived. Glad to find I’m not the only one to find square roots irrational. If you find me a bit out-of-sorts, it’s purely because Kjartan’s event in Edinburgh the other year sounded like a lot of fun, and I was on the wrong side of the wall of the tent. Outside. He was noisy. And popular. Hmph.

One last apology for the half naked cowboy.

(Illustrations by Rob Davis)

Haunted

Would you rather sleep well? If so, don’t do what I did. I read a short story every evening before going to bed. I thought it’d be a good way of enjoying this new anthology – Haunted – for Halloween. How wrong I was.

Haunted

The stories aren’t bad. Not at all. Most of them do exactly what they are meant to do. Scare you, and make you think of ghosts, and possibly even make your pulse go a wee bit faster.

Who’d have thought there could be so many ghosts? There are bad ones and small ones and sweet ones (I think so, anyway) and funny ones and ones you wouldn’t want to meet in your friendly neighbourhood graveyard. Even in daylight.

Some stories end well (ish). Others don’t.

As I might have mentioned when Derek Landy guest blogged here the other day, his story is very funny. Doesn’t mean people don’t die.

And if you look in the mirror, is there someone there? Apart from your good self, I mean. Also, whatever possesses people – children – to go out late at night to some dark and haunted place? On their own. It’s just asking for trouble.

I have to take issue with Matt Haig over giftshops. At first I thought he’s a really enlightened man. Then I realised he’d got it all wrong. He could have done the umbrellas even by doing the giftshop the other way round.

It’s not just dark dungeons that are haunted. Sunny beaches aren’t necessarily any better. Sunnier, but not safer. And what are you most scared of; computers or dogs?

Anyway, don’t let me put you off. Joseph Delaney, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, Jamila Gavin, Eleanor Updale, Derek Landy, Robin Jarvis, Sam Llewellyn, Matt Haig, Philip Reeve and Berlie Doherty have come up with some good stories. Best enjoyed with your elevenses, than with your bedtime snack, though.

‘It’s special’

Eoin Colfer once said he was sure school children only came to his talks in schools to avoid going to their maths lesson. Well, I don’t know what they expect from a trip to Charlotte Square and the book festival. I managed yet another schools event on Wednesday morning, when Simmone Howell tempted me enough to crawl out of bed far too soon after having got into it. Close to 200 teenagers had done the same, and they were a quiet lot. Although the questions put to Simmone were good ones.

Simmone started off by talking about places in fiction, from The Hobbit to To Kill a Mocking Bird through to her own two teen novels. She likes doing maps, and did them for her books. She also admitted to an early fondness for the word ‘peripatetic’ . In between talking about the background to her novels, she read short pieces here and there from Notes From the Underground and from Everything Beautiful. Simmone feels a need to write about what she knows, like places she’s lived in. She reckons she compensates for her childhood by rewriting her life in fiction form. And like a certain witch I can think of, Simmone keeps returning to the same places whenever she travels.

Simmone Howell

They may have been quiet, but many of the teenagers came into the shop and bought one or both of the books. One girl very proudly showed off her newly purchased and signed book to all her friends. She kept opening the book and showing the dedication, kept telling her friends what a special book it was, specially signed to her. It’s nice to see.

Emma ‘Long-Arm’ from Bloomsbury showed off how many books she can hold in one go. Lotsi, as one toddler I knew well used to say when counting. Very lotsi. And she didn’t drop a single one.

As I said earlier, I wasn’t exactly alone in getting up at the crack of dawn. Approaching Charlotte Square I noticed a long snake of day-glo-vested children on the opposite pavement. Later I found them, along with all the others, eating their packed lunches on the grass. Now I know why the mud is so famously muddy. It’ll be all the orange juice they pour out.

It can be hard to get used to all the authors wandering around ‘like normal people’, but I’m trying as much as I can. And one day I’ll pick up the courage to ask Vivian French for a photo opportunity and a signature. As Daughter and Son and Dodo were leaving with the witch to go in search of lunch somewhere quieter, we ran into Gillian Philip. But it’s a bit much when she recognises Offspring first, isn’t it?

Naomi Alderman

Philip Reeve

Ian Beck

Spent some of my spare time looking for more victims I could take pictures of while they were signing books, and I found Naomi Alderman, Philip Reeve and Ian Beck.

Mal Peet

My evening event was yet again with Marcus Sedgwick, this time in a heated discussion with Mal Peet, and kept in order by the queen of writing-about-children’s-fiction herself, Nikki Gamble. The audience was boosted by an appearance by Gillian Philip, accompanied by the two Keiths, Gray and Charters. And I’ll be forever grateful to Nikki for the revelation that Marcus has a past in an ABBA tribute band. Mal, on the other hand, is a former mortuary assistant.

That sort of difference between the two seemed to be a pattern. Marcus’s fascination with cold countries versus Mal’s with warm countries. Marcus plans his writing in advance, whereas Mal can’t even plan a cheese sandwich, whatever that has to do with novel writing. The ‘bone idle’ Mal finds writing boring and depressing.

Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus read from his new book White Crow, which is no a bundle of laughs, according to himself, and he feels he’s outdone himself with this one. In order to stop himself blabbering Mal read from Exposure, which is the story about Othello he stole off Shakespeare. He pointed out that novels have nothing to do with real life; what with characters speaking in complete sentences and how people never go to the toilet.

This was a real conversation about teen fiction. We need more events like it.