Tag Archives: Piers Torday

Return to Wonderland

Return to Wonderland

Many writers have a relationship with Alice. A whole bunch of them have now written their own new stories about Wonderland and the wondrous creatures you find there. It’s Alice Day on the 4th of July, or so I’ve been told, and here’s a whole new story collection featuring your favourite characters.

In fact, I was struck by how nicely these authors played; they all seemed to have an affinity with a different character from the other authors, which seems to mean there was no fighting. They simply sat down and mused in an interesting way about the Cheshire Cat, or the Knave of Hearts, or any of the others.

To tell the truth, I only ever read the original Alice once, and don’t have a deep and meaningful relationship with any of them. I like tea parties, but prefer them to be normal. I like my head attached. And so on.

Some of these stories were great, lots of fun and interesting new takes on the old tales. I didn’t like all of them the same, but that’s understandable as the eleven authors don’t write the same way, and maybe for me some of Wonderland’s characters are more my cup of tea than others.

‘One morning, Pig woke to discover he had been turned into a real boy.’

How can you go wrong with a start like that?

The Lost Magician

Despite never having read Narnia, it didn’t take me long to discover that Piers Torday has written his own Narnia novel. I did know that The Lost Magician was meant to be a homage to C S Lewis’s much loved books. But I’d managed to forget it again. I’m not the best placed person to comment on how well Piers has done, and I know he’s not alone in writing a new story inspired by these books.

It’s very well done. I found I wanted to continue reading, despite me not really wanting to, if you know what I mean. There is something about Narnia that stops me, and in a way the same thing happened here, in The Lost Magician. But still I read.

Piers Torday, The Lost Magician

The four Hastings siblings have come through WWII. They are scarred, at least mentally, and now they are spending the summer of 1945 in an old house in Wiltshire. Before long the youngest, Larry, finds a secret door to a hidden library, and I’m sure you can imagine how it goes.

All four eventually end up on the inside of this library, following different paths, but all of them meeting various characters from our best known children’s books. But all is not well, and the children find themselves at the centre of war yet again.

As I said, not being 100% into Narnia, I don’t know how closely this new story follows the original one. Could I have known exactly what to expect from each child?

And there will be another book coming to a Library near you.

Emergency grade two

For August, we’ve had a lot of snow.

OK, the weather in Sweden wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be, but there wasn’t snow. It was still summer.

But I read snowy books; several in a row, with no planning or anything. As with most coincidences it was, erm, coincidental.

There was Michelle Paver’s Thin Air. Very cold, lots of snow.

Piers Torday’s There May be a Castle is very snowy indeed, and also rather chilly.

Theresa Breslin had a variety of weather in The Rasputin Dagger, and some of it was snow, and plenty of it was cold.

The latter made me think about Calling a Dead Man by Gillian Cross. Again. There’s something about snow and Siberia which often reminds me of that exciting story.

And then Daughter went to Chile again. Whereas it is winter there, snow is rare, even at 2500 metres. After all, precipitation is not what they built the telescopes for. They want clear skies and dry air so they can get on with the ‘star gazing.’

La Silla Observatory

But yeah, snow is what they got. Daughter’s colleague saw a little snow there in May which, as I said, was rare. Never let it be said we can’t go to extremes, though. Three days (by which I mean nights) in, they had snow. Lots of it. Luckily they also have snowploughs up in the Andes.

No observing for three long nights, while all those poor astronomers sat around playing games, in order to keep their night-time rythm, and being driven by staff in fourwheel drive vehicles to tend to their telescopes, because it was an ’emergency grade two’ situation. (I was quite relieved there was no driving allowed, as I didn’t fancy any of them sliding off a hillside in the dark.)

La Silla

To cheer himself up, the Resident IT Consultant googled an article from the same place thirty years ago, when one of the scientists wrote about his exciting and snowbound weekend. Shows how rare it is.

Anyway, Daughter’s telescope was fine. It had its winter hat on and was ‘fed’ liquid nitrogen by her every evening. And then it was business as usual.

It was also summer time, as the clocks changed while they were snowed in.

A sword called Keith

Well, in the end it wasn’t. Called Keith, I mean. But it could have been.

Piers Torday’s There May Be a Castle is the most wonderful of books, even with no Keith in it. Instead he has a boy called Mouse, who is small and full of imagination. And this story set on what is mostly Christmas Eve, after a car crash involving Mouse and his family, shows the importance of loving your toys. Because if you do, they will love you back.

And toys are good. So is family, of course. With the help of his beloved toys, 11-year-old Mouse discovers what matters most in life, at a time when it seems all might be lost.

Piers Torday, There May Be a Castle

The car crash turns the story into a journey for Mouse, and also his older sister Violet, as they independently try to find their way somewhere safe. Like a castle.

Both of them discover all sorts of truths they’d been too busy bickering to notice.

This was a delight from beginning to end. Although I wasn’t prepared for the end. I would have been had I paid a little more attention to start with. But I still enjoyed this book as I hurried through the cold landscape, along with a dinosaur and other useful beasts.

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.