Tag Archives: Puffin

There’s Nuffin like a Puffin

‘It’s a shame it wasn’t in a better place,’ the Resident IT Consultant remarked as we left Lyme Park after seeing the Puffin exhibition there. And he doesn’t complain at the drop of a hat. (That’s my job.)

Don’t misunderstand me; Lyme Park is a wonderful place and Lyme Hall is a great house, and the There’s Nuffin like a Puffin exhibition put together by the fantastic Seven Stories was interesting. But it would have helped tremendously to be able to see all of it.

A dark corridor leading to the toilets and the restaurant is not the place in which to see.

I’d been sorry to miss the original exhibition in Newcastle and I was excited when it came to my neck of woods (even though it took me forever to find a free weekend to go and have a look) so that I could take it in after all.

They had long (wide) photos of Puffin book spines. Close to knee height for me, so I didn’t see so much of those. They had letters from Puffin’s past, shedding some light (hah!) on how the literary business was handled in those golden days. Except, letters behind glass, high up on a wall in the dark…

Sometimes exhibitions exhibit old things which would die very quickly if subjected to daylight. But most of what we saw were facsimiles of letters and illustrations. They would have survived some lamplight.

One bonus of Lyme Hall as a venue was that we were allowed into rooms I’ve never seen before. One rather nice one where children could paint and have stories read to them. There were boxes of older books, too, but I suspect it’s less likely that parents bring that age group to this type of thing. A piano to bang – sorry, play – on was a nice touch.

The room for fans of Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl was empty, apart from the bemused room steward who tried to tell us why we were in the wrong place (for our age group). The room for the Borrowers, on the other hand, was just perfect. Daylight and stuff to see and touch. Stig’s room of rubbish, likewise.

There's Nuffin like a Puffin - Borrowers' room

We came to the conclusion we were too old for the Puffin trail through the gardens, so finished off in the Orangery where we found a by now not so hungry caterpillar. He was resting on the echeveria, looking quite content. Bet they will soon realise it’s a mistake to put a caterpillar in an Orangery. They eat stuff.

In a hitherto unknown room behind the scenes, we could have coloured in butterflies, and they had Puffin bookmarks to design. Very nice. I took one home to do. Two, actually.

We were glad we went as adults. It would have been hard to hit just the right age with a child or two in tow. It’s easy to think that children’s books are just right for ‘children.’ Any age.

Who wants to read letters to and from Kaye Webb? Not your average six-year-old. I wanted to, but couldn’t. I was glad to find that even back then authors were lovely people who would draw and paint for someone they liked and cared for. There was a wonderful letter from Jill Murphy to Kaye Webb, and a card from Tove Jansson, featuring a Little My doodle.

So, as the Resident IT Consultant so rightly said, somewhere else, where we could have looked at all of it, with enough lighting and enough space to allow necks to remain un-cricked and knees not being required to bend to toddler level, it would have been most enjoyable.

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.