Tag Archives: Shirley Hughes

Daisy Saves the Day

I would have liked to know how old Daisy is. At first I assumed maybe 14, but Shirley Hughes’s illustrations suggest someone much younger, so I suppose it’s my 21st century sensibilities that want Daisy to be older, so she can go out to work.

Shirley Hughes, Daisy Saves the Day

Let’s make a guess and say she is eleven and the whole story becomes much more heartrending. (And it was already rather sad.) Daisy lives with her mother and two brothers and they are poor. It’s the beginning of the 20th century and even though Daisy does well at school, she needs to go out to work, which in this case also means she has to leave home and go and live with two rich old women, and their surly servants.

Shirley Hughes, Daisy Saves the Day

She’s not good at housework, and she would love to have some fun in her life, like reading books and seeing the coronation of George V, along with everyone else. Her young age will explain how she offended her employers, which made her life harder still.

But Daisy is a heroine, after all, so a change is coming…

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Martinmas drugs

I’d like to show you the drugs I sent with Daughter, for use this Martinmas term. (I think it’s so quaint with these terms for terms…)

2012 leisure reads

Following on from the session we had in the Scottish Parliament back in August, we fully agree with the use of books for medicinal purposes. They make you feel better. Probably much better than the stuff you get on prescription. (Even when prescriptions are free, as they are north of the border.)

Anyway, when exam nerves or essay stress take their toll, Daughter can grab one of the lovely titles you see above. (Guess which one is her own input?)

So, there are fairies and faeries, Irish and Scottish, and their cousins the angels. Nicholas Flamel, a Stockport cinema, cat people, various Victorian ladies, code breakers, resistance boys and ugly people. Keith Gray’s wonderful anthology. And the Doctor.

We think there is enough for one term. If not, I suppose she will actually have to buy a book. Shocking concept, but a feasible solution.

The photo is partly to make sure I get back what I sent out, but also to assist when I need to advise on which one to choose, according to specific needs.

Hero on a Bicycle

This is not really a totally new venture for Shirley Hughes. Yes, she’s best known for those wonderful picture books, but they usually have a lot of words in them as well. So, Hero on a Bicycle is the opposite; traditional novel, with some illustrations to make it look prettier. (Or so I understand. I haven’t actually seen the book with pictures, just what the pictures are.)

Never mind. The story is an exciting WWII tale from 1944 set in Florence in Italy. At first I wondered why Shirley didn’t stay in her own country for this, but it makes for a refreshing change to read about Italy in the war. France and Germany we sometimes get, but I found this Italian setting fascinating.

It’s this new (to me) concept of what it was like to survive the war with the German enemy soldiers in your midst. They are retreating, but they are still in charge in Florence, and enough locals support them.

Shirley Hughes, Hero on a Bicycle

Paolo and his sister Constanza are in a bad position, as the teenage children of an English mother and a father who has disappeared and mustn’t be mentioned. Looking for excitement, Paolo likes to go out during curfew, and eventually he gets it into his head to join the resistance.

Only, things don’t work out as he’d dreamed, and he feels worse than before, when suddenly the family are thrust into doing something they’d rather not be involved in. (This is also an aspect of traditional war stories that I have never bothered looking at from the other side’s point of view. It’s worth doing.)

Aimed at youngish readers you can be fairly sure it’s not going to be appallingly gruesome, but it is a lot worse than Paolo had been able to imagine. You don’t always fight a war with guns and bombs. Courage – and bikes – are good too.

New Guy – to me, anyway

Ladies and gentlemen, there will be a 24 hour interval, during which you can recover from your recent Indian ordeal.

Guy Bass

‘Hello, I had barely heard of you when I was invited to come here today. Sorry. I hope you will tell me about yourself in your talk?’ This is roughly what I said to Guy Bass at MMU on Friday morning. He took it well, but I really didn’t require such a detailed account of his nappy years. I mean, there is only so much public pooing a grown witch can take in her stride. It was actually much more suited to eight or ten-year-olds.

Hang on! The MMU lecture theatre was full of children. Could it be..? Maybe Guy did it for them? I’m so relieved. He was getting rather carried away with his nappy contents.

Guy Bass with Stitch Head

This was another early taster for schools from the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. I was assured Guy would give a good performance, and he certainly did, in a Steve Cole kind of frenzied style. He performed with his whole body, standing on a chair and crawling on walls (he wants to be a superhero), pretending to cut his trousers up with scissors, and generally tried to avoid noticing how disappointing grown-up life can be for wannabe superheroes.

He’s a comics fan, and read fairly few books as a child. His favourite was Thomas Bakes a Cake. I was sitting some distance away, but I could still see this was the excellent Gunilla Wolde’s work. Good Swedish quality stuff. Guy’s parents had to read it to him every night for two years. His other old favourite was Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, on how best to poison your grandma. So, great Nordic taste there for our Guy.

Who?

Stitch Head loses it

His own first book was Dinkin Dings, which put him in touch with illustrator Pete Williamson, and they then went on to plan Guy’s idea for his latest series about Stitch Head. He actually brought Stitch Head along. It was he who hid under the sheet (not a dead body, after all) until Guy woke him. Stitch Head was introduced to a girl in the audience, but unfortunately his hand came off. Then the other hand, soon followed by both legs. Oh well, accidents happen.

Guy finished by reading a very early story of his. So early was his Nitemare Pigs in 3D that the ‘book’ was a mere cardboard book. The moral of the tale is to have cheese in your pockets. Just in case.

Pink pirate bunting

Everything went down well with the children. That includes the pink pirate bunting which Guy himself was disgusted with. I thought it was quite fetching, if you like that kind of thing.

Guy Bass books

The audience was clearly into books and reading, and bought a lot of books afterwards and queued to have them signed. One boy even inquired about the book I’d brought to read (the new Shirley Hughes, Hero on a Bicycle, out in May).

James's Socks

I was feeling sleepy, having got up early, but that was nothing compared to mcbf’s James. Grateful that he thought of me as he got dressed, however, and wore these lovely socks. So I won’t mention what the rest of him looked like after Thursday night’s poetry event. (I knew there’s a reason I’m wary of poetry.)

He even had the nerve to suggest I go and sit at the back. Wouldn’t have dreamed of it. This kind of lecture theatre – a great hit with the children, btw – requires me to sit at the front. There is method in my madness.

Guy Bass with Stitch Head and children

And now I know who Guy Bass is. Blue Peter award winner. Nice Guy. Funny. And because he brought  his friendly publisher Paul along, I have a book to read, too. One that Guy scribbled in, so now it’s ruined…

Catalogue woes

When I received my first book catalogues from publishers I was childishly pleased. And I still am. Sometimes. I was talking to a book world friend a few weeks ago about a recently received annual catalogue, and remarking that for all the books it listed, I was only interested in one.

In a way that was good, because it eases the burden of how to find the time to read. But what upset me was the large number of romances. That’s the only word to describe what they are. My foreign youthful equivalents of Mills & Boon have now been replaced by books with dark covers depicting vampires and dystopias and the like.

One such book I can show an interest in. Several even, if they don’t all come at once. Except they do. The catalogue I have in mind had pages and pages of them, and when you see all the covers side by side, the similarities are more striking than when you see them on their own. Being a bit gaga I peer at every new book and wonder whether I’ve already seen it. But most likely it was just one of its mates, looking almost the same.

The books are OK. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading a few if I had nothing else to read. But like the Mills & Boons they are not really review material. Or at least, I don’t think so. I’d never have dreamt of reviewing a romance back when I consumed them, nor would I have looked for someone else’s review of them. You buy or borrow, read and discard.

But luckily there are other catalogues. Some are excellent and contain not only the new books soon to come, but list all the old books still available. And when they are good ones it makes you go a bit crazy, until you realise you can’t order half the back catalogue. You just don’t have the time.

And then there are the ones that list books to appear over the next few months. Like the Walker Books Seasonal Catalogue which just arrived. The cover is nice. It’s from the May lead title, and looks like something I’ll want to read. A war time Shirley Hughes novel. On past lots of picture books. Then comes a new Sonya Hartnett. At least I think it is. The blurb sounds a little like another one, but I’m sure it’s new.

After which I get to the first and second books in Ann Turnbull’s ‘epic Friends trilogy.’ Whoa! It is a trilogy? I didn’t know. If so, where is number three? Hang on, perhaps the first two are there to herald the arrival of the third?

More picture books, and then what might be the end of Helena Pielichaty’s Girls FC football books. Old Horowitz.

Yes! It is a trilogy! And I haven’t missed a thing, because here comes the ‘long-awaited conclusion’ of Ann’s Friends trilogy, Seeking Eden. Not now, obviously. In the summer. But at least I hadn’t lost my mind.

More novels, more picture books (if that is possible) and some Baker Street Boys, of which there are many. Anthony Read has been busy. I can almost cope with this. There are books I like the look of, ones I love the look of and some which look fine but that I will not have time for.

And then there are lists and catalogues from all the other publishers… As well as the non-existent lists from others. Detective work can be such fun.

The Christmas Eve Ghost

I love Shirley Hughes’ illustrations! Here she has taken her skills at drawing charming, old-fashioned pictures and matched them with memories from her own childhood in Liverpool in the 1930s, to come up with this story about Bronwen and Dylan and what happened on Christmas Eve.

The young brother and sister live with their widowed mother, who takes in washing to make ends meet. It’s a hard life, but their mother is skilled at making her children feel happy, despite all they lack. She often has to leave the children alone, and this Christmas Eve she has to go out one last time. On no account are they allowed to speak to the O’Rileys next door.

But when it seems there might be a ghost in the wash house, they need to talk to someone. And Mrs O’Riley happens to be the someone they find.

The Christmas Eve Ghost

It’s an early version of how we often mistrust those who are not like us. In this case it’s chapel versus catholics, where today it might be other religions or skin colour.

I found myself getting quite nostalgic about a place and a time I never experienced. It’s the way Shirley remembers what Liverpool was like, over 70 years ago, which makes this book so much more than a mere children’s story. It’s a piece of history, and it taught me so much more than a history book would have done. And I’m very glad I don’t have to do my washing like that.

The Christmas Eve Ghost is a beautiful and low-key tale of Christmas past.

Play the shape game

This is actually a book which encourages you to draw in it. I should have had one when I was the right age to draw in books.

The age I was when I really did look at the shape – and size – of things. In detail. It was January 5th, 1959 and I didn’t have a toy like these newfangled ‘fit the round peg in the square hole’ ones. Didn’t matter. I had a raisin. And a nostril.

You get the picture?

There I was, sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen of Grandfather-of-witch. It was Twelfth Night and he was babysitting. All the others were out making themselves beautiful for the big dinner and dance that night. I wasn’t invited, as I was only two. And a half. Old enough to be annoyed at the lack of inclusion.

Anyway, I realised that the raisin I held in my hand was just the right size and shape for my nostril, so up and in it went. And that’s all. It wouldn’t come out and Grandfather-of-witch was not happy.

When Mother-of-witch returned from the hairdresser’s we had to go straight out for some emergency raisin-removal by some doctor or other who was still on duty on this public holiday eve. Him and his half dozen nurses who held me down. I’ve never been particularly brave.

But you can’t fault my eye for shape matching.

Play the shape game

Back to Anthony Browne, who came up with these shapes that he asked various famous people to do their own picture from. Lots of authors, as well as actors and other celebrities too numerous to tag here, have drawn and played, all in the name of charity.