Tag Archives: Thomas Taylor

Junior crime winners

This was the year I thought I’d… Well, a lot of things. One of them was return to Bristol for the CrimeFest.

Hopefully there will be a CrimeFest in 2021 instead, with or without me.

What there was in 2020 was the various CrimeFest awards. One can always vote, wherever one is. Although I have to say I’d have voted more fully had I been furnished with more [crime] books to read. I love crime. Especially for children, because it can be good without being too gruesome.

This year’s winners for the two children’s categories were:

I have actually read Thomas Taylor’s Malamander. Voted for it, too. Whereas I have to admit to not even having known that Kathryn Evans’s Beauty Sleep is a crime novel. I wish I had, but no one sent me the book and I was too tired to chase.

So, more young crime, please?

Malamander

I wonder. Is there such a thing as seaside steampunk? And if so, is Thomas Taylor’s Malamander it? I loved this book, and kept wanting to put a period to it. Feels old, but can’t be; is old-fashioned in style (as in 12-year-olds should be at school and not working in hotels) so would have to be a parallel universe.

Though none of this matters. It’s simply a story and it is good. Set in a not-Hastings called Eerie-on-Sea, it is so very sea-ish. I immediately wanted to go there and stay in a big, old and probably draughty hotel, right there, on the seafront in some British seaside town of yesteryear. It’s awfully atmospheric, even without the malamander, which is a kind of large fish monster with really sharp teeth.

Also, it doesn’t exist, does it? It’s in your imagination.

Thomas Taylor, Malamander

Young Herbie Lemon works in the Grand Nautilus Hotel as a Lost-and-Founder, which means he looks after everything left behind in the hotel. Or he did until the night a girl jumps in through his window needing to hide.

The two of them have a number of interesting as well as potentially dangerous adventures as they roam Eerie, looking for Violet’s parents. Or the malamander? Or trying to avoid who [what?] was chasing Violet.

Eerie-on-Sea is cold and wet, populated by some real characters. Who is good? And who is bad? Is the malamander coming for them? What about his egg?

This is a story that is just the right amount of menacing and comforting. Monster teeth, or hot chocolate.

Firsts?

We both had the same idea, the bookshop owner and I. At a not terribly well attended event at his bookshop many years ago, the visiting author waved a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone about. It was a hardback, and the visitor was – how shall I describe him? – a bit old-fashioned and naïve. I suspect he didn’t truly grasp how big J K Rowling was. To him, she and her book were merely part of his somewhat unusual topic, which was the many British authors who had been teachers at some point in their lives.

That will be why two of us suddenly thought ‘what if that’s a first edition Harry Potter he’s got?’ We maneuvered ourselves into position to check, as discreetly as possible.

But no, it wasn’t. Phew. Probably.

J K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

One night recently when I wasn’t sleeping as soundly as I would have liked, I spent some time thinking about Harry Potter first editions. As you do. I have already mentioned that I know an author who appeared at the Edinburgh Book Festival alongside J K Rowling, and how the two new authors exchanged copies of their books with each other.

It struck me that there must be other categories of people who’d have [had] a first in their possession. Other than the lucky book buyers who actually did what one is supposed to do with books, which is find them and buy them and read them.

I’m guessing J K’s editor has one. Whether a publicist would hang on to a copy of a book they work on is less certain. And did she even have an agent? I think maybe not.

Thomas Taylor, the illustrator of the cover design, probably?

Then there are the reviewers. I wonder how many copies were sent out to them, back in 1997?

Libraries. Did they buy copies, and when Harry Potter went crazy, did they do anything with those books? They could have been worn out by then, of course.

Friends and family of the author?

How many of the above first editions ended up at Oxfam?

Then I must have fallen asleep again.


Our first two Harry Potter books were paperbacks, and I let them become Son’s (Daughter was too young at the time), but by book three I realised I’d need copies of my own, so quickly set about getting the first three books for me. I have just looked up Harry Potter first editions, and discovered that my catch-up edition is somewhat more respectable than I knew.

Takes a witch, I suppose.

16 floors

On arrival in London yesterday, we had to repair to a nearby hotel’s facilities to make an emergency medical dressing repair (plasters and acetone do not make good partners, but at least no one fainted). Once done we made it on time – if only just – to Hodder & Stoughton’s 16th floor offices, with no visible blood whatsoever. The lovely receptionist even made sure I didn’t have to go up in the glass elevator by ordering me a proper old-fashioned lift.

When we got there, I made sure I sat with my newly dressed back to the windows, which according to my Photographer offered great views. (She went in the glass elevator, no doubt to show off.)

The blood aspect was unexpectedly apt, as we were there to interview Marcus Sedgwick about his new ‘bloody’ novel – A Love Like Blood. There was a slight misunderstanding as to his arrival on floor 16, which meant we had a nice long chat in the lobby, with me carefully not asking him about ‘the other stuff’ and instead discussing the high points of Gothenburg and hair raising theme park rides (neither of which I like very much).

Marcus Sedgwick

We got to meet publicist Kerry’s lovely dog, which I’d only seen photos of before. I think we’d get on; plodding walking pace and a fondness for hanging out in kitchens. (Dog, not Kerry.) We diligently interviewed, and then Marcus had to rush off to finalise things to do with his book launch, while we walked to another kitchen (the Scandinavian Kitchen, for a late Lent bun).

After that we whiled away our remaining spare time in Trafalgar Square, looking at tourists, pigeons and an enormous blue rooster, before walking over to Goldsboro Books for the book launch. Thanks to Kerry’s sun dance, it didn’t rain at all. That’s what I call service.

Marcus Sedgwick, A Love Like Blood

I believe there was champagne, or some such drink, judging by popping corks, but we stayed nice and sober (I am obviously not suggesting anyone else was drunk), and chatted to people, including Thomas Taylor, who does not like blood, much. I have to admit to advising him not to read Marcus’s book.

Children’s author Linda Chapman was there. And Cliff McNish and I really must stop meeting like this. That’s twice in eight days. He’s got a nice new book out about nice dogs, with no creepyness or blood.

And then my Photographer and I sneaked out before we suffered social overload, and sort of limped home in a tired kind of way.

Brilliant Books, again

And again, probably. This is looking good. Oldham libraries have hit on a successful pattern for their Brilliant Books awards ceremony.

Brilliant Books 2013

Although Ruth Eastham and Caryl Hart might want to pull out soon if they keep winning and keep getting these fantastic mosaic prizes. They’ll need to move to bigger houses before long.

As for me, I will have to stick to setting out early for events, and not try brave new ideas like not getting the train before the one I actually got. But I got there. In time. ‘My’ table was taken, but I got a good one precisely where I like to sit. At the back. I discovered later that ‘my’ table had The Worshipful the Mayor of Oldham sitting at it, so I suppose that was an opportunity missed.

This year Brilliant Books invited all shortlisted authors, and twelve of them were able to come, which is brilliant! And none of the winners knew in advance. Or so they claimed. Ruth Eastham came up and chatted to me before proceedings began, and she seemed to have no inkling she was about to carry more mosaic back to Italy. Again.

Like last year, they had invited children from the schools involved, and they helped by reading out the nominations and announcing the winners. In between that, each book was briefly dramatised and acted out by Oldham Coliseum’s Young Rep Company. Really well done!

Oldham Coliseum's Young Rep Company

It seems I no longer need to be escorted by Librarian Snape as Oldham’s defense against the dark blogs. We agreed we missed each other…

Mayor of Oldham

Super organiser Andrea Ellison introduced Chris Hill who introduced the Mayor, who spoke of his pleasure at being asked for his autograph with no competition from Bob the Builder. The Mayor in turn handed over to the host, Dave Whalley, who never gets to sign anything but expenses claims.

Roving Richard (Hall) refused to rove if he didn’t get applause, so we gave him some. He roved throughout the evening, pestering authors and children alike, making them squirm. Great stuff!

Thomas Taylor

The Early Years category winner was Thomas Taylor (and his ‘cool cat’ friend, illustrator Adrian Reynolds), for The Pets You Get. Thomas thanked absolutely everyone for his prize.

Dave lost the plot quite early, and needed Roving Richard to chat to people while he found where he was meant to be. KS1, Dave! Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton and their book The Princess and the Peas won, and they spoke about how they work together. Caryl admitted that sometimes reading can be boring (!) and Sarah told the audience to continue to ‘read and draw.’

Caroline Green and Ruth Eastham

By the time Ruth found out she had won KS2 for The Messenger Bird, Dave had worked out how to keep everything in order. Ruth said she’d been telling everyone about how brilliant it is in Oldham and that they must come.

Oldham Coliseum's Young Rep Company

We took a break from awarding mosaics and watched the Young Rep Company’s dramatised version of shortlisted book My Friend Nigel by Jo Hodgkinson.

Gina Blaxill

KS3 winner, Gina Blaxill, was 90% certain she wasn’t going to win, but Forget Me Never came out on top, which made Gina especially happy, since she had been worried about second book syndrome.

Richard roved over to table five where he asked Helen Stephens what it’s like to see your own book in bookshops. He had just noticed her How to Hide a Lion in Tesco, and since he’s not written a book himself, he wanted to know. (It’s exciting.) The young readers continued being hard to interview…

Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale won KS4, and she brought her mother along, just like when she won in Stockport four weeks ago. She might be unstoppable. Katie mentioned the weird and wonderful characters she’s met, and I rather hope she didn’t mean me.

Brilliant Books 2013

Our host complimented the children on how quietly they had gone to the toilet, and then Andrea went and made them parade around the room very noisily, while someone called Justine sang a song and all the authors stood on stage, clutching mosaics, or not.

Brilliant Books 2013

Then it was signing time and the authors went and sat in line, while children and adults shopped, or simply brought their programmes to be autographed. I walked diligently up and down the line several times to make sure I caught all of them with my camera. Don’t they look fantastic?

Rachel Bright

Caroline Green

Helen Stephens

Katie Dale

Gill Lewis

Matt Dickinson

Caryl Hart

Sarah Warburton

Will Buckingham

Thomas Taylor

And then I went and called my nine 0’clock pumpkin. It’s fascinating how the drive home can be achieved in the same amount of time I spent walking from the tram stop to the Queen Elizabeth Hall…

Stockport Schools Book Award 2013

Authors simply don’t look like they’re meant to! You google them and know ‘exactly’ who to look for and…

Great minds think alike. The only difference being that the representative from Stockport Library Services had printed out his cheat sheet of author photos to help him recognise the award winning authors he was at my neighbourhood hotel to greet, while I had tried to memorise people’s faces.

In the end we did equally well, I’d say. We even recognised each other.

Stockport Librarian and Jeanne Willis

Jeanne Willis

I obviously know what Jeanne Willis looks like; the glammest girl in the children’s books world. She also knows what I look like, but I will spare you a description.

She was the first one down, and it was purely because the bar made for a nice shiny background that I photographed her there. Jeanne has never set foot in a bar before Wednesday evening. And what a foot! I mean; what an ankle bracelet!

Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross, Hippospotamus

Tony Ross

Tony Ross

Jeanne won the KS1 award with Tony Ross for their picture book Hippospotamus, and just to be fair, I allowed Tony to flash his shoe and calf as well, although it wasn’t quite as exciting as when Jeanne did it. Although Tony looked most debonair. The upper half, I mean. (Note the halo.)

Adrian Reynolds & Thomas Taylor, The Pets You Get!

Thomas Taylor was next to show up, and he won the Early Years award with Adrian Reynolds for The Pets You Get! I found this a little confusing, since Thomas is an illustrator,* but it seems he has written the words this time and Adrian did the illustrations.

Thomas Taylor and Matt Dickinson

With so much handshaking going on, Matt Dickinson appeared, brandishing a hand after hiding in a corner somewhere. He was freshly arrived from Spain, so Stockport might have seemed like a bit of a letdown. Unseasonably warm, but not that warm. Matt is the author of Mortal Chaos, which won him the KS3 award.

Matt Dickinson, Mortal Chaos

Someone who was in town, but not at the hotel, unfortunately, was Christopher Edge, who wrote the KS2 winning book Twelve Minutes to Midnight. (So, no picture.)

Christopher Edge, Twelve Minutes to Midnight

Apparently the unspoken theme for the evening was the Oscars. I can believe that. Jeanne Willis in black and diamonds looked every centimetre the part. And then Katie Dale walked in, looking more like a fairy princess than any author I’ve ever seen (and I’ve met a few by now). It was definitely a Wow! kind of moment.

Katie Dale

Katie won the KS4 award for Someone Else’s Life, and I suspect the sight of That Dress could have rendered hordes of her fans speechless. Or perhaps they merely screamed.

Katie Dale, Someone Else's Life

If you are thinking that I am being shallow, going on about clothes, then you are quite correct. Reading is important, and the children of Stockport have read and voted. But there comes a time when glitter and glamour rule. Like Wednesday night at The Plaza.

For more down to earth-ness we discussed the difficulty of leaving Clacton (now that I’ve been warned, I will never go), and as the time came for the assembled beauties to leave for the award ceremony, there was a major taxi fail. None of the pre-booked pumpkins turned up, so wands had to be waved again, and again, before a successful leaving could be executed. (Katie’s dress obviously needed a whole backseat of its own…)

Katie Dale and handsome escort

And you know, after last week’s income reveal, and the number of authors who pay to go to awards, I had forgotten one aspect. Just think of the money spent on dazzling the fans with outfits like these! Utterly selfless.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

*If you think you don’t know Thomas or his work; think again. He’s responsible for the image on the right. A few of us will have seen it somewhere, despite it being the cover of a first novel by someone totally unknown.

(It’s my favourite of the HPs. I hadn’t realised they were done by different people. Now I know.)