Tag Archives: Walt Disney

Bookwitch bites #133

I have allowed a certain amount of channel surfing over Christmas. It’s not something I do myself. Much. I’m actually never quite sure how to change television channels, and I tend to stick with a few programmes, and don’t generally have enough time to sit and pick the least bad thing to watch.

When I saw that David Walliams was going to present Britain’s Favourite Children’s Book on Boxing Day, I decided to boycott the programme. Which is why I ended up catching a bit of favourite Disney songs instead. That was nice enough, and I always enjoy the Bare Necessities, even if I’m not allowed to wriggle my behind the way Baloo does.

And when the singalong ended, I inevitably found myself in the company of David Walliams anyway. He did the job competently enough, but I wish a more ‘ordinary’ author could have been given the task. It was fun to see how many former children’s laureates they were able to dig up to come and talk about their popular books.

The selection of books was good. But did they actually say how they had been chosen, or by whom? The children they had on the programme were well read, and amusingly precocious, but they weren’t exactly Winnie the Pooh fans. So what made this bear the best?

Then we moved on to – the planned – watching of And Then There Were None. It’s good. I read the book so long ago, that not all the facts remain as fresh in my memory as they should. But this isn’t going to end well. (Unlike the stage production I saw in 1970 where they decided to go for a happy ending…) And I vaguely recall a creepy film version from maybe forty years ago. I think.

I wonder what Agatha would have said about the bare chests?

Can you whistle, Johanna?

The above title makes perfect sense to me, because it’s a quote from a song title (Kan du vissla Johanna?). That’s why it puzzled me so much when it appeared on the invoice which accompanied all those books I received some months ago, that weren’t for me. Because deep in this parcel madness, I could tell that with such a title, this really did have something to do with me, after all.

When the correct books arrived, all became clear. They were by Ulf Stark (his name was missing on that list) and Can you whistle, Johanna? is one of his best known books.

I say that, without actually knowing very much about Ulf. But a witch can read up on people, who have decided to become big and famous after her departure from Sweden. Ulf has written lots of books. This one, about the whistling Johanna, has been filmed and is shown on television every Christmas, meaning he is almost as big as that Disney chap. (That’s all we got in my day, you know.)

It is a very sweet little story, featuring two boys aged about seven. (And because of their age, you can work out that this must be set in the past, when little boys could roam freely and parentlessly. I’m guessing Ulf might be setting his books when he was a little boy, in which case we’re talking the 1950s.)

One boy, Ulf, tells his friend Berra about having a grandfather. It’s quite nice. So Berra wants one too, and they go to the place where you get them; the old people’s home. The prospective grandfather is happy to be adopted (not that he was actually asked), and there follows a brief period of ‘grand’-relations between the man and the boy.

It is very sweet. As I said. It ends in tears, and you can probably work out why. The question is who gained the most from their brief kinship, Berra or ‘his’ grandfather?

Ulf Stark, Can you whistle, Johanna?

(I found the film on YouTube, but came to the conclusion I didn’t want to ruin my book experience with the film. Yet, anyway.)

Interesting, and charming, illustrations by Anna Höglund.

‘Just an average writer’

Those are his own words, because I would never say that about Michael Grant. What he meant was he’s not a literary type. What I meant is he’s not average at all. But I suspect we mean roughly the same when it comes down to it.

Michael Grant

Since Michael’s Edinburgh debut in 2010 he has clearly grown in importance. Accompanied by the lovely Vicki from Egmont, he now had a larger venue and a very long signing queue. Although he was quick to point out all that he is not; teacher, inspirational speaker or role model. He is a writer. Writer. Writer.

I might repeat myself here, and I suspect he did too, because there is only so much variation in background information you can mention. But for all I know, you are reading about Michael here for the first time. He was introduced by the marvellously named Andy Peppiette, who astutely knew we weren’t there to hear him, so he shut up after the intro.

There was a trailer for Bzrk and so much gross stuff about what you see in microscopes that I expected Daughter to walk out. It was the minuscule spiders in our eyelashes I worried about. But all the young men in the audience will have useful memories about what’s on people’s tongues, for when they are making out…

We were a grim audience, with most of us preferring death to insanity, Bzrk style. Michael admitted to freaking himself out with Bzrk, so not much hope for others. Another trailer, for Fear, passively advocating birth control to avoid the ‘worst teen pregnancy you’ve ever seen.’

Michael repeated the experiment from two years ago, to see if children in the audience would kill for a Mars bar. (Might have been a different kind of chocolate last time.) This time they would kill. We have evolved. I blame the sweet looking girl with Drake’s arm. What was wrong with her?

It’s all the parents’ fault. (Michael even showed us a picture of the cute cat, last meal of one of the volunteers.) Bzrk and Fear are both the kind of books that you read all night long, leaving you too tired for school, resulting in bad exam results, making you unemployable and cause you to sleep rough.

He likes work, does Michael. That’s why he reckons he’s most like Quinn in the books, with Brianna being his daughter and Computer Jack his son. But Diana is the most fun to write about. He does very profound, scientific research on Google, and found Perdido Beach by following the California coast until he located somewhere that was right. He even has a photo of ‘the damned mineshaft.’

There might be a film of Bzrk, but probably not of Gone, due to a lack of roles for Will Smith to play. He thinks there is more likelihood of it becoming a television series. Hollywood does not like his talking coyotes, however.

Michael’s favourite book might be Fear, as his editor felt he had ‘gone too far’ with it. But Hunger was very hard work, so also has a place in his heart for having had to be so extensively rewritten. His inspiration is Walt Disney for being so quick to murder parents, but feels he went one better in getting rid of all the old people on page one.

Michael Grant

Questioned on the religious aspects in his books, he replied that people in America are religious, so any book featuring real Americans will have to incorporate different religions. That’s why Astrid is deeply religious.

He makes things up every day. He has no idea what will happen, and does not believe J K Rowling did either. You write your last line, maybe, but then you make everything up as you go.

Michael is 250 pages into Light, and I hope he can continue making stuff up, so we can read the explanations to everything, reasonably soon!