Tag Archives: World Book Day

What they do for reading

As I mentioned at the time, it wasn’t until I saw Meg Rosoff limping, walking back to her hotel, after an event in Glasgow two years ago, new boots causing her discomfort, that I really stopped to think about what it is they do, all these authors who travel to meet their fans.

You know, travelling and not sleeping in your own bed is one thing (or would that count as two things?), but to have hurty feet as well? It’s just heartrending.

This week it was World Book Day. It was also snowy. That’s not a good combination, as we had authors travelling the country for WBD events. Or not. Lots of events were cancelled. Partly due to the snow and travelling difficulties. Partly because of schools closing. (I bet that didn’t go down well with the thousands of parents who have had to come up with WBD fancy dress for their children, only to find the schools were closed on the day.)

And the authors who were already ‘out there’ when the snow hit. Could they get home? Some did. Mostly with difficulty, being delayed, cold, hungry, travelling on crowded trains.

Some didn’t. What do you do when stranded in a town, and there is no room at the inn? Everyone else got there first. Possibly because they weren’t performing in a school, so had an opportunity to book that last room.

Just as heartrending as Meg’s new boots, was the fact that I noticed one author asking around on social media if any of his/her friends happened to live in this town and had a spare bed. The case I saw had a happy ending, with someone offering a bed pretty swiftly.

But it’s sad, isn’t it? You come to talk about your books at a school, and then you are stranded. (In this case I believe it didn’t end the next day, because there were still no trains home.)

Thank you all!

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That World Book Day book list

What do I think of the World Book Day book list for 2018?

I think that the world has gone crazy, and that I am looking forward to reading Oi Goat! by Kes Gray and Jim Field.

Celebrities… Even the word has gone funny. I used to feel it described a certain type of people fairly well, and in a not too derogatory way. Now I just feel slightly unclean thinking about the whole thing. And today I’m only addressing the WBD book list, not the whole ‘can famous people actually write books, and should they?’ conundrum. That will have to be another day.

World Book Day 2018 book titles

I’m so out of the ‘Strictly/BakeOff’ world that I know very few celebrity celebrities, if you get my drift? It wasn’t until recently I understood that Tom Fletcher isn’t only a normal author. I believe that Pamela Butchart is, and I saw her in Edinburgh in August. The Paddington book is obvious, but somewhat unnecessary.

I have heard of Clare Balding. I don’t quite know what she normally does for a living, but it seems that as with David Walliams she is deemed to need Tony Ross to illustrate her book. Julian Clary is famous. I know that. But not what for. (I know. I could Google.)

Not a great fan of Mr Men, but OK. The Avengers? Really?

Well, that’s enough insults for one day.

I used to be a great fan of these £1 books, with or without the free book token. That’s until I began my now long finished relationship with an indie bookshop. They were furious with the system, moaning about how it was they who had to pay for all this. I was surprised, and a bit shocked. Both by the idea of who pays, and that a bookshop would hate [a category of] books.

On the WBD website – where I went, trying to find out the answer to the burning question, which is ‘who decides which books?’ – I found only this:  ‘World Book Day Ltd is a small, registered charity. The financing of World Book Day comes mainly from contributing publishers, the generous sponsorship of National Book Tokens Ltd, some literacy partnerships and other supporters, as well as the participating booksellers who fund the entire cost of the Book Token redemption.’

But it stands to reason that they want this venture to be popular, so choosing celebrity books because they are deemed the most likely to succeed, makes some sense. But it’s a crying shame that this is what we have come to.

As for me, I went off the whole idea after my bookshop surprise. I felt as though I was stealing from poor innocent shop owners.

What I never stopped to consider at all, neither then, or now, was what I discovered on Facebook, in one of the countless discussions on the choice of books. Understandably the place has been heaving with feelings, because I associate mainly with book people. Someone left a comment; someone I don’t know myself, but I’m grateful for her input.

She described her daughter’s reaction to a WBD book by Cressida Cowell, quite a few years ago. The girl was reading it slowly, to make the book last as long as possible, because she felt she had discovered treasure in this story. She went on to find and read all the How To Train Your Dragon books, staying with the series, and buying the most recent one as an adult. In other words, a love affair that lasted.

So in this case it was the start of something great, and reading about it made my heart glow. But I’d not reckoned on that kind effect on the £1 book readers, because I was coming at it from the opposite way round. But of course that’s what it’s for; not only possibly to discover reading, but to meet a new literary best friend.

And while I hope the Oi Goat! will be fun, it’s hardly a book that would tempt a teenager. As Nicola Morgan said in a comment on here a day ago, there’s nothing on the list that would have interested her at that age. There are many of us like that.

(Here is Nicola’s own blog post on the topic. Much better written than the above, but as she points out, we are all different.)

Dead of Night

It is World Book Day. Well, it is in the UK, anyway.

One of the £1 books this year is Dead of Night by Michael Grant. Which is a very good thing, as I was feeling the need for more stories about his girl GIs while I wait for the third full length book.

I’d been concerned it wouldn’t work, or that there would be confusion between this short book and the ‘real’ ones. Would there be spoilers?

Michael Grant, Dead of Night

But no. This is set soon after the squad arrives in Europe, and they are training – and spending Christmas 1942 – in a wet and grey Wales. They are not yet the fully fledged soldiers we met in Silver Stars. And, some of the people who die, are still alive.

This is very much Charles Dickens meets Michael Grant. It’s good.

Spot the Difference

Seeing spots is rarely good. I had a lot of them myself, and so does Avery in this World Book Day story by Juno Dawson. Best known as Pizzaface at school, her spots define who Avery thinks she is, and she is miserable.

Juno Dawson, Spot the Difference

Low down in the pecking order at school, she sees the members of the A-list everywhere, and they are not kind to her. Popular and beautiful, they rule the school.

And then, a ‘miracle cure’ seems to have been found, and the spots are no more. (This is fiction, after all.) The A-list girls allow Avery to join them (it seems that behind the spots was a good looking girl, so now she’s all right), and she is expected to do as their leader Scarlett says.

She stands up for herself to some extent, but soon falls into the same behaviour as the others, leaving her ‘freak’ friend Lois behind, because she’s so busy having a boyfriend all of a sudden.

Juno clearly knows what it’s like at school, and understands the various groups and how you have to belong to the one you ‘deserve.’ This being a short book, there isn’t time to go in-depth over these issues, which perhaps makes the plot a little unlikely. But there is no denying the deeply felt thoughts on beauty and being nice on the inside, and the cruelty of your peers.

Hopefully Spot the Difference will make a few young readers stop and think about their lives and what they can do.

Kipper’s Visitor

For World Book Day I was sent a darling little goose – well, gosling – who says ‘honk’ a lot.

Mick Inkpen, Kipper's Visitor

I’ve not previously come into close contact with picture book WBD offerings, and this was a delight. Soft and compact, it’s a picture book you could travel with, and one that will fit nicely in the hands of the tiniest reader.

Kipper finds this gosling, that has come out of nowhere and which only says ‘honk’ to everything Kipper asks it.

It honks at the – plastic – duck in the bath. The duck doesn’t reply. Kipper gives his visitor a bath and a blow dry.

And then the gosling meets Big Owl, who is very soft.

I love it.

Best of Scottish 2012, or ‘An awfy dreich day in Dundee’

In the end it didn’t matter that I went to Dundee the wrong week. I was able to ‘sort of’ be there yesterday, anyway. It was WBD. It was time for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards at Caird Hall, filled with a thousand children (so there might not have been room for me). And they very kindly filmed the whole shebang and made it available online. Thus I watched it all from the comfort of my own desk.

They had that Chae Strathie in to do the host stuff. Apparently when he didn’t win last year he sulked until they offered him this job instead. He was very noisy, but he was a competent MC. Perhaps a few too many ‘yoohoos.’ That’s all.

Scottish Children's Book Awards

The shortlisted authors were lined up on stage and then sent off again. Seems they have some kind of authors’ enclosure where they are kept. There was a band with such an odd name I can’t tell you what they were called.

For the Younger readers category they had written little theatre sketches based on the three shortlisted books, which were performed by school children. I am fairly intolerant of this type of thing, but have to admit this was first class stuff. Very well done.

Jonathan Meres won with The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts. His thank you speech turned out to be his shopping list; tea, milk, etc. (But at least he was English… I was beginning to think you had to have a beautiful Scottish accent to even make it onto that shortlist.)

Scotland has a minister for children! Aileen Campbell was there, and made a good speech about the importance of books and reading. I suspect the Scottish government might have more sense than Westminster.

John Fardell

For the Bookbug category we got story time, and then the Children’s Laureate sang her book, and finally John Fardell drew pictures of scary monsters. He finished with a giant rabbit with horrible teeth, before winning the Bookbug prize for The Day Louis Got Eaten.

To make life easier for the Older readers category, Barry Hutchison became Elizabeth Hutchison, so he wouldn’t feel like the odd one out, sitting as he did, between Elizabeths Laird and Wein. They had to answer questions. Ms Hutchison has no shed, which is sad. (S)he likes horsepie best. (Dundee delicacy?) Ms Laird told us to run downhill if ever attacked by elephants, which is something that has kept me awake at night, so I’m very grateful. Ms Wein opted to go to the South Pole in the company of a ‘Norwegian who knows what he’s doing.’ Sensible woman.

Elizabeth Laird, Barry Hutchison, Elizabeth Wein and Chae Strathie

While this was happening, Chae wore an outlandish gold jacket, two sizes too small. And then they danced, Gangnam style. I’d have to say Ms Wein did that far better than her namesakes. (She is an American, so clearly you don’t have to be Scottish to be there.)

But it helps, because Barry Hutchison won that category for The 13th Horseman. His speech was mercifully short. (He’d had a busy day the day before. Maybe he was worn out.)

Chae finished off by saying he loves us all.

Love you too, Chae. Great event!

*I borrowed that dreich quote from Barry. I’m sure it wasn’t really dreich, but I just love that word! Maybe the weather cried because I wasn’t there?

The #2 profile – Fiona Dunbar

Now, isn’t it clever of Fiona Dunbar to have her birthday on World Book Day? I’m very pleased to have persuaded her to answer my Bookwitch profile questions. I suspected she’d be quite good at it, and she is. Just the right blend of interesting and amusing.

Fiona Dunbar, by Candy Gourlay

Here she is, the birthday girl:

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

One. I was in my mid-twenties, and I made a full-colour dummy picture book called Phineas and Dan in Ice-Cream Land. Phineas was a bear and Dan was a rat. Ice Cream Land was a secret, Dahl-esque fantasy world, very hard to find. You had to meet a badger called Frank at a pub called the Duck & Orange, after which there’s something to do with lawnmowers and kite-flying. The book was full of awful puns like ‘Sundae is a very special day in Ice-Cream Land’. A family friend, writer and illustrator Wendy Smith, introduced me to Caroline Roberts, who was then commissioning editor at Hutchinson. She was very nice about Phineas & Dan, then suggested I write something else. When I did the something else (You’ll Never Guess), she took it on.

Best place for inspiration?

There’s this boring stretch of road between my house and where the shops are. Its magic is in its boringness. Walking to the shops is the thing I do when I get stuck, and it’s interesting how it’s always right around that spot that Stuff Happens. Also: bed. 3am.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I write under my real name. I would consider writing under a pseudonym, if circumstances dictated it. My alter-ego, Ona Bindfrau, is always on at me to have a go, but she’s a pain in the bum so I try to ignore her.

What would you never write about?

Dragons. I have nothing whatsoever to add to the canon of dragon-related literature. NOTHING.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

Well, Ed Miliband was a bit unexpected. I met him at the Doncaster Book Awards a few years ago, back when he was the ‘other brother’. I made small talk with him about kids and books and stuff, which in retrospect was a massive missed opportunity. I should have asked him how much he hated being the ‘other brother’, and did he have any plans to wreak his revenge?

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Gosh, I don’t think I want to be any of them, really. They all have a bit of a hard time – certainly all my main protagonists do. I think probably Kitty Slade is the one I’d least like to be: I’d hate it if I saw ghosts wherever I went. I would actually go insane. I suppose I’d quite like to be Elsie Silk – a grown-up version. Elsie knows exactly what she wants and she goes for it. She isn’t intimidated by anyone or anything, and she’s extremely creative. She’s way more assertive than I’ve ever been. She has real chutzpah.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Well, that would depend on who made it. It would have to be someone who ‘gets’ me. Lots of my readers have told me they think the Silk Sisters trilogy would make an awesome movie, and I have to say I agree with them. Visually, it would be spectacular, and I think it would be an interesting project because it’s a bit like a kids’ version of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror TV series – there is actually direct overlap in some of our ideas. Then as well as the dystopian aspect there’s the fantasy one, with Rorie morphing into other people. So it wouldn’t be cheap to make, but it would be awesome, if I do say so myself. Three books, one film: opposite of The Hobbit. Also, the book I’m writing at the moment *is* a film, as well as a novel. I feel so strongly about this, I’m doing the screenplay as well. I want Gurinder Chadha to direct it.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

“What car do you drive?” That’s probably quite a common one – sorry. Can’t think of anything outlandish.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I’m an amazing dancer. I probably look absurd at my age, throwing myself around to Nirvana, James Brown, Fatboy Slim… Don’t care. I LOVE to dance. I do it all by myself if I feel like it. I’m like a Whirling Dervish – I reach another spiritual plane when I dance. It’s a shame more people my age don’t do it, really.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Ooh, that is a hard one! The obvious answer would be Famous Five, because I’ve cited that as an influence for the Kitty Slade stories. But…oh! Narnia! In literary terms there is no comparison. I think ultimately I would have to choose Narnia, because of the imaginative scope. I don’t think the characters are much more interesting that Blyton’s, but I do think I have been more influenced by Lewis’s stories overall. And the imagery!

Who is your most favourite Swede?

(Quickly Googles ‘famous Swedes’…) Well, it would be too obvious to say Astrid Lindgren, so I won’t – and in any case, much as I love Pippi Longstocking, those weren’t formative stories in my childhood as, alas, no one ever gave them to me. And I haven’t read her other books. So I’ll go for film director Lasse Hallström – mainly on the basis of My Life As A Dog, which I absolutely love. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is superb as well. Unfortunately not all his ventures have been so successful (some very so-so novel adaptations, though I applaud his choices) and he can be a bit sentimental. But it was either him or Bergman, and the latter’s a bit heavy-going for me. Although can I please have Max von Sydow as my Second Favourite Swede? Or even joint first? He’s magnificent. And incredibly, has stayed exactly the same age for about thirty years.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

Alphabetically, but also in categories: fiction (adult novels), fiction (kids’), short stories, non-fiction (art), non-fiction (history/politics), mythology, poetry, plays, my books, books by friends. There is, um, some overlap in there. And to be honest it’s mainly the adult novels I keep in strict alphabetical order. I think I would disappear up my own backside if I tried to do the same with all the others. DON’T understand people who organize them by colour of the spines. I mean, really, is there anyone outside of Elle Decoration magazine who actually does that?? Oh, and most of my books live upstairs; the living room is a social space. I love being an enigma to people who feel the need to judge you by the books you have on your shelves.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

You’re a Bad Man, Mr Gum, Captain Underpants, or anything by Jeremy Strong. But I would also tell his parents to stop fretting; my own son didn’t choose to entertain himself with book-reading at that age, and now (at 16) he’s reading everything, including some pretty challenging stuff. People attach too much importance to milestones.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Oh, come on! You can’t do that! *Sigh*. OK, I guess it would have to be reading. I could make up stories in my head. I could memorise them and pass them on orally. But really, in the great scheme of things, what do my stories amount to, when there are all those amazing books out there? Not a lot. Nope: couldn’t get by without reading. I’d shrivel up and waste away.

Well, I look forward to the dragon trilogy by Ona Bindfrau. They will be the dragon books to out-dragon all others. And I suppose we can allow an extra helping of Swede. Max von Sydow is magnificent, and exactly the same age he’s always been.