Tag Archives: Zizou Corder

Twelve don’t go to Anglesey

Or ‘how to fail at getting Daughter to read’. Something. Anything.

She went on a Geology field trip to Anglesey last week. So obviously they were going to spend lots of time staring at rocks. And other geological things. But you just never know what you might want if you wake up in the middle of the night in a strange place. Or if your room mates are boring.

Small luggage allowance in the college minibus meant we decided on just one very good paperback. But which one? Daughter wanted it to be adventurous. ‘It will be, dear’ I said. ‘Oh, the book you mean?’

Nothing girlie. Not too long. Not scary.

I dug out twelve contenders to share with the waterproofs and thick socks. They were: Between two Seas, Burn my Heart, Chains, Crossing the Line, Halo, Hootcat Hill, Ondine, Revolver, The Cat Kin, The Night of the Burning, Time Riders, When I Was Joe.

Having lined them up (sorted according to colour of the covers) on the piano, we met and she pruned. Oh how she pruned. Too pink. Too chavvy (cover). Scary dragon. No. Don’t get it. Too political. No. No religion. Prefer to read this at home. (!) Don’t think so.

Then it was down to two. Halo and Between Two Seas. Hard choice, but Between Two Seas ‘spoke’ to her.

So this historical tale set in Jutland was the one that got squeezed into her bag. The one she would have read, had she read a book there.

Oh well.

(Looking on the bright side, at least she didn’t tear the pages out and stuff them inside her boots to make them dry faster. Seeing as they had no newspaper to stuff with.)

2 kilos of YA books, please

Next to the church where the very very small bookwitch received her more ‘normal’ name, many many years ago, there is a bookshop. Naturally.

Storkyrkan, Varberg

This shop saved the Resident IT Consultant the other day when we made a quick trip to Varberg. Daughter and witch had urgent business in a shop selling, well, other stuff, and the mere thought of the suffering this would cause him, helped him remember that there is a bookshop across the square, whither he repaired.

Books by weight

They had a box outside with books priced at 60 kronor per kilo. That would translate as approximately £6 for three paperbacks, except many of these were hardbacks, so you’d get more like two, perhaps. There were some good ones, including Artemis Fowl and Zizou Corder’s Lion Boy and Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Varberg seagull

The seagull (it may not be one, but it’s what I will call it anyway) is large. Very large. That’s because it frequents the pizzeria two streets away. It’s capable of flying carrying half a Swedish pizza (=big) in its beak. It sometimes has afternoon tea at the castle terrace café, which is very nice, although it doesn’t like the invisible fishing lines they’ve got crisscrossing the place, trying to catch unwary seagulls. They may lose their heads.

Close to the square is the street where GP Cousin grew up. He was always talking about his pal Lasse Widding who worked in the hotel across the road. Some years later your bookwitch did a course in literature at the University of Gothenburg, where she was part of a project group which included a young man with a very similar name. I had been surprised that a famous author like Widding would need a hotel job (and also that he’d be friends with GP Cousin). It was all explained by this name similarity. He wasn’t Widding at all.

Hotell Gästis, Varberg

The circle was complete when, more recently, I read in the paper that the hotel is now owned by the Widding sound-alike. Every time I walk past I’m taken in by the man in the doorway. Neither of them are real.

And one of the most important things about Varberg are the ‘raggare‘ and their cars. Daughter was beside herself at the sight of this beauty. I seriously suspect she’ll have to go and live in Varberg one day.

Raggarbil i Varberg


Is it bad to compare a writer’s work with someone else’s? All I want to say is that anyone who loves Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries, must surely love Zizou Corder’s Halo. I know it’s mainly the subject matter that makes me say this. Ancient Greece and ancient Rome, and one or more adventurous children and lots of real history stuffed into the plot. But it has the same happy feel to it, and it’s romantic.

Halo came at just the right time for me. If you recall my thoughts on the Greek myths the other week, then Halo is another excellent way for me to learn, or re-learn Greek history. I’m fairly sure I remember elements of the history in this book from school lessons. But lessons so frequently make little sense at the time, and then you forget even what little you may have grasped. Or is that just me?

As I was almost finishing the book I came across Josh Lacey’s review in the Guardian, and wondered whether it would contain a spoiler. I didn’t, so I was OK for not waiting. He seemed to have enjoyed Halo, although he mentions flaws. And that made me think (very unusual) and I came to the conclusion that sometimes an adult reviewer judges a children’s book as though it was intended primarily for adult readers. Because I don’t think I can agree with Josh.

Halo is a baby girl who is washed ashore in a storm, and who is then brought up by a community of centaurs (forget Foaly for the moment, lovely though he is), only to be stolen away later by humans. She is enslaved several times, and she sees Sparta and Athens, and there is a memorable chat with a certain oracle in Delphi. (I never knew it was like that!)

Our heroine has a lovely centaur brother that anyone would be proud of, and she falls in love. It’s very romantic. She makes friends, and she becomes proficient in skills from archery to medicine. Halo keeps searching for her birth family, too, and I just wondered how the oracle could be anything but someone who simply made things up.

Towards the end there is one situation where I would have preferred for there to be two characters, instead of how Zizou deals with it. But that’s just me. It’s romantic. And funny. As well as educational and purely enjoyable.

Would still like to know how a mother and her teenage daughter can agree for long enough to write a book together.

Victorian drama from the future

I want to know how Zizou Corder knows so much about London sewers. And is it true or just made up? Since the book Lee Raven, Boy Thief is set in the future, I suppose the sewers can be as fictional as they like. But they’re very interesting and only a little disgusting.

Although set in 2046 it has the feel of a Victorian novel, with street urchins all over the place. They may use mobile phones, but it’s very Victorian. And there are lots of references to JK Rowling and to Harry Potter.

The story is about a mysterious book and the many people who come into contact with it. Each chapter is told from a different point of view. It’s a crime novel with a touch of fantasy. One of the themes of the story is dyslexia, and the book is dedicated to all those who find it hard to read. I hope many of them will, somehow, be able to enjoy this book.

The language is refreshingly different from most books. I’m not quite sure how, but it gave me a lot of pleasure just reading it. I’d be interested to know quite how this mother and daughter team do their writing. Most mothers with a teenage daughter wouldn’t dream of trying to write a book with her. Not to quarrel all the time, would be enough to strive for.

Reading Lee Raven, Boy Thief gave me a warm, comfortable feeling. Possibly more so for not expecting much at all. I’d not got round to reading the Lionboy books, so this was my first Zizou Corder. Won’t be the last.