Thursday, 21 October 2010

Nautical Books

Whilst the weather may be turning Autumnal there is still plenty to celebrate - bright crispy mornings, lovely long walks through the woods with all the turning and falling leaves and of course the chance to curl up in the warm with a hot drink, slice of cake or even a biscuit and a wonderful book - after all it gets dark so early now ....
So I have two books with a nautical theme and a wonderfully exciting launch party to tell you about today.

Pull Out All the Stops by Geraldine McCaughrean and Worse Things Happen At Sea by Alan Snow may be two very different stories but they share a theme and they also share the wish to make their reader laugh so what better way for their publisher, Oxford University Press, to launch them than a boat trip down the Thames complete with readings and performances from the authors themselves?!

The guests were an eclectic mix of librarians, reviewers, bloggers, booksellers and family and friends of both authors. The evening began with Alan providing a very entertaining presentation and Geraldine and her fellow actors followed him with a wonderful drama performance based on Pull Out All The Stops!

Alan provided some very tasty ship's biscuits (from Botham's of Whitby) which were actually edible (not at all like those of days gone by) and he designed labels with words to that effect himself which he soaked in tea to make them stained and look old fashioned!

Copies of each title were given to all guests and the authors happily signed away whilst guests admired the sites of London.

A very enjoyable evening had by all so it seems.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Guardian Prize Winner

Linda Newbery, author and my co-editor attended the award event for The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize last week. Linda's latest book for young children, Lob, was shortlisted for this prize and whilst it sadly did not reach the winning spot she sent this report from the event:

It seemed a high-risk strategy to me. The winners of the Young Critics competition – aged about eight and up – were each given a scroll, but told not to open them yet, as they would reveal the winner. If I’d been in charge, I’d had lined the children up against the wall, and told them to stand there and not move for the next ten minutes, but all went well and nothing was leaked.

It was left to Mal Peet – last year’s winner – to award the prize to Michelle Paver, for Ghost Hunter, the final part of her highly-praised Chronicles of Ancient Darkness sequence. She paid tribute to her editor, Fiona Kennedy of Orion, and to her agent, Peter Cox, and said something every author will recognise: when Fiona sent a text message to say that she liked the draft, Michelle had to text back to ask, “But did you really?”

It’s a great month for Michelle – her adult novel, Dark Matter, is published, also by Orion. It sounds irresistible: a ghost story involving Arctic exploration. I haven’t read her winning book, so can’t comment on it, but from what I know of Michelle’s writing I can’t wait to get hold of a copy of Dark Matter.

(I have an advance copy and it is waiting for me to read it so I will report as soon as I have done.... Louise)

From the publisher's press release:

Michelle collects the £1,500 prize for the only children's award in which authors are judged by their peers.

Julia Eccleshare chair of the judges said, “Whatever the individual judges thought about fantasy before they began Ghost Hunter – and some admitted to hating it! – they were immediately captivated by Michelle’s brilliantly created world, her wonderfully dramatic story and her powerful story telling. They loved the way she described the world she has been fashioning throughout the series saying, “The language is inventive and rich. Sharp and poetic but also child friendly”. They also adored her characters describing Wolf as “endearing” and the people as “real”. Finally, one summed Ghost Hunter up in terms of awe: “The construct of the world is amazing. I am jealous and impressed!”

Michelle Paver says of the award: “I’m thrilled and delighted that Ghost Hunter has won this award – especially given the amazing quality of the other short-listed books. And somehow, I find it particularly gratifying that it is the final book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which has won, because it’s the book in which Torak and Wolf reach journey’s end.”

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Fruits of the Autumn

Recent trips to the wilds of Epsom and Ashtead have rewarded me with plenty of fruit for my autumn jam making which I must say is not always appreciated by my husband who believes we could feed an army with the stock we currently have – it will however find its way into hampers at Christmas and happy recipients I am sure.

This brings me quite nicely to my latest reading material, for Cloudberry Castle by Janey Louise Jones opens at Christmas and whilst, despite its charming name, there is very little mention of berries it remains a charming and captivating story for younger readers, fans of ballet in particular. Gently written, touching on difficult issues such as bereavement and grief as well as family tensions this story finds its young heroine, Katie, showing strength in adversity and having a great adventure at the same time. It is a charming, beautifully written story with lots of pace and great appeal.

Perhaps at the other end of the scale are two books for teens which whilst they don’t link to my opening paragraph have still featured in my reading this week and have links to Cloudberry in that they both touch on some hard-hitting themes but do so with great skill so that the reader does not feel bogged down by issues but rather that they are working with the character to face adversity and overcome it. I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter may be a long title but it is an immediate draw!

Its lead, Cammie Morgan, knows seven ways to kill a man but is about to go on her most dangerous mission for Cammie is a member of the Gallagher Girls and whilst the Gallagher Academy may look like any other highly respected girls school from the outside it is what inside that matters and here it is a school for spies and assassins. With a fast pace and gripping story line this is one book that my senior girls can’t get enough of! However as there aren’t enough copies to go round I have been able to tempt at least some of them with Joss Stirling’s magnificent Finding Sky. From its evocative cover, a barbed heart set on a black background to its distinct character this is a book that deceives. I thought I was going to be reading another Twilight spin-off but what I found was a love story with true grit and realism. Coming of age is never easy. When you are in a new country among strange people with new powers it is even harder. Effortlessly blending fiction with fantasy this is a must read for young teens this autumn.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Can I Share or Shall I do It All Myself??

Okay, hands up, I admit that when packages arrive on my desk at work and I open them up to find books spilling out that publishers want me to review for Armadillo I am actually very loathe to part with them. I want to read them all myself and as a result review them too. I love the reviewing but I have to say it is the temptation of reading them all which is the real draw! I am however good and having learnt to delegate I do actually make sure that they are shared among my reviewers and that if they look really good I buy copies for the school library too.

The temptation to read all these wonderful books is just one temptation in my life, the other is to want to do everything at home myself, that way I can be sure it is done to my exacting standards!! Well not quite but at least I know that things have been done…

So when I opened up yet another exciting parcel to find the latest title from Andersen Press and Tony Ross, A Little Princess Story with the title ‘I Want to Do It Myself’ I just had to keep this one back! Imagine my sheer joy and surprise then when the next book to come out was Share! a glorious new title from the pen of Andrea Simmons and the drawing board of Georgie Birkett. A better combination could not have been planned!

You are probably wondering by now what the Little Princess wants to do all by herself … well … she wants to go camping! Off she sets with bags packed but, on finding the perfect spot it appears that the little princess has forgotten the tent, and the cooking equipment and … well the list goes on. luckily there are some quiet and secretive helping hands to ensure that all goes smoothly, the only trouble is that on the way home the bags do seem very heavy! A story in which lots happens as if by magic which is how I often feel myself! If you love the Little Princess stories then you will also love A Little Princess Trilogy which also landed on my desk recently and is a great collection of 14 wonderfully hilarious stories along with puzzles to play - so go on, indulge!

Share on the other hand finds a brother and sister having to do just that – learn how to share. From toys to food and even bathtime whatever one sibling loves the other automatically desires to share and after all that is what Mummy wants them to do. Delightfully cheeky this picture book is the perfect size for sharing, will bring a smile to all faces and will make the perfect shared bedtime book. It is also a very important message to children about how to share.

The wonderfully bold, bright and vibrant pictures in both these books are a testament to the skill of the illustrators who know just how to appeal to young eyes, theirs is a skill I would love to share but I remain content to know that I can share in other ways as can we all.

And now I am off to enjoy the late Sunday afternoon sun and check that the rabbits and chickens are sensibly sharing the garden and perhaps even some lovely fresh eggs for the soufflĂ© dinner….

Friday, 1 October 2010

Far from Reckless...

Cornelia Funke is far from Reckless unlike the title of her latest book... she is in fact charming, eloquent and highly talented.
Making a stunning entrance in a stunning dress at the sumptuous and very Gothic Beach Blanket Babylon in London's Notting Hill last night she certainly proved that she is a tour de force! The assembled guests were awed by her dress and thrilled to be able to share an evening in her company and of course that of Lionel Wigram her co-collaborator for this story.

Working for over two years on this story Cornelia and Lionel have had many disagreements, all of them friendly, about where it should go and how it should develop but their shared vision of a dystopian fairytale remained true and they have created a story within a story. A world found through mirrors evocative of Grimm's Fairytales and forever sleeping beauties nearly exploded Cornelia's storytelling brain but it has certainly been worth it.

If you thought that the power of Cornelia's imagination had reached its peak in the Ink trilogy think again for here is the beginning of a new, more thrilling and perhaps, to some, an even more exciting series!

Reckless features an adult main character yet it is a children's book. Upon being questioned about this approach by the equally wonderfully dressed Nicolette Jones, Cornelia replied that she had learned from the Ink stories that it was the adult characters who were favoured by the reader and that if the story did not ask for a child it really wasn't necessary to put one in. After all children hear and see the adult world around them constantly, they want to understand it and know more about it - books are a perfect way of allowing this to be in a safe way.

Reckless may be a dark and haunting tale but Cornelia's writing style gives it a warm tone. Working with Lionel she explained gave her a new perspective on the story - a male one. As a film producer he would obviously like to see the story on film and we would all love to see the dress once again but this time on the red carpet!

A wonderful evening in the most perfect setting. Thanks to Barry Cunnigham and his Chicken House team not only for this but also for sharing with us all Cornelia and her talent. I am already longing to read book 2!