23 June 2008

Puffin party time!

Tonight is the BIG Puffin party night. Tate Modern is the venue and I have to admit to being quite excited...

Mind you, I'll have to try and remember what children's books are - work has been so overwhelming that I've read nothing kiddish of late, just lots of things I KNOW I don't have to be critical of (currently The Lollipop Shoes!).

18 June 2008

Just got home from a mad day at work (writing reports, trying to control the making of a 2 minute video of the school by a Year 7 boy - who is doing his best despite the fact that none of the equipment seems to work - fending off ALL requests to get involved in end of term festivities and generally, you know, teaching!) to find an email from our editor at A&CBlack with mock-ups of the cover for the revised 8-12 book!

Amazingly, NOW it suddenly seems real...

12 June 2008

I'm just back from a school trip to the 1stWW battlefields around Ypres. It was an amazing trip in so many ways, from the fact that, quite horrifically, there are cemeteries everywhere - you drive along and almost every way you turn you can see the rows of neatly tended crosses, either close to the road or way distant in the fields, with the Cross of Sacrifice drawing your eye, to the fact that the boys came home laden with trophies - pieces of barbed wire, shell casings, pieces of shrapnel - all just picked up from anywhere the earth was disturbed. Ordinary life survives, houses are built and people live as people do anywhere, but with the knowledge that at any time a plough could turn up a body - or a bomb. The pretty Flemish houses and the rows of potatoes and corn are there skimming over a charnel house, washing dries flapping by tombs and I suspect that farmers try not to look when their ploughs dig deep furrows...

Lots of the boys asked me about books - they'd had a reading list as part of their pre-trip pack, but they ARE boys, so no one had looked at it - and there are a few to choose from about the 1stWW, from Morpurgo's Private Peaceful and War Horse to Biggles or Breslin's Remembrance (my own favourite is probably Lawrence's Lord of the Nutcracker Men, though I think that's now out of print) but in comparison to the wealth of poetry - or the amount of books about the 2ndWW - there's not that much. Is too difficult to write about? Or is that there's a perceived idea that no one will want to read about something that happened that long ago? Or, will it be that after the success of War Horse as a play as well as a book, there'll suddenly be a spate of Trench-based stories.

After all, there's so many stories to tell. One grave we visited was that of a boy, just 13 and three quarters when he was killed, another was of a Chinese boy, part of the Chinese Labour Corp. Toc-H and the respite it gave from the front line. The miners. So many stories. One grave we saw was that of Private Peaceful himself, the name that Michael Morpurgo saw and that sparked his imagination. Maybe we should bus writers out there - and just see what happens...

03 June 2008

Oh, no it isn't...

OK, Waterstone's Hampstead event cancelled again. (Yes, it's the third time.) Don't ask.

So the diary is clear for a couple of weeks.

Next, then, Susan and I will be speaking about why it's important to start your kids on books early, in an event (exact time to be confirmed) at Waterstone's in Ilford on Wednesday the 25th June.

And I'm speaking the following night (Thurs 26th) at a 'literary dinner' as part of the St Albans Festival, in St Albans Abbey. Will be me with Justin Somper and Meg Rosoff, both of whom I think are great, so should be fun!


PS In the meantime, this isn't a UBG-related thing, but it's one of mine nonetheless so I'm going to tell you about it... If you're free this Sunday evening and fancy such a thing (which you ought to), there are still some tickets left for the charity show I script every summer for Human Rights Watch. Sunday 8th June, 7pm, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This year featuring actors Ian McKellen, Juliet Stevenson, Julie Christie, Antony Sher, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, etc. Music from Patti Smith and Roger Waters. Writing (much of it being premiered) by Seamus Heaney, Colm Toibin, Derek Walcott, Ariel Dorfmann and Doris Lessing. Also George Alagiah and Rageh Omaar, and a filmed message from Desmond Tutu. And loads of other good stuff too. Tickets from £20, with more info here.

PPS Apologies for a couple of weeks off the blog - slipped a disc and so unable to do anything massively heroic like sit at a computer... But back now. Will write soon all about the wonderful reading treat I allowed myself while laid up...

02 June 2008

Hampstead event coming up

Just a reminder about our Hampstead Waterstone's event - it's this Thursday 5 June, at 7pm. Here's the information off the Waterstone's website:

What Kids Want to ReadSusan Reuben, Daniel Hahn, Leonie Flynn
The Ultimate First Book Guide: Over 500 Great Books for 0-7s
Thursday, 5 June 2008, 7:00PM - 8:00PM Tickets £3, available in advance and redeemable against the promoted title on the evening
Ever wondered what it takes to get your kid to read? Or has your little one already read everything you can think of? Come along to meet the three editors of the award-winning Ultimate First Book Guide, who will discuss the importance of reading for kids and guide you through the sometimes overwhelming choice of books for young children.
Further details: 02077941098

Also, take a look at the Supernanny website. It has a great piece from Nicola Morgan from the Ultimate First Book Guide about what to do if your child doesn't like reading. Go to www.supernanny.co.uk and scroll down to 'Top parenting tips - How do I persuade my child to read?'