28 September 2010


Just a couple of things for the diary...

I'm going to be at the Henley Literature Festival on Saturday, in conversation with Emma Freud about the UBGs and kids'/teen books in general. Very much looking forward to it - come along if you can. Details here.

And then the weekend after that, Cheltenham starts; I'm chairing two events on Sunday 10th:
  • 1pm, The Playhouse: SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERIES - Andrew Lane and Simon Cheshire on their books and why Sherlock Holmes has been such an inspiration to them.
  • 4pm, BookIt! tent: AFTER TWILIGHT - Marcus Sedgwick, L A Weatherly and Steve Feasey on their vampires, angels and werewolves, respectively...
And there's loads more, of course - check out the full festival programme.


27 September 2010

Book of the Week (74): "My Name Is Mina" by David Almond

My Name Is Mina tells you more about the art of writing than most university courses. It’s also a treatise on how not to fit in – and how sometimes not fitting in is the sanest thing you can do with your life. It’s also a book about about words and flight, nature and nurture, thought and reaction. To most people, though, its most important aspect is that it’s the prequel to David Almond’s much-acclaimed novel, Skellig.

Mina doesn’t fit. Her dad’s dead, her mum is lovely, lonely and kind. Mina sits in trees, writes words, writes nothing, and thinks about the universe, about life, death and the bones of birds. She is wise far beyond her years and yet still a small girl, figuring out each day one breath at a time. Her story is told lightly, skimming through her truth, her lies, her understanding of her self with great skill. David Almond is here, on the page. He’s the teacher who sees her, he’s her mother, he’s the blackbirds in the tree and the shadowy cat, Whisper. Mina says – take a line for a walk and you’re drawing. Take words for a walk and you’re writing. Here are the kernels of creativity – even blank pages are crammed with meaning. In Mina, stars sing and bones rattle – and it is as if every single story that David Almond has ever written is held in here.

Did I like it? Of course. Did I think it a good gook to read after Skellig? Yes. Did I think it a good book to read before Skellig? No. Absolutely not. The depth of this book takes away from Skellig something that needs to be experienced there for the first time. I don’t want any of Skellig’s mysteries de-mystified. Read Skellig first should be emblazoned on the cover.

But read this too. For here is joy. Is it a book for kids? Of that I’m less sure. I think adults will love it, some teens will fall for its myth and meandering, its plotless prose and immense notions. Kids? Not so much. Does that make this less of a wonder? Not really.

Recommended by Leonie Flynn

21 September 2010


A new Percy Jackson? OK so not quite, but almost! How about more Camp Half Blood and a new generation of demigods? Well, Rick Riordan's new book AND new series - HEROES OF OLYMPUS: THE LOST HERO is published by Puffin Books on October 12th. There's three new heroes, Jason, Piper and Leo, and more fast-paced adventure - well, what else would you expect from Rick Riorden?

But there's more! Go to Rick's website to find out more about the books. Or if you fancy watching Rick talking about the new series, keep an eye out for his webcast: "Rick Riordan: Virtually Live" on November 2nd. When Eoin Colfer did this webcast earlier in the summer, he reached more than 22,000 school students and Rick will be looking to top that number! Sign up is already available at http://www.rickriordanvirtuallylive.co.uk. Kids, tell your teachers! Teachers - sign up!

20 September 2010

Book of the Week (73): "The Eternal Ones" by Kirsten Miller

The visions are getting stronger and she can’t deny them.

Haven Moore is different. She has talents she can’t explain, memories of places she has never been, and an irresistible urge to leave the rural religious community of Snope City behind in search of New York. A far away city she feels inexplicably drawn to, a city that she remembers, but has never visited.

Her visions of Ethan and Constance, of their life and tragic murder decades before, are overwhelming her quiet life. Haven needs to find out the truth behind the lovers’ fate, and all the answers lie in New York. But she is scared. For Constance and Haven are the same person, and the memories of the horrific death are her own.

When Haven sees the famous movie star Ian Morrow she knows that he is her Ethan, and can no longer resist the pull of her past. Travelling to New York she is plunged into an epic love affair that threatens to rain disaster on her and everyone she cares about. Can she unlock the secrets to her past without destroying her present? Can she solve the mystery without loosing Ethan forever?

The Eternal Ones is an epic romance thriller that takes us from the deeply religious communities of rural America to the bourgeois world of old New York, from the ruins of ancient Rome, to the modern celebrity tabloid-driven New York City.

Kirsten Miller gives us an eminently readable and entertaining tale of reincarnation that blends beautifully rendered past-life memories with a page-turning murder mystery; and proves to be a refreshing change from the proliferating vampire romance genre.

The protagonist Haven Moore can be a little challenging at times, with a pendulum-like swing in her decisions to trust other characters that could make you dizzy; but persevere and you won’t regret it. The end is worth the work, and the sequel promises to be just as fascinating and entertaining as this book.

Recommended by Matthew Humpage

15 September 2010

Book of the Week (72): "Noah Barleywater Runs Away" by John Boyne

The latest book from John Boyne, widely known for his bestselling Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is a story in a quite different tradition, and it’s a delight.

It’s the story of eight-year-old Noah who has run away from his home, run into the forest where he finds a strange shop owned by a nameless old man. This old man, a puppet-maker, tells him stories from his own life (he was once the fastest runner in the world), and about his father whose shop it used to be. The stories help Noah learn what’s important in life, and it becomes clear to readers what it is he’s running away from, and what he has to do.

A talking dog and donkey (not to mention animate doors, clocks, etc.), a mysterious tree, strange villages nestling deep in the forest, Noah Barleywater’s world is the world of fairy-tale, a world which seems to be like ours, sometimes, but isn’t quite. (And there’s one classic children’s story in particular buried at its heart.) From what seems a typical fairy-tale opening – young hero setting off from home on to discover adventure in the world beyond – Boyne has created something sometimes dark and sometimes moving and often mischievously funny, a vivid rendering of a child’s perception of the baffling, confusing peculiarity of the world around him, and a journey into a place whose very strangeness will feel familiar to you as you read. Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a book filled with magic, of all kinds.

(And as a bonus, there are decorations by picture-book artist Oliver Jeffers. Nice touch.)

Recommended by Daniel Hahn

12 September 2010

Roald Dahl Day

Just a reminder to everyone that Roald Dahl Day will be celebrated on September 13th - which was Roald Dahl's birthday.

There’s a mass of fantastic events (some today!) and all are listed on the website. For although Roald Dahl Day itself is September 13th, the celebrations have grown from the original idea of a day to the more actual reality of a month - there are actually celebrations right through September all over the country.

If you’re at a loose end today, try visiting Great Missenden, where Roald Dahl lived and wrote. There’s a day of festivities, with special events at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. There’ll be Matilda-storytelling, village trails, craft activities, magic, face-painting, behind-the-scenes tours of the Roald Dahl archive AND, courtesy of the RSC, an opportunity to find out more about their forthcoming production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda

06 September 2010

Book of the Week (71): "Raven's Gate: The Graphic Novel", by Anthony Horowitz, Tony Lee, Dom Reardon and Lee O'Connor

There is no proof. There is no logic. There is only the gate.

After getting into trouble with the police Matt Freeman is sent to Yorkshire to be fostered by the sinister Mrs Deverill. It soon becomes clear that something is very wrong in the town of Lesser Malling. Beset by mysterious dreams and gruesome murders he learns that the Old Ones, a race of diabolic gods once banished from our world, are trying to return, and Matt alone holds the key to the salvation of mankind.

Writer Tony Lee and artists Dom Reardon and Lee O’Connor deliver a stunning re-envisioning of Anthony Horowitz’s bestselling novel. Lee’s stark language matches perfectly with the striking illustrations of Reardon and O’Connor. A monochromatic colour palette lends a brutally hard and claustrophobic atmosphere that serves to heighten the chilling supernatural world of Lesser Malling.

An austere and stunning graphic novel adaptation, Raven’s Gate will have you clutching at the bedcovers as you race through the pages. This engrossing nightmarish vision of Horowitz’s supernatural tale will please diehard graphic novel fans and the uninitiated alike. If you love the Power of Five series, this is an absolute must read.

Recommended by Matthew Humpage