Archives for the month of: June, 2017

Published by Harper Collins and various others…

Today, a great author has died, aged 91. Michael Bond wrote extraordinarily good books. The most well known are of course the books about Paddington Bear (from Darkest Peru). He also wrote a wonderful series of books about a guinea-pig: opinionated and full of character and he wrote others about a mouse called Thursday. This is by no means a comprehensive list of his books…there are others – do look them up on Fantastic Fiction.

Paddington has become an institution. I grew up with Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations (I still think they are the best) and the original television series. More recently there have been new titles, and some of the old stories have been abridged and illustrated by someone called RW Alley. I’m afraid I always feel that those are of a different bear, perhaps Paddington’s cousin, pretending to be Paddington. Peggy Fortnum’s pictures really are the original, and…the best. More recently ‘they’ have made a new series about him on television and of course there was that film about him.

I am told that younger readers prefer the picture books as an introduction. Does he need one?  I’m of the opinion that this isn’t necessary – when readers are ready for Paddington, they should have ‘the real thing’ – and not be presented with something less…but that is just my opinion – and the world would be a very boring place if we all agreed….

The Olga Da Polga books were a brilliant series for me. Her adventures with Noel the cat, Graham the tortoise, Fangio a hedgehog (who encourages Olga to visit the Elysian Fields), two hamsters and Venables the local toad are wonderful, written in the same beautiful style as Paddington, clear and with good English. Not so well known, and different, but I will never forget Olga’s affair with Boris, who lived in a castle and with whom she had a family…I remember the photograph of them fell into her water bowl….

Then there was the small series, which started with Here Comes Thursday – an adventure series about a mouse and his friends, that I remember with affection.

I am sad at Michael Bond’s parting – he has given me great joy, and I wish I had met him, so I could tell him of the pleasure his writing has given me over the years.

He was, I think one of the great writers. He seemed a quiet man, from an age, when things were better. I never met him, but from what I have read and heard, he was a gentleman in an era where gentleness seems to be disregarded. Perhaps it is better for him to have gone as he has.

If you haven’t read the Paddington books, because your parent’s were busy doing other things and not buying you the books they should, or you missed Olga Da Polga, then you should buy them as individual volumes and take a little to appreciate the quality and the charm of this author’s writing. Each chapter is a story within itself – so there is no need to worry. Just enjoy each as a little piece of joy whilst enjoying a small, or large pile of marmalade sandwiches.

There were 9 original Paddington volumes ( the first is A Bear Called Paddington) and around two dozen Olga da Polga books. All can be purchased easily. Some of the Paddington books have been bound up into a single volume…with Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations – coloured in a slip case. Olga Da Polga can be bought in paperback editions.

If you feel that buying a set of Paddington or Olga da Polga is beyond your means, you can, of course buy A Bear Called Paddington with Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations in hardback (ISBN 9780007528622) which would be a lovely way to commemorate this author. You can also purchase The tales of Olga Da Polga, illustrated by Catherine Rayner. Also in hardback (ISBN 9780192737410) – Catherine Rayner is not the original illustrator – but her pictures are charming in themselves, and you can’t get hardbacks of the original editions of The Tales of Olga Da Polga.

Why hardbacks? They last longer.

Then again, you could just buy the paperback books individually over time. Perhaps having a day out and a picnic with marmalade sandwiches as you read each book.

Ps. There are some wonderful audio books of Paddington, read by Stephen Fry…





Published by Bloomsbury

This was wonderful – I loved it. Not least as it takes you back to another era. A better time, a period of stiff upper lips and honour. This is a brilliant story of the old style with gorgeous language:

“…almost squeezed the pip out of poor Sponge here…”

“…frightfully dangerous…”

“…Mildew’s southern most lip began to quiver…”

“…Mildew’s upper lip began to lose some of its structural integrity…”

Along with the two main characters being named Mildew and Sponge.

What more could you want or need or indeed expect to have? Well, it seems you can have a lot more for your money –

A book of mysterious ghosts, Vikings, Romans, werewolves, a time machine….a school with a cloister, with extraordinary school teachers who are remarkable in themselves…adventure and it will be stuffed with illustrations. I know this to be true, because my proof has little boxes set within the text to give an indication of where they will be when the book is published. They have also said that Chris Priestley wrote it and that it will be illustrated by him. They have printed that on the cover of the proof. So there!

The only problem is, I’m afraid is that it hasn’t been published yet – but they state on the inside cover that you will be able to buy copies on the 5th of October, which I believe is a Thursday. A good day on which to buy a new book – this one will be perfect. Funny, full of interest, good English (for those of you who know this to matter)….a wonderful book on so many fronts.

Put Thursday the 5th of October in your diary.

As sometimes happens when I have read a book before its published, the cover has not been put on the Internet yet. I have found though the above sketches of the Werewolf Boy – so that will have to do.

Ps. Sorry, I forgot to say – this is the start of a series…and also that Chris Priestley is an author to ‘follow’ – he also wrote Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror – which are brilliant. Slightly surprised I have never done a post about that volume…I suppose I read it before I had this blog – buy that too – and you can buy it now – its already published.





Published by Usborne Books

I believe that books that result in an emotional response, are the good books. The books that make the reader worry about the characters, the books that make you cry.

This a story with many threads / ribbons running through it. Essentially it is the story of a young girl whose family ‘doesn’t do normal’. Her brother is sick, and she suffers from Selective Mutism (SM), which powerfully affects her life. It is also about the good and the bad that is the Internet. It is about communication in all its forms, (word of mouth, written and social media), a story of sibling love, about super powers, and friendship.

I finished it this morning, lying on my bed (it was very hot last night) when I should have been up and getting organised. I cried. This is one of those good books, those good books that are so much more than the single ribbons or threads that run through them. I also laughed –

She said, “Bernard is having a difficult day too, dear,” and we both looked down at Bernard rolling around with one of her fluffy slippers. She tutted, shook her head and said, “He’s sex-mad that cat. I’ll get you one of my current buns, dear.”

Read it and cry…


Published by Orion Books

This reminds me a little of Welcome to Nowhere (Elizabeth Laird’s book on the Syrian refugee crisis); this though is a tale of Tibet, of bravery, adventure, secrets, mountains, danger, and two extraordinary yaks. It is another story about man’s inhumanity to man – but it is also a tale of hope. Tash and Sam attempt to travel to India from Tibet by yak, hoping to meet the Dalai Lama and perhaps make some contribution to change.

The chapters are small, no more than a few pages, with beautifully decorated leaves in between. Simply and clearly written it is a powerful novel.

I now want to visit Tibet, the mountains and perhaps to be introduced to a yak or a dri…I suspect they are rather special creatures.


Published by Egmont

This was originally published back in 1991 by Simon and Schuster. I had never read it when I came across a copy and am now two thirds of the way through this darkly enticing volume.

Whitby is an extraordinary place – its history is remarkable, and this tale of aufwaders, fisher folk, magic, witches, murder and mystery is one that fully reflects the darker side of the village. It has of course, the connection to Bram Stoker and Dracula…this is another tale, as dark, a story of children, ‘difficult cases’, a group of elderly ladies, a cat, an evil hound and a mystery that runs though the town like a stain…. I wish I had known about the book before I visited Whitby some years ago – it is a story that should be read at the top of the steps leading to St Mary’s Church and the ruin of the abbey…

This copy has extra material – a map, details of places and things mentioned in the book and found in Whitby, a Q&A with Robin Jarvis and details of local legends…

I am beginning to think I ought to do a post about ‘good authors’ – those that regularly produce ‘good’ writing – Robin Jarvis is certainly one of these – his writing reminds me of Susan Cooper’s wonderful Dark is Rising series (Over Sea & Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Geenwitch, The Grey King & The Silver on the Tree) – that I enjoyed as a young reader….

The above superb photograph was taken by John Patrick – a picture of the abbey with mist swirling around the arches…..( – I thought it rather wonderful.






Published by Piccadilly Press

This should, in a way have started with the phrase ‘Once upon a time…’ It is a lovely return to those wonderful stories that were read to everyone from an early age – perhaps in particular to young girls. This is the story of a princess, the younger sister of one who one day will take on the responsibilities of the throne and everything that goes with it. That sister is interested in ephemeral things, how she looks, shiny things, (particularly gifts) and which prince has come to play court to her. Our heroine, however, is much more practically minded and is thinking that perhaps she might become a wizard, though she’s not really sure. In the mean while she’s enjoying the library and books…

When one of Morven’s suitors is turned into a frog, and she doesn’t show any inclination to follow tradition and kiss him, leaving Princess Anya to find a way to solve the problem, along with that of a wicked sorcerer who is trying to take over her sister’s throne…

A newt (an enchanted boy) that regularly licks his eyes to keep them clean, an otter half turned into a human, along with a magic carpet that flies high and incredibly fast – first having rolled his passengers tightly together to prevent them from falling off, and a librarian, who when stressed changes into an owl and regurgitates castings with little or no warning, are just some of the rather eclectic and wonderful characters in this story.

The copy I read is the hardback – with a lovely black dust jacket with a very pleasing green frog resting on Garth Nix’s name, emblazoned as it is on the cover in gold. The actual boards and spine sadly don’t have a gold frog embossed on them, which I had hoped for. Though the stuck down and loose endpapers are beautiful (almost making up for this lack) – with a design of frogs leaping over lily pads. If the world was as it should be, somewhere out there should be some wallpaper made of this design – it is just right – and would make a lovely addition to a room – though perhaps four walls might be a bit much. My only serious sadness (apart form not finding a gold frog on the front board) is the lack of margin and space in the gutter of the book – which gives a feeling of frugality, not to say parsimony to the book, which is unnecessary. My colleague at work said it would add expense – I replied that I thought it would be worth it – the story certainly deserves a beautiful design…

The story itself is wonderful – and if I could find a way to organise for Garth Nix to come to London for an event to celebrate the publication, I would – however, he lives, rather inconveniently, in Australia…