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Published by Pushkin Books – September 2017

Translated from Swedish by Peter Graves

My proof was/is an oversized paperback, 8 x 6, and about 2 inches thick. Some 589 pages, including the last which is an illustration.

This is the story of Sally Jones, a ship’s engineer who’s captain is wrongly accused and convicted of murder.  It tells the tale of her adventures trying to find a way to prove his innocence. There are many circumstances and people out to prevent her from succeeding – and it is a wonderful tangle of adventure, travel, three humped camels, accordions, music, sailing, friendship, bravery and the odd fight too! I’m afraid I haven’t finished this yet, reaching only page 260 – mainly because I have been reading Sally’s adventures before I go to sleep, and not carrying  it around with me.

Sally Jones is talented, clever and observant, and also happens to be an ape, which means that though she can’t talk, she can certainly communicate, and is literate too. Being an ape amongst humans, however, adds to her problems. She won’t be able to help her captain from the inside of a zoo…

The illustrations at the head of each chapter are superb – full of wonderful detail – beautifully illustrating each chapter – so each is unique, these are not devices, but pictures to be studied and enjoyed as much as the story.

This is, I’m afraid another success for Pushkin. I seem to be a bit of a fan of this publishing house – but there you go – good books deserve good reviews, and Pushkin keep producing good books, and it is obvious they must have good authors to write them. The publisher’s info. states that it should be published on the 7th of September – in a jacketed hardback (just as it should be) – the illustrations alone are worth the extra cost. Buy this for anyone special you know, who like a good book – I am sure you know someone and it would be a delight to receive as a Christmas Prezzie – or ‘seasonal gift’ – whatever you like to call the holidays around December…

It seems I have found something rather glorious – Tom O’Bedlam appears to be a gentleman who records poetry on to YouTube – all sorts of poetry. Beautifully read, deep and rich. Absolutely wonderful. Just put your favourite title into the internet with ‘Tom O’Bedlam’ – and enjoy – really superb and has meant that I haven’t done anything ‘useful’ – all day… just been listening to all sorts and loving it…marvellous. I wish there were a CD, but it seems its just for YouTube…

Hillaire Belloc wrote about Jim, and Stanley Holloway wrote about Albert – both are marvellous. Though I suppose nowadays there would be more of a fuss… There is a rather disturbing (but brilliant) rendition of Jim on YouTube – read by Tom O’Bedlam, who I think rather enjoyed recording it.  As to Albert – he similarly came to a rather bad end. I love the language of both – classics…

Jim

JIM, WHO RAN AWAY

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside,
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—at least you ought to know.
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;

Now this was Jim’s especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!
He hadn’t gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a Lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.

Now just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.

No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted “Hi!”
The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
“Ponto!” he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion’s name),
“Ponto!” he cried, with angry Frown.
“Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!”

The Lion made a sudden Stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper’s eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, “Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!”
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James’ miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

Albert’s end adventure was slightly different. One should never push a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle into anyone’s ear….

THE LION AND ALBERT

There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That’s noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert,
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle,
The finest that Woolworth’s could sell.

They didn’t think much to the Ocean:
The waves, they was fiddlin’ and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

So, seeking for further amusement,
they paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they’d Lions and Tigers and Camels,
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big Lion called Wallace;
His nose were all covered with scars-
He lay in a somnolent posture,
With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about Lions,
How they was ferocious and wild-
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
Well, it didn’t seem right to the child.

So straightway the brave little feller,
Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with it’s’orse’s ‘ead ‘andle
…And pushed it in Wallace’s ear.

You could see that the Liion didn’t like it,
For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with ‘im,
And swallowed the little lad ‘ole.

Then Pa, who had seen the occurence,
And didn’t know what to do next,
Said “Mother! Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert”,
And Mother said, ‘Well I am vexed!”

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom-
Quite rightly, when all’s said and done-
Complained to the Animal Keeper,
That the Lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it;
He said “What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it’s your boy he’s eaten?”
Pa said “Am I sure? There’s his cap!”

The manager had to be sent for.
He came and he said “What’s to do?”
Pa said “Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert,
And ‘im in his Sunday clothes, too.”

The Mother said, “Right’s right, young feller;
I think it’s a shame and a sin,
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we’ve paid to come in.”

The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying “How much to settle the matter?”
And Pa said “What do you usually pay?”

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said “No! someone’s got to be summonsed”-
So that was decided upon.

Then off they went to the P’lice Station,
In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told ‘im what happened to Albert,
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing,
“And thank you, sir, kindly,” said she.
“What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!”

Published by Bloomsbury – Early September 2017

I really shouldn’t be writing this post – I should be trying to find a way of making some cash – ASAP.  Instead of which I have listed all the out going amounts (some are estimates; the house is peeling as though it has a bad case of eczema) and its beginning to worry me a bit – not the house, the finances. So I’m doing what I am good at, and sticking my head firmly in the sand, and writing about a proof that I have just finished and loved.

This is a tale of two sets of siblings. The first two are sisters – bound up with each other, getting one another into scrapes as they grow up amongst the higher echelons of society. That is they were, until one sister is accused and convicted of theft – and not just any theft. The other pair are a sister and brother. The sister to become queen, both though, secure and safe, or so one would have thought…

This is a brilliant adventure full of bravery, fear and a wonderful distraction from all mundane things like paying bills, doing the ironing, booking boiler appointments and other such interesting things…. It is a tale of friendship and is full of mystery too.

There is reference, on the back of the proof, to the book being for fans of Katherine Rundell, Eva Ibbotson and Cornelia Funke – and so it is, but I think it is also from a new unique author who is one to watch in her own right.

Also on the back of the proof is a note stating there is to be a second volume – which is marvellous – that is due out in 2018.

Wolves, adventure, mystery, bravery and treachery mixed – what more could you want?

A small comment about design. Each chapter starts with the notation of which it is, Chapter 1, 2 and so on, with an arrow design beneath. Someone somewhere in Bloomsbury has taken the trouble to ensure that the arrow on the chapter headings points one way on the verso pages, and the other way on the recto – which pleases me more than it should. I suspect its something to do with Dad, who designs books…

As always with proofs, I have no idea whether the picture above is the one that will be used on the cover…but it is a rather good one.

It would make a very good House of Ghibli animated film – perhaps someone will read it and do something about that. Sadly I don’t have any connections in the film industry, however, you never know who might just be reading this blog…

 

 

 

Published by Harper Collins.

I think I like most animals. Well, apart from hissing cockroaches – somehow I don’t seem to appreciate cockroaches. They tried to have me handle one in a zoo once. They thought we would have a meaningful meeting of minds. After all, I had just handled a snake or two, and a large rose kneed tarantula (named Rosie) amongst other creatures, so I suppose it was a reasonable assumption. I had to explain that though I was sure Hissing Sid was very nice in his own way, I didn’t want to have him walk from hand to hand, as I had with Rosie. I had, I remember to be quite firm about it…anyway, he survived to be presented to someone else and I was relieved that, to quote Stanley Holloway, that the Manager didn’t have to be called for…

This volume is about the friendship between a young boy and a fox. Friendships with animals should never be just brushed aside. They are as important as those we have with homo sapiens, at least that is what I have found. This starts with the heart rending description of a boy having to release his friend back into the wild…’for his own good.’ Which never really helps as a statement. We know in the front of our brains that perhaps it is, but, then again, perhaps it isn’t. You can never be sure…and there are ways of doing things, and sometimes they shouldn’t be done at all.

I remember once, and only once, walking with Pakka on the common. She took over long to come and I needed to go.  So I left the common without her. Then worried all the way back to find in the middle of the afternoon that she obviously hadn’t been home since that morning…so went out onto the common, called once and she bolted out from the undergrowth calling back as she ran straight to me. She had obviously been searching since the morning. I never did it again, and could never do, what this boy is encouraged to do by his father. Pakka and I lived together with respect for one another. She would wait for me on our walks, and I for her. She supported me, and we watched out for dogs and foxes, because she liked to chase them.  I was there for her when the seagulls flew to close and found her when the magpies ganged up and had her pinned down; we ran home together, she along side me.

This is a superb little book – a story of war, and the powerful connection between a boy and his fox – with illustrations by Jon Klassen, an emotional rollercoaster of the most extraordinary kind…

 

Published by Bloomsbury.

I haven’t had the joy or the terror of having a child – a mixed blessing / curse. In some ways I would love to have had a child, however, it wasn’t to be. In other ways, I sometimes think I and he or she was lucky. I’m not sure I’d have fitted in to today’s ways of bringing up children… Neither have I had anorexia. If anything I am the reverse. I love food and as a result am, over weight really and not very fit. So this book is about subjects of which I have very little knowledge. It is a powerful and in some ways, heart rending book.

It is a tale of numbers. A tale of a young girl under the control of ‘Nia’. Anorexia has Hedda firmly in her grip and isn’t willing to let go any time soon, and if possible ever. Hedda, though, makes a bargain with ‘Nia’ – if Nia agrees to let her eat sensibly for the unborn child, then she will come back to her, back to her control.

This is in a way a terrifying story. It is a story of hope, mixed with a strong splash of darkness.

I am not sure I would have had the strength that Hedda displays in similar circumstances…and I am lucky in the support I know I wold have had from my family. Read it – and let your family know how important they are…

 

 

Published by Egmont

The first thing that struck me about the proof I received was the illustrations and the wonderful cut-out cover. I know that you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but, as I think I have said before – its the first thing you see… Sadly I can’t find any reference to the illustrator of this – on the book, apart from a reference to the copyright of the text and illustrations being that of the author. Her work as an illustrator should be celebrated.

This is a perfect book for October and of course Halloween.

Unicorns are to be feared. Glitter to be avoided at all costs…and fairies – well, one fairy is known to have eaten Tangine’s mother… What more can I say?

My favourite character in this book is the head teacher in Catacomb Academy – Miss Inspine, who happens to be a skeleton.

“Now!” said Miss Inspine. “Right. Please open your books at page thirty-two, the questionnaire on Angel-Kitten History. You have fifteen minutes.” And with that she took off her head and put it in the cupboard for some peace and quiet.

I sometimes want to be able to do that…

She caught sight of Tangine and heaved such a big sigh of relief that her skull fell off.

Miss Inspine was so shocked that her whole skeleton disconnected into a big pile of bones.

It is a gothic tale of a spoilt sprout. A tale of differences and a tale of rumour misconception and secrets.

This is a fun book – will be stuffed full of pictures (by the author, no less) and a giggle for the autumn… There are exclamation marks triplicated (see previous posts), but for this sort of book, it is not really important. It isn’t a literary piece, (it’s not meant to be), it is a book to giggle over. I think this might be a new term for me, a ‘giggle book’.

There is a bit on the back which says it is to be published on the 5th of October 2017  – so look out for it. I hope that it will be published with a similar cover to that they used for the proof. It will certainly be something to enjoy in the run up to Halloween…Perhaps you could organise a Scream Tea to celebrate All Hallows!

I hope and trust there will be a second volume – there is a last mystery that still needs to be resolved.

 

 

Perhaps it is a sign of my age, and it is a development of language, however, I really can’t see the purpose of the current use of the phrase ‘myself’, instead of the simple use of ‘I’ or ‘me’. If it is a development of language, then it isn’t one that I like.

I often feel that the speaker is trying to distance themselves from whatever they have said or done. A form of making themselves a third person. Which, to be honest, makes me question their motives.

 

I am also finding the phrase ‘at this / that point in time’ extraordinarily irritating. Surely it is obvious that the speaker is referring to a point in time – and it would be better to just state ‘at this point, I…’

 

Lastly and more worryingly, I have noticed a propensity for children’s publishers to ‘double up’ their punctuation. Often using an exclamation mark and a question mark together – a sort of marriage of punctuation.

It has always been clear to me when a question has been asked, whether it needs emphasis or not. Where, if it hadn’t been a question, an exclamation mark might have been used.

There are also instances where a single punctuation mark is duplicated. Which is also unnecessary – and on a basic level untidy.

We are now starting to use punctuation without respect for the language or the reader, and I am finding this colours my enjoyment of books. Particularly those written for younger readers.

It is interesting, I don’t find it happening with quality writing (whether for children, teenagers or adults) – more often it is found in the type of book that I refer to as ‘Candy Floss Reading’. A notation I give to Children’s books that should only be read by a child as often as they eat candy floss in a year. Not often. That is unless, of course, there is some other reason why they are reading them…

I know that Mr Brown would certainly have questioned me should I have started to marry punctuation and he would certainly have put a neat red line through ‘in time’ and further have corrected my use of ‘myself’. I can imagine his red mark and the questions at the bottom of the essay – in his wonderfully clear red handwriting.

After reading this, perhaps, though I don’t really believe it, I, (myself), am a grammar snob. If so, I think I am quite content with that!

Thanks to Charles Schulz for the above cartoon…

Published by Pushkin Children’s Books

Translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak

This is another Pushkin title that shouldn’t be missed. This story of a retired policeman and his dog investigating a theft of a rather special music box. It is charming and beautifully illustrated by Jerzy Flisak.

Detective Nosegoode spends his days playing the flute, and growing radishes. (I’d love to know why he grows radishes. A most peculiar vegetable to grow, I always find them to be too bitter.) He reads the paper to his dog, with whom he discusses the news.  Cody is a rather unique dog.  When the music box disappears Cody has his own views about what has happened and the strange man in the village, with the fake moustache and the poison bottle.

I wanted to illustrate this with a picture of Blackbeard, however, I can’t find a source on the internet. Trust me – it is a wonderful picture. As is the one of the poison bottle.

A book about bravery. Theft. Doing what is right. Poison, treasure and temptation.

As always with Pushkin the design of the book is up to their usual high standard. Lovely paper with nice red, thick card covers. These have the French fold and are as a consequence a little more sturdy, and look more professional. It is set in c. 12 point, I think – though this might be wrong. It is beautifully set in what my Dad refers to as black! Beautifully clear and ‘set’. Though I suppose that phrase is a little redundant now-a-days. The illustrations are bold and give the impression of lino cuts – though this might be inaccurate. This is a super little book.

It is one of three titles. The others in the series are:

Detective Nosegoode and the Kidnappers & Detective Nosegoode and the Museum Robbery.