Matt Whyman is keeping a blog while working for the British Council in the Yemen.
Matt Whyman is keeping a blog while working for the British Council in the Yemen.
...there are not many writers who have JK�s Dickensian ability to make us turn the pages, to weep � openly, with tears splashing � and a few pages later to laugh, at invariably good jokes. The sneerers who hate Harry Potter, or consider themselves superior to these books often seem to be hating their harmlessness � the fact that they celebrate happy middle-class family life, and the adventures of children privileged enough to attend a boarding school. But, as WH Auden said in another context, why spit on your luck? We have lived through a decade in which we have followed the publication of the liveliest, funniest, scariest and most moving children�s stories ever written. Thank you, JK Rowling.
Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week
The Geek, The Greek And The Pimpernel by Will Gatti
It is part slapstick and part thriller, and Gatti, who is also a teacher, reproduces convincingly the speech and behaviour of teenagers. His drama is given depth by references both to Orczy�s original and to Greek myths...
Crusade by Elizabeth Laird reviewed by Kathryn Hughes
...while Crusade lacks the imaginative power of the most enchanting children's historical writing, it is a sturdy attempt to show young teenagers that their Muslim contemporaries come from a culture that is as civilised and peaceable as their own - or perhaps more civilised.
In Amanda Craig's review of the final Harry Potter novel, she points to some of the author's stylistic weaknesses:
True, her style is plain, often pedestrian. An excess of adverbs weakens the dialogue, repetition that any decent editor would have excised is left in and she has a fondness for sub-plots that became maddening in the later books....
And identifies her strengths:
Morally, Rowling is far more interesting than the norm, for where C. S. Lewis and Tolkien have unambiguously good or bad characters, she is careful to show how, as Dumbledore tells Harry, that choice makes all the difference. Good and bad wizards and witches spring from the same families, and this confusion is played to the hilt in the Deathly Hallows...
Rowling�s magic, like E. Nesbit�s before her, is deliberately mundane. Wizards have to do homework and pass exams. Magical creatures need care. The meals that appear at the wave of a wand still have to be cooked in kitchens, somewhere, by someone. This is why readers fall under her spell: because she makes the magical real, and reality correspondingly more magical...
But her review ends with a very telling (if rather bizarrely snatched-from-the-air) distinction:No, she isn�t Henry James or Nabokov or even Dickens... But Rowling�s imagination has changed the perception of an entire generation, and that is more than all but a handful of living authors, in any genre, have achieved in the past half-century. Whatever other critics say, she is right up there with the other greats of children�s fiction.
Take careful note of what she is saying. Rowling cannot be talked about alongside the great and good of adult books, but she is a topnotch children's author. Hmmmm!
Craig says some accurate things in this review but she assembles her points into an implausible prediction of Rowling's longevity, by adding in a breathtaking generalisation such as "Rowling�s imagination has changed the perception of an entire generation..." I'm not sure what she means by this. There's no explanation. Just jump to:Our children�s children will queue up to make the journey to Hogwarts in their turn, and the gratitude of parents as they enjoy another day of peace during the holidays will be undying.
That is where I (and John Sutherland) beg to differ.
The problem with this online version of a thought-provoking piece about the quality of fiction for boys is that it has no byline. If someone, can let me know whose opinions these are I'd be really grateful.
...The Chaos Code (Faber ?7.99) is clearly intended as a Da Vinci Code for kids. Now I've read no further than the first page of The Da Vinci Code, but I gather that, although badly written, it does at least have plenty of pace and incident. The Chaos Code is also badly written. (A dead giveaway is that the characters invariably express good nature or amusement or friendliness or reconciliation by grinning; a book where the characters keep grinning at each other is never worth reading.) Unfortunately, it is also lacking in pace and incident. Okay, it's got monsters made of sand and a hidden palace in the South American jungle and the Lost City of Atlantis and quite a few fights. Yet it's all curiously lifeless, padded out by pages of tedious conversations in which the characters give each other lectures about the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem. This won't make boys read. It's more likely to put them off. Dean Vincent Carter, author of Hunting Season (Random House ?10.99) has been called "the next Stephen King". I've read some Stephen King and the big difference is that he knows what's frightening, and Dean Vincent Carter doesn't...
The Bookseller has launched a series of blogs at www.theBookseller.com/blogs. The blogs will be written by journalists at The Bookseller as well as by industry commentators such as Scott Pack and Anthony Cheetham.
Launch blogs include Lesley Agnew, manager of the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill, on "36 hours with Harry Potter"; Bookseller reporter Katherine Rushton on "Who won the PR battle over Harry?"; and Caroline Horn, The Bookseller's Children's news editor, on the price of children's books, plus other submissions from across the editorial team....
Readers are like cattle. Most of the time they �browse� contentedly. But, every so often, they stampede. There are innumerable examples of literary manias. Psychiatrists, for example, routinely refer to something called the �Werther Effect� � copycat suicide. So popular was Goethe�s 18th-century novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, that all over Europe young men donned yellow trousers and shot themselves in the head, in imitation of Goethe�s doomed hero. The �Potter Effect�? On the Today programme, a young Pottermaniac, queueing at the witching hour, was recorded saying: �I�m so happy, I could die!� Not literary criticism, but mania. And, one must say, more fun than lit crit, even on the rainiest night of the year. Literary manias expire with horrible suddenness.... JOHN SUTHERLAND
On the same page Nicolette Jones gives her view of the final book, but I recommend in particular the Sutherland take on the whole Harry Potter saga, which has been, roughly speaking, ACHUKA's stance from the outset. Indeed, we have not been all that popular for failing to join the mania.
Of all the millions of books passed over counters yesterday, one wonders how many will actually be read from cover to cover. A good few of them, yes. (Of those bought at midinight, one would hope a large proportion). But I watched many familes grabbing their copies (in Waitrose, in W H Smith and in Waterstones) in the full ight of day and it looked more than ever to me as if people were simply grabbing the must-have thing. Bear in mind, large numbers of the children these books are being bought for will not have read the earlier Harry Potter books (though they may have seen the films).
My own experience of seeing primary children reading Harry Potter in school has been that the mania amongst children themselves was at its height about two-thirds of the way through the series. Tellingly, it is extremely rare to find children reading the books except around the time of publication or of film release. And then, because of the size of the books and the stamina required to get from cover to cover, it has only been a very small number of primary aged children who have actually read these books for themselves.
As Harry has got older so has the target audience. The Harry Potter effect on the reading habits of young teenagers has been dire. I was an ordinary enough 15 year old in the mid 1960s, and it is inconceivable to me that a fantasy like Harry Potter, either in book or film form, would have carried any credibility for me or my peer group. 15 year-olds "in my day" were reading George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Alain-Fournier, Alan Sillitoe, Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger not to mention any number of contemporary poets and playrights, nearty all of whom were available on the shelves of small provincial libraries. I dread to think what I'd see, other than Harry Potter, on the shelf of a 15 or 16 year old reader in 2007.
Of course, the big difference between 1965 or even 1967 and 2007 is that in the intervening years, beginning with writers like Robert Cormier and Alan Garner, the genre of 'young adult' literature has come of age. Despite my championing of YA authors and titles over the years since ACHUKA was founded, there are VERY few such authors I'd recommend to a 15 year old in favour of the authors I was reading at that age.
Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week
Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
This compelling account, written with a rare sureness of touch, and tender about Ransome�s relationship with his abandoned daughter, will reward readers of any age. NICOLETTE JONES
see Times review entry for buy-me link
Red all about it
Amanda Craig on two new children's novels about the Russian Revolution
BLOOD RED, SNOW WHITE by Marcus Sedgwick
THE SECRET COUNTESS by Eva Ibbotson
Interview: Why Michael Rosen will relish being the Children's Laureate
by Nick Tucker, The Independent
Have we become so intellectually destitute that we want to examine good and evil through the paradigm of a teenage boy? Potter has nothing to teach us about life or love or eternity that has not been said before and better. TANYA GOLD, Daily Mail
Recommended profile of J. K. Rowling's agent, Christopher Little:
Throughout the canny construction of 'Brand Potter' - books, films, video games, and now even stamps - one figure has been ever present, like a shadow glimpsed in the cloisters of Hogwarts school. This enigmatic but utterly crucial influence is Christopher Little, literary agent, fierce protector of Rowling and, thanks to the boy wizard, now a millionaire many times over.
Stephanie Merritt on teen fiction
Tim Adams on 10+ titles
Lisa O'Kelly on picture books
Robert Collins reviews Before I Die by Jenny Downham
When you read the final pages of Jenny Downham's debut novel through tears, don't say you weren't warned. Before I Die is narrated by a perceptive, witty 16-year-old called Tessa Scott. Tessa has been living with leukaemia for four years. And, by the end of the book, she will die. There's no use fighting this. It tells you right there in the title. Even with this foreknowledge, it's hard not to feel a stab of resentment as you're confronted by something as sentimentally sucker-punching as Before I Die. This much-hyped novel is destined to drive hundreds of thousands of readers to tears and to swift injunctions to all their friends to read it...
Hughes's birthday is to be variously celebrated: there is a retrospective exhibition, A Life Drawing, at London's the Illustration Cupboard. A new book, Alfie and the Big Boys, is published by Random House on 2 August. Her books have sold 12 million copies worldwide (Alfie makes up a quarter of sales). And she has just won an award for the best book ever to have won the Kate Greenaway Medal (to add to a list of honours, including an OBE for services to children's literature). Dogger is the story of an undistinguished, beloved toy dog who gets lost. It is about security and kindness - a perfect comfort read. I'm glad it won the prize: if I'd had the chance, I would have voted for it myself. And as we walk up to Hughes's study, I ask if there might be any chance of meeting the original Dogger...
See also (Recommended) this profile, which starts in very similar vein, by Anne Simspn in The Herald:
Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week
Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts
Comic, dynamic and charming, this book and its cute hero will be a hit not least with vegetarians, while Donaldson�s conversational, iambic metre rolls along like thunder. NICOLETTE JONES
With reference to the title of this entry, just consider for a moment what Barry Cunningham and the authors of Tunnels (see Guardian review, blogged futher down) will have thought on reading the folllowing:
Such is the desperation to get in on a $7 billion global business that when J. K. Rowling's original editor, Barry Cunningham, announced last month that he had found �the new Harry Potter� in a debut novel called Tunnels there was a flurry of publicity and many Hollywood studios instructed producers to bid for the rights without having read a word of it. A number of them read my reviews in The Times and asked my opinion, so I was able to tell them not to bother. There is far, far better stuff out there... ... AMANDA CRAIG
I defy anyone to read this book and not want to visit Assisi to view the frescoes for themselves. DAINE SAMUELS
Philip Ardag thinks the heavily promoted Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams will gather fans but finds it slow to get started....
The discovery of the underground colony is a long time coming. In fact, you have to wait for all of those 170-odd pages. What starts out as eager anticipation may well turn into exasperation.
Rotraut Susanne Berner's illustrated "Wimmel" books about the everyday lives of adults and children have won international acclaim and are best-sellers in 13 countries from Japan to the Faroe Islands. But the 59-year-old author said her American publisher had refused to accept her latest book for US distribution because it contained elements deemed potentially offensive, including drawings of people naked or smoking....
Anne Fine and Nick Tucker reflect on the Tintin/racism/censorship debate...
Alan Parker will direct and write "Coram Boy," the feature version of Jamila Gavin's novel with Scott Rudin and Allison Owen producing.
Interesting exchange of views here, kicked off by Adele Geras in response to Julia Eccleshare's opener...
Can't possibly link all the media attention to the end of the Harry Potter sequence. This piece covers most of the angles...
Recommended tribute to Douglas Hill by Gail Robinson...
This week, Christopher Middleton looks at The White Giraffe - a bittersweet tale of African adventure... ....
Kathryn Ross's summer roundup of children's titles for toddlers through to 12...
Belated obituary of Lloyd Alexander (died May 17) in The Guardian
Amanda Craig profiles Joseph Delaney, whose latest children's title is The Spook's Battle:
Joseph Delaney�s best-selling Wardstone Chronicles, about the Spook and his apprentice, has been bought by Warner Bros, the Hollywood studio that brought us the Harry Potter films. Like Rowling, Delaney centres his thrillers on a sinister magical power struggle and, like Rowling�s, their initial success came about through word-of-mouth enthusiasm in the playground. Delaney is a master story-teller, as rooted in his native Lancashire as Alan Garner is in Cheshire. He has sold more than 500,000 copies in 20 countries...
Grant Slatter, author of the Oddies series of early readers, has been selected as Hot Men Of Children's Literature, Part 40
Fearless by Tim Lott
Jacqueline Wilson thinks Tim Lott's first children's book (he is already an
accomplished novelist for adults) is "an immediate children's classic".
Find out if you agree - enter our competition and win a signed copy!
What was the title of Tim Lott's first novel?
The newest thrill ride from Goosebumps author R.L. Stine will keep parents and kids on the edge of their seats this Halloween season when R. L. Stine's The Haunting Hour: Don't Think About It comes exclusively to DVD September 4, 2007 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment and The Hatchery LL... ...
A poster for the movie "Coraline" suggests a darker mood than the breezy title character had when director Henry Selick showed her off SaturdayLaika film director Henry Selick showed off images Saturday of the title character from the Portland studio's forthcoming feature, a stop-motion picture called "Coraline" that's due out next year...
A summer roundup of across-the-ages children's books from the Daily Mail. Includes a recommendation for Sarah Dessen's Just Listen:
Orion's summer party took place last week, at its usual venue, the Oktober Gallery in Holborn with (contrary to the dire promise of canapes on the invitation) its usual splendid spread. The bad weather meant that the courtyard was out of bounds, and I only took a few photos. Actually the food was partly to blame. I kept returning to the full rounds of cheeses and juggling a large dslr with paper plate and wineglass proved a little trickier than with a point-and-shoot. As a consequence many of the authors who were present didn't get snapped by me on this occasion, including Francesca Simon and Caroline Lawrence. But scroll down to discover 10 things that these two authors have in common.
FRANCESCA SIMON and CAROLINE LAWRENCE
1. are the same age
2. are both Jewish
3. have dark frizzy hair
4. grew up in southern California surrounded by leggy blondes
5. came to England to study dead languages at Oxbridge*
6. married Englishmen
7. had one son
8. started writing after their sons' birth
9. are published by Orion
10. both had books adapted for televsion in the past 12 months
*Francesca studied Older Middle English at Oxford, Caroline studied Greek and Latin at Cambridge
Rick Riordan has picked up another UK Award, this time the East Sussex Primary Schools Book Award 2006-7, presented last week.
The award ceremony took place on ACHUKA home territory (at Hawkes Farm, where I am deputy head). When it came to the 'presentation', Puffin had been unable to send a representative to receive the award on the author's behalf, so it was left to me to read out Rick's message.
Sophie McKenzie's debut novel Girl, Missing has won the Bolton Book Award, just a matter of weeks after it won the Red House Children's Book Award for Older Readers category.
The aurthor's second novel, Six Steps to a Girl, is coming out in August.
The shortlist for the 2007 Catalyst Book Award (North Lanarkshire).
Louise Rennison - Startled by His Furry Shorts
Graham Marks - Tokyo
Anthony McGowan - Henry Tumour
Meg Rosoff - Just in Case
The winner will be announced on the 4th October at a presentation attended by all the shortlisted authors abd by 800 students.
A SWIFT, PURE CRY by Siobhan Dowd, edited by David Fickling and Bella Pearson, and published by David Fickling Books, won the Branford Boase Award.
The Award Ceremony took place at Walker Books, Vauxhall Walk, SE11, at 6.30pm on Thursday 28th June.
Siobhan Dowd commented: �I�m moved beyond words at winning the Branford Boase Award. Henrietta Branford had a razor-sharp intellect and compelling honesty in her writing. Fire, Bed and Bone, which I�ve just finished, leaves me mourning the books-that-might-have-been had breast cancer not so cruelly taken her from us. This is an award that taps you on the shoulder and whispers �Hurry up and earn me.� I promise to do my level best. �
David Fickling�s response was enthusiastic: "Well done the Branford Boase! Siobhan's first book is an amazing novel. It deserves every single bit of praise it is garnering. Siobhan Dowd is a special writing talent and she is right in the middle of the hottest streak of any author we have ever published. As editors we are proud to be associated with the Branford Boase which is now marking itself out as a prize that knows how to pick the very best new children's writing in the UK and in my view is becoming the prize to win."
Julia Eccleshare chaired the judging panel, which also included Frances Hardinge, last year�s winner for Fly By Night, Annie Everall of Derbyshire Libraries, Claudia Mody of Waterstone�s and Nicolette Jones who, as we were unable to be present at the award ceremony this year, has kindly forwarded the words she spoke about the winning novel and other shortlisted books...
,,,,despite the expected sales bonanza, HSBC analyst Paul Smiddy says Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will amount to a 'black hole' in summer trade when it goes on sale on 21 July. The majority of booksellers will lose money on the title as they try to match the aggressive pricing of Tesco, Asda and Amazon, while no sensible rival publisher would dare launch a decent title against it, he says...
Recommended market feature in The Observer by Zoe Wood, with commentary by Robert McCrum
Sunday Times Summer Roundup by Nicolette Jones