November 2008 Archives

Best Children's Books 2008

from the American School Library Journal

A special feature on Judith Kerr
by Guardian books editor Claire Armistead...
Highly Recommended

...One of Kerr's great strengths as a writer and illustrator is her grasp of the difference between a child's-eye view of reality and the authorised, adult version. The children's laureate Michael Rosen points out that in The Tiger Who Came to Tea, "Judith has created a totally feasible unfeasible experience, the juxtaposition of two realities in a way that would be impossible in our world. The result is both very funny and slightly unsettling." ...

Guardian Review
Frank Cottrell Boyce reviews A Finder's Magic by Philippa Pearce

Philippa Pearce died two years ago; her last book, published posthumously, is as simple as a lullaby and just as haunting. A boy named Till loses his dog and searches for her with the help of a mysterious stranger - the Finder of the title - and two old ladies, Miss Gammer and Miss Mousy. Together they uncover a series of clues that will encourage any child to keep guessing and reading. It's part detective story, part puzzle: Miss Marple does Where's Wally?

Eleanor Farjeon Award Winner

Last night saw the announcement of the winner of the Eleanor Farjeon Award for 2008 at the Unicorn Theatre in London. Chris Brown, the Reviews Editor of The School Librarian was presented the award by Shannon Park, co-chair of CBC.

Writing Workshop - Heather Dyer

Heather Dyer - author of The Boy In The Biscuit Tin, The Girl With The Broken Wing and The Fish In Room 11 - will be leading a Children's Story Writing Workshop at The Hill in Abergavenny, Wales on the weekend of 5 - 7 December 2008. Full details in the link...

Agency Move

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The Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency has moved to a new office in Notting Hill. Both Caroline Sheldon and Penny Holroyde are working from this address and representing authors and illustrators across the field in children's and adult books. Contact details are:

Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency
71 Hillgate Place
London W8 7SS
tel +44 (0)20 7727 9102

email: carolinesheldon
email: pennyholroyde

Egmont Trailer - Gone by Michael Grant

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Egmont Trailer

A film trailer has accompanied the dispatch of prrof copies of a novel not publishing in the UK till April 2009.

Gone, a novel for teens, is set in a small Californian town where everyone over the age of 15 disappears in an instant, leaving the youngsters behind to fend for themselves. And it isn't long before a frightening new order emerges...

Deakin Newsletter November-December 2008

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Andrea Deakin Newletter

Andrea Deakin's excellent online newsletter - now bi-monthly

How To Be A Byword For Ignorance

Philip Pullman, the bestselling author, has warned a school that it will become a 'byword for philistinism and ignorance' if it goes ahead with the closure of its library...

The campaign to save the library at Meadows Community School was started by its pupils, who began a petition when they heard that their librarian, Clare Broadbelt, had been told that her post was no longer required because of 'a move towards the relocation and redistribution of non-fiction and fiction resources in the light of the new developments in a virtual-learning environment and interactive learning'.

Ye Gods!
I recently heard Alan November speak. His message was that a librarian is needed more than ever in the digital age. A secondary school does need a web savvy librarian, but the notion that 'interactive learning' requires the dissolution of the traditional library space (= books on shelves) is scary in the extreme.

Patrick Ness Feaure

Continuing my gripe about the online indexiing of Times children's books features, this took several attempts to find (having read the piece in the print edition first) - a Google search for "amanda craig patrick ness" eventually working...

Guardian Review

S F Said gives Tim Bowler's latest novel a positve review but wonders:

One senses that plot mechanics are not where Bowler's heart lies. The visionary, the numinous, the unexplained - that is the soul of this book, and that is what distinguishes the best of Bowler's work (most notably the spine-tingling River Boy, which won the Carnegie medal in 1998). It would be wonderful to see what might happen if he threw aside conventional expectations, and wrote a book that didn't feel the need to tie up every plot strand, but went as deeply and fearlessly into the mysterious as it could.

Amanda Craig writing in the Daily Mail

about the violence experienced by teenagers in their lives and reflected in the books they read...


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It was good to meet and talk wtih Deborah Hallford and Alexandra Stick at last night's Egmont party, and to be brought up to speed with their current OutsideIn project: the development of a programme of workshops and seminars entitled Reading Round the World, for which they are receiving an Arts Council grant.

Keep in touch on their website:

Governor General's Awards for Children's Literature

John Ibbitson: The Landing

Sylvie Derosiers: Les Trois Lieves

Stephane Jorisch: The Owl and the Pussycat

Janice Nadeau : La Meilleure Amie: text Gilles Tibo

Costa Children's Award Shortlist

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Costa Children's Shortlist

Keith Gray - Ostrich Boys

Saci Lloyd - The Carbon Diaries 2015

Michelle Magorian - Just Henry

Jenny Valentine - Broken Soup

IBBY Auction

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HELP IBBY UK RAISE £10,000 by CHRISTMAS and find a unique Christmas gift at the same time.

The IBBY WORLD CONGRESS 2012 AUCTION is now live on eBay. Take an opportunity to bid for:
a limited edition print by the artist Jackie Morris
a piece of original artwork by Jane Ray, Emily Gravett, David Melling, Jan Fearnley or Marcia Williams
Take tea for two at the Ritz with Vivian French
Snap up a limited edition of The Series of Unfortunate Events
or a handwritten original poem by Gatty/Kevin Crossley-Holland, framed and signed.

These are just a few of the items that have been donated by children's authors, illustrators and publishers. We thank them for their generosity.

To make a bid - Visit eBay and search for listings with IBBY in the title. Our username is IBBY CONGRESS2012

PJ Lynch Gallery

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P J Lynch Online Exhibition

One of ACHUKA's favourite illustrators.

Highly recommended online exhibition.

Apple & Blueberry Crumble Canapes

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Apple & blueberry crumble canapes were served at the Egmont party last night, much to Achuka's approval. The venue - the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden - was a good one too, although the light was bad for photos. More of those later today.

Follow achuka on Twitter...

Approving review of book about illustration

Uglow writes with keen perceptiveness and captivating enthusiasm, especially when she deals with Bewick, whose biography she recently published. Illustration, as she notes, means to shed light on, to add lustre. Her own writing does exactly that: it shines with intelligence, and (no pun intended) is aglow with affection.

Notables Choose Favourite Childhood Reading

Times writers pick the works that inspired them when they were young...

Graphic Short Story Winner

The judges (novelist Mark Haddon; graphic novelist Rutu Modan; Paul Gravett, director of the Comica Festival; Dan Franklin, publisher of Jonathan Cape; Suzanne Dean, creative director of Random House; and myself) were unanimous in awarding the prize to Julian Hanshaw for his haunting, evocative and beautifully drawn story, Sand Dunes and Sonic Booms...

It was published in The Observer this Sunday and immediately impressed me too.

View the spreads here...

Three New Reviews

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Ness Wins Teenage Prize

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Teenage Prize Winner

Patrick Ness has been awarded the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008 for his novel The Knife of Never Letting Go. Ness received a cheque for £2,500 and a trophy at the awards ceremony in London.

Ness, born in the United States, studied English Literature at the University of Southern California. His first story was published in Genre magazine in 1997 and in 1999 he moved to London. Ness taught Creative Writing at Oxford University for three years. He has published two books for adults, The Crash of Hennington

and the short story collection Topics About Which I Know Nothing.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, his first book for young adults, was published in May 2008.

The judging panel comprised four adults and five children. The children won their place on the judging panel by submitting the best entries to a Booktrust short story competition.

Amanda Craig, (Chair) journalist and novelist
Emma Sherriff, librarian
Julia Bell, author
John McLay, children's books specialist
Matthew Sawyer, young judge
Aniketa Khushu, young judge
Gabrielle Brooks, young judge
Zoe Miles, young judge
Thomas Harris, young judge

The Booktrust Teenage Prize was launched in 2003 to recognise and celebrate contemporary writing for teenagers.

John Packer Made Senior Buyer

For the last 18 months, as Buyer for Children's, [Packer] has been part of the team that won 'Children's Retailer of the Year' at The Bookseller Retail Awards in both 2007 and 2008, and was a key player in establishing the Children's Specialists as an integral part of all Borders stores...

Borders will be recruiting for a new Children's Buyer shortly.

Michael Rosen Feature

Required Reading :)

Guardian Review

Philip Ardagh is fairly impressed by David Walliams' first children's book, The Boy In The Dress

Blake's illustrations not only give this story that extra dimension - something that Walliams is quick to acknowledge in his "thank yous" - but also instant credentials. Even without them, though, The Boy in the Dress would stand very nicely on its own two (high-heeled) feet.

I hope Walliams writes more for children. But I end with a word of warning: don't remove the book's jacket until you've read the story. Blake's pictures underneath give much of the game away. See? It's all a matter of what you wear and when.

Roald Dahl Funny Prize

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At lunchtime today (at the Unicorn Theatre), Michael Rosen announced the winners of the inaugural Roald Dahl Funny Prize, which honours the funniest books for children.

For children aged six and under
The Witch's Children Go to School by Ursula Jones, Illus. Russell Ayto (Orchard Books)

For children aged seven to fourteen
Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, Illus. David Tazzyman (Egmont Press)

The Pretender

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David Belbin
Five Leaves
November 2008

Oh, I loved this book! I have read several of David Belbin's young adult novels. Each of them has been readable and engrossing, but I don't remember any one of them having quite the touch of class that the author manages to maintain throughout the length of this very literary mystery memoir, published by Five Leaves on their adult list.

Set at the turn of the 1990s, it is written in the voice of a nineteen-year-old with a talent for literary pastiche. The tone is perfectly pitched. A marvellous mix of confidence, embarrassment, sexual inexperience and adolescent audacity. It's a voice most often encountered in short stories (Somerset Maugham, V. S. Pritchett) rather than novels, especially contemporary novels. It works perfectly here.

Mark discovers his power of pretending at school, when he writes a story in the style of Dickens, and the teacher accuses him of cheating. During a time-out year in Paris he finds himself faking an early Hemingway story and the die is cast.

From that point on (most of the book is played out in Soho, in the offices of a struggling literary review preparing for a special anniversary issue) Mark's mind is preoccupied with the escalating consequences of his successive deceptions. He is drawn to almost farcical lengths when, on the very day of the author's funeral in 1990, he sneaks into Roald Dahl's writing shed to knock up an undiscovered Dahl treasure for the magazine to publish.

This is the closest Belbin comes to stretching reader credulity. Most of the authors mentioned are real. Belbin deploys his knowledge of the literary scene and circumstances surrounding their lives, and the peculiarities of their styles and working practices, to good and pleasing effect. His creation of a fictional author - James Sherwin -as the focus of the final fraud is convincing enough. The secondary characters are also well-drawn, especially Tony, the editor of the failing magazine, a poet who feels his own talent has been sacrificed to his endeavour, with no due appreciation coming his way.

Highly Recommended to readers who enjoy literary mysteries and don't require dead bodies in their thrillers.

Dylan Thomas Prize Winner

The Vietnamese-born writer Nam Le has been awarded the 2008 Dylan Thomas prize, picking up a cheque for £60,000 at a ceremony in Swansea last night for his first collection of short stories, The Boat.

Award Winner

FIRST-TIME writer Sally Nicholls, whose book, Ways to Live Forever, is about a young boy dying of leukaemia, was declared winner of the Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards 2008 at a gala dinner in Dublin last night. She was presented with €25,000 in prize money for the novel, which was published earlier this year by Scholastic Children's Books... Ways to Live Forever has already won the 2008 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and is longlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award.

Blue Peter Book Awards Shortlists

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Booktrust is pleased to announce the shortlist for the Blue Peter Book Awards, established in 2000.

The shortlists are:

Best Book With Facts
Archaeology Detectives by Simon Adams (Oxford University Press)
100 Most Dangerous Things on the Planet by Anna Claybourne (A&C Black)
Horrible Geography Handbooks: Planet in Peril by Anita Ganeri, illustrated by Mike Phillips (Scholastic)

Book I Couldn't Put Down
Abela by Berlie Doherty (Andersen Press)
Shadow Forest by Matt Haig (Corgi)
Foul Play by Tom Palmer (Puffin)

Most Fun Story with Pictures
Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman (Egmont)
Fleabag by Helen Stephens (Alison Green Books)
Lost! The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog by Jeremy Strong (Puffin Books)

The winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards will be announced in the spring of 2009, to coincide with World Book Day. Booktrust was awarded administration for the Blue Peter Book Awards in May 2008.

Malorie Blackman: Developing negatives |

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Malorie Blackman - Guardian Feature

Blackman had always intended the Noughts and Crosses series to be a trilogy. She'd finished Checkmate, had even written a non-Noughts and Crosses book, The Stuff of Nightmares, but was drawn back to its world by a minor character, Callie Rose's nought friend Tobey, "who was just whispering in my ear, he wouldn't leave me alone - I had to write it."

The new novel in the sequence, Double Cross, throws Tobey into the middle of nought gang culture. A well-brought up boy, at an exclusive school, he is lured by the promise of some ready money to join a local gang. In typical Blackman style, violence, shootings and death follow (with a little bit of sex thrown in for good measure) rattling along at the addictive pace that has hooked Blackman a dedicated fanbase...

photographed (not by achuka) at the Double Cross launch
l to r: Hilary Delamere (The Agency), Malorie Blackman, Annie Eaton (Editorial Director RHCB) and Philippa Dickinson (MD, RHCB)

Bookwitch - Neil Gaiman Interview

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ST Book Of The Week

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Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

The text is clearly valuable as a set of ideals for life (and rules for the playground); the pictures are inventive rather than literal. They vary in tone - from comic to serious, childlike to sophisticated, fantastical to realistic - and use mediums that range from collage to screen prints. NICOLETTE JONES

Electrifying Othello Retelling

...a retelling of the plot of Othello, and it is totally electrifying. You don't have to care about football (though Peet's descriptions of what it feels like almost converted me) because he makes you care so much about his characters. Clever, funny, moving and superbly well written, it's the work of a major author. AMANDA CRAIG

Satoshi Kitamura - Guradian Review Feature by Joanna Carey
Highly Recommended

[Kitamura]'s latest book, The Young Inferno (Frances Lincoln), is a new departure -- a streetwise version of Dante's 700-year-old original, retold for a young audience by the poet John Agard. Here, Kitamura's black and white drawings take on a new freedom and ferocity. As the teenage hoodie narrator makes his way down the gutter of the book and into the nine circles of hell, the line is more authoritative and emphatic than ever, excitingly varied in tone and texture, responding to every nuance of Agard's text...

Carnegie Medal Nominations

Kate Greenaway Medal Nominations

N.B. These are not shortlists...

Key Dates

24 April 2009 - shortlists announced

25 June 2009, 12.30pm - winners announced

Canadian Awards - The Winners

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The TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
Christopher Paul Curtis : Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic)

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction
Christopher Paul Curtis : Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic)

Norma Fleck award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
Hugh Brewster: At Vimy Ridge - Canada's Greatest World War I Victory (Scholastic)

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award
Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated Marie-Louise Gay: Please Louise! (Groundwood Books)

Michael Rosen Scottish Tour

3.5 minute video

Writing Course

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From Tuesday 14 to Sunday 19 April 2009, Alan Durant, an award-winning author of over sixty books, is running a fourth residential course for adults interested in writing for children at his house in Picardie, France (an hour from Calais).

A River Of Words

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Jen Bryant, ill. Melissa Sweet
Autumn 2008

William Carlos Williams - a poet who also worked as a family doctor - has long been a hero of mine so, while some people may question what audience a picture book biography of a twentieth century American poet is aimed at, I'm predisposed to look kindly on it. The illustrations, strong and modern with collage effects, together with the artfully simple condensing of Williams' life to its bare essentials, produce a strong evocation of the life of a working man scribbling lines for poems on yellow prescription pads when he can, corresponding by letter with other poets and writers in the evening, in those pre-internet days.
Williams' 'The Red Wheelbarrow' and 'This Is Just To Say' have been much anthologised in children's collections, so a copy of this book should be in every primary school library.

reading (position)

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reading, originally uploaded by gosia janik.

are you sitting comfortably?

New Reviews

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Two new reviews just added to the reviews blog, achukareviews

Silverfin, the Graphic novel reviewed by Michael Lucchesi

The Pencil reviewed by Danielle

The shortlist for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, which celebrates the best work of literature (fiction, non-fiction, poetry or drama) by a UK or Commonwealth writer aged 35 or under, was announced earlier today.

The shortlist is:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Atlantic Books)
The Broken Word by Adam Foulds (Jonathan Cape)
The Secret Life of Words by Henry Hitchings (John Murray)
The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer (Faber and Faber)
God's Own Country by Ross Raisin (Viking)
Selling Your Father's Bones by Brian Schofield (HarperPress)

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at Century Club, London, on Monday 24 November. The winning author receives a cheque for £5,000 while the other shortlisted authors receive £500 each.

This year's judges are Henry Sutton, author and Books Editor of the Daily Mirror, Joolz Denby, author and poet, and Sarah Hall, author and last year's winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.


Neil Gaiman, an exclusive interview (audio)
Michael Rosen, Video Podcast 3.5mins
A Teapot on Pluto: brand new story from Julie Bertagna

Anthony Horowitz and Darren Shan cross Swords

In his My Week column in the Sunday Times, Anthony Horowitz revealed a (hopefully good-humoured) sparring with Darren Shan...

While I'm in Borders I browse through Darren Shan's new opus, Wolf Island. You may know Shan as a moderately successful writer of horror novels. I'm shocked to discover a character, a mad scientist, named Antoine Horwitzer in his new book.

Antoine, although described as handsome and charming, is soon revealed to be a cad and meets a particularly horrible end. I have known Darren for years, but this is a Jonathan Ross moment where the envelope has been pushed too far.

Fortunately for Darren I'm not the litigious type, but I must draw his attention to a book of mine being published in 2009 - Aaagh: Ten Unusual Ways to Die - and in particular to one story: The Man who Killed Darren Shan. Let's see who has the last laugh.

The Madman Of Venice - Trailer

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Sophie Masson has made this trailer for her new book The Madman Of Venice

ST Children's Book Of The Week

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SUnday Times Children's Book Of The Week

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman ill. Chris Riddell

The book's comic touch mitigates its creepiness, though, and its message is that, however much fun it is to learn ghostly skills such as "fading", being alive is better: "That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything." NICOLETTE JONES

The adult version, with illustrations by Dave McKean:

Wind In The Willows Winner

To celebrate the centenary of The Wind in the Willows, in May The Times launched a competition with Vintage Classics offering children the chance to have their illustration featured on the cover of a new edition of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel. Here the renowned illustrator SHIRLEY HUGHES examines the timeless appeal of Mole and Co, and explains how she and her fellow judges picked the winner from the hundreds of entries...

Book Browsing

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Such a beautiful photo of a child browsing - I recommend viewing the whole of this photographer's Flickr stream...

Guardian Review

Philip Ardagh reviews Jackdaw Summer by David Almond

David Almond is one of the finest writers of children's novels today. Endlessly inventive, his books resonate with an honesty and truth transmitted through deceptively "simple", beautifully crafted prose. His latest offering is again set in Northumbria, this time in the recent past: the days of Bush, Blair and the Iraq war. This is a landscape steeped in the bloody history of bygone savagery, still echoing with the sound of weapons: not just from boyhood war games, but from army training in preparation for real combat on foreign soil. Timeless links are forged between current conflicts and the ancient battles of the north which have informed the landscape. The boys with their bows and arrows don't cover their ears to the low-flying jets roaring overhead. They yell, "Bomb them right back to the Stone Age!" PHILIP ARDAGH

Anthony Horowitz feature

"You're here for a blink of time and that's it," he says. "In your fifties, you're suddenly aware that the world is being taken from you. It's good and right, and you hope that young people will do better with it. But I now have reading glasses. The eyesight's going and that pisses me off. Then I forget where I have put them - that's the memory going, too, and that's upsetting. I think about poor Terry Pratchett with Alzheimer's, and that's worrying. This stage of life is not the most enjoyable. I did prefer being 18."

Neil Gaiman feature

Amanda Craig discusses his new novel The Graveyard Book and finds that his wild imagination knows no boundaries...


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follow me on Twitter

Our City

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Ten leading children's authors have produced this special book of short stories in support of the Edinburgh charity, OneCity Trust.

The ten authors - Julie Bertagna, Cathy Cassidy, Alison Flett, Vivian French, John Fardell, Keith Gray, Elizabeth Laird, Jonathan Meres, Nicola Morgan and Alison Prince - will be visiting Edinburgh schools on November 6th to work with groups of children on projects based around the stories in the book, which will be officially launched on the same day at Waterstone's Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh at 4pm.

The book, published by Polygon, has an introduction by James Mackenzie, star of the BBC gameshow, Raven.

Carbon Diaries 2015

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Saci Lloyd
Autumn 2008

Both the futuristic setting and the cover design led me to expect a different type of young adult novel. The "Coming soon... The Carbon Diaries 2017" facing page 1 gives the clue to the type of book Saci Lloyd has written. I read it on a train travelling to and from the Bacon and Rothko exhibitions and the book was a welcome contrast to the heavily engaging content seen there.
What we have in Carbon Diaries is essentially a family sitcom as reported by one of the daughters. World energy supplies have reached such a pass that each family is given a carbon footprint ration. The authorities respond swiftly whenever the ration is exceeded. Just six months into the situation the father is cracking up. Because 2015 is not all that far away, and because the author is careful not to be too outlandish in her predicted vision of Britain seven years from now, the book is very believable, which makes it at once highly comic and thought-provoking. Most readers, once they've finished laughing, will think, Hang on a minute, is this really the way things are heading? How are we going to cope?




Just found the Chicklish site - it was new to me...

And here's the site's home page :)

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