Saturday, November 17, 2007
To The North, a Book Read on the Train, Other Books Read Twenty Years Ago.
The Northern Children’s Book Festival brings authors from around the country and sends them into libraries and schools in the north east to meet groups of children and young people, run workshops and give talks or performances. This year I was invited to take part. Going up on an evening train from London I watched the occasional firework bursting, seemingly in silence, out in the pitch darkness beyond the carriage windows. I was reading Garth Nix’s Shade’s Children, a book for young adults. The Sci-Fi setting suited his writing very well, I thought, and the story was a gripping and ultimately a moving one.
As part of the Festival I visited Outer West Library and Fenham Library in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Billingham Campus School, Billingham, which is outside Stockton-upon-Tees. There were some great displays based around my book jackets. That reminded me of when I worked for a year in the library at Sidney Chaplin School, Walthamstow – now long since closed down - back in the late 1980s. I used to make my own posters to advertise the books on the shelves. It was there that I first came across books by Peter Dickenson (The Gift) and Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising) and Annabel Farjeon’s book The Siege of Trapp’s Mill, parts of which have stuck in my mind quite vividly.
I had an hour to kill in Newcastle before my train home. I walked up to the Earl Grey Monument. A statue of the Earl himself stands atop a large stone column and gazes out over the rooftops of the town. In the street below I bought myself something to eat on the train, in a shop called Bagel of the North. Although I was in the middle of a city, everything at that time seemed still and strangely peaceful.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
JUST IN CASE by Meg Rosoff
Meg Rosoff’s JUST IN CASE is an extraordinary book. Her writing knows no inhibitions and the story she tells here is variously wise, bold, beautiful, gripping, playful, brutal, frightening, delightful and more. This book made me wish I owned a greyhound, even though the greyhound it features isn’t even a real one. It made me want to own a large rabbit. Again. (Strangely, JUST IN CASE features a male rabbit called Alice. We once had a female rabbit called Luke). My wife and teenage daughter both hated Agnes. For myself, I have to confess I was every bit as beguiled as, Justin, the story’s main character, is. Through her writing, Meg Rosoff seems able to make the imaginary feel startlingly corporal. Every character, even peripheral ones, possesses a weight of their own, and they inhabit their place in the narrative with an almost physical authority. How she does this I am not entirely sure. Perhaps it’s that she succeeds in evoking tangible details of description that are at once startlingly familiar and yet remarkably fresh. A genuinely original voice in young adult fiction.
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