School Visits and Festival

March 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

I’ve been working hard of late to get the festival leaflet all sorted. It’s amazing how tricky designing things can be, but there we are. I’ll post it up here in PDF form soon.

And yesterday, in between Yeti work and festival shenanigans, I visited a school in Felpham to run a couple of drawing workshops. We created pirates, mice and yetis, and had a thoroughly brilliant time. Quite why some people felt their Yetis and nasty pirates required handbags and grass skirts is something I might discuss another day. Children are so unbelievably talented and imaginative. Puts us adults to shame.

And over at Brian Sibley’s blog, he’s written a terrific post about why the Mad Hatter’s not actually the Mad Hatter!

Back to the Wood

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs


Sunday was our first day of work in the wood this year – a day for dead-hedge building and general maintenance. My arms are feeling it today, such was the amount of dragging and pulling and loading branch upon branch into rows.

Dead hedges are wonderful things, which make use of time as well as nature to form boundaries and environments for creatures to live in. By laying fallen branches into hedge-like shapes, you create the perfect setting for birds’ nests and mouse dormitories, (I know mice don’t live in ‘dormitories’, but it sounded nicer than ‘hotels’) and over time the seeds they drop grow and create green shoots that weave into the gaps. It’s a really natural way of making a hedge, and increasing the amount of wildlife.

The wood, as ever, made me feel that all was right with the world.

A Day at the Beach

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

Today is being touted as a super hot shocker here in Australia, with temperatures expected to rise to over 40 degrees in some parts. It won’t get as hot where we are, but with threats of more fire outbreaks, the best thing for us to do is head to the beach.

I’d forgotten how sun and sea combined are so good for the soul. It’ll be our third trip so far, and all those snowy days in Crystal Palace just a month ago are firmly back there in the past.

I went on a long bike ride through salt marshes yesterday, and saw a pelican for the first time, as well as some Ibis and other very nice Australian water birds. Pelicans are huge, and very cool things to see. Strangely, these salt marshes on the edges of Melbourne reminded me of the Norfolk coast – if only we had pelicans basking out there!.

Today I learnt all sorts of things

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

Today I learnt:

1) How to change a nappy.

2) How to tell when a nappy’s on the wrong way.

3) My niece loves Barack Obama. (She shouts ‘Bama! ‘Bama! any time he comes on TV.

4) My niece loves The Snowman cartoon, and watches it over and over.

5) When you travel half way round the world and visit an art gallery to see a certain painting, you can be sure it will be ‘in rotation’ – or, to put another way, not on display.

6) Japanese people made Samurai helmets with huge octopuses on top. (The example I saw really was awesome – I’ll try to get a photo…)

7) Australian TV is both ahead and very backwards. TiVo has just launched here at a cost of $1000  (WHAT A RIPOFF!), but House is a series ahead of us in the UK. And they have the American Life on Mars.

And I’m sure there’s an 8, but I can’t think of it, as it’s late and I need to go to bed.

Koalas in Australia

February 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

I’m heading out to Australia next week – to Melbourne actually. I’d wanted to go visit some Koalas and Wombats while out there, and it’s desperately sad to think of what they’ve all been going through with the fires. But here’s a lovely video of a fireman coming across a Koala after the fires had been put out.

Just beautiful.

More Yetis

February 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

I’m currently playing around with all the ideas within my second Yeti story. I had the thing fully planned out, but now I’m considering changing it. You see, when I first plotted the new story, I hadn’t completed the first book, and it’s really interesting to see how my love of the characters has grown and their relationships to each other also.

Standalone titles, I’m learning, require a very different approach to a trilogy.

And in other matters, after my visit to Merton Park Primary School on Monday, I now have a definite winner for best question I’ve ever been asked:

“Do you use Capitals?”

That was almost equalled by the question which was asked a short while later:

“Do you use full-stops?”

And while I’m here I want to point out this marvellous monster that was recorded in an old Medieval Bestiary, The Bonnacon. All animals that can fire acidic poo up to two acres in distance should be feared…

Meet the scariest Dum-Dum Mouse ever

February 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

Mum’s got back into the habit of making mice, and here’s a rather scary looking Dum-Dum Mouse. Not one that you’d like to meet in a dark alley…

A White Birthday

February 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

It’s my birthday today, and I asked the government to let everyone stay at home or have a day off. They agreed. They agreed by making it snow, and I haven’t been so happy in ages. Here’s what it looks like round my way.

Children's books rarely win major awards? Eh?

January 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

The Guardian had a peculiar blog post recently, with the subhead questioning why Children’s Books rarely scoop major honours. The peculiarity arises because, as is often the case with blog articles trying to create discussion, the subhead doesn’t actually relate to the article, which was simply a chance to talk about the worth of the Newbery medal, and then listing – and debating – some ‘classics’ of children’s literature. (I’m not even going to get started on debating the totally out-dated list of classics they talk about.)

The very idea that children’s books don’t win major awards is quite preposterous, and the author of the article clearly had nothing to do with the standfirst. But it does raise a question of the awareness of children’s book awards, and their perceived worth alongside the biggies, such as the Booker or Costa.

I watched the Newbery award being announced via a live web feed, and it felt like watching the Golden Globes. It was big, and that surprised me. I’d like to see them do the same with the Carnegie awards, make a real event out of it, and celebrate the new, brilliant children’s fiction coming out of Britain. I’ll film it and stream it – you only have to ask, Carnegie folk! I suppose you could point to the example of the Blue Peter book prizes, which are quite high profile and get TV time.

I think what I’m trying to say though, is that major awards for Children’s Books are for children. Whoever wrote that standfirst should realise that children’s books are not made worthy by being able to stand alongside Booker Prize winners. After all, if you were to look at sales, the best modern kids’ books wipe the floor with the Booker winners, and that says more than anything.

Ultimately, good children’s books – as good as any adult books – are winning major awards. But they’re major children’s awards. It’s simply that there’s a snobbery out there regarding children’s fiction and its worth.

So as long as children’s writers remember that their audience is children, and they don’t pander to grown-ups to win a Costa Prize and gain ‘respect’, then that’s all that matters, in the end.

John Martyn's died

January 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Bits and Bobs

Alright, it’s nothing to do with children’s books, but for me, the loss of John Martyn is a truly big deal. From Stormbringer, when he recorded not only with Beverley Martin, but also Levon Helm of the Band, through to work with Danny Thompson, in Bless the Weather, Solid Air and Inside Out, his music completely transformed the way the acoustic guitar was seen and played. And let’s not forget his associations with Nick Drake.

He pretty much invented the Echoplex, that terrific sampling/looping delay effect – a modern version of which everyone is suddenly so keen on using at the moment. He’s amazing, and if you’ve never heard him do Rather be the Devil live, then you have to watch this.

I’m just lucky that I saw him play before he died.

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