Thursday, April 29, 2010


Help! I probably should know who did this very lovely picture of a little girl writing at her desk, but I can't for the life of me remember who it is. I've had this image hanging on one wall of my bedroom or another for about 20 years (possibly more) and I've always felt quite close to that little girl, although she (jealous italics) had a cat and although she was wearing a dress (horrified italics).
Can anybody help me on that one?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tell me what you read...

I've been reading The Great Rabbit Revenge Plan by German writer Burkhard Spinnen and translated by Siobhán Parkinson for Little Island, and I've been giggling quietly under my blankets at night. It is very funny, in a madcap sort of way, as you might expect from a plot revolving around the use and abuse of giant rabbits as weapons of mass revenge. The tone and the humour sounded at times a little bit adult to me (especially in Dad's ironic comments), but as I'm supposed to be a grown-up myself, I did get the jokes and didn't mind too much. But most importantly, TGRRP contains two great stuffed mice charaters and in this house we're all very much in favour of stuffed mice. Especially those called Lackilug, which sounds (how cool is that?) like Lucky Luke. Three cheers for Burkhard Spinnen and his Lackilug! And three more for Little Island for bringing us such a welcome breath of fresh air!

(Click on the title of the book for a free sample!)

Friday, April 23, 2010


Some things just don't translate. You will be amazed (and perhaps saddened) to learn that 'belly button fluff' is one of these things. The French don't seem to have any. At least, they don't have a word for it.
(And yes, before you ask, that's the sort of major problems a humble translator like myself must face daily). (Amazing what you find in books, isn't it?)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Encounter

This morning I received a copy of my first publication in English! It's the translation of a picture-book published last year in France, called A la Recherche du Bonheur/In Search of Happiness, and it's illustrated by an award-winning French artist, Eric Puybaret. You may have encountered his rendering of Puff The Magic Dragon.
I'm more than a little nervous at the idea of reading somebody else's translation of my story, so for the moment I'll just look at the cover. It's the same as the French one, but hey! they've added both our names on it! Thanks, Hammond!
This is encouraging. Let's have a peep inside. Of course, all the pictures are the same, and the story seems to be all there, but... where is my hero? where is Manoug? He seems to be gone, replaced by one Alexander. Okay, why not? It's a surprise, though.
Let's see what else has changed.
And this is when I realise I'm the person the least qualified to judge this new incarnation of my book. It's got nothing to do with the translator's job (Andrew Weller). That's fine. But as I read his words, I keep hearing mine and thinking: but where's this rhyming bit? And the rhythm there isn't quite the same, is it? Well of course it isn't! Had I done the translation, I would have played around with the text much more than Andrew did. But it wouldn't have been a translation so much as a rewriting and that wasn't Andrew's mission.
So, really, what I need is for you to read this book and tell me what you think. Here's a (non-exclusive) list of adjectives to choose from: great, superb, splendid, fantabulous, amazing, awsome, unputdownable, unputaside-able, marvelous, magnificent, wow. That's all for the pictures, of course! ;o)
Here are a few more, just to celebrate. Enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Novel Novella

If steampunk is your thing, or dastardly plans, or vile villains or if you're simply into good stories, go have a look on Oisín McGann's official website. Oisín has just released a new opus in his Wildenstern saga, an 80-page novella called The Vile Desire to Scream, which is downloadable for free in a few different formats from his website. The story fits in between Ancient Apetites and The Wisdom of Dead Men, but you don't need to have read either to enjoy it. As a fan of the unforgettable Wildenstern family, I can only recommend it!
So go on, click, read and pass the word!

Master Storyteller

As promised, a quick reminder of tomorrow's event: Philip Reeve will be in conversation with Robert Dunbar in Trinity College Dublin, somewhere in the Arts Block, from 6.30pm.
Here Lies Arthur was awarded the Carnegie Medal and was, therefore, the correct answer to the aforementionned question. It was also a totally fabulous read and I can't wait to hear more about it.
Hope to see you there...

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I suppose you've never heard of Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod. He's French and has written a heap of children's books and some adult ones, too. His thing is mainly humour and detective stories, one often going with the other, of course. His only works published in English so far are the Rita and Whatsit series, about a little girl and her dog, who doesn't have a name, but who has plenty of attitude to compensate. Arrou-Vignod also wrote a series of novels for 9+ about his own family life in the late 1960s, which is in the league of Nicholas for humour and quirkiness and which reminded me somewhat of Eoin Colfer's Legends series. I was reading an interview Arrou-Vignod did for a non-fiction book about the power of story in children's literature and I found myself very much taken by his philosophy. Here's what he has to say:
"I like the 8-12 age group. It's the end of early childhood, but at the same time the children are not autonomous yet and they haven't entered the complex world of love relationships. They are too young, I think, to be given a realistic and worrying image of our world... As a children's writer, I believe I have a responsibility: to give young people books that make them want to live life, books that give them energy."
"Joy" and even "euphoria" also come up in this interview. "Reading makes you want to live" Arrou-Vignod concludes. "Living makes you want to write". Let's get our pens and books, then!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tell me what you read...

I haven't been very talkative about my reading over the past few months as I was mostly reading for the Bisto Book of the Year Award and It Was All A Secret. But now that the shortlist has been announced, I have more time to read Other Things, and one of them is...
Letters to Anyone and Everyone, by Toon Tellegen, illusrated by Jessica Ahlberg.
I've had my eye on this one for some time and I must say I'm not disappointed. Squirrel, Ant, Bear and the others write letters to each other about all sorts of things (mostly cake in Bear's case) and about nothing (literally). In Tellegen's world, your letters are delivered by the wind, you can write to people, tables and... letters. And the best thing is, you'll always get an answer.
Letters to Anyone and Everyone is both quiet and exciting; it's light on its dancing feet and secretly serious; and it is (perhaps unexpectedly given the unconnected nature of the letters) quite the page-turner. A treat.