Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Ghost of Grania O'Malley by Michael Morpurgo

A had this book for Christmas in a bumper Morpurgo box set from her lovely godmother.  I pounced on it before she had the chance to, as I've been wanting to read it for a while.  Last year, after reading War Horse with Year 9, we found some video clips on the BBC schools site, narrated by Morpurgo, about how he goes about writing a new story.  In the final clip he read the opening to The Ghost of Grania O'Malley.  We all decided it sounded very good indeed.

I was slightly fearful, having only read deeply depressing Morpurgo books, that this was going to go down the same route.  In some ways it is similar to the other books of his that I've read - the characters are interesting and very well-drawn, and the story gains momentum as it gets toward the end - there's never a anti-climactic ending in his novels.

However, it was more uplifting, and somewhat less doom-and-gloom with regard to its depiction of human nature than the others I have read.  I did cry at the end, but the tears were mainly of happiness.  This raised the interest of both children (if "what's up with you?" can be deemed interest).  I gave a very brief summary of the book, and suggested to A that she might like to read it next.  "Well, you've just pretty much told me what happens, so I probably won't bother now".  I despair...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

On discovering that your child is not a Mini-Me

So, further evidence today that A continues in her steadfast quest to be her own person, rather than a (not-so) mini version of her mother.  It seems that the older she gets, the more she looks like me, the less she acts like me.  This is, of course, fine.  I was never much like my Mum - I look a little like her, but our personalities were worlds apart in the way that C and I inhabit utterly different personality planets.  I can cope with him not liking the things I like; in fact generally outright rejecting things I like, because he's a thick-haired blond introverted boy.  I don't expect him to be like me, because he isn't like me.  However, I think I have an almost unconcious expectation that A, who is a wispy brunette with brown eyes, a long body and an extrovert nature, to re-live my life for me, but do things just a little bit better than I did them.  I am conciously aware that this is not a very healthy expectation, for either of us.

This was underlined today during CITV's rather brilliant Old Skool weekend.  My objections to this wonderful idea are minimal, and I shall get these out of the way first.  Firstly, the fact that it's only a weekend.  I think a whole week, nay month, of this nostalgia fest would have been preferable.  Secondly, tomorrow there is an episode of My Parents Are Aliens from 2005 being shown as part of the weekend.  2005 is not Old Skool.  Children born in 2005 are now 7.  That's barely even Skool, let alone Old Skool.  Thirdly, there is not nearly enough Knightmare.  In fact, a solid month of back-to-back Knightmare would have been fantastic.  Especially the group that were on today, whom A pointed out had "eerily good manners" and seemed to be from the 1950s (two of them were called Barry and Derek).

Anyway, to the point.  I ensured that I recorded the episode of Puddle Lane that was on this morning.  I LOVED Puddle Lane. I blame Puddle Lane for my obsession with books, and also for my deep love for fonts.  I loved the guy putting his finger in the puddle (I can assure you the programme was not obscene despite how that sentence reads) and the story magically appearing on-screen.  I loved the barely-literate dragon thing.  And the talking cauldron.  What's not to love?  But most of all, I LOVED the book.  There's an enormous, beautiful leather-bound red book, that contains all of the stories which are produced by the magic puddle.  All of the stories on beautiful thick, cream paper, and written in a font that still makes me sigh for the beauty of perfectly formed, perfect primary-school-teacher-esque letters. 

I think that, for years, I have been searching in vain for a book that could replace that book in my heart.  A font that I could love as much as I loved the Puddle Lane font.  It struck a chord somewhere very deep within when I saw it today.  As this emotional moment unfolded within the very core of my being, A murmured "This programme's really boring - can we play Fruit Ninja on your Windows Surface?"  I managed to avoid weeping.  And I am going to take this as a salutory lesson.  Your daughter, Mrs M, prefers hacking pieces of pixelated fruit apart on a small screen, to drinking in the beauty of the Puddle Lane book.  She may never follow in your footsteps.  But she will save a LOT of money in Book People bills...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Numbers by Rachel Ward

To see in the New Year, Mr M and I went on a Trail of Jack the Ripper walk around the Whitechapel area (of which more later).  This was scary enough, being dark and a little deserted, and punctuated by Mr M's hilarious little japes about being brutally murdered.  However, the scariest aspect for me was walking through a part of London which looks just like how I pictured the area where Val's flat is in the Numbers trilogy.  I kept expecting a disenfranchised teen to come out and look at me, knowing the date I was going to die.  They didn't, just to clarify. 

This is the central premise of the Numbers trilogy.  The first is set in contemporary(ish) London and follows Jem, a girl who can see the date that people are going to die in their eyes.  The next two books in the trilogy deal with her son, and are set in a dystopian London of the 2020s. 

I bought them on a whim from The Book People, and am very pleased that I did.  The concept is wonderfully spooky, and the books are gritty.  Ward does not flinch from killing off loved characters.  However, there is hope in the pages, despite all of this.  Some parts of it reminded me of the brilliant The Runaways by Ruth Thomas, which was one of my favourite books as a pre-teen (only available on Kindle nowadays, but well worth a look).

I would not recommend this book for young kids.  It deals with subjects such as violent murder, the inevitability of death, the possible catastrophic effects of climate change, sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy.  However, the story is extremely gripping, and the plot carries the reader along haphazardly through the noisy, dirty, terrifying streets of London.