With just over a month until the publication of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF EDDIE DICKENS bind-up on 4th April, I thought it’d be a great excuse to show you some photographs of Eddie Dickens puppets made by the German puppeteer and performer, Lothar Lempp. I think you’ll agree that they’ve really captured David Roberts’s ‘look’. (All the photos are copyright Lothar, so please don’t go making T-shirts of them and selling them for thousands.) They are WONDERFUL.
The other day on Facebook, I posted the above picture of a postcard that usually lives on the wall of my office. It’s illustrated by Louis Wain (1860-1939). I wrote: ”Shocking documentary PROOF as to who really paints Jackie Morris’s pictures.” Jackie is a — *lowers voice so that she won’t hear* — fabulous artist and illustrator who not only loves painting cats, big and small, but also shares her life with them. In the blink of an eye, 87 people ‘liked’ this picture so I thought I’d post it here.
On National Book-Giving Day Elmo, one of Jackie’s cats, was nice enough to send a gift to the Ardagh household’s ginger cat. We read it to him as soon as we’d opened the beautifully wrapped present, whilst he played with the ribbon.
In addition to numerous other books, Jackie illustrated HOW THE WHALE BECAME, a series of creation stories from the late poet laureate, Ted Hughes, in a special edition for Faber & Faber.
You’ll find Jackie Morris’s website HERE
Axel Scheffler sent me a copy of this German magazine with us together on the cover (with translator Harry Rowohlt in between us). He then put it into an envelope onto which he drew our donkey twins Clip and Clop from my series of books about THE GRUNTS. He couldn‘t find a stamp with two donkeys on it but he DID manage to find one with two horses on it instead. AND he included a note on a postcard… with, you guessed it, two donkeys in the photo. Dedication beyond the call of duty. Thanks, Axel!
I’m delighted that, 14 years after publication, AWFUL END is still selling to new territories. It’s just been bought by two more publishers — Slovenian and Serbian — taking the rights deals up to 41. Thank you, Faber & Faber! Here’s a UK first edition, with a wonderful cover illustration by David Roberts, and my name written by a trained ant with the aid of a pin and an electron microscope.
Some of you may recall that, at a recent party, Elmer the elephant somehow found his way into my possession — see my previous blog post, below — causing Andersen Press to tweet “We’re a bit worried as Elmer seems to have strayed from his herd. Please just let us know he’s OK” followed up with the slightly more disturbing “Any signs of mistreatment and we’ll send in the heavies…” Well, here are my two latest ELMER IS BETTER THAN JUST OKAY pics, the first showing him being spoiled on St Valentine’s Day and the second showing him being given a nice elephant book to read at The Imagine Festival yesterday.
I was at this party and there was this cake stand. And sitting on top of the cake stand, looking a bit nervous — as though he were afraid of heights — was Elmer the elephant. As people were packing up to go home, Elmer was just sitting there, staring at me with pleading eyes… and, when I left the party, I discovered that he’d somehow ended up in my goodie-bag. The story might have ended there, except that someone took a photo of me with Elmer and posted it on the Internet… and Andersen Press (who publish the Elmer books, written and illustrated by David McKee) got in touch.
Their message read: “We’re a bit worried as Elmer seems to have strayed from his herd. Please just let us know he’s OK.”
To put their mind at rest, I sent them this photo to show them that he was being treated royally:
But, like any responsible elephant-owning publisher, Andersen Press wanted to be sure, so they responded by saying: “Any signs of mistreatment and we’ll send in the heavies…” and attached a photo to show who I was up against:
Aren’t they HANDSOME, even with heads bowed, ready to charge?
The good news is that Andersen Press now say that I can keep Elmer as long as I send regular updates to show he’s happy. So watch this space. There’ll be more Elmer pictures to come!
It’s always nice to run into Laura Dockrill, author of the Darcy Burdock books — we did a panel event together, not that long ago, at the British Library, along with Ian Beck and Lauren Child — but I’d never noticed that she had a handy carrying handle on the top of her head before. Very useful indeed!
I was at this party on Monday night (10th Feb) and one of the tables was themed around Judith Kerr’s THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA. At each place setting was a small cuddly tiger but, in one seat, sat one BIG cuddly tiger. I thought I’d take it for a liberating walk when I was stopped by the cry of, “But that’s Judith’s!” Thinking quickly, I said: “I was about to give it to her!” And, sure enough, there Judith was, so I thrust it into her arms and took this picture. I may not have left the building with the tiger, but I think I went home with one of the best photos of the night. Ms. Kerr was, of course, as charming as ever.I was at this party and one of the tables was themed around Judith Kerr’s THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA. At each place setting was a small cuddly tiger but, in one seat, sat one BIG cuddly tiger. I thought I’d take it for a liberating walk when I was stopped by the cry of, “But that’s Judith’s!” Thinking quickly, I said: “I was about to give it to her!” And, sure enough, there Judith was, so I thrust it into her arms and took this picture. I may not have left the building with the tiger, but I think I went home with one of the best photos of the night. Ms. Kerr was, of course, as charming as ever.
On 20th February 2012 — almost exactly two years ago — I posted the following as part of an entry in this blog, under the heading “Self-interested authors want to save libraries?”
I go on quite a bit about wanting to save libraries. I’m not one of the great public campaigners — and thank Heavens that there are people doing such sterling work out there, even though they must feel they’re banging their heads against a brick wall sometimes — but keeping libraries open is something I feel strongly about.
On more than one occasion, my passionate opinions have solicited the response: “Well, you would want to save libraries, wouldn’t you? It’s in your interest, isn’t it?”
The first time this was said to me, I was at a loss for words. Momentarily, I’ll admit, but lost for words. (And those of you who know me will understand what a rare occurrence that is.) But I do have a response.
Before I go any further, let me flag up to the three most (seemingly) obvious ways I, as an author, benefit FINANCIALLY from libraries:
1. Some libraries stock some of my books.
2. Because a library book can be read by more than one person - which may effect sales of my books in shops - I am eligible for Public Lending Rights (pennies for each time a books is taken out). Because of the sheer beauty of my prose, I am fortunate enough to regularly receive the maximum allocation of £6,600 a year, which is a substantial sum. (For many authors, PLR is a significant proportion of their writing income.)
3. Some people who read my books from a library may then go out and buy them.
Can you see that crazed, Midas-like glint in my eyes?
But my selfishness when it comes to libraries runs far, far deeper than that.
I first visited libraries as a child for pleasure and to find things out. I continue to do this as an adult. If my library were to close, I’d be losing out. So I selfishly want them to stay open.
I now visit libraries as a parent. I like the wide variety books they have on offer, some of which I might never have known about or ever thought to pick out. I like the storytime; the make-and-do; the community groups and information; the exhibitions…and all those other things libraries have to offer, and I haven’t even made it over to the computers or the photocopier. And I’m selfish enough to want these to continue too.
I’m selfish enough to want children from homes where there are few if any books to have the chance to discover the world of reading, giving them opportunities they might not otherwise have… so that they can achieve their potential and become the doctors and nurses and shopkeepers and all the people I’ll need to keep society running smoothly when I’m old and dribbling and (selfishly) need looking after.
For the same reason, I want those children who find homelife too distracting, unnerving or (sometimes) downright dangerous to have somewhere to do their homework where they feel happier or safer. A contented child is more likely to become a contented adult who will be more likely to carry my shopping for me, selfish old g*t that I am.
I could go on, but you get the picture. We complain about the not-in-my-backyard culture and I’m just as bad. I’m one of those ‘yes-in-my-backyard’ people. Yes, I want libraries to remain in our communities, for the selfish reasons already outlined and the million-and-one other reasons other people may selfishly have.
And nothing’s changed. Libraries are still under threat. Libraries staffed by professional librarians are still wonderful places.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If libraries didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them.
And what will I be doing this National Libraries Day? The same as I did last year: visiting my local library and giving the staff a big, round tin of chocolates to eat in the staff room. Oh, and probably borrowing a book or two.
LET’S CELEBRATE LIBRARIES!
“UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) says reading for pleasure is more important than social class in determining economic and academic success.” — Alan Gibbons Campaign For The Book
At the end of last year — when this blog was still taking a very long break - I was nominated for THE ROALD DAHL FUNNY PRIZE for a second time. The first time was in 2009, when I ended up winning it for the first of my Grubtown Tales, STINKING RICH AND JUST PLAIN STINKY (illustrated by Jim Paillot). And here I was, the first winner ever to be nominated again. This time it was for THE GRUNTS IN TROUBLE (illustrated by Axel Scheffler). We didn’t win but, let me assure you, a good time was had by all. The prizes’s creator, Michael Rosen was even lucky enough to have me sit on his lap and cuddle his beard. *Happy sigh* Ain’t writing books FUN?
There were a number of assassination attempts on Queen Victoria’s life during her reign, all of which - of course - failed. One of the less well remembered attacks took place in the heathery highlands of Scotland and was thwarted by a certain stuffed stoat called Malcolm, as this official document (by David Roberts) shows. It’s told in DUBIOUS DEEDS, which is Book One in the soon-to-be-published bind-up of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF EDDIE DICKENS. I do hope that you get your hands on a copy, read it and ENJOY IT!
I’m not 100% sure I should be showing anyone a sneak preview of this cover yet. I haven’t seen it anywhere else on the Internet, except where I’ve posted it. Ooops! Anyway, I think it’s a fantastic companion volume to THE EDDIE DICKENS TRILOGY and will be out later this year.
I spent a number of evenings reading through the proofs for this and — my sparkling prose aside! — it was a real pleasure to become reacquainted with some of David Roberts’s fabulous artwork. I still think he did some of his best work on the nine books we did together. Yes NINE. Can’t wait for it to be in the shops.
I was in my doctor’s waiting room — waiting to see my doctor, in case you were wondering — and had a chance to look through the shelves of donated secondhand books that you can buy for 50p a pop. Amongst them, I was delighted to find this 1973 Puffin edition of SEPTIMUS AND THE DANEDYKE MYSTERY, identical to a copy I already own. This book was a huge favourite when I was a child…
…so much so that when, in 2008, Faber & Faber launched Faber Finds, its print-on-demand imprint, and I was asked if there were any books I’d like to see in the catalogue, I instantly thought of Stephen Chance’s SEPTIMUS books. (In the photo below, these are the books you can see behind today’s Puffin purchase.)
There was an article in The Guardian about it (click the link below), in which I explain precisely why I think SEPTIMUS AND THE DANEDYKE MYSTERY was — and still is – such a fabulous book. I urge you to get your hands on a copy, whether it be from Faber Finds or your local doctor’s waiting room. It was written by a Carnegie-winning author.
The Guardian link is currently broken. The text reads:
“One of my favourite presents as a child was a book token, which gave me the opportunity to agonise for ages over the bookshop shelves. This was how I came upon one of my favourite childhood literary heroes: Septimus Treloar. A retired copper of 30 years turned vicar of a sleepy parish in the Fens, Septimus was an adult protagonist and a refreshing change to those groups of children stumbling by chance upon villainous gangs. I first encountered Septimus in Septimus and the Danedyke Mystery (1971), which was to become, without a doubt, the very best of a good series.
It has everything: a treasure hunt with ancient clues, medieval manuscripts, the Danedyke Cup - a silver chalice supposedly brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea - and a pair of criminals who mistakenly believe that they’re up against an ordinary clergyman. Septimus even manages to get one of their fingerprints off a glossy postcard of his beloved church. (The book was made into a fairly faithful TV adaptation, which somehow completely lacked the spark of the original.) In a later book, we learn more of Septimus’s earlier life, when he fought alongside the partisans in Yugoslavia during the second world war.
Stephen Chance was the pseudonym of Philip W Turner, winner of the 1965 Carnegie prize, so be in no doubt of the quality of his writing. Admittedly, some of the stories have aged better than others, but I’m delighted to have the opportunity to introduce the truly marvellous Septimus Treloar to a whole new generation of readers.”
I’m pleased to see that my book PHILIP ARDAGH’S BOOK OF HOWLERS, BLUNDERS & RANDOM MISTAKERY got a mention in The Independent on Sunday’s The New Review section. There was a list of Top Ten Spoonerisms and in at No 4 came “We’ll have the hags flung out”, taken from the book.
Spoonerisms get their name from William Archibald Spooner who was famous for unintentionally swapping the beginning of one word with that of another. (For example, above, he was trying to say “We’ll have the flags hung out”.)
Some of the most famous spoonerisms were, in fact, said by other people and made-up on purpose.
Two of my favourites are: A
well-boiled icicle and Go and shake a tower.
There are, of course, more in my MISTAKERY book with the very long title.
On Friday evening, an editor sent me an e-mail about proofs which ended: “I just spoke to two very charming very young people at your house who said they would pass on this message, but I just wanted to email to check.” It’s lucky she DID check. There are neither very charming nor very young people Chez Ardagh, let alone charming young people… I wonder who on EARTH she spoke to and what their puzzled father made of her message?