Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sun, storytime...and Robert Muchamore

Ah, wot a lovely day. Sun was out, we had people in the garden enjoying cake, children in the shop enjoying storytime (although not so much raucous laughter this week as we didn't do Peek-A-Poo...). I was rushing around like a mad buffoon getting stuff done off my to-do list, trying not to injure any small children. We really need a bigger shop... It's been half-term this week, so we've been busy doing lots of planning for the various events we have coming up in the next six weeks. I think it's fair to say that we're very excited about Robert Muchamore coming to Abingdon on June 20th as part of the Amazing Books for Boys event. I've just posted a piece over on the 'Amazing' blog about the CHERUB author, so click here to find out much more about Mr Muchamore (sorry, that's bad copy...but it's late).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sharon Dogar and Falling

At the end of April we welcomed Sharon Dogar to Mostly Books to coincide with the launch of her latest book 'Falling'.
For the first time, we hosted an event jointly with the Oxford Children's Book Group - part of the Federation of Children's Book Groups - and thanks must go to the lovely Moira Da Costa, who worked very hard to publicise the event, and brought plenty of members to the shop on the evening to listen to Sharon.
'Falling' is Sharon's second book - her first was the critically-acclaimed 'Waves', shortlisted for the Branford Boase award in 2008. (BTW, if you've never heard of the Branford Boase award, it's worth going here and looking at why the award was set up, and what its aims are. In the increasingly cluttered universe of book awards, the BBA stands out in terms of its integrity, and for the unique way it aims to recognise and reward not just an excellent first-time novel for children, but the role of the editor in selecting and nuturing the writer). Unusually for me, I not only had read 'Waves' the previous year, but I managed to read 'Falling' before the event. We had actually read and discussed 'Waves' in my bookgroup last year - all the bookgroups did a children's book around that time - and although it's fair to say that I was probably not the author's number one choice of reader when she wrote the book (teen romance set against the Cornish surfing scene, paraphrasing and pigeonholing dreadfully) I was - quite unexpectedly - caught up and moved by the end of the book. 'Falling' is an entirely different beast. It came to me after two other staff members had read it, and everyone I spoke to cited its difficult themes. I started reading it with the sole intention of getting it read before the event, not really expecting to be as swept up by the book as I was. It is a powerful read, but more than that, it is an example of the author showing complete mastery over her characters. As readers, we are drawn into the book with our prejudices, and then gently but inexorably forced to abandon these by the time we reach the thrilling - and entirely unexpected - conclusion. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than with one of the central characters, a viscious racist whose thoughts and words are at times extremely uncomfortable to read. By the end of the book, you not only understand him, you are rooting for him to pull through (at least I was). The book is not primarily about the challenging themes of knife crime, self-harming, racism and intolerance that feature in the book. It is - IMHO - a book about the power of tolerance, respect and love, and their ability to heal the brutal, and unchangeable, acts of the past. Truth may be the daughter of time, but healing and reconcilation are its grandaughters. We have been very fortunate in April to have had - with Sharon Dogar and Julie Hearn - two extremely gifted children's authors writing powerful books about difficult themes, and it would be wonderful to think that 'Falling' and 'Rowan The Strange' might be duking it out on the Carnegie shortlist next year...
My thanks for Sharon for giving such an amazing reading on the night - including a chapter from a new, and as yet unpublished third novel, just completed. Thanks to her publisher for making the awful journey up to Mostly Books from the East End, to Moira and members of the Oxford Children's Book Group for coming along and making it such a memorable evening.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Signs of change

An ordinary bookshop - same black shop front, unsuspecting member of public strolling by. But look a bit closer. See anything different?
When we opened the shop, we thought we needed a hanging sign. Three years later we finally got one. The only thing is, we may now need to get the entire front of the shop re-done in the new livery...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Julie Hearn

At the end of April, we welcomed Julie Hearn into the shop to celebrate the publication of her latest novel, Rowan The Strange. We've got to know Julie very well over the past couple of years, and it's incredibly rewarding (not to mention exciting) to have discussed the book before it's even reached the publisher, then to receive and read proofs - and finally watch as the book is published - to some seriously rave reviews. I think everyone in the shop - and a few of our customers - had read the proof, and everyone could see this was something a bit special. Don't take my word for it though - take a look at Bookbag's review, and reviews in The Times, and a cracking review by the extremely well-respected children's bookseller at Waterstone's in Bath, John Lloyd. I read the majority of Rowan The Strange whilst on my way back from the recent BA forum Edinburgh. The section leading up to Rowan's first 'treatment' is an incredible piece of writing - gripping, horrifying, compelling - devastating. And whilst I can't honestly claim to have almost missed my flight, I had to try to keep reading for as long as possible - and was consequently the last one of the plane. Unusually for this blog - and whilst I'm plugging the book furiously because I think it's that good - I'll link to the big A. Go take a look at the reviews currently on the site, because all three are exceptionally good reviews of the book itself, and far better than I could do. Anyway - that's the book. The event itself was a great evening, with a packed shop, plenty of Julie's fans locally, and Julie herself reading from Rowan, and giving us some great background into the research she'd done on what is one of the less well-known parts of the second world war, namely the phoney war period immediately after war was declared.
Julie had one stipulation about doing an event - and that was that we had cake on the evening. Alison duly baked up a celebratory cake, and we ushered everyone out into the garden for the cutting.
Thanks to Julie and everyone who came. The book is currently in hardback - and of course we have signed first editions in the shop. I appreciate that hardback children's fiction is not universely popular, so grab the paperback when it comes out - presumably later this year or early in the new year. Julie deserves a lot of recognition for this book, and I'm with John Lloyd when he says that this book is deserving of a major literary award. Our tip for the Carnegie shortlist next year... Back now to May, (I'm still playing catch-up with our events) and we have Marina Fiorato in the shop this Tuesday evening with a distinctly Italian theme...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Amazing Blog for Boys

Ahead of our event in June, the Amazing Blog for Boys is now up. Not content with running one blog, we've now got two. Trying to resist Twitter at the moment however. Down that way madness lies methinks (plus the kids don't dig it apparently)...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Hungry Caterpillar Party

If you look very closely at our window, you can see something large and green slowly crawling across the window: On closer inspection, a very familar (and of course very hungry) caterpillar:
He was made during our Very Hungry Caterpillar party which took place back in April. Stories...
...plenty of making things...
...and of course, cake. It is our great good fortune that one of staff - and one of the caterpillar party organisers - is a consumate blogger. So you can read more about the party over on her blog. Check out the Hungry Caterpillar Cake as well... We've had rather a lot events in the past few weeks - so expect plenty of updating of the blog over the coming week (including details of *that* signing). And if you like the look of the party above, we've got an Elmer Party coming up on June essential...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Jodi Picoult Day

Well, today's the big day. The sun is shining, the big board is out:
I know at least one person is travelling up from Cornwall today, but for any of Jodi Picoult's fans who live in Oxfordshire, you would be very welcome to come down for the big start at 5.30pm.
I am now (at 2pm) extremely nervous...