Thursday, March 28, 2013

3 4, er, Thursday - Chicks, Chocolate and the Easter Story

Thursday is the new Friday!

We have three picks for Easter books if you are looking for some last-minute gifts for family and friends . . . but as always come in for any special recommends if you need to delight and amuse family and friends this Easter break (with the added treat of an Easter Egg Hunt in the shop with both instant chocolate prizes and the chance to enter a raffle with a first prize of £40 of Usborne books).

'On Easter Day In The Morning' is a colourful picture book that recounts the events of Jesus' resurrection, in a fashion that is easily understandable for young children. This seasonal book is the perfect way to teach children about another aspect of Easter, aside from all the chocolate!

'Peter Rabbit - Easter Egg Hunt' is an interactive and fun story featuring a classic and beloved children's character. Full of things to pull, flaps to lift and pop-up pictures, the book brings to life this playful short story that young children will have lots of fun reading.

Two picture books we love at the moment - and we couldn't decide between them, so here's both of them.

Both are fun to read, teach children their numbers and have an Easter theme - what could be better? 'Six Little Chicks' by Jez Alborough and 'Splosh!' by David Melling are full to the brim of colourful pictures of fluffy new-born animals.

Perfectly cute - and 'Six Little Chicks' comes with the Mostly Books storytime guarantee, a big thumbs up from some of our younger customers who have listened to the story in recent weeks. Who's getting closer to the hen house? Will the chicks survive? Excitement, danger and a palpable sense of menace (although it all turns out OK, promise!) 

Whatever you do this Easter, keep warm, spend time with those you love - and pick some good reading. Come in if we can help with recommendations on that score...Happy Easter from everyone at Mostly Books!

Friday, March 22, 2013

3 4 Friday: A Quiz, a Comp and a Hunt

We hope you’re feeling competitive this Friday as we’ve got three competitions to tell you about.

Firstly, throughout the Easter holidays we will be challenging children to ‘find the egg’ (what bluff old traditionalists we are, eh?).

Any child who manages to find an egg in amongst the books will be presented with an immediate prize egg (chocolate, we hasten to add) and also be invited to take part in a prize draw with a goodie bag of Usborne books on offer.

Happy hunting!

As part of our continuing celebration of all things Hugless Douglas, you have until March 30 to draw us a picture of the thing or person you most like to hug for the chance to win a fantastic David Melling signed print.  Send us your pictures or bring them in – tell us who the picture is of and let us know your contact details.

Entry forms can be found in the shop...and the best of luck!

Finally, just a reminder that you have just a month to go to get your team together and limbered up for our Mostly Bookbrains Literary Quiz on April 19 at 7.30pm.

This year the quiz is being supported by The Pelvic Partnership, which helps women with pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) to find treatment and manage birth with PGP. PGP is common, affecting about one in five pregnant women. The charity is based locally and run by volunteers - more information about the charity and the quiz can be found here.

. . . and a reminder that Mar 24 is the last day to spend your World Book Day tokens if you have any left!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writing tips and rooftops – a book launch with Katherine Rundell

When Katherine Rundell was searching for an idea for her second children’s novel she felt cursed with second novel syndrome. So she turned to her own childhood and remembered her fascination with tightrope walking and the incredible bravery of people who take to the skies with only their own agility to keep them from falling.

Katherine Rundell was at Our Lady's Abingdon with 300 schoolchildren from across Abingdon to celebrate the launch of ‘Rooftoppers’ on Mar 7 and to talk about the high-wire act that writing can sometimes be.

She was brought up in Zimbabwe and so inspired by the feat of Philippe Petit walking between New York’s twin towers, she strung her own rope between two trees to try to teach herself to tightrope walk.

Her parents eventually sent her to circus school to try to stop her injuring herself.

In ‘Rooftoppers’, baby Sophie is rescued from a sinking ship and brought up by scholarly Charles in London. He concentrates on teaching her what he feels is important, which involves lots of books and music and very irregular meals.

The authorities are never far away and when it looks as though Charles’ eccentric upbringing will end in Sophie being taken to an orphanage, the pair, following a clue, head to Paris to try to find out if Sophie’s real mother really did die when the ship sank.

Now wanted by the police, but determined to still search for her mother, Sophie gets help from a bunch of children she meets living on the Paris rooftops. She starts a totally different adventure, joining the rooftoppers and learning to leap between buildings, catching birds to eat and only coming out after dark. She has to learn to tightrope and scale ancient buildings to keep up with them and keep a step away from anyone trying to catch them as together they follow the only clue they have – that Sophie’s mother played the cello.

It’s an exciting story, full of pace and adventure and Katherine was full of advice at the book launch of how to take an idea and turn it into a great book.

‘You need a good opening sentence and a grip on your reader – but you have to decide what sort of grip it is that you want to have. First ideas are never very good and you have to pound your brain to come up with something worth reading. Maybe your fourth idea is the one no-one has ever had before. The secret of good writing is writing the things that come into only your head – to be a little bit different is the one thing you need to be a writer. But now people pay me for the things that I make up which seems like a lovely miracle.’

Katherine has drawn on her own unique life for inspiration to come up with her stories and eccentric characters.

Although set in a different place and a different time there are similarities between ‘Rooftoppers’ and with Katherine’s first book ‘The Girl Savage’. Her first book she wrote in a month, and based it mostly on her own wild childhood growing up in Africa.

In the story Wilhelmina (Will) is sent from Africa to an English boarding school, where she discovers that all the skills and knowledge that served her so well in Africa are useless in her new environment, so runs away and finds she can live quite happily for in London Zoo, while seeing if she can find the bravery to return to her restrictive school environment.

They are both great stories about being yourself, not fitting in, as well as out-and-out adventure tales, full of eccentric twists, imaginative word play and a theme of believing the impossible and not letting go of your dreams.

Her second book took two-and-a-half years to write, which she admits, was down to fear of being judged by the 9,000 people who’d bought her first book.

‘All the bravery you think you have for jumping out of trees, then I realised I was a coward afraid to fail in front of people. It was like those 9,000 people were in the room with me when I tried to write. But you just have to tell your wolves you are coming from them and just do it. And each word written means the next word will be better, in the same way that if you are a swimmer you need your twenty slow laps to make you able to do one really fast one.’

But she does admit to sometimes having to tie herself to her chair to make herself write.

For her inspiration, like in her first book, she turned again to ways to escape when you feel you don’t fit in.

At 21 she was by far the youngest fellow of All Souls in Oxford and felt she was the only person there who was looking for adventure. She would often imagine someone might be having an adventure up on the vast rooftops and thought rooftops would be a good place to live if you didn't want to be seen.

Her personal dream has always to be an explorer and go to the South Pole, like Scott, and has high hopes she might still get to go there one day.

But in the meantime she still has a yearning to improve her tightrope walking skills and keeps a tightrope set up in her office so she can put in her daily practice. ‘I am trying to learn to do it in high heels which is more difficult than it sounds.’

It was a heartfelt and revealing talk about the pleasures and perils of being a writer, but we couldn't resist asking Katherine just a few more questions before the event finished...

Five questions with...Katherine Rundell's Writing Life

1. What are you working on at the moment?

An adult murder mystery and a sequel to Rooftoppers and a doctorate on John Donne.

2. What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

I don’t think I have been given many writing tips, but the one I remember is to get to the end so you can start again at the beginning.

3. What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

Children are better readers than adults, they are more imaginative and they remember what they have read. The worst thing is deadlines.

4. Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing or snack essential before you can start work?

I have a special book that I write in. I write always with a cup of tea and black chocolate.

5. What was your biggest breakthrough?

The first time you get published is the biggest. That and getting Philip Pullman to promote the book was lovely.

Friday, March 15, 2013

3 4 Friday: Choice or no choice, one life or many: Kate Atkinson, Tracy Chevalier and Margaret Forster

Today's '3 4 Friday' #fridayreads is an embarrassment of riches, three fantastic new titles from three of our finest women novelists.

Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ is a bravura examination of life (or rather, of one life in particular, that of Ursula) who lives a spectacularly unconventional life (even for a fictional character). Kate Atkinson is one of Nicki's favourite authors, and here is what she thinks of the book:

"Ursula’s life is exceptional because it doesn’t exist in a linear strand, but is more like a game of Monopoly, where Ursula keeps passing ‘Go’ and has to go around it all over again. Can she do better this time?

Kate Atkinson is enjoyed hugely as a writer, known for her literary novels (award-winning ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’) and her Jackson Brodie detective series, which was made into a television Sunday night drama. But whatever Kate Atkinson's starting point, there is always a lot of death in her books.

‘Life After Life’ is as complex as her detective dramas, but plays much more with the whole idea of narrative – and, basically, about how a life might have turned out differently if we had the chance to try it again. And to make the point she kills off her main character over and over again (I lost count of the times). For Ursula, Darkness Falls quite a lot when she doesn’t get things right.

Ursula’s life could have turned out so differently. From being born with the cord around her neck, Ursula could have died as a baby, or in the accident on the beach if that man hadn’t been there to see it happen. If she had died, her siblings might also have died if she hadn’t been there to alter the course of events. That boy, that pregnancy, that isolation, that violent husband. She lives it all.

As a reader we see all the possible permutations, the events that start to stack up, the small selection of seemingly unimportant happenings, which, if they had turned out differently could have meant Ursula living out an utterly altered life – and death. Happy marriage, disaster marriage, it all rests on a knife edge. (We wait, each time, poised, for the next horrible demise.)

But ‘Life After Life’ isn’t simply a clever-clever examination of whether we are a product of environment, or fate, or circumstance. Ursula gradually survives what the world throws at her and in later versions of her own life grows to have a family of her own (or not – yes, you do have to stay on your toes to follow the action with this one).

Yet even as she succeeds at each attempt to grow stronger, the Ursula who survives into adulthood – dodging childhood accidents and not being victim to one of life’s random tragedies – has one major factor she can’t beat – one in which everyone she might have saved once, dies. She always, always comes up against the Second World War.

Ursula can improve on some of her own possible worst-case scenarios, but never manages to live the life she seems intended for – a life of privilege and ease, daughter of a banker, living in a large family in a home with domestic servants and ox-eye daisies in the garden. Because all that idea of Englishness ended with the Second World War.

One of the strongest narratives is when she grows to be a Warden in London during the Blitz, crawling through blown-apart houses to find anyone alive, administering last-moment-easing morphine and attaching labels to body parts. She finds the strength to be useful, to hold it together so she can offer comfort.

In to-ing and fro-ing through the last century, going over the same events, meeting the same characters, Kate Atkinson finds a way of making the same story told again and again a tale worth the re-reading – and that’s what’s so clever and compelling about this novel.

It is a brilliant and complex novel of ideas and characters – some met fleetingly, but still embued with personality and understanding, some meeting again like old friends, woven into the strands of Ursula’s alternatives lives.

But there is also Kate Atkinson’s trademark wit among the bodies to be enjoyed and savoured among the devastation. She has such humanity, every bomb victim is humanised and individualised.

Her ideas are delivered in delightful slivers, whether describing The Fuhrer’s taste in films and women, or the destruction of homes blown to bits and the growing normality of death.

The Great icy crags and the rushing waterfalls, the endless pine trees – nature and myth fused to form the Germanic sublimated soul, German Romanticism, it seemed to Ursula, was writ large and mystical, the English Lakes seemed tame by comparison. And the English soul, if it resided anywhere, was surely in some unheroic back garden – a patch of lawn, a bed of roses, a row of runner beans.’

Even though she has the chance to try again and again, Ursula always runs into the Second World War, although, this is a fictional narrative, so maybe it’s even possible to do something about that . . .

A stunning novel, effortlessly readable. Of course as we didn’t get a Jackson Brodie this time I am now desperate for that. Write faster Kate Atkinson."

Back in the real world, of course, we only have one life. And thus the choices we make are imbued with the full gamut of human qualities, from cowardice and shame through to to bravery, courage and loyalty. In Tracy Chevalier's latest book 'The Last Runaway' the choices are faced by Honor Bright, who at the start of the book is a young, naive Quaker girl, setting off to start a new life in the new world with her sister, Grace.

After a terrifying crossing, and a tragedy that strikes upon arriving on American soil, Honor ends up in the wide-open expanses of the lowlands of Ohio. But this is the 1850s, only a few years before Abraham Lincoln's presidency, and slavery is coming to an end. Honor gets involved with the 'Underground Railway', a network of anti-slavery campaigners and sympathisers, delivering runaway slaves out of the American south and ultimately into Canada.

Tracy Chevalier is another of our favourite authors, her best known book being Girl with a Pearl Earring, and fans are going to be delighted that this book definitely reaches those heights. In slow, measured and at times very spare prose, Chevalier paints an extremely vivid portrayal of a frontier life about to undergo fundamental change. There is a cast of great characters, particularly the matriarchal, flamboyant milliner Belle and her brother Donovan, who represents a brooding paradox of the heart for Honor: a professional slave-hunter who nevertheless seems to match Honor in terms of his principles and faith.

This book has a very contemporary feel to it, and just as our society is currently looking back 80 years to the 1930s, to a time of depression and the rumblings of war, so the 1850s in America - 80 years before that - were similarly times of great change, oppression and a  looming Civil War. But none of this gets in the way of what is a wonderfully told story, one that only afterwards has you thinking about issues of religion, faith can how they both provide important firebreaks to the relentlessness of powerful forces. This is a joy of a book from an author on absolutely top form.

(And an Abingdon aside: we're very fond of Tracy, not just because she was the author who presented us with our Nibbie five years ago! Given our town's reputation for quilts and quilt-making, the description of the pioneer Quaker's quilting traditions is an unexpected treat - read an interview with Tracy here)

Finally, another mention for a book that was first recommended on our Mother's Day recommends - 'The Unknown Bridesmaid' by Margaret Forster. The story charts the unravelling of the life of Julia, a child psychologist, who has skeleton's in her closet which cast a subtle but increasingly significant shadow over her life.

Moving back and forth between her childhood and different points in Julia's life, Forster teases out details of Julia's life and character, and the choices she has made.

This is classic Forster, full of compassion and taking the ordinary and unexceptional and elevating them with sublime writing.

Riches indeed...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On the river and In The Trees: five questions with Pauline Fisk

At Oxford Spires Academy on World Book Day, we did an event with Rachel Ward (which we'll be writing up separately) and Pauline Fisk - author of books including Sabrina Fludde, Midnight Blue and In The Trees, a book she wrote after time spent amongst the rainforests of Belize.

Pauline spoke to pupils about her books and writing life - before signing books in the school library:

This was appropriate really given that Pauline practically lived in the library as a child, something which she talks about on her blog:

"I grew up in the suburbs of south London, a shy girl who loved books and created a world inside her head.  The way I saw it, my parents’ garden was full of hidden fairy folk, the alley behind it was their kingdom and if home life was boring at least the local library was close by - my gateway to all things fabulous and exciting."

We were able to interview Pauline between signings in the library, and find out more about her writing life and inspirations...

Five Questions with...Pauline Fisk's Writing Life

1.    What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just begun a new book – but I’d rather not talk about it too much as it’s at an early stage. However, I’ve really got into blogging recently, involved in a project entitled My Tonight from Shrewsbury. It’s a one year blog, and I’m interviewing everyone I can in the town (from the Big Issue seller up to the prison governor . We’re trying to get to the heart of an English town – it’s a big commitment, but I’m loving it.

2.    What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

(Thinks hard about the question) - I’m a bit torn about this, can I have two? OK, the first is ‘please yourself’. I was told this by Gerry Anderson, I was working with him on Lavender Castle (a children’s stop-motion television series). He said “if you are enjoying it, the reader will enjoy it”. The second tip is ‘trust your own voice’. When I was very young, I tried to make myself 'read' like other authors, but you have to trust your own voice, your own way of writing.

3.    What’s the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

Best: the stories themselves, I love writing from young people’s point of view, discovering things for the first time, opening up, getting out there and having new experiences. There’s optimism there, and hope. But basically, children are really interesting! The worst thing – and this isn’t just for children’s writing – it’s a terrible time for authors at the moment, publishing is in disarray, no-one knows where it’s going to end up.

4.    Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, thing of snack essential before you can start work?
Well, I don’t need much to start writing, certainly not a survival kit – in fact, it’s harder to get me to stop writing than start. But to get my best writing, I like to get to the computer as soon as possible after getting up. No coffee, family, conversations – as quickly as I can. There is something very special about the in-between world before full ‘awakeness’. Issues you have, in fact the problems of the world, seem to solve themselves at this time.

5.    What was your biggest breakthrough?
Well, creatively, as mentioned above, was finding my own voice. But the real publishing breakthrough came with winning the Smarties Prize (in 1991). I was up against Roald Dahl and other fantastic authors. That was a fabulous year, shortlisted for Carnegie, no-one had ever heard of me before then!

Monday, March 11, 2013

BBC Radio Oxford Afternoon Bookclub for March - and a Face Like Glass

Following on from World Book Day last week, here are two sessions on the BBC Oxford Afternoon show - the first is the regular monthly afternoon bookgroup that took place today (Monday March 11 - and which will be on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days).

So get yourself a hot beverage, and indulge yourself in some bookish discussions...

Together with Nigel French of Coles Bookshop, we discussed some new titles - including Katherine Rundell's 'Rooftoppers' and John Ashdown-Hill's book 'The Last Days of Richard III' as well as discussing 'Red Bones' by Ann Cleeves, the book which inspired 'Shetland'.

Click on the link here and fast forward to approximately 1 hour and 9 minutes (or slightly earlier if you fancy a bit of Belinda Carlisle). The full list of books discussed can be found here.

On World Book Day itself we did an event with Frances Hardinge at Chandlings School - here are some of the children with copies of Frances' books:

Click to listen here and fast forward to approximately 2 hours 9 minutes. It's a fascinating interview with an author who was shaped by books, was addicted to books and stories from an early age, and can't imagine a life not writing...

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Baker's Dozen - twelve titles for Mother's Day 2013

This year, thanks to Easter being so early, it may have escaped your notice that Mother's Day (or Mothering Sunday) is almost upon us this Sunday. But fear not. It's our (completely unbiased) opinion that a book might be a lovely gift for Mum, so if you are looking to buy something special, we’ve put together some suggestions from the shop to inspire you (and not just books).

This year it’s difficult to move for baking and cook books. But our top pick is woman-of-the-hour, bake-off supremo Mary Berry. Her book 'Mary Berry at Home' is an imaginative collection of her favourite dishes that she cooks everyday for her family and friends. Over 150 simply prepared, delicious, reliable recipes for lunch, dinner and parties as well as mouth-watering, foolproof bakes. Mary invites you to enjoy afternoon tea, with an array of delicious cakes, traybakes and treats. 

Perhaps your mum might prefer the 'Fabulous Baker Brothers' (looking mean 'n moody as they lean against their little Morris Van on the cover there), or a rather splendid reissue of 'Delia’s Cakes'. But if you're looking for something a little different amongst a batch of top titles, how about Lynn Hill’s 'The Clandestine Cake Club' - a club which meets once a month at a secret location only revealed a few days before the event.

They bake a cake on a specified theme and then try a bit of each others’. In this book Lynn Hill (creator of the club) has collected together their favourite recipes in this great book. With everything from traditional Victoria Sandwich to Shirley Temple Mocktail Cake, it’s a great, quirky baking book gift.

If the Mum you are buying for is more into brand new fiction – and a nice, gifty hardback to boot – then we can definitely help!

First is the ever-readable Maggie O’Farrell, whose ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ is a definite change of direction for the author of ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ and ‘The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox’. Set in London during the unending heatwave of 1976 (does Mum remember that?) it’s the tale of an Irish family’s meeting after their father disappears, with a gradual unravelling of tales of sibling rivalries, religious guilt, shame and secrets. The characters are really brought to life and draw you in to their hopes and disappointments as the story moves from London, to New York – and eventually back to Ireland. 

A new book by Margaret Forster is a perfect treat for Mother's Day and 'The Unknown Bridesmaid' is vintage Forster territory. An observant writer, she writes about ordinary lives, but in a captivating way that makes even the unexceptional seem anything less than ordinary.  'The Unknown Bridesmaid' is full of compassion about the disintegrating life of Julia, a child psychologist, whose own troubled past is coming back to haunt her.

Barbara Kingsolver is an author with legions of fans, and ‘Flight Behaviour’ is a gripping, absorbing tale with similarities to her much-loved ‘The Poisonwood Bible’. Anyone who loved this book will recognise the brilliant way Kingsolver conveys blind belief and the inability to face up to reality.

Dellarobia Turnbow thinks she has seen a miracle. Her life is soon part of a media circus and scientists with reputations to make clamouring for the story. She was witness to the unexpected migration of the monarch butterfly, but why has it suddenly become erratic? Dellarobia ekes out a living in the Bible Belt – a life dependent on the seasons and where unpredictable and unreliable seasons are already making her precarious existence more perilous and leaving her son with no future. The explanation is there for everyone to see, but still everyone seems to grapple with the evidence. An absorbing and entertaining story as well as a timely novel that deals with the subject of climate change.
'Sweet Girl' by Annabel Lyon is a strong and intriguing historical novel that follows an intelligent and educated young woman's life in Ancient Greece and her struggle to find her place in society and empower herself at the same time. It's a moving and absorbing story that shows us both the life of the wealthy and the more seedy underbelly of Athenian life. With beautiful, sparse prose, the story unfolds at a wonderful pace with some astute observations on the challenges women faced in this society.  

Just out is Jess Richards’ 'Snake Ropes', a skillfully written debut novel in the vein of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood. It’s a terrific and evocative story in which Jess Richards vividly creates a remarkable island community for us; from their ancient myths and their subtle creole, to the harsh and self-sufficient lifestyle they lead and their isolation from the mainland and their fear of the ‘tall men’ that they trade with. According to Ellie “It is quite magical and a beautiful novel that follows two girls living on the island and the mysterious disappearances of local boys whenever the tall men visit. An enthralling and original debut novel.” 

Another gift idea is a classic from children’s laureate Anthony Browne. Publisher Random House have produced a special mother’s day version of the classic ‘My Mum’ – and it even contains a mother’s day card! Here’s what Julia in the shop thinks: “A beautiful celebration of what it is to be a mum with fantastic illustrations and a free mothers day card. Perfect for mummies, mothers and mums!”

And while talking of gifts, have you seen our new range of mugs by Urban Graphic (who also design some of our most popular greetings cards): 'Where There’s Tea There’s Hope' and 'If The Music Is Too Loud, You’re Too Old' A stylish alternative to a book...

Finally, Moleskine have gone all colourful this year with their fabulous large hardback notebooks now in colour (available in pink, blue, green and yellow)! Perfect for someone who needs to keep plenty of notes, plus likes a bit of style (Mum).

And if you can't totally move over to an electronic notebook, we love the Moleskine Folio Smart Phone Cover, in a set complete with a Volant Notebook (it fits phones such as iPhone 3G/3GS and a Sony Xperia) and gives you space to write things down the old fashioned way!

That’s a whole dozen choices for you! If you’re still after ideas though, just ask a member of staff who will happily recommend other great titles for the perfect gift this Mother’s Day.

And if you are in the shop for browsing on Saturday we’ll also be having a baking celebration of our own and offering cupcakes! So why not join us?

Friday, March 01, 2013

3 4 Friday: "Only Connect" for World Book Day

World Book Day takes place next Thursday, a fantastic celebration of children and reading. It's a uniquely British (and Welsh, Scottish and Irish) 'spin' on a far older tradition which takes place globally on the 23rd of April 23rd, and is a fabulously cross-cultural mash-up stemming from a Spanish tradition that links books, St George, roses, Shakespeare - and the death of 'Don Quixote' author Cervantes in 1923.

Honestly, you could write a book about it.

Whatever it's origins, the tradition is for a whole host of book-related activities and events centred on libraries and schools - and we are very proud to be involved in a record number of events (4) on the day. But events have been coming think and fast at the moment, and over the course of this week and next, we have done / will be doing a record number of events with sixteen authors, which even for us is overdoing it a bit.

Luckily we have had fantastic support from publishers, schools, staff and customers to make it happen (and ensure we don't keel over). So to celebrate, today's post attempts to connect these authors and their works in a way that Forster would have been proud...

We'll start with World Book Day, where author Sally Nicholls will be talking to pupils at Wheatley Park School, Oxford about her latest book 'All Fall Down' a novel of an ordinary girl living through extraordinary times - the Black Death. All Fall Down was one of our favourite books of last year, which manages to convey the terrifying and extraordinary changes of those times with the hopes and dreams of a girl who most children would be able to relate to today.

Sally lives in Oxford where once a month performance poet, narrow-boat dweller and insanely talented stand-up and compere George Chopping organises a monthly 'jamboree' at The Chester Arms on Iffley. On Tuesday night he joined four other speakers at a 5x15 evening of intellectual cabaret at Radley School, and arguably stole the show with a sublime - and subversive - performance of his poetry.

(George is standing second from the left, together with authors Stanley Johnson, Patrick Hennessey, Georgina Ferry and Robin Dunbar. Only an optical illusion makes George look the same size as the bookseller, he's tall).

Another very talented poet who can often be found in a cabaret setting is AF Harrold, who this week took assembly at The Manor School, Abingdon - and by all accounts managed to keep the children and teachers just the right side of 'uproar'. He is the author of "Fizzlebert Stump, the Boy who Ran Away from the Circus and Joined the Library", a delightfully surreal, crazed-pensioner-filled, delight of a book with a nice line in word-play you'd expect from someone who's day job is, well, words...

Someone who pretty much DID run away to the library is author Pauline Fisk, who will be at Oxford Spires Academy School on World Book Day talking about her life as an author. Growing up in a London suburb, her back garden was full of fairy folk, and the library a gateway to another world. She claims that if she could bottle 'Essence of Library' it would be up there with scents of roses and vanilla ice-cream. She writes strikingly original fantasy stories for children, but her most recent book 'In The Trees' was inspired by the experiences of her son, and her subsequent visit to, the rainforests of Belize...

...where she may have bumped into Stanley Johnson (aka "BoJo's Dad") a world-renowned explorer and conservationist, who (amongst many other achievements) is a winner of a Greenpeace award for services to the environment. Stanley was also at Radley on Tuesday, discussing some of the stories contained in his poignantly-titled book 'Where The Wild Things Were'. Despite accelerating species-loss and ecosystem damage, Stanley remains an optimist, and his book is a collection of very personal stories from the highs and lows of conservation work around the globe, from Antartica to Bhutan.

Now, as we're in the Himalayas, go about 1000km West of Bhutan, past Nepal and round the Southern border of Tibet and you'll come to the region of Ladakh in northern India. This is the setting of Liz Harris' wonderful and beautiful cross-cultural love-story 'The Road Back', set in the region during the 1960s.

Liz will be one of the authors at the Kennington Library 'Story and Spice Gala Evening' this Saturday, with star billing going to local author and illustrator Ted Dewan. The author of the 'Bing Bunny' picture books, as well as 'One True Bear', Ted was once a physics teacher in the US before relocating to Oxford. He can be found most days curating Rochester's Extraordinary Story Loom as artist-in-residence at the Oxford Story Museum.

Go inside the Story Museum, and you'll see a huge illustration drawn by the legendary Korky Paul, creator of classics such as 'The Dog Who Could Dig', 'Sanji and the Baker' and of course 'Winnie The Witch' (not forgetting her cat Wilbur), and last year Winnie was 25 years old. Korky once slaved away drawing dinosaur portraits in the Mostly Books garden, a long way from Harare, Zimbabwe where he was born.

Zimbabwe is also the birth-place of a brand-new talent on the children's book scene, Katherine Rundell. Her debut novel, the Girl Savage, won both critical and commercial acclaim, and we are excited and honoured that Katherine is choosing to launch her second title 'Rooftoppers' at Our Lady's School, here in Abingdon on World Book Day. Rooftoppers is set in Paris, about a girl who survives a shipwreck, and joins a group of rooftop urchins in a search for her mother. The book is partly inspired by illicit trips onto the roof of All Soul's College in Oxford, where she is the youngest Fellow of All Soul's College.

Katherine studied English at Oxford - and so did Frances Hardinge, a shadowy and elusive author (her own words) who won the Branford Boase Award in 2006 for her debut, 'Fly By Night'. As this post is going up, Frances is meeting children at Oxford Central Library and Cowley Library, and will be visiting Chandlings School on World Book Day, to talk about her latest book 'A Face Like Glass' one of our favourite children's books from 2012 (read Ellie's review here). The book is a gloriously-imagined world of underground dwellers who are born without facial expressions - which makes them the perfect liars...

Something that Professor Robin Dunbar backed up at Radley as he explained why social media fails to deliver on the friendship front. Professor Dunbar is the author of 'How Many Friends Does One Person Need', an exploration of 'the Dunbar number' (an expression ironically coined during a Facebook discussion) which explores how humans can only maintain meaningful relationships with about 150 people. He presented research that showed Face-to-Face and Skype as being the most effective forms of communication. Apparently it's linked to facial expressions, and seeing the whites of someone's eyes, particularly when they are laughing.

Former army officer - and bestselling author - Patrick Hennessey bore testimony to Dunbar's number and his example from the army. Apparently the optimum number for a company of men, the best command in the army according to Patrick, is 120-180 men, because you will know everyone. Patrick wrote 'The Junior Officer's Reading Club' and 'Kandak', his memoirs of fighting in Afghanistan between 2004-2009. Erudite, hugely admiring of his Afghan colleagues, and keen to explain the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, listeners on Tuesday couldn't fail to wonder that we need more individuals like him closer to the top of our military and political leadership.

Intelligence is crucial to modern warfare, and arguably modern intelligence all began at Bletchley Park in World War II. There have been several exemplary titles detailing the history of Bletchley Park, but Michael Smith's 'The Secrets of Station X' mixes personal stories with hard technical and military details to provide a compelling account of how the codebreakers shortened the war. Like Patrick, Michael was in the British Army, then turned journalist writing for The Daily Telegraph and The Times on defence matters.

After the war, the heroics of Bletchley Park was smothered in secrecy, which might have hampered Britain's attempts to develop computing for more general use. However, the world's first commercial use of a computer was British, the Lyons Electronic Office (or LEO) and the final author on stage at Radley, Georgina Ferry, has documented this story brilliantly in her book 'A Computer Called Leo'. Award-winning journalist and tireless champion of woman in science, Georgina wrote an award-winning biography of Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winner, recommended and inspirational reading (male or female).

And talking of extraordinary women, at the Manor School this week, author Gill Lewis worked with children to develop creative writing skills. Before she could walk, Gill was found administering help to a sick hedgehog and her passion for helping animals led to a career as a vet. As a children's author, she has written two critically-acclaimed stories 'Sky Hawk' and 'The White Dolphin', wonderfully-told, modern-day animal tales.

Gill went to university in Bath - which is where our last author Rachel Ward lives. Rachel will be at Oxford Spires Academy on World Book Day along with Pauline Fisk. She is the author of the gripping, gritty 'Numbers' trilogy.

And that's everyone (phew). If anyone has another way of linking these authors, post a comment and let us know.

But hopefully, be inspired, have a great World Book Day...and treat yourself to a book by any one of these fabulous authors currently sitting on the shelves of Mostly Books...