A Book Treat For the Children - Roald Dahl's Billy and the Minpins, illustrated by Quentin Blake

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ROALD DAHL, BILLY AND THE MINPINS
Published on Thursday 7 September 2017, just days before Roald Dahl Day on Wednesday 13 September, Dahl’s final story Billy and the Minpins will be accompanied by Quentin Blake’s illustrations for the first time. 
About the story .... Billy lives in a quiet house on the edge of a great, creeping forest full of secrets. His mother warns him to steer clear, telling fearsome stories about the terrible things that live there; things like Snozzwanglers and Hornswogglers and worst of all “the Terrible Bloodsuckling Toothpluckling Stonechuckling Spittler”. But one day Billy can’t help but go looking for the magic that calls to him from inside…

Holiday Reading - Penelope Lively

So, what reading material will I take on holiday? I'm packing Penelope Lively. Which is to say, one of her books. Specifically How it all Began (2011). I am a fan of Ms. Lively's books.If you enjoy life writing I recommend the first in her trilogy of autobiographies Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived, which tells of her early childhood in Cairo. Penelope Lively has also written lovely children's books, which my own boys read when they were young. Amongst many accolades, Ms. Lively is a Booker prize-winning writer  (Moon Tiger in 1987) and in 2014 was awarded the honour of Dame Commander of the British Empire for her services to literature.

Writing Family History

How much do you know about your family history? Do you wish you had listened more carefully to the elders in you family when they reminisced about the past? In my experience, the thoughts of many old people turn more towards their past lives. And they love to talk to someone who shows a genuine interest in what they have to say.

Life in the past, even fifty years ago, was very different from the fast-paced technological age that we live in today. What was it like to be a child during the Great Depression of the 1930s? What did it feel like to be sent far from home to fight in a war?

My father lived to the grand old age of ninety-one and I was lucky enough to be able to visit him for several hours every day.  He had an interesting past, which he generally talked about with a great sense of humour. And he had a very unique experience; he was one of only a handful of Royal Navy personnel who during WW2, was posted to a top secret u-boat monitoring station on the most remote…

Book Recommendation - Jonathan Unleased by Meg Rosoff

I loved this novel. It's hilarious but also indicative of the stresses that young people are prey to in the twenty-first century. If you are in need of reading material that will make you laugh out loud (and occasionally weep) find your way to the nearest bookshop or library and grab a copy.

The story line: Jonathan lives in New York and is caring for two dogs, left with him by his brother. His life is going to the dogs - literally. He personifies them and projects his own anxieties on to them. Jonathan sees life from a city dog's point of view.  The writing is fast -paced, suggestive of the legendary fast pace of New York life, and the voice is very youthful. The tone reminds me in some respects of Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

Based on the style and the idiomatic voice, I formed an impression that  Ms Rosoff was a young writer, so was surprised to find from her bio that she is in fact only nine years younger than me. She is an American living in London and is a be…

Research Resource

Most people who enjoy writing and have ambitions to be published find that they need to research a topic at some point. is an online resource where there are millions of books that you can preview or sometimes read for free. Researchers simply need to type their subject into the search box and a long list of books with appear.  If there isn't a digital copy of the book that you want the site tells you where one can be borrowed or bought. It even comes up with a list of libraries near to your postcode address. Magic.

Candide - the irrepressible optimist

If you would like to read an example, par excellence, of literary irony and parody try a translation of the French novella Candide by Voltaire, a delicious, fast-moving romp across 18th century Europe and South America.

First published secretly in 1759, the novella was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté.
It’s still part of the curriculum in some universities and is said to be taught more often than any other work of French literature.
I find it an absolute delight to read and re-read  the adventures of Voltaire’s irrepressible optimist, Candide.