Guest Post

‘I Will Never Let You Fall’ – Hilton Pashley Guest Post

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51rdcfyk95l-_sx329_bo1204203200_How do authors chose their worlds? What makes one world about angels different from another? These are the sort of questions I addressed to Hilton Pashley, and he came back with the most fantastic discussion of his universe. Whether or not you have read his work, it is a fantastic insight into the level of thought which goes into a setting. 

Hilton Pashley is the author of the Hobbes End trilogy, which began with Gabriel’s Clock, and ends with the newly-released Michael’s Spear. It is a favourite trilogy of mine. I have reviewed Michael’s Spear separately to this post. 

 

 ‘I will never let you fall.’

When I first started writing the Hobbes End trilogy, which began with Gabriel’s Clock and now ends with Michael’s Spear, I wanted to set it in a world that hadn’t already been thoroughly explored by other authors. My main concern was that it shouldn’t be a re-tread of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings; so what should I write about? The answer came from a chance reading of a poem called High Flight, written in 1941 by John Gillespie Magee Jr, a Canadian Spitfire pilot. The words, “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies, on laughter silvered wings,” conjured up the image of an old angel, staring at a cobalt-blue sky and remembering what it was like to fly, before sacrificing his wings to give life to a place where those in need could be safe. And so Hobbes End and Gabriel were born.

            If I had an angel then I would need to have Heaven, and if I had Heaven then I would need to have Hell, and so the world in which Hobbes End nestles slowly took shape. I didn’t want to rely on existing imagery for angels and demons; I wanted them to be my versions, flawed, driven, slightly bonkers, altogether more human in the way they behaved. One of the loveliest comments I have received so far was from a retired librarian in the US who wrote about Gabriel’s Clock on her blog. She described the story as being “Chock full of theology, but with not a whit of religion,” which is exactly what I was aiming for. Every faith has its own versions of angels and demons, and I didn’t want to exclude anyone from the story by making it too literal or too western in its interpretation.

            Set against the backdrop of a longstanding but – uneasy – truce between Heaven and Hell, Jonathan, Gabriel’s grandson and the young hero of the story, discovers he is the only half angel – half demon in existence, something that up until that point was thought impossible. I liked him from the moment he popped into my head. In the blink of an eye he is thrust into a world that no longer makes sense, filled with gods and monsters, and with the knowledge that the power he holds can be used to create or destroy. I didn’t want Jonathan’s story to be as simple as a 1930’s cowboy film, where the hero wears a white Stetson and the villain a black one, that’s doing the reader a disservice. Life is far more grey, far less defined. Whether you are good or evil depends solely on your actions, not on the label you are given, and that’s the lesson Jonathan has to learn.

            Out of all the characters in the trilogy, Lucifer was the hardest to write. He is best described in the story by Elgar the cat, who says of Lucifer, “He’s not good or evil; he’s just very, very scary.” This is true to a point, but as Jonathan discovers, the ruler of Hell is not all he seems on the surface. Maybe underneath that Saville Row suit, the first Morningstar (who looks rather like the actor Michael Fassbender) just wants to be forgiven for screwing up, but is too damn proud to say sorry. I have The Sandman graphic novels to thank for giving me the inspiration to come up with my own version of the fallen angel. If Neil Gaiman could do it, then why couldn’t I?

            Above all, the story is about the bonds of friendship, family and love, between angels, demons and humans all. As Jonathan says to his dear friend Cay as he cradles her safely in his wings, high above Hobbes End at the end of Michael’s Spear, “I will never let you fall.” Now that is something worth fighting for.

                     

 

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Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Picking Books as a Parent

Parents. Do you give your munchkins free reign over their book choices, or do you draw the line? Is any book a book well read, or is there a distinction between proper books and television tie-ins? Should children leave certain books behind and grow into new ones? When I worked in a bookshop, I saw how different one parent’s stand-point was to another. 

I’m so pleased to welcome Charlotte of Charlotte Somewhere to my blog. Charlotte is the parent of a six year-old boy (S). She has told me how they came to acquire some of S’s recent reads. Huge thanks Charlotte. 

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My mother never policed my reading choices. She isn’t a reader herself but she always encouraged me and let me choose what I wanted. I remember once being in the library and requesting a book from the “point” section, which needed parental approval. My mum told the librarian that of course I could borrow it, she trusted me to choose my own books and to ask questions if I had any. I felt so grown-up!

I try to emulate this with my son, S. I want him to choose his own direction for reading, but left entirely to his own devices he would stick to books he alrrady knows or that are stories of his favourite films. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but I do want him to broaden his horizons whilst he’s young. We have a deal where in special offers or at the school book fair, he chooses one book and we choose one for him. It’s working well so far. 

20170903_123829The BFG, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches

S made the move to ‘chapter books’ at school last year, with the school reading The BFG. Of course, he wanted to read it again at home. We decided to try out some other Roald Dahl. Fantastic Mr Fox was a hit. The Witches, less so. It was far, far darker than I remembered it being. Turns out mums don’t always know best (but you didn’t hear that from me). 

Captain Underpants and Dirty Bertie
Captain Underpants is S’s current favourite obsession. Everything is 

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Captain Underpants. It made sense to direct his attentions to the books. They are full of small child toilet 
humour and hilarious adventures. He loves them! Dirty Bertie is us branching out. S loved the idea of a book about bogeys. Anything with bottoms or bogeys is bound to be a winner. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. 

You’re A Bad Man Mr Gum

20170903_123921This one was recommended by a bookseller at a local independent book shop. She sold it to S on the line “there’s a fairy in the bathroom who beats him with a frying pan”. That’s all S needed to hear. We’ve not tried this one yet, but it sounds really funny. 

Knighthood for Beginners 

In my experience, kids love a story with an adventure, but not every kid sees themselves as fitting with the stereotypes that often go with knights and adevntures. In this story, the convention is turned on it’s head as the dragon dreams of becoming a knight. S thought this sounded really good and we can’t wait to read it. 

The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig and Captain Pug

The Seriously Extraordinary Diary of Pig was another recommendation from a book20170903_123933 seller. S told her he likes stories with  animals in them; she recommended this book which is written from the viewpoint of a pig called Bacon. 

Captain Pug is one he chose for himself because he thought the dog on the front was really cute. I’m sure one of my responsibilities as a parent is to teach him not to judge books by their covers, but we all do it sometimes and I’m just pleased he’s taking an interest in choosing his own books.

 
Thanks again Charlotte, for sharing your perception as a parent, and for the wonderful pictures. Be sure to pay a visit to CharlotteSomewhere
Are you a parent? Do you choose books for your child? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Guest Post · Middle Grade Reviews

Guest Post – Amy from GoldenBooksGirl reviews Quest by Aarhus 39

Some blogging friends are there for celebrations, comiserations and totally random conversations. Amy from GoldenBooksGirl is one of those people. Earlier this summer, we agreed to joint-read Quest at a point when Amy could get near her local library. It’s been a great experience to share a short story collection. 

Quest is the Middle Grade anthology from the Aarhus 39. If you’re not up to speed, Odyssey and Quest were published to coincide with the International Children’s Literature Hay Festival, which takes place in October 2017. Every story is centered around a journey. 

Amy took the first half off the book. It’s great to host her reviews – thank you Amy for your time and wonderful thoughts. 

Aarhus

QUEST REVIEWS

Beware Low-Flying Girls by Katherine Rundell

This story is about Odile, a girl with a coat which gives her the power to fly, as she has to face mosnters who prey on her deepest fear (that her grandfather doesn`t love her). Rundell`s writing is as beautiful and distinctive as ever, the world of this story felt vivid and all-encompassing and I also really liked the illustrations. I did find the ending a little rushed but overall this was a solid and heartwarming opening to the collection.

Peeva is a Tone Deaf Cat by Anna Woltz

The 2nd in the collections is about Eva, who feels like a misfit in her family and decides that she must have been switched at birth. Eva`s voice was instantly engaging, and I really enjoyed her narration throughout. I loved the journey Eva goes on, and Tommy, the boy she meets on it. The plotline involving Tommy`s mum was very moving and I also adored the ending.

The Girl With No Name by Aline Sax

I really struggled with this story. I wasn`t a big fan of the narrative style, and I disliked the main character Nelle. I thought the plot (her disliking her name and wanting a new one) was quite silly and insignificant, especially when compared to some of the other stories in the collection. It did, however, feature the best literal journey as Nelle travels through her town and meets several different people who all try to help her, although it was quite slow paced and long winded. The other thing that I thought was quite about this story was the sweet message by the end. All in all, I don`t think this one was for me.

Mr Nobody by Laura Dockrill

I`ll tell the truth here; I considered skipping this story. I didn`t like Darcy Burdock, and I went in looking for reasons to dislike this story too. But it charmed me completely, and even made me cry. It`s the story of Oliver, a boy who has to let go of his imaginary friend as he starts secondary school, and it`s hugely touching. It had perfect pacing, a really sweet main character (I also liked his family), and it has a twist in that Mr Nobody may not actually be all that imaginary…

Hands down my favourite of the collection.

Pipounette`s House by Ludovic Flamant

While the imagery used in the opening paragraphs grabbed my attention, I struggled to understand this story as it developed. It`s about Pipounette, a woman who`s husband built her a house full of wonders just before he died, and her exploring it with her nephews. As I said, the story didn`t really make sense to me but I did empathise with Pipounette as a character and I thought it had a sweet ending. I also loved the illustrations.

The Roof by Nataly E. Savina

Sadly this story didn`t appeal to me either. I can`t even give a summary of what happens as I couldn`t really follow it. I had no attachment to the main character and nothing about this interested me. I especially disliked the random flashbacks to things the character had done with their grandparents; I think this was the main reason I struggled with this story so much as it was incredibly jarring.

A Trip To Town- Maria Parr

 Even though nothing really happens in this story, I enjoyed it a lot. It`s quite hard to explain, but it`s a story about the love between a grandmother and her grandchild, and a story that means a lot to both of them. The writing style had the cosy feeling that Enid Blyton always evokes in me, and I think it was a major part of why I liked this so much. Even though it was short, and didn`t properly fit with the theme of `journey`, this was one of my favourites.

The Great Book Escape

This was a super fun story. I liked the main character Sigrun as I felt she really challenged the stereotype that librarians are quiet and dull, as she goes on a journey to find books for her library. While I liked this idea more than the actual execution of it I still enjoyed the writing style and I thought the ending was very sweet.