children’s books

Diana Wynne Jones zine

I have a zine of articles about children's writer Diana Wynne Jones (of Howl's Moving Castle et al) I wrote this zine in 2011, also managing to interview her before she sadly died (you can also read the interview online here). The original edition was 1/6 of an A3 sheet, made on a Risograph machine. This was great when I still had access to an A3 Riso machine, but after I didn't it was very expensive and difficult to reprint, so it went out of print. Recently I did a new edition, with all-new illustrations, in a much more convenient standard A6 size... Read More...

Miyazaki’s Reading List

When I was in Japan I went to the Studio Ghibli Museum just outside of Tokyo. Sadly pictures were not allowed inside, but I wrote about it in my zine of the trip. I highly recommend the museum, it's magical. The bookshop was also stocked with Miyazaki's own favourite books, as well as books related to the studio's films. I didn't buy anything, as they were all in Japanese, and it would take me forever to read anything, but I noted down a lot of less well-known books I saw in the shop to compile a reading list (helpfully the copyright tends to list the author's names in roman text rather than try to make it fit katakana). Unfortunately I wasn't able to write down the Japanese author's names in most cases as reading unknown names written in kanji is very tricky. However Miyazaki made a list of classic children's books (including a lot of the usual suspects like The Secret Garden) elsewhere which also includes some Japanese recommendations.... Read More...

Polly’s reading list

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, based on the folk tale Tam Lin and Eliot's Four Quartets, is one of my all-time favourite books. The gifts of classic books that the protagonist Polly receives from Tom, the other main character, are an important part of the plot, but not listed anywhere in the novel. I made this reading list of the books for the zine of essays about Diana Wynne Jones that I made.... Read More...

Every morning there are mountains to climb

I haven't posted here for nearly a month now. Family illness, upcoming major life changes, unsuccessful job hunts and other stressful things have taken up my time. I've had a lot of ideas for posts to make here, but neither the time nor energy to write them. Not a lot of fun happening round this way lately. I got to see Grimes play live though recently, which was something, at least. Here are some interesting links to share.... Read More...

Not gate-crashing a funeral

I actually attended this funeral/memorial for children's writer Diana Wynne Jones over 2 years ago. I had meant to write about it for a long time, but I didn't want to write anything without having the programme of speakers from the event to hand, and it stubbornly disappeared until recently when I had a big clear out of papers (and faded with some print rubbed off after 2 years), so here it is.... Read More...

The Phantom Tollbooth

I recently watched this documentary about the Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favourite books when I was younger. (I still have the same battered, dog-eared paperback copy). Milo, the main character, is a boy who is always bored and doesn't see the point in anything.... Read More...

Diana Wynne Jones Interview

A couple of years ago I interviewed the children's writer Diana Wynne Jones, my favourite writer growing up. I was compiling a zine of articles about her work. Unfortunately I didn't finish the zine before she died of cancer, because I'm a terrible procrastinator, and she never got to see it. When I get a chance, I have another entry to add about attending her funeral.... Read More...

Costumes for Plays and Playing

When I was a kid I used to borrow this book again and again from the local library. The first thing I ever sewed myself was from it. A friend of mine at junior school's older sister was in a school play of Toad of Toad Hall, and we went to watch. When you're 7, 13 year olds seem incredibly impressive. What impressed me even more were the weasel costumes. I wanted one for myself. Armed with an offcut of brown fabric and a toy sewing machine I'd got at a bootfair, I made a hood with ears like the ones in the book. It was wonky, and I was a bit ashamed of it though, and wished I knew how to sew straight (looking back, I'm not sure the toy sewing machine was actually capable of a straight seam). My opinion of my sewing projects has improved slightly since.... Read More...