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Viewing Blog: ACHOCKABLOG, Most Recent at Top
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The weblog of Michael Thorn, editor of ACHUKA.
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1. ACHOCKAblog becomes ACHUKAblog = we have moved

It is time for a new start, blog-wise.

The ACHUKA blog was set up in the spring of 2003 and has been added to continually since then, with the result that the database is now huge.

ACHOCKAblog was built on the Movable Type blogging platform. Over the years that platform has become less popular, and WordPress has become the blogging platform of choice.

WordPress certainly has a lot more flexibility in terms of themes and social network interactivity.

I have decided to use WordPress for the new incarnation of ACHUKA's blog.

This old blog is therefore now 'mothballed'. I feel rather bad saying that, but it conveys accurately the status it now has.

No new posts will be added to it, but none will be taken away.

It will remain online and searchable and prominently linked to from the new blog's navigation bar, but all blog links on the main ACHUKA site have been switched to the new blog.

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2. London Book Fair 2013: In Keynote, Gaiman Says 'Try Everything'

Try Anything, Says Gaiman

from Publishers Weekly report on Digital Minds Conference address by Neil Gaiman:

In his keynote at the fifth Digital Minds Conference, bestselling author and Twitter superstar Neil Gaiman kicked off the London Book Fair by likening the digital transition to being on an unruly, but exciting new frontier. "People ask me what my predictions are for publishing and how digital is changing things and I tell them my only real prediction is that is it's all changing," Gaiman said. "Amazon, Google and all of those things probably aren't the enemy. The enemy right now is simply refusing to understand that the world is changing."

Over his 30 minute talk Gaiman entertained and challenged his audience to think creatively about the future, conceding that he himself was "perfectly willing to acknowledge the possibility that the novelist may have been a blip" in our cultural history. "The model for tomorrow, and this is the model I've been using with enormous enthusiasm since I started blogging back in 2001," Gaiman said, "is to try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. And succeed in ways we never would have imagined a year or a week ago."

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3. Melvin Burgess: a life in writing | Culture | The Guardian

Melvin Burgess - A Life In Writing

A substantial profile of Melvin Burgess (by Susanna Rustin in The Guardian) includes mention of his new novel The Hit:

His latest novel, The Hit, is a dystopian thriller set in the future, which imagines a new pill known as Death. The chemistry is hazy but the concept is clear: this drug will give you the time of your life, an unbelievable high lasting a week, and then you will die. Burgess's teenage hero Adam takes the drug. The novel is about what happens next.

Unusually, the idea for the book was offered to Burgess by someone else. Brandon Robshaw and Joe Chislett are philosophy teachers who came up with the idea of a week‑to-live drug with a group of students. They wrote a manuscript and sent it to Barry Cunningham, founder of Chicken House publishing, who bought the first Harry Potter novel for Bloomsbury before quitting to set up on his own.

Cunningham liked the idea but not the draft, so he offered Robshaw and Chislett a fee and set up a meeting with Burgess. The men got on well; Burgess made the story work on his second attempt, using many of the original elements and introducing new ones - including a beefed-up role for Adam's girlfriend Lizzie. The book is dedicated to his two "co-conspirators".

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4. Ebook Growth Slows in 2012 to 'Only' 41%

Ebook Sales Growth Eases Off in US

from Forbes:

The AAP has been tracking ebooks since 2002. That year, ebooks represented 0.05% of all trade publishing revenues. To get to the current 23% number, the biggest gains were made in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the years immediately following the 2007 launch of the Kindle. In 2008, ebooks were 1% of publisher revenue. In 2011, they were 17%. Those were the years of triple-digit growth numbers, a trend publishers thought would continue until ebooks were at 50% of revenue or more.

But in 2012, according to these new numbers, growth in ebooks has hit an inflection point in the U.S.

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5. Tim Waterstone & eBook Venure Read Petite

Tim Waterstone In New eBook Venture

as reported by John Harris in The Guardian (worth reading in full):

[Tim Waterstone] is also about to return to bookselling as non-executive chairman of a new venture called Read Petite. This will be launched to the trade at next week's London Book Fair, and to the public in the autumn. An online outlet for short-form ebooks (fiction and non-fiction), its users will pay a monthly subscription - "a few pounds" - and have unlimited access to texts of around 9,000 words or under.

But this is no literary Spotify, offering hundreds of thousands of items with little quality control: Waterstone is insistent the service will be "curated" to ensure a high standard. Authors will have appeared in traditional print, and have been brought to Read Petite by a publisher. "The individual short story, or whatever it is, may not have been published, but the author will be an established, published writer," he says, drumming his fingers on the table to emphasis those last three words. "The whole point is to avoid a slush-pile of material. What we'll guarantee is quality writing."

Read Petite's name was inspired by Reet Petite, Jackie Wilson's 1957 rhythm and blues classic. One of its key players, former Bookseller editor Neill Denny, has come along to further explain what it is all about. The pair are particularly excited about the chance to serialise new fiction à la Charles Dickens, reintroducing readers to the long-forgotten art of the cliffhanger. They enthuse about how e-readers seem to have increased people's appetite for short-form writing. In the US, the New York Times has reported on a resurgence of the short story, benefiting new and established writers. We talk about such short-story masters as Somerset Maugham, Stephen King and Annie Proulx, and why the publishing industry has never quite managed to market the form.

"A lot of the best short fiction has never been properly exposed, because publishers don't find it commercially comfortable," says Waterstone. His bookselling business did have success with Graham Greene's short stories, but such successes were rare. "Even with a collection, how do you package it? It's difficult in print: traditionally, money was used up on production and distribution, and not enough was left for promotion. In the digital world, production costs are virtually nil, and distribution costs don't exist, so you're left with a much cleaner sheet."

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6. IBBY Announces 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury & Nominess

IBBY Announces the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury and Nominees

The International Board on Books for Young People is proud to announce the 2014 Jury and the candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international distinction given to authors and illustrators of children's books. Given every other year by IBBY, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards recognize lifelong achievement and are given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important, lasting contribution to children's literature.

The 2014 Jury, selected by IBBY's Executive Committee from nominations made by its national sections, comprises the following ten distinguished members from across the globe. Jury President María Jesús Gil (Madrid, Spain) will lead the Jury to select the winners of the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards.

Anastasia Arkhipova Illustrator, chair of the board of the Association of Moscow Book Illustrators and Designers, Moscow, Russia.

Fanuel Hanan Diaz Editor, author and researcher, Caracas, Venezuela.

Sabine Fuchs University lecturer in children's literature, Graz, Austria.

Sang-Wook Kim Professor in children's literature at the Chuncheon National University of Education, Seoul, Korea.

Enrique Pérez Díaz Author and publisher, Havana, Cuba.

Deborah Soria Book-seller and promoter of children's literature, Rome, Italy.

Susan M. Stan Professor of children's literature at the Central Michigan University, USA.

Sahar Tarhandeh Independent researcher in children's literature, freelance graphic designer and art director, Tehran, Iran.

Erik Titusson Publisher and former Director of the ALMA, Stockholm, Sweden.

Ayfer Gürdal Ünal Writer, critic, and lecturer at the Bhosphorous University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Former IBBY Vice President Elda Nogueira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and IBBY Executive Director Liz Page are ex officio Jury members.

The following nominees have been submitted for the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards by the National Sections of IBBY. For the 2014 Awards 29 authors and 31 illustrators have been nominated from 34 countries.

Argentina: author María Cristina Ramos; illustrator Isol
Australia; author Nadia Wheatley; illustrator Ron Brooks
Austria: author Renate Welsh; illustrator Linda Wolfsgruber
Azerbaijan: author Sevinj Nurugizi
Belgium: author Frank Andriat; illustrator Carll Cneut
Brazil: author Joel Rufino dos Santos; illustrator Roger Mello
Canada: author Kenneth Oppel; illustrator Philippe Béha
China: author Hongying Yang; illustrator Liang Xiong
Croatia: illustrator Svjetlan Junaković
Denmark: author Lene Kaaberbøl; illustrator Charlotte Pardi
Estonia: author Aino Pervik
Finland: author Kirsi Kunnas; illustrator Pekka Vuori
France: author Jean-Claude Mourlevat; illustrator François Place
Germany: author Mirjam Pressler; illustrator Rotraut Susanne Berner
Greece: author Sofia Madouvalou; illustrator Daniela Stamatiadi
Iran: author Houshang Moradi Kermani
Ireland: author Eoin Colfer; illustrator PJ Lynch
Italy: author Bianca Pitzorno; illustrator Fabian Negrin
Japan: author Nahoko Uehashi; illustrator Ken Katayama
Republic of Korea: author Jin-Kyung Kim; illustrator Byoung-Ho Han
Latvia: illustrator Reinis Pētersons
Netherlands: author Ted van Lieshout; illustrator Marit Törnqvist
Norway: author Bjørn Sortland; illustrator Øyvind Torseter
Portugal: author António Torrado; illustrator Teresa Lima
Russia: author Vladislav Krapivin; illustrator Igor Oleinikov
Serbia: author Ljubivoje Rsumović; illustrator Dobrosav Zivković
Slovakia: author Daniel Hevier; illustrator Peter Uchnár
Slovenia: author Polonca Kova; illustrator Alenka Sottler
Spain: illustrator Javier Zabala
Sweden: illustrator Eva Lindström
Switzerland: illustrator Albertine
Turkey: author Serpil Ural; illustrator Saadet Ceylan
UK: author Jacqueline Wilson; illustrator John Burningham
USA: author Jacqueline Woodson; illustrator Bryan Collier

The Jury President will guide the judging process and preside at the jury meeting 15-16 March 2014. The shortlist will be disseminated immediately following the Jury meeting and the winners will be announced at the IBBY Press Conference at the Bologna Children's Book Fair on Monday, 24 March 2014.

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7. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: my new novel is about love, race... and hair

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Interview

The new novel (her third) by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been sumptuously produced.
(I noticed in Waterstones yesterday that publishers are really pulling out all the stops in making their books desirable physical objects.)
The texture of the dustjacket alone on Americanah (published this week) made me pick it up and read the opening page, but not without first of all pawing and stroking it.

I haven't read any Adichie, but now I want to, and I will.

This interview is from last Sunday's Observer.

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8. A new chapter for children's book authors in China | South China Morning Post

Yang Hongying Feature

A recommended feature from the South China Post, about Chinese children's author Yang Hongying, best known in the West for her Mo's Mischief series.

"Yang has a knack for entering children's inner world with her writing - she can decode childhood," says Wang Shuli, an editor at Writers' Publishing House who first brought the writer to national attention in 2000.

Now Yang's tales sell in the millions, with some translated into Korean, French and English; and although the writer shrugs off the comparison, she is often described as the J.K. Rowling of China. Last year, she was the top-selling author on Amazon's China website, nudging out fellow children's author Shen Shixi and even Nobel laureate Mo Yan.

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9. The Two Steves -- Site Update

The Two Steves

The Two Steves' website has had a major update, and it's looking great!

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10. Re-reading Roald Dahl - Josh Lacey

Re-reading Roald Dahl

A blog post from the current Writer-in-Residence at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden - Josh Lacey...

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11. UK Libraries to lend ebooks under new pilot scheme

Ebooks In Libraries By the Summer?

According to this report in The Independent:

Libraries could be loaning books electronically as early as this summer after a review commissioned by the government called for new e-lending capabilities in a bid to secure their future.

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12. 50 Best Spring Reads - chosen by The Independent

50 Best Spring Reads

A photo gallery of the 50 jackets begins with Jim Crace's HARVEST

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13. Ebooks Stuck In An Uncanny Valley of Disappointment

Stuck In An Uncanny Valley of Disappointment

Kane Hsieh writes:

The problem with ebooks as they exist now is the lack of user experience innovation. Like the first television shows that only played grainy recordings of theater shows, the ebook is a new medium that has yet to see any true innovation, and resorts to imitating an old medium. This is obvious in skeuomorphic visual cues of ebook apps. Designers have tried incredibly hard to mimic the page-turns and sound effects of a real book, but these ersatz interactions satisfy a bibliophile as much as a picture of water satisfies a man in the desert. There is no reason I need to turn fake pages. If I'm using a computer to read, I should be able to leverage the connectivity and processing power of that computer to augment my reading experience: ebooks should allow me to read on an infinite sheet, or I should be able to double blink to scroll. I should be able to practice language immersion by replacing words and phrases in my favorite books with other languages, or highlight sections to send to Quora or Mechanical Turk for analysis. There are endless possibilities for ebooks to make reading more accessible and immersive than ever, but as long as ebooks try to be paper books, they will remain stuck in an uncanny valley of disappointment.

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14. Michael Grant's top tips for writing YA | Children's books | guardian.co.uk

Michael Grant's Top Tip(s)

Michael Grant, the bestselling author of the Gone and BZRK series, tells it as he sees it when it comes to writing advice. From The Guardian:

Here comes the serious advice to aspiring writers: Dear Aspirer, if you want to write, write. I can't help you. Maybe someone else can, who knows? Writers often offer up helpful hints, and I've done the same in moments of weakness, but here's the truth as I see it from my own narrow and subjective perch: You can either come up with stories or you can't. You either have the ambition and work ethic to sit there typing for months on end or not. But you do it by doing it. There is no short cut. It's hard, and that's a good thing, because trying and failing, and trying again, and learning how your own mind works, learning the potential and limitations of your own talent, acquiring little tricks of craft, building your confidence through actual success, that's how you do it. That's how you write YA novels or anything else. The long road is the short cut.

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15. Random House Acquires Novel by Teen Wattpad Star

Teen Wattpad Author Gets Print Deal

from Publishers Weekly:

Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books [US], has announced it will publish e-book and print editions of The Kissing Booth, a debut book by Beth Reekles, a 17-year-old from South Wales. The novel, which centers on a never-been-kissed teenager who comes face-to-face with her secret crush while running a kissing booth for her school carnival, first appeared to high acclaim on Wattpad, the self-publishing Web site. Random House Children's Publishing UK published the novel as an e-book in December 2012, and it quickly rose to the top of bestseller charts. On April 9, Delacorte will release an e-book edition of The Kissing Booth, and will bring out the first print version of the novel, a trade paperback released under the Ember imprint, on May 14. ... The author, who is currently studying for her A level exams, began writing fiction at the age of 14 on an old laptop her father had given her to use while doing her homework. Her peers clearly connected to her fiction when it appeared on Wattpad: with more than 19 million reads and 40,000 comments to date, The Kissing Booth has garnered more views and most comments than any other fiction title ever posted on the site. Last year, the novel won Wattpad's annual Most Popular Teen Fiction Watty Award, voted on by readers.

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16. Publishers' fear of e-books is hurting libraries | Opinion | The Seattle Times

Seattle Times Opinion Piece

Major publishers continue to boycott or significantly limit titles available in digital format, which hurts public libraries, writes Alex Alben.

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17. Roof Toppers - A 4-Chick Review

published next month (March 2013)

Katherine Rundell's extraordinarily well-received debut novel, The Girl Savage, passed me by but my expectations of this, her second novel, could not help but be raised by all the enthusiastic comments about that first book filling the back page of the publicity sheet.

The writing is lucid and the chapters are short. Structurally I found the narrative a bit loose; somewhat languid. I wanted to hurry it along. I didn't feel enough was happening.

Sophie, as a young girl, survives the sinking of a passenger ship. She is, apparently, the only female survivor - found, as a baby, floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel. The man who lifts her into the rescue boat - a fellow traveller and scholar - becomes her guardian. The early part of the book concerns the difficulty Charles has in persuading the authorities that he is the right person to fulfil that role.

Sophie becomes convinced that her mother was a musician on the ship that sank; convinced also, against all the evidence, that she survived.

Once the action moves to Paris - by which time Sophie is considerably older - I expected the mother-searching to begin in earnest. Instead, the middle part of the novel is taken up with the relationship between Sophie and Matteo, a 'rooftopper'. Charles believes in freedom, so effectively gives Sophie his blessing to wander the rooftops of Paris all through the night with an unknown friend. Hmmm. Well, it is set in a different period of time, not the present, so I guess we can suspend disbelief.

But I did find myself becoming restless in this section of the book. Rundell seems to fall into the trap of becoming beguiled by her new character and the whole notion of roof-dwelling and too set on evoking the thrill of this lifestyle without actually moving the narrative along.

Matteo is eventually the agent who leads to a satisfactory conclusion to the quest, but it does not come about in any emotionally involving way. (There is a brief sequence of gang rivalry, with knives flashing, and the heroine kicking someone in the crotch, but this sequence is so out of character with the rest of the story that it appears merely gratuitous.) The finale is picturesque and seen from a distance, through Charles's eyes. It is over too quickly, and left me feeling frustrated. I could imagine the much better, more engrossing novel it could have been. It would have taken some reworking, some rewriting. But it would have been worth it.

I'm giving it four chicks, even though my review reads as if it deserves fewer, because it could so nearly have become a very fine five-chick read.

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extracted from Angel Publicity on behalf of HarperCollins

GEEK GIRL By Holly Smale £6.99 (PB), published on 28th February 2013. Also available in e-book formats. "My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek."

Acquired by HarperCollins in a five publisher auction, already due to be published in eight different languages and written by an ex-model and current blogger who has online readers in 24 countries, Geek Girl is set to be the teen launch of 2013...
Harriet Manners is well informed in random irrelevant trivia. She knows that a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, bats will always turn left when exiting a cave and peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. What she doesn't know is why nobody at school seems to like her.
So when she is spotted by a top model agent, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself as a stylish, sassy runway goddess. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her archenemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly gorgeous model Nick.
Veering from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her über geeky stalker, Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. Can Harriet go from geek to chic without ruining everything?

About the author:
Holly Smale is a debut author. Clumsy, a bit nerdy and somewhat shy, she spent the majority of her teenage years hiding in the changing room toilets at school, attempting to avoid the abuse of her peers. After a top London modelling agency unexpectedly spotted her at the age of fifteen, she believed her luck was changing but in reality she couldn't let go of her inner geek. She spent the following two years falling over on catwalks, going bright red at inappropriate moments and damaging things she couldn't afford to replace. By the time Holly had graduated from Bristol University with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Shakespeare, she had given up modelling and set herself on the much more suitable path to becoming a writer. In 2009, she very nearly found herself as a caretaker on an Australian paradise island, when she was a finalist out of 70,000 entries for the widely covered competition, "Best job in the world."
Her hugely successful blog, 'The Write Girl' has readers in over 24 countries, and Geek Girl is already lined up to be translated into eight languages, making her a worldwide phenomenon before the book is even published. Now a fully-fledged author, Holly is currently writing the sequel to Geek Girl.
Find out more on http://www.thewritegirl.co.uk/ or follow Holly on twitter @HolSmale

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19. Neil Gaiman's BlackBerry Project

Neil Gaiman's BlackBerry Writing Project

A blog post in which Gaiman explains his current BlackBerry calendar tales project...

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20. Inis Magazine - Picturebook of a Lady

Inis Magazine - Picutre Book of a Lady

In a feature by Cethan Leahy, the Irish magazine, Inis, interviews and profiles Sarah McIntyre.
Recommended reading.

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21. COOL not CUTE!: Why it's a bad idea to try to champion books by discrediting other media

Why Children's Books Ambassadors Should Not Denigrate Other Media

In a further dispatch on the Cool Not Cute blog, Joanathan Emmett has this to say:

The following is an extract only. Do read the whole piece.

I don't think that ambassadors for books are doing themselves or books any favours by attacking TV, films or video games.... Most children listening will know from first hand experience how appealing and satisfying these other media can be.  So, by attempting to discredit them, an ambassador undermines their own credibility. If an ambassador says they hate something that a child knows and loves, why should a child trust that ambassador's judgment when he or she proclaims that books are something that ought to be loved?

I think it's nearly always better to work with the grain of a child's enthusiasm rather than against it when promoting books. If a child tells you they don't like books, ask them what they do like. If it's TV, ask them about their favourite programmes and why they like them.  Try to engage with and understand their enthusiasm -- this is easy if you like the same programmes yourself. Then, when you understand what it is the child likes about the programme and, perhaps more importantly, when the child has understood that you understand this, tell them about a book they might like that contains the same sort of content.

This approach can be made to work for most children of most ages - but not all. If a child of picture book age says they like a film like Star Wars or a TV show like Ben 10, there's little an ambassador for books can do because, as I've argued in COOL not CUTE, there are no picture books that match the content of Star Wars or Ben 10.  Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of picture book age children that like this sort of content  -- and most of them are boys.

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22. A day in the life of... a book designer | Reading Agency

A Day In The Life Of A Book Designer

Jack Noel, a book designer for Walker Books, recently stopped by a the Reading Agency to talkabout his job, and provide some advice for any Reading Activists with an interest in careers in illustration and design.

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23. Guardian Review

Guardian Review

Midnight Pirates by Ally Kennen, reviewed by Marcus Sedgwick

Kennen manages to steer a safe course between the treacherous rocks of fictional impossibilities and unbelievable plot turns: she doesn't duck the question of "what would really happen", but sails confidently into even more enjoyably ludicrous territory. The success of this is down to her strong characterisation; Miranda, our long-suffering protagonist, is the sanest of everyone, but her brothers provide welcome lunacy, with Cal appearing to believe he should have been born in California in the 1980s, and Jackie a vortex of strangeness in the way only small boys can be. Supporting characters have not been skimped on, with many wonderful weirdos adding to the peculiar sense of place.

Kennen's book reminded me of another great adventure for a similar age group, also set on the Cornish coast: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John. As anyone who knows Cornwall will understand, both St John's book and Midnight Pirates are set in a world that resembles our own modern one, and yet in which unusual things are always just around the corner, waiting to surprise.

And isn't that what we hope for from a book when we're young; the proof that magic is really all around us? MARCUS SEDGWICK

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24. My hero: William Cowper | Books | The Guardian

William Cowper My Hero

So good to see William Cowper as a subject of The Guardian's regular My Hero column (Cowper is one of my heroes too):

Chosen by Alexandra Harris:

In the English visionary tradition, Cowper has a kinship with Stanley Spencer, that 20th-century interpreter of miracles found close to home. Grass and bricks and stones are talkative in Spencer's paintings, as they are in Cowper's poetry. "The very stones in the garden walls are my intimate acquaintance," wrote Cowper.

Cowper was a hero to many who came after him. Jane Austen's characters revere him (Marianne's suitors in Sense and Sensibility must have the right tone of voice for reading Cowper). For the Romantics, Cowper showed the way towards spontaneous expression, passionate response to nature, and the sacred stillness one finds, for example, in Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight". When Virginia Woolf quoted Cowper in her novels, she assumed her readers knew the poems. No one would assume that today. During his last, protracted, breakdown, the world became to him a "universal blank". And yet there had been times - preserved in his writing - when his wonderful roving, empathetic imagination found new pleasures every day just by looking at a hedge.

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25. Children's Books - Articles - 2013: all change | BfK No. 198

All Change - Predictions For 2013 Gathered By BfK

This from Sarah Odedina of Hot Key:

'We have all been talking about digital publishing for sometime but it seems to me that we are finally becoming clear on what it means to us as publishers both in terms of a usable and saleable format as well as a predictable revenue stream.  2013 will see us consolidate on all we have learnt from the last three or four years of rapid growth in digital sales and also allow us to be more focused in marketing our digital books to readers. Having said this, I do think that this will be particularly relevant for books for older readers and that books for younger readers will still pose a challenge in the digital format.'

And from Barry Cunningham of Chicken House:

'The lesson from history is that now is the time for small, clever, targeted and personal publishing. Because readers, not retailers, have the power now. Exciting, isn't it?'

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