Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Book of Dust Vol 1 / La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman review / Worth the wait

The Book of Dust Vol 1: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman review – worth the wait

In Pullman’s longed-for return to the world of His Dark Materials, two children battle to protect baby Lyra as enchanted allegory combines with a retelling of the Biblical story of the flood

Marina Warner
Thu 19 Oct ‘17 00.01 BST

Philip Pullman is the living heir of Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald and, yes, CS Lewis – in spite of Lewis being his chief bugbear, whom he attacks furiously for his religiosity and misanthropy. While JK Rowling carried on the tradition of jolly school adventures and gripping supernatural yarns, he has chosen the pilgrim road of fantastic metaphysical allegory, and his new book nods to Spenser’s The Faerie Queene in the same way as His Dark Materials took on Milton and Paradise Lost. In this longed-for opening volume of the new trilogy, Pullman faces his lineage without apology: his young heroine is even called Alice, and the story follows her as she is swept down the Thames in the eponymous canoe of the hero, Malcolm. But whereas the Thames offered Carroll’s Alice an idyllic, pastoral meander, a very contemporary apocalypse explodes around this older Alice.

The best children’s books of 2017

 Luscious ... one of Emily Sutton’s illustrations for Katherine Rundell’s One Christmas Wish.

The best children’s books of 2017

Whatever their age, kids will be engaged and inspired by this year’s diverse offerings

Illustration by Matt Blease

Imogen Russell Williams
Sat 2 Dec ‘17 07.30 GMT

Age 0-4

Katinka’s Tail by Judith Kerr
From the beloved creator of Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, this feline adventure – featuring the snow-white Katinka and her unusual tail – will enthral toddlers with its gentle, gold‑flecked domesticity.
Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht
Illustrated by Jarvis (Walker)
Anticipation builds throughout this rhyming, ritual account of choosing and bedecking a tree. Everyone in the blocky, soft-glowing images is beaming, from people to pets to plump Santa ornaments; by the end of the book, readers will be, too.
Mopoke by Philip Bunting
In a series of splendid visual/verbal jokes, a mopoke (or southern boobook owl) is denied the peace he craves – until, refusing to be a snowpoke, a slowpoke or a glowpoke any longer, he takes to the wing, leaving Nopoke.

Frog lords ... The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by Anna Wright. Photograph: Faber

Illustrated by Anna Wright (Faber)
Gorgeously gilded, darkly leafy and understatedly humorous, this richly textured version of a well-loved carol features frog lords a-leaping and woodpecker drummers, as well as partridges, pears and calling birds in ink, watercolour and collage.

Age 5-8

One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell
lllustrated by Emily Sutton (Bloomsbury)
Costa shortlistee Rundell’s first foray into younger fiction is a witty story of a lonely boy, four mischievous tree decorations and a wish on an unlikely star, complemented perfectly by Sutton’s intricate, luscious illustrations.
Fairy Tales by Hilary McKay
Illustrated by Sarah Gibb (Macmillan)
Via enthralling framing narratives, deft twists and thought-provoking details, McKay renews classic tales – including The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Rumpelstiltskin – in this sumptuous collection, enriched by Gibb’s evocative black-and-white line drawings.

Colourful ... a Harry Bloom illustration for David Long’s Pirates Magnified. Photograph: PR

Pirates Magnified by David Long
Illustrated by Harry Bloom (Wide-Eyed)
An absorbing non-fiction variation on the search-and-find trend, this treasure chest of pirates’ lives, skills, ships and booty boasts a 3x magnifying glass (incorporated ingeniously into the cover), a rogues’ gallery and a pirate-slang glossary. Hoist the mizzen!
A is for Art by Paul Thurlby
Amid a plethora of art-focused children’s non-fiction, Thurlby’s alphabetical guide – an introduction to the National Gallery and to many artists, techniques and movements – stands out for its demystifying enthusiasm, bold, cheerful design and inspiring sense of possibility.
The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
(Frances Lincoln)
Beautifully designed and vividly illustrated, this mouth-watering musical book contextualises excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music within a sugarplum-sweet retelling of the story.

Age 8-12

The World of Moominvalley by Philip Ardagh
Illustrated by Tove Jansson (Macmillan)
Bound in celestial blue and gold, featuring a foreword by Frank Cottrell-Boyceand Tove Jansson’s glorious illustrations throughout, Ardagh’s weighty, witty, carefully curated guide to the Moomins, their friends, their philosophies and their habitats – as well as the life of their mysterious creator – offers hours of browsing to aficionados young and old.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano (Hodder)
Twelve-year-old Ebo’s journey from his village in north Africa, following in his siblings’ wake, brings him to a dangerous Mediterranean crossing in this arresting graphic novel. Full of contrasts – cold sea and scorching desert, small kindnesses and casual cruelty, hope and sorrow – it tells the stories behind the blunt headline statistics.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay.

Illustrated by Jim Kay (Bloomsbury)
Harry’s third adventure at Hogwarts is reinvigorated by Jim Kay’s superb painterly images. From the crepuscular grandeur of the towering Knight Bus to the dappled, strokable feathers of Buckbeak the hippogriff, his work invests Rowling’s world with yet another layer of magic.

(Chicken House)
Amihan has lived all her life on the island of Culion, where many people have leprosy – including Ami’s mother. It is a place of joy, however, until harsh authority descends, parting families and uprooting children. Shortlisted for the Costa award, Milwood Hargrave’s second novel is original, poignant and saturated with a sense of wild nature.

Age 12+

The Book of Dust Vol 1: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s long-awaited return to the world of His Dark Materials is, at times, dark indeed. As Malcolm Polstead, 11-year-old landlord’s son, and Alice Parslow, 15-year-old potwasher, convey the baby Lyra Belacqua down a flooded river in Malcolm’s canoe, the threats in their wake are fierce and frightening (and Alice’s language, in particular, unparliamentary). To the reader immersed in it, whatever their age, it affords the enjoyment of watching a master storyteller at work.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls
Nicholls’ compelling narrative follows Evelyn, groomed for marriage over study; May, the free-thinking daughter of a Quaker; and Nell, the tough, capable mainstay of her poor family. All of them will fight for the right to vote, but, as the spectre of war grows ever closer, what will they sacrifice – and what will be taken from them? An unforgettable historical novel.

A standout debut, this US novel is the Black Lives Matter-inspired story of Starr Carter, whose friend Khalil is shot dead by a police officer as she watches – and whose divided life is jolted out of kilter in the fallout. Full of evocative detail and wry humour, with a charismatic narrator, it reads like a canonical text.

Satellite by Nick Lake
Leo was born in space, living all his life on space station Moon 2 with fellow space-children Libra and Orion. Now, at 15, he is almost due to go to Earth for the first time, but more awaits him there than his grandfather’s ranch and the experiences he has been promising himself. Told in Leo’s abbreviated, allusive diction, this is extraordinary science fiction, as diverse and humane as Iain M Banks at his best.

Ice Age Paradise / An interview with Sienna Dahlen

Ice Age Paradise

An interview with Sienna Dahlen

2 NOVEMBER 2016, 

I met Sienna Dahlen on a hot summer night in Padua during her tour in Italy this past spring where she was promoting her latest album, Ice Age Paradise. She did an intimate showcase at Ca Sana but was disappointed that she hadn't had the chance to see Venice. She told the story of her father who fell in love with this unique place in the world and she sang a song called, Venezia which was written by her father and appears as a duet with him on Sienna's latest album.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Before His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman's new novel – exclusive extract

Before His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman's new novel – exclusive extract

In an extract from his forthcoming novel, The Book of Dust, returns to the magical world of Northern Lights
Fri 26 May ‘17 10.03 BST

Eleven-year-old Malcolm lives with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford, across the river Thames from Godstow Priory, where the nuns are looking after a special guest. One night his father comes to Malcolm’s bedroom.

Author, author / Philip Pullman calls time on the present tense


Philip Pullman calls time on the present tense

If every sound you emit is a scream, a scream has no expressive value. What I dislike about the present-tense narrative is its limited range of expressiveness

Philip Pullman
Sat 18 Sep ‘10 00.06 BST

Last week, the Daily Telegraph printed a story headlined "Philip Pullman and Philip Hensher criticise Booker prize for including present-tense novels".

Yoga and meditation / Interview with Stoma Parker

Yoga and Meditation

Interview with Stoma Parker

17 MAY 2017, 

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. It joins body and mind through breathing, prana in sanskrit. This union is created about through a sequence of positions named Asanas. In yoga, asana refers both to the place in which a practitioner (yogi if male, yogini if female) sits and the pose which they hold, but Asanas are also performed as physical exercise where they are sometimes referred to as "yoga postures" or "yoga positions". Yoga is nowadays considered part of the path that approaches meditation in a Buddhist way. As a matter of fact, Buddhist meditation encompasses a variety of meditation techniques that aim to develop mindfulness,concentration, supramundane powers, tranquility, and insight.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

His Dark Materials / The enduring, terrifying appeal of Philip Pullman's world

Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) on a Panserbjørn in the 2007 film of Northern Lights, The Golden Compass. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

His Dark Materials: the enduring, terrifying appeal of Philip Pullman's world

La Belle Sauvage will return readers to Lyra’s universe tomorrow, 17 years after Pullman’s original trilogy ended. But His Dark Materials remains a radical read – and a true modern classic

Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Wed 18 Oct ‘17 14.06 BST

Children’s authors are always being invited to speak in schools and, at every visit, I ask the question: “If your soul was in animal form, what would it be?” Without fail, every hand goes up.

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave / review

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave – review

The award-winning author’s second novel, set in the early 20th-century Philippines, is another beautifully told page-turner

Fiona Noble
Tue 16 May ‘17 11.00 BST

econd books are notoriously tricky beasts and the standard is set high here: Hargrave’s debut, The Girl of Ink and Stars, was that most elusive thing, a book that came from nowhere and caught fire, becoming a bestseller and winner of the Waterstones children’s book prize. Happily, this new novel confirms her as one of the most exciting emerging talents in children’s books.

My friend Pierre / A psychologist at the shamans', between science and initiation

Touareg’s ritual (Sahara)

My friend Pierre

A psychologist at the shamans', between science and initiation

15 DECEMBER 2016, 

Life is a journey where we often lose direction due to our internal conflicts that confuse us and make us forget to appreciate the sense of being in the world, nature, plants, animals and life in general, in all its manifestations and its infinite forms. To get out of the darkness and find our way, we need to rebuild ourselves, which may not be possible without a scout. The spiritual guide of this homecoming can be a shaman, who knows the techniques related to the deeper realities. The shaman’s primary objective is to free us from ourselves, lift us so we can look at our soul from the outside and from the inside. To shine a light on the gray areas we have, which sometimes we’re too scared to visit.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas review / Racism and police brutality

Children and teenagers

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas review – racism and police brutality

An outstanding debut stages the debates convulsing America in the story of a teenager who testifies after a shooting

Alex Wheatle
Sat 8 Apr ‘17 09.30 BST

irls wear their hair coloured, curled, laid, and slayed. Got me feeling basic as hell with my ponytail. Guys in their freshest kicks and sagging pants grind so close to girls they just about need condoms ...” Then gunshots shatter the music. Fleeing from the party, 16-year-old Starr is led to apparent safety by her friend Khalil. Shortly after, their car is pulled over by a police officer. What happens next crystallises the Black Lives Matter movement and indeed, the whole debate about race in America. The unarmed Khalil is murdered – shot at point blank range by the man Starr refers to from this moment on as “Officer One-Fifteen”. Starr is the only witness to the crime and her 16-year-old shoulders have to bear the ferocious outrage of her race and community.

Angie Thomas / The debut novelist who turned racism and police violence into a bestseller

Doing the write thing: Angie Thomas.
Photograph: Nina Robinson for the Observer

Angie Thomas: the debut novelist who turned racism and police violence into a bestseller

Angie Thomas grew up witnessing drug dealing and gun crime but dreamed of being a writer. Then police shot a young, unarmed black man and she found her subject. Afua Hirsch meets her

Afua Hirsch
Sun 26 Mar ‘17 08.00 BST

f a spaceship landed in northern Texas and beamed every adolescent within a 50-mile radius into its desolate interior, the scene would look a lot like what now lies in front of me. It’s difficult to believe there are any teenagers in north Texas not currently forming orderly queues at the Las Colinas conference centre – a formidably angular set of slabs in the Texan wasteland.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rude by Katie Hopkins / Digested read

Rude by Katie Hopkins – digested read

‘People often compare me to Hitler. I take that as a compliment’

John Crace
Sun 19 Nov ‘17 17.00 GMT

Illustration by Matt Blease

appreciate that many people think I am a twat. And I can see why. My whole career has been founded on people believing that I am a twat. But I am not a twat. Honestly. If you were to meet me in person, you would probably think I am not as much of a twat as you thought I would be. The bar really is that low.

Vagina. Women don’t say the word vagina nearly enough. I am proud of my foof. A vagina is empowering. Too many women go through life playing the victim card. There’s no point moaning when a man puts his hand on your knee. Rather, you should take it as a compliment. Unless the man touching you up is a Muslim. In which case he should be thrown in prison or deported.
You’re probably wondering how I became like this. The simple answer is that I have a narcissistic personality disorder that makes me say any offensive rubbish just to get some attention. Are you still reading? Well get off your fat arse, then. I can’t stand people who waste their lives munching their way through supersized fast food while reading books. Get a job instead and stop moaning like a bleeding-heart liberal. So you’ve got a mental illness and a hyperactive thyroid problem? Big deal. I’ve had epilepsy. Spare us the tears and just get on with your life.

I had loads of jobs before I became a professional gobshite. Security guard, barmaid, sex therapist. And what I learned was that it is always the chubsters who are the problem. The first to fall off their mobility scooters they have been given by the state because they are too fat to walk to the shops. That’s another thing. Why do supermarkets always situate the mother and child parking spaces so close to the entrance? Most mothers of young children are hideously obese and could do with more exercise. So do them a favour and make them park as far away as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. I like children. My children, at least. That’s because my children aren’t fat. It’s not a matter of genetics, it’s a question of discipline. If I ever catch India or Poppy wolfing down a couple of extra biscuits, I yell at them: “Stop that, you useless fat moron.” More people need to be fat-shamed. And name-shamed. There’s no bigger giveaway that your parents are thick and overweight than being given a name like Charmaine or Destiny. And don’t get me started on Mohamed. I won’t let my kids play with anyone who isn’t called Margaret, Nigel or Donald.

Politics and religion. People often compare me to Hitler and I take that as a compliment. At least people remember Hitler. So here’s where I stand. Contrary to what is often said, I am not Islamophobic. Islamophobia is an irrational fear of Muslims. My fear of Muslims is entirely rational, as they are all out to kill you. I don’t much like Germany or Turkey either. I do like Israel, though. There’s a country with the guts to shoot first and ask questions afterwards. Britain would do well to take a leaf out of their book.

Brexit. The best thing that’s ever happened to this country. By voting to actually make itself poorer, Britain has ensured that fat people won’t have so much money to spend on food. So all those chubbies who now gorge themselves on eight litres of full fat Coke and a family-sized bucket of chicken nuggets will just have to learn to go a bit hungry. Think of the advantages of not getting held up by huge blobs getting stuck in doorways. Hopefully, a lot of old people will also die of hypothermia. Most old people are a waste of space and the country could do with a bit of a cull.
Other things I hate. The BBC. What a useless, deadbeat organisation that is. Imagine a broadcaster that can produce a show like The Apprentice that merely acts as a springboard for any third-rate gobshite to get a national platform. Gingers. All people with red hair should be put down. Men with small penises. A waste of space in the bed and invariably a sign of an inferiority complex. In my experience, all men who voted to remain in the EU or who work in the voluntary sector have micro-penises. People who got me sacked from LBC for tweeting we needed a final solution after the Manchester bombing. Get a sense of humour. If Hitler had one, so can you.
Me. Most of all, I really hate me. The more offensive I become, the more inadequate I feel. Please don’t go. Without you, I’m nothing. Are you there? Is anyone there?
Digested read, digested: You’re fired.

The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown / Digested read

Tina Brown

The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown – digested read

‘Immediately sacked two people before ordering a skinny latte and going to the gym where I bumped into Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise’

John Crace
Sun 26 Nov ‘17 17.00 GMT

am here in NYC at last. I feel I am in the right place. My life at home was just too drab. Sure, I had been to Oxford and met Auberon Waugh and Martin Amis, got married to Harold Evans, my boss at the Sunday Times – quel scandale! – and turned Tatler from a third-rate operation selling just 246 copies a month into a must-buy magazine with a circulation of three million. But something was missing. I needed to turbocharge my supersonic career. And where better than in the glitziest, sexiest city in the galaxy?

After breakfast in the Algonquin, I bought an Oscar de la Renta couture number on my way to meet Condé Nast head honcho, Si Newhouse. “Hi,” I said. “Your relaunched Vanity Fair is total shit. Make me its editor.” Si dithered, explaining that maybe I should go in first as a consultant to the current editor, Leo. Reluctantly I agreed, but made sure he paid me $50,000 for my trouble.
Had dinner with several people whose names will mean nothing to you, but are the most supersonic deal makers in New York. They all told me how keen Tom Wolfe and Henry Kissinger were to meet me. Pencilled in some dates for a power breakfast in my Filofax. Went into the Vanity Fair offices to discover morale is rock bottom. I’m not surprised. The magazine is tanking. Told Leo that his July issue was the best yet and then dropped in to see Si for lunch at La Grenouille to say the July issue was dross and that the cover story needed to be dropped. Went back to office to find Leo sulking. Can’t imagine what his problem is.

Flew back to London for the weekend to see Harry who is working on his brilliant manuscript that is going to be the best book ever written by anyone. God, I miss him. Though not that much. Had my hair done at Lou’s on Park Avenue where I met Liza Minnelli, before going into Vanity Fair for my first day as its new editor. Immediately sacked two people before ordering a skinny latte and going to the gym where I bumped into Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise. Si called me in the afternoon to ask if I had only meant to sack two people. Went downstairs and sacked eight more, told Annie Leibovitz to reshoot the October cover before going to an exclusive party. Tomorrow we buy our dream house in the Hamptons.
Si phoned to say that I had been seen sitting near the window in the Four Seasons. “That’s social Siberia,” he drawled. “Next time you have to sit nearer the kitchen.” New York is still so foreign to me. Though I feel more alive here than in London. The circulation figures for my first issue are in. I have trebled them to 25.7m. I am literally floating on air. I fly to Washington to organise a photoshoot with Ronald and Nancy before dropping in on Norman Mailer and Joan Didion for a quiet dinner with 90 of our closest friends. Went home and read a bit of Shakespeare to remind everyone I was actually quite bright.

VF isn’t making the circulation inroads I had hoped. There are still 29 people in New York who don’t bother to read it. Maybe a long piece about blond actresses would help. I call up Michelle Pfeiffer who tells me she is now a brunette. Great news. Harry is back in the US to edit Condé Nast Traveller. Some people say the job is beneath him, but I admire him for not being too fussy.

Spend several hours giving birth to our first child, George, and then go into the office to commission a 20,000-word piece about Princess Diana, before stopping off for a glass of champagne with Donald and Ivana Trump on the way home. I think I might put Donald on the cover one day soon. He may be crass, but it’s a very sexy, very brassy kind of crassness. The kind of crassness that makes him want to grab you by the pussy. Fire my first nanny for giving George a cough. My life is so stressful, I could do without staff troubles.
Fly back to England to see some of my old friends. Martin Amis looks drab and depressed and is hardly earning anything. Stop over in Spain to show my parents the latest circulation figures. Loads of people in New York are dying of Aids, but luckily I am having a great time. Really, this city has such energy. Such buzz. Exchange contracts on yet another dream house and realise I am a bit bored. I write out a plan for myself: 1. Have another baby. 2. Write a book. 3. Make a film. 4. Edit the New Yorker. 5. Spend more time with George.

Five years later than planned, I have my second baby. Sometimes, I would fire myself if I could. Even though Boris Johnson has lied about me in a Sunday Telegraph profile – what a shit the man is – life could scarcely be more perfect as VF now has a UK edition. And I am absolutely thrilled that Anna Wintour has been made editor of Vogue.
People keep asking me to edit new magazines. I do wish they would stop. Si calls to ask me if I want to edit the New Yorker. I blow him some air kisses down the line. Mwah, mwah. Of course I will. To tell you the truth, VF was never all it was cracked up to be. And guess what? I’ve got through the whole book without mentioning my dear friend Harvey Weinstein.
Digested read, digested: Bonfire of the Vanity