Posts Tagged ‘walker books’

The last time I read a book that made me cry, well, I never said I wanted to read a book that would make me cry, did I, what I said was I wanted to read a book about a place where everyone can hear what other people think and so you never have time alone, everyone knows everything about you, and you can hear what animals think (and what dogs have to say isn’t very interesting, they want to poo and eat all the time).

I guess in some ways, what I wanted was what I got, cuz The Knife of Never Letting Go is about a place called Prentisstown where there aren’t any women, the whole populashun is made up of men, and they can all hear each other’s thoughts in a loud jangly Noise that crawls across the book’s pages in funny fonts that I’d try to show you if I knew how. There are only 147 people in Prentisstown and they’re all waiting for some reason for young Todd Hewitt, the last of the kids, to become a man.

Cuz there’s a secret hiding, even in the Noise of the town, that Todd knows is dangerous cuz one day Ben and Cillian, the only family he knows, tell him to get out of Prentisstown and Todd’s shocked, he hadn’t even known there was anywhere else but Prentisstown in the world, and so off he goes with his dog Manchee (‘Poo, Todd. Poo. Poo’).

But being able to hear other people’s thoughts is just a type of power, and we all know that where there’s power there’s someone who wants all of it, so before long the people of Prentisstown are searching for him, searching through all of a world we find out is just a new version of the one we know, and there’s preshus few places to hide when people know what your thoughts sounds like, have heard them every day of your life since you were born.

I love this book. I love the way the writer uses the Noise to show the best and worst parts of everybody, from the keening love of a child whose Noise just says daddy daddy daddy to the clamour of the Noise of hundreds of men drowning in sorrow and regret and confushun and remorse, and best of all I love the heartbreaking and thoughtless loyalty of Manchee and I love the way secrets become so powerfully difficult in Noise and yet The Knife of Never Letting Go is about hope, it’s about how tho’ we as individuals and as humanity have made mistakes how it’s worth every terrible fight to fix them.

And then there’s the cliffhanger, which is something else.

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I have been in a Walker Books-induced frenzy lately. First I discovered that Patrick Ness had come and gone from our shores without calling me – The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in his Chaos Walking trilogy, is one of the saddest, most wonderful things I’ve read lately – and now I have discovered Mo Willems.

Mo Willems, you see, used to be a writer and animator on Sesame Street. (It seems silly to italicise that, but there you are.) And now he writes and illustrates incredible picture books. The ones I have (a present from Maddie) are from two series: I Will Surprise My Friend! from the Elephant & Piggie books, and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, featuring a psychotic pigeon that could do with some of Nurse Ratched’s tender ministrations.

These books are seriously cult. They hit the New York Times bestseller list. And it’s easy to see why. Kids must love – and see themselves in – the cheeky humour in these stories. The Pigeon, who spends the whole book begging you to let him drive a big blue bus, tries to slip you a fiver, and says: ‘I bet your mum would let me.’ And adults, the purchasers, must respond to the simple, clean drawings with delight – I’ve already read them both three times.

Elephant Gerald and Piggie are hyper-expressive: when Elephant thinks Piggie has gone missing, his face crumples into a Charlie Brown-style pencil squiggle. But not only that – his trunk slumps right down over his face and his brow creases up like a prune. When Pigeon finally loses it, there are feathers strewn everywhere, and his lidded eye leaves you in no doubt of his disdain for you.

There’s hardly any text in these books – a line per page or two. But the personalities of the characters are bright and clear. When Piggie and Gerald lose track of each other, Gerald gets worried that something has happened to his friend Piggie: perhaps a huge bird has got her in its claws! Or maybe she’s about to get eaten by a monster with giant teeth! And what is Piggie thinking? ‘I am hungry for lunch.’

The good news? I’ll be conducting the final HELLO INTERN interview with Aileen Lord, book design intern at Walker Books. The bad news? There are like a bazillion of these books, and I have a feeling I’m going to have to buy all of them.