Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Faber book party

A par-tea with Faber and Faber? Oh, yes please.

I've long associated Faber and Faber with strong and culturally diverse literary fiction and poetry. Some of my favourite books and authors are from Faber. But, I was recently hardpressed to think of any children's titles from them, other than the excellent but recent Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. So, an invite for us to their children's book bloggers afternoon tea was appealing - and as it turns out, both  illuminating and inspiring. Plus, full marks to the Faber cupcakes - "very fancy and tasted brill, and also cool sweets", says Little M; and not to mention M's favourite, dark and non-alcoholic fizz which she liked very much!

Leah Thaxton, publisher at Faber, said that a focus on children's books was relatively new for Faber, and has a new growing and clearly enthusiastic editorial and support team behind it.

Their current and defined focus for children's books (like many other publishers) is good stories (and from the looks of it, a whole bag of laughs too). If Rooftoppers is anything to go by, perhaps they'll also manage to combine both the literary and the good story.

From their forthcoming books, five books stood out for us:

Three young adult titles: 
  • Dead Ends by Erin Lange is about a violent school bully who is befriended by the new boy in school who has Down Syndrome. M has read an early copy and it is heartwarming and also believable. Lange will be visiting the UK in April.
  • Winterkill by Kate A Boorman is pitched as similar to Moira Young's Blood Red Road (which we own but have not yet read!). It's a dystopian idea where particular characteristics in a person are not favourably viewed by the society they live in.... Right up Little M's street.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke is a gothic paranormal romance so usually not even close to our reading radars....and yet.....The author is shy but recorded her voice reading an extract. The writing is intense and M is strangely intrigued. Apparently, fans of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca will probably enjoy it.
And then, two junior fiction books that, quite surprisingly, had Little M rapt and the whole room laughing out loud. Coincidence that both authors were present, were charmingly friendly, and excellent readers of their own work? I think it's a bit more than that:
Jeff Norton, mentally adding a comma
Flora in Love by Natasha Farrant follows her debut, After Iris, in The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby. It's about Bluebell's family and in this story, she falls...in love. It is properly funny. Even M laughed but Little M dived into reading it there and then.

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie by Jeff Norton is something that would normally be completely off our map. So our expectations were low and then we laughed. Quite a lot. Especially Little M. And Michelle. And most of the adult audience. Even funnier, the author was reading from a manuscript that has not yet been submitted! Even the editors are still watching out for this one due for publication later this year. Little M thinks this book sounds mega funny, like an older, funnier and more sophisticated Wimpy Kid type book. She can't wait til it comes out.

Then we stuffed cakes and sweets, snaffled a cupcake for dad, and chatted. Natasha Farrant and Little M chatted about learning languages (Natasha seems to have a flair for this) and Sherlock, the merits of the television series and its relationship to Arthur Conan Doyle's writings. Jeff Norton joined the conversation and, with Darren (Bookzone for Boys) we got speaking about hard drives, and the merits of challenging and inspiring middle grade fiction in comparison to some recent young adult fiction.

M was also very excited to finally meet Jim (YA Yeah Yeah) and Beth (Thoughts from the Hearthfire). And we also had an interesting chat with Caroline who, like M, tends to be more of a critical reader than out-and-out fangirl. Unlike We Sat Down, Caroline has been blogging about books since 2006! Great to see Andrew too, who as always, was in fine and exhilarated form!

And as we paged through the catalogue, lo and behold, here's the illuminating irony of the day: our bookshelves currently sport a fair few of Faber's children's titles: Betty G Birney's Humphrey the hamster series, horse stories by Jane Smiley and of course, Ted Hughes! How's that for variety?

Thank you Faber and Aitch Love for the invitation. We have had our eyes opened.

Faber: these are M's books that first came to mind.

How did we miss the ff on our children's bookshelves?


  1. Fabulous write up!

    I'm really looking forward to starting Dead Ends - Butter was amazing so can't wait to start this! I also can't wait for Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie - Jeff should so record an audio book!

    1. Oh yes, most definitely an audiobook!


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