I thought that I might start taking my time and make a proper effort with the blog. Perhaps re-organise and give all posts a structure and may be even rename – take out the ‘Music’ from the title as it’s as much about books (and children’s in particular) as is it about Music.



Photograph of meself on the North Yorkshire Moors.
‘Tis I, on the North Yorkshire Moors.

Midnight is a Place

I finished reading the Joan Aiken book “Midnight is a Place’ this morning. It’s an absolutely brilliant book, teeming with ideas about freewill, social pressure and individual morality. It instantly became my favourite Joan Aiken book, which is some achievement because it is in such quality company. The power of great children’s fiction. For me, these books are just as inspirational as books on spirituality or biographies.


Night Birds have flown

I’ve just finished reading Joan Aiken’s “Night Birds on Nantucket”. It’s most definitely my favourite of the “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” sequence of books that I have so far read. It’s full of great escapist touches. It reminds me a little of John Masefield. Due to the marking of maths and language books, I don’t have time to post at length but there’s so much to love in the book – Dido Twite, Nate and his bird “Mr Jenkins”, the pink whale and Captain Casket and the “rum uns” who are on Nantucket to “do some skullduggery”.


I need to find a copy of “Limbo Lodge” next!

Update: As soon as I finished the initial post, I strolled over to Ebay and bought a copy.


Somewhat predictably, I ditched “Midnight is a Place” for the newly arrived “Night Birds on Nantucket”. Boy, was I glad that I did. For me, this narrative beats the somewhat outré character of “The stolen Lake”. Dido’s kindness towards Pen is moving (how is it that children’s fiction can elicit emotions so easily?) and her methods for drawing the other child out of her self-imposed solitude are typical of children’s books of this period. Modern books for children seem to have ditched this kind of subtlety for wind jokes and the like. I’m also filled with questions like “Who is the lady hidden below deck?” and “Is there an actual pink whale?” My only complaint is the way that Dido accepts the slaughter of the what without question. But, that is probably a reflection of my very modern morality. A child in James III / Victorian times would probably have had a more pragmatic attitude to what went on aboard a whaling ship.

This may turn out to be my most favourite Joan Aiken book thus far.


N.B. It was very difficult avoiding using the word “Croopus” somewhere in this post but I think that I managed it.

Croopus! It’s Night Birds on Nantucket!

Yes, my copy of “Night Birds on Nantucket” arrived this morning. But I’ve already begun “Midnight is a Place”. Now what to do next? Do I ditch “Midnight” and start “Night Birds” or do I wait to read the next Dido Twite adventure? It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things I know.

Back to school on Monday! My class will know the word “Croopus” before the morning is out 🙂


Croopus! The Stolen Lake

I finished reading Joan Aiken’s novel “The Stolen Lake” this morning. I know that I’d promised to read “Midnight is a Place” first but the note to the reader at the start of the book said that the reader didn’t need to read either “Black Hearts in Battersea” or “Night Birds on Nantucket” to enjoy the story and I needed another Dido Twite adventure so I went ahead and read “The Stolen Lake” first.

There are so many unsavoury characters for Dido and her companions to overcome. I don’t want to give away too many plot details but the Queen is an absolute ogre, her dressmaker and the dressmaker’s assistants are monsters and Silver Taffy is utterly ruthless. But Bran and Mr Holystone are the sources of Dido’s strength at key moments. Bran in particular is enigmatic and resourceful.

The whole narrative is laced with Celtic (Welsh in this case) and Ancient Roman mythology and Arthurian legend (albeit twisted out of shape and in a melting pot) and at times I didn’t know whether it was appropriate to laugh or to cry. One comment from Dido made me laugh out loud (something that doesn’t happen often).

It’s grim in places and quite loopy in others but a thoroughly enjoyable romp none-the-less.

Joan Aiken wrote a wonderful story full of odd characters and clever observations and it’ll be even more enjoyable when I next read it again.