Showing posts with label Dianne Hofmeyr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dianne Hofmeyr. Show all posts

Friday, 25 December 2020

Extra, extra, read all about it!

 Many thanks to Dianne Hofmeyr, who bravely and boldly ventured forth into Tier 4 London to take these pictures for us of some of the Christmas window displays in some of the splendid independent bookshops in the city.

Let's hope it's not long before they can open their doors again, and welcome back their enthusiastic and book-loving customers to browse freely!

Happy Christmas!

These first two are of Daunt Books.

Nomad Books in Fulham.

Above and below, South Kensington Books - note Dianne's own latest book, Paris Cat, illustrated by Piet Grobler, at the top right.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

THE ADVENTURE – Dianne Hofmeyr

It’s 1962. You’re 15. You’re sitting on the fence wearing your first ever bikini… snapped by a friend (never again do you have friends like the ones you have when you're 15) with a Brownie Box camera, staring out with all the vulnerability and all the invincibility that comes with being 15.

You worry about puppy fat. That your lipstick Cutex Kiss Me Quick smeared over with white lipstick, looks frosty enough. Bardot-like. But it’s not Bardot you want to be. It’s Sophia Loren. You practice her lips and even speak Latin into the mirror hoping to sound a bit Italian. Kiss me Quick has hasn’t happened yet but its around the corner. You’re 15 and the whole world lies ahead.

At the start of a year in these heady, first days of January, there's the same feeling of adventure ahead. I wonder who named this The Awfully Big Blog Adventure? I've discovered Penny Dolan has written the most blogs at a score of 126 (counting yesterday's). I come in at 124. That means we’ve been part of this 'adventure' for over 10 years!

'When dreams and reality are one, the miracle has happened,' D H Lawrence inscribed to the artist Georgia O'Keefe in his book, 'Death of a Porcupine and other essays.' 


It's 2014.  No... I  didn't fly this plane, I stood there under its wing in the middle of the Namib Desert in a place called Wolwedans, which literally means where the Wolves Dance but more accurately where the Spotted Hyena hunts. We flew into the red dunes with skylines punctured by the silhouettes of oryxes...  'my dreams and reality are one'

It's 2018. 'My dreams and reality are one' again when I spend a few nights miles from anywhere, under ancient baobabs in the Okavango with a group of old friends, where dried elephant footprints embedded in the salt pans from who knows when... tell their own story and in the darkness I listen to the whoop of a hyena and the continuous prrr of an African Scops owl.

After this, my 125th blog, I’m signing off from The Awfully Big Blog Adventure. Thank you for the times we’ve had together, the comments and the cameradie and especially to Penny and Sue for keeping us all on track. Never when I started this, did I think I'd write a blog once a month for more than 10 years. What an adventure!

Landscapes are intrinsic to who we are... something we go back to time and again and draw strength from. So it seems right to close off with these two photographs.

It's 1952, me aged 5, with my father in front of the Zimbabwe ruins dated Sat.16th Aug.'52 in his handwriting. Little did I know that 50 years later I would set a historical novel, The Waterbearer, in this exact place, that would go on to win an IBBY Honour Book Award. 

It's 2018. The dusk of a quiet day in London between Christmas and New Year, when a pollarded London Plane tree turns a church steeple into a Baobab and I smell the woodsmoke of Africa.

A wonderfully adventurous 2019 to all of you. Did you see Venus chasing the rising moon this morning? For the next few days Venus, Jupiter and Mercury will all line up with the moon at dawn. May your planets line up this year. May you write like your pen will never run out of ink. May your dreams and reality be one. May you be invincible!
Instagram: diannehofmeyr
Twitter: @dihofmeyr
Latest book: Tiger Walk illustrated by Jesse Hodgson and published by Otter-Barry Books

Sunday, 2 December 2018


It's that time when angels fly over Regent Street, shop windows twinkle with lights, girls buy glittery dresses and bookshops take on a mood of anticipation... not just of reindeers on the roof but of long, dark nights curling up with a story.

First off for me is always South Kensington Books... a treasure trove of the unexpected, often mirroring and expanding on exhibitions going on in the V&A. What draws me to them is their ability to allow a single book to monopolise their entire window. Last year, I remember Emily Gravett's TIDY with piles of leaves and gardening gloves and dustpans, and more recently a display showing every single spread of ANIMALPHABET by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Sharon King-Chai.

For Christmas this year, here is this charming window and a view of what was on offer inside the shop. 

Just further along in Chelsea, Daunt Books in the Fulham Road had a crowded window where I spotted a copy of my own and Jesse Hodgson's TIGER WALK... but sadly no jungle or single book takeover. Does it help to be next to David Walliams?

Further down the road I met up with the highly energised Yuval Zommer putting a light and fantastic touch to the NOËL window of Nomad Books with his bugs, beasties, birds and butterflies and probably the most enchanting ladybird I will ever see. 

At the Conran shop, they don't do book windows but inside amidst the Christmas offerings, I found a heap of wonderful Tiny Owl Books including CINDERELLA of the NILE by Beverley Naidoo illustrated by Marjan Vafaeian.

Just round the corner from Victoria Station, I spotted Mark Hearld's world in the form of foxes, rabbits, robins and owls in the window of Shepherds... not a bookshop I know but a wondrous paper shop... with Mark's amazing fold-out cards like individual minature picture books and of course he illustrated Nicola Davies' A FIRST BOOK OF NATURE - from beachcombing to stargazing and watching squirrels, ducks and worms and much else.

I didn't get to Waterstones or Hatchards in Piccadilly as the tube stations and queues on the Piccadilly line yesterday were horrendous because of Winter Wonderland. But here is the Alligator's Mouth snowy Christmas window in Richmond. 

Here you will spy GRANDPA CHRISTMAS by Michael Morpurgo and EMILY BROWN AND FATHER CHRISTMAS by Cressida Cowell, illustrated by Neil Layton who will both be appearing at Nomad Books TODAY 2nd Dec at 3pm.

Also the marvellous TALES FROM THE INNER CITY by Shaun Tan with that haunting cover and the wonderfully surreal illustrations of twenty-five short stories, exploring the relationship between humans and animals and how we are entwined for better or worse. Amazing is all one can say!

And a quick cheat... as its from last year's Picked Pepper window with Jane Ray's painting of Venice from our THE GLASSMAKER'S DAUGHTER. 

So some bookish baubles to wish you a happy time through Advent.  Please add your own favourite bookshops this Christmas in the comments. And don't forget to light your first Advent candle today.
Twitter: @dihofmeyr
Instagram: diannehofmeyr
latest book: TIGER WALK illustrated by Jesse Hodgson, published by Otter-Barry Books

Friday, 2 November 2018


Some details of a story have their place in the literal, but also operate at a deeper level. More happens in the story than we are able to take in at once. So when writers are asked: what is the theme of your story? it's tricky to pinpoint. A story unfolds and is ‘presented’ rather than ‘reported’. You can’t say Cezanne was a painter of apples and tablecloths, and feel you have told everything of Cezanne.

A writer works from a realm larger than his conscious mind and often the result is a surprise to him or her, as the story starts to lean away from the typical towards the mysterious and the unexpected.

I was looking for the mysterious and the unexpected in bookshops in the States recently – admittedly mostly in picture books. There were plenty of books about girls doing great things and plenty of books about having respect for others. But where were the books they would fire up a child’s imagination and curiosity? Where were the intriguing illustrations to turn back to again and again? Where were the many-layered stories, imbued with humour as well as sadness?

This is what I found:

At the Harvard Coop in Boston, there were some of my old favourites like William Steig's Doctor De Soto.

But there were other intriguing titles too like, They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, where the reader observes a cat from the vantage point of other creatures and birds, some as the hunter and some as the hunted. The wonderful illustrations on every page explore the natural world through perception. Funny as well as glorious.

At the Harvard Coop too was Storm by Sam Usher (yes… from the UK but great to see in such an American Institution). Wild and wonderful drawings with a real feel of stormy bluster, showing a special bond between grandfather and child as they set out to fly a kite… with a little dip into fantasy too.

At Sherman’s Bookstore in Bar Harbor, Maine I bought a copy of I am Henry Finch by Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz. (UK again). It’s a book of sheer genius – not just in the execution of the wonderful finch illustrations but in the concept of transformation. "I think... I could be great," thought Henry.

At a lovely bookshop in Farmington, Maine, called Devaney Doak and Garrett, I bought the Fan Brothers book Ocean Meets Sky with its amazing dream sequences and cloud formations that float through the pages. All those who have ever looked up at clouds and seen dragons and ships, this is the book for you.

Their previous book The Night Gardener, I found later at Barnes and Noble in New York – a little boy wonders who is cutting the trees into such strange shapes. There's an incredible sequence of the animal-clipped trees changing through the seasons that would fascinate any child. It did me.

In the bookshop in Farmington, Maine, called Devaney Doak and Garrett, I also found Town is by the Sea (which I've spoken about before on ABBA when it was first short-listed for the Greenaway having now won it) set in the coal-mining town of Glace Bay on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island in the 1950s. There is something quite majestic about this small in size book... the shimmer of the sea, the boy, the intimate family life, the way the light falls across the floor, the community of mine workers who go underground every day... told so sparsely and with such pared down illustration. It is one of the most perfect matches of illustrator to writer. And for me it both uncannily and perfectly evokes my 1950's childhood of growing up next to the sea in a town that was entirely devoted to 'The Factory' which produced dynamite.  

In Jackson, New Hampshire I came across not just covered bridges (like in Madison County) but this absolutely charming library with a seat on either side of the covered porch for anyone who felt like reading a book outside in the fresh air... even when its snowing!

I bought an oldie at Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts – The Polar Express (its 30th Anniversary) because I think everyone needs a copy of this book so the bell will still tinkle for you.

At Provincetown, Cape Cod I came across a giraffe looking out for his cousin Zeraffa Giraffa in Africa. And also came across this lovely chantreuse outside the rather formidable-looking library in an otherwise rather colourful, hippie town.

In New York at the wonderful Books of Wonder, I discovered a Jackie Morris sticking out from the laden shelves and a copy of Jane Ray's and my The Glassmaker’s Daughter. (joy and wonder)

So all in all, a total mix of books both from the States and the UK, and a great showing of story leaning away from the typical towards the mysterious and the unexpected. So in the tradition of The Polar Express, may you still be hearing that bell tinkle.
Twitter: @dihofmeyr
Instagram: Diannehofmeyr
Latest book: TIGER WALK illustrated by Jesse Hodgson and published by Otter-Barry Books