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Q&A With The Book Walrus

Posted on 22 October 2013 by Alice

I caught up with the Book Walrus – Dubai’s newest book blogging creature – to discuss all things bookish. The Book Walrus is a blog set up by author Rachel Hamilton – 2nd place winner of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s Montegrappa ‘First Fiction’ competition. Winning a place in the competition has resulted in a two-book contract with publishers Simon & Schuster. Her first novel will be published in August 2014.

The Walrus

Who is the Book Walrus?

The sensible answer is that we’re a book blogging group made up of ten children’s book lovers – six kids and four slightly bigger kids.

Among the adult reviewers we have an author, a publisher, a stand-up comedian and a teenage whizz kid. Among the junior reviewers we have a bookworm, a glittery girlie-girl, a sports fan, a drama boy, a chess-lover and a nutcase. We hope this ensures a wide spectrum of views and recommendations.

The Walruses

Book Walrus himself, however, would answer differently and say he’s a handsome, debonaire, brown leathery bundle of fun, with a divine ‘tache and manly tusks, who likes to lie on the beach with a book, burping away his troubles as he ponders the latest news in the world of kidlit.

Book Walrus Hugo on the radio in Dubai!

What made you decide to set up a book blogging site?

My publisher suggested I look through the existing book blogging sites in preparation for my book launch next Summer, as they’re a great way for new authors to get in front of kids and parents. What I found were huge numbers of Young Adult book bloggers, but few sites the focused purely on books for

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Middle Readers – the 9-13 year old audience that I was interested in.

This seemed crazy to me as these are the best, most magical books in the world. This is the age where readers first fall in love with literature – for me it was Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit and anything by Diana Wynne Jones – for today’s kids it’s often Harry, Ron and Hermione, the Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson and anything by David Walliams.

How did you come up with the name?

As soon as we

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came up with the idea of a book blogging site, and started talking about what we’d include, I thought of ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’ poem that Tweedledum and Tweedledee recite to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking-Glass’:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”

It seemed to sum up the kind of tone I wanted for the site – silly and, playful with an interest in every aspect of children’s literature.

Also, I’ve always had a thing for walruses, even as a child. Other little girls loved puppies and kittens, but for me there was something appealing about these big, fat, burping animals with their crazy looking tusks.

What do kids look for in a good book?

9-12 is the age of ideas and imagination, so, for me, the best kids’ books are the ones with an intriguing and original idea that captures the imagination and make the world seem a more interesting place.

Rachel Hamilton, AKA The Book Walrus

But I say ‘for me’ because different books are right for different people, different places, even different times. That’s why I find it hard to define a ‘good’ kids book. However, for confused parents, awards can serve as a guide. The UK has the Carnegie Medal, the Kate Greenaway prize, the Guardian and the Whitebread, and also the Smarties Award, which, unlike the others, is voted for by children themselves. I am less well informed about the prizes in other markets, put I know that the John Newberry Medal and the Caldecott (for picture books) are well respected in the US.

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