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  • Inside Grandad
  • Written by Peter Dickinson
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307532596
  • Our Price: $4.99
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Inside Grandad

Written by Peter DickinsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Peter Dickinson

eBook

List Price: $4.99

eBook

On Sale: April 02, 2009
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-307-53259-6
Published by : Yearling RH Childrens Books
Inside Grandad Cover

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

An unusual and moving story about the magical bond between a boy and his grandfather.

Does it just happen that Gavin and Grandad see the seal while they are fishing in the harbor? Just happen that Grandad talks about the selkies, the seal people who can leave the water and take human form? Just happen that Grandad is finishing the beautiful miniature boat he’s making for Gavin’s tenth birthday, and Gavin decides to call her Selkie? And at that moment, Grandad has his stroke. Could the selkies have something to do with all this?

Day after day at the hospital, Gavin tries to get through to helpless and speechless Grandad, trying to reach him, explain what’s happened to him. Everyone else has given up. But Gavin will try anything. Even asking the selkies to help. To do that, he must give them something to show them how much it matters. What is the dearest thing he owns?


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

1



Gavin and Grandad were fishing for mackerel from the harbor wall when the seal popped its head out of the water. For a moment Gavin thought it was a loose net-float bobbing about. Then he saw the two eyes, large, round, and glistening black, staring straight at him. The thing rose a bit more and he saw the whiskery muzzle and knew what he was looking at.

He'd never seen a seal that close. They often came to Stonehaven but usually stayed farther out. What's more, though it must have seen Gavin, it didn't duck out of sight but stayed where it was, staring. Gavin stared straight back.

"It looks like Dodgem begging for handouts," he said.

(Dodgem was Gran's dog, a sort-of-bulldog. He looked tough, but was really a total wimp, and lazy and greedy with it. You couldn't imagine him dodging anything. Gavin's elder brother, Donald, swore he'd once seen him collide with an old woman with a walker, though he'd been moving slower than she had. Grandad and Gavin didn't pay much attention to him. He was just there.)

Grandad hadn't seen the seal because he was putting his tackle away. The harbor wasn't the best place to fish, but there wasn't time to go anywhere else between Gavin coming out of school and getting home to cook tea. Still, they'd been lucky that afternoon. Gavin had hooked into a half-size mackerel almost at once. Perhaps he should have thrown it back, but he'd kept it because they mightn't get anything else, and by the time they'd caught five more good ones it was dead.

Now Grandad looked up, grunted, and picked the half-size fish out of his creel. Gavin took it and tossed it to the seal.

The seal wasn't a trained seal in an aquarium, so it didn't reach up and catch the fish in midair but snapped it up just as it hit the water, and dived out of sight.

Tacky Steward, fishing twenty yards off along the wall, shouted at Grandad for encouraging seals to come to the harbor. They scared the fish off, he said.

"Plenty to go round," said Grandad mildly. Nothing fazed Grandad. That made Tacky even madder. He hadn't caught much. He never did, and it was always someone else's fault. He shouted some more and the seal popped its head out of the water as if it wanted to see what the fuss was about. The mackerel's tail was sticking out of the corner of its mouth until the seal threw its head back and sort of gargled it down.

"You're welcome," said Gavin.

The seal blinked, as if it hadn't expected to be spoken to like that.

"See you soon," said Gavin. The seal seemed to nod before it dived out of sight.



"Mr. Steward's right, though, isn't he?" Gavin said as they trudged up the hill. "If you feed the seals they'll come for more."

"Maybe," said Grandad. "But Tacky's got no cause to go yelling at me like that. There's ways of making your point, and ways of not."

"I liked the seal," said Gavin. "It looked like it knew what I was saying to it."

"Could be," said Grandad.

"What do you mean?"

"There's more to seals than they show you on the telly. Know what a selkie is, boy?"

"A selkie?"

"They're seal-people, selkies. See them in the water, and they're seals all right. But come ashore, and you wouldn't know them from people. There's stories of selkie women falling in love with farmers, and marrying them, and living on land for a while and raising a family, until the pull of the sea got too strong for them and they went back and turned themselves into seals again."

"You don't really believe that."

"Tacky doesn't. No imagination."

You didn't always get a straight answer out of Grandad. Gavin tried somewhere else.

"Did they have children--the selkie women who married the farmers?"

"Says so in the stories."

"Some of them would have been selkies too, wouldn't they? Half selkies, anyway?"

"Stands to reason."

"Do you think we've had any of them in our family? We can't keep away from the sea either."

(Far back as anybody knew, the Robinson men had always been sailors, fishermen or seamen on merchant ships, mostly. Grandad had been a ship's engineer. Dad was first mate on a big container ship. He was in the Caribbean right now. Donald was in Edinburgh, training to be a doctor, but chances were he'd finish up doctoring people on a ship.)

"Don't see why not," said Grandad.

They fell silent and trudged on up the hill to Arduthie Road. Stonehaven was a steep, dark gray town nestling round its bay. It was always uphill going home.



Grandad was the most important person in Gavin's life. Once, when Gavin was smaller, his teacher had told her class to draw their mums, or whoever else looked after them. Gavin had drawn Grandad. It was a small kid's picture, of course, all wrong, but you could still see it was Grandad, short and square, with a shiny bald head, brown and mottled, and with spectacles and a bushy gray mustache. In Gavin's picture the mustache was almost as big as Grandad's head.

Gavin had a perfectly good mum, and she lived in the same house. So did Gran, and Dad too, when he was home, but most of the time he wasn't, and Mum and Gran both worked. Mum was an estate agent, helping people buy and sell houses, and Gran sold things at Hankin's, the big hardware store down in the square. Grandad was eighteen years older than Gran, so he'd retired when Gavin had still been small, and soon after that the family had sold their two separate houses and bought the one in Arduthie Road. The idea was that Gran would look after Gavin so that Mum could go back to her job, because they needed the extra money; but almost at once Gran had got bored with that arrangement--she needed people to talk to, even if it was only about size-ten countersunk screws and stuff--so she went back to work too and Grandad started doing the looking after.

So it had been Grandad who'd taken Gavin to his first school and fetched him back and done things with him after and cooked his tea and put him to bed like as not, because Mum often worked late, showing houses to clients, while Gran cooked grown-up tea. Nowadays, when Gavin didn't go to bed much earlier than anyone else, he and Grandad cooked what Grandad still called tea and Mum called supper. Sometimes Gavin wondered a bit guiltily if it would make a lot of difference if Mum and Gran just vanished one day and never came back. Not much, he decided, except that the house would be a lot quieter in the times when they used to be there. (Gran liked to talk. She did it like breathing--all the time. Mum wasn't so bad, unless there were plans and arrangements to be made. She could out-talk Gran then, no problem.)

But if Grandad vanished . . . He was seventy-four already. . . . He was bound to die one day. . . . Gavin couldn't bear to think about it.

The great thing about Grandad was that he understood what it was like being Gavin. He always had, even when Gavin was small--understood what made him miserable or happy or angry or afraid, even things that Gavin was ashamed to talk about to anyone. Like when Dave Murray had been giving him a hard time in his fourth year and he didn't want anyone to know how scared he was of going to school each morning, but Grandad had noticed and got it out of him and told him how to deal with it. He'd let Gavin think he'd done it all on his own too, but later on Gavin guessed that he'd gone round and seen Mrs. Whebbery after school and sorted it out with her.


From the Hardcover edition.
Peter Dickinson

About Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson - Inside Grandad

Photo © Fay Godwin

“What it has felt like to be writing for the young during the last thirty years. . . . can all be summarised in one word—Lucky. I feel extraordinarily fortunate in a whole number of ways.”—Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson, two-time winner both of England’s prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children’s Award, is one of Britain’s greatest storytellers, and the author of many novels for young readers and adults. His books include the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Novel, Eva, as well as the Printz Honor Book The Ropemaker and many other award-winning titles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Dickinson is a tall, elderly, bony, beaky, wrinkled sort of fellow, with a lot of untidy grey hair and a weird hooting voice—in fact he looks and sounds a bit like Gandalf’s crazy twin, but he’s only rather absent-minded, probably because he’s thinking about something else. Day-dreaming, mostly.

He was born in the middle of Africa, within earshot of the Victoria Falls. Baboons sometimes came into the school playground. When people went swimming in the Zambezi they did it in a big wooden cage let down into the water, so that the crocs couldn’t get at them. For the hot weather the family went south to his grandfather’s ostrich farm in South Africa.

Then the family came back to England so that he and his brothers could go to English schools, where they taught him mostly Latin and Greek. He didn’t have an English lesson after he was twelve, and nobody ever told him to write a story. He was fairly good at games.

He’s led an ordinary kind of life—not much by way of adventures, but some silly things. Such as? Well, when he had to join the army, just after World War II, they managed to turn him into two people; so he was bashing away at infantry training at a camp in Northern Ireland when two sea-sick military policemen showed up and arrested him for being a deserter from a different camp in the south of England, where his other self was supposed to be bashing away.

He was tutoring a boy in a huge old castle in Scotland when the butler (it was that sort of household) said to him at dinner one day “Ah, sir, it’s a long time since we heard screams coming from the West Wing!” (Peter’s screams, not the boy’s.)

And he was knocked down by a tram on his way to the interview for his first job and arrived all covered with blood and dirt, but they gave him the job because he was the only candidate. He stayed there seventeen years.

He and his first wife had two daughters and two sons, and he now has six grandchildren. He lives in a ramshackle old house in a green valley in the south of England, with his second wife, the American writer Robin McKinley, and three whippets. Now, they really are crazy.

On Writing

Peter says he didn’t become a writer. He just is one, and always has been, ever since he can remember, the way a goldfish is a goldfish and can’t be anything else. Go to a zoo and look at one of the big birds, a condor, say, a creature made to soar above the Andes. They’ve probably clipped one of its wings so that it can’t hurt itself trying to fly around its cage, but it’s still a creature made to soar above the Andes. If you somehow stopped Peter writing, he’d still be a writer.

But he was a poet and a journalist before he started on books. He tried a murder story first, but got stuck half way through. Then he had a science-fictiony kind of nightmare, and decided to turn it into a children’s story, mainly to see if writing it would unstick the other book. (It did. That book won a prize for the best murder story of the year, and the children’s book is now being made into a TV film, though it was written over thirty years ago.)

Since then he’s written getting on fifty books, almost all of them on a little old portable typewriter—one draft, to see what he’s got, and what else he needs to know and so on; then a bit of research; then a complete rewrite, beginning to end; and then, if all’s well, only a bit more tinkering. Sometimes it takes a few month, sometimes a year or more. He’s just moved over to a PC. He’s still getting used it. It makes writing seem a very different kind of process—easier in some ways, harder in others.

The ideas come from all over the place—day-dreams, sometimes, or a kid on a long car-trip saying “Tell us a new story, dad.” Or something he’s heard or read—a voice on the radio saying “Even a hardened government soldier may hesitate a fatal half-second before he guns down a child.” (That was AK, about a boy guerrilla in Africa.) For the best of them it feels as if the book had knocked on the door of his mind and said “Write me.” Then he’ll spend half a year or more letting the stranger in and finding who or what it is.

He writes all sorts of books. His last book was a long exotic fantasy—magicians and unicorns and so on—called The Ropemaker, and in May there’s going to be his first collaboration with his wife, Robin McKinley, called Water; Tales of the Elemental Spirits, in which each of them has written three stories about some of the magical creatures that inhabit our rivers and seas. (They hope to do the other three elements over the next few years.) A story Peter was working on for the Fire volume insisted on expanding to book length (working title The Tears of the Salamander) which will be his next book out. And he’s now working on a short book called Inside Grandad, about a modern boy who . . . but no, he’d better find out who the stranger is before he starts talking about him.


PRAISE

“Peter Dickinson is one of the real masters of children’s literature.”—Philip Pullman

THE ROPEMAKER
“A challenging magical adventure for the thinking reader.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“While on one level this tale is a fantasy, it is also a wonderful coming-of-age story.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Dickinson works his own magic in a thoroughly compelling tale that delves into the nature of both magic and time.”—Starred, Booklist

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