Between the Covers 02/06/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books

Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the most exciting thing that will happen to them this year: they have become the stars of a new children's book by Nicholas Allan. The Royal Nappy (Red Fox, £5.99, 6 June) is full of typically gorgeous Allan artwork, including royal parents who look strikingly like William and Kate, along with a royal nanny, a royal nappy-changing song, and a royal nappy collection that is printed at the Royal Mint.

Allan has form with royal books – his The Queen's Knickers inspired many children to cut out and colour in paper pants and send them to Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace. ("What fun for my ladies in waiting," the Queen told Allan when they were introduced at a royal garden party in 2001.) "I thought the book might be a nice memento for the Duke and Duchess of their first-born," he tells Between the Covers. "Something to show their baby when it's older. And perhaps when the baby is old enough, they'll invite me to give a reading at Kensington Palace." They really should – he might bring a personalised nappy.


The denuding of the Granta office continues. In the past month Granta magazine lost its editor, John Freeman, and his deputy, Ellah Allfrey, plus the associate editor Patrick Ryan, and art director Michael Salu. Then Granta Books' executive publisher, Philip Gwyn Jones, quit. Now the press and publicity office of Granta's book publishing arm has sent out notice that two thirds of the department is about to head off on maternity leave. Fortunately, these staff will be replaced temporarily and "have every intention of returning next year". It's to be hoped so.


Fresh from his appearance on Libby Purves's Midweek last Wednesday, in which he was surely the first man ever to describe Margaret Thatcher as being like "a Girl's World" (the 1980s disembodied toy head used for hairdressing games), Damian Barr is set for more Radio 4 exposure for his new book, Maggie and Me (Bloomsbury, £14.99). The memoir, about growing up in Thatcher's Britain, will be Book of the Week starting tomorrow, and Bloomsbury is offering five lucky IoS readers the chance to listen along like Damian's Granny Mac would have done – with a nice cup of tea and a Tunnock's Tea Cake. Simply email your name and address to or tweet @bloomsburybooks #maggieandme to be in with a chance of receiving a listening kit of teabags and teacakes.The competition closes at noon tomorrow, and you could be tucking in by Tuesday.


The favourite 500 words of Britain's children have been revealed, thanks to a short story competition launched by Chris Evans on Radio 2 and the analysis of lexicographers at the Oxford University Press. Children aged 13 and younger submitted 90,000 stories, and 40 million words were crunched. "Mum" is the most-used word, including its variants "mom" and "mam". Cinderella remains more popular as a heroine than Bella Swan or Katniss Everdeen. Enchantingly, wands are far more common than apps and iPads. And the most popular new word this year is "Gangnam".