Between the Covers 02/12/2012

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

Sunday 02 December 2012 01:00

The Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books was awarded last week without a hitch – despite no children being present.

This was a relief as at the Royal Society's Young People's Book Prize ceremony on 15 November, the President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, treated guests to a demonstration of two of the experiments described in the winning book, Robert Winston and Ian Graham's Science Experiments. Although thorough preparations had been made, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist failed to complete the first experiment, which involved sucking an egg into an empty bottle to demonstrate a vacuum, because he couldn't light a match. Fortunately, a 10-year-old was provided, and the second experiment, starring a volcano powered by bicarbonate of soda, washing-up liquid and vinegar, worked a treat. Last week's grown-ups' prize was won by James Gleick's The Information, and the Society is inviting entries for next year's prize to be submitted before February.


It's been a good week for James Robertson, the Man Booker-longlisted author and general editor at the Scots language imprint, Itchy Coo. Robertson has been announced by the Scottish Qualifications Authority as one of the canonical Scottish authors whose work will feature in the new National 5 exams, which replace Standard Grades in 2013/14. His The Testament of Gideon Mack will feature alongside books by Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Liz Lochhead on the syllabus for the National 5 and the new Higher English exam.


Meanwhile, Robertson's new translation of Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo is one of The Bookseller's top 10 "accelerators" this week. The Gruffalo in Scots, published by Itchy Coo, was translated with Donaldson's permission, and has helped the book to sell 221 per cent more copies than in the previous week. "A moose took a dauner through the deep, mirk widd," it begins. "A tod saw the moose and the moose looked guid." The publisher invites readers "a wee bit further intae the deep, mirk widd [to] find oot whit happens when the sleekit moose comes face tae face wi a hoolet, a snake and a hungry gruffalo …" Interesting: so the Scots for gruffalo is… "gruffalo". Who knew?


Bad luck to Bloomsbury, which has had to pulp 6,000 new copies of Ann Patchett's State of Wonder after a printing error resulted in it being wrongly labelled the "Winner of the Orange Prize 2012". While Patchett did win the Orange Prize in 2002 for Bel Canto, the Prize this year was won by Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles – another Bloomsbury book. Somebody, somewhere, must have got carried away. The corrected reprint was published last Friday, and bookshops are being encouraged to contact the publisher for replacement stock. However, we do rather hope that Patchett was allowed to keep one sneaky copy of the book that incorrectly labelled her the winner.

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