Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

I Met a Roman Last Night – What Did You Do? by Nik Perring

I wish there had been someone with as much enthusiasm as Nik Perring around when I was at school. If there had been I might have developed an interest in history about two decades earlier.

I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do?– written for the 6 to 10 age group – is a very simple story, simply told. Young Jack Revons (who gets an enviable amount of sleep) meets characters from British history in his dreams, ranging from a Roman centurion to a little girl living in London during the Blitz. All are just ordinary people getting on with their lives, and each meeting opens a brief window on their world. The messages of “different but the same”, “history is fun” and “do unto others” are conveyed effectively without being rammed home with a sledgehammer.

It is, therefore, unfortunate that in this very short book both a major spelling error and some non-standard English made it into print.

The former (reigns instead of reins) is a proof-reading oversight. The latter, I think, can safely be attributed to Nik Perring’s natural speech patterns … the construction “he was stood” is heard every day in conversations in the North of England. It isn’t “wrong”, it’s a regional variation – but in all honesty it doesn’t belong in a book for young readers, and the publishers should have known that.

It’s rather a shame, because in all other respects this thoughtful little book has a lot to recommend it – including some charming illustrations by Derry Dillon. I was particularly taken by the marauding Celts …

Educational Printing Services Ltd. 2006. ISBN-1-905637-03-9. 86pp.

14 comments on “I Met a Roman Last Night – What Did You Do? by Nik Perring

  1. sequinonsea
    February 5, 2008

    Great review – I bought this for three children and they gobbled it up! (not literally, you understand).

  2. Luisa
    February 5, 2008

    I agree, great review, and I certainly wouldn’t worry about the odd typo – everything that’s ever been published has at least one! Also, I believe that a usage such as “he was stood” is a question of voice and absolutely *does* have a place in children’s books. Just my opinion!

    Anyway – great review! 🙂

  3. rosyb
    February 5, 2008

    Interesting debate about the grammar issue – keep it coming. What do other people think about the “he was stood” debate?

  4. Moira
    February 5, 2008

    It’s a moot point, isn’t it? I read somewhere that we all believe that at some time, usually immediately after we left school, the English language was set in aspic, never to change again. It’s an infinitely moveable point in time, of course, depending on when you left school! My English teacher would have had conniptions over “I was stood”. I actually don’t mind it at all … but I know others do. Bit of a minefield, really …

    Nik’s book works particularly well read out loud, I discovered … :o)

  5. Davy
    February 5, 2008

    Knowing the man vaguely via strange computerised communications, I don’t think for a single nano-second that Nik would want or need to change that particular piece of grammer.

    If anyone knowz me, they already know I know I spelt grammar wrong, but also they may know that I have this thing about grammar, and language, and the sort of fascistic nature of the English language, rather the people who claim they own it, and indeed invented it, thus rendering certain words “illegal” and others “improper”.

    Now while I accept that one must try and construct one’s sentences in a proper and correct manner, as this woz wot appened when we ruled the globe, the Sun never set on the British Empire what what, and we woz tuaght proper when we woz at school, honest guv’nor….I also absolutely stick to the idea that language is human kinds greatest invention, and gift to the world, and no one, I mean NO ONE, can tell me what I mean when I am using it. When my Grandparents were leavin school at 14 and shovelling coal into a steam train engine, they sorta tawked lark this and they always dd, bless ya, and you know what? They were made to feel inferior for most their lives. I’m sure many of us can relate to this, and to their Grandparents encouragin them not to be like they were – uneducated, no teeth, no health, no future.

    And they were right. But now we have nice teeth, have had nice schools and nice doctors who give us free-ish health care with a friendly Good Morning, I think its about time people started realising what the heritage they keep bangin on about means, and what it doesn’t, and what is important, and what isn’t, before we’re all swilling around in a huge flood of shite, dying but in an ever such a well spoken manner.

    Soooooooo……

    …so I often spell wordz wrong, on purpose, like, and use grammer that I know makes people who think human language was invented in Oxford, in the post-Enlightenment Imperial Slave Nation, grind their whiter than white teeth and gnash and grumble and get me kicked off writer’s websites. Not that I’m fukin bitter. Silly old tartz 🙂

    So I have issues. Yeh. I got issues man. And I ain’t no mysogynist for using words. Just as a girl who says Nigger ain’t a racist unless they are being racist. Context is important, I think.

    Right so in lowering the tone I am in fact stickin up for this marvellous contraption invented by the great Bearded Fella from Oop North.

    Thatz cos I know any typos would be mortifying for him, yet NOTHING to do with he.

    Also coz I think he’d agree that you don’t have to be from the Home Counties to be classed as a writer of the English Language. It just bugs me the reviwer beleives this hsould never be allowed. Why? Can’t have them Northern Scum tainting our beautiful posh language? Okay so I have a suggestion for the reviwer:

    Why not include a free plum with every copy, and instructions on how to insert it in ones mouth.

    Or maybe somewhere else…

    So yeh I reckon, without meanin to spark a great big mass debate, this is a great book (as Lisa said, children will literally eat it) by a great young English writer.

    Having said that it was a nice chippy review and the reviewer has every right to point these things out – its an interesting concept really, what a child should be taught, grammar wise. But I don’t honestly think it detracts from the story, nor is an impediment to said little person’s education.

    Top stuff Nik and all power to ya fella!

    Now I must go and hunt down pancakes, on the plains of my home town, a sleepy place in the Home Countiues where everyone thinks Maggie Thatcher is a kindly old dear and one cannot move 10 yards unless in a car big enough to transport half the British Army.

    Ta ta.

    Davy
    xXx

  6. Davy
    February 5, 2008

    Oh I’m not being nasty.

    Just feel like mass debating.

    Actually I have to go so I’ll chuck this in, and see what carnage I’ve created later 😀

    Have a great pancake day and make sure none of you FORGET.

  7. Nik
    February 5, 2008

    Hello! Thanks for a fab review.

    Hmm, the ‘he was stood’ debate.

    So why did he write it like that, you wonder.

    I wanted the book to get children excited about history and to show them that it can be accessible and not daunting. And I wanted it to be fun. Using that sort of structure in the narrative, I think, helps to achieve that. I hope so anyway!

    I think a lot of those teachers who’d have a fit if they saw ‘he was stood’ could also be the same teachers who made history boring and difficult. And probably said that one should never use ‘and’ to start a sentence. Though teaching people how to write, punctuate, form sentences et al is a very different beast to creative writing.

    That said, I can appreciate that the ‘he was stood’ structure won’t please everybody which is, of course, up to them. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions which, I think, is the way it should be.

    (Still cross I didn’t spot that typo though. Grr.)

    Thanks again. And keep up the marvellous work, Book Foxes!

    Nik.

  8. Jackie
    February 5, 2008

    I must say it shows a great mark of character that Nik didn’t get all nasty and defensive about the grammar comment (as some people did) and it is his own book. Very sensible and mature, is Nik.
    The review makes the book sound rather exciting, what a great idea to use time travel to get kids interested in history. Even to an adult, the idea has a lot of appeal.

  9. Moira
    February 5, 2008

    Thanks for your comments, Nik. (And Davy – go to the naughty corner and take your pancakes with you … 🙂 )

    Very good point about the teachers … most of mine, as I recall, bored me to tears.

    Do they still teach grammar in schools? I have no idea. I couldn’t parse a sentence to save my life any more, either … but I seem to muddle through.

  10. Nik
    February 5, 2008

    You’re welcome.

    Thanks for your comments, folks (waves at Davy on his naughty step with pancake mix around his mouth!).

    Yes, they do teach grammar in school – very much and, in my experience, very well – to the point where juniors in primary schools understand and implement clauses, for instance. But, as I mentioned earlier, I think that teaching people grammar so they understand what it is and can use it is a very different thing to the language used in creative writing.

    It is an interesting discussion.

    All the best, one and all,

    Nik.

  11. Emily
    February 5, 2008

    Nik, I have been personally responsible for some of the most embarrassing typos in publishing history – one was even on the spine of a book. If you like, I will take the blame for yours…go on, hand it over, I’m used to it. 🙂

  12. RosyB
    February 5, 2008

    I was of the generation that never got taught any grammar in school at all. Which might have been dull but I do regret not knowing all the official terminology as, apart from anything, it makes it tougher to learn other languages.

    That said “he was stood” certainly doesn’t bother me. But I probably don’t count in this particular debate.

    Umm. Davy. Yeah, agree with this “nice chippy review”. When I read that I laughed out loud, after all that! LOL!

  13. Anne Brooke
    February 5, 2008

    I do think the book is a charmer! And must admit to not being bothered by the odd typo, even as a child.

    :))

    A
    xxx

  14. Davy
    February 6, 2008

    lol – yeh well it was Rosy. More chippy than my response 😉

    I ate waaaaaaaaaaaay too many pancakes. Shouldn’t have taken the mix to the naughty step…

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This entry was posted on February 5, 2008 by in Entries by Moira, Fiction: children's and tagged , , , , .

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