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Hard Times Require Funny Books - a guest blog by Anna Mainwaring

Posted By Jacob Hope, 14 hours ago
Updated: 14 hours ago

We are delighted to welcome Anna Mainwaring, author of Tulip Taylor and Rebel with a Cupcake to talk about funny books.

 

As a writer of funny books, it often seems as if such novels are not given the same weight as those that deal with tragic or heart-breaking themes. Whilst this does not keep me awake at night (at the best of times, there’s a long list of other things to do that and then comes along a global pandemic), I do think that a) young people could really do with a lift at the moment and b) a book that has a light-hearted or comic tone does not necessarily mean that its themes and content are frivolous.

As well as being an author, I teach part-time in a girls’ school and once a fortnight, years 7 and 8 go to the library for a lesson. We have a gorgeous library and an equally talented and enthusiastic librarian so we are very lucky compared to so many other schools. As a writer, it’s fascinating to see what they are reading and as a class, I ask students, especially those who are more reluctant to pick up a book or have fallen out of love with books somewhat, to ask for recommendations. The two things they ask for are either mysteries/thrillers or funny books. We can always find plenty of the former to recommend to them but far less choice of the second. Given how stressful teenage life can be, even more so at the moment, then perhaps now really is the time when funny novels can come into their own and take their turn in the spotlight alongside their more heart-breaking book sisters!

In my books, (Rebel with a Cupcake, Firefly April 2020 and Tulip Taylor, June 2019) I aim to make readers laugh but also think, a combination which has made Holly Smale, Jenny McLachlan and Katy Birchall’s books so appealing to readers. Though readers of Tulip Taylor often tell me that the moment on page 23 makes them giggle and Chapter 18 is also a great fan favourite, the novel explores the rather dubious world of ‘sharenting’, how lifestyle blogger/vlogger/influencer parents can make money out of their children and their lives. Is this ethical? Whose life is it anyway – is it right for parents to share images or details from their children’s lives which may then stay online with them as the child grows up? Is it right to earn money from ‘selling’ your family life online? I loved writing scenes with Tulip’s mother because she is so extreme but she is monstrously selfish. Or is she?

I also take on stereotypical reactions to girls who choose to experiment in wearing make-up. Does wearing make-up necessarily make you vain, self-centred and vapid? Or is it an entirely understandable reaction to living in a world where a girl’s value to society is often measured in how far she is considered conventionally attractive? Girls seem trapped in a paradox. They are sent so many invisible messages that they should make themselves attractive but then if this standard is achieve, they often find that to found pretty can also mean to be found vacant.

Rebel with a Cupcake deals with other (please excuse the pun) weighty issues. I’m very glad that there a number of novels published which deal with society’s attitudes to weight, the pain of fat-shaming and the importance of body positivity as it’s a subject close to my heart. From childhood onwards, I’ve always been larger than average. As a teacher at form time, I would overhear so many heart-breaking conversations about fear of being fat, the unintentional fat-shaming of others, the horror that being fat has for so many girls, the complex relationship so many of them had with food. They craved food but felt that they weren’t allowed to eat.

Out of all of this, the idea for Rebel with a Cupcake was born. Jess is confident, considered attractive in many ways, but even this confidence is punctured by a combination of pressure from her model mother and teenager vulnerability. I know some readers might find Jess’ choices with regard to food as problematic. There is no doubt in my mind that all the science says that diets don’t work long term. However, diets/products are endorsed by celebrities on social media every second of the day.  I wanted to write something that was honest about what it’s like to be a larger person in a society which is often fat-phobic. Body positivity is a wonderful thing. But it is, in my experience, hard won and some days you can be more confident than others. To have a character who never felt any doubt about her appearance, to me felt false. And who wants to write a novel for young people which isn’t grounded in truth? I wanted Jess to feel the doubts and insecurities so many woman and girls feel but still to progress on her journey back to confidence. With a fair few jokes along the way!

Twitter: Anna_Mainwaring

Instagram: annamainwaringclark

 

 

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Discovering Children's Books -

Posted By Jacob Hope, 22 May 2020
Updated: 22 May 2020

Chair of the Youth Libraries Group, Alison Brumwell, introduces us to the British Library's Discovering Children's Books site

When national lockdown began on 23 March 2020 it was difficult to envision where we were headed or grasp the unprecedented change children and their families would face as schools closed. Throughout this time, we’ve seen a range of teaching and learning take place online, with new blogs, Facebook pages and YouTube channels popping up to support parents with home schooling and librarians with outreach. There have been virtual tours of museums and art galleries, virtual literary festivals and free access to some brilliant online theatre productions and film experiences, not to mention author events and book launches. Library membership and e-book borrowing has burgeoned across the UK and more than 100 books worldwide have been published for children and young people in a range of languages about COVID-19.

As a librarian, I have been reading, viewing and exploring many of these, marvelling at the variety and range of material available online. One of the best new websites I’ve discovered and promoted is British Library’s Discovering Children’s Books https://www.bl.uk/childrens-books. There is a range of brilliant activities for children of all ages, each of which involves delving into the diverse heritage of children’s books; not just fiction but poetry, non-fiction and illustration too. Themes of belonging, identity and morality are explored and the ways in which children’s books have also changed the world is compelling social history; in fact, there’s so much rich content here it invites parents and children to dive straight in.

As I collect children’s picture books and illustrated material, and own quite a nice personal collection, I gravitated immediately towards the creative activities, like Make a Miniature Book. https://www.bl.uk/childrens-books/activities/make-a-miniature-book. The miniature books project was inspired by those created by Charlotte Bronte and her siblings as children growing up at Haworth parsonage, carefully crafted and hand-stitched. The website includes examples of mini books created by famous authors like Jacqueline Wilson, Katherine Rundell and Philip Ardagh, which they also read aloud. https://www.bl.uk/childrens-books/activities/miniature-books-by-your-favourite-authors. You can try making your own mini book: photos can be emailed to learning@bl.uk or shared on Twitter to @BL_Learning, using #Discovering Literature.

When Eva Eland, the talented author and illustrator of When Sadness Comes to Call and Where Happiness Begins visited Kirklees Libraries last year this was an activity she prepared for primary school pupils and they loved it. I still have my own unused resources from those sessions, so I am determined to find a way of combining my love of illuminated manuscript and traditional inks with manga and see what happens. It’s a wonderful introduction to books as interactive and “living, rather than just something to digest or as artefacts arranged on a shelf. 

There is also an exhaustive archive of interviews to watch and listen to. I love Viviane Schwarz’s in which she gives an insight into developing character through illustration: it is magical how a few lines and colour (or not) can evoke so much. And it’s something which is very accessible to children. Likewise, Joseph Coelho’s brilliant tips for budding poets.  Zanib Mian’s interview highlights the importance of own voice and lived experience – a child’s thoughts and ideas can have a powerful place in their own writing. But a highlight for me is seeing Sarah Garland’s sketches, research, dummy book and original artwork from Azzi in Between, held by Seven Stories in Newcastle. How fascinating to have an overview of the whole process from start to finish and to read about Sarah’s inspiration for this very moving book.

The articles included on the website are equally fascinating and range from fables and fairy tales in children’s books to fear (Kim Reynolds’ article on the subject is illuminating). My own favourite is food in fiction, and Imogen Russell Williams gives us a whimsical insight into the role food plays in children’s books. Nothing fills a reader with more delight or vicarious pleasure, whether it’s bread on a toasting fork, a picnic or a feast (or Mrs. Twit feeding her husband worms instead of spaghetti). One of my most pored-over books as a child was Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did at School. As a sequel to What Katy Did, it was perhaps unremarkable, but I will never forget the sumptuous food hampers Katy and Clover used to receive at boarding school. 

I hope librarians, teachers and parents will take every opportunity to explore Discovering Children’s Books with children and young people, or just take time to click through this informative, interactive resource themselves. The gallery of activities alone makes it worthwhile, but there’s so much more to share and appreciate.

'Image © Philip Ardagh'

 

 

Tags:  Archive  British Library  Digital  Reading  Seven Stories 

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Untangling Roots - Resolving Cultural Heritage through Storytelling

Posted By Jacob Hope, 20 May 2020
Updated: 20 May 2020

We are delighted to welcome Jessica Wilson, poet and author, to discuss her writing and the impetus behind and creation of her picture book Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro and its creation.

 

 

My children’s poem-story Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro, tumbled from me one afternoon like a remembered song.  This magical-realism picture book is the winner of a GoFundMe award and seeks to unpick the politics, history, heroes and joy entangled within the tight coils of kinky hair.  A Jamaican Rastafarian, African ancestor and Black Panther stepped into my imagination, unravelling their narratives in rhythmic rhyme.  These were voices, like my own, which had been suppressed or not yet fully heard.  The piece grew into a space where each character had their own solo; an ensemble of individuals relaying their stories, in their own words.

Aimed at 5-8 year olds, my fantasy poem is primarily a response to the continued under-representation of black children in literature.  I recall feeling ostracized as a youngster by trite tales of snowfalls and apple-picking which lacked the cultural collisions of my domestic life: for example, Sunday roasts enlivened with plantain and our linguistic fluidity which slipped between patois and the Queen’s English.  My mother sought out African American books for me, such as Half a Moon and One Whole Star and Alice Walker’s To Hell with Dying which featured protagonists I resembled and storylines bridging fantasy and the everyday; a realm where my mind already dwelt.  Spotlighting characters with skin the colour of coco-tea whose faces were framed by billowing halos of afros, these looking-glass pages planted a sense of recognition and belonging within my young mind.  My own books had already begun to bud.

Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro also aspires to counteract the aching lack of black history taught within schools.  I chose to publish this book in May rather than wait until October (Black History month) because I do not believe multicultural narratives should be sandwiched into a small section of the year: British history with its myriad threads of migration and colonialism is not a monologue, it is a colourful, polyglot, interweaving chorus.  I want to encourage children to delve into theirs and others’ historical backgrounds and be inspired to share their stories.  We need more dialogue about the multifaceted nature of our national identity in the mainstream.

 

Examining my origins was a catalyst in my poetry career: whilst I had written articles and reviews for many years, self-expression in verse-form sprung from an urgency to communicate my own cultural eclecticism.  Being both Jamaican and British, I felt like an anomaly or, as I describe in my first collection,

 

 “I am both yet neither and the hinterland between;

I am Usain Bolt taking tea with the queen.”

-The Bulldog and the Hummingbird

 

Poetry provided an apt, elastic vehicle to communicate the riddle of this hybridity.  Within ‘reclamation’ which was shortlisted for an Aesthetica Award, I reconfigured the diaspora as a site of creativity, noting:

 

“we dance

because our first names are at war with our last;

because we feel like flecks of dust

caught in a light stream between two closed windows.

 

we dance

because magic is dripping from our tongues

like the honeyed juice of overripe mangoes.”

 

Our roots, no matter how embattled, are a creative font we can tap into.  By sharing the conflicts of my own legacy, I not only reconciled them but learnt to celebrate life at the interstices.  Soon after, I was shortlisted for WriteNowLive, an exciting diversity initiative spearheaded by the BBC and Penguin Random House to find emerging literary talent in underrepresented communities.  Recognising the need to amplify marginalised voices, I later founded Tallawah Publishing with the aim of supporting writers and artists of Caribbean and African descent.

 

I join many other Caribbean poets in my belief that it is our duty to rewrite our history and conserve our storytelling inheritance.  It is my hope that by interweaving the ancestral past with the present, Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro contributes in painting a richer, more diverse and promising literary future.

 

 

Sofia the Dreamer and her Magical Afro is available for purchase via Jessica Wilson’s website:  http://www.jessica-wilson.com/buy-books/sofia-the-dreamer-and-her-magical-afro-by-jessica-wilson-paperback

 

 

The Bulldog and the Hummingbird will be available for preorder on 22nd June 2020 (the anniversary of Windrush) at www.tallawahpublishing.com

 

 

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Tags:  diversity  publishing  reading  reading for pleasure 

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Sharing Stories Far and Wide - There's Rang-Tan in my Bedroom Blog Tour

Posted By Jacob Hope, 15 May 2020
Updated: 15 May 2020

 

YLG is delighted to be part of the blog tour for There's a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom.

 

Libraries have always been about collecting and sharing stories and information.  There is a power to this and an ability to achieve change precisely because information and stories help to shape, and so to change us.  They alter the way we see the world.  It is hard to imagine a more affecting story than There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom.

Perhaps you  have seen the Greenpeace video which went viral?  The powerful story behind the video was written by James Sellick at Mother London The advert was picked up by frozen food company Iceland for their Christmas commercial following their pledge to remove palm oil from its own-brand products.  Richard Walker, managing director for Iceland, commented on the decision:

 

With palm oil, the urgency of the crisis could not be ignored. We saw a window of opportunity to help organisations like Greenpeace lobby for zero-deforestation palm oil at a time when 146 football pitches of rainforest were being chopped down every hour in Indonesia.”

 

The video which was produced by Greenpeace was deemed too political for broadcast, but the ensuing discussion and debate around both the video itself and also around socially conscious messages and ideas around censorship helped to make the video go viral.

Hachette bought the rights for a picture book adaptation of the video There’s a Rang-Tan in my Bedroom which published under their Wren and Rook imprint in August 2019.  The book features a foreword by Dame Emma Thompson who narrated the original Greenpeace video and alongside the story which has been visually re-imagined by illustrator Frann Preston-Gannon, there is also information about Orangutans – the name comes from Malay words for human ‘orang’ and forest ‘utan’- about deforestation for the production of palm oil and about campaigning for change.

International Orangutan Day takes place on August 19 each year, in the lead up to this, what plans and activities can you make to help share the plight of these magnificent creatures far and wide through your libraries and amongst readers?

 

 

Tags:  activities  environment  reading  reading for pleasure 

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A Climate In Chaos

Posted By Jacob Hope, 13 May 2020
Updated: 13 May 2020

YLG is delighted to be included in Neal Layton's blog tour for his new book A Climate in Chaos.

 

It’s easy to underestimate the capacity each of us has to impact on our world.  In A Climate in Chaos Neal Layton explores the effects humanity and our actions have upon the environment.  It’s an impressively wide-reaching book carefully explaining the difference between weather and climate, the conditions which enabled life to develop on earth and the fragile equilibrium that sustains this.

 

There is a massive amount for curious minds to discover and explore in the book from a simplified version of the carbon cycle to the threat that climate change poses for various animals and their habitats.  It would be easy for a book of this kind to be heavy-handed and didactic in its messaging, but gentle guidance around small actions that can result in big change together with Layton’s vibrant, lively mixed-media illustrations make this an endearingly child-centred which feels both empowering and inspiring. 

 

We all have our part to play in achieving any kind of change and A Climate in Chaos offers an informative and inspiring early introduction to the subject with rich and ample opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning.

Readers who enjoy the book and are looking to explore more may also enjoy:

 

Jeannie Baker                                                                    Window

Jess French                                                                         What a Waste

Neal Layton                                                                        A Planet full of Plastic

Zoe Tucker, illustrated by Zoe Persico                          Greta and the Giants

 

 

Tags:  cllimate change  environment  learning  reading 

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Challenging Times - a guest blog by Justin Somper

Posted By Jacob Hope, 06 May 2020

We are delighted to welcome Justin Somper, bestselling author of the Vampirates novels to the YLG blog to talk about his recent trip to Australia, his wedding, the challenges that he faced with the unravelling Covid-19 and how this fed the idea of devising a series of creative challenges.

 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

 

Saturday March 14th 2020. I’m standing barefoot on Redgate Beach in Margaret River. This glorious region of the Western Australian coast is celebrated in equal measure for its surfing beaches and wineries. Alongside me, also barefoot, is my partner PJ. Before us are arrayed a gaggle of family and close friends. To our left is Anita, our celebrant. After fourteen years together, eleven as civil partners, PJ and I are “upgrading” (now that it’s legal) to marriage.

 

This isn’t entirely the Australian beach wedding I was promised! Beach – tick. Barefoot – tick. A select gathering of our nearest and dearest - tick. But where’s the afternoon sun? It’s been raining on and off for most of the day. As we drove to the beach - in our friend’s uncle’s vintage Jag! - the rainfall became more persistent. We’ve all got umbrellas – several of them borrowed in haste from the reception of our guest house. Anita has brought her own - a rainbow one.

 

As the brief but beautiful ceremony progresses, the rain becomes heavier. By the time we are signing the wedding certificate, on a nearby rock, we’re deploying multiple umbrellas to keep the paper dry. We sip locally produced fizz to the sound of Kylie singing All the Lovers from a tiny speaker, then throw our umbrellas – and caution – aside, and allow the heavens to thoroughly drench us. It feels like we’re in a movie – an Aussie spin on Mamma Mia. Anita tells me that the rain is a good omen. It means the marriage knot will be tighter.

 

The morning after the wedding, reality hits like the heaviest hangover and the movie we’re living in – along with the rest of the planet – is suddenly something far more dystopian. It’s now clear that we’re not going to be able to fly out the next day to Tasmania, to see my father-in-law, nor from there to a weekend of friend catch-ups in Melbourne – in case we get stranded in either location. A more fundamental question looms as we drive back to Perth. What if we aren’t going to be able to get back to the UK?

 

The question hangs over us throughout the next week. Now that we’ve cut out the week of interstate travels, we find ourselves with time on our hands in Perth – and, surreally, the freedom to move around WA. Australia is well behind the UK in terms of cases of Covid-19 and there aren’t even social distancing measures in place yet – simply scrums in the supermarkets to secure loo roll and liquid soap, pasta and porridge oats.

 

That week, we drive up the coast to Cervantes (I love a town named after a writer, don’t you? *), to the Pinnacles and Nambung National Park, to Scarborough and Hillarys Boat Harbour. With the brilliant revamp of my Vampirates books by UCLan Publishing in March, it was always our intention to capitalise on the sun-drenched Australian coast to record some short films to deploy on social media at a later date. Now we have time and space to do this, but it feels oddly frivolous to record the standard Q&A about characters and inspiration.

 

I’m aware of the brilliant resources illustrators including Steven Lenton and Rob Biddulph are creating for kids on social media – and now in these unprecedented circumstances, it feels all the more vital for parents, librarians and teachers. I begin thinking about what I can offer in a similar vein. The answer comes to me while we’re out and about. How about I issue some bite-sized creative challenges to young people which they can engage with, whether or not they have read my books? Buoyed on this wave of positive energy, we spontaneously film three challenges that day at Hillarys.

 

The next day is a tough one. The UK is about to go into lockdown. My sister texts me, “come home now!”. My brother simultaneously texts, “stay there!”. We can’t get Trailfinders or Qantas on the phone. We start drawing up lists of contingencies. Can our dog-sitter continue to care for Bella, our beloved black lab? Can we get a mortgage holiday if necessary? What items would we need retrieved from our home office if we had to set up remote working from here?

 

PJ suggests I take a break from this and focus instead on a list of Vampirate Challenges, which rather than being random will work in a coherent sequence. I’m hot. My brain is frazzled. My emotions are see-sawing. But I really want to do this. I want to make the most of the amazing location and I really want to make a positive contribution to the daily lives of children and parents entering this incredibly odd and scary set of circumstances. I pull it together over lunch and confirm there will be a sequence of 15 challenges! That very afternoon, we head to one of our favourite spots – City Beach. There, to my amazement, we record four of the short challenge films. I had a cry earlier and I’m wondering if that’s noticeable. It’s not the mood I want to project through these short films. I want them to be fun, inspiring and maybe, as a result of the locations, a tad soothing too. PJ assures me that I don’t look upset, just maybe a bit hot and red!

 

When we finally get Trailfinders on the phone, they strongly advise us to stick with the flight we always planned to return home on – the flight everyone wants – direct from Perth to London, departing Friday evening. But what if they cancel all flights by then? It’s a risk but, at this point, we realise that it’s a risk we’re going to have to take.

 

Within all the craziness of the following 5 days – trying not to dwell on the ‘what ifs?’, contending with increasingly stressful calls home and the beginnings of the goodbyes to our family and friends here – I find that making these short films is grounding me. My writing has always been a place of escape for me and I guess with my Vampirates books, it’s a world where readers and I can escape together. I’m relishing being back in that world. I’m enjoying this sense of connecting directly with my readers. I’ve always loved going into schools and festivals, whether to talk or conduct workshops, and what I’m doing here - in the dunes, at the harbours, in the searing heat around the Maritime Museum in Fremantle – feels like it’s harnessing that same impulse. I just hope people won’t be irked by the sight of me moving around freely in the Australian sunshine.

 

Friday March 27th – late afternoon. Perth airport is surreal, silent and largely empty. Every other seat is covered in black and yellow hazard tape like a crime scene. The few passengers are edgy. Many sport face masks. After a couple of eleventh hour scares, we are sitting in our seats on flight QF09. This will be the last direct flight out of Australia. The air crew are professional and upbeat despite the pervasive fraughtness. One of the stewardesses learns we have just got married and brings glasses of fizz to our seats. Our seventeen-hour flight commences. Before you know it, we’re eating cottage pie, watching Jumanji 2 in perfect synchrony, trying to make out like everything’s normal. But it isn’t. But you know that.

* In the interests of full accuracy, I have to acknowledge that the town of Cervantes was named after a ship, which was wrecked nearby. The ship, in turn, was named after Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.

 

You can find Justin Somper’s #Vampiratechallenges every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (all @JustinSomper) and the full sequence of challenge videos at vampirates.co.uk/videos.

 

Whilst in Australia, Justin was also able to record a “Ten Minute Writing Challenge” for Authorfy, which you can find along with a host of other resources at authorfy.com.

 

New editions of the first three Vampirates novels - Demons of the Ocean, Tide of Terror and Blood Captain – are available now from UCLan Publishing. They each contain bonus content including new stories, new artwork and Reading Group Questions from Jake Hope.

 

 

 

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Tags:  creativity  reading development  Reading for Pleasure 

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Being a Child of Books - L D Lapinski

Posted By Jacob Hope, 28 April 2020

The Youth Libraries Group are delighted to welcome L D Lapinski to talk about a lifetime of reading and escapism and how this has influenced her novel The Strangeworlds Travel Agency book in with us now to discover more as YLG's part of her blog tour.  A big thank you to L D Lapinski for writing such a superbly engaging feature.

 

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is a book of escapes. The main character, Flick, longs to escape from what she sees as a dull and repetitive existence. Her new friend, Jonathan, wants to escape from responsibility he neither asked for nor expected. And there are other, less genial characters, looking for escapes of their own.

Escapism has always been a selling point for me when it comes to books. I spend so much of my time worrying about things that are happening in the real world that when it comes to choosing art to enjoy, I want to settle down with something that’s happening in a galaxy far, far away, or even further. And right now, I am extremely keen to escape in any way I can. Stories have never been more important, in whatever form we choose to access them. Books, film, TV, video games – all of them offer escapes into other worlds, where we either craft stories of our own, or choose to lose ourselves in someone else’s for a while. I suppose, too, there is some sort of safety and comfort to be taken from seeing conflict happening where it can’t get you – like when you’re at school and there’s a fight happening but you’re up high and safe, so it’s ok to shout advice down!

I am a child of books. My entire childhood was a journey of travelling from book to book, world to magical world. I loved anything magical, anything where our world was infiltrated and set alongside a more magical one. The idea that adventure was merely a step away was something I’ve always loved reading about, and always wanted to write about, too. I used to write “books” all the time at the table, folding paper and writing stories about a frog named Pip who lived in a tree house and flew a little aeroplane around. As I got older, I kept on writing what was often poorly-disguised Lord of the Rings fanfiction before moving back to making up original stories of my own. And they were always about magic, in some form or another. And, more often than not, set in other worlds. But how to get there… that was something I’d never really figured out!

As much as I love books where there is one other secret or magical world behind the curtain, I’m much more of a fan of a multiverse, or myriad of worlds. I have always loved how, in His Dark Materials, Will has access to an infinite number of worlds when he uses The Subtle Knife. And the whole concept of him being the custodian of all those worlds – and yet able to step into them at any time – was something that played on my mind for years. The responsibility of keeping the worlds safe comes at great cost to Will, and I wondered how that might work if such a responsibility was handed down in a family. And what might happen if someone who wasn’t a part of that family suddenly knew about the secrets. I also very much wanted to make access to the worlds contained in one place. Somewhat like Narnia, where the portals are in definite places, but instead of each one taking you only to one specific world, there could be many possibilities. The whole idea of using suitcases was not one that I consciously set out to craft – it came to me suddenly, and the idea of other-worlds-in-storage suddenly had a place to land.

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency is the product of a lifetime of reading, of stories in all forms. It is a book I never sat down and planned, because it’s almost as though it has been slowing coming into existence for my whole life. The portals, the magic, and other worlds, have all been percolating in the back of my mind without me really knowing it. Which, ultimately, is the real magic of books – they inspire. Perhaps not instantly. Perhaps not consciously. But they are catalysts of imagination, each and every one. I am privileged to have grown up in a household where books were available, where the library was (and still is) in the village to be visited with ease. I am dreaming of the day libraries are open again, so I might see The Strangeworlds Travel Agency on one of their shelves. It is the result of a lifetime being in love with stories, and it is my hope that it will become part of another child’s reading journey, wherever that might take them.

 

 

Tags:  children's books  Reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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World Book Night Interview with Emma Perry

Posted By Jacob Hope, 23 April 2020

It's World Book Night and the Youth Libraries Group have a full day of celebrations planned.  How will you be celebrating and what will you be reading?  Dolet us know.  You can join in with our celebrations by checking out the hourly broadcasts for the #NationalShelfService on YouTube, ask or answer a question using #DrBook on Twitter and enjoy the virtual storytime and talk with award-winning poet and author Joseph Coelho broadcasting via the #NationalShelfService at 7pm.  As if all of that weren't enough, we've been talking with Founder of My Book Corner and picture-book author Emma Perry.  If you haven't read I Don't Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. we can definitely recommend it.  Thanks Emma for your time!

 

What are your first memories of books and reading?

Without a shadow of a doubt my first memory of books as child would have to be Where The Wild Things Are. I can still remember that being read to us at playgroup. That final line… sigh!

As a teenager I can remember cycling back and forth to our library during the long summer holidays, maxing out my library card each time! I liked nothing better than sinking into a good book, even then!

 

Are there any authors and illustrators that you particularly admire and who have influenced your work?

I spent five years in Australia immersed in picture books, during that time I fell head over heels in love with the illustrative styles of Anna Walker, Marc Martin, Dub Leffler and Gus Gordon in particular – go and have a look at their work, it’s heart thumpingly good.

A bit closer to home I adore the brilliantly bonkers humour of Michelle Robinson’s books (and her fab ability to rhyme), and I most definitely can NOT walk past a David Litchfield illustrated book without stopping to admire the contents. I’m on tenterhooks waiting for the next picture book from Jessica Love to emerge, she’s been putting sneak peeks on Instagram and it’s EVERYthing!

I also love having a chuckle with books that have that great tongue in cheek style humour. Jon Klassen and Morag Hood always hit the spot for me. I am full of admiration for their deliciously low word count, which in no way impedes their ability to tell a top-notch story. I have been finding that my own scripts have got shorter and shorter over the last 18 months or so, there is something deeply satisfying about creating a book with a low word count.

 

Do you have a favourite place to read?

My favourite place to read has got to be the sofa or my bed – squishy, cosy and space to streeeetch out my legs!

 

Can you tell us a bit about your debut picture book I Don't like Books. Never. Ever. The End?

I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End was the second picture book script that I ever began to write, back in 2015. I was just getting into writing, and everything I’d read said to ‘write what you know’. Well, with many years of running My Book Corner under my belt there could only be one answer to that question… books! Of course!

I wanted to write about books coming to life, I tried to imagine what they would do and say. Initial drafts of this script were… terrible!

The words did not behave, and they found themselves unceremoniously dumped in a dark and dusty drawer for a loooooong time. For over a year in the end. By the time I had the courage to take them out again I had learnt a lot more about writing picture books, had a lot more practise, and my first picture book had been sold to David Fickling Books. With newfound confidence I set about a complete overhaul – it’s barely recognisable from those first drafts. My agent liked the new draft, then David Fickling Books liked it, bought it, and found the superbly talented illustrator Sharon Davey… and here it is!

 

What’s next for you?

What’s next? Well remember I said about that first picture book script being sold to David Fickling Books? That very first script that I wrote, somehow had a lot of luck woven into it… it won the SCBWI Slushpile Competition and lead to an agent… and will be published on the 4th June this year! This Book Has Alpacas and Bears has had quite a journey, and it does feel like a weird time for Alfonso and Colin to be leaping onto the shelves, but, you know what? Rikin Parekh and I are hoping the pair of them will provide plenty of giggles for those who read their story. They may even inspire children to go out and create their very own book, just like Alfonso does!

 

Emma Perry is the founder of children’s book review website, My Book Corner. She was the winner of the SCBWI Slush Pile Challenge in April 2016 and is represented by Jodie Hodges, United Agents.  

Sharon Davey is an illustrator and designer, represented by Plum Pudding Illustration.

I Don’t Like Books. Never. Ever. The End. is published by David Fickling Books | Hardback | £11.99

Twitter: @_EmmaPerry; Sharon Davey @thecreativefox

@DFB_storyhouse

 

 

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Tags:  Books  National Shelf Service  Reading  Reading for Pleasure  World Book Night 

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World Book Night and the National Shelf Service

Posted By Jacob Hope, 22 April 2020
Updated: 22 April 2020

The lockdown has seen a massive surge of interest in public library joining figures and in e-lending.  The National Shelf Service is intended as means to help to promote books and reading, to showcase the expertise and knowledge of librarians and also to help parents, carers, teachers and young people themselves connect with some truly incredible reads!  

 

We are delighted that on World Book Night we will be hosting a special day of activity.  From 11.00am until 7.00pm we will have recommendations on the hour each one themed in some way around books, reading, stories and libraries!  At 7.00pm we will have a special online storytime with award-winning children's poet and author Joseph Coelho followed by a short talk with him about why libraries have meant so much to him as well as his exciting membership tour of libraries around the UK!

 

The final recommendation of the day will happen at 8.00pm.  Throughout the day we will also be on Twitter giving book recommendations using the Twitter handle #DrBook do join us and help to make World Book Night a special celebration of books, reading, stories and libraries!

 

Join us on Twitter @youthlibraries and at the #NationalShelfService YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPUIqlJM0aieXdq-LxKDvWA

 

 

 

 

Tags:  National Shelf Service  Reading  Reading Development  Reading for Pleasure  YouTube 

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The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley Blog Tour

Posted By Jacob Hope, 11 April 2020
Updated: 11 April 2020

The Youth Libraries Group are delighted to be part of the blog tour for Amber Lee Dodd's The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley.  The book sees the Bradley family besieged by a curse which results in every house they live in being destroyed.  On moving to his thirteenth home, Noah is determined things will be different...  Throughout the blog tour, Amber has been exploring different curses as they appear in fiction and history.  Here she discusses Beauty and the Beast.

 

This was one of the very first movies I ever saw. I remember loving the teapot and being ever so slightly scared of the beast. Beauty and the Beast is another classic morality tale. With a curse created to punish and teach a character a lesson. During a storm, an old beggar woman arrives at a castle during a ball. She offers the host, a cruel and selfish prince, a rose in return for shelter. When he refuses, the old woman reveals herself to be a beautiful enchantress. And then swiftly punishes the Prince for his selfishness by transforming him into a terrible monster and his servants into household objects. She casts a spell on the rose too and warns the prince that the curse will only be broken if he learns to love another, and earn their love in return before the last petal falls, or he will remain a beast forever. Spoiler, it all ends alright, much to my younger selves disappointment. I remember being very upset when the lovely talking teacups turned back into boring people and the scary beast ended up being a standard handsome prince.

 

Explore some of the other curses Amber has been discussing and don't forget to check out her brilliant new novel The Thirteenth Home of Noah Bradley.

 

 

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Tags:  Blog Tour  Reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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