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Making a Difference - an account of the Youth Libraries Group Conference

Posted By Jacob Hope, 04 December 2018

Kevin Sheehan, School Librarian of the Year 2010, was the winner of the inaugural Klaus Flugge bursary.  The bursary was set up thanks to the generosity of Klaus Flugge of Andersen Press and allows a librarian to attend the Youth Libraries Group Annual conference as a fully paid delegate.  In times of constraint for both school and public libraries, this is an act that can make a real difference to individuals and to their practices, just as libraries themselves are able to make a huge difference the lives and aspirations of those using them.


On a serious note I was really experiencing a mid-job mid-life crisis when I applied for the Klaus Flugge bursary that successfully enabled me to attend the Youth Library Group conference.  Actually, I was on the brink where I questioned whether I wanted to carry on as a School Librarian in the future.  Constantly being barraged by headlines in the media really has had an negative impact on my own mental health.  What have I got to contribute? Are there going to be School Librarians in the future?  Am I good enough? 

This year’s theme was on Reading the Future examining the impact of libraries on children and young people.  My tote bag said it all ‘It all starts with Enid Blyton’, which I felt on reflection was like some kind of karma.  Enid Blyton did not just provide me with escapism, away from the 1980’s plastic monotony during my formative years, but more notably made me fall in love with books, libraries and librarians.  So, it was exactly like going full circle!

 

"We are all the same when wearing pyjamas."



It was an understatement to say that this year’s three day conference was jam packed.  There was so much for me to hear, see and experience, and I was determined to savour every single moment of this time.  Again, another understatement to say it was all brilliant.  However, if I was to identify three key moments it would be:

-         Melvin Burgess, Sharon Dogar, Juno Dawson and Sally Nicholls panel discussion examining  women’s representation within young adult fiction.  Melvin really summed it up as ‘childhood is a peculiar prison’.  However, what is very clear is that publishers, authors and librarians create a freedom where positive female characters, whether that be from past, present or future, can have and regain power.

-         Whoever thought of the Enid Blyton midnight feast deserves a sainthood.  It pulled together the whole cohort of the publishing and library world in such a fun and spontaneous way!  We are all same when wearing pyjamas.    I don’t think I have ever experienced anything as hilarious and well-spirited at a conference previously.

-         Jackie Morris provided a very emotionally satisfying conclusion to the conference exploring the importance in exploring visual literacy through wildlife and nature.  It was a very special experience listening to Jackie on how the best ideas come from the silence of voice.  I also felt very privileged obtaining a signed copy of ‘Lost Words’ personalised with my very own badger.

 

Jake Hope advocated in both his opening and closing speech that it was important to go away from the conference, then put the inspiration and experiences into practice.  Actually, I have to say that I have done this repeatedly since being back at school.  It is not just myself but also others have seen the positive energy that this conference has instilled into my whole being.  There has not been a murmur of those constant negative mumblings that I experienced prior to the conference.  It has really made me happy and positive for the future.  I really do believe that School Librarians have a lasting impact on lives.  Thank you for making me believe in myself again.

Tags:  conference  Klaus Flugge Bursary  reading  reading for pleasure  school libraries 

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The C word is coming - are you ready?

Posted By Helen Thompson, 30 November 2018
I know, we aren't quite into December yet, but I've had my advent calendar up for a week to promote the advent competition. It is really quite simple: Write a book review and hand it in to the librarian. The first book review of the day opens that day's advent window (all book recommendations) Get 3 achievement stamps, a chocolate, and a baffle ticket (thanks to Amy McKay for the baffle ticket idea!). Every morning the previous day's baffle tickets are entered into a prize draw - the winner gets to select a gift from the sparkly gift box! On the last day of term all of the baffle tickets are put into a final prize draw to win the ultimate prize - Christmas Monopoly! I have tried everything to get book reviews out of the students, but it looks as if this will finally work! Several have already been written, ready to hand in on Monday. I'm hoping the momentum (and the achievement stamps) will keep them coming long after Christmas has been and gone. The tree - complete with student-made book themed decorations - will go up on Monday, and the Christmas Blind Date with a Book display will go up, alongside the display of new and seasonal books. Even our Library Ravens are starting to feel Christmassy! Ho Ho Ho!

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Love Reading... love Reviewing? Don't Miss this Great Opportunity!

Posted By Jacob Hope, 28 November 2018
Updated: 28 November 2018

The Youth Libraries Group is delighted to develop a relationship with LoveReading.  It's LoveReading's mission to get more people reading by exciting and enthusing them about the best books.  LoveReading4Schools is a critical part of this and one they take very seriously.  As a community they believe they have a social responsibility to support time-strapped teachers and librarians in schools to help engender a life-long love of learning and students.

To this end, LoveReading are re-launching LoveReading4Schools this December and have an exciting opportunity for anyone interesting in becoming a Librarian Reviewer for them.  The new website comes with tons of added functionality and will have a fully updated set of reading recommendation lists for every year group from Early Years to YA books. In addition, they will be regularly publishing other lists of great relevance and importance for schools today including lists of Inspirational Books, Cultural Books, Reluctant Readers Recommendations and Mental Health and Wellbeing.

LoveReading’s job is one of curation, presenting a selected list of regular reading recommendations for their audiences. These selections are delivered by the team of editorial experts and are complemented by their consumer reading review panels.

This partnership will now include us working with them to help recruit a Librarian Panel of Reviewers. This panel will work with LoveReading to review books supplied by publishers, with the aim of them then choosing Librarian’s Books of the Month.

If you are a current YLG member and interested in becoming part of their panel, you can sign up here.

 

 

Tags:  Children's Books  Children's Literature  Reading  Reviewing 

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A Charity Calendar for 2019 . . .

Posted By Administration, 16 October 2018

 

For the past few years Peter Sheldon, (YLG Hon Member and all round Good Egg!) now retired from active bookselling service, has been working with illustrator friends, at their request, to produce a calendar for charity. Each year they generously provide him with original artwork. The 2019 talented team features Quentin Blake, Tony Ross, Jane Ray, 

David McKee, Ruth Brown, Michael Foreman, Catherine Anholt, Arthur Robins, Colin McNaughton, Mary McQuillan, Colin Hawkins, Hanne Bartholin and Shoo Rayner. There’s plenty of room to write up your daily appointments, and it even boasts a generous helping of wit and humour!

 

The charity in question for the past 3 years has been Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s Farms for City Children, and we can supply a copy of the cover if you would like to see it. If you would like to support the venture and buy in to the project - and our fingers remain crossed – please do the following:

 

You need to email: anne.marley@tiscali.co.uk. Please either send a cheque with your order (payable to E.A. Marley) to 8 Bolderwood Close, Bishopstoke, Eastleigh SO50 8PG   or use BACS: Account no: 40214168 Sort code: 30-99-71 and put your surname as the Reference, plus ‘Cal’. You will also have to email me with your name and address and how many calendars you would like to buy. I cannot accept any orders without payment attached this year, sorry. Can you please indicate that you saw it in the YLG newsletter.

 

The Friends Calendar costs £7.95 each, which includes post and packagingand could be perfect for that elusive Christmas present!

We do hope you have been tempted, and look forward to hearing from you by November 16th and Calendars will be distributed by early December.

 

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Only the YLG!

Posted By Jacob Hope, 09 October 2018
To mark National Libraries Week, Samantha Lockett recounts her experiences at the  Youth Libraries Group conference.  Samantha won the bursary kindly sponsored by Browns Books for Students. Her account is a powerful reminder of the importance of training and development within the profession.

The theme of this year’s Youth Libraries Group conference was Reading the Future. Sponsored by Enid Blyton Entertainment, it was a celebration of the old and new, looking back on childhood favourites – such as Blyton – while discussing how these can be reimagined for modern audiences. Alongside the nostalgia, there was a sense of immediacy, an awareness that children’s fiction, literacy and libraries must be fought for. The conference explored many of the key issues in contemporary children’s fiction – such as the rights and representation of women, the need for diverse and inclusive books and the promotion of empathy. Throughout the conference, authors, panelists, poets and publishers stressed the importance of reading for pleasure. Reading may not be an instant joy to all children, but with enough support it can become one.  

Within minutes of arriving at the Mercure hotel, I found myself part of a group marching towards Central Library in the torrential Manchester rain. As a visitor to the city, I had only ever ducked into the library, too intimidated by the grand architecture and swish café to do more than browse the gift shop. The tour was an eye-opening experience, giving us backstage (backstacks?) access to the many hidden wonders of the library, including the restoration room and archives. As you might expect from a collective of children’s librarians, we were reluctant to move on from the Children’s Library with its delightful Secret Garden theme, but with lunch imminent we said goodbye to Central Library and headed back. The conference was about to begin. 

That first day, I overheard somebody say, ‘Only the YLG!’. As I watched the opening courtroom skit – three librarians dressed in wigs and gowns, interrogating a series of witnesses, including Anthony McGowan and Non Pratt, about what makes a reader, I could understand why. Only at the YLG Conference. As the weekend went on, it became my internal refrain. Ginger beer cocktails? Only the YLG. A midnight feast? Only the YLG. A lollipop shaped like the decapitated head of Frankenstein’s monster? Only the YLG! One of the things I most enjoyed about the conference was that it encouraged people to have fun, to be a little silly. The poet Matt Goodfellow got an entire room of bookish people to act out his poem Chicken on the Roof. Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre had us in hysterics as they led a group drawing session of Kevin, the flying pony hero of their new book. Audience participation – one of the most feared phrases in the English language – was met with applause. What wizardry was this?! 

With such a jam-packed programme, I was worried about sensory overload. However, the programming worked extremely well, mixing formats – a panel followed by a poetry performance followed by a publisher roadshow – to great effect. I particularly enjoyed the tea break sessions; thirty minutes of listening to brilliant authors while eating themed-snacks may be my new favourite thing in life. On the second day, delegates were given a choice of breakout sessions to attend. I chose ‘Literacy by Stealth’ – a discussion of how the Book Bench project and Read Manchester initiatives have engaged disadvantaged communities in Manchester, increasing tourism and library visits – and ‘Life Online’ – a two-part session delivered by CILIP’s Andrew Walsh and the author Nicola Morgan about information literacy and the preconceptions we hold about teenagers and technology. I found both sessions to be hugely informative, giving practical advice, such as how to reach underrepresented groups and forge connections with partner organisations, that I have since followed in my own library. Another session that I thoroughly enjoyed detailed the painstaking creation of the children’s poetry book, I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year. The book’s illustrator, Frann Preston Gannon, and its publisher, Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow, took us through the stages of its creation, from early sketches to the final cover art. It was astonishing to see how much work – and passion – went into producing the book.  As I walked around the Exhibition Room, where publishers showcased their new and upcoming releases, I had a greater appreciation for… books. For everyone who plays a part in making them. I was so excited that children and young adults would soon be reading these incredible titles, and, as a public library, we would be doing our part in providing them. 

Frank Cottrell-Boyce made me cry. He may also have made a nun cry, if his opening anecdote was anything to go by. His keynote speech was so full of sincerity, humour and wild, unrepentant bookish love, that my notes became a scribbled explosion of his quotes. My favourite is this: ‘only books catch all the voices’. Books, according to Cottrell-Boyce, stand for complication. There is a democracy to books. This, I believe, is one of the key themes of the conference. Reading the Future does not mean forgetting the past. In his closing speech, YLG Chair Jake Hope mentioned that he always intended for illustrator and author, Jackie Morris, to be the final act of the conference. Co-created with Robert Macfarlane, her book – The Lost Words – brings lost words back into being. It is a beautiful book, full of Macfarlane’s “spells” and Morris’ uncanny illustrations. Watching Morris paint an otter into life was an experience I will never forget. It showed how books, as tangible, living things, can bring people together. Not just a conference room of strangers, but families and classrooms and communities. What wizardry indeed.  

I would need another thousand words to write about all the other wonderful things I saw at the YLG Conference. Or maybe ten thousand words, including the words I SAW MALORIE BLACKMAN AND SHE SPOKE KLINGON. As it is, I will just say thank you to Browns Books for Students for the bursary, and to the YLG committee for organising it all. It was absolutely brilliant. 


Samantha Lockett is a Library Assistant at Holmes Chapel Library in Cheshire East. She is currently studying for an MA in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. 
 
 

Tags:  Conference  libraries  National Libraries Week  professional development  reading  reading the future. bursary  training 

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Great School Libraries Campaign

Posted By Administration, 02 October 2018

I seem to have spent the majority of my career caring about, and campaigning for, school libraries.  So I am delighted both to be involved with this campaign and to support it – a full 3 year campaign can only be a good thing!

The campaign is spearheaded by SLA, CILIP SLG and CILIP. The campaign has three aims: to secure school library funding; to produce a national framework for school libraries and recognition of school libraries within the Ofsted framework. 

The Campaign working group will be aiming to engage all potential stakeholders – whether that’s school library staff, parents, and school leadership or decision makers in government. All children deserve a great school library because adequately funded, staffed school libraries deliver enhanced and independent learning as well as reading and curriculum support. School libraries contribute to building lifelong readers and support whole school initiatives promoting reading for pleasure.

Evidence also suggests school libraries:

  • Lead to higher qualifications/attainment
  • Promote a better quality of life
  • Generate improved results 
  • Alleviate pressure on health and mental health services
  • Alleviate teacher workload
  • Increase efficiency for schools
  • Contribute to the delivery of a well-rounded education
  • Deliver and teach essential Information/critical literacy skills to combat fake news and engender independent learning 

Throughout the course of the campaign the School Library Data Group will be collecting evidence in order to show the huge variety of ways that UK based school libraries contribute to better outcomes for every child. 

We all have a role to play in supporting our Great School Libraries. To find out more go to: www.greatschoollibraries.edublogs.org

The campaign are delighted to release the first batch of resources:

  • A set of two posters highlighting why school libraries are important designed by Carel Press.
  • Photoboard – either print it off and write in it why school libraries are important, or cut out the middle and take a picture of you supporting the campaign. Tweet with the reason why #greatschoollibraries deserve support. School staff could use it as the basis of a display in the library and get pupils and parents to contribute
  • case study template and example – show the impact a school library can have by contributing a case study. It could be you, or it could be someone you know. There’s an example to give you an idea of how it’ll work – and as you’ll see – it needn’t be perfect! 

The campaign would also like to invite school staff to take part in discussions that will contribute to building the national framework and defining what a ‘Great School Library’ actually is. Get involved by Tweeting (#greatschoollibraries; @cilipslg; @uksla), Facebooking (search for School Library Association (UK)) or commenting on the website. 

 Here are some of the questions the campaign is discussing at the moment:

  1. What makes a great school library?
  2. What elements of school librarianship do you think should be in a national framework?
  3. What topic do you think would be of interest to you/your school library staff member?

Our colleagues in Scotland have created a framework for showing impact: https://scottishlibraries.org/advice-guidance/how-good-is-our-school-library/ – check it out!

Get involved!  Sign up for updates and generally make a commitment to a better future of all our children.

Tags:  school libraries 

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The Children's Books Which Still Make Me Laugh Out Loud - Pete Johnson

Posted By Jacob Hope, 19 September 2018

We are delighted that Pete Johnson, author of multi award-winning titles like The Ghost Dog and How to Train Your Parents is joining this year's Youth Libraries Group Conference to discuss funny books.  Here he talks about some of the books that made him laugh as a child and continue to provide mirth and merriment.  Which books made you laugh as a child and do they continue to do so today?


Writing this,  I only have to look up, to see them massed across two shelves. Some are rather shabby and battered now, but they have travelled through time with me.

For these are my most treasured children’s books. The ones which cast such a spell, they made me a reader. And many of them are funny stories.

Now, if you’d come across me when I was eight or nine, I doubt if you’d have described me as fizzing with comic energy. I was a painfully shy,  fearful boy. ‘Look at people when they’re speaking to you,’ my mum would say. But I found that very hard. I was much happier mumbling away to my shoes.

This at least, was the outward me. But as soon as I could escape the tyranny of what other people called ‘real life’ I was off travelling the countryside with my irrepressible alter ego, William Brown.

One night while reading a William book I caused my parents to come tearing up the stairs. They’d heard a noise. What had happened?  It was very simple. I’d been laughing so hard at William and the Princess Goldilocks (from William the Pirate) I’d fallen out of bed. My parents were so pleased to see me smiling and free from my usual anxiety they didn’t say a word. In fact, they helped me buy all thirty eight of the Just William books by Richmal Crompton. William’s anarchic spirit called up something in me, as well as his optimism and resilience and sense of purpose.

I collected every one of the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge too. He was similarly bold and impetuous, never deliberately causing trouble but still leaving a hilarious trail of accidents and disasters. The moment when Jennings accidentally stuck his head in the railings, while attemping to photograph a squirrel never failed to make me fall about helplessly.

I re-read the William and Jennings stories over and over, marvelling not only at the brilliant characters but the witty dialogue and careful way they were structured. I suppose I was starting to analyse them.

 But mainly, I was a boy who, left to his own devices, could swiftly fill his head with gloomy thoughts. In fact, I could depress myself in seconds. And there was only one antidote.

 Another book which always lifted my spirits was Holiday at the Dew Drop Inn, by Eve Garnett. Here, my favourite character from the One End Street books – Kate Ruggles – spends two glorious months in the country. Now Kate was more than a bit like me – earnest, bookish, eager not to give offence. The book’s humorous tone, gently mocks Kate’s endless worrying and anxiousness and I suppose in laughing at Kate I was also beginning to laugh at myself.

Anyway, I finally started to become more confident. My secret self, so far hidden from everyone but my fictional friends began to shakily emerge. There were even moments when I’d been glimpsed looking cheerful, happy even. But then – disaster.

When I was twelve we moved away. And I was plunged into a new school, at which I felt instantly out of place. Soon a horrible cloud of misery settled over me and clung to me unceasingly every day. I’d  never felt more isolated. 

But at my lowest point help, once more, was at hand. I came across an Armada paperback. (Hands up who remembers Armada books?) called Mike and Psmith by P.G Wodehouse. The cover featured a boy in cricket whites and another reclining in a chair – wearing of all things, a monocle. It didn’t appeal to me at all. I nearly stopped there. But standing in the bookshop I read the first page. That was enough. I was hooked. I sat up half the night finishing it.

There was something to make me laugh on every page. But best of all there was the author’s beguiling voice. And long after I’d put the book down, I still had this big smile on my face. Next day I tore to the library to see what else P.G.Wodehouse had written. And there was a shelf and a half of Wodehouse treasures. So began a golden chapter in my life. Whenever I was feeling down I reached for Wodehouse or Edward Eager.

Eager is best known for Half  Magic, a wonderfully inventive and funny book about a magic coin, which makes wishes come half true! This became a favourite escape read.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered several other hardback Edward Eager books for sale at my local library – 20p each. I bought all six of them. I’ve never made a better deal. The books captivated me and especially Seven Day Magic, which has a great central idea: library books are magic. Soon  this book is taking the characters to their favourite fictional worlds.

As with Wodehouse, it was Edward Eager’s voice – wry, quizzical, often  dryly humorous – which especially delighted me. And that’s why I wrote to him c/o his publishers to say how brilliant and brilliantly funny his books were and ask what else had he written as I was extremely keen to read them. I knew he lived in America, so I expected a bit of a wait for a reply.

But, in fact, it came almost by return of post. It was from his publisher to thank me for my enthusiastic appreciation – but to tell me., Edward Eager had died back in 1963 (at the age of just 52 of lung cancer,  I later discovered) and the seven books I mentioned were the only ones he’d written.

I felt as if I’d lost a friend. And a friend who’d helped me get past the towering misfortune of having to change schools.

That’s why books which make you laugh are so special. They are the ones which reach right out to you. They go on doing that for me today. I only have to open any of these titles at random and within a very few pages I am laughing out loud. And there’s a rush of joy as they cast their spell all over again.

Tags:  children's literature  conference  funny  history  laughter  reading  Reading for Pleasure 

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What is on our Bookshelves - an opinion piece by author Miriam Halahmy

Posted By Jacob Hope, 18 September 2018
Updated: 18 September 2018

 

At the Youth Libraries Group Conference, Miriam Halahmy will be speaking on a panel with Candy Gourlay in discussion with Chloe Germaine Buckley from Manchester Metropolitan University talking about unconscious bias, cultural appropriation and colonial influences in children's literature and collections of these.  Here Miriam talks about her time as Head of Special Needs at a school in Camden.

 

In 1981 I was Head of Special Needs in a Camden secondary school and The Rampton Report on the education of children from ethnic minorities was published. The recommendations of that report had a huge impact. Our school had many children of Asian and African Caribbean descent as well as many other cultural backgrounds. As a staff we were concerned to promote a multicultural society and the classroom as a microcosm of that society.

 

One of Rampton’s recommendations was that teachers review all books and materials and assess them for appropriateness in today’s multicultural society. I remember so well the day I went back to my classroom, looked through my tiny library and threw away those books which presented a negative view of children from a different culture.  It was a painful process as we had no money to replace them but there was no way I would have left such books on my shelves anymore.

 

A recent report stated that only 1% of children’s books have a BAME main character and only 4% have any BAME characters. Is that because we threw our books away 30 years ago?

 

No, of course not.

 

But our work embracing the multicultural society – valuing each child and the cultural background they brought with them, displaying world maps to showing where everyone came from, etc,  – often feels today as though it is being ridiculed. There are claims that the multicultural concept of society has undermined our Britishness.

 

Rubbish! is my answer. We were the bedrock of creating a more tolerant society and it seems the job has hardly begun in the world of children’s books. I would urge anyone providing books to children and young people to scan carefully through your collections as we did and literally throw out the less enlightened books and materials.

 

Meanwhile my job as a writer is to ensure that all characters in my books represent the multicultural world I come from, have lived in and worked in all my life. But then I have always found that quite a natural part of my writing.

 

Miriam Halahmy

www.miriamhalahmy.com

Tags:  collections  conference  Diversity  libraries  reading  representation 

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The Back Story of Riding a Donkey Backwards

Posted By Jacob Hope, 14 September 2018

Children’s author Sean Taylor will be appearing, with Eleanor Martin of Khayaal Theatre, at the YLG Conference in September. Here he introduces RIDING A DONKEY BACKWARDS – wise and foolish tales of Mulla Nasruddin, a collection of traditional Islamic tales, full of riddles, humour and wisdom.

 

You’ll have to excuse me. This is a story that is likely to offend you…

 

At a wedding, a few months ago, I got into a conversation with a young man who sees the world very differently to me. His hero is Jacob Rees-Mogg. The young man said, “Do you want to know what I think about burqas? People are surprised that I have nothing against Muslim women wearing them. In fact, I’m all in favour of burqas…for ugly people. Do you agree with that?”

 

I told him I didn’t agree. The young man was slightly apologetic for his arrogant ‘joke’. “Sorry. I’m just being facetious…” he told me. But I didn’t leave it at that. I asked, “What’s behind what you’ve just said? What do you actually think about Muslims and their beliefs?” He said, “I’m really not bothered by them. But Islam, as a religion, always takes itself far too seriously. And I can’t stand people who can’t laugh at themselves.” I asked, “Have you ever heard of Mulla Nasruddin?”

 

Nasruddin is the hero of our book, RIDING A DONKEY BACKWARDS. It was a collaborative writing project, with Khayaal Theatre, several years in the making. And it came about as a direct result of a terror attack. (You can find the full story here: http://www.minervareads.com/riding-a-donkey-backwards/ )

 

In the introduction to our book, we say: He has many names because stories about him are told in many different countries. In Turkey he is Hodja. In Central Asia he is Afandi. The Arabs know him as Joha. Others call him Mulla Nasruddin. He is a trickster. And Muslims all over the world love him because he makes them laugh… If he doesn’t make you laugh, he will certainly make you think – and perhaps think sideways instead of straight ahead. He may even make your thoughts do somersaults inside your mind!

 

That last sentence feels key to what’s special about Nasruddin stories, and also key to what made us want to put together a collection of these stories for young readers. Human beings love having their thinking ‘spun around’. It’s one of the commonest forms of humour . (A boy tells his father, “Dad, there’s an invisible man at the door.” His father says, “Tell him I can’t see him at the moment.”) The 21 Nasruddin tales we retell will get you laughing because they spin your thoughts around. But we wrote them down because we’d like to go beyond that.

 

Islamophobia is a growing problem in the UK and beyond. People are often persuaded that Muslims are aggressive, fanatical and narrow-minded. Co-authors, Khayaal Theatre, have long worked to remind people of the traditions of poetry, wisdom, questioning and humour in Muslim cultures. RIDING A DONKEY BACKWARDS is a part of that work. We hope that the book itself will do some ‘spinning around’ of people’s thinking. We’d like it to show readers that Islam is not, to quote the young man mentioned above, “a religion, that always takes itself far too seriously.”

 

I sent him a copy, for starters.

Tags:  children's books  dconference  diversity  reading  representation 

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How the Light Gets In - The Background to Debi Gliori's 'Night Shift'

Posted By Jacob Hope, 08 September 2018
Updated: 08 September 2018

Night Shift by Debi Gliori was one of the 2018 CILIP Kate Greenaway medal shortlisted titles.  Debi recently visited Bury Grammar Schools who have been shadowing the awards to provide insight into the background for the book.  

Night Shift had unusual origins.  It began as a series of unplanned pictures rather than as a book.  Debi worked on enormous rolls of paper using charcoal, which she describes as one of the oldest drawing materials.  She used her fingers to help create the work, making this quite literally a hands-on experience and allowing the creation of the smudged fog, a term she uses to describe the depression she's had since she was twenty-five.  'I drew how I felt - numb and miserable.  It seemed as though there was a pane of glass and as though all of the great stuff in life was happening behind that'.  

The series of drawings communicate how depression manifests itself and makes us feel as well as the insidious and sneaky way in which it affects life.  'Creating the pictures wasn't therapeutic.  It triggered memories and reminded of what unfamiliar territory depression was when it first occurred.'  Debi described how the hustle and bustle of working around the clock to meet deadlines led to a lack of sleep and increased pressure in her early twenties.  'It was terrifying, I used to belief I could hear what people were thinking.  It was like static on the radio that I could not tune out from.'  

When Debi's agent, Penny Holroyde, saw the pictures, she suggested with the addition of some spare text, they might form the basis for a special book.

'Debi told me she had been working on some large pictures in charcoal and I asked to see one. She sent me the image of the girl clutched in the dragon’s arm and told me that sometimes, during depressive periods, it’s easier to point at a picture than describe in words how you feel. This image (although cropped for the final book) and the sentiment behind it, moved me enormously and Night Shift, the book, became a little seedling. Debi obviously has a sublime way with words and I thought that simple captions would be the most effective way to carry the imagery and there is an intimacy in the picture book format that suits the subject matter perfectly.'

Penny Holroyde, Holroyde Cartey Agency

 After the conversation, Debi began thinking about the way this could show how depression is a real illness and the way it makes people feel.  She thought back to Leonard Cohen's line, 'there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in,' and realised that finding a way to re-frame depression was the key to giving structure to her illustrations and creating a narrative around these.  

The moment when this clicked into place was serendipitous, it was during a walk on the beach.  Debi recounts how helpful she finds being out in the natural world, among trees, rivers, sea and sky.  On this particular occasion, she stumbled upon a feather, comprised of both light and dark elements, and realised this could provide the shift in perspective that she needed.

Debi's unique honesty and courage in recounting her personal experiences and making these both engaging and accessible for young people made the event every bit as affecting, heartfelt and affectionate  as 'Night Shift' itself is.  The Youth Libraries Group are delighted that Debi will be joining their annual conference Reading the Future this September and discussing the role books and reading can play in unlocking young people's emotion and empathy.

Tags:  conference  diversity  illustration  kate greenawayvisual literacy  mental health  reading 

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