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A YLG day - YALC and A Monster Calls

Posted By Agnes A. Guyon, 29 July 2018

Living in Edinburgh, I had never been to YALC. It was time to change that, and this year, the stars were properly aligned. I had already booked a ticket to see "A Monster Calls" that day, with a group of YLG friends - yes, friends, because we are far more than just a committee, but a group of people with similar interests who enjoy doing things together.

I also had an ulterior motive for attending YALC, namely speaking to all the publishers who haven't yet signed up for our wonderful YLG conference exhibition and enticing them to do so as soon as possible. I had no real expectations about YALC but I couldn't help noticing how different it is from the YLG conference. First of all, the scale - YALC takes place at the Olympia, a huge, very open venue. The space was very well used and it never felt crowded despite the number of people there. The atmosphere was very relaxed, with people sitting on the floor, in group chatting, or on their own engrossed in a book. The fact that the Film and ComicCon was taking place on the floor below and YALC tickets granted you entry to that too, meant that people with all sorts of wonderful costumes from superheroes to book characters, could be spotted now and then, adding to the atmosphere.

The event area was open and people could go in and out very easily during the event. The events themselves were interesting, with an impressive line-up. Most main events were panel events with 4 or 5 authors, one of whom was also the chair. I enjoyed the “Centenary of Women's Vote” with Alwyn Hamilton, Katherine Webber, Sally Nicholls and Sheena Wilkinson. It was followed by a discussion on retelling of classic tales and featured Deidre Sullivan, Kristina Perez, Louise O'Neill, Mary Watson and Melissa Albert. I didn't have time for more but I did visit the exhibition, which I found slightly disappointing for its lack of proofs or other freebies, which are a feature of the YLG conference!

At this point, I need to urge you to book for it, if you have not done so yet! Please go to:

After YALC it was time to meet up for "A Monster Calls" at The Old Vic. What a powerful performance! Imaginative, intensely moving but never soppy, I loved it!

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YLG National Conference Reading the Future - Early Bird Booking Extension until July 15th!

Posted By Susan U. Polchow, 05 July 2018


The Youth Libraries Group are delighted to be extending our Early Bird offer for the YLG National Conference 2018 “Reading the Future”.

Numerous people have expressed interest in attending but have stated that extra time would aid employer decisions. Professional development is a key part of maintaining knowledge and awareness offering a chance to engage with up to date research, changes in cultural context and current best practice. The deadline for the Early Bird offer has been extended until 15 July. We are keen to provide some rationale for attending conference, whether this be as a day delegate or on a full place.

• Conference this year is focused explicitly around reading - one of the six universal offers for libraries decided by the Society of Chief Librarians, policy and agenda setters for libraries across the United Kingdom
• Latest research from key organisations and agencies including BookTrust and the National Literacy Trust
• Networking opportunities with publishers and the opportunity to pitch for author visits, proof copies of books for reading groups
• *It is worth noting that average daily rates reported by the Society of Authors are between £400 and £500 for an author, this means one successful pitch for an author to a publisher - (which would also include the authors travel and accommodation), would more than recoup the entire cost of conference.  Conference gives direct access to a host of publishers and the opportunity to build strong partnerships.
• Showcase of forthcoming titles to aid programming and planning and receipt of publicity materials (tote bags, book marks, badges and more!), copies of new books at no charge
• Chance to share best practice with other professionals across the United Kingdom
• Key part of continuing professional development offered by the Youth Libraries Group, the special interest group for the Professional Body for librarian and information professionals
• Opportunity to showcase best practice from authority and to learn about existing best practice in other authorities and regions so as to replicate existing and proven frameworks for quality and cost-effective service delivery
• Engage with relevant creative provider - app producers, BBC, Gerry Andersen entertainment - to explore models of engagement and hooks to attract non-users
• Receive in-kind materials including book proofs, advanced reader copies, bookmarks, posters and other related point-of-sale
• Actively highlight role of  in supporting and maintaining awareness of the UK's oldest and most prestigious children's book awards, the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the profession's flagship awards.
• Maintain links with the Youth Libraries Group, one of the leading training and development bodies for librarians working with children and young people in the United Kingdom

The Youth Libraries Group Conference is one of the real highlights on the children's book and reading calendar. Find out more and book your place at


Tags:  carnegie  children's books  conference  illustration  kate greenaway  reading  visual literacy  ylg 

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Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s Books and Libraries at The Curve in Slough on Friday June 8, 2018

Posted By Elizabeth F. Beverley, 27 June 2018
Updated: 27 June 2018

Youth Libraries Group South East and South West held a joint training day called Diversity and Inclusion in Children’s Books and Libraries at The Curve in Slough on Friday June 8, 2018

Our objectives for the day were to achieve the following:
• To increase understanding of issues around diversity and inclusion in children’s books, and why they matter
• To consider how we, as library staff, can support and promote diversity and inclusion in children’s books and in our libraries
• To showcase examples of diverse and inclusive children’s books
• To provide opportunities for discussion and sharing good practice

Many thanks to everyone who attended our training day with YLG South West and a special thanks to Slough Libraries The Curve - Slough for hosting & the library tour.

The amazing Tales on Moon Lane for selling a selection of the inclusive and diverse books on the day.

We had fantastic talks provided by:

Alexandra Strick from Inclusive Minds
Storyteller and Author Chitra Soundar
Caroline Scott from Empathy Lab
Anna McQuinn from Alanna Books
Poet and Author A F Harrold

Thanks to Jake Hope, Slough Libraries and West Sussex Libraries for sharing an insight into their diversity and inclusivity work they have been doing.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  children's books  diversity  inclusion  training course  youth libraries group south east  youth libraries group south west 

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Riding a Donkey Backwards - A storytelling show at Conference

Posted By Jacob Hope, 15 June 2018
Updated: 15 June 2018


Riding a Donkey Backwards is a collaboration between storyteller and author Sean Taylor, the Khayaal Theatre and Shirin Adl. Across 21 stories, it recounts the fables of Mulla Nasruddin.  Sean Taylor and the Khayaal Theatre will perform a special short-fire storytelling performance of the stories at this year's Youth Libraries Group Conference.  Sean discusses how the book came to be created.


Riding a Donkey Backwards came about, indirectly, because of a terror attack. Back on 7th January 2015, there was a massacre in Paris, at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine. That day, I could feel people in the UK were shaken by the nearness of the violence, and I sensed some ‘retreating into shells’ going on. This made me want to do the opposite. At an event at Shakespeare’s Globe about 12 years previously, I’d met Luqman Ali and he’d given me a leaflet about Khayaal Theatre. Khayaal is a theatre company founded by him and Eleanor Martin. It is dedicated to showcasing the rich traditions of story, poetry and humour in Muslim cultures, and also to building engagement between Muslim communities and the wider world. I kept the leaflet Luqman had given me. Sometimes I’d come across it, wonder if there might be some way of collaborating with Khayaal, and decide probably not. But, that day, I wrote to Luqman. Looking back, my message said, among other things:

I have no more connection with, or understanding of, the Islamic world than you would expect from a man with an interest in stories and poetry who grew up in the home counties of England. My strongest connections are, in fact, not to the east, but to the west. My wife is from, Brazil. We have lived there on and off over the past twenty years. But rather than seeing these things as obstacles, I shall, for the sake of this message, see them as reasons for making connection. Might we meet? Might we talk a bit about stories, and about theatre and about work with young people? Might something fruitful result from this impulse to reach out? 

We met at the British Library, a few weeks later.  It was clear that, though we are from quite different cultural backgrounds, we had a lot in common in terms of our work around story and education, and our shared interest in the imagination, dreams and humour. So it seemed natural to try to find a way to work together. I had in mind there might be ways Khayaal could make use of my experience of writing for theatre. Actually, they expressed an interest in writing a children’s book. So the idea of retelling some of the stories of Mulla Nasruddin in a publication for young readers was born. I thought newly-founded Otter-Barry Books might show interest in the project.

Some say Mulla Nasruddin was a real man who lived in the thirteenth century. Nobody knows for sure! Many different countries claim to be his birthplace, including Turkey and Iran. In the introduction to the 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!”

They are age-old stories, but I think they are absolutely relevant to the times we live in. Nasruddin challenges fixed ways of looking at our world, and stuck ways of behaving. So the stories about him fly in the face of fundamentalist thinking – whether it be the single-track thinking of Islamist fundamentalism or the equally narrow thinking of Islamophobia. Take a story like the one we’ve called They Can’t Both Be Right! In this, Mulla Nasruddin is asked to settle an argument between two men, in a tea house. Nasruddin listens to the first man and says, “You are right.” Then he listens to the second man and says, “You are right.” Then the owner of the tea-house says, “Well, they can’t both be right!” And Nasruddin says, “You are right!” This is a brilliant, light-hearted way of pointing out that the world cannot be seen in black and white (as more and more people seem happy to see it.) In another story, called Don’t Ask Me! the donkey Nasruddin is riding is startled by a snake. As the donkey gallops madly off, a young farmer calls out, “Where are you going, Nasruddin?” Nasruddin calls back, “Don’t ask me! Ask the donkey!” Can you feel how this has a message for anyone who thinks they have simple answers to the challenges of our times? When an out-of-control donkey is carrying you, how can you sit there stiffly certain about where you are going? At one level this tale is just a funny anecdote. But scratch its surface (or the surface of the other stories in our book) and you find wisdom. Nasruddin asks fresh questions in the face of ready-made answers. The stories in Riding a Donkey Backwards offer new ways of thinking to anyone numbed by the world, or feeling driven to recrimination and aggression. These are reasons why we wanted to bring Nasruddin, his provocations and his heartfelt laughter to life for young readers.

Khayaal Theatre’s Eleanor Martin joined Luqman and me in the writing process. And it turned out to be a fruitful collaboration, with lots of discussion, and drafts to-ing and fro-ing as we worked out which Nasruddin stories to include and how to tell them on the page. Otter-Barry Books brought Iranian illustrator Shirin Adl on board, and Shirin came up with the wonderfully crafted illustrations which make Riding a Donkey Backwards so beautiful to look at.

See and hear Sean Taylor and Eleanor Martin from the Khayaal Theatre perform from Riding a Donkey Backwards at the Youth Libraires Group Conference.  For further information and to book places please visit


Tags:  conference  illustration  performance  reading  storytelling  traditional tales  visual literacy 

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Whitcliffe Mount School visit

Posted By Alison D. Brumwell, 07 May 2018
In times of austerity and budget cuts the opportunity to visit a new school library is always welcome. Whitcliffe Mount is a mixed secondary school in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. The original school was founded over 100 years ago, but in September 2017 new premises opened, which are adjacent to the old site. Part of the new build is an LRC on the first floor, which has a very different feel to the traditional library I last visited over two years ago.The LRC was planned and designed by Constellations and has a contemporary, modular feel which still functions as a busy, well-used multi-purpose space: as a lending library, as a forum for events and reader development activities and as a teaching and learning area. During my visit, I had the chance to observe Librarian Amanda Rabey and her assistant, Vicki Cawley, team teaching a Year 8 class alongside a member of the school's English faculty, something which is routine at Whitcliffe Mount and highlights the need for statutory school libraries. Stock standards are an issue as reduced shelf space in the new LRC has resulted in the collection's reduction from 12,000 volumes to 9,000. I was impressed with Amanda's and Vicki's positive attitude and commitment in ensuring the LRC was open in time for the new school year, and that service to staff and pupils hasn't been compromised (a challenge under any circumstances). In October 2018 Whitcliffe Mount's LRC will host Kirklees' secondary/middle schools network meeting, giving Amanda and Vicki the opportunity to share good practice with other school librarians and LRC managers.

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Reading the Future: It All Begins with Enid Blyton

Posted By Jacob Hope, 02 May 2018
Updated: 02 May 2018

The Youth Libraries Group annual conference is always a high point in the calendar, a chance to recharge creative energies and to connect with all manner of ideas and with individuals working in the field. Our theme this year is Reading the Future and aims to explore what it means to be a reader in the 21st Century, some of the opportunities and challenges that exist around this and the ways in which information, stories and imagination traverse different platforms and technologies.

Reading is a vital skill, an opportunity to find release from daily lives, to encounter and engage with news ways of thinking, to step into the past or to look forward into the future. Running beneath the conference’s main theme is a series of strands exploring key areas of interest. The capacity poetry holds for conveying feelings, emotion and acting as an access point for reading makes it a very worthwhile focal point. We are delighted to welcome CLiPPA winners Rachel Rooney and Joseph Coehlo as speakers as well as having the National Literacy Trust presenting research on the role reading poetry has on child literacy. 

With the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, we’re looking at representation and rights for women in literature for young people. Our distinguished guests include Sally Nicholls, author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do, David Roberts, author and illustrator of Suffragette and many more. This melds with another key for the conference, Enid Blyton. 2018 marks 50 years since the writer, voted by the public as the UK’s best loved author, passed away. It feels an apt time to reconsider her literary legacy and uncanny ability to captivate contemporary readers. We will also have our first ever Midnight Feast in celebration of her work!

In another first, we will also be hosting the inaugural Robert Westall Memorial Lecture. This will be led by Dr Kim Reynolds from Newcastle University and Paula Wride from Seven Stories, the National Centre for the Children’s Book and will look at the indelible impact that twice winner of the Carnegie Medal Robert Westall’s work has made on the field. It feels massively exciting to be working with so many different agencies – BookTrust, Seven Stories, National Literacy Trust, Empathy Lab and more – to bring the latest research and findings and to enable networking opportunities that add value and increase reach.

it also feels apposite that this year’s conference is taking place in Manchester, one of the UK’s new UNESCO Cities of Literature and we’ll be holding a special dinner to celebrate the role of key children’s authors and illustrators from the city. The conference is uplifting, lively, vibrant and most of all inclusive. We look forward to welcoming public and school librarians alike, staff from school library services, people from the education sector and all with an interest in children’s books.

Do join us for what promises to be thought-provoking and enlivening conference and a chance to build change and critical mass around reading. To book your place please visit

We would love to know your best conference memory or the session you are most interested in attending!

Tags:  carnegie  conference  cpd  illustration  kate greenaway  poetry  reading  universaloffers  visual literacy  ylg 

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Kirklees World Book Day Quiz 2018

Posted By Alison D. Brumwell, 22 March 2018
The Beast from the East wreaked havoc earlier this month, with travel delays and widespread disruption causing many World Book Day events to be cancelled. Kirklees' 6th annual World Book Day Quiz was finally held earlier this week at Huddersfield Town Hall, with plenty of high spirits and laughter despite a two-week wait to find out who would lift the trophy in 2018. The quiz event has become a much-anticipated fixture in Kirklees schools' calendar since its inception in 2013, the brainchild of booksplus, the schools library service. Forty-three teams of Year Five, Six and Seven students from 27 local authority schools took part, answering questions from a book list of twenty great reads. There was something for everyone, from poetry (Kate Wakeling's 'Moon Juice'), award-nominated fiction (Lissa Evans' Carnegie Medal-shortlisted novel 'Wed Wabbit'), and picture books ('A Child of Books' and 'The Wooden Camel'). Students rose to the challenge during six rounds of questions. Quizmaster, local poet and Patron of Reading Conrad Burdekin, presided and sponsor publisher Walker Books provided book prizes for the winners of each quiz round. There were also book token prizes for the best teacher and student costumes: an array of Harry Potters, Snow Whites, Alice in Wonderlands and Cruella de Vils were on hand to enjoy the fun. When the dust settled, Birkby Junior School triumphed, repeating as quiz champions for the fourth straight year, with Hopton Primary School in second place and St. Patrick's Catholic Primary School (Huddersfield) in third place. A great afternoon for students, staff, parents and volunteers from the schools library service, Kirklees Council and Kirklees College. What better way to celebrate reading for pleasure than bringing schools together for World Book Day - well done to all the students who read, enjoyed and took part!

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Shelf Help - Exploring text with Chol theatre

Posted By Alison D. Brumwell, 15 March 2018
It was great to have a chance to see Chol Theatre in action yesterday, working with a small group of Drama students from North Huddersfield Trust School, Huddersfield. Chol is a small professional regional arts and theatre company which is part of a pilot project with Kirklees public libraries. This is designed to take The Reading Agency's Shelf Help collection and bring it to life in schools through drama and role play. Vicki Sawka, a theatre practitioner and lead artist, selected David Levithan's 2012 novel 'Every Day' as the basis for two workshop sessions with fifteen GCSE students. Everyone warmed up by introductions using a balloon and then read to punctuation (a standard RSC technique). Vicki introduced the text, with which the group were not familiar prior to the first session. By using hot-seating and role on the wall, students were inspired to get inside the character of A and the different bodies he inhabits; they were prompted to consider issues of gender and mental state. What would it be like to wake up in a different body every day? What challenges might that present? What meaning might the concepts of family, time and morality have for someone who didn't age or attach to others in the same way as they experienced? A fascinating first session and it will be interesting to see see the recorded feedback Vicki and her colleagues gather. They are working with groups from three local secondary schools and a pupil referral unit this term, with possible funding to extend the project if the pilot is successful. I appreciated being invited to observe and take part by Judith Robinson and Tiffany Haigh, two of the librarians who have been instrumental in launching the pilot project and adding value to the Shelf Help collection. Children's and young adult mental health and well-being has never been higher on the national agenda; this is an example of creative, innovative partnership working that can make a difference.

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Kirklees Secondary Schools Spring Term Network Meeting

Posted By Alison D. Brumwell, 09 March 2018
It's been a tough few years for schools in the local authority but lots of excitement this term about Carnegie shadowing and the recent announcement of the longlists. Clare Ackroyd, librarian at host school Royds Hall, has dedicated a huge space to featuring a display of previous Carnegie medal winners from the past illustrious 80 years, and is enthusing students about shadowing in 2018. BBG Academy has been engaging students with both Greenaway and Carnegie Medal shadowing for the past nine years, supported by Karen McKirgan, their LRC Manager (and a YLG committee member). Four Year 10 students have already signed up for Carnegie shadowing, determined to plough through GCSEs while enjoying reading, reviewing and discussing the shortlisted titles. There's a lot of guessing and speculation going on about which of the 20 books will make the final cut - all to be revealed on 15 March at the Amnesty UK shortlisting event in London. On another positive note, Jac Naylor, Librarian at North Huddersfield Trust School, announced that her school lbrary had just been awarded £8K from the Foyle Foundation school library scheme. Jac's successful bid will allow her to overhaul the library's very outdated non-fiction collection, support reader development initiatives like Carnegie shadowing and purchase tablets for use in the library. Jac said preparing the bid was speculative and a lot of hard work - her Bursar provided all the financial details - but obviously paid off in the end. I've supported several local schools in the past who needed help putting bids together; it is about having clear, sustainable objectives and being able to prove this to the funding body. Other librarians and LRC managers should be encouraged by Jac's success. Our summer network meeting will be hosted by Kirklees College - we self-facilitate and try to move locations around the local authority, which is huge and nominally has Huddersfield as its geographical centre. It's important to have guest speakers too, and highlight examples of good practice, otherwise there might be the tendency to do nothing but moan about shared issues. We've had recently had speakers from Wakefield Mental Health Museum, 2cqr Self Issue and Huddersfield Lit Fest; CPD and training are regularly discussed, as are news and views from the public library world. So, watch this space, especially when shadowing begins in earnest!

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Book Tourism- Shelf Catering

Posted By Tanja M. McGuffin- Jennings, 03 January 2018
BOOK NEWS In this current climate of library closures I was thrilled to hear a report about an enterprising Book Town in the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland- Wigtown. The town not only boasts 14 bookshops making it a veritable paradise for booklovers, it also offers Open Book, a business which lets tourists run their own bookshop for a fortnight. They can experiment with promotions and specialist subjects or even themes. The book world is their oyster. This book experience is fully booked till 2020 which highlights how much the magic of reading can touch people . With more Children's books and YA titles making the publishers' lists each year it just goes to show you can't keep a good book down and that it's more important than ever to promote reading to young people through local book awards and book related events, something that librarians can do so well. Tying this into a business plan will help students develop managerial and organisational skills too. You can read more here:

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