Monthly Archives: April 2011

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The Ring of Water by Chris Bradford

Jack Fletcher has been left for dead…

Bruised and battered, Jack Fletcher wakes up in a roadside inn, wrapped only in a dirty kimono. He has lost everything, including his memory.

Determined to discover the truth, Jack goes n a quest to retrieve his belongings – his precious swords, his friend Akiko’s black pearl and, most important of all, his father’s prize possession.

Relying on his samurai and ninja training, Jack realises the Ring of Water is the key to his survival.

But with only a washed-up ronin – a masterless samurai – for help, what will Jack manage to find? What will he lose?

And what will he have to sacrifice?

In picking up and reading The Ring of Water I broke one of my reading rules – the one that says ‘do not start reading half-way through a series’. Okay, so not really a rule, more of a guideline. It is a good thing that I did as let me just say wow! If ever there was a book that was perfect for jumping in to a series, then Ring of Water is it!

The protagonist Jack, wakes up after a vicious beating knowing as much about his life as I did, his back story is released in flashes of memory and brief points of exposition as he tells his new companions what he can remember about his life. The Young Samurai series is set during the beginning of the Edo period in Japan, after the suppression of Christianity and the limiting of foreigners to the cities of Hirado and Nagasaki. This background makes Jack’s story all the more complicated, not to mention exciting for the reader, as he is trying to make his way to Nagasaki whilst trying to avoid the enemies he has made all the while keeping his identity as a westerner hidden.

The inclusion of snippets of Japanese belief and history maker this book all the more real for me, I loved the inclusion of the Tanuki, and the ronin being a master of Drunken Fist kung fu, actually I enjoyed the entire book but those two snippets stuck in my mind! I am a major fan of Japanese culture and history, I also enjoy a thrilling read and since reading The Ring of Water I have become a fan of Chris Bradford, and have ordered all the preceding titles in the series.

The Ring of Water was a thoroughly enjoyable read on its own but, like most books in series, enjoyment will be enhanced by reading the books that come before it. I will read the entire series and post more thoughts once that has beendone.

Library of the Living Dead

This is brilliant!

Staff at McPherson College’s Miller Library in Kansas, USA, have produced a library guide in graphic novel format, Library of the Living Dead. Intrepid bearded librarians extinguish a horde of zombies, teach something about the Dewey Decimal system and demonstrate the value of library and information lore in the process.

Available to download as a pdf here

Eight Questions with… Chris Westwood

Chris was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to sit down with Teen Librarian and take part in the Eight Questions With… interview which follows below.

What influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?

Robert Swindells had a lot to do with it. About the time I was starting out, struggling with a first novel I never finished, I heard he was conducting a writing workshop at my local library so I went along to say hello. Robert was incredibly generous with his time, read the sample pages I’d brought and recommended a number of YA novels he thought I should read. I had a background in the music business as a journalist with a weekly paper called Record Mirror, and Robert suggested I try writing fiction for a similar young readership. My first novel (A Light In The Black) wasn’t actually planned as young adult fiction but as soon as I started the first chapter, the voice – the tone of the piece – took it that way. I guess that’s what Robert was getting at: writing in the voice that comes naturally to you.


How do you get into the heads of your characters?

I suppose it’s a little like acting, role-playing, putting myself in someone else’s place. There’s a lot of me in my characters anyway, and I like to think most of us have enough in common emotionally that we can relate to the same things in similar ways, whether it’s the heartbreak of being jilted or the fear of the sound of a dentist’s drill. Also, characters do have this alarming way of taking on lives of their own and beginning to speak for themselves, whether or not I agree with what they’re saying. I’m just hoping the reader will pause and go, “Wow, I didn’t know anyone else felt that way too.”

Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?

It’s more about finding something that appeals to me. I try not think in terms of what will grab, say, a thirteen year old reader; you can’t second-guess what others will like, I’m not sure you should even try to. First, entertain yourself. If an idea gets its hooks into me, I’m hopeful it will do the same for others. Does the story I have in mind already exist? If not, I’d better settle down and write it…

What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?

It’s nearly all good. There’s the first spark of inspiration that kicks off an idea… and lasts for about ten seconds. After that there’s a lot of hard work, which often feels like pushing a dead-weight uphill, but there are also times when the story seems to be writing itself – when I’m not absolutely sure where it’s going but I’m willing to go along with it to find out. If I’m lucky I’ll eventually see what my subconscious has been doing all along… and if it all makes some kind of sense, that’s the best. Oh, and finishing work is hugely satisfying too!

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/YA authors? If yes what can you recommend?

There are so many fine writers in this area – Malorie Blackman, Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman – but I’d like to mention a few of the books which made the greatest impression on me as a young reader, some of the ones that made me want to write:

JD Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye; William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies; Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. There’s also Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is simply magical no matter how old you are; and Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the granddaddy of the zombie novel, which is booming right now.

More recently, I was really knocked out by Louis Sachar’s Holes and John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, and I’ve just finished the first of ND Wilson’s 100 Cupboards trilogy, a fabulous fantasy from a writer with a lovely, surprising turn of phrase. Can’t wait to start the next in that series.

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?

I’m not sure I could write anything without making it personal – whether it comes from family life, school days, or all the ups and downs between then and now. For Ministry of Pandemonium I drew a lot from my own experience of losing my parents; that’s what the book is really about, and writing about it was a way of coming to terms with it. When I came back to London for the first time in ages, I started discovering parts of the city I’d never seen before, made some wonderful new friends, had my sunglasses stolen from a shop in Hackney… those things found their way into the story too. Sometimes personal experience adds extra colour and believability to a scene. Sometimes it gives you so much more, entire story-lines and themes.

Are you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?

I’m now adding the final touches to a sequel to Ministry of Pandemonium, and looking ahead to the third book in the series, which is only very vaguely planned so far but at least I know how it will begin and end. I’m less sure about everything in between!

Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?

Yes, so you could either call the publicity team at Frances Lincoln or email me or my agent at the addresses on the Contact page of my website

Ministry of Pandemonium Launch Event

It was 18:20 on the 5th April when I found myself outside the Islington branch of Waterstone’s Bookshop just down from the Angel underground station. Nicky Potter had invited me to attend the launch of Frances Lincoln‘s latest YA thriller, Ministry of Pandemonium by Chris Westwood.
The Waterstone’s crew were still setting up when I went indoors so I browsed the shelves until other librarians, booksellers and various fans of Mr Westwood started arriving. Sean Edwards, one of my colleagues on the Youth Library Group (YLG) London committee, was one of the first to arrive and we ended up comparing notes (as we usually do) on what we are reading, and who has received which desirable proof. It is one of the few games of good natured one-upmanship that I have noticed that librarians play, seeing who gets what proof copy from the publishers and which authors we land to visit our libraries. Karen Robinson, another friend from YLG was also there with some colleagues and students from her school.
There was a table of snacks and drinks to keep people occupied until Chris arrived. The children’s section of Waterstone’s was packed out with a mix of adults and young people all eager to meet Chris. The speeches were over quickly and Chris read an extract from his book, where Ben Harvester is introduced to some of his duties at the Ministry, typing up copies of how people are going to die for filing and use by field operatives, the dark humour of the codes denoting causes of death was appreciated warmly by the audience, particularly the 43765 (man packages himself up in a cardboard box and mails himself to his fiancée as a surprise birthday present. Fiancée opens it carelessly with a pair of scissors… ) which sent paroxysms of laughter around the room.
Once the talking stopped, the attendees fell upon the display of books and whisked the m off to the tills, after which they then had them autographed by Chris who spent the remainder of the evening signing and chatting away to his fans.

The good news once you have finished Ministry of Pandemonium is that there is s second book nearly finished – and the possibility of a third!

The evening was brilliant and many thanks must go to Nicky Potter and Frances Lincoln books!

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Nintendo 3DS & Libraries

On Friday the always amazing Carl Cross of Derbyshire Libraries sent an e-mail to the Lib Gaming UK mailing list. You can join the list here – go on you know you want to!

It was a great post and naturally I wanted to share it, and since Carl gave permisison to have it rebroadcast on Teen Librarian, here it is in its entirety! Enjoy:

Last week Nintendo launched its glasses free 3D handheld the 3DS.

There are at least two other librarians on this list with one /waves/ and probably a few more.

For those of you who don’t have one it has an inbuilt social gaming feature called Street Pass. The idea is that your 3DSes send information to each other as you pass unknowingly in the street. Hence the name.

At the moment the information is your Mii (avatar) and a few game specific features such as downloading your best laps in racing game Ridge Racer as a ‘ghost’ for the other player to beat. Streetfighter takes a similar approach by having your team of trophies battle each other for fun, profit and prizes.

There’s loads of fun stuff built into the 3DS that encourages social interaction from early JRPG-alike StreetPass Quest to the utterly mad face shooting ARG Face Raiders.

All cool stuff but what has it got to do with libraries?

Not everywhere is as population dense as Tokyo or London or Manchester and your chances of meeting another 3DS owner in the wild are sometimes slim.

Some enterprising folk are using the power of social media to hook up with others in real life to swap data and to game. All you need is a location and a bit of advertising, preferably in an online space like the Meet Mii Facebook page.

See what it’s got to do with libraries now?

It needn’t stop at that of course. While only one of the launch lineup of games offers online multiplayer (Streetfighter IV for the curious) others have local multiplayer as long as both players have a copy of the game. We’d be offering ourselves up as a venue to find other players.

Of course there are problems with this idea. As far as I can see two biggies and the usual ones about noise:

Biggie 1: It’s potentially a shop window for potential muggers – the 3DS is an expensive piece of kit and if they know there’s a whole load of people with one in their pocket they may well take advantage.

Biggie 2: It’s no good trying to limit this to a given age group. If you’re going to do it at all it must be for all comers which means parents need to be warned. It’s a good opportunity to talk about online security in general of course.

I’m considering trying this in a couple of our libraries and see what happens. I will also be starting a regular Wii club in the near future so I expect that to form part of that too.

Anyone else tempted? Can anyone else see any major problems with it that I’ve missed at this stage of a Friday?

TED: Ideas worth Spreading




TED or Technology Entertainment and Design to give it it’s full name, is a global set of conferences formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading. Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under a Creative Commons license, through

There are over 900 free talks available online. If your library or resource centre has a television or bank of computers it may be worth thinking about holding a TED day and running their freely available video talks in the library or in conjunction with school lessons.

The TED Mission statement:
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

Some of the talks follow

Brewster Kahle builds a free digital library

Handspring Puppet Co.: The genius puppetry behind War Horse

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter …

Those were just three of the 900+ talks available free at The videos are subtitled so are accessible for the hearing impaired.  Thanks to volunteer translators taking part in TED’s Open Translation Project, subtitles in a variety of languages are available for nearly every video in the TEDTalks series.