Monthly Archives: March 2014

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Library Genre Displays: Crime

For the rest of the school year I will be celebrating genre fiction (& relevant non-fiction) in my library display space. I have decided to start with crime as everyone loves a good mystery.

I am hoping to extend the displays into the next school year to introduce readers to the best that genre fiction has to offer

My idea is for these displays to rotate and with each cycle they will grow and evolve to grab the attention of browsing students.

Books so good the only CRIME is not reading them!


A book list will follow.

Shift by Jeff Povey a review

Meet Rev, Billie, the Ape, Johnson, GG, Carrie, the Moth and Lucas, a motley crew of bickering teens who find themselves totally alone in the world after a strange power surge hits their classroom during detention. With no answers as to why or how the rest of the world has disappeared, the mismatched group is soon facing a bigger nightmare than they could ever imagine…

Standing between them and the only way home are lethal duplicate versions of themselves, super powered teenagers who will kill anyone who gets in their way.

There is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, a criminal, a stud, a narrator trapped in an empty world – with only their classmates and dark shadows of themselves for company.

However this is no coming of age tale, Shift is an apocalyptic, survival race, chase and mystery all rolled up in one.

Having worked with teenagers for over a decade now I think I can safely say that Jeff has captured a disparate group of teens’ inability to put their differences aside to work together to achieve their goals (survival, finding out what happened and escape) almost perfectly!

Shift twists and turns like a snake trying to escape a trap, it is a thrilling story that can be read on its own, but as it is the opening act in a trilogy it is set up to introduce the protagonists, overarching storyline and introduce the villains of the piece. I have no idea what will be happening in book two, but the way that Shift held me entranced I can hardly wait!

It is a story with multiversal appeal. If I only had one sentence to describe Shift in the hope of convincing you to pick it up, I would say:
It reads like Stephen King meets John Hughes… in the Twilight Zone!

Why Libraries make the world a better place by Tammy February

So last night I got lost in the library, wandered down the passages and found a treasure trove of books.

Now, one would think, that for someone who buys so many books and receive quite a number of them for review, that I wouldn’t have time for the library.

This is where you’d be wrong.

You see, for me, the library is not just a gateway to a world of shelves upon shelves of books, but it’s my second home and sanctuary.

My love affair with this magical place started when I was a young child, but it was only during my primary school years that I’d really come to appreciate what the library would mean to me.

As a young girl, I was severely bullied, and as a result, I’d spend most of my lunch breaks hiding out in the library to get away from the viciousness of the girls in the playground.

The library, at the time, became a place where I could hide; and at first, that was as far as it went. The more time I began spending there though, the more I realised that something had changed.

Once I got beyond the point where the awful feelings living inside me subsided just a little bit, I finally began to comprehend what kind of impact just being in the library had on me.

It dawned on me that I had unlimited access to a world beyond worlds.

I could walk into a forest filled with fairies at any time I wanted and I could go on adventures the various little critters, creatures and all sorts of wondrous beings. And oh, not even to talk about the soothing atmosphere, the classical music and the knowledge that time suspended itself every time I took a step into the library.

This was the moment when both the written word and the library became my best friends.

By that time, I had pretty much loved reading, but it was those trips to what I thought of as my book palace (I still think that by the way), that made me realise just how important having access to books was and still is, to me.

If I think about it now, I’m thankful for the girls who picked on me back then because they are the ones that only served cement my love of reading. They hurt me, but I don’t think they realise what they gave me in the process.

Because it’s Library week in South Africa this week, I’m dedicating this column to all the wonderful librarians who keep our libraries up and running.

Because, without you, libraries wouldn’t exist and I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that not only did I have (and still have) a fantastic bookish place to run to, but I also had kind librarians who always kept an eye out for me and kept new books aside for me.

Thank you for loving books and for always sharing your knowledge. Trite as it sounds, you truly make this world a better place.

When I think of it now, I realise that I am actually pretty privileged to have the access to the kind of information and books that I did back then and do right now.

As the child of parents who were directly affected by South Africa’s apartheid laws, I don’t take for granted the fact that my parents didn’t have as many options as I do today.

Not only were they barred from libraries that had a ‘whites in attendance only’ policy, but the books that they were allowed to borrow, left a lot to desire, in terms of content and quality. In spite of this, my parents somehow always made sure that I did have the best reading material.

Not only that, but they made sure that the library became a place I could run to whenever I wanted to leave the real world behind.

Today, thanks to the girls who bullied me, my parents who encouraged me and the wonderful librarians who always recommended new books to me, I’m the sum of all of their knowledge and teachings.

And I, for one, have every intention of passing on the library’s magic to everyone and anyone who cares to listen.

Happy South African Library Week lovely libraries and librarians of South Africa.

Never stop doing what you’re doing.

The world needs more custodians like you.

Tammy February blogs at and tweets under the name Tammy24_7

This column originally appeared here:

Jonas Herriot – My day at YLG London Unconference

The YLG London Unconference was the first conference I have been to not just as an attendee, but as one of the organisers. As such my experience of the event started well before the actual day, with helping the other more experienced Committee members get the event ready, and giving my input where I could. Watching the event develop, seeing the session proposals get added to the event page, and talking to other students/colleagues/librarians about attending certainly got me in the mood for when the day actually came.

Turning up to the venue nice and early so that I could help set up and prepare the goody bags (and get a few cups of coffee in!) meant that I was well situated to watch as the hall turned into an event space, and then see as it slowly filled up with keen faces as my fellow librarians arrived. The actual unconference kicked off with a brief introduction from the committee, and then we were straight into getting peoples sessions proposed and sign up sheets created. Seeing all the great ideas that people wanted to talk about, and then watching as others displayed the same passion as they signed up for, and debated the sessions was very interesting mainly due to the fact that it showed that we all had very similar interests.

We then had an excellent introduction talk from James Dawson where he discussed his experience of growing up and using his school library as a place of refuge and calm. I have to admit that listening to that reminded me of my secondary school where I also spent as much time in the library as possible. Unfortunately I could only drift in and out of his talk, as we had to draft the days timetable, but what I heard was not only interesting, but also very inspiring.

The first session I attended was based on coding, minecraft and teaching kids. This session weaved in and out of various tech related subjects and the practical applications for libraries. The attendees was a lovely mix of experts and novices, and was for me probably the best session of the day. It allowed those with no experience of this subject to be given advice and ideas from those who had tried out games and tools which included: minecraft, raspberry pi’s, titanpad, coding basic fighting fantasy programs, gimp, smartphones as stop motion picture creation devices, scratch, linux, and using USB sticks to run external programs. Very interesting to hear how each of these had been used by libraries, and how they had surmounted the various problems they had encountered along the way.

The next session was the one I had proposed, dealing with graphic novels and the levels of access various libraries ascribed to them. We discussed what restrictions various services (both school and public) placed on this format of book, ranging from no age restriction, through to all but the most sanitised and tame being available only to over 15s. I have to admit that the main reason I ran this session was to help inform my upcoming dissertation project, and the responses I got will prove very helpful to me. While it was a relatively small session, the knowledge of those attending was good, and I came out of it keen to run more sessions in the future.

We then broke for lunch which as well as providing a chance for something to eat, also allowed us to mingle with others from different sessions and discuss what we had learnt, and pass on any helpful snippets we had gleamed to others. Following this we were back into session 3, which was how to successfully run teen reading groups. I chose this session as it is something I will be setting up this year, and listening to what had worked for others would prove invaluable. Ideas such as running Manga groups which didn’t just read the books, but which also did drawing is a good example of what was discussed here; the idea to make the groups about more than reading, and thereby keeping teens interested. Others ideas included using stupid activities to draw them in and break down barriers, as well as making your face known and accessible to them. The idea of rewards not bribes to keep them coming, and using your current readers as ambassadors to reach out to those who may not be current readers were also very good. Also mentioned was the amount of resources such as Carnegie/Greenaway which you can find, and how to build your sessions around you. Once again I was impressed with the passion, ideas, and resourcefulness of those who I was sat with.

The last session dealt with the afore mentioned Carnegie/Greenaway, and what went on behind the scenes, and how the award was ran and judged. This highlighted all the hard work which took place each year and left me impressed with those involved. Less interactive than other sessions but equally enjoyable, I left this session with a far greater understanding of the award, and a strange desire to one day be more involved. I should also mention that this session stood out as we got to try kangaroo, crocodile, buffalo, and ostrich meat, which is quite unusual for a conference. The reason for this though, was showcasing how you can take a book (in this case about cannibalism) and create activities you can then use with children to pique their interest, and create talking points.

The day then finished with everybody coming back into the big hall and a closing talk to end the day, before people started the journey home. As with all conferences I left feeling more involved in the profession, and more connected to the larger community we are in. There is also a tinge of regret about those sessions I couldn’t attend, but this is dealt with by speaking those who had attended and swapping stories and notes. I was very impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of my colleague who helped run the day and was grateful to be able to spend the time with them, and all of the delightful and interesting librarians who attended. We also started making plans for the next one, so watch this space…

Libraries a Celebration by Nerine Dorman

Libraries started it all for me. When I was little, and could barely read, I’d go help out at the Hout Bay library down the road from where I lived. At first I packed away children’s picture books but soon I had an inkling of how the Dewey system worked. I have lost myself in bookish things ever since.

Recently I have come full circle – libraries in South Africa now carry books I’ve written and edited. This, more than anything, makes me feel like I’ve “made it” – if there ever is such a thing.

Nowadays we have so much information at our fingertips, at the click of a mouse. But it is often a challenge to wade through this morass of resources. It’s not so much being able to find what we need, but how to select what we need. What is useful? What is utter rubbish? We must, in a sense, take on the skills of a librarian and become our own curators of knowledge.
I learnt those mad skills at the library. And, with all the changes and challenges facing how we access information, librarians as curators have become even more important as custodians and gatekeepers.

It’s a terrible thing to admit, but I no longer visit the library as much as I used to before the advent of tablets and smartphones. My visit to the library was the highlight of my week, and I spent hours wandering between the shelves.

The central library in Cape Town used to be housed in the historical City Hall, for goodness knows how many years. How many of us remember that rickety elevator? Or the worn steps in that narrow stairwell that twisted up and up? One room would open into another, and I never really fully explored all of them.

The library was always a place of discovery, and I suspect if I could take the time out of my busy work schedule it probably still would be.

For all the convenience of ebooks and websites, libraries are still, in my mind, valuable. Many wonderful books are simply out of reach to youngsters and students—be this a financial consideration or access to the technology that allows for a digital environment.

I feel here, in Africa especially, the role of the library as not only a repository of knowledge, but a temple dedicated to learning, is as important as ever, and we must do all that we can in our power to ensure that these doors remain open.

If I think back to what sparked my love of fiction and started me on my journey as an author, it was the fact that I had such a range of authors I could sample at whim: Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Poppy Z Brite, Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, David Brin, Kate Elliott, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Kerr, Mary Gentle, Robin Hobb, CJ Cherryh… The list goes on and on.

That sense when pulling a book off a shelf knowing that “Yes! This book looks like one I’ll enjoy reading” enriches my often dreary day-to-day routine. For a short while I can escape to other realities and meet a cast of fantastical characters who’ll often linger in my thoughts long after I’ve reached the end.

I’d not have known many of these authors if it had not been for my local library. Even better now is that thrill of knowing that my own books are now waiting on library shelves for a new generation of authors to be inspired.

Perhaps the greatest change I’ve seen in libraries now since the old days is the spirit of inclusiveness. The library opens its doors for all South Africans, no matter their background. And, for those who hunger for learning, they have the opportunity to discover entire new worlds.

Nerine Dorman
Editor, author

Teenage: a film about the 20th Century birth of the Teenager

Directed by: Matt Wolf
Narrated by: Jena Malone, Ben Wishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher
Release Date: March 14th, 2014 (US Theatrical)
Running Time: 77 mins.
Rating: Not Yet Rated by the MPAA
World Premiere: Tribeca Film Festival 2013

Before the ‘Teenager’ was invented, there was no second stage of life. You were either a child or you went to work as an adult. At the turn of the century, child labor was ending, ‘adolescence’ was emerging, and a struggle erupted between adults and youth. Would the young be controlled and regimented, or could they be free?

Inspired by punk author Jon Savage’s book, Teenage gives voice to young people from the first half of the 20th century in America, England, and Germany—from party-crazed Flappers and hip Swing Kids to zealous Nazi Youth and frenzied Sub-Debs. By the end of World War II, they were all ‘Teenagers’: a new idea of youth.

Four young voices (Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer, Jessie Usher) bring to life rare archival material and filmed portraits of emblematic teenagers from history—Brenda Dean Paul, a self-destructive Bright Young Thing; Melita Maschmann, an idealistic Hitler Youth; Tommie Scheel, a rebellious German Swing Kid; and Warren Wall, a black Boy Scout. This living collage is punctuated by a contemporary score by Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound).

Teenage is a story that ends with a beginning: a prelude to today’s youth culture. In each generation, adults often mistake youthful unrest for an emotional right of passage. But history proves that rebelling teenagers aren’t just claiming their independence, they’re shaping the future.

Nominations are open for the title of Queen of Teen 2014

To celebrate all that is great in teen fiction… the love stories… the life stories… the vampires… the villains… the Queen of Teen award is BACK! Back to capture the imagination of teenage readers across the country, finding out which authors made them laugh, which made them cry, which one petrified them or inspired them… and which author will make them visit and nominate him or her as a potential claimant to the throne! Long live the Queen of Teen!

The Queen of Teen award was founded in 2008 to celebrate the most feisty and fantastic writers for the tween and teen market. 2010 saw Cathy Cassidy swipe the crown from the very first winner, Louise Rennison, and in 2012 Maureen Johnson won the coveted title… being crowned in her original high school prom dress. In its first six years the competition has been a huge success, with thousands of heartfelt nominations from readers about the books they care most passionately about and tens of thousands of votes cast for each shortlist.

Queen of Teen is now inviting nominations for this year’s award, which will be presented at a regally stylish award ceremony on 11th July 2014. Between 12th March and 29th April 2014, readers can nominate any author for the award, and the top ten nominated authors will make up the shortlist which will be announced on 1st May 2014. Superfans of each of the shortlisted authors will be invited to the award ceremony where they will be able to mingle with their favourite writers, invited journalists and other special guests.

In previous years, it has been very gratifying for the shortlisted authors to see how much their books mean to their fans: reigning Queen of Teen Maureen Johnson says:

I have savoured my reign as Queen of Teen. I have tried to rule with a FAIR and EVEN hand, demanding only the smallest of tributes, like gold bathtubs, dancing trees, and total control of the weather. I leave my fate to the winds. Will there be a new ruler? No one knows. I am watching a dancing tree in my gold bathtub while making it rain, so my mind is regally elsewhere.

South African Library Week 2014

Official Liabrary Week Poster (1)

South African Library Week 2014 launches on the 15th March.

South Africans have embraced libraries as places of learning, entertainment and culture. After the first free and fair elections in 1994 the library services in South Africa started the process of unification that resulted in the formation of LIASA in 1997.

LIASA’s Wikipedia entry gives a potted history of the unification here.

I was a student librarian during those years and it was a very exciting and turbulent time to be entering the profession.

2014 marks the celebration of 20 years of democracy in South Africa! LIASA has embraced this milestone by adopting the theme “Celebrating libraries in 20 years of Democracy” which highlights how libraries are making the right to freedom of access to information, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights, a reality and how they contribute to nation building and community development by opening the doors of learning to all.

This campaign showcases libraries as desired spaces for:

  • connecting people of all ages to each other, learning resources, communities, government, the world and the environment
  • advancing literacy through the intellectual and aesthetic development of all ages
  • providing access to global knowledge and information in different formats to advance research and create new knowledge
  • fostering a spirit of enquiry and desire for lifelong learning
  • challenging one’s own beliefs and inculcating a respect for diverse beliefs, opinions and views all
  • contributing towards the development of an informed nation, and South Africa becoming an information society
    South African Libraries Week has been celebrated in South Africa since 2000 but since 2002 it has been LIASA’s vision to celebrate a truly national library week that embraces all types of libraries and all kinds of users and potential users.

    Find out more about LIASA and South African Library Week here

    Sex, Bugs and Heads will Roll: a review of Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

    In the small town of Ealing, iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

    This is the truth. this is history.
    It’s the end of the world.
    And nobody knows anything about it.

    I really did not know what to expect when I received a review copy of Grasshopper Jungle. At first I thought “Oh just another YA apocalypse!” But it is not! It is so much more, this book is funking* AWESOME! It should win awards and if there is any justice in the world it will be hailed as a classic a year or so down the line.

    Once you start reading it will grip you like a praying mantis and hold you until you have devoured it or ti will haunt you as you go about doing other things until you have finished it.

    Grasshopper Jungle is a history of how the end of the world began, written by Austin Szerba (confused) accompanied by his best friend Robby (gay) and his girlfriend Shann.

    Austin is a typical teenager inasmuch he is constantly horny and wants nothing more than to have sex with his girlfriend, and at times with his best friend, occasionally at the same time. He is confused about things but also obsessed with chronicling his history, the history of his ancestors – how they came to America and how they died.

    Grasshopper Jungle confused me, it is one of the flat-out weirdest books I have read in years and also one of the best! the neon greeny-yellow cover will catch your eye but it is the story that you will remember.

    Open and honest with raw emotions and at times extremely bloody Grasshopper Jungle is the first gonzo YA novel I have ever read and I loved it!

    *Yes ‘funking’

    New British Library Film

    The British Library, the world’s largest library, has unveiled a new online film which sheds light on the unique resources available to aspiring and established filmmakers, directors, producers and screenwriters who are looking for inspiration, research, networking and business support.

    As well as books, the film sector has free access to the library’s resources which includes:

    . Sound recordings: radio, oral history, film music and soundscapes

    . Moving image: 14,000 music videos, 9,000 TV programmes and news footage

    . Networking opportunities through events with partners e.g. Sheffield Doc/Fest meet-ups

    . Filming opportunities within the Library building (at a cost)

    To coincide with this film The British Library is hosting an event on Saturday 29 March with acclaimed screenwriter, novelist and playwright Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette, Le Week-end) reflecting on his work in film. More details here: Hanif Kureishi – My Beautiful Film Career.

    On Monday 31 Mar 2014 award-winning screenwriter and director Tony Grisoni (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) will share stories about his work and doing research for films. More details here: Inspiring filmmakers with Tony Grisoni