Monthly Archives: June 2014

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Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant Cover Reveal


Yes! That is the cover for the new book by Michael Grant and it is a thing of beauty!

I was also given the opportunity to ask him a question:

Is the Messenger of Fear based on a creature from mythology – if yes which one and if no what inspired you to create such a being?

Oh, yes, the Messenger in MESSENGER OF FEAR is inspired by grim reaper myths. An old band called Blue Öyster Cult had a song, Don’t Fear The Reaper, but I’d have to say that in the case of Messenger, you should definitely fear the reaper.

Messenger of Fear will be knocking on your door on the 28th August! Make sure you are ready!

Some Interviews are Louder than Words! Eight Questions With… Laura Jarratt

Hi Laura, welcome to Eight Questions with… for Teen Librarian.

louder-than-words-laura-jarrattFor those readers that may not have encountered you or your books before can you please introduce yourself?
Sure – I’m a YA writer who writes books about characters I find interesting. Those books happen to include aspects of romance/thriller/mystery because that’s where the characters take me. I live in the North West of England and I’m of Irish heritage, which is pretty obvious if you stand me in the sun for more than five minutes on a summer’s day. I’ve got a daughter and a stepson, both of whom are way too young to read my books, and a husband who doesn’t read them either, although he does say he’ll read Louder Than Words on the beach this year as his friend gave me the technical support for the book. I am a lover of large skinny lattes and irreverent humour.

Louder than Words is your latest novel for readers of YA, how would you describe it to hook a potential reader?
It’s a thriller about hacktivism seen through the eyes of an elective mute girl whose brother gets embroiled with an anarchist collective when he falls in love for the first time. There’s some modern feminism in there that the characters are getting to grips with but mostly this book is about love in all its different forms.

Are any of your works based on personal experiences?
Only in that I slip in little things that have happened or have some significance in helping me form a plot. The riot scenes in Louder Than Words are based on events I saw happening on the ground and in the news afterwards when I was on a protest march in London a couple of years ago about public sector cuts. It was all very well-behaved where I was but you could see things beginning to kick off in the distance and later after we left it got bad. But none of my characters are ever based on people I know and I don’t have any personal experience of the issues in the books such as Rafi’s mutism or Jenna’s facial disfigurement.

Did you do any research into elective mutism when writing Louder than Words?
Some. I work in education and have done for nearly twenty years so I’ve some across kids with Rafi’s condition before. This meant I already knew a fair amount and also that I knew where to look to get more in depth information about treatment of the condition. What I found really useful was reading blogs by people who are or have been mute and they describe exactly how it feels when they want to speak – that really did help me to get Rafi’s experience right.

Have you had any brushes with Anonymous or hacktivism in general and what is your opinion of cybervigilantism?
I first heard of Anonymous a few years ago on a writer’s forum that was being trolled and the level of fear that seemed to be associated with getting attention from Anonymous seemed bizarre to someone who knew nothing about them. I have absolutely no time for trolling at all. The concept of spending your time trying to upset people on the internet is completely alien to me – I just do not get it. And yes, get a proper life is what springs to mind. However I began to see Anonymous on the news doing things I couldn’t be so condemnatory about like standing up to the Westboro Baptist Church in their abuse of homosexuals and the way they were picketing dead soldiers’ funerals and I realised something about Anonymous was changing. I watched a documentary on how this change came about and there were some people speaking in that documentary I found I had some time for. Spiteful trolling had shifted to hacktivism. This really interested me. I grew up in a time when environmental activism was relatively big so I do have a connection with that mindset.

What do I think of cybervigilantism? I have some cautious sympathy when it’s done to assist a worthwhile cause but like all vigilantism, it risks stepping over the line into the unacceptable. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? Or in other words, how do you know when you have gone too far? Once you break the law and descend into vigilantism then you walk a tightrope. I think you can see my opinion of it by watching what happens to ActionX and especially Dillon in the book. But on the other hand there is a lot of Lara that I love.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Editing! I detest first drafts. It’s like finding your way through a pea-souper fog. I never have any idea where I’m going and it’s just stressful with the odd moment of pleasure when you hit a sweet spot. Editing though is lovely because you really get to craft the raw material into something worth reading. However writing for me is all about making the characters and that’s the part I love – creating people. That’s why I keep doing it.

Were you a reader as a teen and do you read the works of other YA writers and can you recommend any authors or titles that you think may appeal to fans of your work?
As a teen I was a prolific and sadly pretentious reader. I spent far too much time reading books I thought I should enjoy. Then I grew up and now I only read books I will enjoy. I read a lot of YA, both the type of thing I write myself and lots of other sub-genres too. I highly recommend Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, Kevin Brooks’s Lucas and in a very different way James Dawson’s Hollow Pike to any of my fans. For historical YA, I love Marie Louise Jenson.

Have you had any feedback from teen readers? If yes what did they think of your work?
I probably get more teen feedback than the average writer because I work in a school so they’ll stop me in the corridors to tell me. I also get some lovely fan mail and fans tweet to me when they’ve read a new book. My favourite feedback is when someone tells me that something I’ve written helps them in some way. There is really no feeling like that. I also get told a lot that my teen characters feel real, which is very important to me as a writer. I was at the Portsmouth Book Award last week and By Any Other Name won, voted for by teen readers. Kids had done pieces of artwork and made fan videos about the book – to generate that level of enthusiasm feels amazing and not in the sense of bigging yourself up about how great you are (which isn’t my thing) but that you gave kids pleasure. I love getting so much into a book myself so it’s the moat awesome thing if I’ve managed to create that for someone else.

Thank you so much for participating in this interview!

Three Years a School Librarian

In all the excitement over the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards, coming to the end of another school year and the Football World Cup I overlooked the fact that this June is my third anniversary as a School Librarian.

For the eight years prior to this momentous month three years ago I had been (mostly) a Teen & Youth Services Librarian, with a bit of Reference, Adult Services and team management thrown in for good measure. Then the public services cuts started, at this point I was in Brent, a borough that cut its already tightly run library service into the bone. I was the first casualty in Brent and one of the first librarians in London to get the chop, the only upside to being at the front of the line was I could see what was coming and had six months to scramble for a new job before the axe came down.

I interviewed for 12 positions in six months and did well but not well enough in most.

It was in the final interview I went to that got me the call-back to run a library lesson on Anne Frank and biographies which went brilliantly until I turned round and realised that the computer that was running the powerpoint display I was using had downloaded an update and rebooted itself, it was Windows Vista so took about 20 minutes to sort itself out. I had decided not to wait for the reboot went on with the lesson using and got the kids to look at specific titles.

I left, convinced that I had blown it and cursed Microsoft products under my breath.

The lesson was a week before my post in Brent came to an end and I felt the breath of doom on my neck. My last day of work was on a Monday and on the Tuesday morning I was unemployed. I received a phone-call around midday on the Tuesday offering the post of School Librarian.

Three years later I am still here!

I have restocked the library, discarded ancient and unsuitable stock, physically removed broken bookshelves, organised about 25 author visits, gotten to know an entire schools worth of students (& staff), participated in two pantomimes and run an ongoing series of weekly lessons for years 7, 8 & 9 as well as all the other things that happen in a library but are usually handled by other teams.

I have learned a lot – how to survive being a solo practitioner, partnership working with school departments and new (to me) outside agencies.

One thing I did not have to do was learning this alone! There is a brilliant School Librarians Network who helped me and continue to do so and Librarians are some of the most avid & helpful Twitter users that I know and they guided me through the early stages of my new career path.

This summer my library is receiving a comprehensive refurbishment from the ground up – carpet, chairs, tables, a new coat of paint and an enhanced IT offer (five new computers).

I am looking forward to my fourth year and have started working on new educational resources to use in the new school year.
librarytrail lego mattimrie

Hello Darkness My Old Friend: is the Carnegie Medal becoming too Bleak?

There is a growing sense of disquiet among spectators of the CILIP Carnegie& Kate Greenaway Awards that the Carnegie has a growing darkness in its heart. There is the possibility that the judges vie to find a book that was darker than previous titles and have the author crowned as the next recipient of the award.

Each year after the winners have been announced there has been a vocal group of observers that shout that some of the titles are not suitable for younger readers, the subject matters are too dark for children to understand.

We are living in a golden age of publishing for young readers, the volume of quality titles that are published each year is still growing and the number of titles nominated for the award grows apace.

Authors are not content to write about safe subjects and retread ground that writers before them have covered, they may retell or reimagine old stories but often update them (in style if not content) and give them relevance to a modern audience.

Writing for slightly older audience gives writers more freedom in tackling contentious issues that they would have difficulty with if they were writing for younger readers.

I feel that the accusations that the winning titles are too bleak for younger readers are specious. Books are perfect for tabling discussions about what is happening in the world today. Children and adults enter schools with guns and innocents die, often for reasons that make little or no sense. Violence, war and death are routinely shown on news programmes; young girls are kidnapped or murdered for the crime of wanting an education.

Straying into fiction, EastEnders has shown murder, rape, kidnapping, arson and jaywalking although I think they do display the Samaritans number at the end of particular episodes for anyone who wanted to talk about what they have seen.

The veil of fiction can make it easier for readers to confront and discuss issues that affect them in real life. When talking to a parent, guardian, teacher or librarian about it is often easier to refer to pages that may have upset or confused a young reader than chatting about what they saw on the television or have experienced. Books can also help readers understand what others go through better than watching a film or television show.

I do not believe that children need to be cosseted or protected from the big bad world, the argument has already been made about children self-censoring anything they feel they are not ready for.

Is The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks bleak and unremitting? Yes it is. Does it tie everything up in a neat dénouement at the end? No it does not. Is it suitable for each and every reader that may pick it up? Maybe not but that is for the reader to decide!

Have previous titles that were selected been bleak, dark and troubled? Yes they have but the subject is almost irrelevant as the main point when considering a title for the Carnegie is:

The book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book of outstanding literary quality. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.

There have been years where no winner has been chosen as the criteria against which the books are measured are so strict.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children and the judges choice on the matter is final. People will always disagree this is what makes for such rousing discussions about the shortlisted titles and winners but to accuse the judges of spiralling down to ever darker and nastier titles can be dismissed immediately.

A few years ago there was the accusation that only ‘worthy’ literary titles were chosen instead of more populist books.
When it comes to the Carnegie there is no pattern, judges cannot refuse a book just because a similar title or author won the previous year. The winning title is one that best matches the criteria which are freely available to view here:

The joy of reading is that you are free to read any book you want and put it down if it does not appeal. Not every story will fit every reader; there is diversity in choice and that is what makes it so wonderful!

Moths are drawn to the light and young minds can be attracted to the darkness in some books, but if they find it too dark they can choose to close the covers and move on to another title.

I do not believe that the awards are becoming too dark, the judges change every two years and new blood brings with it a fresh perspective and opinion on what the best book for a particular year is.

The darkness in fiction can be dispelled by closing the covers and waiting until you are ready to face it.

Some Thoughts on the Winners of the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards

The Kate Greenaway Award goes to This is Not My Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen and the Carnegie Award goes to The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks.

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbThe Bunker Diary
white barrier
This is Not My Hat was my favourite to win from the moment I read it – even before it was nominated. In all honesty I thought the same about I Want My Hat Back. The other short-listed titles were also brilliant but TINMH had my heart and support from the beginning!

The Carnegie Award winner was harder to call and I could not pick a favourite from the short-listed titles. The Bunker Diary is a worthy winner and a brave choice by the judges. In recent years the Carnegie Award has faced criticism over the dark stories that have been nominated and selected as winners and I am sure that this year will be no different. The Bunker Diary is dark, brilliant and probably not suitable for younger readers but it is an excellent choice!

I am looking forward to and also slightly terrified by the CKG Awards next year as I will be sitting on the judging panel and will have a hand in choosing the shortlists and winning titles. Over the years I have been involved in a number of discussions both online and in the real world about the awards and have always been a firm believer in the importance of the awards and now next year I will become part of the process.

The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Award Livestream

For the first time a live stream of the 2014 CILIP Carneige & Kate Greenaway Award ceremony will be available to view commencing at 12.00 on Monday 23 June for approximately one hour.

You can watch it here, or at

The National Public Library Festival

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame a review

rebnewIn the beginning, the ancient Gods created not just the earth. The also created three other worlds: the Elysian Fields, a paradise where they themselves live; tartarus, the dark world of demons and titans, ruled over by the ancient deity Cronus; and finally the Land of the White Sun, where all the heroes and creatures of myth dwell – Centaurs and Minotaurs, Cyclopes and Gorgons, Amazons and flying horses! In this land the Creator planted the Sacred Flame, the Cosmic Source that keeps the universe in balance and must be protected from the dark monsters and Evil Gods who desire to seize it, in order to destroy all the worlds.
Hearing that Rebecca is charismatic, Turgoth, ruler of the kingdom of Beast, arranges for her abduction. When the two of them come face to face, they realise that there is a strange bond between them and their destinies become entwined forever. But although they start to share deep feelings for each other, they are doomed to fight on opposite sides…

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is a tale of love, duty, loss and duty. Rebecca is an Orizon, a human being of immense power and this is her story. A young woman born into an ancient bloodline and a duty to defend herself and the flame that lights creation from the forces of darkness and evil.

The story is flows from tender moments between lovers and friends to scenes of bloody battle. It is told in the present day but also delves into the pasts of the main characters via flashbacks, giving the reader insight into the motivations of the heroes and villains – what drives them and where they come from.

Like the ancient myths it is based on, it is a story of super-humans with immense power and responsibility but all the weaknesses that regular beings fall prey to.At its heart I feel the book is is a story of love and of choices that have to be made through emotions and not logic as well as being a reflection on the nature of good and evil and the choices people make.

Ultimately as epic as it is, Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is only the opening act of a much larger tale that will be continued in further volumes that in my opinion cannot come fast enough!

Moose Kid All Ages Free Comic Launched Today!

Moose Kid Comics is a glorious 36-page, free to read, digital children’s comic. It features over 40 of the best comic artists working today, from well-established heroes to newer talents from the indie and web scenes. Each contributing their own entirely original characters, exclusively for the comic.

No-one involved makes any profit, all artists have given their time for free!

For three main reasons:

To entertain comic readers and win new audiences.
To show how fantastic a children’s comic can e when artists create it themselves.
To open up discussion about how we can make children’s comics great again.


To read the comic (and find out more), click on the image below!


Farewell Strange Chemistry

I have just heard that Strange Chemistry the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books is ceasing the publication of new books immediately.

They, along with crime imprint Exhibit A were unable to establish viable presences in the markets they were targeting.

Strange Chemistry was launched in the British Library in 2012, I was fortunate to be there and was excited about the awesome authors they had on their list.

With SC no longer publishing the YA market has lost a little bit of the strangeness that they brought to their readers.

I will miss them!