Monthly Archives: August 2017

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Book List: Novels with Antifascist/nazi Themes

  • Number the Stars – Lois Lowry
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic – Jane Yolen
  • Tarzan & the Blackshirts – Andy Croft
  • A is for Activist – Innosanta Nagara
  • Who are Refugees and Migrants? – Michael Rosen
  • Girl with a White Dog – Anne Booth
  • Hitler’s Canary – Sandi Toksvig
  • Tender Earth – Sita Bramichari
  • Maggot Moon – Sally Gardner
  • Noughts and Crosses – Malory Blackman
  • The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew
  • The Tripods – John Christopher
  • Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
  • When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr
  • The Silver Sword – Ian Serrailier
  • I Am David – Ann Holm
  • The Wave – Todd Strasser
  • A Wrinkle in time – Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne
  • The Boy at the Top of the Mountain – John Boyne
  • Street of Tall People – Alan Gibbons
  • Trouble at Cable Street – Joan Lingard
  • A World between Us – Lydia Syson
  • The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak
  • My Friend the Enemy – Dan Smith
  • Max – Sarah Cohen-Scali

    For Older Readers

  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • It Can’t happen Here – Sinclair Lewis
  • 1984 – George Orwell
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Night – Elie Wiesel
  • ‘Reading Russia’ while researching The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

    In 2012, when I was just beginning to have vague thoughts that I might write an historical novel set in Russia during the Revolution, an email appeared in my Inbox. Edinburgh International Book Festival was celebrating 50 years and, supported by the British Council, invited 50 writers to do a cultural exchange with different locations world-wide. So, while other writers ended up shopping in New York or sunning themselves in the Caribbean I was one of a group who were asked to speak at a Cultural Fair in… Siberia!

    A stop-off in Moscow provided the opportunity to speak with librarians, teachers and students of English literature and see some of Russia’s literary treasures. In addition to their pre-printing press beautifully illuminated manuscripts, there were originals manuscripts of famous Russian writers, such as Dostoevsky and, thrillingly, the handwritten title page of Mikhail Bulgakov’s original manuscript for The Master and Margarita.

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

    We discussed the transformative power of good fiction and in the evening attended an ‘open mike’ literature session in a night club. Seriously. In a night club. During the music breaks anyone could come up and talk about reading. And they did. Amazing! Young people spoke about the influence of Gogol and quoted favourite bits of Turgenev. And I learned so much about modern Russian writers. We were challenged to name a ‘hero for our times’ I chose Katniss Everdeen – who else?

    Russia has enormously influential writers, with Alexander Pushkin rated as the funder of modern Russian literature. In Eugene Onegin Pushkin speaks on writing saying: “… weave together emotion, thought, and magic sound; I write, …”

    Pushkin supported the 1825 uprising and his writings were considered so dangerous by the Tsar that he was banished from St Petersburg and barred from any government post. When he died he was buried without ceremony in case the occasion of his funeral would cause unrest. I’m intrigued by Pushkin for he used language in a new way, melding traditional tongues with the words of the common people. He proved a big inspiration for the character of Nina’s father, Ivan, the Storyteller, in The Rasputin Dagger.

    Then on to Siberia. I was soooooo excited. It was late October / early November and they said “Oh, it’s not that cold, yet…” Really? I was glad I’d packed my grey-goose down-filled parka with the fur-lined hood. I have to say that Melvin Burgess looked fetching in his dark green wool overcoat and was a particular draw for our teen audiences.

    As I’m a former Young People’s Services librarian the organisers were keen that I speak on the subject of Youth Library Services. Despite the remote venue the session was full and I was proud to share examples of British ‘best practice’. Like ravenous wolves the librarians fell upon the material I’d brought with me.

     Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

    Then Melvin and I had events with articulate and engaging young teenagers, organised and moderated by the pupils themselves.

     Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

    It was an absolute joy to talk to these young Russians. Although desperately keen for modern teen fiction from the West, their own reading included Tolstoy and Chekhov, and a wide range of classic Russian books.

    And a final interesting fact – schools in Siberia only close if the temperature drops below 26 degrees centigrade!

    ©Theresa Breslin 2017
    Twitter: @TheresaBreslin1

    #TeenLibrarian Monthly August 2017: the Antifascist issue

    Download (PDF, 513KB)

    Game Library Camp 17

    If, like me, you were not able to attend the Game Library Camp on the 12th then watching this padlet may be of interest to you:

    Made with Padlet

    #DadLife: Park Life

    My little ginger snap and I have been working on a regular Saturday morning (7am) trip to our local park. This gives my lovely Mrs a chance to sleep uninterrupted by our creaking couch and excited shouts of “Peppa Peeeg!”

    I make her a bottle, put a banana in my jacket pocket and we stop off at our local Costa for a latte (for me) and a take-out toasted breakfast bloomer. Apart from morning dog walkers wandering around the recreation ground the children’s play area is usually deserted at this time of the morning.

    We start off by sitting down on one of the benches and sharing the bloomer a third for her and two thirds for me and we drink our drinks and then she has her ‘nana – having chatted to a friend of mine whose child is of an age with my little ginge I think that small children have an affinity for bananas that is difficult to put into words. She is good at sharing though and will physically try and fore mushed banana into my mouth if I do not take some willingly.

    For several weekends now her main fascination has been with the children’s obstacle course, she is still too small to do it but walks around the course looking at the various obstacles going “oooh” and sitting on the bits that are low enough. Lately she has been trying out beginner geocaching by picking up pebbles and putting them in places that you would not normally expect to find them at the playground.

    When she starts wandering heaven help me if my concentration falters – even for a second for she will take off, and she can move rapidly, even on her little legs. I sometimes lag back purposefully and if she notices that I am not keeping pace with her she will turn around and shout at me until I catch up. Sometimes she will head towards one of the gates and if I cannot catch her in time she will try to open it and get into the larger park.

    Once she has been suitably distracted she will do a circuit of the playground’s other attractions, down two of the smaller slides, round the merry-go-round and spinning wheel then crawling around the toy train and finally the see-saw with interludes sitting in the little playhouse where she will put wood chips on the table and tell me about them when I sit with her.

    She is changing so rapidly, she alternates between demanding her freedom and chasing me away very vocally when she wants to do things on her own then wanting to be picked up and lifted on to whatever she wants to play on. She is at the size where I can still sweep her up and throw her into the air and catch her safely while she screams with laughter and nuzzles into my neck for a cuddle.

    I have heard tell that these moments pass by so quickly that I am taking every opportunity to spend time with her while everything is new and exciting – even a quick visit to the park!

    Libraries and the Concept of Safe Spaces

    The term ‘safe space’ means different things to different people, to those that have an interest in online privacy Libraries may not be considered safe spaces due to local authority filters that block certain sites and key words and also have the ability to monitor what people get up to online; the security and privacy of Library patrons borrowing records is also not secure.

    Libraries that host police services can feel unsafe to communities and individuals that have experienced police brutality. Unstaffed/self-service libraries can be unsafe if staff are not on hand to moderate what can be threatening behaviour to other library patrons. Sometimes library staff behaviour can make patrons feel uncomfortable due to prejudices and preconceptions that exist within all individuals.

    On the flip side, for parents with young children the library can be a safe place to go for story times and contact with other parents & families who have children of a similar age. For latchkey kids the library can be a safe place to wait if their parents/carers are working late; libraries that offer homework clubs can also provide assistance for them while they do their homework. For people at risk of bullying and abuse the Library can be a safe haven.

    There is no one size fits all descriptor for safe spaces, and while it is true that Libraries cannot be said to be ‘safe spaces’ they can be made safer fo rall users. To achieve this, Library staff need to work with the community to identify what practices within the service that make them feel unsafe and change or eliminate them as much as possible while amplifying those practices that provide safety and security for patrons.

    #DadLife: Visiting the Library

    It is one of life’s ironies that although I am a librarian I do not take my little ginger snap to the library that often. That joy falls to my lovely wife who treks her up to the library several times a week for toddler time, baby rhyme time and sundry craft activities. To be completely honest – this makes me a bit jealous as once upon a time I was a Children’s Librarian in my first Library job (Fish Hoek Public Library) and I have seen how much fun these activities can be!

    My daughter loves the library, each time we walk past she points and starts shouting at me at this time it is still hard to understand what she is saying but I imagine it is something along the lines of “No you fool I want to go in *there*” and then she bursts into tears as we carry on walking. This is not, you understand, a form of mental torture I subject my child to, rather it is because that whenever we go past, the library is already closed.

    However on Saturday morning while waiting for the car to be washed we had a bit of time so we popped in to our local library (Chislehurst), The moment we went through the doors she started fighting to get out of the pram and made excited noises, the moment her feet hit the floor she ran straight for the Children’s Library.

    She grabbed a book off the parenting shelf and brought it proudly to me, it was a book on potty-training which made me wonder if she was trying to tell me something. She then started running round the shelves grabbing books, seemingly at random then plonked herself down and started looking at them. I am always amazed at how carefully she turns the pages – until she gets excited, then I have to step in to make sure that she does not accidentally pull pages out. So far the worst she has done is remove a date-stamp label but I live in fear of having to take a toddlerised book to the library desk.

    I love the Library – when I was small my mother took my brothers and I for a visit to our local library every week. It gives me a sense of enormous well-being that we are continuing this tradition with our daughter.