No! Nobrow!

I have been a fan of Nobrow and their picture book imprint Flying Eye Books for a good few years now. I have reviewed a number of their titles (you can find the reviews here and here). I have written about them for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups here. I have interviewed their authors and illustrators and championed their books for years as they produce works of quality and beauty that catch the eye of readers of all ages. I have used them to turn reluctant readers on to the joys of reading many times over the years.

Over the past few days on twitter I found several threads accusing them of exploiting new and upcoming authors & illustrators and acting in a less than ethical manner against other small press publishers. Several years ago at a publisher event in London I was chatting to a publicist and mentioned that I was a fan of their work and the publicist (off the record) asked if I had heard the rumours about their low payment of creators and claiming rights to works created by authors and illustrators they published. I said that I had not and thereafter dug around but was never able to find anything about this so I marked it as unproven and moved on.

Below is a screenshot of an email allegedly sent by Alexander Latsis in 2013

Source: https://twitter.com/deadtreesanddye/status/1253762564032520195

Illustrator Lucy Haslam has been creating an epic twitter thread about ELCAF (the East London Comic Art Festival) and Nobrow. It is definitely worth a read for detailed background information about what has been happening for a number of years.

Illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti tweeted this about an offer from Nobrow in 2018:

This discussion was not a total pile-on, several creators spoke up positively about their interactions with Nobrow, including CILIP Kate Greenaway winning illustrator William Grill:

Astrocat creator Ben Newman:

Kellie Strøm:

and a few others.

Nobrow has also released an official statement that can be read here:

A Statement from Nobrow

It should definitely be read in full. In the statement they challenge the claims that their contracts are unfair and have promised to do research into comparative advances and royalties. They also go on to deny that they do not prevent their creators from working with other publishers and state that the screenshot of the e-mail was released without permission and out of context although it is hard to imagine what the context was without further information about that discussion as the e-mail alone appears to be pretty damning.

The full statement rather than allaying the fears and allegations seems to have inflamed opinion in more areas, with Paul Duffield‘s take being worth a read:

When this type of situation erupts it is not always easy to identify who is in the right, I support small publishers and creator rights but I think in this instance the number of dissenting voices that have been raised about unfair treatment as well as those raised in defense show that this situation is not clear cut to outside observers. I think that Valerie Pezeron‘s views as laid out in the thread below most closely match up with mine – they are definitely worth a read.

The vocalization of the long-term unhappiness of many of the authors and illustrators is an indication that people are no longer going to be quiet if they perceive themselves to be treated unfairly, this is good as it can act as a warning to others that may find themselves in a similar situation and can strengthen collective bargaining if enough creators band together. We may be witnessing the birth of unionisation in the author/illustrator world beyond what the Society of Authors and other groups that already exist.

I remain a fan of many of the authors and illustrators published by Nobrow, but this fandom is now tinged with a concern over what they may have experienced during the creation of their works for their publisher. Is it a fair and rational feeling? I don’t know, but it is human to have concern for the welfare of others and I am also concerned for those currently furloughed by the publisher and for everyone else impacted by the Covid-19 shutdowns across the world.

Comic Classics: Great Expectations

OLD books get NEW doodles – it’s the classics as you’ve never seen them before!A hilarious new series that brings the classics to life with illustrations by Jack Noel. Perfect for fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid and Dav Pilkey. And Charles Dickens.

WHAT THE DICKENS?

Ten-year-old Pip gets the fright of his life when he meets an escaped convict in a spooky graveyard. And that’s just the beginning of an adventure that will lead him to a house full of secrets, a strange old lady and a journey to the big city to seek his fortune. But Pip is in for a BIG surprise . . .

Join Pip in a rip-roaring story of family secrets, scary grannies and a REALLY annoying big sister in COMIC CLASSICS: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens and Jack Noel.

Egmont
Comic Classics: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens and Jack Noel

Do we need the classics? Normally I’d say “not really” and go back to reading an outstanding recently published novel that is actually written for children and not just foisted upon them by the education system <ahem>…but there are a few exceptions. I have never read a Dickens novel except for A Chrismas Carol (though I mostly remember it because of The Muppets) and would happily have never changed that state of affairs until this book crossed my path! Carefully abridged by Liz Bankes, this version is enlivened by loads of doodles by Jack Noel. I flew through it and really enjoyed the way these simple pictures highlighted the story and often explained what the text meant without patronising young readers.

I asked Jack Noel a few questions about it all (unfortunately Charles was unavailable for comment):

What inspired you to create this series?

I love books with pictures. We’re living in a golden age of illustrated young fiction (eg. Tom Gates, Claude, Mr Gum, Barry Loser, Reeves & McIntyre, Lyttle Lies etc). I would have loved them all when I was eight or ten or twenty or thirty and I love them now. I wanted to have a go myself. I was curious to see how the style would work when applied to something a little different. It turns out: quite well!

Did you read Great Expectations as a child?

We read Great Expectations at school. I thought we’d read the whole thing but I now know that my teacher just selected the best bits (the graveyard! the cake! the fire!). Also I think my mum made me watch the David Lean movie one wet Sunday afternoon. Though it might have been Kathy Come Home. It was some old black and white film, anyway. I thought it was quite boring.

There are two more coming soon, Treasure Island & The Hound of the Baskervilles, how many more are in the pipeline? How have you chosen the titles?

We just choose the most fun ones we can think of. Treasure Island is great because it’s got all the original pirate ideas like the maps and a parrot that says ‘pieces of eight’. I’m also hoping that the publisher will pay for me to sail to the Caribbean on a promotional tour. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best Sherlock Holmes story and I’ve been into him ever since I saw The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, about a mouse version of Sherlock Holmes.

If you could add doodles to *any* book, what would you choose?

I feel like any book would be better with doodles. Hilary Mantel books are wonderful but a couple of doodle Thomas Cromwells wouldn’t go amiss. I can’t draw horses very well though, so no Black Beauty.

What kind of author events do you enjoy doing?

I like author events with lots of live drawing and collaboration. I aim for 65% fun, 30% inspiring, 5% educational. If the kids are shouting, that’s a good event. Even if it is because they’re angry.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I just started the latest Sam Wu book by  Katie and Kevin Tsang. It’s about a boy who isn’t afraid of Zombies. It’s packed with great pictures by Nathan Reed. 

What, other than Comic Classics, are you working on?

I’ve got a novel coming out in August called MY HEADTEACHER IS AN EVIL GENIUS. Not to spoil it or anything, but it’s about a headteacher who is an evil genius. It’s got loads of pictures and jokes and stuff, you’d like it.

Comic Classics: Great Expectations is out now. For a sneak peek, have a look here on the Egmont website. Thanks Egmont for sending me a review copy!

The National Shelf Service

CILIP started the National Shelf Service on Monday 6th April, a daily recommendation of a book available to borrow electronically through local libraries, live at 11am. Hopefully you’ve been watching these great videos from YLG colleagues, but if you haven’t seen any yet then why not start with mine! I’m the only one (so far) that has talked about a book that isn’t aimed at teenagers or young adults, not really living up to the TeenLibrarian name, but as I say: this book can be read and loved by anyone of any age…

The illustrations on the banners are by Fiona Lumbers, from the book Luna Loves Library Day written by Joseph Coelho

The Austen Girls

Would she ever find a real-life husband? Would she even find a partner to dance with at tonight’s ball? She just didn’t know.
Anna Austen has always been told she must marry rich. Her future depends upon it. While her dear cousin Fanny has a little more choice, she too is under pressure to find a suitor.
But how can either girl know what she wants? Is finding love even an
option? The only person who seems to have answers is their Aunt Jane. She has never married. In fact, she’s perfectly happy, so surely being single can’t be such a bad thing?
The time will come for each of the Austen girls to become the heroines of
their own stories. Will they follow in Jane’s footsteps?
In this witty, sparkling novel of choices, popular historian LUCY WORSLEY brings alive the delightful life of Jane Austen as you’ve never seen it before.

Bloomsbury

This is Lucy’s fourth historical novel for Bloomsbury Children’s Books but the first (to my shame) I’ve read, I definitely want to pick up the others now though. It reads like an Austen novel, while managing to keep the story moving at a pace for younger modern teens to keep engaged. The setting is very evocative with real historical touches, I’m a little bit disappointed it isn’t an entirely true story! She very kindly answered some questions for TeenLibrarian:

What prompted you to discover Jane Austen led such an interesting life?

Well, on the face of it, Jane Austen lived quite a boring life. No one knew that she was a famous novelist, because she kept it secret. She never got married or did wild things, and she died quite young. And yet I think her life was terribly interesting, because she was so brave to decide that she wasn’t going to marry a rich man. (She did accept one proposal, but broke it off the next morning.) Instead, she became one of the very few professional female novelists of Georgian times. I did a lot of research about her real life, and I discovered that she gave out agony advice to her two young nieces as they grew up and had to decide themselves who they were going to marry. So I took the three characters from history, and spun a story around them! It’s only in my imagination that Jane Austen becomes a detective, or the rather lovely word that the Georgians used: a ‘thief-taker’.

Which is most satisfying: writing for TV, writing non-fiction, or writing fiction?

What I really like is a mix. Writing for TV is a very collaborative effort – a whole team works on it very closely together. Writing non-fiction is very slow and painstaking, you have to get all the facts right. By comparison, writing fiction is like flying! All you have to think about is the story. It’s nice to be able to switch between all three. (There’s another kind of writing that I do as well: writing very clear blocks of text for guidebooks or exhibitions or webpages in my work as a museum curator at Hampton Court Palace. That’s another challenge all of its own.)

When you started writing fiction did you originally intend it to be for a teen audience or did it evolve that way?

I decided around the age of 11 that I wanted to be a historian, and one of the reasons that I made that decision was through reading historical novels. So I wanted to write books that maybe … just possibly … the person who’s going to be doing my job and who’s going to be the curator at Hampton Court Palace in twenty years’ time might enjoy.

If you were given unlimited time & resources to research & write about a different person or event, who/what would you choose?

I would love to write about Agatha Christie, the detective story writer.

What is your favourite kind of book event to take part in?

I like going to a school or a festival with my box of props and dressing up outfits, and acting out silly scenes from history.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m always reading about five different books for different research projects, and usually they wouldn’t be of any interest to anyone else apart from the five people who are researching in that tiny corner of history. At the moment, though, I have been burning my way through many Agatha Christies – a nice relaxing thing to read when we’re all feeling anxious!

Lucy Worsley is, by day, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. By night, she is a writer and presenter.

Thank you Bloomsbury for sending me a proof copy, and Lucy for answering my questions!

The Austen Girls is out TODAY!

Self-care Reading List

Librarians & library workers need to practice self-care as we focus on adapting the work we do around stay at home orders and mandatory closures for the coronavirus. It is a stressful time for everyone and burnout is another very real threat! I personally am very bad at self care so I have been reading up on how to do this! These are some of the websites I have found useful in this regard:

https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/self-care-not-selfish/

https://schoollibrariansunited.libsyn.com/burnout-and-self-care

https://hacklibraryschool.com/2014/12/17/a-librarians-approach-to-self-care/

Professional Development Links for Library-folk

WebJunction Course Catalog

Library-specific courses and webinar recordings available for free to all library workers and volunteers. Through the generous support of OCLC and many state library agencies across the US, WebJunction provides timely and relevant learning content for you to access anytime, from anywhere.

All new learners need to create an account. Select “Log in” at the top right of this page, and then “Create new account.” Once you’ve created your new account, explore the catalog of library-focused self-paced courses and webinars. Certificates of completion will be available to you after you have completed any course or webinar.
https://learn.webjunction.org/

Young Adult & Teen specific training:  
https://learn.webjunction.org/course/index.php?categoryid=25

School Library Journal Offers Temporary Free Access to Digital Content

https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=school-library-journal-offers-free-full-access-to-content-digitized-magazines-coronavirus-slj

Raising the Bar
Integrating Early Childhood Education into Librarian Professional Development

a four-part training series developed by the New York Public Library, in collaboration with CUNY’s Professional Development Institute and funded by the Institution of Museum and Library Services.
https://nypl.teachable.com/

Free Library Webconference: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdSZu598n6w5ikj00_3eUxuK5n06iiqb7O47yN43kzHGEmUrw/viewform

Submit a piece to a Library ‘Zine

Historical Fiction Webinar

https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist-the-latest/blog-article/webinar-crash-course-in-historical-fiction

Middle Grade Magic Virtual Conference

https://vshow.on24.com/vshow/middlegrade2020/registration/16561

Teaching Social Justice: Navigating the Deep Waters of Equity in Early Childhood Programs

https://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/webinars/teaching-social-justice-navigating-the-deep-waters-of-equity-in-early-childhood-programs/

NoveList Webinars

https://www.ebscohost.com/novelist-the-latest/by_tag/tag/Webinars



Educational Resources

A short list of online educational resources :

Virtual Story-times

Storyline Online

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.
https://www.storylineonline.net/

Publisher Permission Details for Virtual Story-times during the Coronavirus Crisis

This list will be updated as I find more publisher positions on virtual story-times

Scholastic: https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=scholastic-temporarily-revises-policy-for-online-read-alouds-coronavirus-copyright

Candlewick: https://twitter.com/Candlewick/status/1240645865301295107 (applies to Walker Books US as well)

Little Brown Young Readers: https://www.lbyr.com/little-brown-young-readers/lbyr-blog/lbyr-book-sharing-permission-statement/

Penguin Random House: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/penguin-random-house-temporary-open-license/

Simon & Schuster: https://www.simonandschuster.com/p/online-read-aloud-guidelines

Macmillan: https://us.macmillan.com/macmillan-content-use-guidelines/

Abrams: https://www.abramsbooks.com/abramskidspermission/

HarperCollins Childrens Books: https://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/?detailStory=harpercollins-childrens-books-outlines-online-reading-policy-coronavirus-covid19

Lerner Books: https://rights-permissions.lernerbooks.com/

Boyd Mills & Kane: https://boydsmillsandkane.com/permissions2020/

Lee & Low Books: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2020/03/20/lee-low-guidelines-for-virtual-book-read-alouds-during-covid-19/

Quirk Books: https://www.quirkbooks.com/post/want-read-quirk-books-kids-online-while-social-distancing-heres-how

Mo Willems: http://wernickpratt.com/covid-19-guidelines-for-online-enrichment/

UK Publishers

Hachette Children’s Books: https://twitter.com/PiersTorday/status/1241493636069670917

Walker Books UK: http://www.walker.co.uk/UserFiles/file/2020/Storytime,%20Reading%20and%20Virtual%20Book%20Promotion%20Guidelines_COVID-19.pdf

JK Rowling Harry Potter temporary open licence: https://www.jkrowling.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/TBP-Temporary-Open-Licence-Schools-2.pdf

Chicken House:

These are challenging times for all of us and we are particularly sensitive to the needs of children to continue their learning and to reap the many benefits that literature brings them. We at Chicken House and Scholastic are in full support of providing a wide range of online learning activities for kids during this time of school closures.
We have been moved by the numerous requests we’ve received from people across the country who are trying to address these needs by posting readings of books online for children to access. We want to support you in your efforts and ask that if you choose to read your book online to your students you follow these guidelines:
• At the beginning of your video, please state that you are presenting your reading “with permission from Chicken House books.”
• You post your reading through your school’s platform or another closed group or platform with limited access for your students. Should this not be possible please let me know.
• Since we view this as a way to compensate for the closure of schools, please delete your video or disable access no later than 5pm 30th April 2020.
By posting a reading, you are agreeing to abide by the above terms.

Usborne Books: https://faqs.usborne.com/article/83-id-like-to-make-a-recording-of-an-usborne-book

Faber Children’s: https://www.faber.co.uk/blog/a-message-from-our-faber-childrens-publisher/

Little Tiger Group: http://littletiger.co.uk/tiger-blog/little-tiger-group-permissions-policy-for-online-book-readings

Quirk Books: https://www.quirkbooks.com/post/want-read-quirk-books-kids-online-while-social-distancing-heres-how

Macmillan: https://www.panmacmillan.com/panmac/macmillan-content-use-guidelines

Australia

Books Create Australia, the collaboration between the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) has announced a special arrangement for library storytimes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For the duration of the pandemic, virtual story-times will be sanctioned by an industry agreement. It is the policy of the Boards of the APA and ASA that their members suspend any requirements for copyright permission to be sought, in order to allow libraries to make recordings or livestream storytimes so children aren’t denied this important and much-loved service.

https://www.alia.org.au/news/21007/book-industry-partners-come-agreement-copyright

Canada

 The Association of Canadian Publishers has formed the Read Aloud Canadian Books Program with Access Copyright.

The Program will allow, on a temporary basis, a waiver of licence fees related to the reading of all or part of select books from participating publishers and posting of the video recording online.

https://accesscopyright.ca/read-aloud/

If your library is closed and you have no access to storytimes or books, why not look at these resources

https://www.storylineonline.net/ The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.

Open Culture 6000 digitized kids books: http://www.openculture.com/2016/08/enter-an-archive-of-6000-historical-childrens-books-all-digitized-and-free-to-read-online.html

Mackin free (until the end of the year) offer: https://www.mackin.com/hq/resources/free-stuff/

Public domain children’s books at Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=children%27s+books

https://librivox.org/ free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers around the world.

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