Author Archives: Caroline Fielding

Chartered School Librarian, CILIP YLG London Chair, Bea-keeper

The Boy Who Grew a Tree

Nature-loving Timi is unsettled by the arrival of a new sibling and turns to tending a tree growing in his local library. But there is something magical about the tree and it is growing FAST… and the library is going to close. Can Timi save the library and his tree, and maybe bring his community closer together along the way? A charming early reader for ages 5-8, filled with black-and-white illustrations.

Knights Of
Illustrated by Sojun Kim-McCarthy

I know this blog is called *Teen* Librarian, but I read a lot of books for younger reader as well, with Bea but also for the school that I work in…and when I saw what this book was about I just had to be part of the blog tour! It really is one of the best early readers I’ve come across, beautifully written and engaging with lovely illustrations, and could be enjoyed by and provoke discussion with readers of all ages. I asked the author, Polly Ho-Yen a few questions:

What is your fondest memory of using or working in a library?

This is a toughie because I have so many special memories being in libraries. I used to love running the baby bounce classes because the babies looked so amazed to be there and were (mostly) brimming with joy. I also helped out with a reading group where it felt like every week, the poem or story made a huge impact on all of us. I liked hearing the different thoughts of everyone there; in one session I’ve never forgotten, a blind man shared that he saw people as colours. A favourite memory from being a library user was overhearing a kid saying his imaginary friend was particularly powerful in the library because it got its strength from all the books.

How different was it writing for a younger audience? Was the idea for this story always for beginning readers or did it evolve that way?

I was pretty nervous before I began writing about whether I would be able to do it, to be honest! I knew how important every sentence, every word is – there’s no room to ride when writing for younger audiences. But once I put my worries aside and got started, I found the voice and finished it fairly quickly. And then I had a nervous wait to hear what my editor thought. I always find it useful to read my work aloud and this was even more important for this story.

I’ve had bits of this ideas floating around for a while but when I asked myself to think about a story for a younger audience, that’s when it really developed to become ‘The Boy Who Grew a Tree.’

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

I read more picture books than anything else at the moment because I have a book-obsessed two-year-old and so the last book I put down was ‘Where’s Lenny’ by Ken Wilson-Max. It’s a real favourite because it speaks so brilliantly to the games that are at the centre of a toddler’s world.

I’m also reading ‘The Ice Palace’ by Tarjei Vesaas which is such an intriguing read, with perfectly-drawn characters and a killer setting to boot. I’m only at the beginning but I’m recommending it to everyone, so far!

Will you be writing more early chapter books or have you more middle grade ideas?

I would like to write both because I have ideas for both and it’s a great challenge to write for different readerships. Also I know about myself by now that I get a bit overexcited about writing and creating and so writing across genres is a dream come true.

Polly Ho-Yen

The Boy Who Grew a Tree, written by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy, published by Knights Of is out now, priced £5.99

Check out the rest of the tour! Thank you EDPR for organising

Fight Back!

Aaliyah is an ordinary thirteen-year-old living in the Midlands. She’s into books, shoes and her favourite K-pop boy band. She has always felt at home where she lives … until a terrorist attack at a concert in her area changes everything. As racial tension increases, Aaliyah is bullied, but instead of hiding who she is, she decides to speak up and wear a hijab. She’s proud of her identity, and wants to challenge people’s misconceptions. But when her right to wear a hijab at school is questioned and she is attacked and intimidated, she feels isolated. Aaliyah discovers she’s not alone and that other young people from different backgrounds are also discriminated against because of their identity, and feel scared and judged. Should she try to blend in – or can she find allies to help her fight back? Channelling all of her bravery, Aaliyah decides to speak out. Together, can Aaliyah and her friends halt the tide of hatred rippling through their community?

An essential read to encourage empathy, challenge stereotypes, explore prejudice, racism, Islamophobia and inspire positive action.

A story of hope, speaking up and the power of coming together in the face of hatred.

#FightBack #FindYourVoice #OurVoicesAreStrongerTogether

A. M. Dassu

Boy, Everywhere, was such an astonishingly good debut that I have to admit I was quite worried about how Az might follow it up. I had the absolute pleasure of reading an early version of Fight Back! and was totally blown away by how good it is, and now that it has been polished it is even better. I’m very proud to have my quote in there:

I asked a few questions of our esteemed author:

Your 2 novels (+1 short chapter book) have very different protagonists! Does the character come to you first or the plot? Yes, they are so different! I think the plot always comes first. Although Sami definitely came to me with a loose plot for him in mind. And Aaliyah formed in my head because this time I wanted an upbeat, feisty character who you’d connect to but also hopefully make you laugh through the way she observed things. But with both books, my characters had something they had to say and that needed to be more widely discussed.

I’m so impressed with how you’re able to include so many “issues”, helping young* (*& old…frankly everyone needs to read your books to bolster their empathy) readers to understand at the same time as keeping them engaged with a brilliant story. Is there anything you’ve really struggled with making accessible? Thank you! I thought Boy, Everywhere would be the hardest book I’d write, but actually I found writing Fight Back so hard because the themes are challenging and painful. Adults tend to think that young people don’t think about what’s happening in the news, but sadly the ripple effects of events in the news can be far reaching and when writing, I kept in mind that there are children all over the world experiencing the same prejudice Aaliyah does. And that was simultaneously a struggle but also motivating.

What advice would you give to a girl considering beginning to wear the hijab to school? Ooh! Hold your head high. Be proud to be different, be your best self and take each day as it comes.

You’ve written non-fiction as well, how different is your research and writing process? What do you prefer to write? Interestingly, the process is so similar. Of course writing fiction is much more fun but also in some ways more stressful as you don’t want to make things up about a character from a particular background that might stereotype them or harm them. It’s about finding a fine balance of a plot that is gripping that is still based on fact. I do a lot of research! With non-fiction I can check facts via books or websites and I can trust that references are sound, but with fiction I go beyond this and ask people for their views and experiences – it feels like a bigger responsibility and always lies heavy on my heart. And even though Fight Back is own voices, I still had to do the same amount of research as I did for Boy, Everywhere, which surprised me. Again, I wanted to ensure the story was nuanced, where readers would feel seen and also perhaps discover something and so my editing process meant I double checked my research and cried a lot (writing and editing makes writers cry, part of the job).

I know you’ve done a number of virtual school visits with ‘Boy, Everywhere’, have you thought about what you’d like to do with students in person for ‘Fight Back’? I have already planned them! In the Fight Back workshops I’ll ask students to engage in an activity exploring identity, and we will discuss how you can help someone being bullied/discriminated against because of their identity or because they’re different. We will explore what it means to be an ally and the importance of coming together in the face of discrimination and ways to support those that are being bullied/discriminated against. We might even look at the United Nations  Convention on the Rights of a Child  to express themselves.

As well as your own writing, you’re also a director of Inclusive Minds, how did you get involved with them? Inclusive Minds is a unique organisation for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature. We have a big network of Inclusion Ambassadors from across the country with diverse lived experiences of race, ethnicities, disability, neurodivergence, LGBTQIA+ etc. I connected with the founders a few years ago at a conference and soon became an ambassador. Then in 2019 they asked if I’d be interested in taking over from them and despite me just having signed my first book deal, I couldn’t say no. It was a brilliant opportunity to help amplify our ambassador’s voices at events, ensure they get paid and give them the chance to work with publishers to check if books being published are authentic and accurate.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? Oh my goodness, I picked up my proof of The Midnighters by Hana Tooke the other night and I am hooked. I’m only five chapters in but it is so sumptuously written I must finish it. I think it’ll be a classic! It’s perfect for middle grade and adults too (of course).

Are you working on anything that you can tell us about? I have some extremely exciting news that I can’t talk about but let’s just say you’ll all meet Sami and Ali again. The Boy, Everywhere spin off is going to happen in a number of ways!
I am also plotting my next standalone novel and this time it will be a dual narrative – two characters who couldn’t be more different, a girl and a boy. It’s nothing like anything I’ve written before and I am so excited to write it! Please just send me some time!

A. M. DASSU is the internationally acclaimed author of Boy, Everywhere, which has been listed for 25 awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, is the 2021 winner of The Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction and is also an American Library Association Notable Book. A. M. Dassu writes books that challenge stereotypes, humanise the “other” and are full of empathy, hope and heart. Her latest novel, Fight Back has just been published by Scholastic and A. M. Dassu is currently touring the country signing as many copies in as many bookshops as she can!

Fight Back! is published in the UK this week by Scholastic

Read Between the Lies

Two very different boys, one new family, a shared struggle and a big secret.

Ryan didn’t want a new mum, let alone a new brother! But when his parents split up and his dad moves in with Naomi, she comes with Tommy – one year older, chucked out of his old school and now joining Ryan’s class. Great. Suddenly sharing a home and a classroom with a complete stranger is a bit much.

Flung together, the two boys clash, but gradually realise that they are more similar than they thought.

Zephyr

The dual perspectives of this story were brilliantly done, two distinct and realistic voices that wouldn’t have worked individually. I was gripped by the story, the way the relationship between the two boys developed, and the relationships with all the grownups. Tommy’s discovery of a secret (and what that secret was) kept my heart in my mouth for him. Also, the dyslexia friendly font is very readable!

Malcom Duffy has written a bit about the inspiration behind the story:

We all face challenges at some point in our lives. My parents divorced when I was a teenager. Many young people face struggles and I like to explore these in my stories, looking at how the drama unfolds, how different characters react to their problems, the mistakes they make along the way, and the solutions they find.

My latest teen novel, Read Between the Lines, is a story of dyslexia, drama and deceit. It tells the tale of 16 year old Ryan, and 17 year old Tommy, two teens who are from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds, and who go to different schools. But they have something in common– they’re both dyslexic. While Ryan has come to terms with his dyslexia and is succeeding at school, Tommy is in denial, and won’t seek support. Tommy’s issue comes to a head when he’s forced to face his greatest fear – reading in public. He turns to the one person he never thought he’d ask for help – Ryan.

The issue of lies also plays a big part in the story. We sometimes try to keep the truth hidden. This can be for many reasons – fear, shame, embarrassment, stubbornness. But lies can come back to haunt us. The novel explores how the truth, however painful, is always better than a lie.

So why did I pick on dyslexia as the theme for my new novel? My teenage daughter, Tallulah, has dyslexia, so I know first-hand about the issues involved, and the effects it can have. I also have experience in screenwriting and was fortunate enough to be asked to write a short film about dyslexia, called Mical. It tells the incredible real life story of Mike and Pat Jones, and how Pat helped her dyslexic son to read and write. Mike had been thrown out of various schools for being difficult, aggressive, and stupid. But his mum knew her son was bright, and that his behaviour was purely down to his learning difficulty. She developed her own teaching techniques to help Mike who went on to be a star pupil. Mike and Pat Jones then set up the online learning platform for dyslexics called Nessy. The film can be found on YouTube, where it’s had over 1.7 million views.

I thought dyslexia would make an unusual subject for a novel, as it’s very common, but often misunderstood. Some dyslexics don’t even know they have it. And it can have a  negative impact on lives unless it’s dealt with. I carried out a lot of research into the subject, with my daughter, other family members, as well as experts who have spent years dealing with dyslexia and its impact.

Huge numbers of young people battle with dyslexia. If left untreated it can lead to low self-esteem, behaviour problems, anxiety, aggression, withdrawal. While many get the help they need from parents, schools, specialists, many others don’t. I’d like dyslexics to realise there is help available, and that dyslexia is no barrier to leading a successful, fulfilling life. I’d like non-dyslexics to be more understanding of what it means to be dyslexic, to be kind, supportive, understanding.

I hope the book can achieve this and give the reader a story that is in turns, humorous and heart-warming.

 Malcolm Duffy

Malcolm Duffy (photo credit James W. Fortune)

Read Between the Lies by Malcolm Duffy is out now in hardback from Zephyr

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist for organising a review copy and to Malcolm for his guest post

Truth Be Told – guest post by Sue Divin

Northern Ireland. 2019.

Tara has been raised by her mam and nan in Derry City. Faith lives in rural Armagh.

Their lives on opposite sides of a political divide couldn’t be more different. Until they come face-to-face with each other and are shocked to discover they look almost identical. Are they connected?

In searching for the truth about their own identities, the teenagers uncover more than they bargained for.

But what if finding out who you truly are means undermining everything you’ve ever known?

Macmillan Children’s Books

Very pleased to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Irish author Sue Divin’s second powerful novel: Truth Be Told, with a guest post!

Writing in a pandemic

What are you working on next?

Like many people, I think the pandemic has disrupted the ‘normal’ of everything in our lives. I spend more of my time not writing than writing – although if I’m not writing at all I can feel quite out of balance. Writing is like a release. Like many writers though, writing is not my full-time job. I had planned to take a year out once Guard Your Heart was published but the Covid pandemic put paid to that.

About six months after Guard Your Heart was published, I did make the decision to change from working full-time in my ‘day job’ to just 4 days a week. That has helped the stress levels a bit! Managing an EU funded Peace and Reconciliation programme for my local council still takes up most of my week – and my favourite bit of that is working with local communities and seeing projects make a difference to people’s lives.

My life circumstances have also made me a single parent to a brilliant teenage son with high-functioning ASD (autism/aspergers). The lockdown/home schooling phases of the pandemic were not fun. Thankfully at this stage of the pandemic, things seem to be becoming a bit more normal again. What keeps me on an even keel are things like walking/hiking and swimming. I’m also a musician – I play guitar and tin whistle. Lattes with friends are top of my favourite-things-to-do list and on a dark winter’s night, I’ll rarely say no to a warm fire, salty popcorn and a good movie.

I don’t have a specific new novel on the go yet, though I’m toying with some characters and a cross-border setting from Derry into Donegal. I’ve a fascination with a place called Fort Dunree in County Donegal. So much so, that I’ve already written two short stories based there – each with connections to my novels. Perhaps it’s time to explore a novel itself having that ingrained into its setting and psyche.

Over the last few months, I’ve started to get invitations to speak at literary festivals and occasional dialogue events. I’m also building up my skills in learning how to mentor other emerging writers and facilitating creative writing workshops. It’s fantastic fun and definitely an area of work that I love but, especially because it’s all quite new to me and because I live in the north-west of Ireland where historical political decisions meant that no motorways were built and the rail network was reduced, it’s quite time consuming. I’ve also been trying to tackle my TBR (to be read) pile but am not winning. This is entirely my own fault – I can resist books and bookshops. Once I’ve finally blethered all these excuses out of my system, I’m pretty sure a third novel will surface. I’m also pretty sure it will still be YA because I can’t resist writing teenagers – they’re the absolute best.

Truth Be Told by Sue Divin is out now in paperback (£7.99, Macmillan Children’s Books)

With a Masters in Peace and Conflict studies and a day job in Community Relations/Peace building in Derry for over fifteen years, Sue’s writing often touches on diversity and reconciliation in today’s Northern Ireland. Her first novel, Guard Your Heart, was shortlisted for the 2019 Caledonia Novel Award, was a Finalist in the Irish Novel Fair 2019 and was longlisted in the Mslexia Children’s Novel Award.

Check out the rest of the blog tour!

Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

Percy Jackson meets Black Panther – this blockbuster middle-grade adventure is perfect for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers.

Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents, who disappeared one fateful night two years ago.

Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends, Zion and Aliyah, decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them … Is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?

Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventure-filled fantasy introduces readers to Cameron Battle as he begins his journey to greatness.

Bloomsbury

CAMERON BATTLE AND THE HIDDEN KINGDOMS is a classic, exciting, fantasy adventure, with a beautiful friendship at its heart. The reflections on slavery are thoughtful, as Cameron learns the history of his family and their relationship to The Book and the kingdom of Chidani, magically hidden from the world, when he and his two best friends get pulled into Chidani and find themselves on a dangerous quest! My very favourite thing about the book is the relationship between Cameron and Zion: I just loved reading about life-long friends who defend one another to the hilt, support each other when they’re scared, and clearly show how much they love one another through words and actions – with all of that you’d think Aliyah might seem like a third wheel but she plays an important role in the trio and I couldn’t imagine the book without her.

You lucky people can read an extract of the first two chapters here:

If you need to know what happens next you’re in luck, as it is published today, the day the UK celebrates World Book Day! I always say that any book published on such an auspicious day has to be brilliant…

Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

Mark My Words

Fifteen-year-old Dua Iqbal has always had trouble minding her own business. With a silver-tongue and an inquisitive nature, a career in journalism seems fated. When her school merges with another, Dua seizes her chance and sets up a rival newspaper, exposing the controversial stories that teachers and the kids who rule the school would rather keep buried.

Dua’s investigations are digging up things she shouldn’t get involved with about family, friends and her community and as exams rattle towards her, she needs to make some hard decisions about when to leave things alone. But when she discovers that some kids at school are being blamed for selling drugs when the real perpetrator is right in front of their noses, she can’t keep quiet any longer.

Macmillan Kids

Muhammed Khan writes such great voices! I’ve talked about his previous two YA novels on the blog before, Ilyas from KICK THE MOON is still one of my favourite fictional teens and I loved the nod to him in MARK MY WORDS, Khan’s newly published high-school based thriller. Khan’s characters make mistakes and sometimes do the wrong thing, Dua is no exception, but they all care deeply about their friends and family and community and always want to make things better. In that, I think they’re very real teenagers, and even if the reader can’t see themselves in the main protagonist they will recognise the well developed side characters and empathise. I’d love to hear the reactions of students from both state and private schools!

I was given the opportunity to ask a few questions as part of the blog tour (see banner below for the rest of the tour):

As a teacher, have you worked in a Minerva or Bodley?

Yes! Covid made me realise I couldn’t afford to be a full-time author and I was really missing the classroom environment. Before I got my current post, I dipped my toe in supply teaching. I got a different school every day and the contrast really jumped out at me. I thought it would be a fascinating dichotomy for a YA novel. Thus, Minerva and Bodley were born!

Dua often thinks about her faith, never doubting it, did you talk to young hijabi women to help with the voice?

I grew up around hijabi women, and a number of my students wear the hijab too, so I was passionate about getting the representation right. I had lots of interesting conversations. Macmillan also got a number of sensitivity readers to make sure the characterisation felt believable.

So many things that can affect young people are broached in the book, what was most important for you to get across?

The story always comes first in my books. Teenagers hate to be preached at. Having said that I hope young people will feel inspired by Dua and her friends to speak out whenever they see wrong and not give up if they are not heard but to have the strength to keep going. We shouldn’t underestimate peer pressure or drugs culture.

Are any of your characters based on students or colleagues?

Definitely! I’m always amazed and inspired by my students and their passions. Dua is based on a few girls I’ve taught who had a level of bravery I could only have dreamed of as a teen. Hugo is based on a student I met at a very posh school.

Sadly, Dua’s mum’s story is also based in reality. In my years of teaching, I’ve heard a number of harrowing stories from colleagues facing discrimination. The power imbalance is something people are finally starting to speak up about without serious recriminations. But there’s lots more to do!

Have you thought about including covid restrictions in a future novel?

I’ve thought about it but I’m kind of hoping, like everyone else, that the restrictions will be over soon!

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

My students have got me into manga in a big way. I’m currently reading Kimetsu No Yaiba (Demon Slayer) by Koyoharu Gotouge. Such a great read with wonderful characters and brilliant world building. I recommend it to every lover of fantasy and horror.

MARK MY WORDS by Muhammad Khan is out now in paperback (£7.99, MCB)

Empathy Day 2022

EMPATHY DEFICIT FOR LOCKDOWN GENERATION COUNTERACTED BY POWER OF READING

EmpathyLab launches its 2022 Read for Empathy book collection at a time when empathy has never been needed more. An expert judging panel has selected 60 books for 4-16 year-olds, each chosen to empower an empathy-educated generation.

The primary collection features 35 books for 4-11 year olds; the secondary collection has 25 books for 12-16 year olds. 43% of the collection are by authors of colours, and there are seven illustrators of colour. Many of the books help readers understand the lives of those experiencing tough situations, from becoming homeless, or a refugee. Others help children build their understanding of emotions or inspire positive action towards the climate or animals or people in their community.

Primary list
Secondary list

Free guides for parents & educators here: https://www.empathylab.uk/2022-book-collections-and-guides

Queer Up by Alexis Caught

A positive and uplifting book for young people who are queer or questioning – and their allies looking to support them.

In this empowering and uplifting book, award-winning podcaster Alexis Caught sets out to help queer and questioning teenagers explore their LGBTQ+ identity and understanding. Alongside the author’s personal experiences are first-hand stories from notable LGBTQ+ figures, providing an inclusive account of what it means to grow up queer. With chapters on questioning, coming out, friends and family, love and relationships, sex, shame, pride, being transgender and/or non-binary and allyship, this helpful, honest and heart-warming book is essential reading for any queer or questioning teen and their allies looking to support them.

Walker Books

I was excited to be asked if I’d like a review copy of QUEER UP, as I immediately thought of students of mine who have asked for books that do exactly what this does: answer questions, through advice and activites, about (basically) how to understand themselves…

To kick of the blog tour, I’ve been given the opportunity to share an extract from the very beginning of the book, part of the chapter on questioning:

Copyright © 2022 Alexis Caught

Cover design and Illustrations © 2022 Walker Books Ltd.

From QUEER UP: AN UPLIFTING GUIDE TO LGBTQ+ LOVE, LIFE AND MENTAL HEALTH by Alexis Caught

Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London, SE11 5HJ

www.walker.co.uk

About the author

Alexis Caught is the creator and co-host of the British Podcast Award-winning LGBTQ+ podcast Qmmunity, exploring queer culture, history and identity. He is also a mental health advocate, qualified psychotherapist, writer, speaker, model and rugby player. His writing has been featured in Attitude magazine and The Mirror along with the best-selling anthology It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue. His areas of passion and expertise are mental health, wellness and the queer community. On talking about the book, Alexis said this is the book that he “so desperately needed when [he] was 14.”


Walker Books will be donating 20p for every copy sold to Shout 85258, a free, confidential, 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope, for which Alexis is an ambassador and trained mental health volunteer. 45% of young people who text Shout 85258 identify as LGBTQ+.

Jummy at the River School

Jummy has won a place at the River School, the finest girls’ boarding school in Nigeria.

Nothing can dampen her spirits, not even when she learns that her less fortunate best friend Caro won’t be joining her. By the Shine-Shine River, school is everything Jummy dreamt of, with friendly new girls, midnight feasts and sporting prizes. But when Caro suddenly arrives at the school to work, not to learn, Jummy must bring all her friends together to help …

A joyful, glorious collision of classic boarding-school story with vibrant 1990s Nigeria, based on Sabine’s own experience of boarding school in Nigeria. 

Chicken House Books

This really is a classic boarding school tale, with midnight feasts, friendships and rivalries, and mean teachers. It being set in Nigeria in the 1990s gives it another layer of interest for readers who may have never been there (or never seen it in a story), with a beautiful sense of place…and the potential for crocodiles in the river to cause trouble! I absolutely loved the descriptions of food and the voices were brilliant, with a story that highlights poverty and privilege at the same time as being about tested loyalties and the importance of friendship.

I asked Sabine Adeyinka a few questions:

As it is inspired by your experiences at a Nigerian boarding school, are many of the events things that happened in real life?

The place, emotion and setting are very similar to a regular Nigerian Boarding school in the 90s. However the actual story is completely fiction. I did have a friend who wasn’t able to continue her education after primary school and that stung. Her family just couldn’t afford it and there was nothing I could do at the time.

Which of the characters were you most like as a child?

A cross between Jummy herself and Rashidat (class clown) who appears once or twice.

Who was your favourite character to write?

Ngozi was quite enjoyable to write about as she was so contrary and determined. Owolabi was great too because he annoyed Jummy and that made me giggle when I wrote about him.

Jummy was discovered through the Chicken House open submissions, has the story changed much since that point?

The bulk of the story has remained the same but the strength and consistency (for example) of the characters greatly improved with the help of Chickenhouse.

Have you thought about the kind of events you would like to do with readers (imagining no pandemic!)?

Oh I’d love to sing the songs in the book with readers and create second verses. I’d love Q&A sessions as well especially about living and schooling in Nigeria.

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

Children of the quicksands by Efua Traore. It is a magical adventure also based in Nigeria. I’d recommend it to lovers of Jummy at the River School as it will enhance their understanding of what its like growing up in Nigeria.

Have you any further ideas for novels?

At the moment, all I can think of is more stories about the River School!

JUMMY AT THE RIVER SCHOOL by Sabine Adeyinka is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Thank you Chicken House Books for the review copy and Sabine for the q&a.

Do have a look at the official blog tour from last week!

When Shadows Fall

Kai, Orla and Zak grew up together, their days spent on the patch of wilderness in between their homes, a small green space in a sprawling grey city. Music, laughter and friendship bind them together and they have big plans for their future – until Kai’s family suffers a huge loss.

Trying to cope with his own grief, as well as watching it tear his family apart, Kai is drawn into a new and more dangerous crowd, until his dreams for the future are a distant memory. Excluded from school and retreating from his loved ones, it seems as though his path is set, his story foretold. Orla, Zak and new classmate Om are determined to help him find his way back. But are they too late?

Little Tiger

I am a big fan of everything that Sita Brahmachari has written, and interviewed her last year for When Secrets Set Sail, so I was expecting WHEN SHADOWS FALL to be good but I didn’t realise it would be a beautiful object as well! Told in prose and verse and annotation, with the illustrations by Natalie Sirett an integral part of telling the story.

Illustrations (c), Natalie Sirett (2021), from When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari,
published by Little Tiger, 11 November 2021 (Hardback, £12.99, 9781788953160)

There is a formal blog tour starting on the 15th November (details at the bottom of the page), but I snuck under the radar and got an exclusive piece from Sita about the background to creating the book:

‘Let me tell you a story’….

So began a play I worked on called Lyrical MC some years ago for Tamasha Theatre Company. Myself and the director worked with a group of young people exploring Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ in the contexts of their own lives. It ended up being a play that was about living in an island culture in the middle of an urban city. It explored the sounds of the city for them and how it felt to be negotiating life today at school and at home. It was a piece of theatre that enjoyed the musicality and interplay of the young people’s voices as they mediated each other’s realities, histories and identities in a fluid interplay.

I have never seen a great fissure between my community theatre work and writing novels for young people. When I set out to write When Shadow’s Fall I remembered a young woman I met in a unit for excluded teenagers in Ladbroke Grove. She was a fantastic young actress and storyteller but already completely switched off reading and education at the age of fourteen. It wasn’t until she started to write her own script and saw other actors reading it and paying attention to her words that reading became interesting to her. Another young actor reading out her words asked if he could change something and she became agitated saying, No! I put a lot of thinking into those words. You have to work at them to find the meaning!

Kai is the author sitting on the Green Hill writing his story – ‘When Shadows Fall’ – even he seems surprised that this is what he has done… that he, who was excluded from school, could become the author of his own story and yet this is what he finds himself doing.

Over the years, I have mentored many young people to help them with their writing. The process of finding your voice (in writing as Kai does) In art (as Omid does) and in speaking out (as Orla does) is a powerful one.

When readers open When Shadows Fall I hope the creative form of the book with its annotations, poetry, prose and art portfolio and testimony will lead readers and aspiring writers to take up the pen, charcoal or paintbrush and begin their own story.

When Shadows Fall is out now! Thank you Little Tiger for the review copy, Nina Douglas for organising the piece for TeenLibrarian, and Sita for writing it!