Author Archives: Matt Imrie

To all the Libraries I’ve Loaned from Before part 1

Kalk Bay Public Library, you were my first Library – the one that set the template of expectations of what a Library should be and offer. Although small, to my young eyes you were a Cathedral of books, with windows set high up on all sides. You gave me my first library cards – three little folded pieces of cardboard with my name and address on them that were taken by the Librarian and kept behind the desk whenever I borrowed books. The books that stay in my mind are the Little Tim picture books by Edward Ardizzone, after all these years – they are the books that solidified my fate as a reader, they are the first books I can remember reading on my own (my parents read them with me but I picked them up again at bedtime and read them on my own), there was also that shark book, I cannot remember the cover, but I coveted it regularly and borrowed it several times to read about sharks from around the world, I was most fascinated by the Wobbegong (or carpet shark) of Australia – it is funny what facts stick with you. I still remember the particular smell that the Library had, furniture polish and the smell of books and the feeling of coolness that enveloped me whenever I walked in to the Library with my Mom and younger brother, after the heat of the day outside it was a welcome feeling. I can also hear the Library windows slamming shut as Librarian used a long pole with a hook to pull them shut – to let us know that it was nearly closing time and we had better choose our books quickly but she never chased us out. That Library is long gone, the building now hosts a community centre but I have not been past it for years.

Kalk Bay Primary School had a tiny Library – it was more a box room stuffed with books than an actual Library – but it counts! The books I remember borrowing were The Adventures of Professor Branestawm, and a science fiction short story collection – the title escapes me but I can still remember parts of some of the stories, one was set on a colony on an alien world that was slowly being eaten by a huge slime monster that was being kept at bay by a laser shield, there was only one ship available and the people had to decide who would survive and who would remain behind to face the monster when the shields failed… gripping stuff!

My second Public Library was in Muizenberg, I remember attending story times on a Thursday when the Librarian (the same one from Kalk Bay) would light a candle and we would sit in silence as she read stories, the extinguishing of the candle was the sign that we could start talking and move around again. Muizenberg Library became ‘my’ Library for years, it introduced me to Douglas Hill’s ColSec books and his fantasy duology Blade of the Poisoner and Master of Fiends. This was also the Library where I discovered Terry Pratchett, I started with Equal Rites and never looked back! I visited Muizenberg Public Library weekly, and spent hours choosing books then sitting in the magazine room reading back issues of Punch Magazine (mostly to find the Agent Orange cartoons by David Haldane).

I spent one year at the Fish Hoek Middle School and spent most of my break and lunch times hiding out in the School Library, I became a part time student librarian but hung out in one of the corners with other kids reading comic books – it was my first introduction to Raymond Briggs, I read his Father Christmas comics which were fun then Gentleman Jim and its sort of sequel When the Wind Blows – it is thanks to that book that I learned how to start worrying and hate the Bomb.

I joined Fish Hoek Public Library in my mid-teens so that I could have a greater range of materials to access for my school work – the joys of growing up in a preWorld Wide Web world! My parents paid for this membership as, at the time, Fish Hoek had its own municipality and if you did not live there you had to pay to access the service. This was the beginning of a Library relationship that lasted many years, it was here that I first started weekend work as, first a shelf packer, then after I started my Library degree they decided that I was trustworthy enough to work on the desk (oh the power!) Once I graduated it was also my first professional Library post, it later transpired that I was an affirmative action employee – the first ever male librarian hired by Fish Hoek municipality (I was the only applicant that all the unions could agree on, which at that time in South Africa was no small thing). It was at Fish Hoek Library that I first read the Duncan & Mallory graphic novels by Robert Asprin, I discovered the Dragonlance books by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

At the time I was also studying at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) they had a magnificent Library, apart from the books I needed for my coursework I also borrowed Maus by Art Spiegelman which opened my eyes to the potential comic books have in education and as an art-form.

Special mentions must go to the Grassy Park Public Library that I worked at briefly to cover staff absence – it was here that I discovered (& borrowed) Deathstalker by Simon R Green and became a lifelong fan of his writing and the Hout Bay Public Library where I participated in a temporary staff exchange for a week and discovered ‘zines.

#BlackHistoryMonth Anansi Craft Activity

As part of the Black History Month program at my Library, I have organised a series of story-times based around folk tales from Africa. My South African storytime last week was snowed out but the event today, reading stories about Anansi the Spider trickster was well-attended – three adults and five children who came to listen and participate.

The stories were well-received, as was the craft activity, if anyone would like to obtain a copy of my Anansi template, you may download it below.

Download (PDF, 742KB)

As with all the resources I create, if you do use them please share any pictures of your creations.

Refugee Narratives in Children’s Literature

In 2017 I attended a one-day interdisciplinary workshop about Refugee Narratives in Children’s Literature at Birkbeck College organised by The Reluctant Internationalists.

Apart from making excellent contacts and meeting some old friends I contributed towards the creation of a bibliography of children’s books on migration, refugees / migrants and multicultural living. I have no idea why I have never shared it before, but it can be downloaded below.

Download (PDF, 294KB)

Chinese New Year Craft: Peppa Pig Lantern

The Chinese New Year begins tomorrow Tuesday 5th February and it is the Year of the Pig. I have created a simple paper lantern craft activity featuring Peppa Pig and her family. This will be suitable for younger Library users.  

“新年快乐” translates as Happy New Year: Xin Nian Kuai Le
Pronounced “sheen neean kwai luh,” kuai le means “happy” or “joyous” and xin nian means “new year.”

You can download a .pdf of the lantern here: Peppa Pig Lantern

Peppa Pig was created by Mark Baker, Neville Astley and Phil Davies.

Peppa Pig‘s trademark and copyright is held by Entertainment One

Voices is back for 2019!

Coram Voice is excited to announce the return of Voices, its annual writing competition for children in care and young care leavers across the country. The competition is open for
entries until 10 February 2019.

Coram Voice, a charity that provides a range of services for children and young people in
and around the care system, first launched the competition in 2016 as a platform for care-
experienced young people to express their creative talents and to celebrate their voices.
The theme of this year’s competition, ‘Growing Up’, was chosen by young people who took part in the competition last year.  Entries can be in any written form including poems, short stories, raps or newspaper articles, with a 500 word limit.

There are four age categories:

  • primary school,
  • lower secondary school (age 11-14),
  • upper secondary school (age 15-18)
  • care leavers (age 19-25).
  • Entries will be judged by a panel of high-profile authors, poets and presenters:

  • Kit de Waal, the award-winning author of My Name is Leon which tells the story of a vulnerable young boy who is taken into care
  • Jarvis, whose book Alan’s Big Scary Teeth was selected by the BookTrust to be distributed to children across the country
  • Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, the Waterstones Children’s Book award-winner for 2017
  • Mr Gee, the Sony Gold award-winning poet, comedian and presenter
  • Ashley John-Baptiste, care leaver and ground-breaking BBC reporter, who was shortlisted for the Royal Television Society Young Talent Of The Year award in 2018
  • Alice Broadway, best-selling Young Adult Fiction author of the Skinbooks Trilogy
  • Jenny Molloy, care leaver and inspiring novelist, author of the Times bestseller, Hackney Child
  • Ric Flo, care leaver, innovative rap artist and creative director of the hip-hop collective Jungle Brown
  • Louise, who was a runner up in last year’s competition and met the Queen in December, said: “I entered Voices 2018 on a whim and I’m glad I did! Since entering, I was fortunate enough to read my entry for the Queen. This was a scary experience however getting to share my experience as a care leaver with the Queen was a privilege. I am passionate about making the voices of care experienced people heard and I am very thankful for this
    experience.”

    Previous competition entrants said that participating had inspired them to write more, made them feel appreciated and valued for their talents and helped them to express their emotions about being in care.* One young writer said: “The competition is a safe opportunity to share your personal story – it’s a wonderful way to embrace your history and yourself”, while
    another added “to put what you feel on a piece of paper is quite therapeutic.”

    Brigid Robinson, Managing Director of Coram Voice said, “We are delighted to launch our Voices competition for the fourth year running and can’t wait to see children and young people’s amazing entries.. We are continually inspired by the talent of the young people, their creativity is immense and we hope their stories improve understanding of their experiences.”

    Entries can be submitted on the Coram Voice website until 10 February 2019.

    #TeenLibrarian Monthly January 2018

    Download (PDF, 512KB)

    Does this Poster Spark Joy?

    Inspired by the new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Click on the image below to save a copy of the poster.   School Library Edition Once you have tidied your living area you will have more space for Library books!

    Black History Month Ideas: The Potato King of the World

    Born into slavery on a plantation near Kentucky, Junius G. Groves was six years of age when slavery was abolished in the USA.

    20 years later he joined the Exoduster movement and made his way to Kansas.

    In 1902 he became known as the Potato King of the World, for growing more bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone in the world up to that point in time.

    As a farmer and landowner he employed both whites and blacks on his farm and worked hard on uplifting African–Americans. His employment practices did a lot to combat racism at the time.

    Celebrate Black History Month by teaching the attendees about Junius Groves and then running a potato print workshop, giving children the opportunity to carve potatoes into shapes and then printing them onto strips of paper.

    Once that is done, you can introduce them to the art of Kente fabric weaving while their potato print strips dry. They can then weave the paper print strips into a paper version of Kente cloth.

    Learn about Junius Groves here: https://blackpast.org/aaw/groves-junius-george-1859-1925

    Or you could read No Small Potatoes by Tonya Bolden and Don Tate

    Find out more about Kente Cloth paper weaving here: https://kinderart.com/art-lessons/multic/kente-cloth-strips/

    When planning the colors you wish to use for the workshop, it is worth keeping their symbolic meanings in mind:

    • black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy
    • blue: peacefulness, harmony and love
    • green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
    • gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
    • grey: healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
    • maroon: the color of mother earth; associated with healing
    • pink: associated with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
    • purple: associated with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
    • red: political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
    • silver: serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
    • white: purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
    • yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

    From This American Life: The Room of Requirement

    Noooo! Not the one from Harry Potter (although it is named for that) rather this is a podcast from the awesome people at This American Life about Libraries.

    Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required. 

    You can take a listen here:
    https://www.thisamericanlife.org/664/the-room-of-requirement

    The Night Before Christmas: Lark by Anthony McGowan

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
    Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
    Out in his sett the old badger was resting
    In the eves of my house a rook was still nesting.
    The pike it was swimming in the depths of the lake
    Just waiting for prey to make a mistake!
    On my nightstand lay McGowan’s book Lark
    The perfect read for bed after dark!

    The final story about Kenny & Nicky,
    Two brothers who have come through situations quite sticky!
    The strength of the books lies in the love that they had
    One for the other, their dog and their dad!
    But in this dark tale the stakes are so high
    Will the brothers both live, or will one of them die…
    Out on the moors with the temperature dropping,
    with a bitter, cold wind and snow that’s not stopping?

    I read this story with my heart in my throat
    My tea grew ice cold but I did not know it!
    The reading was fretful, I wanted to stop!
    When out in the hall there came a soft ‘pop’
    My daughter was roaming so I took a break
    and put her to bed, my head I did shake.

    Oh! Lark I did finish and so went to bed
    With thoughts of the brothers and the North, in my head

    The Truth of All Things sequence is a masterpiece! I have covered Tony’s work quite a bit over the years and do not want to rehash what I have already said. You can read my opinions on the first three books here.

    I will just say that I stand by my words and to my mind Lark is a fitting coda to the story and slots in very well with my theory of the books being based on the elements.

    Thank you Tony! It has been an honour and a pleasure following and sharing in Nicky and Kenny’s exploits over the years!

    Lark is a must-read book for 2019 – along with Brock, Pike and Rook!

    All the books are written by Anthony McGowan and published by Barrington Stoke.

    Lark will be released in January 2019