Author Archives: Matt Imrie

India Smythe Stands Up by Sarah Govett

I owe Sarah a huge apology! This review was supposed to hit the site on September 30th – unfortunately my daughter, being no respecter of the best laid plans of mice and men decided to arrive a bit early (an dmad those plans go awry).

Sarah I am sorry! In creating India Smythe you have gifted the world with one of the funniest protagonists since… well… ever! She fits in with Bridget Jones and Georgia Nicolson! I already knew that you were a brilliant author, The Territory trilogy taught me that; but pivoting from a futuristic dystopian eco-thriller to a contemporary comedy, well honestly that caught me off-guard.

Writing comedy is hard, writing actually funny comedy is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle. India Smythe is Sarah’s lightning in a bottle!

India is a wonderful protagonist, flawed yet engaging, with some really wicked one-liners including: It’s never good to stand next to perfection. Especially when perfection is a complete bitch.

Her voice as narrator came through with crystal clarity while introducing the reader to her family, her life and her friends, frenemies and potential love interests.

This is very much a teen novel but suitable for readers of most ages, the writing is so sharp you may cut yourself on the humour. Trite as it may sound, this is a book that, once you have started reading you will find very hard to put down.

If you work in a library then this is a book you need to press into the hands of your teen readers. It is the perfect antidote to the grey, grim times in which we find ourselves. India Smythe Stands Up is light, funny and will swiftly carry you through India’s travails. I challenge readers of any age to not find some part of themselves in India or her family, and empathise with her as they laugh uproariously at her misadventures.

14 -year-old India Smythe has caught the eye of Ennis, the hottest boy at St Joseph’s. But nothing’s ever easy when you’re dealing with horrific teachers, a dad who’s convinced every boy is a ‘sex pest’, a best friend who talks you into embarrassing makeovers to look good on Instagram and the odd kissing-induced hospitalisation. And does India even want Ennis? Or should she risk social relegation and go for the orchestra geek with the extra-long forehead who she actually enjoys talking to?

India Smythe Stands Up was written by Sarah Govett and is published by Marotte Books a new publisher specialising in comedy fiction. It is available now!

You need to get yourself a copy! Trust me I am a Librarian!

BEANO ANNOUNCES MONTHLY CHILDREN’S BOOK CLUB

Beano has today launched “Beano Booktopia” – a new book subscription service for kids offering newly published books across a wide range of authors and genres.

The tailor-made programme will include fiction and non-fiction books specifically chosen by Beano experts based on the individual child’s given interests and reading ability.

Booktopia encourages children to expand their reading horizons with new books that fans of the Beano will love. The books selected for the Booktopia service follow the winning Beano formula that has won over children for three generations by combining spot-on humour, captivating stories, relatable characters and amazing visual storytelling.

How Booktopia works

1.       Pick a plan

Choose one of Beano Booktopia subscriptions with a book arriving every month for either 3, 6, 12 or 24 months – starting from £24.99f5f

2.       Name a kid

Name the lucky kid who will become part of Beano’s Booktopia club

3.       Booktopia quiz

Children answer a few simple questions outlining their interests. What do they love? Fact or fiction? Adventure or mystery? Books with pictures as well as text?

4.       The adventure begins

Beano masterminds hand-pick a book a month to match each kid’s passions and reading ability

Multiple studies have shown that children who read for enjoyment do significantly better at school than their peers and make more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling, making reading for pleasure one of the most effective ways of helping children to reach their full potential.

Emma Scott, CEO of Beano Studios, said: “Beano has been making kids laugh for over 80 years whilst all the while secretly helping them on the first crucial step on their reading journey. Thousands of parents tell us “Beano is the only thing my kids will read” and we’re constantly awed by the British creative icons who credit the Beano with getting them reading, writing, drawing and even standing up on stage! Beano Booktopia offers kids a monthly chance to immerse themselves independently in amazing stories with the Beano seal of approval to help launch a lifetime love of reading.”

For more information on Beano Booktopia and to purchase a subscription visit https://beanobooktopia.com/

Display Idea: Keanu Reads

Over the past few years, Keanu Reeves has emerged as one of the most popular and intriguing actors working in Hollywood. He has been the subject of a number of memes, rumours and heart-warming tales from a variety of sources.

A while ago I came up with the idea of Keanu Reads on twitter (I am probably not the only person that thought of that). It was a two second chuckle that refused to leave my brain. Recently I noticed that he has acted in a number of movies that are based on novels (& two that were turned into graphic novels) and the idea of creating a display based on his works was born.

Books made into movies starring Keanu Reeves

Movies starring Keanu Reeves adapted as Graphic Novels

To go along with the display I have put together a poster that can be downloaded below.

Keanu Reads UK Poster:

Keanu Reads US poster:

You can find out more about The Artists’ Prison by Alexandra Grant & Eve Wood here: https://www.xartistsbooks.com/books/the-artists-prison

X Artists Books is a small press run by Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant, you can read about it here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/t-magazine/keanu-reeves-art-book-publishing.html

‘Celebrating’ Banned Books Week

Over the years I have started looking at what I do as a Librarian and Human more critically, one of the (library-related) things currently taking up brain-space is Banned Books Week, and the question should we be ‘celebrating’ it?

Should we have a week to recognize the dangers of censoring books and ideas?

Yes

In an ideal world it would be more than a week, an on-going program of events and displays highlighting censorship and challenges to literature and the reasons behind them may have more of an impact.

Should Banned Books Week be cutesy and fun with photo opportunities, badges and social media opportunities to show how aware we all are? Your mileage may vary but recently I have been moving even more into the no camp on this. I have worn “I Read Banned Books” badges in the past, but my displays have mostly featured a history of banned books and books that were (and are) banned in specific countries as well as the reasons for banning.

My personal favourite display always featured Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence with prosecutor Mervyn Griffin-Jones’s question to the jury during the obscenity trial: Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?

Books are dangerous, they are carriers of ideas – the Nazis knew this when they organized book burnings. The Catholic Church for centuries had the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books) until it was abolished in 1967.

I grew up in South Africa where, in my lifetime, books were routinely, and often with the assistance of librarians, banned and burned – I only discovered this recently while researching the effects of Apartheid on Public Library provision.

Today we live in a world where state censorship and the banning of literature and people occurs globally. People in America, parts of the European Union and beyond still have good old fashioned book burnings.

The American Library Association compiles lists of books that are regularly challenged in schools and public libraries around the country.

Links:

Banned Books Week US

Banned Books Week UK

ALA Frequently Challenged Books

Library Philosophy vs Apartheid Legislation

Index Librorum Prohibitorum

Nazi Book Burning

The song of the canary… a review of Snowflake, AZ by Marcus Sedgwick

Ash boards a Greyhound bus heading to the place where Bly was last seen: Snowflake, Arizona. Six thousand feet up in the wide red desert, Ash meets Mona, her dog, her goat, and her neighbors, and finds stepbrother Bly, too.

In their ramshackle homes, the walls lined with tinfoil, almost all the residents of Snowflake are sick. But this isn’t any ordinary sickness: the chemicals and technologies of modern life are poisoning them. They call themselves canaries, living warning signs that humans have pushed the environment too far, except no one seems to be taking their warnings seriously. The healthy “normies” of Snowflake have written them off as a bunch of eccentrics, and when Ash too falls ill, the doctor’s response is “It’s all in your mind.”

Snowflake, AZ contemplates illness and health—both our own and our planet’s. As Ash lives through a cycle of illness and recovery and loss, the world beyond is succumbing to its own affliction: a breakdown of civilization only distantly perceived by Ash and the isolated residents of Snowflake, from which there may or may not be a chance for recovery. This provocative novel by one of our most admired storytellers explores the resilience of love and community in the face of crisis.

Marcus Sedgwick has never let me down! He has written in a variety of genres under the YA banner and his latest, Snowflake, AZ is a timely warning of a planet and population under threat from ourselves.

While reading the book I kept my notebook open and jotted down things I wanted to find out more about (Snowflake Arizona, Monsanto, Glyphosphate, MCS, EI, Tennessee Fainting Goats and so much more).

The relationships between Ash, Bly, Mona and within the community as a whole are beautifully written; their struggles with coping and interdependence put a human face on the slow-motion collapse that is occurring around the world!.

This book is a phenomenal, scary read, it is a warning – for everyone, but aimed at the current generation of young adult readers that will hopefully take note do something in the face of the inaction and untelligence of their elders!

It tells the truth in a wrapper of fiction, and, if you pay attention (note-taking optional) while you read, you will learn something.

Useful Links:

Undiagnosis (newsletter by Marcus Sedgwick – the latest one is about Snowflake, AZ and a fascinating interview)

Allergic to life: the Arizona residents ‘sensitive to the whole world’ (Guardian article)

What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?

Snowflake, Arizona

UK CILIP School Libraries Group National Training Day: The Power of Us: The Many Roles of School Librarians

CILIP SLG will be holding their annual general meeting and training day on Friday, October 18th at the CILIP headquarters in London.

The course will explore the many roles that school librarians have in their schools. It will provide opportunities for librarians to share their experiences and learn from their peers as well as hear from leading children’s authors.

Topics include: librarians and great school libraries; librarians as reading promoters; librarians reaching out across the world; librarians as creators and developers and librarians as teachers and information skills developers

To book a place, please follow the link: https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/register.aspx?id=1258474
Costs: CILIP Members £50 + VAT, Non Members £65 + VAT

Closing date for bookings: Friday 11th October

The SLG will also be launching their latest Book Group Discussion packs at the AGM. This is entitled Girl Power, there will be a secondary as well as a primary pack.

It focuses, as you might expect, on books with strong female characters.

You can find out about previous discussion packs here: https://archive.cilip.org.uk/school-libraries-group/reading-guides

Teen Librarian Newsletter September 2019

The September issue of the Teen Librarian Newsletter is available to read online here: https://us20.campaign-archive.com/?u=32ffbca7d353f6dcc0c7c0953&id=07d16b28aa

That Asian Kid – Savita Kalhan

Fifteen year old Jeevan is getting top grades for every subject except English. He suspects that his teacher, Mrs. Greaves, is unfairly marking him down. But he has no way of proving it, and even his best friends Dread and Sandi think he is over-reacting.

When Jeevan stumbles upon Mrs. Greaves talking about him with his History teacher, Mr. Green, he decides to record them. Then, to his horror, they start getting it on!

Now Jeevan is in possession of a radioactive video that he could use against Mrs. Greaves. But he’s caught in a huge dilemma . . . should he upload the video, or not?

As a complex game of move and counter-move escalates between Jeevan and Mrs. Greaves, the decision is taken out of his hands – with dire consequences. Jeevan’s life begins to fall apart. Does he have the winning moves to outwit and expose his arch nemesis?

That Asian Kid is an intelligent, gripping, fast-paced story of one boy’s battle against racism and for the right to be treated like everyone else.

Review:

I have met Savita several times over the years (we both know a bunch of the same people) and I have been a fan of her work since reading The Long Weekend (soon to be republished by Troika Books). Her writing has always gripped me but she has blown me away with That Asian Kid!

This book is a hard-hitting and timely read, shining a light on the bigotry and racism faced by so many people of colour. It shows how people have dealt with racist behaviour; from new arrivals keeping your head down and swallowing it because there was nothing else to do to the second and third generations making decisions to take a stand against the unfairness of it all, finding allies.

That Asian Kid is not a straightforward story of good people standing up to bigots, rather it is a subtle and multilayered tale that questions our prejudices and makes us look within ourselves and interrogate the decisions we would make if we had the opportunity to publicly shame someone that had done us wrong and defend a person we respected and admired.

It would have been so easy for this book to have been dragged down by the weight of the subject but it is uplifting; from Jeevan’s interactions with his grandmother (my favourite character), to the support from his friends and family, the story is shot through with humour and some of the best teen dialogue I have read in ages!

I have not even mentioned the tension I felt as I was reading the book, it might have taken a bit longer than it did but I honestly could not put it down as I needed to know what would happen next. Honestly it was more of a thriller than many of the thrillers I have read recently!

At the end of the story I was left feeling drained, but satisfied. Much like real life not everything was tied up neatly and presented to us but fir the story it was enough! That being said I still wanted to read more and hope that Savita will revisit the characters she introduced me to in the opening pages!

Reading develops empathy, reading That Asian Kid will give an insight to many readers to the experiences of others. It will let those who see themselves in Jeevan and his friends know that they are not alone in what they have experienced (or are experiencing).

No-one who reads it will be left unmoved!

That Asian Kid was written by Savita Kalhan and published by Troika Books – it is available now!

Library International Story Time

I have started looking towards 2020 for planning Library activities and currently at the top of my list is an idea to create an intercontinental story group.

Presently I am limiting my focus on linking my Library groups in the US and UK, mostly because I am in the US (Kansas) and most of the library people I know are based in the UK.

There is a six hour time difference between where I am and the UK so initial planning will focus on finding a partner or partners in the UK, agreeing on a date and time for the groups to meet. This means that during the school year I will be limited to baby & toddler groups, and, now that I think about it, home-school groups too. Older story-times will be limited to school holidays here.

The basic idea is, using video chat software (Skype or something similar), to link up two Library groups with a similar age range in the US & UK and form links through story-telling.

The sessions could begin with the reading of folk-tales an dlocal stories from where each group is based and then segue into general stories and rhymes (if appropriate for the group).

If the initial plan works, phase two will explore creating links with Libraries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

If successful these story times could be a springboard into intercontinental story suggestions via post card and once the story time links are are extended, a display could be made with post cards from the various groups around the world.

At present though I am just in the early stages of planning but if anyone wants to collaborate please let me know and we can create a network of connected international libraries!

Display: Back to School

In the run up to kids going back to school where I work, I set up a back to school display.

I created a classic chalkboard image that can be downloaded here:

To keep it interactive I added the interactive jokes in a mug that allows kids (or parents) to take a joke home (or to school) and share it.

US:

UK:

The display featured books about going back to school or going to school for the first time for students of all ages.

I also included a guide on how to access the homework and research pages on the Library website as well as how to use your library membership to access the resources online resources that the library offers.

I have had to restock the books several times and have spoken to several parents who were keen on finding out more about the homework help resources that the library provides