Author Archives: Mattlibrarian

#TeenLibrarian Monthly November 2017

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When you don’t like the story the world is telling you, tell a different story.

50 leading authors and illustrators have come together to produce a crowd-funded collection of stories, poetry and artwork with all profits going to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Alt-Write: creative reactions to uncertain times is a collection of new previously unpublished stories*, poems and illustrations from leading names in the children’s book world.

The past year has delivered a tumultuous series of world events that has left people reeling. Authors and illustrators asked themselves what they could do to help and the answer was to do what we do best, to write and draw and create.

When you don’t like the story the world is telling, tell a different story.

Our role is to debunk xenophobic myths and make people think, help them discover the natural human quality of empathy.
Alan Gibbons, author

It’s wonderful that so many great literary voices are contributing their creativity and compassion to this project, and showing that they stand with refugees
Laura Padoan, a spokesperson for UNHCR.

Contributors to this new collection include

  • Carnegie award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce
  • Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy
  • Scottish Makar and Guardian-award winning poet Jackie Kay
  • Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Children 2017 and The Bookseller prize, Patrice Lawrence
  • Rising star and multiple award winning illustrator Sarah McIntyre
  • Carnegie and Guardian prize winning novelist Susan Price
  • Former Children’s Laureate and three-times winner of the Kate Greenaway award, Chris Riddell
  • Celebrated poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.
  • Best-selling illustrator Nick Sharratt
  • Guardian prize winning novelist and poet, Alex Wheatle the Brixton Bard
  • Winner of a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Jane Yolen
  • And a host of other leading, award-winning and talented authors and illustrators
    In the first week of our campaign

  • 8 of our authors have been nominated for this year’s Carnegie award and 1 for the Greenaway award. They are: Alan Gibbons, Mary Hoffman, Patrice Lawrence, Tanya Landman, Irfan Master, Michael Rosen, Chris Priestley, Alex Wheatle and Jane Ray.
  • Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow have both tweeted about the book
  • 2 of our illustrators (Chris Riddell and John Shelley) have been nominated for the Astrid Lingren Memorial Award
    What’s new

  • Original Jane Ray artwork as a crowd-funding reward.
  • Promotional video from Alex Wheatle reading his hard-hitting new poem And I Still Hear Nina Singing Mississipi Goddam
    The #altwrite team
    Editors Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter are a mother and daughter team with a proven track record in publishing. In 2003 they co-edited Lines in the Sand: New writing on war and peace published by Frances Lincoln in the UK and The Disinformation Press in the US. All the contributors’ royalties and the publishers’ profits went to UNICEF’s emergency appeal for the children of Iraq.
    Campaign page on IndieGoGo:

  • What is up with World Book Day Limited?

    World Book Day Limited is a registered charity in the UK (charity no. 1079257)

    According to the Charity Commission, the object of the Charity is to advance the education of the public, particularly by assisting in the promotion of reading among children and young people. The Charity will particularly promote World Book Day, which shall comprise a series of events each year, or any other such event, the purpose of which is to promote and encourage reading among children and young people

    Indeed WBD Ltd claims that: World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.

    Over the years I have been a massive fan and supporter of the work undertaken by WBD, giving all children and young people the opportunity to own a book they can choose themselves. I was disappointed in the lack of writers of BAME heritage for the 20th anniversary this year but the selection of titles was accessible for readers from toddlers to teens with a range of genres to appeal to most tastes.

    The 2018 list by comparison is sadly lacking; the preponderance of celebrity authors on the list has attracted criticism from authors, librarians and other observers. The abundance of humour texts comes at the expense of other genres and there is only one non-fiction title. Add to this the complete lack of YA titles and, despite protestations from WBD Ltd that “news about the YA list would be made public in coming weeks”, we have heard and seen nothing.

    One may argue that children and young people are still able choose one of the WBD Ltd Books with their book token, and, if none of the books take their fancy they can put the token towards purchasing a full-price book of their choice. This argument is specious as it excludes children from families living in poverty and teens who, as they currently have nothing to choose from, may be forced to look towards the shelves of full-priced books. Many young readers are not able to afford a full-price title, even one with a £1 book token discount.

    There were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15. That’s 28 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30. [source:] and this number is projected to rise by 2020 [same source]

    Returning to the claim that World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books… and reading, an interview from 2014 that the American Booksellers Association held with Tim Godfray of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland makes for interesting reading.

    One of the questions:

    BTW: What are some of the marketing or advertising activities underway in the U.K. to promote bricks-and-mortar bookstores to consumers? How successful has the Books Are My Bag campaign been?

    Garnered an interesting answer (excerpted from the full answer)

    TG: …One of our biggest promotions is World Book Day. One of our companies in the BA group prints 14 million special World Book Day book tokens. These are given to children through their schools and then the children take these World Book Day book tokens into the shops around World Book Day and they can exchange the token either for a free paperback book, which has been produced especially for the promotion by the publishers, or they can get a pound off virtually any purchase in the shop. It’s more powerful than just seeing an advertisement on a magazine page: it actually encourages children with their parents to go physically into a bookshop. World Book Day has been for us a really, really significant success.

    So rather than a celebration as claimed, it is quite blatant that Booksellers are using World Book Day as a marketing ploy to get people into bookshops (anyone that has innocently asked if it is possible for bookstores to come into schools on the day with a selection of WBD Ltd Books will already know this of course).

    Now I have no problem with booksellers trying to stem the destruction caused by the rampant growth of online retailers, but the organisers of World Book Day Ltd. need to make a decision:

  • either they admit that they are merely a marketing tool for increasing sales in bookshops and are putting their focus on young readers who have parents/carers that will bring them to bookshops to get a WBD Ltd book or spend more on another book of choice

  • they step up to the plate as an organisation dedicated to celebrating authors, illustrators and reading for all children. If they are for all children they need to show this by including a choice of titles for older readers or a firm date when they will announce this. If this is not possible, they have to let observers know that something went wrong and no YA titles were ordered and that they will do better next year.
    Failure to do this and the current silence in the face of growing questions is damaging the WBD brand.

    You can view the mostly amazing lists of books published in support of World book Day from 2012 to 2018 courtesy of the Internet Archive here:

  • WBD Ltd 2012 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2013 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2014 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2015 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2016 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2017 Books:
  • WBD Ltd 2018 Books:
  • DCMS Response to Are you there John, it is me Matt!

    On the 17th October I sent an e-mail to the Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. You can read it here:
    Are you there John it is me Matt!

    I have just received a response from a member of the Ministerial Support Team, they appear to have selectively answered parts and ignored other sections of my missive. I have redacted the name of the team member that responded on behalf of John Glen, but you can read the response in full below.

    Download (PDF, Unknown)

    Alien Augmented Reality Survival Manual

    Alien was the scariest film I ever watched as a child so naturally I became obsessed with it and became a fan of the franchise.

    Over the years I read novelizations, comic book adventures set in the Xenomorph universe and got my bloody Alien fix through these and the later films and prequels.

    I have to say that the U.S.C.M. Alien AR Survival Manual is the best Alien related thing I have seen since Aliens!

    This book is the official training guide for the United States Colonial Marines and going by the movies, boy do they need it! Filled with bits of backstory about the Marines, the Weyland Yutani Corporation, various characters from the films, the space ships and weaponry this is the perfect book to read compulsively from cover to cover or dip into from time to time and choose arbitrary points to open the book to find something to grab your attention.

    from this…

    …to this

    The augmented reality app can be downloaded on Apple and Android platforms and is usable throughout the book, linking short videos to pictures and also a brilliant interactive training section (my favourite being trained to land a drop-ship onto a pad on my desk).
    A lot of work has gone into producing this book, it looks fantastic and contains a ton of information on all the Alien-related films and the AR additions are the best I have seen!

    I landed this drop-ship safely on my desk using my smartphone

    This book is highly recommended for all sci-fi fans and will be extremely popular in libraries (I have several students clamouring to be the first to borrow it)

    The Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Guide is available from at a price of £25

    Are you there John? It is me Matt

    I have just written and e-mailed a letter to Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. I am hoping to open a dialogue with him to encourage him to be open and supportive of public libraries in the UK.

    Full text is below

    Dear John

    I thought I would write this letter to introduce myself and say hello – hi!

    I have been tweeting you over the past few days about Libraries Week and specifically Public Libraries as I believe (and am sure that you feel the same) that they are an integral part of the social fabric of life in the UK. They are one of the oldest public services run by local government still in existence (they have been around for 167 years) seriously, check your change pouch, you may have one of the 50p coins struck to celebrate 150 years of public libraries in 2000.

    I wrote a bit about the Public Libraries Act of 1850, well mostly the arguments for and against here:

    While the century has changed, many of the arguments are still the same, I am not writing to discuss these but if you are interested I am up for a face to face discussion about public libraries, I can bring my friends who share similar interests to join in and hope that you consider doing the same.

    You were very vocal about libraries last week and I am hoping that this will continue now that Libraries Week has passed. It is easy to join in celebrations when everyone is shouting “hurrah”, but when the bunting is taken down and everyone gets on with their jobs I hope you will do the same as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DCMS. In this role I am sure you will find supporting Public Libraries easier than many for as you are no doubt aware Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964. Amongst the many duties that you have is the one that includes making sure that Local Authorities run a comprehensive and full Library Service this includes

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))
    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
    I am sure that you already know it backwards but you can read the full act here:
    I know how busy you must be and how easy it will be for some duties to slip due to the immense pressure many in government must be under, so I want to reassure you that you are not alone. I will be here to chivvy you along if necessary and to support you as you engage with your colleagues in local government to remind them that they are legally obligated to run a library service rather than foisting it off on volunteers, many of whom will do anything to keep the service going – and that really is not fair! I mean I am all for volunteers in libraries assisting staff, but to make them responsible for running a professional service really is beyond the pale! I hope you will have a word with the councils that are doing this!

    This was supposed to be a quick note but I seem to have gone on I do apologise! Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you as to how we can move forward together and give the people of the UK a Library Service we can all celebrate and be proud of!

    Warmest regards

    Matt Imrie

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

    I first read Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince as a child, it was the first book I picked up that I was aware was old (rather a classic) but in my mind then I knew it was considered a good book because it was still in print. It was illustrated but as the pictures were black, white & grey I focused more on the story and Saint-Exupery’s words whisked me away on the tale of the aviator and the Little Prince.

    Flash forward to the present-time some 30-odd years later and I revisited The Little Prince again and not for the first time; I had previously read the graphic adaptation by acclaimed French graphic novelist Joann Sfar – a beautiful volume that appears to have sailed under the radar of many readers.

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

    However rereading the novel with Saint-Exupery’s illustrations in the colours he originally used lifts the story from classic of literature into high art. Once again the Folio Society has made my jaw drop with this beautiful slip-cased, two-volume set comprising the story (the year 2000 translation) and the full colour illustrations.

    The companion volume is purely a thing of beauty, from rough sketches to finished pieces the artwork contained in this slim volume gives the reader some insight Saint-Exupery crafted his illustrations. The artwork alongside the thoughtful commentary by Christine Nelson, giving a precis of the story and a critique of the work make this a must-have for fans of classic works for children.

    Illustration for The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry © the Estate of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Société Civile pour l’Oeuvre et la Memoire d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

    The Folio Society edition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, introduced by Stacy Schiff and translated by Richard Howard, is exclusively available from

    The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane & Jackie Morris

    I have never been able to say that a book took my breath away; after encountering The Lost Words I am no longer able to say that.

    It is not that the book whisked my breath away, but rather that the magic of the book entranced me while I was looking at and reading it my autonomic nervous system slowed and I forgot to draw breath, until my body, starved of oxygen, demanded that I inhale.

    Through some subtle alchemy Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris have captured some of the magic of the wild on fragile pieces of paper. With his words, in verse so spare that not a word is wasted nor extra ones required Robert has written the movement of the animals and captured the essence the floral kingdom in ways that I have never encountered in print before before. Jackie, whose work I have adored for years has truly outdone herself, I keep expecting the animals to dart off the page and the gentle breeze to whistle through the brambles or conkers and acorns to fall from their branches.

    The Lost Words is a memory of the wild and a reminder of the potency of words that exist and should not be forgotten.

    Poster: Be a REBEL!

    Click on the image to download a .pdf of the poster.

    An open letter on #LibrariesWeek

    FAO: John Glen MP, Libraries Taskforce, the DCMS, Arts Council England, Local Governments all over the UK


    Dear all

    It is an exciting day today, with the launch of the first National UK Libraries Week, celebrating libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK. Going by your twitter feeds this morning you are all big supporters of this initiative.

    It gladdens my heart that you are all believers in equality of service, and that citizens of this United Kingdom, home to Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, Rowling, Riddell, Crossan and other giants of literature, both ancient and modern, deserve equal access to literature, learning and information through their local library service.

    In fact as you are no doubt all aware, Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964, with the Secretary for DCMS (currently YOU Mr Glen) having a right and a duty to make sure that local authorities do this (see below)

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))

    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  • Read the full act here:

    I would like to welcome you all to join with librarians, campaigners, authors and others who have worked tirelessly since 2011 (and before) to ensure the survival of the library service as we know it.

    I am aware that in the past other secretaries of state have not been minded to intervene or just sat on their hands while the service burned (whatever happened to them?), I also know that it many in government thought the public library question was best answered by local government (sadly many of those answers have been soul-destroying).

    Now I am confident that the online signals of support from yourselves and official twitter accounts from councils across the country that we can move past this unfortunate episode and work together to bring library services back under the umbrella of local government with full backing from the DCMS, bringing an end to piecemeal funding of special projects and making sure that libraries are funded in the way that they should be!

    While you are at it could you have a word with your colleagues at OFSTED about the importance of making school libraries and librarians statutory rather than leaving it up to individual heads as we can all see how that has ended up.

    All the best and happy Libraries Week