Category Archives: Blogging

Chopstix by A.T. Raydan, Exclusive Extract


A lot was on my mind, happy thoughts, happy positive thoughts. I was enjoying college life.

As I walked closer to home, I felt another shiver shoot down my spine and tingling sensations throughout my body. This time they felt stronger and lasted longer. I was struck by a sense of panic. Then I heard the sirens and saw flashing lights in the distance.

I noticed the pale blue sky turning dark very quickly. Something had happened. Something very bad had happened.

I carried on walking. With each step, I felt the tingling sensations getting stronger and stronger. As I got closer to home, it hit me. The sirens and flashing lights were coming from right outside the House of Wu. It was on Fire!

The happy thoughts were gone in a flash…

The whole building was ablaze. Plumes of thick black smoke just billowed out across the sky and flames could be seen shooting from the windows and roof of the building.
For a moment, all I could hear was the loud thumping of my heart. I just froze to the spot whilst I took everything in.

I looked around and noticed firefighters carrying hoses everywhere. They were fighting what was quickly turning into a raging inferno. It was at that moment that I first noticed the strong acrid smell and the heat from the fire. It was unbearable.
There was a cordon around the parade of shops, yet crowds were still gathering, all gasping whilst watching the blaze. I heard someone mention that Beryl’s and Franco’s were also under threat from the fire and that firefighters were doing their utmost to save them too.

And then all of a sudden, there was an explosion followed by the sound of glass shattering. Things didn’t look good for the House of Wu.
My breathing became very strained and that acted as a trigger for me to run towards my home oblivious of my surroundings. Suddenly two individuals in uniforms grabbed me. It was the police.

“Stop! Stop! You can’t go any further!” shouted one of the police officers.
“That’s my home! My parents are in there!” I screamed.

“Calm down, calm down,” replied a police officer in a rather relaxed manner, as he took me to one side.

“My parents!” I shouted.

I became hysterical and started to scream. A policewoman approached me and put her arm around me. I knew something bad had happened.

“Come with me,” she said, as she took me towards a police van. She opened the side door and I was helped to sit on the floor with my feet on the pavement.

I was visibly shaking and tears were flowing from my eyes.

“My parents are in there! Have you rescued them? Did they manage to get out in time?” I screamed.

Chopstix by A.T Raydan is published by Unique Inspiration (paperback, £6.99). Available online from Waterstones here.

NEXT STOP: Addicted to Media concludes the official Chopstix blog tour with a spooky letter from Wendy Wu’s mother from beyond the grave…
YESTERDAY’S STOP: Death, Books and Tea hosted a guest post by Chopstix bad guys – ‘The Chi’

Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour

Welcome to the Teen Librarian stop on the Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour, lovingly organised by the fantastic Viv Dacosta.

This was supposed to be a review of Dodger by Pterry (that is included) but when chatting to some dear friends who are also massive fans and regular visitors to the Discworld I thought I would invite them in to play today.

Starting off with one of the best librarians I know and a wonderful human being Caroline Fielding

I read Jim‘s Top 10 Discworld characters as part of the Terry Pratchett blog tour (YAYeahYeah) and it got me thinking about the characters that I love, including those on his list. I realised that a lot of my favourites are those that are completely essential to the series but might only actually play the tiniest of roles when it comes to the plot, or feature for a brief time. Some of them appear in books I haven’t read for 10 years or more but they’ve stuck in my brain. So here, in no particular order, are my

Nominations for Best Supporting Character:


The Luggage: I miss Rincewind and the Luggage…featuring from the very beginning of the Colour of Magic, this chest made of sapient pearwood brings nothing but distress into the life of cowardly wizard Rincewind.

Vimes’ Dis-Organizer: It can tell the time in Klatch, remember your appointments, and use precognition to know your upcoming appointments will occur before you do…causing some consternation when it follows the wrong timeline.


Hex: the computer designed by Ponder Stibbons and his team of nerdy wizards. Stibbons denies that Hex can think for itself, but is constantly worried by the additions Hex seems to make to itself, and when the FTB (Fluffy Teddy Bear) is removed it throws a wobbler!


Bergholt Stuttley ‘Bloody Stupid’ Johnson: doesn’t actually feature in any of the stories having died many years previously, but his creations crop up regularly, most notably the Archchancellor’s shower! Pratchett described him as an ‘inverse genius’.


Death of Rats: Once a part of Death, he remained after the events of Reaper Man and is able to make himself understood with a one-syllable sound: SQUEAK, with the occasional emphasis of an EEK-EEK, and the help of the raven Quoth.


The Canting Crew: “Millennium Hand and Shrimp”. Need I say more? Well, maybe – the beggars that even beggars avoid, Foul Ole Ron and his comrades feature in a number of the books, sharing their alternative view of the world.


Leonardo of Quirm: locked up in the Patrician’s dungeons, he’s quite content just doodling out his inventions that could very easily accidentally start (or end) wars…

Drumknott: Lord Vetinari’s Clerk, the perfect civil servant, relishes order and protocol but knows exactly what Vetinari wants. This quote from Going Postal sums him up perfectly:
‘…we would not normally have started individual folders at this time,’ Drumknott was agonizing. ‘You see, I’d merely have referenced them on the daily-‘
‘Your concern is, as ever, exemplary,’ said Vetinari. ‘I see, however, that you have prepared some folders’
‘Yes, my lord. I have bulked some of them out with copies of Clerk Harold’s analysis of pig production in Genua, sir.’ Drumknott looked unhappy as he handed over the card folders. Deliberately misfiling ran fingernails down the blackboard of his very soul.


Igor: a number of Igors pop up, coming from an extremely extended family in Überwald and mainly working as servants for mad scientists although they are great medics, ably performing emergency surgery, including in particular transplants, with one particular Igor having made it onto the City Watch in Ankh Morpork.


CMOT Dibbler: the Del Boy of the Discworld, starting out selling ‘sausage inna bun’ on the streets of Ankh Morpork, he regularly dabbles in new initiatives and trades. CMOT stands for “selling this at such a low price that it’s cutting me own throat” One of the things I love most is all the relatives of his that pop up across the Disc with very similar sales techniques.

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My second guest, like Caroline is another excellent librarian and someone you will want next to you if you ever find yourself in a foxhole. I have known Shaun Kennedy for half my life now and he is here to share his memories of Terry Pratchett:

Only in our dreams are we free.

The first book by Terry Pratchett I read was Pyramids, after that came Mort. And then, well you know what they say about eating Pringles? It applies here too.

I first met Terry in 1999 when he did a signing tour through South Africa. I was working a weekend job and convinced my co-workers that I had to be somewhere important and they covered for me – after all, it’s not every day an internationally acclaimed author you’re a fan of comes to town. To this day I am not even sure if I ever told them where I went and why.

After moving to London in 2005 I met my now-wife, who back then wasn’t a Pratchett fan. At the time she worked for a membership organisation and was involved in running events all over the country. A few months later I got told that one Terry Prachett was going to be one of the main guests at an event they were running. It turned out that as I was one of the few people that knew anything about his books, they wanted me to the stand where the Pratchett books were going to be sold to answer questions. I say yes because I didn’t have anything better to do.

Then I got told that I would be looking after him while he was at the event!

That Saturday I will never forget. After having spent a couple hours of helping people choose books to buy, the main organiser came over with Terry in tow and introduced me to him. I managed to remain calm and professional and asked if he needed anything. To which he replied that he wanted to wander around and have a look at the stalls. I asked if he wanted me to accompany him, but he declined and said he was happy to meander around until his talk. And he was off and I went back to answering questions about which book came first.

About five minutes later I realised that there was a queue going past the stall and I went to investigate. I’m not sure how it started, but at the end of the line I found Terry signing books for attendees while juggling his jacket and hat. Fearing that he had been ambushed, I asked if he was okay signing for people as there was a signing scheduled later in the day. But he waved me off saying. I offered to keep his jacket and hat safe so he had his hands free. Terry gave me his jacket and proceeded to ask the people in the queue if I was trustworthy before he would consider giving me the hat.

Fortunately most of the people said they knew me and I headed back to the book stall with the coat and hat. I didn’t see him again until I was told to find him and take him to the green room. I think the organiser thought I was doing a bad job watching Terry. I got him back to the green room and we chatted to a while on various topics including his trip to South Africa. I remember him quizzing me about why I had become a librarian. Turns out he was rather fond of librarians on the whole. I wouldn’t have guessed.

After the talk we moved onto the signing. I think it was the first time I had ever seen a queue go across two floors of a venue. Everyone patiently waited to have their books signed – I think it was because Terry gave as much time to the first people whose books he signed to those who were at the end of the queue and they knew this. Well, those who had been at one of his signing did anyway.

I never did get to see Terry off though, I was called away because of an emergency and by the time it was resolved he’d already left.

One thing I have learnt is that Terry Pratchett’s works, and in particular the Discworld books, resonate with a lot of people. Personally I think this is because the characters are written as unique individuals with their own experiences. When I read a book the characters feel alive and like old friends who are telling me about what they got up to while we have been separate. I am going to miss reading about new adventures, but I will always happily have them retell stories I’ve heard before.
The other thing I’ve learnt is that, except for my manager, I’ve yet to meet a librarian who has never read a Pratchett book. Last year I was fortunate enough to run a Discworld role-playing game for a bunch of librarians and they had so much fun being oddball characters in the Watch.

I have to admit that while I do love the Chief Librarian, my favourite character is Sam Vimes.

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I grew into the reader I am thanks in no small part to the Discworld books, I also read (and loved) the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, the Bromeliad, The Carpet People, Nation and The Dark Side of the Sun. Dodger was different, I purchased it (as I always did) on its day of release in 2012 and then it sat on my shelf. It is weird, I have one reading rule and that is nothing comes before a Pratchett. I have no idea why I did not devour it immediately – perhaps because it was not a Discworld book but whatever the reason (and maybe there was not one) the book sat, pristine and unread on my shelf until this year when Viv sent the call out for people interested in getting involved with the blog tour. It was then that I picked it up and decide that I should do this in memory of him!

The cover is a Paul Kidby masterpiece, Dodger rising from a manhole, tipping his hat with a cheeky grin and a straight-razor in his left hand. The background is recognisably London with Saint Paul’s Cathedral towering over tenement blocks and huddled figures. The Victorian marbled end papers are a wonderful touch making the book a thing of beauty to behold. The book is written in a Victorian style, including chapter headings (Terry is famously dismissive of chapters) there are also footnotes – a quirk of his that I love dearly.

However it was the writing that captured me, the story opening with Dodger leaping from the sewers to save a damsel in distress from peril at the hands of dastardly villains. Dodger is a wonderful example of Terry Pratchett’s writing, his books are amazing, not because of the background, setting or sometimes awful puns but because of the characters, he writes people so well. Dodger mixes real and fictional characters in a satisfying melange of crime, mystery, politics and heroism. Dodger is a great starting point for readers new to Terry Pratchett’s work and a wonderful read for established fans.

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Finally, I want to share the cartoon I drew as a tribute to Terry Pratchett on the afternoon of his death. It was either create something or dissolve into a puddle of misery on my work desk; it is a good thing that I don’t work in an office or I may have closed the door and had a good cry.

lego pterryx

Visit Emma Greenwood’s blog for yesterday’s stop on the tour and remember to stop by Bookish Treasures tomorrow for the next stop.

Some (rambling) Thoughts on Boys & Reading

These thoughts came about while watching the #BoysAndMen tag on Twitter from the London Book Fair yesterday, and getting involved in the online discussions, I am stillupset at missing out on going!

Anyway… on to my thoughts:

One thing I do know for sure is that it is very hard to turn a reader into a non-reader

Some other things of which I am aware:

    Boys read fewer books than girls
    Women buy and read more books than men do
    Some boys do read
    Not all girls read

I have seen gendered reading schemes focusing on young male readers, The Dads and Lads, Mothers and Sons groups being the most widely spread but I have never seen a reading scheme focusing on solely on girls (if anyone knows of any please let me know!)

I have been in the UK for 13 years now and have worked with teens in libraries for a large part of that time. A decade ago it was all about getting teens into libraries and reading, as the resident teen library person in the local authority that I was working in that task fell to me and a couple of colleagues, one of the biggest fights I had was to be allowed to run events for the teens that actually used the library rather than the ones that did not want to be there. Prevailing wisdom seemed to think that we already had the ones that came to us so they were not a problem; I won that fight as I stood firm in my belief that if you build a better teen library service they will come! (it does work!)

The most success I had at getting boys to read was in mixed groups, in the past boys used to see where girls were congregating in the library and follow them in.

I have found that non-readers on their own or if there are only one or two in a group where the focus is on reading will soon fall into reading. Problems arise when non-readers in a group form the majority and then they feed off each other’s antipathy to reading, this strengthens their resistance to picking up a book and they can distract the attendees that actually want to read.

Divide and rule by peer pressure can be positive if engineered correctly.

I believe that it is nurture over nature that influences a person as a reader. I am the middle of three brothers; we were all brought up in the same household surrounded by books and regular trips to the library for story-times. I love reading and owning my own books, my younger brother enjoys reading and my older brother (and his wife) are bringing up their children with a love of reading, as does my younger brother and as will I.

I have also seen youngsters that come from homes with few to no books pick up a book and fall into reading but they are a minority.

What I would like to know is what makes young readers readers – I am not talking about peer suggestions, advertising or pop culture attractions but rather what in their lives led them to pick up a book and fall in love with the act of reading. Every child loves being read to – even teenagers but what is lost or made stronger when they have to read the stories to themselves?

When it comes to reading the United Kingdom does its utmost to engage citizens from birth, with Bookstart Packs for babies and toddlers. Even with the public service cuts libraries still run baby & toddler times and story sessions and it is all free!

So if anyone would like to add comments or suggestions please do so below!

Red House Children’s Book Award blog tour: Stuart Hill

princeoftheicemarkI enjoyed writing The Prince of the Icemark enormously; and in fact it was inspired by several readers who sent fan letters asking to know more about Redrought as a character. He was killed quite early in The Cry of the Icemark but obviously the huge bear of a man who was the King of his country, a doting father and loved cats with a passion, made quite an impression on the readers, and so the scene was set for a revisit. But this time I wanted to study Redrought as a boy just before he settled into the throne of the Icemark. And then when he was finally forced to become King after his brother was killed, I wanted to show him growing into the job.

I actually based part of Redrought’s character on every awkward, stumbling and shy teenage boy I’ve ever known – including me! As a grown-up he was a like a cross between a friendly Viking and a grizzly bear; the type of bear that would deliberately break wind loudly in quiet exam rooms or tell vicars dirty jokes and then roar with laughter, not noticing the silence that had settled around him. But as a boy he was very different. He’d blush if a girl so much as looked at him, and he’d definitely fall over his own feet if he had to do something terrifying like actually go for a walk with one of the strange creatures that he found so fascinating.

Stuart HillI also wanted to go back and tell the stories of some my other favourite characters, especially the Vampire King and Queen. I absolutely loved writing about them; I particularly enjoyed their snobbery, their refined manners and their sarcasm – and all of that, coupled with their ferocity, made me think of some of my old teachers (not all of them – I had some great teachers). I could just imagine His Vampiric Majesty as an old-style headmaster who’d sweep through the corridors in a long gown, on the hunt for prey or for any pupil who’d forgotten their homework! And Her Vampiric Majesty would just have to be a maths teacher … precise, professional, petrifying!

I think there are more stories to be told involving the young King Redrought, his fighting, farting cat Cadwalader, and his future wife Athena, the warrior princess of the mighty Hypolitan. Perhaps one day, I’ll tell them.

RHCBA2015

Teen Librarian and the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards

Those readers who also follow me on twitter or know me in real life will be aware that for the next two years I will be a Judge for the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards.

The effects of the CKG Awards have been slowly creeping in to the way I have been running Teen Librarian. I have been reading as many of the potential nominations as I could so that when the list of nominated titles is revealed I would not have an almost insurmountable task in getting through all of them. I have not felt that it would be a good idea to review the books I have read over the past year as it may create a conflict of interest if my views on them are made known and they are nominated.

My reviews will cease entirely from now as I will have no time to read anything other than the nominated titles, the list of titles will become public next week.

The voices of past judges has become a Greek chorus in my mind, collectively and individually they have all said the same thing: Life as you knew it is over! All your free time will be taken up with reading the nominations, you don’t really need eight hours of sleep a night and say goodbye to your friends and significant other…

The list of things in life that will be set aside because of the awards does go on a bit, but those were the salient points.

I know that I am not the most prolific of posters in the library & book blogging worlds but I may become even quieter. I will not be posting on any of the authors and titles nominated, or about any of the meetings relating to the Awards. I will keep posting ideas and items of interest as I usually do and if anyone reading this would like to become involved with writing articles or reviews for Teen Librarian please do let me know.

I will also not be able to answer any questions relating to views on the nominated titles or authors, or about the awards process or my fellow judges. I will be happy to talk about the importance of the Awards, the criteria and any general questions people may have. I may even write posts about those subjects in case.

Young Adult Literature Con 2014

Yalc news logo
Well this week the YA literary blogosphere has been afire with people raving about the Young Adult Literary Convention that took place this past weekend under the wings of the London Film & Comic Con.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with conventions – I love meeting authors & actors seeing friends in the audience and among the people displaying their wares and seeing the cosplayers BUT I really do not enjoy massive crowds of people, in the past my con of choice has been the MCM Expo in Docklands, followed closely by the LFCC but as con culture has grown in the UK so have the crowds and navigating my way through packed gang-ways makes my want to run away screaming. My past survival technique have always been to get in early, see as much as I can and get out before it gets unmanageable.

You want to know something cool? – I was at YALC on the Sunday and it was utterly magnificent! I was fortunate enough to be invited to a blogger breakfast chat on Sunday morning. The brunch featured appearances by Holly Black, Matt Haig, Non Pratt and James Dawson who each gave a short introduction and promotion of their books followed by a meet & mingle with coffee, juice and croissants.

ezgif.com-resizeJames Dawson being crowned by Rosi Crawley with Non Pratt, Matt Haig & Holly Black seated from left to right next to them

My personal highlights of YALC 2014 (in no particular order) were:

Catching up with wonderful human beings Non Pratt and His Majesty James Dawson the new Queen of Teen
Meeting Matt Haig and chatting about the importance of libraries, reading and the differences between school and public libraries
Seeing (and speaking to) Jim and Darren who were (I think) the only two other male bloggers at the blogger brunch
Speaking to Nina, Rosi & Harriet in person for a change rather than being at the other end of an e-mail
Giving my Ruin & Rising tote bag to a passing teen who had a total fan-girl meltdown when she saw it (she told me she was looking forward to reading book 3 so much and loved my bag and did I know if she could get one if there were any more left)
Meeting the Chapter 5 team (who are also the amazing Hodderscape team) and having a mutual admiration chat – they recognized me because I borrowed their table sign for a Lego Han Solo pic
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Chatting to the Hot Key Books team, getting a hug from Sara O’Connor and a proof of Clariel thus earning my love and dedication for life.
wewereliarsclariel
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Finding the 2000AD stand, speaking to Lydia Gittens and discovering that they have a YA imprint called Ravenstone
Being surrounded by my people the book fans, people that geek out when meeting authors and receiving signed books
Catching up with my friends Doctor Manhattan and Zuul (aka Shaun & Jackie)
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Things that I did not do that I really wanted to:
Attend the opening on the first day
Speak to Holly Black – no idea how this did not happen, we were in the same area for ages!
Get a seat at any of the talks – I hung around the back and listened to some but I was too hot and dressed inappropriately to get comfortable
Find any number of friends, authors and associates that I knew were there but did not seem able to locate

What I will do next year:
Book early entry tickets way in advance then arrive early to make sure there is none of that hanging around for hours in a queue to buy tickets
Take at least two water bottles
Wear light and airy clothes
Arrange to go in with a group of friends for mutual defence and protection
Be aware what* is happening, where and at what times
*panels, workshops & author signings

The most important thing anyone can do is support the YALC organisers and agitate for it to become an annual occurrence, this was the first one and it was amazing, I truly believe that next year will be even more spectacular and will do what I can to make sure it happens!

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Loving Books

This piece has been inspired by a conversation I have had with @Crusaderofchaos on Twitter. You can read it here

I love books, I always have and I collect them (hoard them as my dear lady wife says) and if I had the space I would have a room dedicated as my personal library. I would have one already but in life one must compromise and a multi-purpose room that is useful and used is currently more necessary than a private library (I hold the view that a library is necessary and useful thing to have but I wait for the day when we have space to allow that without massive arguments and upset).

Being a keeper of books I have a rule about my collection that I am less than flexible about: I will NOT lend you my books!

I have two exceptions to that rule – both of them friends that I have known for years, they hold to the views that you do not crease or break the spine when reading, do not dog-earing the pages, you do not eat while reading or leave the book open face-down on the spot that they stopped reading. They love books like I love them – with respect and care.

I know people (both friends and family) who love books by reading them with abandon and so often that they need to patch them together with tape. Books that they have had for so long and read so often that the books flop open at favourite pages and for them that is the greatest sign of respect one can have for a book.

You know what – they are not wrong!

I believe in sharing books and stories, I am a librarian for Pete’s sake! But my collection of books is mine – I have books I keep because they are beautiful, wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable!

They look good and I want to keep them that way.

My way is not wrong either.

I am not alone in the keeping personal books in perfect condition habit and I am sure that they know people who are bemused by that – as do I.

To all those who love their books by keeping them as near to perfect condition as they are able; I am one of you.

For those of you that read books to pieces huzzah! I hope you never change, but please do not hold it against me if I do not loan you one of my collection for it may ruin our friendship and possibly my book as well.

I know there is no wrong way to love a book or books – there are many ways and I will not judge you if your way is different from mine.

All I ask is that you don’t judge me for mine!

Three Years a School Librarian

In all the excitement over the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards, coming to the end of another school year and the Football World Cup I overlooked the fact that this June is my third anniversary as a School Librarian.

For the eight years prior to this momentous month three years ago I had been (mostly) a Teen & Youth Services Librarian, with a bit of Reference, Adult Services and team management thrown in for good measure. Then the public services cuts started, at this point I was in Brent, a borough that cut its already tightly run library service into the bone. I was the first casualty in Brent and one of the first librarians in London to get the chop, the only upside to being at the front of the line was I could see what was coming and had six months to scramble for a new job before the axe came down.

I interviewed for 12 positions in six months and did well but not well enough in most.

It was in the final interview I went to that got me the call-back to run a library lesson on Anne Frank and biographies which went brilliantly until I turned round and realised that the computer that was running the powerpoint display I was using had downloaded an update and rebooted itself, it was Windows Vista so took about 20 minutes to sort itself out. I had decided not to wait for the reboot went on with the lesson using and got the kids to look at specific titles.

I left, convinced that I had blown it and cursed Microsoft products under my breath.

The lesson was a week before my post in Brent came to an end and I felt the breath of doom on my neck. My last day of work was on a Monday and on the Tuesday morning I was unemployed. I received a phone-call around midday on the Tuesday offering the post of School Librarian.

Three years later I am still here!

I have restocked the library, discarded ancient and unsuitable stock, physically removed broken bookshelves, organised about 25 author visits, gotten to know an entire schools worth of students (& staff), participated in two pantomimes and run an ongoing series of weekly lessons for years 7, 8 & 9 as well as all the other things that happen in a library but are usually handled by other teams.

I have learned a lot – how to survive being a solo practitioner, partnership working with school departments and new (to me) outside agencies.

One thing I did not have to do was learning this alone! There is a brilliant School Librarians Network who helped me and continue to do so and Librarians are some of the most avid & helpful Twitter users that I know and they guided me through the early stages of my new career path.

This summer my library is receiving a comprehensive refurbishment from the ground up – carpet, chairs, tables, a new coat of paint and an enhanced IT offer (five new computers).

I am looking forward to my fourth year and have started working on new educational resources to use in the new school year.
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Hello Darkness My Old Friend: is the Carnegie Medal becoming too Bleak?

There is a growing sense of disquiet among spectators of the CILIP Carnegie& Kate Greenaway Awards that the Carnegie has a growing darkness in its heart. There is the possibility that the judges vie to find a book that was darker than previous titles and have the author crowned as the next recipient of the award.

Each year after the winners have been announced there has been a vocal group of observers that shout that some of the titles are not suitable for younger readers, the subject matters are too dark for children to understand.

We are living in a golden age of publishing for young readers, the volume of quality titles that are published each year is still growing and the number of titles nominated for the award grows apace.

Authors are not content to write about safe subjects and retread ground that writers before them have covered, they may retell or reimagine old stories but often update them (in style if not content) and give them relevance to a modern audience.

Writing for slightly older audience gives writers more freedom in tackling contentious issues that they would have difficulty with if they were writing for younger readers.

I feel that the accusations that the winning titles are too bleak for younger readers are specious. Books are perfect for tabling discussions about what is happening in the world today. Children and adults enter schools with guns and innocents die, often for reasons that make little or no sense. Violence, war and death are routinely shown on news programmes; young girls are kidnapped or murdered for the crime of wanting an education.

Straying into fiction, EastEnders has shown murder, rape, kidnapping, arson and jaywalking although I think they do display the Samaritans number at the end of particular episodes for anyone who wanted to talk about what they have seen.

The veil of fiction can make it easier for readers to confront and discuss issues that affect them in real life. When talking to a parent, guardian, teacher or librarian about it is often easier to refer to pages that may have upset or confused a young reader than chatting about what they saw on the television or have experienced. Books can also help readers understand what others go through better than watching a film or television show.

I do not believe that children need to be cosseted or protected from the big bad world, the argument has already been made about children self-censoring anything they feel they are not ready for.

Is The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks bleak and unremitting? Yes it is. Does it tie everything up in a neat dénouement at the end? No it does not. Is it suitable for each and every reader that may pick it up? Maybe not but that is for the reader to decide!

Have previous titles that were selected been bleak, dark and troubled? Yes they have but the subject is almost irrelevant as the main point when considering a title for the Carnegie is:

The book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book of outstanding literary quality. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.

There have been years where no winner has been chosen as the criteria against which the books are measured are so strict.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children and the judges choice on the matter is final. People will always disagree this is what makes for such rousing discussions about the shortlisted titles and winners but to accuse the judges of spiralling down to ever darker and nastier titles can be dismissed immediately.

A few years ago there was the accusation that only ‘worthy’ literary titles were chosen instead of more populist books.
When it comes to the Carnegie there is no pattern, judges cannot refuse a book just because a similar title or author won the previous year. The winning title is one that best matches the criteria which are freely available to view here:
http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/carnegie/award_criteria.php

The joy of reading is that you are free to read any book you want and put it down if it does not appeal. Not every story will fit every reader; there is diversity in choice and that is what makes it so wonderful!

Moths are drawn to the light and young minds can be attracted to the darkness in some books, but if they find it too dark they can choose to close the covers and move on to another title.

I do not believe that the awards are becoming too dark, the judges change every two years and new blood brings with it a fresh perspective and opinion on what the best book for a particular year is.

The darkness in fiction can be dispelled by closing the covers and waiting until you are ready to face it.

Some Thoughts on the Winners of the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards

The Kate Greenaway Award goes to This is Not My Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen and the Carnegie Award goes to The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks.

ThisIsNotMyHat_thumbThe Bunker Diary
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This is Not My Hat was my favourite to win from the moment I read it – even before it was nominated. In all honesty I thought the same about I Want My Hat Back. The other short-listed titles were also brilliant but TINMH had my heart and support from the beginning!

The Carnegie Award winner was harder to call and I could not pick a favourite from the short-listed titles. The Bunker Diary is a worthy winner and a brave choice by the judges. In recent years the Carnegie Award has faced criticism over the dark stories that have been nominated and selected as winners and I am sure that this year will be no different. The Bunker Diary is dark, brilliant and probably not suitable for younger readers but it is an excellent choice!

I am looking forward to and also slightly terrified by the CKG Awards next year as I will be sitting on the judging panel and will have a hand in choosing the shortlists and winning titles. Over the years I have been involved in a number of discussions both online and in the real world about the awards and have always been a firm believer in the importance of the awards and now next year I will become part of the process.