Category Archives: Books

Only You Can Save mankind by Terry Pratchett

As the mighty alien fleet from the latest computer game thunders across the screen, Johnny prepares to blow them into the usual million pieces. And they send him a message: We surrender.

They’re not supposed to do that! They’re supposed to die. And computer joysticks don’t have ‘Don’t Fire’ buttons . . .
But it’s only a game, isn’t it. Isn’t it?

Often overlooked in favour of his Discworld series, Terry Pratchett’s Johnny Maxwell trilogy is nevertheless an amazing set of books that desrves its place in the sun.

First published when I was 17, Only You Can Save Mankind was the fourth non Discworld book that I had read (the other three were the Bromeliad trilogy).

Now re-jacketed, re-illustrated (by Mark Beech) and re-released, Only You can Save Mankind more than holds up 26 years later. It is as magnificent as I remembered it the first time I read it – an anti-war novel that is also about friendship, fitting in, the importance of talking and a reminder that abuse and neglect can happen anywhere.

Look I should not have to sell you on a Terry Pratchett book – he was a phenomenal author and is still my favourite story-teller and one day I will have read all his works but that day is not today! Today marks the third anniversary of his passing and on this day if you have not discovered his work why not make a start with Only You Can Save Mankind?

My last post about World Book Day

As anyone who knows me or follows my blog and twitter account will know, I have had a bit of a problem with World Book Day – not the celebration of books, bookshops and reading but what I perceived as missteps in their organisation of WBD 2018 (and also some issues with WBD 2017). Rather than rehashing what I have already written, you can read my thoughts here and here.

I did try and engage with the organisation on social media in an attempt to have a public discussion about my concerns but to no avail, so on the 19th February I sent them an e-mail. You can read it below.

To whom it may concern

I have a number of conflicted feelings about World Book Day, on one hand I am a massive supporter of getting young people reading and into bookstores but on the other hand I feel that World Book Day ltd has made a number of missteps recently, some of which which I have publicly criticised on TeenLibrarian and via social media.

I dislike the idea of criticism without allowing a response and not having been able to engage with you via social media I wondered if a representative from WBD would be able to answer some questions regarding the issues I feel have arisen?

My questions are below.

Firstly, the YA offer this year

Why did it take three months for the YA titles to be announced instead of during “the coming weeks” as reported in the Guardian? (

Regarding the £1.50 YA premium on top of the WBD voucher, I am aware that they are full novels and are still considerably cheaper than a non-WBD branded copy book would cost; but do you not think that this will further alienate young people from impoverished backgrounds*; not to mention the young people go to a participating bookshop or supermarket to pick up a book with their voucher and find out when they get to the till that they have to pay.

I also note on your website that the YA ‘special editions’ will be available in participating retailers only – will these retailers be listed to help shoppers find the books they are looking for? Are you not concerned that this will exclude older readers who wish to participate in World Book Day but do not live near a participating store?

Secondly the proliferation of the World Book Day logo on advertising costumes on posters in malls and in supermarkets. Contrary to popular belief I am not against dressing up to celebrate one’s favourite books for World Book Day, but is not using your logo to sell costumes a contravention of the style guide usage policy which states that the logo should only be used on materials promoting books?

I also fear that the dress-up aspect of the day is occluding the celebration of reading which forms a central part of World Book Day. An online search for “World Book Day” returns mostly news articles on where to find the most affordable costumes and news that a Welsh language book will be available for the first time.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions

Matt Imrie
Editor: Teen Librarian

*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 and this number is projected to rise by 2020 [source:]

I received a response on Friday the 9th but owing to a school trip and family obligations over the weekend I only received it today. You can read it in full below

Download (PDF, Unknown)

I appreciate the Director Kirsten Grant taking the time to personally respond to my questions, it made for interesting reading and while my fears have not been completely allayed (or answered fully) I look forward to seeing what happens with WBD in the future.

Love, Simon

LOVE, SIMON also stars Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Miles Heizer, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Tony Hale and is directed by Greg Berlanti.

The film is an adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s bestselling 2015 YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Blog Tour: A Library Miscellany by Claire Cock-Starkey

Claire Cock-Starkey will be speaking about A Library Miscellany (and The Book Lovers’ Miscellany) at the Oxford Literary Festival on March 20th at 12pm

Visit Claire’s website and follow her on Twitter @nonfictioness

A Library Miscellany FRONT ONLY

Mine by S.A. Partridge

On stage, Fin is Thor. Angry and invincible. Yet for all his potential, people always leave him. Kayla is the only girl he’s ever met who’s worth loving. The only one he’s ever wanted to be worth something for.

Kayla knows she’s weird and unlovable. But she wants to believe there is no reason to be sad anymore.

In each other Fin and Kayla find the only place they’ve ever belonged. Until the ghosts from the past come to break them apart.

This book is something else!

I could tell you that Mine by Sally Partridge is one of the best YA novels I have read this year. Or I could explain (at length) how she has captured the very essence of young love and toxic high school relationships.

Maybe I could try to convince you that this book will resonate with anyone who has been, or is, in love and will recognise the feelings of desire, insecurity and fear that well up as we try to second-guess what the object of affection is thinking or feeling at any given time.

I could, but I won’t – instead I will just say that this book should be an essential part of any YA selection in libraries or in private ownership! Buy it, read it and share it – you will, laugh, you will cry, you will get angry and at the end you will say “Jesus I did not see that coming!” (well that is what I said anyway), I am still not over it – thanks Sally!

Told from the point of view of Fin and Kayla in alternating chapters their passion for each other is so raw and real that it almost hurts to read their story. It is testament to Sally’s skill as a writer that even when our main characters are portrayed at their worst and most unlikable that we never lose the feelings of sympathy and hope for their future.

Mine is a beautiful, broken love story that will remain with you long after you have finished reading.

Mine is published by Human & Rosseau in South Africa and is available now

The Moderately Large World Book Day Quiz 2018


A number of colleagues have mentioned that they are not able to access the slideshare quiz so I have made the powerpoint downloadable below:

Download (PPTX, 4.55MB)

#BookBuddy: an interview with Maz Evans

Over the weekend a discussion about donating books to School Libraries blew up on Twitter, led by author Maz Evans (Who Let the Gods Out?); she and other Children’s Authors in the course of visiting schools to speak to students had stumbled onto an open secret – that School Libraries in the UK are not statutory and many (if they exist at all) are not adequately funded.

Rather than writing an article about it I reached out to Maz with a request to interview her about the idea she had for a BookBuddy programme to introduce it to library folk and others that may have missed the initial discussion.

So without further ado, here is the BookBuddy interview with Maz Evans

What is BookBuddy?

It is essentially a scheme to pair those who have spare kids’ books with schools that can give them a great home. Anyone who has children’s books lying around – or wants to buy some new ones for a school – will be put in touch with a school for either a one-off donation or a longer partnership – entirely up to them.

What sparked the initial idea?

I travel extensively around the UK and visit at least one primary school a week. Most schools I visit don’t have a library, very few have a librarian and some have no books at all. I’ll say that again. There are schools in this country with no books in them. I don’t think people realise this. So many books are being funded by the educators themselves, which is insane. I have been badgering the government to address this issue, but I am a lone voice. I was trying to encourage the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, to pass comment when one kind individual offered to donate all her reading books for a year to a school as their “book buddy” – I retweeted her offer and a school that follows me was ecstatic to take her up. More people came forward and schools started putting their hands up, so I drew up a “first-come” list and matched them to the offers. It was a total accident, but a happy one.

Has the response to your idea surprised you?

Yes and no. The number of schools desperate to join the scheme has, sadly, come as no surprise. The government should hang its head in shame to see schools in this parlous state when we have such wonderful people doing such a great job inside them. The generosity of people has been beyond uplifting. Authors, bloggers, reviewers, booksellers, schools and caring members of the public have come forward in their dozens, offering to donate used or buy new books for schools. What has been a very sad surprise has been the negativity the scheme has attracted in certain quarters, but more on that later…!

How many schools responded to your offer before you had to cap it?

On a Saturday afternoon, within an hour I had 100 schools on my list – I had to cap it to have a hope of finding those schools book buddies and didn’t want to create false hope. I currently have 28 schools left on my list – although many matches have been made ad hoc on Twitter for people who can only donate locally or have a particular type of donation. Over 100 schools are now receiving books from total strangers. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

Will you be opening the school waiting list again if more buddies come forward?

Me sitting at the laptop copying and pasting Twitter handles is not the most efficient or sustainable way of running the scheme. But a very kind person has come forward and offered to build a website where schools can register and book buddies can find schools when they want to clear out or simply be lovely. I am absolutely behind the scheme and will do everything I can do to support it while I’m trying to pester the state to sort this mess out.

Does the non-statutory nature of school libraries shock you?

Horrifies me, actually. Something that came of the conversations prior to BookBuddy was that libraries are (rightly) statutory in prisons, but not in schools. So some children have a better chance of being exposed to books if they are convicted of a crime than during their primary school years. It’s a national disgrace.

What do you say to those that have criticised your endeavours by saying that:

  • it is the government’s responsibility
  • that it will spark an increased wave of schools approaching authors directly for donations or free visits
  • or that it will reduce an author’s pay
  • I’m not going to lie, I’ve been incredibly disappointed by the reaction of a certain (small) number of people, primarily because they haven’t bothered to research what I’m actually doing before sounding off on social media. To be explicit on this point, I am NOT putting the begging bowl out to the publishing industry. I receive hundreds of requests for free books and free visits and feel horrible that I can only fulfil a fraction of them. The last thing I want is to put further pressure on people. BookBuddy is firstly for people who have books they WANT to clear out. Yes, many of those are coming from the publishing industry because lots of us are fortunate enough to receive a lot of free books and not everyone wants to keep all of them.

    But as a parent, I know how easy it is to accumulate books that are never going to be read again and I have always donated them. I haven’t approached anyone to do anything – people are hearing about the scheme and coming to me. This whole thing was born out of me trying to get the government to see the damage they are doing to our future and the need to fund schools properly – how nice it would be if those who have the time to denounce this scheme on Twitter put their energies into lobbying their MP or Mr Hinds to demand action, as I am also doing.

    As for the financial argument, sorry, I just don’t buy it. These are books that are a) books for which royalties have already been paid 2) books for which royalties were never going to be paid (free copies to publishing people) or 3) new books that are being bought for the scheme, therefore are paying royalties! Also, put a book in a school and watch it breed like a randy rabbit. If anything, this will market books, not cost sales – and it gives schools a place to ask for donations, potentially easing the need to approach publishers/authors directly. If none of that convinces you, question your own humanity and privilege. At the end of the day, this is getting books to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have them. Should we have to do it? No – the government should. But as one author eloquently put it, we shouldn’t have to donate to food banks. But are we going to stand back and let people starve?

    If given the opportunity to speak to Damian Hinds the Education Minister what would you say to him?

    I want – no, demand – that the government enshrines funding for books in schools. One school I spoke to has £40K put aside for sports equipment, but can’t remember the last time they bought a new book. The government itself insists that reading for pleasure is at the heart of education – how the hell can educators do this without the books?! I see inside 100s of schools and while I see so much passion and inspiration from teachers and students, I also see an education system that is at breaking point. If we don’t invest in our future, we won’t have one.

    Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp Blog Tour

    Before I Let Go is set in the literal middle of nowhere. What was the reason(s) behind this?

    I wanted Lost to be lost. I wanted it to be its own insular universe, for better and for worse. That allowed me to delve deep into the collective psyche of Lost, without interference from the outside world. Small, tightknit communities can be wondrous places, and I love exploring their positive sides. But with Before I Let Go, I also wondered what would happened if I flipped that and focused on what would happened if an entire community fell under the thrall of a girl who really only wanted to be seen and heard. Moving Lost far from the rest of the world allowed me to do that.

    Plus, there is something magical about snowy landscapes, isn’t there? Anything can happen in the woods.

    Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp is published by Sourcebooks on 23/01/18.

    GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post to win a copy of Before I Go.
    The winner’s name will be pulled from a hat on the 1st February

    Young, Gifted and Black

    To Be Young, Gifted and Black is an amazing song by Nina Simone & Weldon Irvine, it was written to commemorate Nina’s friend, Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play A Raisin in the Sun, who had died in 1965 aged 34. It became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.

    The book Young, Gifted and Black, written by Jamia Wilson and illustrated by Andrea Pippins is, as the introduction says a love letter to our ancestors and the next generation of black change-makers

    Celebrating 52 black heroes both contemporary and historical this book is beautiful to behold and to hold and is an essential addition to every library. With luminaries including Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, Nobel Peace-Prize winning president Nelson Mandela (my personal favourite – it was an honour to be able to vote for him in the first free and fair elections in my homeland) who was able to unite a divided and fractured country without violence or hatred; sisters Venus and Serena Williams two titans of Tennis, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, award-winning author Malorie Blackman, Harriet Tubman – one of the best-known conductors of the Underground railroad and so many more!

    There are 52 people celebrated in this book, one for every week of the year if you want to turn it into the centrepiece of a rotating library display. Some known to me but many not. NO I tell a lie! There are 54 people celebrated in this book – the author Jamia Wilson writer, director and publisher of the Feminist Press who has introduced me to people whose lives cause ripples today in our world and artist Andrea Pippins whose work shines on every page; they too deserve recognition for this work of biographical art they have created together.

    In a world dominated by white privilege this book is a brilliant new addition to an arsenal of education about the stars of our multi-cultural world who are so often ignored or airbrushed out of history.

    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