Category Archives: Books

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/

The Spellslinger series by Sebastien De Castell



The game of war is always rigged . . .
Kellen and Reichis are settling into their lives as protectors of the young queen. For the first time Kellen feels as if he’s becoming the kind of man that his mentor Ferius had wanted him to be. Even Reichis has come to appreciate having a noble purpose – so long as no one minds him committing the occasional act of theft from the royal treasury.
But thousands of miles away a war is brewing that the Argosi always warned could destroy the continent. An unexpected source brings word that there’s one way Kellen can prevent a hundred years of bloodshed, and all it requires is a little murder . . .
Now Kellen and his sister Shalla find themselves on opposite sides, and neither love nor loyalty can protect them from the choices they must make.

Crownbreaker by Sebastien De Castell, HotKey Books
Crownbreaker is the 6th and final book in the Spellslinger series

I failed to keep up with this series after the first two, I loved them but then CKG got in the way, but I’m regretting that now as the 6th and final book was published this month. HotKey Books have very kindly offered a full set of the books as a prize for a TeenLibrarian reader, so I set up my very first Rafflecopter giveaway! Follow the link to enter, and good luck!

Sebastien De Castell



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

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!

Little Rebels Prize

The Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB) is delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for Radical Fiction is Catherine Johnson for her book, Freedom (Scholastic 2018).

A short historical novel, Freedom tells the story of Nat, a young boy enslaved on a Jamaican plantation, brought over to England in the late eighteenth century. Hopeful that, once on UK soil, he will finally be free from bondage, Nat instead witnesses the pivotal role Britain played in building the slavery industry. Praising the winning title, the award judges commented:

“Freedom is radical in a number of ways. It tells a story of a young enslaved man in Britain. It explores the humanity of those whose humanity was denied through chattel slavery. It subtly examines the similarities and the differences between class oppression and a system of slavery rooted in racism. It tells a story of Britain that continues to be neglected. Johnson’s writing is a masterclass in the maxim ‘show don’t tell’ – through the point of view of her protagonist we are brought into his world and yet we are afforded space to emotionally engage with the story she offers us.”

Darren Chetty, Teaching Fellow at UCL and contributor to The Good Immigrant.

“Catherine Johnson brings the horrific history of slavery to life in this important piece of historical fiction for a middle grade audience. A brilliant adventure story that shines a much-needed spotlight on the UK’s role [and which also introduces us to] real life people who should be more famous than they are, including former slave turned author and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano and Shadrack Furman, the first black army Pensioner. A well deserved win from one of the UK’s most fabulous storytellers.”

Emily Drabble, head of children’s books promotion and prizes at BookTrust
2018 winner Zanib Mian congratulates Catherine Johnson after the announcement

The winner of the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award 2019 was announced at an event held in the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) Literacy Library on Wednesday July 10th by Zanib Mian, the 2018 winner for The Muslims (now Planet Omar). This followed on from a panel discussion with the other shortlisted authors (all except Sarah MacIntyre) and a chance to have a look around the beautiful CLPE library.

The Little Rebels Children’s Book Award is now in its 7th year. The Award recognises fiction for ages 0-12 which promotes or celebrates social justice and equality. It is run by booksellers Housmans Bookshop and Letterbox Library and is awarded by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers (ARB).

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a trilogy of books containing a mixture of urban myths and folklore that were compiled by author Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Caldecott-winning illustrator Stephen Gammell.

Scary Stories to tell in the Dark

The stories and artwork terrified a generation of readers from 1981 to 1991. The books also muscled their way to the front of the ALA’s 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990-1991 and hit seventh place in the 2000-2009 frequently challenged list. The challenges were often down to the violence of the stories as well as the ” surreal, nightmarish illustrations” in the original books.

On August 9th, a film adaptation produced by horror-maestro Guillermo del Toro will be released by Lionsgate and CBS Films.

Ahead of the movie’s release, Harper Collins is re-releasing the books with the original illustrations: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062961280/scary-stories-to-tell-in-the-dark-movie-tie-in-edition/

The movie and books release in August will be a perfect centre for a display along the lines of Tales to Chill the Warmest Months… featuring urban myths and horror stories for younger readers.

If you have never heard of or read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark then now is the perfect time to change that. These books are phenomenal and the stories are sure to chill the blood of all who read them!

The Dragon in the Library

Kit can’t STAND reading,

She’d MUCH rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the library one day by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery – and soon it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library … and the world.

Hidden within the words of this wonderful text is a social action and protest guide, espousing the power of working together to overthrow the short-sighted policies of those consumed by greed that know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Phew – that sounds pretty heavy for a children’s book!

But don’t worry!

The Dragon in the Library is a lot of things, it is a rousing tale of friendship and magical adventure, and it is a recognition of the power in collective action and the shared joy of reading as well as being a celebration of stories, the belief in magic, Libraries and all those that use them and work therein!

It is GLORIOUS! As a Librarian I felt seen and valued, Louie is an author that gets what Libraries are and how they make people feel, she understands what we do, and she has also written a fun tale that moves along at a cracking pace for readers of all ages.

The Dragon in the Library is written by Louie Stowell and illustrated by David Ortu. It is published by Nosy Crow and will be available from the 6th June 2019 in good bookshops everywhere!