Category Archives: Books

The Boy Lost in the Maze

I am writing this review as I am re-reading The Boy Lost in the Maze, the stories of Theo, Theseus, the Minotaur – each protagonist’s story mirroring the others in their similarities – tales as old as time told, and retold until edges have blurred and new lights are cast on elements often obscured in previous tellings.

I drowned in Joseph Coelho’s poetry, as I finished each (brief) chapter I felt like I was coming up for air before submerging myself in the narrative again..

The rawness of their search for fatherhood and identity to help scrub away their feelings of abandonment and shame left me feeling overwhelmed yet unable to lay the book down.

The choose your own adventure element came as a delightful surprise and kept it from being a cover to cover read, allowing the reader to decide what actions should be taken, influencing the story and having a slightly different experience with each reread.

This work will win awards, not just because Joseph is the current Waterstones Poet Laureate, but because in the deceptive simplicity of the lines and verses lies a deep, complex story that will swallow you whole and hold you entranced until the final page is turned.

The Boy Lost in the Maze is the third work by Joseph Coelho and artist Kate Milner. It is published by Otter-Barry Books and is available from October 6th. 

Highly recommended for readers of all ages!

Something Certain, Maybe

Something Certain, Maybe is a powerful novel about first love, friendships and embracing the uncertainty of an unknowable future, from Sara Barnard, winner of the YA Book Prize.

Rosie is ready for her life to begin, because nothing says new life like going to university. After years of waiting and working hard, she’s finally on the road that will secure her future.

Except university turns out to be not what she hoped or imagined, and although she’s not exactly unhappy – really – she might be a little bit worried that she doesn’t really like her course much. Or her flatmates. Or, really . . . anything? But it’s normal to be homesick (right?) and everything will have settled in a month or two, and it’s totally fine that her friends seem so much happier than she is, and that the doctors don’t seem to know what’s wrong with her mother.

And then she meets Jade, and everything starts to look a little brighter. At least, it does if she’s only looking at Jade. But is first love enough when everything else is falling apart?

Macmillan

This is the 3rd outing with Rosie and her best friends Caddy and Suze. I thought Beautiful Broken Things was great, all those years ago before I put photos in tweets…

…adored Fierce Fragile Hearts

…and Something Certain, Maybe was no disappointment…

…so I’m very pleased to be sharing a Q&A with Sara Barnard as part of her blog tour today, A-Level results day!

  • Rosie’s voice is so authentic, as are all your characters, do you eavesdrop on lots of teenagers?

Thank you! I don’t usually eavesdrop on real teenagers, no! The voices of my characters always just come through very clearly to me. My biggest piece of advice for writers writing teenage voices is to not actively try to make them sound like teenagers. Just trust their natural voice.

  • When you wrote ‘Fierce Fragile Things’ were you already planning ‘Something Certain, Maybe’?

Not at all! I wish I had been, because it would have made Something Certain, Maybe much easier to write! One of the most difficult parts of writing this book was making sure it fitted alongside FFH. There are a lot of things I would probably have done differently with FFH if I’d known there’d be another book set over the same period. So maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know, because I love FFH a lot!

  • Which of the 3 girls came to you first, and who was the hardest to write?

Suzanne, and she came along quite a lot earlier than Caddy or Rosie. I wouldn’t say any one of them is particularly hard for me to write, because I could write all of them all day long and be very happy! But if I had to pick one out of the three, it would probably be Rosie, for reasons that are more to do with her book being the third one than her as a character.  

  • What kind of reaction have you had from teen readers?

Readers generally tend to respond to the friendship between the three girls, though I get the most messages about Suzanne! With Something Certain, Maybe in particular, I’ve been struck by how many people in their 20s and older who have got in touch to say how much the story of a disappointing university experience resonated with them, and how they wished they’d had the book when they were at university. I had hoped to put something on the page that doesn’t really get talked abou, so it means a lot that it has resonated with people in this way. 

  • What kind of reader engagement event, in schools or libraries or elsewhere, do you enjoy most?

YALC is always my favourite, but generally literary festivals are always a joy. There’s something about all those people choosing to be there out of a shared love of books. They’re such engaged audiences and there are usually some great questions. 

  • Have you finished writing about Caddy, Suze, & Rosie or do you think you could be tempted to write about them in their 20s?

I would love to write them in their 20s! I have written bits and pieces of them a little older. But I can’t imagine it would ever be something that would have a life outside of my laptop, sadly! 

  • What are you reading and who would you recommend it to? 

I am very late to the party, but I’m currently reading Life After Life. It is just as brilliant as everyone always said it was. I’d recommend it to everyone who likes reading.

  • What are you working on at the moment?

I’m editing my next YA book, Where the Light Goes, which will be out next year! 

Check out the rest of the tour. Thank you to Macmillan for organising!
Every single one of these books is brilliant.

The English GI: a Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe

Jonathan Sandler chose to publish his grandfather’s personal memoir of his life from his schoolboy experiences in Yorkshire to life as a young ex-patriate in New York and being drafted into the US Army in the latter years of the Second World War as a graphic novel – this was a fantastic idea as it immediately opened up access of this work to a wider range of readers than a straightforward text memoir would have. Speaking personally I for one am glad that he did, it is rare to find first-hand stories of soldiers who served, as most (including my grandfather) did not enjoy talking about their experiences during the war.

Brian Bicknell’s art style melds perfectly with Bernard’s spare, unsentimental text, creating a work that is an enjoyable yet informative read allowing the reader a view into his experiences in a world that is now gone; from being footloose and fancy free in 1940’s New York, to basic training as a General Infantryman and his harrowing experiences as a member of the 26th Infantry in France. The vulnerability shown in Bernard’s words, specifically during the scenes in France are at odds with so many portrayals of soldiers today.

The copious notes in the afterword give a depth and context to many of Bernard’s experiences portrayed in the book, from life in New York, the fate of his Latvian family, to the stories of some of his friends he met during basic training as well as his post-war life (including a friendship with Roald Dahl that was cut short due to Dahl’s vile antisemitism).

The English GI was a joy to read and is a work that I will return to again to enjoy the company of Bernard and his adventures! It is highly recommended for all readers!

The English GI was published in April 2022 and is available now!

Anti-Authoritarian Books for Young Readers

The Borribles – Michael de Larrabeiti

The Chocolate War – Robert Cormier

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgren

Little Brother – Corey Doctorow

R for Rebel – J. Anderson Coats

The Rabbits Rebellion – Ariel Dorfman

Animal Farm, 1984 – George Orwell

The First Rule of Punk – Celia C. Perez

Yertle the Turtle – Dr Seuss

Horton Hears a Who – Dr Seuss

The Boy Who Dared – Susan Campbell Bartoletti

A Rule Is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy… – John Seven and Jana Christy

A Handful of Stars – Cynthia Lord

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins

When Shadows Fall

Kai, Orla and Zak grew up together, their days spent on the patch of wilderness in between their homes, a small green space in a sprawling grey city. Music, laughter and friendship bind them together and they have big plans for their future – until Kai’s family suffers a huge loss.

Trying to cope with his own grief, as well as watching it tear his family apart, Kai is drawn into a new and more dangerous crowd, until his dreams for the future are a distant memory. Excluded from school and retreating from his loved ones, it seems as though his path is set, his story foretold. Orla, Zak and new classmate Om are determined to help him find his way back. But are they too late?

Little Tiger

I am a big fan of everything that Sita Brahmachari has written, and interviewed her last year for When Secrets Set Sail, so I was expecting WHEN SHADOWS FALL to be good but I didn’t realise it would be a beautiful object as well! Told in prose and verse and annotation, with the illustrations by Natalie Sirett an integral part of telling the story.

Illustrations (c), Natalie Sirett (2021), from When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari,
published by Little Tiger, 11 November 2021 (Hardback, £12.99, 9781788953160)

There is a formal blog tour starting on the 15th November (details at the bottom of the page), but I snuck under the radar and got an exclusive piece from Sita about the background to creating the book:

‘Let me tell you a story’….

So began a play I worked on called Lyrical MC some years ago for Tamasha Theatre Company. Myself and the director worked with a group of young people exploring Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ in the contexts of their own lives. It ended up being a play that was about living in an island culture in the middle of an urban city. It explored the sounds of the city for them and how it felt to be negotiating life today at school and at home. It was a piece of theatre that enjoyed the musicality and interplay of the young people’s voices as they mediated each other’s realities, histories and identities in a fluid interplay.

I have never seen a great fissure between my community theatre work and writing novels for young people. When I set out to write When Shadow’s Fall I remembered a young woman I met in a unit for excluded teenagers in Ladbroke Grove. She was a fantastic young actress and storyteller but already completely switched off reading and education at the age of fourteen. It wasn’t until she started to write her own script and saw other actors reading it and paying attention to her words that reading became interesting to her. Another young actor reading out her words asked if he could change something and she became agitated saying, No! I put a lot of thinking into those words. You have to work at them to find the meaning!

Kai is the author sitting on the Green Hill writing his story – ‘When Shadows Fall’ – even he seems surprised that this is what he has done… that he, who was excluded from school, could become the author of his own story and yet this is what he finds himself doing.

Over the years, I have mentored many young people to help them with their writing. The process of finding your voice (in writing as Kai does) In art (as Omid does) and in speaking out (as Orla does) is a powerful one.

When readers open When Shadows Fall I hope the creative form of the book with its annotations, poetry, prose and art portfolio and testimony will lead readers and aspiring writers to take up the pen, charcoal or paintbrush and begin their own story.

When Shadows Fall is out now! Thank you Little Tiger for the review copy, Nina Douglas for organising the piece for TeenLibrarian, and Sita for writing it!

Illustrated Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Discover the magical world of Oz as we accompany Dorothy on her journey to the enchanted Emerald City. Packed with stunning illustrations and exclusive interactive features, MinaLima™ reimagines an essential tome of American pop culture.

MinaLima

MinaLima are very clever people. I wanted to know a bit more of the background to their beautiful Illustrated Classics series, so was pleased to be given the opportunity to ask a few questions!

What prompted you to start creating these beautiful reimaginings of classics?

Miraphora: During our 20-year journey of creating graphic designs for the Wizarding World, we had the opportunity to create many books as props for the films but also behind-the-scenes  film “tie-in” books for the “real” world. In this way we developed a good relationship with our publisher Harper Design. Together we had the idea of redesigning the classics – we knew that these were stories loved by readers across the world but also that these were tales set in fantastical worlds, which we love.

Do you do everything collaboratively or do you each have particular roles when working together?

Miraphora: The whole process starts with Eduardo reading through the book and creating a book map of all the interesting, quirky and intriguing occurrences in the book that we feel should be marked as illustrations or interactive elements. Then, we begin developing an overall creative direction, creating rough sketches of the characters and locations.

Eduardo: Mira usually starts these early sketches. We have a fantastic team, who then picks these up and starts drawing the illustrations in more detail. They also begin crafting all the paper engineered interactive elements, cutting and pasting different sections to see if they work. We believe that the sum of the parts are always greater than any individual illustrator or designer and we bring this collaborative approach to everything we do.

How have you chosen the titles you’ve done so far? Do you have a favourite?

Eduardo: We have chosen the titles we all know and love; these are fairytales we have all grown up reading. My favourite book is definitely Pinocchio –  I have loved this story since I was a child and I knew from the beginning that this had to be in our MinaLima Classics collection!

Miraphora: My favourite is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is our latest title – so Eduardo got to reimagine his favourite first!

If you could reimagine any book, without having to worry about permissions, what would it be?

Eduardo: I love the Agatha Christie books but the descriptions are so beautifully detailed that I am not sure if they leave much room for reimagination!

What are you tackling next?

Miraphora: This year is a very special year for us: we are celebrating 20 years of working together. So we are crafting a very special book:The Magic of MinaLima, which will be published by Harper Collins in 2022. 

Eduardo: This book charts our experience of creating the graphic universe of the Wizarding World, from films in which you can escape to books you can delve into, from products you can hold to experiences in which you can immerse yourself.

MinaLima is an award-winning graphic design studio founded by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, renowned for establishing the visual graphic style of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film series. Based in London, the MinaLima studio is renowned internationally for telling stories through design and has created its own MinaLima Classics series, reimagining a growing collection of much-loved tales including Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, and Pinocchio.

Mina Lima, Portraits


Instagram: minalimadesign | Twitter: @minalima | Web: www.minalima.com

Thankyou to Harper360 for sending me a review copy of their latest title, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Royal Rebel

Born in 1876, Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was the daughter of the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, and goddaughter of Queen Victoria. After her father lost control of his empire and was exiled to England, Sophia had a privileged but troubled upbringing that left her unsure about where she belonged – in India or England. Sensitive to injustice, she became an suffragette and fought hard to win the vote for women. This is the extraordinary story of her life.

Barrington Stoke
artwork by Rachael Dean

Bali Rai has such a range when it comes to writing, he really has done something for just about every reader, but I have a soft spot for his Barrington Stoke titles, I reviewed his previous one, STAY A LITTLE LONGER, here. Barrington Stoke titles are a little bit special because there is not a word wasted, they’re written to engage and not patronise children and young people. This particular book, THE ROYAL REBEL, is based on the real life story of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, who led an extraordinary life. I was filled with sadness reading it, about how affected her life was by British colonialism and politics, but she was a fascinating character and Bali Rai’s writing from her perspective has really brought her to life.

I asked Bali Rai a few questions!

What prompted you to write about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh?

My family is Sikh, so I had known the story of Sophia’s grandfather, Maharajah Ranjit Singh, and of her father, Duleep Singh, since childhood. However, I had never been told of the role Sophia played. So, when I discovered who she was and her role within the Suffragette movement, I was determined to bring her story to younger readers. I am passionate about representing unheard voices in British literature and always have been.

Has your research led you to any other figures in history that you would like to write about?

Yes, I learned of the roles played by the Royal Indian Army Service Corps at Dunkirk, and Mohinder Singh Pujji (RAF) during World War 2. I have written about both. The next figure I want to write about is an Indian revolutionary called Udham Singh, whose story is much darker, but just as important. There are many unheard voices throughout British history, and I hope to write about many more.

You’ve written in a wide range of genres, is writing a historical novel a very different process to that of writing about contemporary characters? Do you favour one over the other?

My main genre is reality based fiction, so the research involved in writing historical fiction is very different. I actually enjoy the historical research more than the contemporary stuff. I’ve always loved history and like nothing more than getting stuck into research. It’s often time-consuming but always worthwhile. We can learn a great deal about where we are now, based on what came before us.

You’ve written a number of books for Barrington Stoke, as well as longer novels, for middle grade and YA audiences. How do you choose which of your ideas to use for the shorter novellas and for what target age?

I generally think of an idea, and work on that with my agent and the editors at Barrington Stoke. That’s most true of the more contemporary stories I’ve written for them. The Royal Rebel was only possible because of that partnership (I reworked the idea several times) and it’s a collective effort that I value highly. The age range doesn’t really enter into my head. I have a voice that I want to write, and a theme to explore – and the target age and reading level are determined by the amazing people at Barrington Stoke. Since my first books for them, Dream On, it’s been a team effort, and it’s a process I love to be part of. Barrington Stoke are wonderful publishers, doing something vitally important.

Which of your books are your favourite to do events for?

My younger historical fiction books are now firm favourites for events. The response to them has been amazing. And much as I adore working with older teens, there’s something even more wonderful about introducing diverse British history to KS2 and KS3 pupils. The levels of enthusiasm for the events just add to that pleasure.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’m currently reading lots of non-fiction about the British Empire, for a new young adult series I’d like to write. The last children’s book I read was How I Saved The World In A Week by Polly Ho-Yen. I’d recommend that to anyone who loves imaginative and thrilling adventure stories. It’s brilliant and Polly is a superb writer!

What can we expect from you next?

I have a junior series for Reading Planet out soon, called Green Patrol, and a short novel called Wolf Girl. I’m currently researching and working on a new young adult idea, and also a new World War 2 story with British Indian characters. Oh, and I’m reworking an older adventure series idea, in the hope of showing that to an editor at Penguin.

THE ROYAL REBEL is out now from Barrington Stoke, thank you to them for a review copy and to Bali Rai for answering my questions, I’m really excited to see more about your next ventures!

Michael Rosen’s Sticky McStickstick

After being admitted to hospital in 2020 with coronavirus, Michael Rosen had to learn to walk again. With the support of doctors and nurses and a walking stick he names “Sticky McStickstick”, he manages to embark on the slow steps to recovery. This moving picture book from the former Children’s Laureate, with illustrations from Tony Ross, tells a story of perseverance and hope, and is a testament to the importance of overcoming fear and learning to accept help.

Walker Books
Sticky McStickstick is illustrated by Tony Ross

Michael Rosen is a National Treasure and so many people were very worried about him when he was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020. It took him a long time to recover, and while he did he had the support of his walking stick (as well as family and NHS staff, obviously). Many Different Kinds of Love, a collection of Rosen’s poems and the coronavirus diaries of his nurses, was published by Ebury in March 2021 for grownups to read, but this is for everyone…and I mean everyone. When I was asked if I’d like to send a few questions for him, of course I said yes!

‘Many Different Kinds of Love’ has already been published, on adult lists, did you write the two books at the same time?

No. I wrote MDKOL first but I noticed that I had mentioned Sticky McStickstick. People asked me about the stick and I started telling them things about where it is or what happened when I tried to walk with it and so on. A voice in my head told me that I could personify the stick and it then became fun to write it all out as a story. 

This complements your Sad Book beautifully. Why do you think having books about such emotive subjects is important for children?

Books for children can be about anything that the adults who care for children think are OK things to talk about. Society has taboos around children and childhood and writers have to respect these. Subjects like death and serious illness are on the edge of the taboos. Some people won’t take their children to funerals, for example. Or they might not tell their children about a terminal illness. That’s their choice. My two books go into an area where some have those taboos but others think that it’s helpful to talk about experiences such as these which are as much about life as eating or sleeping. All books open up trains of thought and conversations. I’d be very glad if both those books do just that with children being looked after or brought up by people who think it’s a good idea to talk about such things. 

Do you have thoughts about how ‘Sticky McStickstick’ might best be used in schools?

I would start with a class talking in pairs to each other their illnesses and accidents, swapping stories, perhaps writing about them or drawing pictures of them. Then reading my book. Or it could be the other way round. Reading my book first, perhaps. There are open-ended trigger questions that are helpful too e.g. Is there anything in this book that makes you think of anything that has happened to you or to anyone you know? Is there anything in this book that makes you think of anything you’ve ever read before, or heard in a song, or on the TV or in a film? If you could ask anyone in the book a question, what would you ask? Can you answer that question? If you could ask the author a question, what would it be? Can you answer that question? Are you affected by any part of the book? Which part? How?  Why? 

Tony Ross has illustrated a number of your books. Do you let him get on with it or do you make suggestions about what the illustrations might look like?

I most certainly do let him get on with it. I write the words. The illustrator, designer and editor make the book.

Sticky McStickstick was published on 4 November 2021 by Walker Books

(9781529502404, £12.99, Hardback)

The Hideaway by Pam Smy

The Hideaway tells the story of a boy, Billy McKenna, who runs away from a difficult situation at home and takes refuge in an overgrown graveyard. While hiding there he meets an elderly man who is tending the graves in preparation for a day in November when something magical is set to happen.

The book is written in two alternating narratives, both different aspects of the same story. One thread tells of Billy’s experience of hiding away in the graveyard, his mixed-up feelings and emotions, and the supernatural events he eventually witnesses. The other tells of his mother’s situation at home and the police search for Billy. Covering themes of family, childhood, separation and reunion, domestic violence and doing the right thing, this is an important and beautiful book for middle grade readers right up to adults.

Billy’s story is illustrated throughout with tonal and textured black and white drawings, until the event on All Souls’ Eve, when the text gives way to a series of double page images of the supernatural happening.

The Hideaway is a compelling, exciting and emotional story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.

Pavilion Books

Pam Smy is such an interesting illustrator, Thornhill is a wonderfully unique book (shortlisted for the Carnegie Award), so I was very excited to be sent a review copy of her 2nd novel The Hideaway…which is haunting and sad and uplifting and will really stay with you…and then even more excited to ask her a few questions! And of course, the most appropriate book to highlight for Halloween!

Which aspect of The Hideaway came to you first?

The scene-setting of The Hideaway came to me first. The graveyard where it is set is a real place here in Cambridge, and it has the chapel in the middle, the row of yew trees, the poem carved into the back wall, and most importantly, the World War 2 pillbox. The combination of the meaning of the poem All Souls’ Night by Frances Cornford and the idea that someone could use the pillbox to hide away sparked the idea for the book.

Thornhill was alternate chapters, a wholly illustrated contemporary voice and a historical diary, while The Hideaway is an illustrated story. Did you draw and write at the same time or had you mainly got the words down before choosing which sections to illustrate?

With Thornhill I wrote the text and made the rough drawings for the story in turn, so both elements of the story evolved at the same time. With The Hideaway I wrote the manuscript first, and then illustrated it – but I knew that I wanted there to be a wordless sequence in it from the outset and I knew what I wanted the feeling of the graveyard to look like in the illustrations.

Do you lay out the pages alone or with a designer?

For The Hideaway I worked directly into an InDesign document so that I could move the text around the illustrations I was making, and the very patient designer, Ness Wood, tidied it all up at the end.

They’re both a bit spooky with extremely atmospheric illustrations, very suitable for Halloween season, is the supernatural your favourite genre to read?

I read a variety of books. I love books about people and relationships, and stories that are set in the past or in rural environments. I also love crime novels. I read a lot of picture books and illustrated books of all kinds for all ages. I wouldn’t say that I especially read supernatural books, although they are certainly on my bookshelf.

I think I am drawn to write and illustrate spooky books because I love making atmospheric artwork, and building a world that is based on the everyday, but is different from what we may typically see – but without tipping into fantasy or sci-fi.

You’ve also published a picture book, Merrylegs! Three very different books, which was most enjoyable to work on?

I enjoyed making the artwork to The Hideaway the best. I was trying to work without using much linework – so it was a new challenge for me.

The Mermaid in the Millpond, written by Lucy Strange and illustrated by you, is being published in January by Barrington Stoke. Do you find it easier or harder when the words aren’t your own?

Both easier and harder. If I am illustrating my own ideas the vision of those illustrations is already in my head, and the excitement and the challenge is to get that across on paper. When I am illustrating someone else’s writing it is a joy to be able to bring to life the words, and to add atmosphere or understanding to what is being described. I love illustrating other people’s texts, especially if the art direction and design layout isn’t too prescriptive and I have a little bit of a free reign.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I am reading and re-reading Captain Rosalie by Timothee de Fombelle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. I am recommending it to everyone I know, and buying copies of it to send to my friends. I think everyone who is 6 and over should read it. It is a beautiful piece of writing and Arsenault’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. Also by my bedside is While You’re Sleeping by Mick Jackson and John Broadley, and All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison.

What might we see from you next?

I am working on developing a few collaborations at the moment which I am VERY excited about, but can’t say anything about yet.

The Hideaway by Pam Smy is published by Pavilion Books, out now, 14.99 hardback.

Overlooking Problematic Content is a Feature, not a Bug

Kate Clanchy’s memoir Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me is an award-winning book that has received rave reviews, New Statesman called it refreshing, The Guardian thought that people like Clanchy are needed to keep liberal ideals alive, The Times called it inspiring and uplifting, The Sunday Times deemed it inspiring, moving and funny.

Philip Pullman said that it is: The best book on teachers and children and writing that I’ve ever read. No-one has said better so much of what so badly needs saying. I want to see this book become a bestseller, I want to see it in every staffroom, I want to see it read by every student teacher. This is a wonderful achievement.

In 2020 Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me won the 2020 Orwell Prize for Political Writing

Then in 2021 on twitter Kate Clanchy alleged that Goodreads reviewer Ceridwen had made-up quotes from her book in their review.

Things went downhill rapidly from there!

Unfortunately, whenever people have received near universal acclaim & praise for their work they can react poorly when they encounter someone who says “whoa there is a problem here” and this is exactly what happened!

Instead of giving a blow by blow account what occurred, I will recommend that you read Beth Bhargava’s comprehensive write-up of what happened over at Bad Form Review here. I will just say that I was bitterly disappointed by a number of authors whose work I have previously enjoyed.

Like Public Libraries, Publishing is a majority white profession, both of which can be difficult to break in to, as many opening positions are notoriously low-paid. I could not help but compare what is happening with Kate Clanchy’s book with what happened with the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals in 2017 where it took people of colour to start asking why no-one who was not white had won either of the awards in over 80 years and a big push from them and allies to start the process to effect change.

Kate Clanchy issued a statement on August 6th which caused more consternation and upset. Picador, KC’s publisher released three statements on the 6th, 9th and 11th, The Orwell Foundation issued a brief statement denying responsibility of what their external judges did, and Philip Pullman released an ‘apology’ on the 10th.

No mention was made by anyone at the centre about the vile language and threats directed against Professor Sunny Singh, Chimene Suleyman & Monisha Rajesh three of the highest profile people that stepped up to offer honest critiques of Clanchy’s work and challenge the racist rhetoric that was springing up in the discussion.

The end result of the storm of protest is that Kate Clanchy will rewrite portions of her work to remove the racist and ableist stereotypes contained in the original.

Systemic racism does not require that those working within the system to be racist; in publishing like libraries, is made up mostly of good, well-intentioned (white) people who do their best but miss many signs that what they are working on may be harmful to minority groups. Unfortunately, most white people lack the insights and cultural knowledge to identify problematic work and content. Even after an outcry those who ‘have learned’ from the criticism are often rewarded, while still excluding those that were harmed.

It should not fall to People of Colour to fight for systemic change on their own, no matter where it happens – in libraries, in publishing, or elsewhere if someone says that something is harming them and their community we need to stand with them and fight to make a meaningful change.

We (white people) have benefitted from systemic racism for hundreds of years, we are complicit even when we fight against it, and we should fight against it – we lose nothing if those that are disadvantaged gain the privileges that we currently enjoy.

It is often said that When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression, but this is something we need to stamp out of our psyches and instead embrace the need for true equality.