Category Archives: Books

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


 
Answers

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 www.carltonbooks.co.uk at a price of £25

    A few thoughts on World Book Day 2018

    World Book Day is the British manifestation of a UNESCO organised event to promote reading, publishing & copyright

    World Book Day is built on the work of authors, many of whom live by the word

    Over the 20 years of its existence it has celebrated the works of many authors – some famous, others merely well-known

    It is important for readers (both young and old) to see themselves reflected in the books as well as seeing people that look like them writing the books

    Celebrity names sell books

    Celebrities can be and are authors too

    Many celebrities that now write books started out writing sketches, music and shows so celebrity-written does not automatically = ghost-written or bad

    I think it is wrong to have a list made up predominantly of celebrities

    I can understand that the organisers of WBD may want to jazz it up by using celebrities to catch the attention of reluctant and non-readers

    It sends a message that to be able to write a book you need to be a celebrity

    It excludes people that are not fans of the celebrities chosen and limits their choices in the £1 books

    I think that it is a shame that the books are aimed at the younger end of Children and Young People which will exclude teenage readers and potentially alienate those that already feel marginalised

    I had no idea who Tom Fletcher was before the list was released…

    I have just seen the announcement that the teen selection for WBD is going to be made in ‘coming weeks’ this smacks of poor planning or they forgot to add YA in and had to wait for finished titles; either way separating the lists will weaken the second announcement and may reinforce the message that teen books are of secondary importance

    Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina


    Riot Days is written in a style that you almost expect to hear screamed into a microphone at a gig or whispered at an intimate performance poetry event. It tells of the events leading up to the infamous Pussy Riot protest performance in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral and the group’s subsequent arrest, imprisonment and transport to a penal colony from the point of view of Maria Alyokhina, activist, musician, founding member of the Pussy Riot Collective and a former political prisoner.

    Riot Days makes for compelling reading, it is a report from a modern day neo-dicatorship and a warning to everyone who takes their freedoms and democratic rights for granted that freedom can be a transitory thing and we need to fight for it in thousands of little ways or we will wake up and find that it is lost.

    At its core, Riot Days is about the a little freedom that can never be taken away – the freedom of Choice to stand against the wrongs you see and experience, instead of just putting your head down and accepting them.

    It is a blueprint for protest, a step by step guide to standing up to fascism and surviving against the bullying tactics of a police state.

    riot days

    Riot Days is published by Allen Lane Books and will be available from the 14th September

    A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines

    Barry Hines was a phenomenal writer and A Kestrel for a Knave is rightly regarded as one of his finest works. In the 50 years since it was published, his words have lost none of their power or stark beauty, detailing a day (with flashbacks) in the life of Billy Casper, a poor, working class lad from a broken family in the North.
    I cannot think of any other unflinching portrayals of working class youth that have become so deeply embedded into the public consciousness, thanks in part to Kes; the film adaptation directed by Ken Loach and co-written by Hines himself.

    The edition from the Folio Society does justice to the story. It is not only beautiful to behold – from the translucent dust jacket to the endpapers illustrated with silhouettes of birds in flight and the illustrations throughout the story breaking up the text but it is a thing of beauty to hold, the slightly rough cover and the rich, soft pages that are a delight to turn and read.

    David Howe’s illustrations are a wonderful addition to the story and I cannot think on any other artist that could have done justice to this story of a no-hoper and a hawk!

    A Kestrel for a Knave takes the reader back to a time that although not so long ago is gone forever, of roaming the fields, catching and taming raptors, knowing what the future held – usually a rough life down in the pits and casual violence and brutality.

    Published by the Folio Society, A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines is available now.

    All Illustrations by David Howe from The Folio Society edition of A Kestrel for a Knave ©David Howe 2017

    ‘Reading Russia’ while researching The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin

    In 2012, when I was just beginning to have vague thoughts that I might write an historical novel set in Russia during the Revolution, an email appeared in my Inbox. Edinburgh International Book Festival was celebrating 50 years and, supported by the British Council, invited 50 writers to do a cultural exchange with different locations world-wide. So, while other writers ended up shopping in New York or sunning themselves in the Caribbean I was one of a group who were asked to speak at a Cultural Fair in… Siberia!

    A stop-off in Moscow provided the opportunity to speak with librarians, teachers and students of English literature and see some of Russia’s literary treasures. In addition to their pre-printing press beautifully illuminated manuscripts, there were originals manuscripts of famous Russian writers, such as Dostoevsky and, thrillingly, the handwritten title page of Mikhail Bulgakov’s original manuscript for The Master and Margarita.

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Moscow Original MS ‘The Master and Margarita’: ©Scarpa

    We discussed the transformative power of good fiction and in the evening attended an ‘open mike’ literature session in a night club. Seriously. In a night club. During the music breaks anyone could come up and talk about reading. And they did. Amazing! Young people spoke about the influence of Gogol and quoted favourite bits of Turgenev. And I learned so much about modern Russian writers. We were challenged to name a ‘hero for our times’ I chose Katniss Everdeen – who else?

    Russia has enormously influential writers, with Alexander Pushkin rated as the funder of modern Russian literature. In Eugene Onegin Pushkin speaks on writing saying: “… weave together emotion, thought, and magic sound; I write, …”

    Pushkin supported the 1825 uprising and his writings were considered so dangerous by the Tsar that he was banished from St Petersburg and barred from any government post. When he died he was buried without ceremony in case the occasion of his funeral would cause unrest. I’m intrigued by Pushkin for he used language in a new way, melding traditional tongues with the words of the common people. He proved a big inspiration for the character of Nina’s father, Ivan, the Storyteller, in The Rasputin Dagger.

    Then on to Siberia. I was soooooo excited. It was late October / early November and they said “Oh, it’s not that cold, yet…” Really? I was glad I’d packed my grey-goose down-filled parka with the fur-lined hood. I have to say that Melvin Burgess looked fetching in his dark green wool overcoat and was a particular draw for our teen audiences.

    As I’m a former Young People’s Services librarian the organisers were keen that I speak on the subject of Youth Library Services. Despite the remote venue the session was full and I was proud to share examples of British ‘best practice’. Like ravenous wolves the librarians fell upon the material I’d brought with me.

     Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Librarians Event: ©Scarpa

    Then Melvin and I had events with articulate and engaging young teenagers, organised and moderated by the pupils themselves.

     Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

    Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – Siberia Teen Event: ©Scarpa

    It was an absolute joy to talk to these young Russians. Although desperately keen for modern teen fiction from the West, their own reading included Tolstoy and Chekhov, and a wide range of classic Russian books.

    And a final interesting fact – schools in Siberia only close if the temperature drops below 26 degrees centigrade!

    ©Theresa Breslin 2017
    Twitter: @TheresaBreslin1