Category Archives: Recommended By A Librarian

The Librarians’ Bookshelf

Suzanne Bhargava shared a photo of her brilliant “bookshelf” idea on twitter the other week, and we loved it so much that Matt asked her to write a bit about it for the blog:

When my school built its new library, it was designed with no walls or ceiling. Just shelves forming the perimeter, lots of tables and chairs for sixth form study, two giant trees and an extremely expensive sculpture in the centre. It is stunning. A showpiece. The bit of the school that is always shown to visitors. It’s a powerful message about our values. I mean, I was still annoyed of course, about the lack of display space. But oh well. It’s an awesome space anyway.

Ages ago, I came across a book display idea on Pinterest, but never knew how to riff on it or where to put it. Last summer the lightbulb moment finally arrived: I would create a sort of “What we’re reading” display to go with the little “Your librarian is reading…” chalkboard which was already on my desk.

I had the perfect space for it – the flat, blank front of my desk, which sits at the entrance to the library. The idea was that every time my colleague or I finished a book, we would update the display so it would be full of a wide range of book titles by the end of the year.

I started the year by making a little, unobtrusive sign saying “The Librarians’ Bookshelf (what we’ve been reading)”. Then I cut a stack of different coloured paper and card to roughly the size of a bookmark. When I finished reading a book, I wrote the title and author on one of the strips of paper and fixed it with blutac to the front of my desk. As the year went on, the “shelf” filled up and I started a new row beneath.

[First Day of School]
[Last Day of School]
I received lots of positive responses from staff and students. Staff would point to one of the titles and ask what I thought of it, or share their own opinions if they’d read any of them. In this way, I managed to get a lot of teachers to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and My Name is Leon (my two favourite grownup reads this year). It became a sort of unofficial bookclub that never meets.

Students interacted with it in a very different way. They didn’t use it for choosing their next read (except maybe with Ms Marvel – there’s a strong little Kamala Khan fan base amongst the Oratory boys now), but took a keen interest in my reading habits: “How long does it take you to read a book, Miss?” “Why do you read kids’ books, Miss?” “What are you reading right now, Miss?” “Have you read __________ yet Miss? Well you have to.” “What’s your favourite book ever, Miss?” That one always stumps me.

I will definitely do this again next year, as it has been one of my most successful efforts to date. Next academic year I’ll be in a primary setting, so I will definitely be including picture books this time. Other than that, there are only a few practical changes I’d make:
1. Use only card. It won’t tear or roll up so much when students inevitably pick at it! Also, paint pens are better on card.
2. Take time with the design of each bookmark. I scrawled some out when I was pushed for time, and they just don’t look as good.
3. Get student library assistants to create their own shelf too! Peer recommendations can be a very powerful thing.

Recommended by a Librarian: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Lauren Gibaldi

What Are You Recommending? Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

nonormal

What is it?

It’s a graphic novel about the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The majority of the first volume deals with her realizing that a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City can be a superhero, too.

Why have you recommended it?

Kamala is funny and strong and wonderfully real. She deals with her parents being embarrassing as much as villains ruining the city. I give this to all of my patrons, regardless of age. She’s a fresh face in the Marvel universe, and I’m so excited for her second volume to be out!

Recommended by a Librarian: In Bloom by Matthew Crow

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Hannah Saks

What are you recommending?

Why have you recommended it?

In Bloom is the story of Francis, a teenage boy who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. In order to receive treatment, Francis has to spend an extended period of time in a special ward for young people like him. He finds it difficult to get on with anyone on the ward but then Amber joins them. In Amber he finds a partner in crime and someone who has to deal with a mum as mad as his own.

When a story involves a teenager with a serious illness falling in love for the first time you might think you know exactly how the story will go. What I loved about In Bloom is that it was actually a very funny book. Francis is one of the most authentic teenage characters I’ve read in years, full of doubts one minute and ridiculous over-confidence the next. Matthew Crow has created characters that are realistic and relatable that will get inside your head and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.

Recommended by a Librarian: PRAESA

This is a bit different from previous Recommendations, but PRAESA is an organisation that should be celebrated for the work they are doing!

Today the recommending Librarian is me (Matt)

What am I recommending?

PRAESA

An organisation that has worked to promote reading and literature for children and young people in South Africa since 1992.

Why am I recommending it?

PRAESA first came to my attention via my friend and colleague Ferelith Hordon who met one of the team members of PRAESA at an IBBY event and told me about them as she thought I may be interested as I am from Cape Town. I looked them up online and saw that they have been doing amazing work. South Africa has 11 official languages and PRAESA works in all of them

I heard on Tuesday that they had been awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for their work.

PRAESA has three core goals: to provide children with high-quality literature in the various South African languages; to collaborate with and foster new networks among publishers and organisations that promote reading; and to initiate and carry out activities that can help sustain a living culture of reading and storytelling in socially vulnerable communities. PRAESA works in constant dialogue with the latest research and in collaboration with volunteers at the grass roots level.

To encourage children to read in their native languages, PRAESA produced the Little Hands books, a series of short books in different African languages. Another project, the Vulindlela Reading Club, combined oral storytelling with reading, singing games, and dramatizations, and led to the formation of many more reading clubs in Cape Town and other provinces. The national reading promotion initiative Nal’ibali is a network of reading clubs that uses media campaigns to encourage children to read and inspire parents, grandparents, and teachers to read with them.

So I encourage anyone with an interest to look them up online:

Website: PRAESA
Twitter: @ThePRAESA
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ThePRAESA

and celebrate the work they are doing!

Recommended by a Librarian: Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Sarah Watters

What are you recommending?

My recommendation is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

oryx-and-crake

Why have you recommended it?

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite writers ever. The obsession started when I read The Handmaid’s Tale as part of my English Literature ‘A’ Level many years ago. I adore dystopian literature, and this, for me, this is dystopia at it’s very best. Atwood has created an eerie world that we learn about through the fantastic Snowman, seemingly the only human survivor of the apocalypse.

If you’ve enjoyed Hunger Games, Matched or any other YA dystopia and you want more of a challenge I would recommend you give this a try. The best part it, it’s part of a trilogy, and there’s a TV show currently in production, so something to look forward to when you’ve read the books.

Recommended by a Librarian: The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Elena Morris

What are you recommending?

The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein

What is it?

It’s a psychological horror set in a girls’ boarding school.The story follows an unnamed narrator as she sees her friend Lucy becom closer and closer to new arrival, Ernessa. Strange things start happening and Lucy starts getting ill, and the narrator must ask the question: is Ernessa a vampire, or is she just going mad?

Why have you recommended it?

It’s probably my number one favourite book of all time and recommended for those who are tired of sparkly vampires and want a beautifully-written horror with an unreliable narrator.

Recommended by a Librarian: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Clare Hemsworth

What are you recommending?

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

What is it?

It’s an autobiographical graphic novel about a girl who loses her front teeth when just about to enter high school.

Why have you recommended it?

It is perfect for any teenager coping with braces for the first time but also deals with body image, the ups and downs of friendship and family issues. Sisters and Drama by the same author are also must-reads.

Recommended by a Librarian: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Leanne Wain

What are you recommending?

Station Eleven

What is it?

It is a novel written by Emily St John Mandel

Why have you recommended it?

I recommended Station Eleven because it’s an interesting take on the end-of-the-world genre.

It raises loads of questions about survival and nature, and what place art has in human civilisation. It points out how vital stories are and how important they are to human history, how crucial it would be to preserve them for as long as possible.

The writing is elegant and unique, and the plot is beyond gripping.

Good for zombie/survival fans & readers looking to be challenged, as the structure’s complex, but important to the plot.

Recommended by a Librarian: Morganville: The Series

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Matt Imrie

What are you recommending?

Morganville: The Series

What is it?

It is a web-series* based on the best-selling Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine

*A web-series is a series of scripted videos, generally in episodic form, released on the Internet or also by mobile or cellular phone, and part of the newly emerging medium called web television. A single instance of a web series program is called an episode or webisode. (thank you Wikipedia)

Why have you recommended it?

I had to start with something and I have found this ten episode series short and punchy enough to get the attention of several vocal non-readers that I work with and it has hooked them enough to give the books a try. I also enjoy vampire stories and as a Star Trek fan I was stoked to see Robert Picardo, the Emergency Medical Hologram from Star Trek: Voyager play a role.

It goes without saying that if you enjoy this series you should also give the books a try: The Morganville Vampires novels

You can watch the first episode below, and see the entire series here