Category Archives: Uncategorized

Feminist Fiction

I have to tell you about Angie Thomas and THUG and the Black Girls Book Club, but also about Feminist Book Fortnight which begins TODAY! I considered spamming you all with multiple blog posts on my first day on the job, then thought about it and realised that they’re so perfectly linked that I should just combine them.

On Thursday night, Matt and I went along to SAMA Bankside in Blackfriars for a small party celebrating Angie Thomas’s ‘The Hate you Give’ which, I’m sure you already know, is a powerful story of a young black woman in America dealing with the aftermath of witnessing a police shooting (of her best friend) alongside reconciling her school life with her home life. It is shortlisted for Carnegie and won the 2018 Waterstones children’s book prize. She gave us a bit of information about her next book, On the Come Up, that sounds to be about another strong female and her efforts to break into the patriarchal rap industry while dealing with her mum losing her job. It was wonderful to meet Angie, and chat to librarian colleagues and familiar faces from Walker, but I was also really pleased to meet some members of the Black Girls Book Club. They had collaborated with Walker to host Angie Thomas at an event and spread the word about her outstanding novel, but they don’t focus solely on newly published work. I was blown away by in their passion regarding the back catalogue of fiction written by black women over the years, and am going to be getting touch with them about having some of them as guest speakers at a CILIP YLG London event about what we should definitely have in our libraries. This segues nicely into my interest in Feminist Book Fortnight, which is an inaugural but hopefully annual event organised by independent bookshops to highlight feminist works by women writers. I intend to only read relevant books from my TBR pile, starting with Yaba Badoe’s ‘A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars’. What will you read?

Home Boys ~ Alex Wheatle

home boys.jpgFour friends decide to run away from the horror of their everyday lives in a children’s home in the English countryside. They head for the woods, their sense of freedom surprises them, and for the first time they feel the exhilaration of adolescence. Yet the forest slowly asserts its own power and what happens there will affect the four boys’ lives forever.

My initial reaction when picking up Home Boys was the thought that this was going to be an upsetting read with no joy or redemption contained within the pages. I was wrong! Home Boys is bleak and hard to read, but it is also a beautifully written, opening with grief and loss in the mid 1980’s as we are introduced the major players of this drama it then dives further back the 1970’s where the boys’ story begins. As hard and uncompromising as it was, Home Boys ends on a note of hope that I did not see coming, friendships and love built over years endure beyond what many people expect and continues past the story ending.

Alex Wheatle, always a gripping writer has given us an important work about life as a kid in care in the 1970’s and how brutality and abuse within the system can continue to distort and destroy lives down the years. Where Home Boys shines are in the interactions between the friends, capturing the love, anger, growing tensions and everything else that bubbles up within adolescent peer groups.

Wheatle weaves in the overt racism of the 1970’s and does not shy away from the language and brutality that still lingers just beneath the surface of society to this day. Home Boys is an important read – to help us face the cruelty and mistreatment that was prevalent in many care homes of the recent past, as well as the abuses people of colour still face to this day.

Home Boys by Alex Wheatle is published by Arcadia books and is available now

Judge Read: The Shadowing

I have been working on a Judge Dredd/CKG parody mash-up for the past few years. Today I am proud to unveil the first, and probably only Judge Read adventure:

Disclaimer: Judge Dredd is published weekly in the 2000AD Comic and is © Rebellion.
Judge Dredd was created by John Wagner (writer) Carlos Ezquerra (artist) & Pat Mills (editor)

Engaging Students using Technology in the Library with Lucas Maxwell

The Third Degree with Catherine Johnson

Hi Catherine, welcome to TeenLibrarian and thank you for giving up your time to undergo the third degree…

You have a new book coming out soon – Freedom, based in England at the time of the Zong trial. Can you tell me more about the book?

It’s one of a series published by Scholastic that looks at major turning points in history. I was asked to do abolition (of slavery) but I argued that since that took at least fifty years – the mind of the british public was very slow to change – I would do one of the things that kicked off that change. And I was aware loads of people had heard of Wilberforce but maybe that fewer people had heard of the Sons of Africa, a group of campaigning Black Britons, freed slaves, American veterans of the War of Independence, and others who worked to end the inhumanity of slavery.

The blurb taught me something new – much like Nathaniel I was always under the impression that once a slave set foot on English soil he was free, but after the blurb I looked it up and according to English common law while technically no longer a slave they were still bound to their masters until the abolition of the slave trade. Why do you think that a majority of people in the UK are ignorant of whole swathes of UK history except on a superficial level?

Er- Brexit is a prime example of this. We forget the ends of our own noses! I think every nation likes to tell its own story, and as a woman who grew up with 3 TV channels and endless WW2 films the story of Britains’ exceptionalism is the one we English like best. We say ‘Britain stood alone’, but conveniently forget we had the manpower and resources of India and Pakistain, many African countries, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean to call on. We often forget this too.

Once they have read Freedom can you recommend other sources for people to find out more information about the Zong massacre and the trial that followed? I first heard about it during the film Belle – a fictionalised account of the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle the niece of Lord Mansfield who ruled on the case.

Yes! It’s in Belle isn’t it! For anyone wanting to read more I’d recommend David Olusoga’s Black and British which is very accessible and also very interesting. Also Peter Fryer’s Staying Power.

I have been a fan of your books for years (since Nest of Vipers when you visited one of my reading groups in Edmonton Green), The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo and Sawbones are two of my favourites – it is so refreshing to read historical fiction that has not been white-washed. How much research do you do before you start writing?

I have read and written so much about the 18th century now (and a TV series which got optioned but never made set in 1790s and also a BBC2 docu/drama with Simon Schama called Rough Crossings that was on telly almost 10 years ago, that it’s a question of pulling out all the books. I love London maps of the time too. I like to see where my characters go. I lived very near where Loddiges’ Nursery used to be in East London.

The #OwnVoices movement in the UK is becoming bigger than ever before – are there any books by BAME authors that you can recommend?

Loads! For picture books I’d recommend Ken Wilson Max and Yasmin Shireen, of and I loved John Agard’s Come All You Little Persons illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, and Chitra Soundar’s work too. for first readers I love Atinuke’s Number One Car Spotter series. Other authors include the wonderful Patrice Lawrence, Bali Rai, Irfan Master, Muhammad Khan, Sarwat Chadda, Alex Wheatle and Sita Bramachari. Oh and Savita Kalhan and of course the perenially wonderful Malorie Blackman. And look out for a new UKYA by Danielle Jawando and Aisha Busby, two fresh new voices coming next year.

Do you still visit libraries or schools? If you do what is the best way to get hold of you to organise a visit?

Yes! I am all over the place very often! Contact me via my agent, Stephanie Thwaite at Curtis Brown, or via my Twitter account @catwrote

Lovely to chat Matt!

To find out more about Catherine Johnson and her books, visit her website: http://catherinejohnson.co.uk

Learn more about the Zong Massacre and the subsequent trial here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_massacre

Freedom is published by Scholastic and will be out in August

30 Days of Wild

This June the UK Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to make room for nature, if you register they will send you a pack full of ideas, encouragement and Random Acts of Wildness. You’ll also receive a funky wallchart to track your progress, a wild badge, and regular blasts of inspiration throughout June to help you make nature part of your life.
Now for many librarians during the day at work the closest we get to nature is shooing out wasps, bumblebees and the occasional panicked pigeon that fly in to the library.
However we can participate by signing up and encouraging the people that use the library to do random acts of wildness and enjoy the nature that surrounds us.
I have a number of books on ecology and being a nature detective that I will be using for a display, and of course I will take my daughter out to wander in the woods and discover the wondrous creatures that we live next door to!
To find out more and sign up, visit: www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/

Supergirl: Being Super

supergirl1

Kara Danvers isn’t any different than any other teenager in her hometown. Problems with school. Problems with boys. Problems with friends. But while growing pains shake up Kara’s world, a series of earth-shaking events hits her hometown, leaving her with with the choice of blending in with the crowd or being different. Being an outcast. Being super. This reimagining of Supergirl will appeal to fans of all ages and readers new and old, as the Girl of Steel flies face-first into the struggles that every teenager faces. Collects SUPERGIRL: BEING SUPER #1-4.

Let me just start by admitting that I am an unabashed fanboy when it comes to Mariko Tamaki‘s writing! She hooked me with the magnificent Skim years ago and her work has just gotten better and better.

Supergirl: Being Super is the first superhero work of hers that I have read and once again she does not disappoint (not that I had any doubts). Tamaki takes the standard origin tropes (baby, sent to earth from a dying planet etc.) and makes them sing. This is not a superhero story, rather it is the story of a young woman growing up in a small rural town in America, attending high school, eating dinner with family, hanging out with her best friends and coming to terms with who she is and her place in the world.

Stories involving superpowers usually present their protagonists as remote, godlike beings, or flawed almost monstrous characters that readers can thrill to but often not identify with. It is the sheer humanity of the characters that lifts this story above other, similar tales; their doubts, fears and the love they have for one another brings them to life and makes them more relatable to the reader.

The story is wonderfully complemented by the illustrations by Joëlle Jones, a brilliant artist whose style fits the story perfectly!

Highly recommended for comic readers of all ages!

Anti Knife Crime Fiction and Resources Lists

Knife crime soared by almost a quarter last year in Britain amid warnings that the reduction in stop and search is fuelling violence on the streets…the police recorded just under 40,000 offences involving a knife in the year ending December 2017 – which was up 22 per cent on the previous year.
~https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/26/latest-crime-statistics-reveal-knife-crime-soaring-stop-search/

Violent crime in England and Wales is rising at an accelerating pace, according to police figures showing a 22% increase in knife crime 
~https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/26/surge-in-knife-offences-fuels-rise-in-violent

The news about knife crime in the UK has been on my mind for a while now, Libraries (both school and public) are well-placed to offer links to information and resources for library uses of all ages. The lists I have compiled are a beginning so if anyone knows of other books or has links to resources not listed below, please leave a message in the comments.

Below is a list of YA fiction titles that about crime and violence involving bladed weapons.

When I Was Joe Keren David
When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he’s named, and he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty has a new name, a new look and a cool new image – life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can’t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them from hiding. Joe’s cracking under extreme pressure, and then he meets a girl with dark secrets of her own.

Hello Mum Bernardine Evaristo
“It’s a hot summer afternoon. Tension is in the air. A gang of youths on bikes gathers outside a chip shop. A teenage boy is stabbed and left bleeding on the street. The boy’s mother wonders how this could have happened to her son. She is full of questions, but when the answers lie so close to home, are they really what she wants to hear?”

The Deepest Cut Natalie Flynn
Adam blames himself for his best friend’s death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental health facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake’s murder, trying to understand who is really responsible and cope with how needless it was as a petty argument spiralled out of control and peer pressure took ho

The Knife that Killed Me Anthony McGowan
Paul Varderman could be at any normal school – bullies, girls and annoying teachers are just a part of life. Unfortunately ‘normal’ doesn’t apply when it comes to the school’s most evil bully, Roth, a twisted and threatening thug with an agenda quite unlike anyone else. When Paul ends up delivering a message from Roth to the leader of a gang at a nearby school, it fuels a rivalry with immediate consequences. Paul attempts to distance himself from the feud, but when Roth hands him a knife it both empowers him and scares him at the same time .

The Knife of Never Letting Go Patrick Ness
Imagine you’re the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don’t fit in with their plans…
Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run…

Crossing the Line Gillian Phillip
Nick Geddes’s life is a mess. His sister’s boyfriend was killed in a school stabbing. His grandmother is descending into a world of her own, his mother has a ‘god-slot’ on local radio, and his father is drinking way too much. But that is nothing, because he is also crazy in love with Orla, the sister of the boy who has been killed.

Dead Boy Talking Linda Strachan
Josh has 25 minutes left to live.Lying alone in a pool of blood, Josh hasn’t much time to think.Yesterday he stabbed his best mate, and now it’s happened to him.But there are questions he can’t get out of his head. Like how did he get into this mess? Will anyone find him in time? Will his girlfriend forgive him, and what really happened to his older brother?As his life slips away, the events of the last 24 hours start to look very different…

The Passenger Dan Tunstall
Mikey’s trainers are box-fresh Nikes. They’re as white as new snow. White leather, white laces, white soles. But something on the right shoe catches my eye. It’s a tiny circle. The size of a five-pence piece. It’s bright, bright red. Blood.

Teacher’s Dead Benjamin Zephaniah
A teacher is dead, murdered by two of his students in front of the whole school. Right in front of Jackson Jones.
But Mr Joseph was a good man people liked him, respected him. How could those boys stab him and jog away like nothing had happened’
Unable to process what he has seen, Jackson begins his own investigation- everyone knows who did it, but as Jackson uncovers more about the boys, he becomes convinced that people need to understand why.

Knife Crime Resource Links

Safety Box Knife Prevention

The Ben Kinsella Trust

Red Cross Knife Crime Teaching Resources

Teen Knife Crime booklet

Say No 2 Knives

No Knives Better Lives Resources

Knife Crimes Young People & Teachers’ Resources

First Aid

Red Cross: how do you help a stabbing victim?

How to help someone who has been stabbed or is seriously bleeding

Competition: Win a Copy of Boying Up by Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory and author of the #1 bestseller Girling Up, puts her Ph.D. to work to talk to teen boys about the science and pressures of growing up male in today’s world. A must-have book for all teenage boys!

Why does my voice crack like that? What should I eat to build muscle? How do I talk to someone I have a crush on? What do I do if someone calls me names or bullies me?

Growing from a boy to a man is no easy task. Bodies are changing, social circles are evolving, hair is appearing in places it never was before — and on top of it all, there’s the ever-present pressure to conform to the typical idea of what it means to be “manly” and masculine. But it’s easier to do if you’re armed with facts.

Using personal anecdotes as an overly observant mother of two boys and plenty of scientific information from her life as a neuroscientist, Mayim Bialik, PhD, star of The Big Bang Theory, talks directly to teen boys about what it means to grow from a boy to a man biologically, psychologically, and sociologically. Using the same cool, fun, and friendly tone that she took in Girling Up, Mayim takes boys–and their parents!–through the challenges and triumphs of Boying Up today.

In six sections (How Boys Bodies Work; How Boys Grow; How Boys Learn; How Boys Cope; How Boys Love; and How Boys Make a Difference), she takes a look at what it means for boys to come of age in today’s world, how can they take control of their paths, and what can they do to help shape the types of futures they want for themselves.

COMPETITION:

To win a copy of Boying Up answer this simple question:

For what branch of science did Mayim Bialik receive her Ph.d?
a) Neuroscience
b) Toxicology
c) Sociobiology
d) Human Biology

Email your answer to editor@teenlibrarian.co.uk by 1pm (GMT) on the 23rd May

The winner will be announced on the 24th May.

Library Advocacy: Correspondence with the Department for Education part 2

After receiving a response to my email to the Department for Education, I sent them a follow-up message

Question: RE: 2017-005541

Regarding the communication referenced above could I please request clarity on how “the government strongly support school libraries”

In what way is the support shown and how does the DfE go about it? Specific examples would be appreciated

Claiming that “It is for individual schools to decide how best to provide and maintain a library service for their pupils, including whether to employ a qualified librarian” is disingenuous at best as this approach clearly has not worked.

With the widespread closures of public libraries and the non-statutory nature of school libraries the claims that “teachers are expected to encourage pupils to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information. Within the national curriculum, the programmes of study for English have been developed to make clear the importance of reading for pleasure.” 

and

“English language will encourage pupils to read a greater range of high quality, challenging literature and non-fiction texts drawing across a range of genres and types (from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries).”

ring hollow as without the support of libraries how are students expected to access texts to “read widely and often”?

I look forward to your response in due course!

Matthew Imrie
Librarian & Editor: Teen Librarian

I think I touched a nerve going by the response I have just received:

Dear Mr Imrie

Thank you for your email of 5 December about school libraries.

The government strongly supports school libraries because of the important role they play in encouraging young people to read for pleasure. Libraries remain hugely important, cornerstones of communities and part of the fabric of our society and our national lives.

Libraries are a local authority service, funded and run by local government. Legally, local authorities must provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. It is for each local authority to determine how best to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service to their local community, within available resources.

As stated in our previous response to you, I should reiterate that as schools are autonomous institutions, it is for schools to decide how much of their budget is spent on school libraries and how much is spent on the national curriculum. The department has no say in this matter.

Furthermore, may be interested to know that public libraries are a local authority service, funded and run by local government. Legally, local authorities must provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. It is for each local authority to determine how best to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service to their local community, within available resources.

I am sorry I cannot be of further help on this occasion however I trust you can see why the department cannot become involved at this time.

Your correspondence has been allocated reference number 2017-0057472. If you need to respond to us, please visit: https://www.education.gov.uk/contactus and quote your reference number.

As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your comments via our website at: http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/YBK1O/

Yours sincerely

[redacted]

Ministerial and Public Communications Division

Web: https://www.education.gov.uk
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk