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Gandalf’s Exam Tips 2

The second poster in the Gandalf’s Exam Tips series

The White Hare by Michael Fishwick – Interview

Hi Michael, welcome to TeenLibrarian. Thank you for giving up your time to answer a few questions about The White Hare.
Before we begin would you please introduce yourself to the audience?

I am a publishing director at Bloomsbury, where I have authors like Peter Frankopan (whose book The Silk Roads was on the bestseller lists for thirty-one weeks last year, William Dalrymple, Frank Dikotter, Adam Sisman, John Simpson, Anna Pavord and many others.  Lots of biography, history, memoir.  I live in south London, and have a family that includes three now rather tall sons.

I think that I am right in saying that The White Hare is your first novel for young readers?

It is.  I’ve written two other, adult novels; Smashing People and Sacrifices. 

What inspired you to begin writing for a teen audience?

About fourteen years ago I went with a New Zealand friend to see the film ‘Whale Rider’, where a young girl has to win the trust of her grandfather by proving herself the natural leader of their tribe; she forms a bond with a whale and is ridden out to sea, and indeed under the sea.  It made me want to write something that combined human relationships with a magicality that perhaps transcends and heals the fractures in the real world. I think Robbie’s encounter with Mags’s world helps him reconcile himself to the world he finds himself in, and ultimately to forgiveness towards his father.

What feeling did you have when you saw the first finished copy of The White Hare?

As a book comes together you see all sorts of aspects of it; cover ideas, proofs, book proofs, bits of flap copy, the look of the pages, and you know the text back to front from working on it so long.  So in a way there’s no surprise when you see the final thing; but it is just amazing anyway, especially when your publisher has taken such care and paid such attention as Zephyr has.  And detail such as the light blue silk ribbon and the way in which they have used the cover on the pages within the book, which I didn’t know about, were a source of lovely surprise and delight.  

What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?

To be honest, it’s simply the writing; making something up on the pages, especially when you have an idea you are confident with and are just working it through.  I write in ink in a rather lovely library, so there’s a very pleasurable feeling of seclusion and communing with one’s own thoughts and ideas; I’m always rather astonished that I have any. 

TWH is also the first novel published under the Zephyr imprint – do you feel any pressure being their headline author?

I’m very proud to be their launch title, and I so hope it works for them (and me).  They’ve done a terrific job, and I feel just the ordinary anxiety about what’s going to happen to my poor little brainchild, whom I hope many will love as I do. 

Is any part of the story based on personal experiences?

That’s tricky.  Lots of little bits and pieces along the way.  Generally, I grew up in south London, as did Robbie, and we’ve been going down to a cottage between Arthur’s Seat on the Stourhead estate and Cadbury Castly, King Arthur’s castle, as Mags tells Robbie for twenty-five years, which I always felt was a deeply magical place (the cottage overlooks the Somerset Levels, which feature in the book).   

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/MG authors? If yes what can you recommend?

Apart from Rowling and Patrick Ness, I drew upon my own favourites: Alan Garner, John Masefield and Barry Hines’s A Kestrel for a Knave (a friend of mine spotted a bit of Jez Butterworth in there, too).

How would you describe The White Hare to pique the interest of a potential reader?

That’s a hard question and something I am still working on! To any readers out there I would say that The White Hare is, at its core, a coming-of-age story. I would love the reader to join me on Robbie and Mags’ journey as they learn about what it means to love in a world where this is the bravest thing a person can do. And if you enjoy my story as I tell it, then I have succeeded in all I set out to do. 

Do you ever visit reading groups in schools and libraries? If yes what is the best way to get hold of you?

Not so far, but very happy to do so.  You can get in touch with the Publicity Director at Head of Zeus, Suzanne Sangster.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Every now and then a book will come out of nowhere and hit you so hard that you don’t know whether you are coming or going!

For me The Hate U Give is that book!

It had me openly weeping on a train by page 26.

It stoked anger within me – against the systems that keep people down, that normalise the murder of children at the same time as denying them fair and equal choices, freedoms and education.

I am a child (and adult) of privilege; growing up white and male insulated me from what most of the world experiences. Having a conscience and sense of social justice I naturally gravitate left and believe that the inequalities of the world have to be fought and the systemic racism and patriarchialism of the world as it is need to be challenged and dismantled. What I do not have are the experiences of those that are not white and male.

The Hate U Give has been my first experience of seeing the world through the eyes of a person that lives in a world that judges her and her friends and family by the colour of her skin and gender.

It has been said that writing is a political act, and it cannot be more true with The Hate U Give, reading this novel is activism. But it is more than that, to merely describe it as a political novel or an ‘issues book’ would be to diminish it. This is a story about life, love, family, community and loss. For people who daily experience the acts contained within its pages, this book is a mirror showing themselves and their lives; for communities disconnected from these experiences it can act as bridge to understanding and building empathy.

To Angie Thomas I say want to say thank you! With this book you have strengthened my resolve to fight for and with my friends and colleagues for a better world.

To everyone else I say – read this book!

If you know people that say things like “All lives matter!” in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and the institutionalised oppression and murder of those whose skin colour does not resemble their own, or they believe that we live, love, work and play on a level playing field then buy then a copy. While you are doing that, buy yourself a copy, The Hate U Give is a book for everyone.

Thug Life: TuPac Shakur:

Discussing The Roanoke Girls with Amy Engels

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Hi Amy, welcome to Teen Librarian, now at the moment you are best-known for the YA Book of Ivy series but (strangely for a Teen Library blog) we are not going to be discussing those today, rather we are going to focus on your first novel for adults: The Roanoke Girls.

The proof of which I must say was the darkest and one of the most twistedly brilliant books that I read last year.
 
But before we get into the book would you like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Well, as you said, I’m the author of The Book of Ivy YA series and The Roanoke Girls is my first novel for adults. I am a former criminal defense attorney and now work as a full-time writer. I live in Missouri with my husband and two teenage children.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but to my mind at its heart The Roanoke Girls is about being a woman and what women face now and throughout history – objectification, having to pander to the needs and desires of others, hatred, abandonment, being replaced and murder!

Yes to all of that! I’ve always been interested in the ways in which women are viewed by society and also by the sometimes fraught relationships women have with one another. I’m fascinated by how women often turn on one another, rather than on the person who has wronged them. And on the flip side of that, the ways in which women are valued, or devalued, by society is of tremendous interest to me as a writer. Women are so often viewed as a commodity, valued for their beauty and their ability to act a certain way. The blaming of female victims, both blatantly and subtly, for their own abuse is also something I wanted to tackle.

The Roanoke Girls made me think of two quintessential American art-works American Gothic by Grant Wood and Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth in my mind I identified Allegra quite strongly with both the women portrayed in the paintings. Similarly Roanoke reminded me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and the themes made me recall the discovery of Flowers in the Attic in the Library by a group of students when I was in school – it caused a rush of students reading together and discussing it in hushed tones in the corridor which stopped whenever someone walked past. What were your inspirations for writing The Roanoke Girls?

You are spot on with the Rebecca reference. The first line of The Roanoke Girls is actually my own homage to Rebecca. Growing up, I was fascinated by gothic novels and so those have a huge influence on the book. I also took inspiration from Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. That book evoked such a strong sense of place and I knew I wanted to try and do the same with The Roanoke Girls. My hope was to transport the readers to the world of Roanoke as they were reading. I was also somewhat inspired by my own work as a criminal defense attorney. I think people have a tendency to judge victims by the characteristics of the perpetrator of the crime. So if you have someone who looks like a monster and acts like a monster, then the victim is more likely to be believed. But what about someone who seduces rather than forces? Who charms rather than assaults? Then people are much more likely to blame or disbelieve the victim, I’ve found. And I definitely wanted to explore those feelings and ideas in the book.
amy-engel-trish-brown-photography

The interactions between Lane and Allegra seemed very real to me do you have any close cousins or siblings that you based their relationship on?

Interestingly enough, I have no siblings and my cousins are much younger than I am and live far away. But because of that void, I always had very strong female friendships growing up. My best friends and I were inseparable and they took the place of siblings for me. I think female friendships, especially as teenagers, can sometimes take on slightly obsessive undertones, so I drew on that for the relationship between Lane and Allegra.

At times The Roanoke Girls made uncomfortable reading – which I suppose is the point, without giving away too many spoilers were there any parts of the story that you found difficult to write?

The interludes from the points of view of the past Roanoke girls were probably the most difficult to write from a purely emotional standpoint.

You tell the story of Lane, Allegra and the other inhabitants of Roanoke and Osage Flats through Lane unpicking the contemporary mystery of Allegra’s disappearance and flashbacks to the summer that Lane lived at Roanoke – how much planning went into the writing as it all flows so seamlessly?

First of all, thank you. You never really know if a past/present narrative is going to work until people begin reading it, so I’m gratified to know it’s being well-received. In answer to your question, not much planning at all. I don’t outline when I write, not even with a dual timeline narrative such as this one. And I didn’t write all of the present day portion and then go back and insert the past. I wrote the book as it’s meant to be read: a “then” section and then a “now” section, etc. I did go back and add in the interludes from the other Roanoke girls after the first draft was finished. For some reason, it wasn’t difficult for me to keep it all straight in my head as I was unspooling it. More proof, I think, that sometimes writing is a kind of magic.

The online response to The Roanoke Girls has been phenomenal – did you expect this when you first started writing it?

Ummm…no? I mean, at the time I was writing it, the first Ivy book had been published, but I knew I’d need a new publisher for this book because it was adult. So I didn’t even know if it would ever see the light of day. I hoped, of course, that it would be published and people would like it, but I knew it was dark and would be too disturbing for some readers. So the reaction thus far has been amazing and I’m so, so grateful.

If you had to describe the novel in six words or less to entice a potential reader what would you say?

Oh, I’m such crap at this sort of thing, but I’ll give it at try! How about:

Dark, disturbing, character-driven psychological suspense.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Blackout by Marc Elsberg

A cold night in Milan, Piero Manzano wants to get home.

Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead.

Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse.

Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The death toll soars.

Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers.

Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late?
 
 
It has been said (by a number of people) that civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism.

Marc Elsberg has taken that premise, wrapped it up in a taut, fast-flowing thriller and has shown how Europe and the western world can be brought to it’s knees by a small group dedicated fanatics with the technical skills and the knowledge needed to implement a coordianted, catastrophic power grid failure.

Up against them is a ex-hacker and a number of people across Europe wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape, suspicion, conflicting end goals and divided loyalties. In all honesty there were times when my sympathies lay with the terrorists but as the body count grew and the cost of their actions became clearer I felt a chill grow within me as I read.

Blackout brings home how reliant we are on a unified power network and the inability of safety services to cope with a massive collapse in infrastructure. I would like to believe that such an event is not possible, but in a world where elections can be manipulated remotely and code that can hack cars, pacemakers and the growing Internet of Things can be cobbled together by people in their bedrooms we all need to know how vulnerable we are.

Blackout had opened my eyes!

I have not read too many European thrillers, but if many of them are like Blackout then that will change!

A Crafty Way to Protest

Over the weekend the world witnessed The Women’s March (against Trump); this was possibly the largest demonstration in American history; and it was not just in the USA, there were sister marches in many citiesaround the world.

This is just the beginning! One of the things we as Librarians and Library workers can do is encourage the people we work with in many small ways, one of these things is if we run crafting clubs we can provide patterns for members to make protest crafts. This is important as not everyone is able to march but may still want to show their support!

I recently read Crafting with Feminism by Bonnie Burton, a wonderful book that contains 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy

From Feminist Badges of Honor to Next Gen Feminist Onesies this book has it all (well not all but a lot of excellent, eye-catching project ideas and patterns) to provide activity ideas for months.

These crafts are perfect for people of all genders whether you march or not

Crafting with Feminism by Bonnie Burton published by Quirk Books is available now!

#TeenLibrarianMonthly December 2016

Download (PDF, 852KB)

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

saint-death
Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juárez – twenty metres outside town lies a fence, and beyond it, America – the dangerous goal of many a migrant.

Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he’s been working for. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he’s on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead.
 
Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) – she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

 
 
In Saint Death, Marcus Sedgwick shines a light into the decaying underbelly of our consumer society, laying bare the suffering engendered by growing western demand for drugs and ever cheaper products.

The backdrop to the novel is Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city just slightly south of the border with America; where the citizens live in fear of the rival cartels that engage in battles on the streets and a police force that is often as corrupt and cruel as the gangs.

We view this dystopic cityscape through the eyes of Arturo an 18 year old boy who is drawn in to a tragic spiral by his best friend Faustino, who, much like his namesake has been caught up in a deal with the devil; in this case the leader of his gang: Los Libertadores.

The focal point of the novel is a card game – Calavera, a game that Arturo is nearly unbeatable at and the one thing that can allow him to raise the money needed to save Faustino and give them all the chance of a better life in el Norte. Arturo’s journey to the game is broken up by flashbacks to Faustino’s life as a migrant and Arturo and his life growing up together in Anapra, one of the poorest suburbs of Ciudad Juarez.

In an era of fetishizing gang culture and treating drug dealers as heroes with television shows such as Breaking Bad and Narcos, Saint Death is a step away from the glamour and high-living and instead focuses on the cost in human lives, dignity and common humanity that is so often overlooked.

I took several things away from Saint Death: a greater understanding of why so many people risk the lives of their families and themselves to cross borders in search of a better life, the beginnings of knowledge about folk religion and a growing sense of disquiet of how we are all complicit in the suffering and inequality of developing nations due to our reckless spending and the desire for better deals.
 
Saint Death is perhaps the first great anti-capitalist YA novel of the 21st Century.

Published by Orion Children’s Books, Saint Death will be available from all good bookshops from the 6th October.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (& illustrated by Chris Riddell)

NEVERWHERE VIDEOLike many people of my generation I first encountered Neverwhere on video (thanks Shaun) – the story and concepts were excellent, some of the visual effects were a bit ropey but all in all it was a fantastic and fantastical introduction to London Below and for many years afterwards there were rumours of a sequel (not counting How the Marquis Got His Coat Back) and a big budget remake – but these have not yet materialised but I live in hope!

I discovered the book several years later, not having realised that Neil Gaiman had actually written one and it was exquisite (thank you local library)! It was only after coming to the UK and attending a talk by Neil that I discovered the existence of the author’s preferred edition which was even better.

Now in the year of the 20th anniversary of the broadcasting and publication of Neverwhere I have discovered how you can make a book that was already pretty much perfect even better – add the illustrations by Chris Riddell. In all honesty I already knew that Chris and Neil’s work go together like peanut butter and strawberry jam, their collaboration is akin to alchemy – two Masters of their Art combining talents to create a literary philosopher’s stone, I mean look at the CILIP Kate Greenaway winning The Sleeper and the Spindle as another shining example!

If you have never read Neverwhere then shame on you – get you hence to a library or bookshop and remedy this immediately! I am also incredibly jealous as you will be experiencing the wonders and terrors of London Below for the first time which is truly an unforgettable experience.

AND…

and if you have already read Neverwhere pick up this edition as it is the author’s preferred text and you may not have read that one yet; but if you have then get it for Chris Riddell’s artwork, as this will enrich your life and reading experience immeasurably!

Go on do it now! The Marquis is waiting!

neverwherecover

Youth Libraries Group – South East (YLG-SE) Career Development Grant 2016

Youth Libraries Group – South East are offering two members a career development grant to fund a place at this year’s national conference – CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) conference 2016 on Friday 7 October 2016 at 09:00 – Saturday, 8 October 2016 at 17:00 at the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel. The successful candidates will also have their travel expenses reimbursed.
We will ask the successful candidates to attend the YLG South East meetings from November 2016 to June 2017 and write up a piece for the Youth Libraries Review.
In order to be eligible candidates must be a South East YLG member, with involvement in children and young people’s library services. The grant is particularly aimed at colleagues who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend. In this respect applications are welcome from all interested parties, qualified librarians and support staff.
Candidates are asked to explain in a written submission of not more than 600 words: 

current role & experience in children & young people’s library services

interest in reading & literature for children & young people

personal professional development goals

how the candidate would benefit from this grant

 Submissions emailed to 

Elizabeth.mcdonald@wokingham.gov.uk by 31st July 2016. The successful candidates will be notified by 12th August 2016.

We are also looking for enthusiastic new committee members to join us in continuing to represent YLG-SE members and help to plan future events. Committee members come from all over the South East.
For more information please contact – Elizabeth.mcdonald@wokingham.gov.uk