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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



Library Advocacy: Correspondence with Labour

On the 24th November following the letter I sent to Justine Greening the Secretary of State for Education I sent an email to her shadow counterpart Angela Rayner:

Dear Ms Rayner

On the 21st November I sent Justine Greening a letter (http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2017/11/21/dear-justine-school-libraries-need-your-help/), on the 24th November Dawn Finch on behalf of CILIP also sent her a letter (http://www.cilip.org.uk/default.asp?page=schoollibrariessos).

The purpose of these was to highlight the dire straits that state school and college libraries in England find themselves in and the fact that England has the lowest teen literacy rate of all OECD nations. We feel that these two things are linked.

In the past, due to the non-statutory nature of school libraries and librarians, UK government ministers have left the decision about school libraries up to the heads of individual schools, this has clearly not worked as the low levels of literacy of English teenagers shows.

As Shadow Secretary of State for Education you have an important voice in parliament, I urge you to throw your support behind the push to have school libraries and librarians considered an absolute necessity for schools and colleges in England.

Yours sincerely

Matt Imrie
Librarian & Editor: Teen Librarian

Yesterday (the 29th November) I received a response from Labour’s Membership Services and Correspondence team:

Dear Matt,

Thanks for writing to Angela Rayner MP in her capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for Education. At this point in time Angela’s mailbag is so full that she has asked me to respond on her behalf.

Labour Party policy is created through discussion and consultation with our members – so thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts; I have forwarded your comments on to our Policy Team who will be grateful to receive them.

During our Annual Conference in Brighton, Angela Rayner MP outlined the Labour Party’s plan to transform Britain’s education system and set out the core principles of our National Education Service.

As we continue to build on our General Election manifesto in anticipation of entering Government, the draft charter sets out the principles that will structure and guide our National Education Service.

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said:

The next Labour government will create a National Education Service, a cradle-to-grave system supporting everyone throughout their lives. It would start in the early years, where we know it has the most impact on changing people’s lives. But our National Education Service is not just for young people either. Our National Education Service will be lifelong, providing for people at every stage of their life.

A promise, from a Labour government, to the British people and British businesses, that we believe in all of them, in their talent and their potential, in all they give to our country, and that we will never limit their aspiration or their ability to succeed.

It will set out the education that people can expect throughout their lives. The contribution that society makes to them and that they can make to society.

Years of Conservative cuts have and continue to starve schools of the funding they need to deliver a first class education. Crippling underfunding will drive up class sizes and may force schools to cut corners. Labour will give all of our schools the investment they need, to ensure that every child has access to a world-class education.

We really value your ideas on how the next Labour government should tackle the challenges our country faces, and build a more equal and prosperous Britain.

As a member of the Labour Party, you can submit policy ideas and contribute to policy discussions online at policyforum.labour.org.uk. As I said earlier, Labour Party policy is created through consultation and discussion with our members, so be sure to have your say in our Policy Forum today.

As a member of the Labour Party, you can submit policy ideas and contribute to policy discussions online at policyforum.labour.org.uk, we’d appreciate it if you could submit your policy idea to this site so that it can be considered by our Early Years, Education and Skills Policy Commission.

Best wishes,

[redacted]
Membership Services and Correspondence
On behalf of Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education

What is up with World Book Day Limited?

World Book Day Limited is a registered charity in the UK (charity no. 1079257)

According to the Charity Commission, the object of the Charity is to advance the education of the public, particularly by assisting in the promotion of reading among children and young people. The Charity will particularly promote World Book Day, which shall comprise a series of events each year, or any other such event, the purpose of which is to promote and encourage reading among children and young people
[source: http://beta.charitycommission.gov.uk/charity-details?regid=1079257&subid=0]

Indeed WBD Ltd claims that: World Book Day is a celebration! It’s a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.
[source: http://www.worldbookday.com/about/]

Over the years I have been a massive fan and supporter of the work undertaken by WBD, giving all children and young people the opportunity to own a book they can choose themselves. I was disappointed in the lack of writers of BAME heritage for the 20th anniversary this year but the selection of titles was accessible for readers from toddlers to teens with a range of genres to appeal to most tastes.

The 2018 list by comparison is sadly lacking; the preponderance of celebrity authors on the list has attracted criticism from authors, librarians and other observers. The abundance of humour texts comes at the expense of other genres and there is only one non-fiction title. Add to this the complete lack of YA titles and, despite protestations from WBD Ltd that “news about the YA list would be made public in coming weeks”, we have heard and seen nothing.
[source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/02/childrens-authors-slam-celebrity-heavy-world-book-day-lineup]

One may argue that children and young people are still able choose one of the WBD Ltd Books with their book token, and, if none of the books take their fancy they can put the token towards purchasing a full-price book of their choice. This argument is specious as it excludes children from families living in poverty and teens who, as they currently have nothing to choose from, may be forced to look towards the shelves of full-priced books. Many young readers are not able to afford a full-price title, even one with a £1 book token discount.

There were 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15. That’s 28 per cent of children, or 9 in a classroom of 30. [source: http://www.cpag.org.uk/child-poverty-facts-and-figures] and this number is projected to rise by 2020 [same source]

Returning to the claim that World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books… and reading, an interview from 2014 that the American Booksellers Association held with Tim Godfray of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland makes for interesting reading.

One of the questions:

BTW: What are some of the marketing or advertising activities underway in the U.K. to promote bricks-and-mortar bookstores to consumers? How successful has the Books Are My Bag campaign been?

Garnered an interesting answer (excerpted from the full answer)

TG: …One of our biggest promotions is World Book Day. One of our companies in the BA group prints 14 million special World Book Day book tokens. These are given to children through their schools and then the children take these World Book Day book tokens into the shops around World Book Day and they can exchange the token either for a free paperback book, which has been produced especially for the promotion by the publishers, or they can get a pound off virtually any purchase in the shop. It’s more powerful than just seeing an advertisement on a magazine page: it actually encourages children with their parents to go physically into a bookshop. World Book Day has been for us a really, really significant success.
[source: http://www.bookweb.org/news/qa-tim-godfray-booksellers-association-uk-and-ireland]

So rather than a celebration as claimed, it is quite blatant that Booksellers are using World Book Day as a marketing ploy to get people into bookshops (anyone that has innocently asked if it is possible for bookstores to come into schools on the day with a selection of WBD Ltd Books will already know this of course).

Now I have no problem with booksellers trying to stem the destruction caused by the rampant growth of online retailers, but the organisers of World Book Day Ltd. need to make a decision:

  • either they admit that they are merely a marketing tool for increasing sales in bookshops and are putting their focus on young readers who have parents/carers that will bring them to bookshops to get a WBD Ltd book or spend more on another book of choice
     
    or
     

  • they step up to the plate as an organisation dedicated to celebrating authors, illustrators and reading for all children. If they are for all children they need to show this by including a choice of titles for older readers or a firm date when they will announce this. If this is not possible, they have to let observers know that something went wrong and no YA titles were ordered and that they will do better next year.
  •  
    Failure to do this and the current silence in the face of growing questions is damaging the WBD brand.

    You can view the mostly amazing lists of books published in support of World book Day from 2012 to 2018 courtesy of the Internet Archive here:

  • WBD Ltd 2012 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20120623005928/http://www.worldbookday.com:80/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2013 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20131005203804/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2014 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20140626054427/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2015 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20150817194141/http://worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2016 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20160304062712/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2017 Books: https://web.archive.org/web/20170308225854/http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • WBD Ltd 2018 Books:
    http://www.worldbookday.com/books/
  • An open letter on #LibrariesWeek

    FAO: John Glen MP, Libraries Taskforce, the DCMS, Arts Council England, Local Governments all over the UK

    RE: LIBRARIES WEEK

    Dear all

    It is an exciting day today, with the launch of the first National UK Libraries Week, celebrating libraries of all shapes and sizes across the UK. Going by your twitter feeds this morning you are all big supporters of this initiative.

    It gladdens my heart that you are all believers in equality of service, and that citizens of this United Kingdom, home to Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, Rowling, Riddell, Crossan and other giants of literature, both ancient and modern, deserve equal access to literature, learning and information through their local library service.

    In fact as you are no doubt all aware, Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964, with the Secretary for DCMS (currently YOU Mr Glen) having a right and a duty to make sure that local authorities do this (see below)

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))

    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  • Read the full act here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/75

    I would like to welcome you all to join with librarians, campaigners, authors and others who have worked tirelessly since 2011 (and before) to ensure the survival of the library service as we know it.

    I am aware that in the past other secretaries of state have not been minded to intervene or just sat on their hands while the service burned (whatever happened to them?), I also know that it many in government thought the public library question was best answered by local government (sadly many of those answers have been soul-destroying).

    Now I am confident that the online signals of support from yourselves and official twitter accounts from councils across the country that we can move past this unfortunate episode and work together to bring library services back under the umbrella of local government with full backing from the DCMS, bringing an end to piecemeal funding of special projects and making sure that libraries are funded in the way that they should be!

    While you are at it could you have a word with your colleagues at OFSTED about the importance of making school libraries and librarians statutory rather than leaving it up to individual heads as we can all see how that has ended up.

    All the best and happy Libraries Week

    Matt

    Libraries. Who needs ’em?


    Libraries are old and dusty

    They really need to go

    and then a few days later:

    “Reading really needs to grow”

    Teachers need to share the love

    and give all kids a kindle!

    Everything is now online

    So libraries who needs ‘em?

    No-one uses books no more

    Let alone to read ‘em!

    It is a shame that no-one reads

    It’s a thing we must promote

    Quickly put some books in gyms

    and a shelf of books on ‘planes

    But we don’t need no libraries

    The government explains!

    They are far too expensive

    and also past their best!

    So fire the Librarians

    and put their jobs to rest!

    Sell off library buildings

    Or make the public run ‘em!

    Cut the hours, cut the stock

    Cut to the very bone

    and if some people shout and moan

    Well they should have some books at home!

    DadLife: Waking up & Peppa Pig

    My little gingersnap woke up perky and vocal at 5:45 this morning.

    We are currently weaning her off what she calls “boobas” so I am on morning milk call. I am not by nature a morning person, but having a gorgeous smiling child bouncing excitedly at the baby gate does wonders for motivation at springing up to face the day.

    After a quick nappy change (her not me) I prepare a bottle of milk and we settle down on the couch for a feed and a cuddle.

    Her request this morning is for Peppa Pig – actually it is this most mornings! Hler excited “Bebba Beeeg” is impossible to resist.

    Peppa is her favourite cultural icon for littlies. The Mrs and I have watched so much of it we have developed a weird fascination with it, we are both convinced that local workaholic Miss Rabbit is having an affair with her twin sister’s husband Mr Rabbit – I mean it is pretty obvious as they do work together in some of Miss Rabbit’s jobs and you seldom see Mr & Mrs Rabbit together.

    This is just a theory brought on by overexposure to a kiddy cartoon.

    If I end up jumping in muddy puddles it is probably time to lock me away!

    Amnesty International UK: CHILDREN’S BOOKS HIGHLIGHTING GLOBAL REFUGEE CRISIS WIN AMNESTY CILIP HONOURS

    Two books that address the global refugee crisis have won the Amnesty CILIP Honour, an additional commendation attached to the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals for outstanding children’s writing and illustration.

    Zana Fraillon’s powerful ‘The Bone Sparrow’ – which highlights the plight of Burma’s Rohingya people and life inside a detention centre in Australia – has won the Honour in the CILIP Carnegie Medal category.

    And Francesca Sanna’s ‘The Journey’ – which tells the story of a family forced to flee their home because of war – has won the Honour in the CILIP Kate Greenaway category.

    Both books tell the stories of families displaced from their homes and detail their struggles with their new lives in a troubled and fractured world.

    Today also marks the start of Refugee Week in the UK, which encourages people in communities across the country to celebrate the contribution that refugees make to life in the UK.

    Zana Fraillon said:

    “I wrote ‘The Bone Sparrow’ so we wouldn’t forget the people and the stories behind the statistics and asylum seeker policies. I wrote it so that we would listen to, and really hear, all those silenced voices. This is something that Amnesty International does every single day. They hear the voices of those who have been silenced and they listen. I am so very proud to have been given this honour, and to have my book recognised by such an inspiring organisation.”

    Francesca Sanna said:

    “I think that books are a powerful tool to raise awareness for human rights, to encourage empathy for those stories that feel very different and far away from our reality. Stories take us to unexpected places, they make us feel what it might be like to walk in somebody else’s shoes. Amnesty International stands for justice, equality and respect for human rights, and knowing that ‘The Journey’ has been awarded makes me feel particularly overwhelmed and honoured.”

    The Amnesty Honour commendations are awarded to the two books on the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists that best illuminate, uphold and celebrate human rights.

    Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, said:

    “These books are vital at a time when we are facing a global human rights crisis on an unimaginable scale, highlighting the realities faced by millions living as refugees. The power of children’s literature to shine a light humanely can have a lasting and significant impact on young readers and help develop compassion for those affected. I’d like to offer my congratulations to both authors from all at Amnesty for their moving and inspirational work in raising vital human rights issues.”

    Bali Rai, author and one of the Honour judges in the Carnegie category, said of ‘The Bone Sparrow’:

    “The book makes you cry, it makes you think, it makes you angry. It has great potential for doing good in promoting and illuminating human rights. It’s an important story in bringing to the fore issues we’re not aware of, such as detention camps and the treatment of the Rohingya people.”

    Ross Collins, Honour judge and winner of last year’s first Amnesty CILIP Honour for his book ‘There’s A Bear on My Chair’, said of ‘The Journey’:

    “What Francesca Sanna has achieved with ‘The Journey’ is really quite extraordinary. Francesca brings light, colour and style to the most difficult of imagery, and shows us the family’s plight with warmth and subtlety. Ultimately it is a tale of hope over adversity which will not only open new doors for young readers, but enchant them with its beauty.”

    The Amnesty CILIP Honour is the result of a major human rights partnership between Amnesty and CILIP, the libraries and information association. The Amnesty CILIP Honour is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

    The winners of the 2017 medals were Ruta Sepetys with ‘Salt to the Sea’ (CILIP Carnegie Medal) and Lane Smith with ‘There is A Tribe of Kids’ (CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal). The winners were announced today at a gala event in London’s Royal Institute of British Architects.

    Amnesty International is the world’s leading human rights organisation with more than seven million supporters worldwide

     

    About the CILIP Carnegie Medal

    The Carnegie Medal, awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children, was established in 1936 in memory of the Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). A self-made industrialist who made his fortune in steel in the USA, Carnegie’s experience of using a library as a child led him to resolve that “If ever wealth came to me that it should be used to establish free libraries.” He set up more than 2,800 libraries across the English-speaking world and by the time of his death over half the library authorities in Great Britain had Carnegie libraries.

    About the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

    The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955 for distinguished illustration in a book for children. Named after the popular nineteenth century artist, known for her beautiful children’s illustrations and designs, the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people.

    The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards


     

    CHILDREN’S LAUREATE URGES NEXT UK GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS THREE INEQUALITIES HARMING CHILDREN

    In the UK thousands of children can’t claim British citizenship due to extortionate costs; child refugees are denied the right to family reunion; school libraries continue to close.

    As he steps down as Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell highlights human rights concerns and calls on next government to address them.

    Warning comes ahead of new book and theatre collaboration celebrating human rights for children.

    Chris Riddell, UK Waterstones Children’s Laureate and Amnesty Ambassador, has raised concerns about children’s rights in the UK in a final statement before handing over his laureateship on 7 June, a day ahead of the General Election.

    In a statement, Riddell has called on the next government to urgently address three human rights issues that affect children in the UK:

    • Thousands of children living in the UK are prevented from accessing their rights to register as British citizens simply because they and their families cannot afford the near £1,000 profit-making fee; 
    • Child refugees are the only refugees that the UK government denies family reunion, preventing their chances of overcoming the trauma of escaping conflict and rebuilding their lives in a new country;
    • A lack of investment in school libraries has caused many to close around the country. 

    Chris Riddell said:

    “As the UK Children’s Laureate it has been a pleasure to celebrate human rights with children through projects such as ‘My Little Book of Big Freedoms’ and Chickenshed Theatre’s production of ‘Dreams of Freedom’.

    “But as I step down as Laureate, and a new government is formed, I would like to voice some deep concerns.

    “It can’t be right that thousands of children in this country are not registered for British citizenship because their parents cannot afford the high fee currently charged.

    “Also, I am troubled by the policy that refuses child refugees – and only child refugees – the right to be reunited with their families.

    “Finally, the continuing closure of libraries in our communities and schools is a blight on the intellectual development and creative future of all our children.

    “At the end of my Laureateship, I’d like to urge our future government to address these issues urgently.”

    Riddell became an ambassador for Amnesty International UK last year. Amnesty has been campaigning for the expansion of family reunion to children, and for provisions to be put in place to support children to access their right to register as British citizens, including through the removal of the profit-making aspect of the registration fee. 

    Riddell has championed human rights during his time as Children’s Laureate, and today’s intervention comes ahead of two new projects he has worked on with Amnesty that will celebrate human rights for children:

    • New book launch – on 22 June, a new colour, hard back edition of My Little Book of Big Freedoms, an illustrated version of the Human Rights Act by Chris Riddell, will be published in partnership with Amnesty.
    • New Chickenshed theatre collaboration– on 26 June, Chris Riddell will be joining 600 school children on stage at the Royal Albert Hall who are performing their interpretation of Amnesty’s illustrated children’s book ‘Dreams of Freedom’. Chris and 9-year-old Jude will be live drawing throughout the performance, with their illustrations projected to the whole of the Hall.

    Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK said:

    “Amnesty is delighted that the Children’s Laureate has done so much to make human rights fun for children. The right to laugh, to draw, to read and play are just some of the freedoms that we should all be able to enjoy and treasure. No matter what our age, it is important we learn about the rights that keep us safe, so that we can protect them.

    “It is devastating that many children living in the UK don’t have access to the rights that should be there to keep them from harm. I sincerely hope the new government listens to Chris Riddell’s warning and takes action before more children’s lives are threatened.”

     

    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.