Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

The Sword That Saves by Ambrose Merrell Blog Tour: 10 Key Rules to Aikido

sword saves

  • Find a good teacher. This is tricky. As a beginner in aikido how do you know whether the teacher is good or not? Here are a few things to look out for:

The teacher should list his/her teachers on their website or when you ask them. Who has taught them the aikido that they will teach you? How long have they trained?

They should make no guarantees as to how quickly you’ll get a black belt. Any martial art school that does should be avoided.

The dojo (training hall) should be clean and tidy.

The teacher should teach with discipline but also good humour. Aikido is a martial art and serious injury or even death can occur if discipline is lax. But the class should also be enjoyable, with lots of smiles and occasional laughter.

You should feel welcomed by the teacher and your fellow students.

You should feel safe at all times. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a technique, then you should feel ok to say so. Your teacher should then modify the technique or excuse you from doing it.

Trust your gut. If the dojo doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

  • Train as often as you can. If you don’t go to aikido practice you  will never learn aikido. The most important thing is to train as often as possible. A bare minimum of 2 times a week is necessary to make progress.
  • Train with beginner’s mind. If you see the teacher show a technique and think, “Oh I know this technique, I’ve seen it so many times before” then you are no longer seeing what the teacher is showing. You must treat every class as though it were your first, every technique shown as though it were the first time you have ever seen it. Then you will really see what is being shown.
  • Train with your whole heart. The energy and enthusiasm you bring to the class is vital to your progress. Aikido is a martial art. Each technique you do is a life or death situation. You should see the person you train with as though they were attacking you with the intent to kill you. You must be completely present to their attack.
  • Protect your training partner. Most aikido training is done with a partner. One person attacks and the other applies the aikido technique. Each time your training partner attacks you they are lending you their body. They are trusting you with their body. If you are careless you could seriously injure or kill them. Obviously that is also true for when you lend them your body. O’Sensei, the founder of aikido, said, “Treat your attacker as you would a new born baby.”
  • Train honestly. It is very easy to anticipate the technique and either block the technique or simply fall into the technique. Neither is aikido. If you block the technique, then your training partner will learn nothing. If you simply collapse without your partner properly applying the technique, then your partner will learn nothing. Attack honestly and as if you have no idea what technique will be applied.
  • Relax! Any video of an aikido master shows the same utterly relaxed movement. There is no strength or stiffness in their bodies. They move effortlessly and gracefully without an ounce of tension in their body.
  • Take your attacker’s balance. The core of aikido technique is unbalancing your attacker, called “kuzushi” in Japanese. If your attacker is unbalanced, then it is very difficult for them to continue to attack. However, if they are not unbalanced then your technique will likely fail.
  • You will find it hard! Aikido is difficult to learn. O’Sensei said, on the day before he died, that he was just a beginner in aikido. Do not be discouraged by the challenge. Train regularly and with a good attitude and you will make progress.
  • The essence of aikido is not about defeating another person. It is about self-mastery. It is about polishing your spirit and discovering the truth of who, or what, you are. O’Sensei said, “I am the universe.” Your dedicated aikido practice will eventually reveal what he meant.

CILIP Action Plan 2016-2020 & School Libraries

UK’S TOP COMEDY TALENT LEND THEIR SUPPORT AS NEW SCHOOL COMEDY WRITING COMPETITION LAUNCHES

Charlie Higson, Kerry Howard, Marcus Brigstocke and David Walliams give their backing to the BBC competition

Some of the UK’s top comedy talent including comedian Charlie Higson, Kerry Howard, Marcus Brigstocke and David Walliamsare calling on secondary school students to become classroom jokers for a new comedy writing competition launched today (April 19th) by the BBC in partnership with the National Literacy Trust.

The Comedy Classroom competition will give 13-15-year-olds across the UK the chance to have their work made and broadcast by the BBC this autumn. The winners will also have a chance to visit the BBC to see it filmed and receive a Comedy Classroom trophy, a signed certificate and a visit from a BBC Comedy comedian to their school.

There are three categories to enter:
Class Joker – Stand-up. Students can turn their personal observations and views of the world into a written and performed stand-up comedy routine.
Class Act – The Sketch. Write your own unique sketch and bring to life funny ideas and characters.
Class Comic – Clever Captions. Find the funny in the image and write a comedy caption.

David Walliams is giving his backing to the competition by starring in online film resources that explain to teachers and their classes more about each category and what is required.

He says: “We all love to laugh, and we all love a competition. The BBC’s comedy competition is where your class of comedians can share their comedic ideas with the nation.

“I was 12 when I first started writing and performing comedy sketches in my school. They were simple spoofs of TV shows at the time, but immediately I discovered that there’s no better feeling in the world than making people laugh. So whether your class is full of budding per formers, or they’re bursting with brilliant ideas for new comedy sketches – BBC Comedy Classroom is for you and your students.”

As well as David Walliams, Charlie Higson, Marcus Brigstocke and Kerry Howard, the competition also has support from the likes of comedians Katy Wix [Not Going Out]and Citizen Khan star, Adil Ray, who have contributed to a teachers’ resource pack, as well as top BBC comedy producers and writers.

Head of BBC Learning, Sinéad Rocks, says: “We want this competition to provide a fun and inspiring way to engage students by helping them find the funny side of literacy and by demonstrating how literacy is the bedrock of good comedy and comedy writing. We hope it provides some great laughs in classrooms across the UK as well as giving students the opportunity to produce some fantastic entries.”

The National Literacy Trust, alongside the BBC, has produced bespoke and flexible classroom learning resources and activities to help teachers easily integrate the competition and comedy writing into lessons. These 60 minute lessons are drawn from the curriculum requirements for literacy and build on key reading, writing and speaking skills.

Jonathan Douglas, Director, National Literacy Trust, says: “Our research shows that young people don’t enjoy writing as much as they enjoy reading. We believe that introducing them to comedy writing can change that. Comedy harnesses many key writing skills to create laughs and can be a great asset in the classroom.”

Details of the competition, along with the David Walliams’ films and teaching resources, are available at bbc.co.uk/comedyclassroom with schools being able to submit entries from April 19th.

The closing date is July 24th with winners announced in November. The competition is open to schools students in Years 9 and 10 in England and Wales, Years 10 and 11 in Northern Ireland and S3 and S4 in Scotland. There will also be a special Comedy Classroom Live Lesson streamed into classrooms on May 12th.

BBC Comedy Controller Shane Allen, says: “While this competition might uncover the next generation of brilliant comedy writers and performers the main aim is for everyone taking part to have fun and learn about some of the techniques that make great comedy. There is a great sense of original thinking and authorship in creating comedy as it often involves playing with language, concepts and a degree of lateral thinking. Lots of big name comedy talent are really engaged in this and promoting the joy of learning through laughter”.

The Life and Death of Amadeo Modigliani: an Exhibition

2015 CILIP Carrnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal Award Ceremony

Well the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals have been awarded for 2015 and what was an amazing experience for a first-time judge is now receding rapidly in the rear-view mirror.

The selection of Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman for the Carnegie Medal and Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill for the Kate Greenaway Medal was no easy task, cutting the long-list of 20 books (for each of the awards) down to eight titles was a painful process. I will not even attempt to describe the bloody winnowing of the nominated titles that went into creating the long-list.
Tears were shed, passionate arguments were heard and many persuasive techniques were made by the judges and now looking back I can honestly say that the correct decisions were made! As a judge alongside my fellow judges we stand proudly by the titles we chose.

Attending the Awards Ceremony is a perk of being a judge and I really recommend that everyone with an interest in literature for children and young people try and attend at least once. Heck, if you are a librarian and a member of CILIP then get involved with your regional YLG Committee and put yourself forward for the position of CKG regional representative (aka a Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Judge), it really is rewarding, you get to meet reps from other regions, improve your knowledge of children’s books (including YA, MG & picture books) and get to be part of a panel that selects the most outstanding books of a year (for children & young people).

The ceremony this year was amazing! It took place in the British Library, prior to the awarding of the medals there was a mingling with coffee and biscuits in the foyer with authors & illustrators being besieged for signatures by shadowing groups and everyone else in attendance that did not write or draw. During the awards ceremony we were welcomed by CILIP CEO Nicholas Poole and entertained by MC Mel Giedroyc, host of the Great British Bake-off. Chris Riddell the Children’s Laureate was in attendance and showed how swift he is at drawing by live-sketching the ceremony, you can view his sketches on his Instagram site here: https://instagram.com/chris_riddell/

You can see what the judges thought of the Carnegie-nominated titles here:

the Greenaway-nominated titles here:

and hear Tanya and William’s acceptance speeches here:

Check out the CKG site for full details on the 2015 awards: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/2015awards/

Macbeth – trailer

Out in October, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard

A Robot in the Garden: How I developed Ben and Tang’s characters and relationship

robot garden
Tang came into my head more or less fully formed, certainly to look at, as did Ben. With Tang, a number of his characteristics came about because of his physicality, such as the fact that he can’t cook because he’s too short and can’t reach the stove. He was also never exposed to much in the way of teaching from Bollinger, so he arrives in Ben’s garden underdeveloped save for the experiences he has had on his way over to England, which the reader never finds out about.

The journey that Tang went on to reach Ben also gave rise to the robot’s character from a visual point of view – he’s dirty and battered, which means other robots/androids look down on him even more than they would have before. This has given Tang a bit of a complex, and makes Ben’s kindness to him even more of a reason for the robot to latch onto him.

Tang’s appearance, being the only thing Ben really knows about Tang for a quite a while, is the foundation of their relationship. Ben is a broken man, though he doesn’t realise it, and feels an affinity for Tang who is in the same boat. They are both underdogs.

A large part of Ben’s character started out as a series of practical considerations. He is wealthy because it meant I didn’t have to get bogged down in the financial implications of a round-the-world trip, which might have detracted from the story I wanted to tell. But that in turn leads you to question why he is wealthy. For him to be an underdog he needed to have the odds stacked against him, which meant I had to put him through some tough times. He also needed a reason to be able to drop everything and head off on the journey with Tang, so he needed to have no ties at home.

So I took away his parents and had his wife leave him, in addition to being perpetually unemployed. These things solved the financial issue and the ties to home, but it gave him a serious backstory which needed to be addressed throughout the book.

In addition to the sense of ‘you and me against the world’, Ben and Tang’s relationship developed just by sending them off round the world and seeing how they would each respond to the situations they found themselves in, knowing the issues and limitations of both. Ben has a fear of being a father in case he is terrible at it, but by necessity taking care of Tang assures him that he could actually cut it as a dad, though it takes other people to tell him this.

So, to sum up, I think for me character + experience = story.

Robot-thumb

An Interview with Taran Matharu author of The Novice

Hi Taran, thank you so much for giving up your time for this interview.

To start off with, a question that I ask every new author, can you please introduce yourself to the readers of Teen Librarian?

Hi everyone, I am the author of the Summoner series, and book 1, The Novice, comes out on May 5th. I serialised it on Wattpad and it went viral, achieving 6 million reads thus far. The Novice was picked up by publishers all over the world and will be published in 12 territories.

I have read that you started The Novice during National Novel Writing Month, were you able to finish the first draft during NaNoWriMo?

Not quite, as the target for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words and The Novice is almost twice as long! I did hit that target and the rest of the book was written over the next few months, while I was backpacking in Australia.

How long after NaNoWriMo did you put the Novice up on Wattpad, and can you describe your experience of using that platform?

I was putting the book up on Wattpad as I wrote it, 1 chapter every day. It really helped my writing as I promised a daily update to my fans in that first month. Knowing that people were looking forward to the next chapter spurred me on, even when I was tired. I think the one day I didn’t upload was my birthday!

Your novel makes use of a number of issues prevalent in the real world; racism, class-based divisions and other family-based stigmas. If you do not mind me asking are any of these based on your experiences?

I experienced a lot of racism when I was younger, starting at four years old. I was nicknamed poo-skin, told to go back to my own country and was often framed for thefts by having things hidden in my bag and desk. These experiences definitely influenced my writing. I think everyone sees class divisions in their lifetime, although this may have been more apparent at the private schools I attended. Family stigma is more inspired by medieval times and the emphasis they put on heritage and bloodlines.

The Novice is a brilliant book, it is one that teenage me would have loved just as much as myself now as an adult, in fact teen me would have read through the night to finish it in one sitting but I had to put it down to get some sleep. Did you have a specific audience in mind while writing, or is epic heroic fantasy a genre that you love?

It is a genre that I absolutely adore, but I never had a target audience in mind. I think in a way I was writing for my younger self, a book that combined everything I loved into one book as well as being accessible for someone who is not used to reading in that genre.

One of the things that jarred me a bit was the use of the name Pinkerton for the national crime investigation service as it is a real world organisation too. Is it named for the US Detective Agency or will we find out more where it came from in later volumes of the Summoner series?

There was some influence there. If you look at the inception of the Pinkertons in the 1850’s, their role was both as investigative law enforcement and personal security guards to officials. They were also used as hired goons to break down unions for the rich, almost acting as mercenaries. The Pinkertons of the Summoner world act much the same way, working directly for the King’s father and focussing on keeping the poor and the dwarves in their place.

Are the Orcs in your world actually evil or are they the foreign ‘other’ and misunderstood by the ‘civilised’ races?

I think that answering this might be a bit of a spoiler for The Novice’s sequel! That being said, the reasons for their behaviour are cultural and ideological rather than racial. A large part of why they are so violent and cruel is a combination of religion and indoctrination. I think I’ve said all I can!

What were your influences (both literary and other) when you came to write the Novice?

History had a large part to play, primarily in two time periods. First, Medieval times, with their great battles, political intrigue and the importance of family, heritage and succession. Then there is the 18th century, an age of great empires, clashes of cultures and racial discrimination. They had a mad mix of modern and early weaponry, with gunpowder muskets, pistols and cannons being used alongside swords and cavalry, all of which appear in The Novice.

From the world’s legends, I adapted Griffins, Salamanders, Minotaurs, Golems and Hydras, to name but a few, as well as lesser-known creatures, such as the cannibalistic Wendigo, the lightning powered Raiju and the griffin-like Chamrosh. Of course I designed my own unique demons as well, but my love for mythological creatures around the world had a huge influence on it all.

My love of travelling was also a factor. On my travels I have encountered fascinating cultures, from the aboriginals of Australia to the native tribes of the Amazon. I have been in deserts and rainforests, deep sea and mountaintops, snowy wastelands and the hilly English countryside. These inspired the geography of Hominum, as well as the cultures and histories of my fantasy races.

I also used my favourite fantasy tropes in the creation of the Summoner world. These included the magical schools of Earthsea, Harry Potter and Discworld, the multiple races of Lord of the Rings, Skyrim and Redwall, the portals to another world in the Chronicles of Narnia and Stargate, and even the creature companions in Pokémon.

Can you recommend any other authors (both YA & adult) that you enjoy and would like to promote?

I think a lot of readers sometimes struggle with fantasy because it can be a little intimidating and inaccessible if the world is over-complex. If I had to recommend some of my favourite fantasy series, they would be Discworld by Terry Pratchett, The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan, The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and the Edge Chronicles by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart.

Finally, when can we expect to see Summoner book two? A question I am sure you have been heard a lot.

I have indeed! I don’t think that has been confirmed yet and publishing schedules can change, but I think at the moment we are aiming for May 2016. The good thing is I have almost finished writing the first draft! It’s a little more difficult without the constant feedback I had when writing the first book on Wattpad, but the added flexibility has helped me add more nuance to the second novel.