Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour

Welcome to the Teen Librarian stop on the Terry Pratchett Farewell Tour, lovingly organised by the fantastic Viv Dacosta.

This was supposed to be a review of Dodger by Pterry (that is included) but when chatting to some dear friends who are also massive fans and regular visitors to the Discworld I thought I would invite them in to play today.

Starting off with one of the best librarians I know and a wonderful human being Caroline Fielding

I read Jim‘s Top 10 Discworld characters as part of the Terry Pratchett blog tour (YAYeahYeah) and it got me thinking about the characters that I love, including those on his list. I realised that a lot of my favourites are those that are completely essential to the series but might only actually play the tiniest of roles when it comes to the plot, or feature for a brief time. Some of them appear in books I haven’t read for 10 years or more but they’ve stuck in my brain. So here, in no particular order, are my

Nominations for Best Supporting Character:


The Luggage: I miss Rincewind and the Luggage…featuring from the very beginning of the Colour of Magic, this chest made of sapient pearwood brings nothing but distress into the life of cowardly wizard Rincewind.

Vimes’ Dis-Organizer: It can tell the time in Klatch, remember your appointments, and use precognition to know your upcoming appointments will occur before you do…causing some consternation when it follows the wrong timeline.


Hex: the computer designed by Ponder Stibbons and his team of nerdy wizards. Stibbons denies that Hex can think for itself, but is constantly worried by the additions Hex seems to make to itself, and when the FTB (Fluffy Teddy Bear) is removed it throws a wobbler!


Bergholt Stuttley ‘Bloody Stupid’ Johnson: doesn’t actually feature in any of the stories having died many years previously, but his creations crop up regularly, most notably the Archchancellor’s shower! Pratchett described him as an ‘inverse genius’.


Death of Rats: Once a part of Death, he remained after the events of Reaper Man and is able to make himself understood with a one-syllable sound: SQUEAK, with the occasional emphasis of an EEK-EEK, and the help of the raven Quoth.


The Canting Crew: “Millennium Hand and Shrimp”. Need I say more? Well, maybe – the beggars that even beggars avoid, Foul Ole Ron and his comrades feature in a number of the books, sharing their alternative view of the world.


Leonardo of Quirm: locked up in the Patrician’s dungeons, he’s quite content just doodling out his inventions that could very easily accidentally start (or end) wars…

Drumknott: Lord Vetinari’s Clerk, the perfect civil servant, relishes order and protocol but knows exactly what Vetinari wants. This quote from Going Postal sums him up perfectly:
‘…we would not normally have started individual folders at this time,’ Drumknott was agonizing. ‘You see, I’d merely have referenced them on the daily-‘
‘Your concern is, as ever, exemplary,’ said Vetinari. ‘I see, however, that you have prepared some folders’
‘Yes, my lord. I have bulked some of them out with copies of Clerk Harold’s analysis of pig production in Genua, sir.’ Drumknott looked unhappy as he handed over the card folders. Deliberately misfiling ran fingernails down the blackboard of his very soul.


Igor: a number of Igors pop up, coming from an extremely extended family in Überwald and mainly working as servants for mad scientists although they are great medics, ably performing emergency surgery, including in particular transplants, with one particular Igor having made it onto the City Watch in Ankh Morpork.


CMOT Dibbler: the Del Boy of the Discworld, starting out selling ‘sausage inna bun’ on the streets of Ankh Morpork, he regularly dabbles in new initiatives and trades. CMOT stands for “selling this at such a low price that it’s cutting me own throat” One of the things I love most is all the relatives of his that pop up across the Disc with very similar sales techniques.

lego pterryx
My second guest, like Caroline is another excellent librarian and someone you will want next to you if you ever find yourself in a foxhole. I have known Shaun Kennedy for half my life now and he is here to share his memories of Terry Pratchett:

Only in our dreams are we free.

The first book by Terry Pratchett I read was Pyramids, after that came Mort. And then, well you know what they say about eating Pringles? It applies here too.

I first met Terry in 1999 when he did a signing tour through South Africa. I was working a weekend job and convinced my co-workers that I had to be somewhere important and they covered for me – after all, it’s not every day an internationally acclaimed author you’re a fan of comes to town. To this day I am not even sure if I ever told them where I went and why.

After moving to London in 2005 I met my now-wife, who back then wasn’t a Pratchett fan. At the time she worked for a membership organisation and was involved in running events all over the country. A few months later I got told that one Terry Prachett was going to be one of the main guests at an event they were running. It turned out that as I was one of the few people that knew anything about his books, they wanted me to the stand where the Pratchett books were going to be sold to answer questions. I say yes because I didn’t have anything better to do.

Then I got told that I would be looking after him while he was at the event!

That Saturday I will never forget. After having spent a couple hours of helping people choose books to buy, the main organiser came over with Terry in tow and introduced me to him. I managed to remain calm and professional and asked if he needed anything. To which he replied that he wanted to wander around and have a look at the stalls. I asked if he wanted me to accompany him, but he declined and said he was happy to meander around until his talk. And he was off and I went back to answering questions about which book came first.

About five minutes later I realised that there was a queue going past the stall and I went to investigate. I’m not sure how it started, but at the end of the line I found Terry signing books for attendees while juggling his jacket and hat. Fearing that he had been ambushed, I asked if he was okay signing for people as there was a signing scheduled later in the day. But he waved me off saying. I offered to keep his jacket and hat safe so he had his hands free. Terry gave me his jacket and proceeded to ask the people in the queue if I was trustworthy before he would consider giving me the hat.

Fortunately most of the people said they knew me and I headed back to the book stall with the coat and hat. I didn’t see him again until I was told to find him and take him to the green room. I think the organiser thought I was doing a bad job watching Terry. I got him back to the green room and we chatted to a while on various topics including his trip to South Africa. I remember him quizzing me about why I had become a librarian. Turns out he was rather fond of librarians on the whole. I wouldn’t have guessed.

After the talk we moved onto the signing. I think it was the first time I had ever seen a queue go across two floors of a venue. Everyone patiently waited to have their books signed – I think it was because Terry gave as much time to the first people whose books he signed to those who were at the end of the queue and they knew this. Well, those who had been at one of his signing did anyway.

I never did get to see Terry off though, I was called away because of an emergency and by the time it was resolved he’d already left.

One thing I have learnt is that Terry Pratchett’s works, and in particular the Discworld books, resonate with a lot of people. Personally I think this is because the characters are written as unique individuals with their own experiences. When I read a book the characters feel alive and like old friends who are telling me about what they got up to while we have been separate. I am going to miss reading about new adventures, but I will always happily have them retell stories I’ve heard before.
The other thing I’ve learnt is that, except for my manager, I’ve yet to meet a librarian who has never read a Pratchett book. Last year I was fortunate enough to run a Discworld role-playing game for a bunch of librarians and they had so much fun being oddball characters in the Watch.

I have to admit that while I do love the Chief Librarian, my favourite character is Sam Vimes.

lego pterryx


I grew into the reader I am thanks in no small part to the Discworld books, I also read (and loved) the Johnny Maxwell trilogy, the Bromeliad, The Carpet People, Nation and The Dark Side of the Sun. Dodger was different, I purchased it (as I always did) on its day of release in 2012 and then it sat on my shelf. It is weird, I have one reading rule and that is nothing comes before a Pratchett. I have no idea why I did not devour it immediately – perhaps because it was not a Discworld book but whatever the reason (and maybe there was not one) the book sat, pristine and unread on my shelf until this year when Viv sent the call out for people interested in getting involved with the blog tour. It was then that I picked it up and decide that I should do this in memory of him!

The cover is a Paul Kidby masterpiece, Dodger rising from a manhole, tipping his hat with a cheeky grin and a straight-razor in his left hand. The background is recognisably London with Saint Paul’s Cathedral towering over tenement blocks and huddled figures. The Victorian marbled end papers are a wonderful touch making the book a thing of beauty to behold. The book is written in a Victorian style, including chapter headings (Terry is famously dismissive of chapters) there are also footnotes – a quirk of his that I love dearly.

However it was the writing that captured me, the story opening with Dodger leaping from the sewers to save a damsel in distress from peril at the hands of dastardly villains. Dodger is a wonderful example of Terry Pratchett’s writing, his books are amazing, not because of the background, setting or sometimes awful puns but because of the characters, he writes people so well. Dodger mixes real and fictional characters in a satisfying melange of crime, mystery, politics and heroism. Dodger is a great starting point for readers new to Terry Pratchett’s work and a wonderful read for established fans.

lego pterryx

Finally, I want to share the cartoon I drew as a tribute to Terry Pratchett on the afternoon of his death. It was either create something or dissolve into a puddle of misery on my work desk; it is a good thing that I don’t work in an office or I may have closed the door and had a good cry.

lego pterryx

Visit Emma Greenwood’s blog for yesterday’s stop on the tour and remember to stop by Bookish Treasures tomorrow for the next stop.

Nal’ibali: Children’s Literacy Charter

Every year on 23 April, South Africa celebrates World Book Day, which was created by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. It is celebrated in over 100 countries around the globe to make everyone more aware of how reading can be a satisfying and enjoyable activity – and of course, to invest in our children’s literacy.

Last year on World Book Day, Nal’ibali launched their Children’s Literacy Charter. This charter describes the literacy experiences all children should have if we want them to grow up being able to use reading and writing successfully in their lives. (If you missed it last year, download your copy of the Children’s Literacy Charter in any of South Africa’s languages here!). This year they are launching a version of this charter especially for children so that they become more aware of what they need to help them grow a love of reading, writing and books.

Endorsed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY International), The South African Book Development Council / National Book Week, The Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA), the Little Hands Trust, and PEN South Africa, the children’s literacy rights poster is available in 11 official languages.

You can view the English language version of the poster below.

nalibali rights

To download a copy of the poster in any of South Africa’s 11 official languages, visit this link:

http://nalibali.org/childrens-literacy-rights-poster/

Text and poster are from the Na’libali website

Reading is Magic: a Librarian Game


A Library Live Action Role Playing (LARP) Game for one player (the Librarian) and a class of students

Stories are magic, and as all readers of magic and fantasy know that magic is capricious and that not all spells will work on all people.

In this game the Librarian plays a magic user (wizard/witch/warlock/mage/other magic user) that must get all the children in the library under his or her power. This is accomplished by getting all students reading quietly.

AIM:

The aim of the game is to get all students to be entranced by what they are reading.

The books or magazines do not need to be fantasy or magic-based, any genre will do.

The goal of every student reading does not to be accomplished in one lesson (if you can though that is great).

Over the weeks get to know the students in the Library lesson, their likes and dislikes and using this information get them reading.

Once all the students are reading you must keep them engaged with what they are reading form week to week.

The end goal is to imbue all students with a love of reading.

SCORING

One point per student that enjoys reading.

Five points per student that struggles to focus on their reading material once they are reading.

One point per every minute all students are focusing on what they are reading.

The game can be played alone or against librarians in other libraries, each player is expected to tally their points honestly.