Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Recommended by a Librarian: The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Elena Morris

What are you recommending?

The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein

What is it?

It’s a psychological horror set in a girls’ boarding school.The story follows an unnamed narrator as she sees her friend Lucy becom closer and closer to new arrival, Ernessa. Strange things start happening and Lucy starts getting ill, and the narrator must ask the question: is Ernessa a vampire, or is she just going mad?

Why have you recommended it?

It’s probably my number one favourite book of all time and recommended for those who are tired of sparkly vampires and want a beautifully-written horror with an unreliable narrator.

GCHQ launches new code-making app

Cryptoy is a fun, free, educational app about cryptography, designed by GCHQ for use by secondary school students and their teachers.

The app enables users to understand basic encryption techniques, learn about their history and then have a go at creating their own encoded messages. These can then be shared with friends via social media or more traditional means and the recipients can use the app to try to decipher the messages.

For full details and to download the app go here:  Cryptoy App

It is up to you whether or not you trust GCHQ enough to install it but it could be great for teens interested in cryptography.

Literature Wales and Welsh Government announce new international ‘Dylan Day’

As part of an event to mark the conclusion of the successful year-long Dylan Thomas 100 Festival, Dylan Thomas’ granddaughter Hannah Ellis today announced the creation of Dylan Day, a new annual day of celebration in the name of Wales’ most famous literary son.

The announcement was made at the National Library of Wales and will build upon the legacy of the Dylan Thomas 100 Festival. In response to requests to establish a public day, Dylan Day will be held each year on 14 May, the date Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at The Poetry Centre in New York in 1953.

Starting in 2015, and part of a three year package of funding announced by Welsh Government, Dylan Day will celebrate and raise the profile of Thomas’ work in Wales and abroad through a variety of activities to include launch events, educational resources and social media activity.

The first year’s activity will centre on the publication of A Dylan Odyssey, a beautiful, fully illustrated book featuring fifteen unique Dylan Thomas trails across Wales, London, Oxford and New York. Edited by Literature Wales and published by south Welsh publisher Graffeg, A Dylan Odyssey is based on Literature Wales’ 2014 Dylan Thomas-inspired literary tourism programme of the same name. Further details will be released by Literature Wales in the New Year.

Guests at the event in Aberystwyth were entertained by actor Adrian Metcalfe playing the part of the great poet, leading guests around the ‘Dylan’ exhibition. National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, recited her favourite Dylan Thomas poem ‘Poem in October’ and Young People’s Laureate Wales, Martin Daws and Bardd Plant Cymru, Aneirin Karadog, performed a short extract from their Dylan Live show. Speaking at the event Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council spoke about Dylan Thomas’ links to Ceredigion and the positive impact the centenary had had on the county.

Hannah Ellis said: ‘It is so important that we make the most of the amazing legacy the Dylan Thomas 100 festival has offered and continue to celebrate the achievements of Dylan Thomas. An international day devoted to my grandfather will also be a way to bring attention to literature and arts in Wales and the places that inspired him so much. Let’s embrace the day, dress up, read a poem or two and have fun exploring the magic of words.’

Chief Executive of Literature Wales, Lleucu Siencyn said: ‘Dylan Thomas fans across the UK and beyond have long been calling for a special day to celebrate the great poet and it seemed fitting that we should build on this year’s extraordinary achievements in Wales and abroad to celebrate Dylan Thomas by formally creating such a day. We look forward to working with partners and the public to spread the word of this great Welsh poet through fun and engaging activity for people of all ages.’

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, said: ‘The announcement of Dylan Day gives the year long celebration of Dylan Thomas’ life and work a fitting conclusion. I’m delighted that this day will become a legacy for the festival and that the interest which has been shown in Dylan Thomas and Wales during the centenary celebrations will keep its momentum through this annual focal point.’

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council: ‘Ceredigion is a place where Dylan Thomas clearly found inspiration – being by the sea, and with real people he could relax with, listen to their tales of life and adventure, and have fun with words with other poets and artists on his visits to farms in the Aeron Valley and coastal villages like Llangrannog. He set off ‘quite early one morning’ along what has now become the Wales Coast Path, and found the template for his best known work, Under Milk Wood, in New Quay. Ceredigion is proud of its long literary tradition, which is very much alive today – we probably have more poets in Ceredigion per head of population than anywhere in the world! We look forward to building on the success of the Dylan Thomas 100 festival and a continued partnership approach in celebration of our shared culture.’

For more information please contact:

Literature Wales
Chief Executive: Lleucu Siencyn,
Fourth Floor, Cambrian Buildings, Cardiff, CF10 5FL
029 2047 2266 / post@literaturewales.org
www.literaturewales.org

First UK Comics Laureate Announced

Bestselling graphic novelist Dave Gibbons is to become the first Comics Laureate. The announcement was made by internationally acclaimed comics authority and graphic novelist Scott McCloud at the launch of new charity Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on 17th October.

The role of Comics Laureate is to be appointed biennially to a distinguished comics writer or artist in recognition of their outstanding achievement in the field. Their role is to champion children’s literacy through school visits, training events for school staff and education conferences. Dave Gibbons has won universal praise for his comics and graphic novel work for Marvel and DC Comics including the ground-breaking Watchmen (with Alan Moore), as well as the UK’s own 2000AD and Doctor Who. “It’s a great honour for me to be nominated as the first Comics Laureate,” he says. “I intend to do all that I can to promote the acceptance of comics in schools. It’s vitally important not only for the pupils but for the industry too.” Dave Gibbons takes up his two-year position from February 2015.

Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) is a new UK charity formed by a group of passionate, highly experienced professionals from the fields of education and comics. Its primary aim is to improve the literacy levels of children and to promote the variety and quality of comics and graphic novels today, particularly in the education sector.

The Board of CLAw’s trustees includes renowned graphic novelist Bryan Talbot, winner of the 2012 Costa Award for Best Biography for Dotter Of Her Father’s Eyes (a collaboration with his wife Mary Talbot). He says, “In many other countries, comics and graphic novels have been used extensively in literacy drives. The sheer accessibility of the medium, the way in which complex information can be easily absorbed through its combination of words and pictures, actively encourages reading in those intimidated by endless blocks of cold print.”

The other trustees are Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival; Ian Churchill, comic book artist for DC and Marvel, and writer/artist on his Image Comics title Marineman; Emma Hayley, Managing Director and Publisher of UK’s independent graphic novel company, SelfMadeHero; Paul Register, school librarian and founder of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award; and Dr. Mel Gibson, comics scholar and senior lecturer at Northumbria University.

Alongside the Comics Laureateship, CLAw will work closely with schools on a number of initiatives, including staff training events and classroom visits by comics professionals. They will liaise with museums and galleries on a variety of comics-related projects, and provide reading lists and general guidance to school staff and parents unfamiliar with the comics medium, demonstrating the wider educational benefits it can offer.

For further information about: Comics Literacy Awareness (CLAw) – www.claw.org.uk

Iron Sky: Dread Eagle The Tour Alex Woolf’s Top Steampunk Reads

Avast children of the steam! Today I am pleased to announce that Alex Woolf is sharing his favourite YA steampunk reads with us.

So put on your goggles, brew a cuppa tea and push play on Abney Park’s Airship Pirates and have a read…

I’ve been asked to put together a list of my top steampunk books for children and teenagers. As it happens, most of the steampunk books I’ve read so far were written for adults. I’ve now learned that there is a whole library out there of fabulous-looking steam-powered stories for younger readers, which I plan to start reading as soon as I find the time. For this reason, the following list is rather short, and in no way comprehensive. Call it a list-in-progress!

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
His-Dark-Materials-trilog-001I read this trilogy before I’d even heard of the term steampunk. Although I read it as an adult, it had a similar heady impact on me as the Narnia books, which I read as a child. It follows two children’s adventures through various parallel worlds and includes talking, armoured bears, vagabond gyptians (gypsies) and a Texan with a hot-air balloon. I loved the second one, The Subtle Knife, in particular.

Leviathan_westerfeld
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Someone recommended this book to me, thinking I’d love it – and they were right! It’s set on the eve of World War I, but a very different World War I than the one we’ve studied in history books. In this world, the Axis Powers are armed with Clankers, steam-driven iron machines bristling with guns. Opposing them are the British ‘Darwinists’, whose weapons are specially altered animals. Leviathan is their whale-airship, the most powerful beast in the British fleet. The story, focusing on a boy prince and an aviator girl caught up in the action, is enhanced by some beautifully intricate illustrations. Altogether wonderful!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Hungrycitychronicles
The premise of this book is so ingenious I wish I’d thought of it myself. Imagine it: mobile cities! Big cities hunting down and eating smaller cities for their resources. It’s called ‘Municipal Darwinism’. Added to this, it’s a real page-turner: an adventure involving murder plots, obsession and betrayal. The book features a host of unforgettable characters, including Grike, a veteran soldier who’s more machine than man, Chrystler Peavey, the posh pirate, and Mayor Chrome, the power-mad leader of London.

diamondthief
The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling
This book, by my Curious Fox stablemate, is a high-tension, high-wire adventure set in a gritty alternative Victorian London. The star of the show is Remy Brunel, a circus performer who moonlights as a jewel thief. She is a character you can’t help warming to, not least because of all her delightful contradictions: a noble soul forced by circumstances to work as a criminal; ephemeral as a butterfly yet with a will of iron; obstinately independent, yet she cannot resist the pull of love when it finds her. A top trapeze artiste, Remy defies expectations as well as gravity, and much the same can be said for the book, which begins as a fairly straightforward jewel hunt and then transforms into something much stranger and more intriguing as our unlikely band of heroes race to foil the plans of the evil Lord Abernathy. The book builds to an extremely tense and exciting climax as we follow Remy and her friends into a netherworld of labyrinthine tunnels beneath London, where we encounter some truly weird and wonderful steampunk machines.

cloudriders
Cloud Riders by Nick Cook
I declare an interest with this one, as Nick Cook is a friend, and I read and commented on various drafts of this book before it was published. However, I can say hand on heart that if I’d chanced across this book afresh, without knowing Nick, I’d still have loved it. The hero, Dom, lives with his mother, who runs the Twister Diner in Tornado Alley, USA. After a year-long drought, with the diner about to go bust, a tornado suddenly appears – the first in months – and emerging from it is a mysterious airship, which crashes in Dom’s yard. It’s the start of an amazing adventure through parallel worlds for Dom and his best friend Jules. The book is exceptionally good at charting the emotional journey of the main characters, but what I loved most was the world building, the amazing technology and the rich and atmospheric descriptions. I recommend this to anyone who’s ever wished there were other worlds out there and longs for a chance to explore them.