Monthly Archives: September 2013

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Weirdos vs Quimboids Launch Event

I am currently heading home after attending the launch party for Weirdos vs Quimboids by Natasha Desborough (on the left in the photo) on the right is Vicky Barker – the artist that designed the cover.

It was a brilliant evening Downstairs at The Square Pig and Pen in Holborn.  Pip at Bounce Marketing had invited me and as I had not seen her or Non from Catnip for absolute ages I thought I had better attend. I did also want to meet Natasha as I thought that the original title “Weirdos and Cameltoes” was one of the best titles ever (I remain at heart a teenager with the attendant sense of humour).

Natasha is brilliant, after Non’s introduction in which she described Weirdos… as one of the funniest books she had read while editing Natasha read the opening pages which had the audience in stitches.

I saw some familiar faces in the crowd including Laura of SisterSpooky fame, Bella from Cheezyfeet Books and Rhys from ThirstforFiction. I chatted to my fellow bloggers for a while as well as Non and Liz from Catnip Books and spent a good part of the evening speaking to Vicky and her husband Gareth who it turns out is Clive Barker’s nephew.  I do not think I geeked out too badly when I found out.

I chatted to Natasha and her husband about books and music before she signed my copy of Weirdos and Quimboids and I had to dash off to catch a train home.

Natasha reading from the Understanding Levels of Shame section at the beginning of Weirdos vs Quimboids

Weirdos vs Quimboids title page, signed by the author and the artist.

Setting up a Dungeons & Dragons group in my Library

At the end of the last school year I was approached by a group of students who asked me in a very roundabout way if I knew about Dungeons and dragons and if I had ever played the game and would I maybe be interested in running a Dungeons & Dragons game for them at some point this year.

I had been thinking about a D&D group for a while but had become stuck on how to advertise it, as working in a faith school I have always been a bit cautious of doing things that could get me if not burned at the stake outright then at least accused of evil doings and leading children down the paths of darkness and that sort of thing is not fun (if you have not experienced it trust me on this).

So anyway I had been hankering after starting a D&D group and then out of the blue one of my colleagues said these magic words to me: “My son has a Dungeons & Dragons box that he no longer wants, would you like it for the library?
Two weeks after that the aforementioned group of students came in and showed me the character stat sheets that the father of one of them had made years ago.

Sometimes the stars just align in your favour…

But wait! It gets better, I have another colleague who I know visits Forbidden Planet and The Orcs Nest and we were chatting about games and gaming and I mentioned my plans for a D&D Club at school, and he says: “I have a bunch of D&D figures that I no longer use if you want them?”

So yes I am starting a D&D Club at school after half term!

However it will not just be gaming and character creation, I am going to get the kids reading and not just the monster manuals and Forgotten Realms novels no (although I will be pushing those at them too). I am aiming at the kids that shudder visibly whenever I thrust a book in their direction. Here is a handy hint if you have any library users that refuse to pick up anything made from dead trees – webcomics, all of the kids that have a professed dislike of reading spend ages online during breaks and before and after school reading things that interest them, so I thought if I can hook them on gaming comics I will be able to introduce them to the print editions once they have gotten into the story-lines.

This is a list of some excellent (free) online comics dealing with gaming and Dungeons & Dragons:

The Order of the Stick


Table Titans

Goblins the Comic (often has extreme violence)


Dork Tower

Will Save the World for Gold

Looking for Group

Table Titans is very good at introducing beginners to D&D and gaming in general, the site also contains amusing stories from gamers about quests that often went horribly wrong.

If you are considering becoming a dungeon Master (or games Master) take a look at this post for beginner ideas:
and the Teen Librarian Gaming Special Edition for at least some of your library gaming enquiry needs.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson-SteelheartTen years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadow group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

With great power comes the realisation that you can do anything because the rules do not apply to you!

I love Brandon Sanderson’s writing! He hooked me with the Mistborn trilogy and then with Elantris after which I discovered he was writing more Mistborn stories – The Alloy of Law, which was my favourite fantasy novel of 2011 (it was also the first fantasy western I had read).

Now with Steelheart he has entered into the world of superhumans. Much like The Boys graphic novel series by Garth Ennis, he focuses on the darker parts of human nature and how people would cope with being granted powers beyond those of mortal men.

The prologue was heartbreaking in its intensity, introducing us to the world and to David witnessing the brutal death of his father, in a time when people still believed in heroes.

A decade later and humanity has learned its lesson – there are no heroes – only monsters who do what they will and the best they can hope for is not to be noticed.

Set in the post-apocalyptic city of Newcago (formerly known as Chicago), the story opens with David tracking a minor Epic in the hope that he will be the latest target of the Reckoners whom David has dreamed of joining. We are also treated to a very neatly done introduction to this new, horrific world through David’s point of view. I caught the shout-outs to the creators of superman as David ran down Shuster and Siegel streets and there was possibly one to Neal Adams (or even Adam west) as the bank where the prologue opened was on Adams Street. I need to reread the book just to take notes on the street names as I am sure there are others that I have missed – or maybe I am exposing too much of my comics geek side here… who knows.

Steelheart is not the first novel about super-humans I have read, I have dipped into George RR Martin’s Wild Cards series – and have enjoyed most of them as well as the excellent Sidekicks by Adeline Radloff (highly recommended if you can get your hands on it).

Now I have had a taste of Brandon Sanderson’s magic again, and like before I now have to wait for the second novel. However Steelheart is a book I will be reading again – for like the superhero comics I read when I was (slightly) younger it looks like it will be just as much fun to reread!

Eight Questions With… Sam Osman

What influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?
I have two teenage children, a boy of fifteen and a girl of thirteen and I really wanted to write the sort of books that would keep them and other teenagers reading, despite all the distractions of phones, friends and Facebook.

How do you get into the heads of your characters?
I listen to my own children and their friends and sometimes I try to think back to my own feelings as a teenager but very often I imagine that I am the character and I talk to myself!

Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?
Like readers of any age, teens love gripping stories but the important thing is to have characters whose lives and emotions they can relate to. I’m writing crime fiction for teens at the moment and although the crimes in the stories may be very similar to those in an adult novel my detectives are very different. They are teenage boys and girls, not raddled old cops with alcohol problems and rocky marriages!

What is the most satisfying part of the writing process for you?
Sitting down at the computer and writing a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph or a page that conveys exactly what I can see or hear in my head.

Do you ever read the works of other Teen/YA authors? If yes what can you recommend?
Yes, I read lots of Teen/YA novels. One of my favourite books is Guantanamo Boy by Anna Pereira. For older Teens I would recommend Tanya Byrne’s Heart Shaped Bruise and for younger ones Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?
Not directly in terms of plot but I think that some of the emotional reactions of the characters come from my own experience of pain, conflict or loss.

Are you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?
Yes I am writing a crime novel about an Afghan girl whose family come to London to escape the Taliban. It’s at the very early stages at the moment but when her brother is accused of a terrible crime she turns detective to expose a massive conspiracy.

Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?
Yes, I do a lot of school, library, and reading group visits. The best way to contact me is via my website

Night School: Fracture by C.J. Daughtery

Cimmeria has been more than a school for Allie, it’s been a safe haven. But no longer.

A nefarious group – one that is tied up with Allie’s family in ways she could barely imagine – is trying to destroy everything Cimmeria stands for.

Even worse, it’s clear that somebody they eat with, sleep with, train with, is betraying them. There’s a spy in Night School. As the paranoia grows and the fights begin, it’s not an attack from outside they need to worry about…
Fracture is the third novel in the Night School series and like the books that came before it does not disappoint! In this novel (some) questions are answered, loyalties are challenged and after the final page is turned nothing will be the same again!

Ok enough hyperbole and on with the review!

Fracture is good! No it is better than that – I read it in four sessions (it would have been quicker over the summer but my copy arrived when I was in South Africa and languished unread until I returned). The story charts Allie coming to terms with her losses and fills in knowledge gaps about Orion, the Night School and why Nathaniel hates the organisation with such passion. Learning these secrets makes Allie and the reader realise how high the stakes actually are and makes the story that much more gripping.

Allie’s anger and pain at the death of Jo are almost palpable; adding to her twisted feelings is the fact that her ex Carter is dating again. Compounding matters is the fact that the head mistress and tutors seem to be continuing with the school routine as usual, attempting to mask the rising tensions and fears. While it is less overtly action-y than the previous novels, the development of the characters, advancement of the story and the politics fills that gap nicely.

I love a good conspiracy story! But this is so much more! We are given hints of a greater worldwide organisation involving Allie’s family and their associates but the story focuses on the school and Allie’s experiences in trying to keep her friends, herself and the school safe. I find it all rather brilliant and slightly addictive – I want to know more and the gradual unfolding of the story and the global reach of what the Night School is and does is keeping me hooked as a reader and Night School fan!

Star Wars Reads Day 5th October

In 2012, there over 1200 events at schools, libraries and bookstores celebrating Star Wars Reads Dad across America. In 2013, the rules have changed!

This year you don’t have to sign up! In 2013, any bookstore, library or school around the world can hold a Star Wars Reads Day event. Put the date (Saturday, October 5th) on your calendar and start planning and promoting an out-of-the-world event. (Schools and school libraries are encouraged to hold their events on Friday, October 4th).

Activity packs are free to download in colour and in black & white.

Catch up with what others are doing on the official Star Wars Reads Day Facebook page.

Close my Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

It’s been over eight years since Geniver Loxley lost her daughter, Beth.

Since that day, Gen has been floundering. While her husband Art builds his business reputation and their fortune, she can’t let go of Beth.
And then one day, everything changes. A strange woman shows up on Gen’s doorstep, saying the very thing she longs to hear: that Beth is alive. that she is out there somewhere, waiting for Gen to find her…

Close My Eyes is a very demanding read, it demands that you forgo things like sleep, making dinner, being sociable and is extremely distracting when you have to do things like go to work or shop for groceries I was very tempted to say to heck with it and just read.

Anyway on with the review…

Losing her daughter at birth has affected Gen deeply, even eight years later on the cusp of again attempting IVF to have another child she can barely face the thought of replacing the child that she never knew.

When a stranger connected to a member of the operating theeatre team that helped her give birth appears on her doorstep with the shocking news that Gen’s daughter is still alive and that her husband was complicit in the subterfuge she decides to take matters into her own hands by investigating the woman’s claims.

Ignoring advice from her friends and husband she finds an ally in Lorcan an ex-colleague of her husband that has his own agenda in getting involved with Gen and her search. a mystery that, at times had me wondering if it were real or if Gen was slowly going mad.

The chapters of the story are interspersed with twisted tellings of a budding psychopath’s adventures as a child.

This is Sophie McKenzie’s first adult novel, I am a big fan of her young adult books and she has not lost the spark present in her previous writing.

I have already said that Close My Eyes is gripping and it is but it is also wonderfully twisted and comes together brilliantly with a coda that left me wanting more and hoping for a sequel.

Tips on Working with Teens: Failure is Always an Option

Today we live in a very risk averse society – it has been this way for a while now, I can still remember when I suggested starting up a teen reading group soon after I started work in the UK, I was told that it was not a time for growth in the teen service side and rather I should focus on supporting existing groups as I was not a member of the children’s team and if my attempt failed I could destroy any chances of a future group being started in my library. Fortunately with the support of my line manager I was given the go ahead and started laying the groundwork for the launch of a new teen group.

For two months I chatted to the teens and other young people that came in to the library, I gave out leaflets and parental permission forms for addresses and then posted out invitations to the launch of the group. About 12 or so teens came in to see what was up and were hanging round the library to see what happened. As the hour sounded some of the kids asked me what was going to happen, I told them it was for a teenage reading group – it was the fastest clear out of a library I have ever seen, they recoiled in disgust and ran for the hills.

I was distraught, after sitting in shock for about 15 minutes and whimpering softly to myself; I stood up, dusted myself off and with the help of two colleagues rounded up some of the teens who had not bolted too far and with the promise of snacks and drinks lured them back into the library. Over some small cans of coke and a bag of mini chocolates we spoke about what they would activities they would like to do in the library, which authors they enjoyed reading and how we could tempt them back the following month.

In just over three years I built a teen group that had around 70 active members – they did not all come every month (average attendance was about 40 per session) but it taught me how not to go about getting a group started.

Failure is not always bad, it can teach us what does and does not work in a particular situation. My initial failure led me to finding a way to connect with young people that I may not have discovered had the initial group activity (centred around The Matrix Movies and comics and books centred around the concept of mind control) worked.

I have tried other activities that have not worked with the various groups I have worked with over the years some have taken on a life on their own while others have withered away.

Do not be too concerned if a brilliant idea has failed to gain traction in a particular environment or with a specific group – it does not mean that it is a bad idea it just means that that it does not work with that group or it may need a bit of tweaking to get it right. If it does not take in a different situation put it on the shelf for a while and reuse it in a different context or offer it to colleagues in other areas as it may prove to be successful with them.

Fear of failure can lead managers to ask staff to go for the safer option of starting a reading group or a manga group but not even those are guaranteed to succeed – by all means go for those options if you are unsure but do not be afraid to tailor those to the interests of the kids that use the library and attend the group, it may fail but it may succeed beyond your wildest hopes! All that failure means is that you have found something that does not work in that particular library; and by then the teens will have started talking to you and that gives you the opportunity to try something different with them!

Do not be frightened to try something new with the kids you work with, it may well work and if it doesn’t it will still give you something to talk about with them and offer other avenues of engagement. Once you have a few teen successes under your belt it gets easier to try out new ideas, both your own and ideas from friends and colleagues! Another plus of failure is if you do fail you can use the experience to learn new things – about yourself, your library and the teens you are working with.

Remember: failure to try is not trying to fail – it is failing, not just yourself but also the kids in the library and that kind of failure is the worst kind as it teaches you nothing!

Eight Questions With… Sandra Greaves

What influenced your decision to write for Teenagers?

I’ve always loved children’s literature and YA. I didn’t make a conscious decision to try and write for teenagers, but when I started plotting ‘The Skull in the Wood’, my characters Matt and Tilda just emerged as aged 12 and 13. I feel very happy writing that for age group, and I’m interested in writing for an older YA readership too.

How do you get into the heads of your characters?

It’s a cliché that your characters take over, but they genuinely do. I try and imagine how they behave in all sorts of situations, not just the ones on the pages of the book. I even wrote a few scenes that I never intended to appear in the book, just so that I knew how Matt and Tilda had reacted at crucial times in their lives.

Do you know instinctively what will appeal to Teens or is it more a hit or miss process?

Mostly I write about what appeals to me – I don’t consciously gear it to a particular age group. If I get excited about it, I hope that teens will too.

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

Writing the early drafts is amazing – a story just seems to take shape out of nothing and the process is utterly magical. But I like the detailed editing too – I think you have enjoy that if you’re ever going to finish a novel, because if you get bored at any stage, your readers will too.

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

At the moment I’m reading Patrick Ness’s ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy and really enjoing it. Meg Rosoff’s ‘How I Live Now’ blew me away, as did Sally Gardner’s ‘Maggot Moon’. And I loved Louis Sachar’s ‘The Cardturner’ – it just amazed me that you can construct a whole novel around playing bridge!

Are any of your novels based on personal experiences?

Not really – I like to make things up, and none of my characters are based on real people. But of course, things that have happened to me do have a knack of edging in where I least expect them.

Are you working on anything new at the moment or do you have anything planned?

I’m in the early stages of a new novel – but it’s way too soon to talk about it!

Do you ever do Library visits to Teen Reading Groups? If yes, what is the best way to get into contact with you or your agent about it?

I’m going to do some library and reading group visits in the autumn, and I’m always happy to do more – it’s great to meet committed readers! At the moment it’s best to email on tina(at) at my publishers and requests will be passed on to me. And I’ll have a website up and running soon.

Teen Rights in the Public Library

As of now the staff of Ontario Public Libraries are my heroes!

“Why Matt why?” I hear you cry, “Why are those crazy Canucks your heroes?”

Let me tell you why! Have a read of this:


Young people are valuable members of our library community who deserve the same respect, dignity and human rights as all library members. This document provides a framework for developing library services to teens that meet the educational, informational, and cultural and leisure needs of young people in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

Each public library has a different community to serve and therefore different priorities and needs. although specific services for teens have not been well established in all libraries, these goals are created in the belief that young adulthood is a unique life stage and that young adults are entitled to the same quality of library services offered to other age groups in the population. (adapted from the IFLA Guidelines for Library Services for Young adults, 2006 and the YAlSA Guidelines for library Services to teens, ages 12-18, 2006.) the goal of library services for teens is to assist with the transition from children’s services to adult services and to provide access to both resources and an environment that meets the needs of young people for intellectual, emotional and social development.

Teens in Ontario Public libraries have the right to:


The library establishes clear policy statements concerning the right to free access by young adults to library resources and information sources; and respect for the rights of young adults to select materials appropriate to their needs without censorship, the library’s teen collection, policies and services should be consistent with the concepts of intellectual freedom defined by the Cla, ola and Ontario human rights code.


The library integrates library service to teens into the overall plan, budget and service program for the library. Library service to teens is integrated with those offered to other user groups.


The library incorporates funding for materials and services for teens in the library operating budget and ensures there is equitable distribution of resources to support programs and services for young adults.


The library provides a wide spectrum of current materials of interest to young adults to encourage lifelong learning, literacy, reading motivation, and reader development. the library endeavors to develop collections that encourage leisure reading, support homework and school success and responds to gender and cultural diversity. the library provides unfettered accessto technology including social networking, licensed databases, and other online library resources for teens./ o p l a 23


The library provides identifiable spaces for teens that are separate from children’s spaces where possible, reflects their lifestyle and allows for teens to use this library space for leisure or study, either independently or in groups.


The library promotes friendly, positive, non-biased customer interactions with teens, providing staff development and training and ensures that services for teens embrace cultural and gender diversity and economic differences. Library staff will endeavor to respect the teen’s need for privacy and non-judgmental service and assist young adults in acquiring the skills to effectively access all library resources and become information literate.


The library fosters youth development by providing programs for teens that contribute to literacy, life- long learning and healthy youth development. The library endeavors to provide volunteer opportunities for helping others through community service hours including participating on library advisory Boards, and other projects that help develop a sense of responsibility and community involvement. The library’s teen services initiatives are effectively managed according to best practices in the field of Youth Services.


Library staff is knowledgeable about adolescent development and age appropriate resources for young adults inclusive of those with special needs. The library provides services by teen specialists as well as by others who are trained to serve teens.


The Library works in partnership with other community agencies and organizations to support all aspects of healthy, successful youth development.


All this and more can be found in The Ontario Public Library Association Teen Services Benchmarks and Statistical Report 2013. There is a lot we can take from the report so take the time and read it and maybe pass it on to colleagues and friends who may have an interest in teen library services.