Monthly Archives: September 2014

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The Rather Amazing Race: Introducing Students to Finding Information Quickly

Telling students that finding information in a book can be faster than using the internet is fun!

I told a class of year nines this morning and I could see the naked disbelief in their faces. The moment the words left my mouth a sea of hands shot up and a clamour of voices stridently disagreeing with me filled the library.

They shouted that the internet was faster, easier and had more accurate sources. I managed to quieten them down and then one lad stood up and said that he would show me that using the internet was faster. I asked him how he would accomplish this and he challenged me to a race.

He said that he would use the internet and I would use the books in the library. The rest of the class cheered loudly at this.

I was rather surprised, as I had been planning on running a books versus the internet lesson in October so I agreed. I suggested that we both stand in the centre of the library and said that the first person to take the information they found to their form tutor who was also in the library would win. I also gave him the choice of subject.

He said one word: “Football!”

He ran to the closest available computer while I walked over to World Book Encyclopedia, took Volume 7 (F) off the shelf and looked up Football. World Book is an American publication, so the information contained therein was about American Football, but it did reference Soccer (Association football). So I grabbed Volume 18 (So-Sz) found the entry on Soccer and took it to the teacher.

By the time my worthy opponent had started shouting that the computer was too slow, so I called him back to the rest of the class who started accusing me of cheating. I disagreed with them but that only made their fury greater, they told me that it was not fair and that I knew where all the information books in the library were and could just walk to them and find the information I wanted.

At this point I gave a silent thank you to whoever was listening and then agreed with the students.

The point of the exercise I told them, was not to show off what I can do in the library, but rather to show them what they can learn to do. The point of library lessons for year nine is to continue helping them learn how to find relevant and reliable information for the work they are doing, both in print and online.

I think that the lesson went well, the class was quieter by the end of the lesson than it has ever been before. They thought about what I was offering them over the course of the year ahead.

The next lessons will focus on finding information online.

Top 10 Myths about Teenagers (link)

Stewart Ross has written a brilliant article detailing 10 pernicious myths about teenagers.

Have a read here:

Top 10 Myths About Teenagers

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 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

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.

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.

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.

The Clore Poetry and Literature Awards

The Clore Poetry and Literature Awards fund poetry and literature initiatives for children and young people, under the age of 19, across the UK. Individual Awards range from £1,000 to £10,000. The Clore Duffield Foundation has created these Awards with the aim of providing children and young people with opportunities to experience poetry and literature in exciting and compelling ways, in and out of school.

Get full details here: Clore Poetry and Literature Awards

New YA Book Award

The Bookseller Magazine in association with Movellas has launched a new Award for Young Adult books in the UK and Ireland!

Taken from the site:

Earlier in the year, here at The Bookseller we published an article about the wide number of children’s book prizes in the UK. But something soon became very clear; there was no prize for British and Irish YA authors.

Now we have decided to fill the gap in the market with The Bookseller YA Book Prize. Submissions are now open until 31st October and we are looking for the best YA fiction books for Teenagers and Young Adults published this year from authors in the UK and Ireland.

In December we will publish a shortlist of the best books submitted to reflect the wide diversity of YA books available today; from dystopian and sci-fi literature to comedy, horror or drama. Our expert teen readers and industry judges will then choose their favourite title and the winner will be presented with a £2,000 prize at a ceremony at Foyles on 19th March 2015.

A Zine adaptation of An Introduction to Using the Library

A zine (an abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine) is most commonly a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images usually reproduced via photocopier.

In December I adapted a powerpoint presentation that I originally created to introduce students to the Dewey Decimal System into a general introduction to the Library. I did this as the original incarnation of the presentation was over-complicated and not very user-friendly.

I preferred the library introduction as it was simpler, shorter and had a better flow but I have found that students don’t learn from powerpoint presentations alone so I adapted it further.

Into a zine:

I printed the A4 pages individually, then using a photocopier I copied them as an A5 booklet.

If youa re interested in creating a copy of the zine for use in your own school or library then you may download the pages here:

Introduction to the Library Zine download

The British Isles Chapter of the SCBWI 7th Annual Conference

Cathy Cassidy, Nick Butterworth and Sally Gardner to deliver keynotes at the SCBWI British Isles’ Annual Conference. An exciting new PULSE professional development track specifically aimed at published authors is introduced.
The British Isles Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
announces speakers for its 7th Annual Conference

The British Isles Chapter of the SCBWI, a professional organisation of writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers and others involved with literature for young people, announces a star-studded line-up for their 7th annual conference, to be held on November 1st and 2nd 2014 at the University of Winchester.

Keynote speakers this year are Cathy Cassidy, Nick Butterworth and, for the all-new PULSE strand aimed at published children’s authors, Sally Gardner. Adhering to the theme of Riding the Waves of Change, this year’s SCBWI conference will focus on the changing face of children’s book publishing, offering on the Saturday specialist industry panels with speakers from the very largest houses to representatives of vibrant indies. Additional panels for illustrators and non-fiction writers cover developments in the world of picture books and educational publishing. Published members will be able to participate in a discussion on self-promotion best practices. Saturday evening’s exclusive party will give delegates the chance to celebrate new members’ 2014 publications and network with a stellar list of industry professionals.

Sunday will open with PULSE keynote, Sally Gardner. The rest of the day is devoted to craft intensives and a new PULSE track for published authors and illustrators.

The craft intensives will feature: For writers, everything from how to plot your novel, led by Melvin Burgess, to writing for reluctant readers, led by Anthony McGowan and his Barrington Stoke editor, Mairi Kidd, to crafting a picture book, led by Erzsi Deak and Mike Brownlow, to an intensive for beginners on how to get your precious manuscript published. Illustrators can join in a hands-on craft session on pop-up books. One-to-one manuscript and portfolio reviews with agents and editors will be offered.

The PULSE track will feature a workshop on interview techniques, hosted by BBC presenter, Claire Bolderson, a Twitter Triage, hosted by social media guru, Michelle Goodall, a panel on how to reach schools, hosted by educators and librarians and finally, a workshop on building your online presence with website designer and author, Candy Gourlay.

The SCBWI Annual conference has never before offered such incredible opportunities to both published and unpublished authors to develop their craft, raise their profile and market their work!

Admission to the entire conference is £210 for SCBWI members and £240 for non-members, with a charge of £120 for those members only attending the new PULSE track on the Sunday (£180 for non-members who opt for Sunday-only PULSE). More information and a registration form can be found at our website:

  • Author keynote by Cathy Cassidy, the bestselling author of many novels for children and young teens, including the Chocolate Box Girls series. Cathy trained as an illustrator, once worked as Fiction Editor on the legendary Jackie magazine and also spent twelve years as an agony aunt on pre-teen mag Shout.
  • Illustrator keynote by Nick Butterworth, writer and illustrator of children’s books whose popularity has ensured that, for nearly three decades, he has been featured in the UK bestsellers’ list for picture books. His books have been published in thirty languages worldwide, with international sales in the region of thirteen million. He is almost a permanent fixture on awards short lists, and has won many, including the top award from the Society of Illustrators (for One Snowy Night) and the prestigious Nestlé Gold Award for the critically acclaimed, The Whisperer. He has written and/or illustrated more than sixty titles, and is probably best known for his Percy the Park Keeper series. In 2009 he co-founded Snapper Productions with his son, Ben Butterworth, and his wife, Annette Butterworth. Their first production is based on Butterworth’s books about the friendly alien, Q Pootle 5.
  • PULSE keynote by Sally Gardner, the award winning novelist who has sold over 2 million books in the UK and her work has been translated in to more than 22 languages, Her stories range from retellings of fairy stories for emerging readers, to the Wings & Co series for younger junior age children, through to I, Coriander and Maggot Moon for teenagers, for which she won the prestigious Carnegie Medal and the Costa Children’s Book Prize. Her historical fiction novel for Young Adults, I, Coriander, won the Smarties Children’s Book Prize in 2005. Her action-packed French Revolution thriller The Silver Blade, sequel to The Red Necklace, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 2009. Actor, Dominic West (‘The Wire’) has bought the film rights to both The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade. Sally Gardner, who is dyslexic, continues to be an avid spokesperson for Dyslexia, working to change the way it is perceived by society.
  • The faculty also includes: Tricia Adams, Librarian, Sam Arthur, Director of Flying Eye Books, Juliette Clare Bell, Author, Natascha Biebow, Author & Editor, Claire Bolderson, Journalist, Commentator & Analyst, Mike Brownlow, Author/Illustrator, Melvin Burgess, Author, Amber Caraveo, Editorial Director of Orion Children’s Books, Catherine Coe, Editor, Rebecca Colby, Author, Joy Court, Librarian, Shannon Cullen, Publisher of Puffin Fiction, Erzsi Deak, Literary Agent, Jude Evans, Publisher of Little Tiger Press, Michelle Goodall, Social Media Consultant, Candy Gourlay, Author, Sara Grant, Author, Penny Holdroyd, Literary Agent, Eric Huang, Development Director of Made in Me, Louise Jackson, Art Director at Walker Books, Mairi Kidd, MD of Barrington Stoke, George Kirk, Educator, Adam Lancaster, Literary Consultant, Anthony McGowan, Author, Kate Nash, Literary Agent, Sara O’Connor, Digital & Editorial Director, Hot Key Books, Scott Pack, Publisher of The Friday Project & Authonomy, Amanda Punter, Publishing Director of Puffin Fiction, Steve Rickard, Publisher of Ransom Publishing, Paul Stickland, Illustrator, Sallyanne Sweeney, Literary Agent, Sophie Thomson, Commissioning Editor at Pearson, Jo Unwin, Literary Agent, Kersti Worsley, Commissioning Editor at OUP.
  • There is an optional critique meet on the evening of Friday 31st October, an open portfolio exhibition on Saturday 1st November and various other competitions for authors and illustrators. Delegates and invited industry guests will be celebrating our members’ 2014 publishing successes at our exclusive party and Mass Book Launch on Saturday night!

    For more information about the conference programme visit:
    Booking deadline is midnight, 17th October 2014.

    About SCBWI:

    SCBWI British Isles is a chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a group form in 1968 by some Los Angeles-based writers for children. It is the only international organisation to offer a variety of services to people who write, illustrate, or share a vital interest in children’s literature. It has over 22,000 members worldwide working in all areas of writing and illustrating for children, from picture books to YA. It is the only professional organisation for those specifically working in mediums of children’s literature, magazines, film, television, and multimedia, and makes an annual presentation of the Golden and Crystal Kite Awards, the only award presented to children’s book authors and artists by their peers.

    SCBWI British Isles hosts a number of events during the year, from a professional development lecture series to masterclasses and a writing retreat.

    For more information:
    SCBWI British Isles:
    2014 Conference:

    Celebrate Dylan Thomas’ Centenary

    Literature Wales is inviting children and young people from around the world to take part in Dylan’s Great Poem. Anyone aged 7–25 can enter this international online event to help the Developing Dylan 100 project write an epic, 100-line poem in the spirit of the famous Welsh poet. The finished bilingual (English/Welsh) poem will be broadcast on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru and published online.

    Dylan’s Great Poem will be edited by acclaimed Welsh poets Owen Sheers and Mari George. Two-times Wales Book of the Year Award winner and 2012 WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) Artist in Residence, Owen Sheers, will edit Dylan’s Great Poem in English; while Mari George, who has worked as a script writer for the BBC’s Pobol y Cwm and has published her second collection of poetry this year, will edit in Welsh. will be open for contributions to Dylan’s Great Poem for 24 hours from 9.00 am GMT on National Poetry Day, Thursday 2 October 2014. The finished poem will be published online on Monday 6 October. Owen Sheers and Mari George will provide updates on their progress editing Dylan’s Great Poem on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #GreatPoem

    Owen Sheers says “I’m looking forward to seeing what lines of poetry are submitted, and to how they respond to, distil or pick up from the style, themes and poetic devices of Dylan Thomas’ poetry. The editing itself will be quite a challenge but will, I hope, create an intriguing and unique piece of contemporary writing as a fitting tribute to Thomas’ own inventiveness and love of language.”

    Developing Dylan 100 is Literature Wales’ Dylan Thomas-themed educational project, which aims to bring the magic of Dylan Thomas’ words to the children and young people of Wales and beyond, through creative workshops; an international creative writing competition; an online epic poem (Dylan’s Great Poem); and a Dylan Live, a live show of verse, music and hip hop. Developing Dylan 100 is supported by the Welsh Government as an official part of the Dylan Thomas 100 centenary celebrations.

    Becoming Fierce: Teen Stories IRL

    Sometimes it totally sucks being a teen. Trying to fit in, dealing with bullies, a changing body, and the feeling that no one really gets it. It’s hard on the head and often seems like no one else understands.

    That’s what Becoming Fierce is all about. Those not-so-fun times that come with being a teen but also how others have gone through similar things and made it to the other side. New and established Canadian authors share experiences from their teen years that have stuck with them. Some of the stories are dark and heartbreaking while others are light-hearted and grin-worthy. Regardless, they all have something in common: while things may seem like an epic fail now, they do get better.
    Susin Nielsen, author of the award-winning young adult novel The reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, contributes the foreword.
    I remember my teen years with crystal clarity, even though I left them behind 21 years ago today, I had friends and good experiences over those years from 13 to 19, but I can safely say that I did not enjoy them for a lot of the time. It is strange that in life memories of good times are often outshone by memories of negative experiences.

    I was lucky; I survived my teen years and eventually grew into a fully functional adult. Not all young people are as fortunate, almost every week, I seen and hear stories about the toll that drugs, abuse and suicide have on teens; it seems that life demands a heavy toll of young people cut down before their dreams and aims can be realised. It does not end there; those that survive still have to endure a gauntlet of peer pressure, bullying, body shaming and worse.

    Becoming Fierce was not an easy read for me, the stories triggered memories of times that I would much rather forget, and that I think is the point of the collection – not to reawaken old memories but to reach out to young people in similar circumstances through their words and shouting out the message that they need to hear: that they are not alone, the dark times do end!

    I generally judge stories by the effect they have on me, and this collection is powerful indeed.

    20% of the proceeds raised from the sale of Becoming Fierce will be donated to Kids Help Phone Canada’s only toll-free, 24-hour, bilingual and anonymous phone counselling, web counselling and referral service for children and youth.

    Splintered Light Blog Tour: Young Adults in Prison by Cate Sampson

    Imagine for a moment that you were in trouble with the police. Perhaps you fell in with the wrong friends, friends who manipulated you into doing things you didn’t really want to do. Or perhaps you got greedy, and found that the quickest way to getting whatever it was you wanted was to nick it. Or perhaps no one had ever taught you that doing some things was just plain wrong. Or perhaps you knew it was wrong, but you wanted to do it anyway, because you thought it would be a laugh. So perhaps it was a surprise when you got arrested, and when they put you on trial in front of a judge. Imagine all that, and then try and imagine what might turn your life around.

    My new book, Splintered Light, is about three teenagers, Leah, Linden and Charlie, who don’t know each other, but whose lives collide dramatically twelve years after Leah’s mother was murdered in a local park. One of these three is a young man called Linden. At 17, he’s about to be released from Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution, where he’s been incarcerated for three years. Linden is scared of what’s waiting for him outside, because the things that turned him into a criminal aged 13 are still waiting for him outside the prison gate. Like many young offenders, Linden is afraid that he has no alternative but to re-offend, and to return to jail. He wants a way out, for good, but he doesn’t know how to find it. To write about Linden, I had to read and think not only about what would happen when he stepped outside those gates, but also what had happened to him inside.

    Last year, inspectors at one prison for young adults found that young inmates often went hungry because their meals were too small. They ate their meals on their own in their cells, often at ridiculous times of day, so that their evening meal was served as early as 4.45. Cells were dirty, mattresses covered in gang-related graffiti, and on average these young people spent 18 hours a day in their cells.

    In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the age of criminal responsibility is 10, which is much lower than many other countries. In Scotland it is 12. In most of the UK, then, a child convicted of a crime between the ages of 10 and 14 will be held in a Secure Children’s Home. Those aged fifteen to 20 will be held in Young Offenders’ Institutions, first as juvenile offenders and then, above the age of 18, as young offenders. At the age of 21, a person convicted of a crime becomes an adult offender and will be held in a regular prison. Everyone seems to know that the system is a catastrophe. Politicians have referred to children being consigned ‘to the scrapheap’, re-offending rates are above 50%, the institutions offer little in the way of education and retraining, and when young people are released their futures are bleak, with little possibility of employment and often no safe home to go to. You’d have thought that there would be hope for children and teenagers, but when people – even children – are shut away, out of sight, then it’s too easy for all of us to turn a blind eye.

    Last month, inspectors reported that one of these prisons for young adults, Glen Parva, was simply ‘not safe’. Three young men had killed themselves there in 15 months, and inspectors reported the prison was rife with bullying and violence. The cells were dirty and ‘poorly ventilated’, for which read smelly, often with no toilet seats on the toilets. Nearly a third of inmates were locked up all day in their cells. One young man, aged 18, killed himself after just two days inside.

    It sounded shocking, but the awful conditions are not new. In 2012, an inspection report on HMYOI Wetherby reported, ‘One boy in the segregation unit with a lifelong medical condition that would have been hard for any teenager to manage, and who had exhibited very disruptive behaviour, asked me tearfully if I could take him home to his mum… A boy in health care, described to me as ‘low’, lay on his bed not speaking. All these boys were receiving good attention and care, but you feared for them all…’

    ‘You feared for them all…’

    It’s not the kind of language you expect from hardened prison inspectors.

    So imagine yourself in the dock, imagine you’ve messed up badly, and then imagine what happens next. Then, since we are free and many are not, perhaps we should raise our voices louder to say this isn’t good enough.

    Cate Sampson