Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Warhammer Adventures

When I was asked if I’d like to take part in a blog tour for the beginning of a new middle grade series of Warhammer Adventures from the Games Workshop, I knew I couldn’t turn it down! I first chatted with Matt (the original TeenLibrarian himself) at a training session for public library staff considering starting 40k clubs and he quickly became one of my favourite people, so even though I didn’t get very far with a Warhammer club (I moved to a school library pretty soon after that training, took the set with me and let a member of staff run a club!) it holds very fond memories for me. Anyway, to the books! They look fantastic, the illustrators Cole Marchetti and Magnus Noren have done a great job of bringing the characters to life, and they’re very clearly aimed at a younger audience than existing novels while still having the look of the same universe.
If you have any young Warhammer fans in your library, they might well not be ready to read the (much denser) novels already available but these will certainly whet their appetite. They are tremendously exciting and great fun to read, so I’m really pleased to be able to share these insights into the background to the stories, from the authors themselves, Cavan Scott followed by Tom Huddleston:

Cavan Scott is the author of Attack of the Necron, the first book in the Warped Galaxies series.

Hello, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My name’s Cavan Scott and I’m an author and comic book writing who lives in the UK. For nearly twenty years, I’ve contributed to some of the biggest fictional universes on the planet, including Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Pacific Rim, The Incredibles and many more. My latest book, Attack of the Necron is the first in a new series set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Can you tell us more about the series?

Warhammer Adventures: Warped Galaxies takes place in a war-torn future were humans use technology, but have largely forgotten how it works. The spaceships are gothic, the tech is a weird-mash up of medieval and futuristic, and the aliens are terrifying. What’s not to love about people who turn human skulls into floating robots or courageous Space Marines fighting green-skinned orcs on distant planets?

The books follow explorer Zelia Lor, ganger Talen Stormweaver and Martian inventor Mekki as they escape a terrible planetary disaster. They have to get an ancient alien artefact back into the hands of Zelia’s Mum. There’s only one problem: they have no idea where she is, and everyone they meet seems determined to destroy them. OK, that’s two problems, but trust me, things are never easy for these kids.

What are the three things you discovered when writing these books?

Well, I never really played Warhammer 40,000 growing up, but came to the universe via novels and audio dramas. While I knew a fair bit, there was still a lot to dig into. Warhammer 40,000 is huge, with literally thousands of years of backstory. The trick with these books was making sure that I wrote stories that could be understood by anyone, whether you’re drenched in Warhammer lore or a complete newbie. It meant I had to do a lot of research to make sure I got things right. I treated it like writing a historical novel, studying a history that hasn’t happened yet!

The things I discovered were:

A) Warhammer gamers are incredibly passionate about their hobby.
They’ve invested a lot of time into playing the game and also understanding how the universe works. That meant that I had to treat these books with respect. We’ve worked hard to make sure that they’re appropriate for the right age-group, but also feel like a legitimate Warhammer 40,000 story.

B) Challenges make better stories.
As I said, I’ve spent a lot of time writing in well-known universes, and each has its own rules and conventions. Warhammer 40,000 has the added challenge that much of the cosmos is completely unknowable for those who live in it. Your average person doesn’t know how any technology works, or about the dangers that lurk on every planet. There’s no widescale communication and most folk blindly accept the teachings of humanity’s leader, the immortal Emperor of Mankind. What’s more, they can never really find out, as the society that has been established will fall apart. There are some pretty rigid rules about what your characters can or can’t experience. However, that just means that you have to be even more creative in working within those rules, especially when you’re writing someone’s introduction to a vast fictional world. It’s been fun navigating my way through all that, and I think that it’s led to stronger, more exciting adventures!

C) I buy too many action figures and models.
OK, this isn’t exactly a discovery, as my wife will attest. I’m a grown man who loves toys. My study is packed with Daleks, space-ships, droids, LEGO sets and superhero figures. However, Warhammer Adventures has opened up an entire new world for me to collect. I originally tried to limit myself to one set of figures, or maybe a vehicle, from each of the books in the series, but have repeatedly broken that resolution. On the upside, I’m sitting here writing this with a super-cool Necron Doom Scythe fighter on my desk!

Tom Huddleston is the author of City of Lifestone, the first book in the Realm Quest series.

Hello, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Tom Huddleston and I’m an author and film writer based in London, England. Like Cavan, I wrote three episodes in the official Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space series, and now I’m the author of the Realm Quest books, part of the Warhammer Adventures universe.

Can you tell us more about the series?

The Realm Quest stories take place across the Mortal Realms, eight interconnected worlds filled with epic landscapes, ferocious creatures and limitless potential for adventure. When their master Vertigan is kidnapped by the devious rat-men known as the Skaven, five brave children must band together to get him back. The quest will take them across the different Realms, encountering fierce beasts, noble guardians and all manner of mayhem.

What are the three things you discovered when writing these books?

A) The Warhammer Universes are vast beyond belief. 

The most remarkable thing I discovered when I began researching and writing these books was simply how huge the Warhammer universe is – developed over decades, it must be the most massive and immersive invented world ever created. The sheer wealth of imagination and creativity on display is completely breathtaking, and I’m honoured to be given the chance to invent my own small corner of it.

B ) Creating characters within this universe was a bit of balancing act.

Creating a new group of characters to inhabit this world was an interesting challenge. They had to be relatable to young readers – it had to feel like their struggles were real, despite the fact that they live in this epic, fantastical realm. They had to be tough enough to survive in a world where almost everything is trying to kill them, but not so tough that they felt superhuman. And most of all, they had to be likeable enough so that readers would keep coming back to hear more about their adventures.

C ) Inventing Warhammer villains is really enjoyable! 

I also discovered how much fun it is to write Warhammer villains. From the devious, scheming rat-men known as the Skaven to a whole lot of ghoulish entities who crop up later in the series (no spoilers!), the Mortal Realms are just full of terrifically nasty, wonderfully unpleasant bad guys. How will our noble heroes fare against this rogue’s gallery of creeping, crawling, scuttling horrors? Well that would be telling…

To all the Libraries I’ve Loaned from Before part 1

Kalk Bay Public Library, you were my first Library – the one that set the template of expectations of what a Library should be and offer. Although small, to my young eyes you were a Cathedral of books, with windows set high up on all sides. You gave me my first library cards – three little folded pieces of cardboard with my name and address on them that were taken by the Librarian and kept behind the desk whenever I borrowed books. The books that stay in my mind are the Little Tim picture books by Edward Ardizzone, after all these years – they are the books that solidified my fate as a reader, they are the first books I can remember reading on my own (my parents read them with me but I picked them up again at bedtime and read them on my own), there was also that shark book, I cannot remember the cover, but I coveted it regularly and borrowed it several times to read about sharks from around the world, I was most fascinated by the Wobbegong (or carpet shark) of Australia – it is funny what facts stick with you. I still remember the particular smell that the Library had, furniture polish and the smell of books and the feeling of coolness that enveloped me whenever I walked in to the Library with my Mom and younger brother, after the heat of the day outside it was a welcome feeling. I can also hear the Library windows slamming shut as Librarian used a long pole with a hook to pull them shut – to let us know that it was nearly closing time and we had better choose our books quickly but she never chased us out. That Library is long gone, the building now hosts a community centre but I have not been past it for years.

Kalk Bay Primary School had a tiny Library – it was more a box room stuffed with books than an actual Library – but it counts! The books I remember borrowing were The Adventures of Professor Branestawm, and a science fiction short story collection – the title escapes me but I can still remember parts of some of the stories, one was set on a colony on an alien world that was slowly being eaten by a huge slime monster that was being kept at bay by a laser shield, there was only one ship available and the people had to decide who would survive and who would remain behind to face the monster when the shields failed… gripping stuff!

My second Public Library was in Muizenberg, I remember attending story times on a Thursday when the Librarian (the same one from Kalk Bay) would light a candle and we would sit in silence as she read stories, the extinguishing of the candle was the sign that we could start talking and move around again. Muizenberg Library became ‘my’ Library for years, it introduced me to Douglas Hill’s ColSec books and his fantasy duology Blade of the Poisoner and Master of Fiends. This was also the Library where I discovered Terry Pratchett, I started with Equal Rites and never looked back! I visited Muizenberg Public Library weekly, and spent hours choosing books then sitting in the magazine room reading back issues of Punch Magazine (mostly to find the Agent Orange cartoons by David Haldane).

I spent one year at the Fish Hoek Middle School and spent most of my break and lunch times hiding out in the School Library, I became a part time student librarian but hung out in one of the corners with other kids reading comic books – it was my first introduction to Raymond Briggs, I read his Father Christmas comics which were fun then Gentleman Jim and its sort of sequel When the Wind Blows – it is thanks to that book that I learned how to start worrying and hate the Bomb.

I joined Fish Hoek Public Library in my mid-teens so that I could have a greater range of materials to access for my school work – the joys of growing up in a preWorld Wide Web world! My parents paid for this membership as, at the time, Fish Hoek had its own municipality and if you did not live there you had to pay to access the service. This was the beginning of a Library relationship that lasted many years, it was here that I first started weekend work as, first a shelf packer, then after I started my Library degree they decided that I was trustworthy enough to work on the desk (oh the power!) Once I graduated it was also my first professional Library post, it later transpired that I was an affirmative action employee – the first ever male librarian hired by Fish Hoek municipality (I was the only applicant that all the unions could agree on, which at that time in South Africa was no small thing). It was at Fish Hoek Library that I first read the Duncan & Mallory graphic novels by Robert Asprin, I discovered the Dragonlance books by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

At the time I was also studying at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) they had a magnificent Library, apart from the books I needed for my coursework I also borrowed Maus by Art Spiegelman which opened my eyes to the potential comic books have in education and as an art-form.

Special mentions must go to the Grassy Park Public Library that I worked at briefly to cover staff absence – it was here that I discovered (& borrowed) Deathstalker by Simon R Green and became a lifelong fan of his writing and the Hout Bay Public Library where I participated in a temporary staff exchange for a week and discovered ‘zines.

Maisie’s Scrapbook – review

As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s
tall tales. Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her
Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba. They come
from different places, but they hug her in the same way. And
most of all, they love her just the same. A joyful celebration
of a mixed-race family and the love that binds us all together.

You all know what a big fan I am of Lantana and their books, so I was delighted when Katrina offered to send me a copy of ‘Maisie’s Scrapbook‘ to review. I was even more delighted when I read it and saw that it really is a beautiful tale, of loving parents bringing features from their heritages together to create a wonderful environment for their daughter to grow up in. As the blurb says, “they come from different places, but they hug her in the same way“. No two parents have identical backgrounds, but it is important to show (mirrors and windows) that parents with even the most obvious cultural differences cannot disagree on how much they love and support their child, and I can only imagine how amazing it must feel for a mixed race child to see a family similar to theirs portrayed (huge respect to single parents who, for whatever reason, don’t have the support of a partner).

Samuel Narh’s words, featuring Dada’s tall tales and Mama’s comfort through the seasons, are from Maisie’s perspective. Simply stated observations on small and big things. They are so effective because of the emotive illustrations by Jo Loring-Fisher bringing those tales to life, making the reader feel how she’s feeling, and showing the affection the family feels for one another. Look out for it when it is published on 7th March!


#BlackHistoryMonth Anansi Craft Activity

As part of the Black History Month program at my Library, I have organised a series of story-times based around folk tales from Africa. My South African storytime last week was snowed out but the event today, reading stories about Anansi the Spider trickster was well-attended – three adults and five children who came to listen and participate.

The stories were well-received, as was the craft activity, if anyone would like to obtain a copy of my Anansi template, you may download it below.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

As with all the resources I create, if you do use them please share any pictures of your creations.

Refugee Narratives in Children’s Literature

In 2017 I attended a one-day interdisciplinary workshop about Refugee Narratives in Children’s Literature at Birkbeck College organised by The Reluctant Internationalists.

Apart from making excellent contacts and meeting some old friends I contributed towards the creation of a bibliography of children’s books on migration, refugees / migrants and multicultural living. I have no idea why I have never shared it before, but it can be downloaded below.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Chinese New Year Craft: Peppa Pig Lantern

The Chinese New Year begins tomorrow Tuesday 5th February and it is the Year of the Pig. I have created a simple paper lantern craft activity featuring Peppa Pig and her family. This will be suitable for younger Library users.  

“新年快乐” translates as Happy New Year: Xin Nian Kuai Le
Pronounced “sheen neean kwai luh,” kuai le means “happy” or “joyous” and xin nian means “new year.”

You can download a .pdf of the lantern here: Peppa Pig Lantern

Peppa Pig was created by Mark Baker, Neville Astley and Phil Davies.

Peppa Pig‘s trademark and copyright is held by Entertainment One

Feeling crafty?

SearchPress publish loads of amazing arts and crafts books, for beginning projects up to daunting expertise, and they very kindly offered to share a couple of free projects with us to entice you to their website. I know lots of libraries run or host craft sessions, and you will definitely have some manga fans, so have a look for some inspiration…

From Crocheted Cactuses comes this really cute (but baffling to a non-crochet-er) plan for, you guessed it, a crocheted cactus!

They have loads of manga titles, but the pages they’ve shared with us are from How to Draw Manga (in simple steps) by Yishan Li:

There are other free projects available on their website too!