Monthly Archives: January 2023

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Wild Song by Candy Gourlay

I am calling it early this year! Wild Song by Candy Gourlay is my book of the year for 2023. This is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful book told in a first-person narrative by Luki, one of the protagonists of Candy’s previous book Bone Talk.

You can find out more about Bone Talk in this 2018 interview with Candy in which I discovered that the foundations of Wind Song had already been laid.

If you have not already read Bone Talk I urge you to do so, as it will give you context for Wild Song; as Candy says in the interview: I actually wanted to write another book, set in a World Fair in 1904 where American exhibited Filipinos in a human zoo. But it would have been a disservice to the tribal people AND to Americans not to show the context of that story. So I decided to begin at the beginning, when the United States invaded the Philippines in 1899 and annexed it as “unincorporated territory”. We became a republic in 1945 but Puerto Rico, which was annexed by the US on the same year, continues to be unincorporated territory. It’s odd how so much of the world has no idea of this. I realise that the Philippines is a small state that doesn’t do much to influence the world, but the United States is a major world power.

Wild Song uncovers a piece of forgotten history of the world – a tale that takes us from from the mountains of Bontoc in the Philippines, to the city of St Louis, Missouri, the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, that played host to the largest human zoo in history.

It is the story of Luki, running away from her village to find her place in the world, Samkad who follows her, her frenemy Tilin and her little sister Sidong, as well as people from the other mountain tribes of northern Luzon in the Philippines, known collectively as the Cordilleran peoples. It is about discovering the wider world and one’s place in it and it is about the end of innocence and discovery that people who wield power do not always do so well or justly. It is also an indictment of white saviourism and the commodification of the culture and bodies of Black & Indigenous People of Colour by white people, an ongoing practice that is still hotly debated!

Until I read Bone Talk and Wild Song I had no idea that the Philippines had been a territory of the United States, or that the people of the Philippines had been subjected to a war of conquest and subjugation after Spain had sold it to the US at th econclusion of the Spanish-American War. Seriously I learned more about US imperialism in the late 1800s and early 1900s thanks to Candy than I had ever done so before.

Candy wove historical figures and organisations into this story and provided short biographies about them at the end of Wild Song including Lieutenant Walter Loving and the Philippine Constabulary Band, the most present was Truman K. Hunt, a former lieutenant governor of Bontoc Province who befriended the Igorot and persuaded many to accompany him to St. Louis to participate in the World’s Fair, he gained and lost a fortune off the backs of the peoples he displayed there, and in other parts of the US. He was (no major spoilers here) an utter scumbag, whose mistreatment of the Igorot was so scandalous that he was eventually pursued and arrested by the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

Wild Song is a beautifully told, by turns uplifting, sad and hopeful! Keep an eye out for it on awards lists and make sure that you purchase a copy or request it from your local library in March!

It will be published by David Fickling Books in March 2023.

You can find out more about the exhibition of the Cordilleran people with this video clip from the PBS series Asian Americans:

1.1-1904-Worlds-Fair-Exhibition-of-the-Igorot-Filipino-People from Asian American Education Project on Vimeo.

Newsletter: January 2023

THe January issue of the TeenLibrarian Newsletter is now available


After a fairly fallow year in 2022, the TeenLibrarian Newsletter returns and will hopefully be more regular this year!

This newsletter contains a link to the amazing Dark is Rising podcast – a must listen for any fans of Susan Cooper’s phenomenal series and a perfect introduction for anyone who has not yet discovered this amazing work of literature for young readers.

For anyone working in a primary setting there is a link to study looking to explore elementary/primary teachers’ awareness of children’s authors, so if you are one or know of any please pass this on to them as there is also a chance to win a set of books by the award-winning Mini Grey.

America comics fans will be excited to discover that the absolutely amazing weekly comic The Phoenix is now available in the US, speaking personally as a long-time fan (all the way back to The DFC) I am thrilled as I will get to introduce the comics to my daughter who is at just the right age, seriously this comic is as near to perfect for all ages as anything I have yet read!

I have brought back my joke in a mug passive program that went on hiatus for obvious reasons for a few years and am sharing the resources I put together to offer this in my library. Also available is a link to my downloadable calendar of events throughout the year, covering most days with at least one special day that can be used to set up book lists or library displays.

A link to the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for people looking for resources about or around the Holocaust is also included as is a link to my Crafty Scotsman Craft Activity for anyone wanting a light activity for Burns Night.

Lastly there are links for those wishing to put together activities and displays for the UK LGBTQ History Month or the US Black History Month.

For those of you new to this newsletter please do go and check out its parent site for 16 years worth of news, reviews and library-related resources.

On December 19 2022 the BBC World Service released the first episode of a podcast adaptation of Susan Cooper’s classic novel The Dark is Rising. between December 21st & 31st 11 more episodes covering the entirety of the story were released.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper was adapted by Simon McBurney and Robert Macfarlane for the BBC World Service and can be accessed from wherever you get your podcasts or directly from the BBC here:

Broadening the Bookshelf
If you teach primary school students aged 4-11 or work with teachers that do, Teacher-Librarian Chris Baker is looking for people to participate in a study exploring elementary/primary teachers’ awareness of children’s authors.

To find out more information and participate in the survey you can follow this link:
Barrington Stoke Catalogue 2023 
Barrington Stoke is one of my favourite UK publishers and is probably the one I miss the most living and working in the US as I do now.

If you work in the UK or somewhere you can easily order their books then this 2023 catalogue will definitely be of interest:

I am pretty sure that most (if not all) of my UK subscribers are aware of the The Phoenix comic but those of you who are based in the US may be interested in finding out more seeing as the Phoenix is now available to subscribers over here!

The Phoenix is a weekly magazine for 7–14 year olds that’s packed with incredible comics, drawing guides, and plenty more that inspires kids to get reading, writing, and drawing!  You can sign up for a six issues for $1 subscription to find out if you or the small people in your life and work would like to sign up for a longer stretch (and trust me you will).

Many of their most popular strips have been collected as graphic novels and are available in US libraries. These include Corpse Talk (also available as an animated web series), Bunny vs MonkeyMega Robo Bros and more!

To find out more you can follow this link:
Programming Idea: Jokes in a Mug
A passive programme that I have found to be very successful is setting out a mug containing jokes on the service desk.

It has been attracting library patrons of all ages and has a dedicated band of followers who now come in on a regular basis just to pick up a joke.

If you are interested in testing it out, all you need is a mug/cup and a discrete sign advertising hat is on offer. You can collect a range of jokes and reuse them as statistically people would grab a different joke each time.For those of you who may not have the time to hunt down jokes suitable for all ages I have a selection available to download below.
Space and science fiction jokes
One Liners
Display Calendar
If anyone is searching for a simple annual calendar of special days and observances I have compiled one that can be downloaded here:
Holocaust Memorial Day 
The UK-based Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has made resources available that can be used to educate library users in schools as well as public libraries about the Holocaust and other genocides that have occurred across the world.
These resources can be accessed here:
Burns Night
For those of us who are Scottish (or have Scottish ancestry) Burns night is a celebration of all things Scottish around the life and works of the national poet of Scotland Rabbie Burns.

I put together a Crafty Scotsman Craft Activity for Burns Night or just any time you would like to colour in and dress up a burly Scotsman in a range of exciting outfts:

February Resources
In the UK February is recognized as LGBTQ+ History Month, one of the resources I have available for download on my site is a collection of posters celebrating LGBTQ+ authors. These can be downloaded here:

In the US Black History Month is celebrated, some of the resources I have put together include:
I hope that 2023 will be kind to us all and remember that even though the world can sometimes feel cold and unfeeling, the work we do is an antidote that for all the people we serve and we can be the same for each other.

You are always welcome to reach out to say hi and/or share whatever you have been working on!

Thank you for reading and I hope you stick around!


If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter and/or read back issues you can do so here:

Downloadable Display Calendar

I have compiled a list of observances & remembrance days of the year as well as special months that can be used to put together book lists and special library displays.

It can be downloaded here

The Storm Swimmer by Clare Weze

Summer was supposed to be Ginika’s time for fun, friends and fairs. But instead she’s been sent to live at the dead-end seaside boarding house her grandparents run. Even though her parents say it’s just for a little while, she can’t help feeling abandoned and heartbroken to be missing out on everything she loves back home.

And then she meets Peri. He leaps and dives through the water like a dolphin and he talks like a burst of bubbles. He’s not exactly a mermaid, but he’s definitely something Ginika’s never seen before.

His family is far away too, but unlike Ginika, he loves his independence. As Ginika shows Peri her world, she starts to feel free as well. They don’t need anyone else when they’ve got each other. But then the lights and noise of the human world start to change Peri. And when things spin out of control, Ginika must be the bravest she’s ever been to face her fears and make the hardest decision of her life.

Join Ginika and Peri as they dive beneath the waves and walk the lands that will take them into each other’s worlds on an adventure they will never forget and a life-changing friendship.

Clare Weze

Clare Weze’s first middle grade novel, The Lightning Catcher, was absolutely brilliant. I asked her a few questions about her debut at the time, so when I was sent a copy of her second with the option of sharing something on the blog I thought it would be great to have an extract of chapter 1 for you all:

Hopefully that gave you an inkling of how beautifully written and intriguing the book is. I love how Clare takes a completely impossible idea – people living in the sea – and uses real science to make it seem a possibility. In this respect it is similar to her first book, The Lightning Catcher, but beyond that it couldn’t be more different. Ginika’s is a great main character: worried about her parents and knowing that they’re keeping a secret but distracted by a new worry: her new friend Peri and his needs. Other characters coming into the story and the resolution all flowed really well, a real page turner with a satisfying ending.

The Storm Swimmer is published on 19th January by Bloomsbury Books

This Book Kills

There’s a murderer on the loose in an elite boarding school… But who is going to be next? This Book Kills is the YA thriller of 2023, perfect for fans of Holly Jackson and Karen McManus.

“I’ll make it clear from the start: I did not kill Hugh Henry Van Boren.
I didn’t even help. Well, not intentionally.”

When Hugh Henry Van Boren, one of the most popular and richest kids in Jess Choudhary’s school, is found dead, the student body is left reeling and wondering who the murderer could be… Jess, a student under strict instructions to keep her record clean or risk losing her scholarship, finds herself at the centre of the investigation when it’s revealed that Hugh died in the exact same way as a character in a short story she wrote.

And then Jess receives an anonymous text thanking her for the inspiration.

With time running out, Jess knows if she doesn’t solve this mystery she’ll finally have something in common with Hugh Henry.

She’ll be dead too.


This Book Kills is a debut UKYA and bound to be one of the most gripping crime thrillers of 2023. I had the opportunity to ask the author, Ravena Guron, a few questions!

When you thought of a story inspiring a murder, did the murder come to you first or the school setting?

The school setting came first – I wanted to write a book set in a confined space, and the boarding school surroundings were perfect for that. The boarding school also fit in well with the themes of privilege and confidence that I wanted to explore in the book. The set-up for the murder, with the main character, Jess, writing a short story that is brought to life by the killer, came quite quickly after that. Inspiration was sparked by the school setting, because I started thinking about the classes Jess might be having, and how it would be quite easy for her to be assigned a short story to write… And what might happen if that piece of homework took a deadlier turn…

Were you a big writer at school?

I was! I was a massive bookworm, and that translated into wanting to write my own stories. I was very lucky to be taught by some really encouraging English teachers, who told me about short story competitions I could enter. As well as that, I also took part in First Story, which is a charity initiative that brings published authors into schools to work with teenagers from underrepresented communities. It was an incredible opportunity that I’m really grateful for and sparked lots of creativity in me.

Did you do any research into real boarding schools?

Yes! I wanted Heybuckle, the boarding school in This Book Kills, to feel really authentic. Luckily, I had a few friends who had gone to boarding school, or worked in a boarding school, and were willing to let me pick their brains. There were some elements where I knew I would need to use some creative license in order to make the story work, but I wanted things like the timetable to feel realistic, or what the students might be served for dinner… Just day-to-day aspects to make it feel like an actual school.

What kind of events would you like to do for the book (dream event and realistic, if they differ)?

I’d love to go to book festivals – like Edinburgh International Book Festival, and Hay Festival – they always look so incredible! And I went to YALC last year for the first time and had the most amazing day meeting other YA authors and readers – it would be an absolute dream to do a panel. I’d also love to do events at bookshops and libraries all around the country – explore different areas and meet readers all over. I’d love to do all the events!

Have you had much feedback from young readers?

Not yet, but now that I’m published I’m so incredibly excited for This Book Kills to find its way to teenagers!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to?

I’ve just finished reading Daughter of Darkness by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr, which is a YA fantasy – it’s inspired by Greek mythology, and it’s super original. I’d recommend it to readers looking for a fast-paced and twisty read.

Can we expect more murders from you?

Yes you can! I’m currently working on my second book – I can’t say too much about it, but there’s murder galore and I’ve had so much fun writing in all the twists…

This Book Kills is out now in the UK from Usborne Books

New Year same Librarian!

2023 marks 16 years of TeenLibrarian (as blog, the newsletter is in its 17th year now).

I know that last year was fairly fallow with only one issue of the newsletter and sporadic updates on the site itself, with most of the heavy lifting done by my UK-based colleague and friend Caroline, with some news posts and reviews written by yours truly. This year I am planning on being more present here and put more newsletters out well.

One plus point for this year is that we are going back to in-person teen events and my teen group is kicking off again for the first time in over two years so I will be able to share whatever successful group sessions are run plus anything else that comes up this year.

As always I am always happy to run guest posts from library workers who are willing to share what they are working on or would like to trumpet and celebrate any successes they have had in their libraries – just let me know!