Monthly Archives: February 2023

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Say NO to Censorship!

Just say NO!

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Just Don’t Borrow It

Anti-censorship book challenge poster made to offset irritation at a sudden flurry of challenges for a Drag Queen picture book that I received today. Feel free to download and use it.

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Low key Teen events

I recently ran a teen event in my library, I provided snacks, drinks and ARCs of new books and gave them space to just hand out and enjoy themselves, I had nine attendees that appeared to have a good time in the library. I think we often try to do too much to entertain teens in libraries instead of letting them discover the joy of just being in the space. I am in no way advocating a move to not organizing special events for teens, but instead have them occasionally and build teen engagement by welcoming them in, feeding them and leaving them to their own devices while being on hand to chat and introduce them to all the library has to offer if they show an interest.

Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag

Just Another Meat-Eating Dirtbag by Michael Anthony & Chai Simone

A rough-and-tumble Iraq War veteran is young and in love, and the last thing on his mind is food and the ethics of eating meat. But when his girlfriend becomes a vegetarian and animal rights activist, suddenly food is all he thinks about.

Just Another Meat-eating Dirtbag is a deceptively deep book masquerading as a light, humorous memoir of how love can make you do stupid things, animal cruelty, diet and how veterans reintegrate back into civilian life (and in some cases fail to).

I have read it three times over the past few months and had to ruminate on it before writing this review. Each time I read it I enjoyed it, and started rooting for Michael (at first) before his gaslighting attempts at turning his girlfriend away from her chosen path became apparent to me, and eventually to himself. I spent a good part of the book being wound up and dreading that Coconut (Michael’s girlfriend) would discover what he was doing and at the same time hoping that she would.

Does this story have a happy ending, or does Michael’s dirtbag doings have the required effect? Well that would be a massive spoiler, instead I will say hunt down this book in your local library or bookshop – you will not be disappointed that you do!

Honestly, this book more than any other has moved me to reconsider my diet, and the recommended reading list has added several titles to my TBR list.

An excellent addition to any collection of graphic memoirs and conversation starters on the ethics of meat eating, relationships and animal care!

This is Chai Simone’s debut graphic novel and I look forward to reading more works featuring her fantastic artwork!

Just Another Meat-eating Dirtbag is published by Street Noise Books and is available now!

You Think You Know Me by Ayaan Mohamud

People like me are devils before we are angels.
Hanan has always been good and quiet. She accepts her role as her school’s perfect Muslim poster girl. She ignores the racist bullies.
A closed mouth is gold – it helps you get home in one piece.
Then her friend is murdered and every Muslim is to blame.
The world is angry at us again.
How can she stay silent while her family is ripped apart? It’s time for Hanan to stop being the quiet, good girl. It’s time for her to stand up and shout.


YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is one of those books that will have you raging at the sheer awfulness of people, but also smiling at the warmth of relationships. The characters are so well imagined and real, and although it is an “issues” book: taking head on Islamaphobia, bullying (including “by-standers” and the harm they cause), and racism; the insight into Somali culture and Hanan’s reflections on religion are also wonderfully written. I asked debut author Ayaan Mohamud a few questions:

The core friendship group in YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is great, the relationships felt real, were any of the characters inspired by real people?

I loved writing about Hanan’s friendship group in the book. Each of her four friends – Andrea, Nasra, Lily and Isha – come from very different walks of life but I loved showing that friendship isn’t always about similarities and some relationships just work!

The essence of their friendship was definitely inspired by the close friends I had (and still have) in school. The kind of banter the girls share, the growth they experience individually and together, and the way they come together during more serious moments – these were all aspects of their friendship that felt very easy to write because of my own experiences.

I imagine it wasn’t an easy book to write. What did you do, when not writing, to keep you grounded and not constantly enraged about the very real issues?

What has always kept me grounded is family. I am so lucky to share an amazing connection with my parents and sisters. When the writing got tough, they were only ever a room away and I would often float across to them to give myself a breather if I felt I needed it. That meant I never overwhelmed myself and, honestly, my writing was a lot better for it as I was writing from a clearer mind and perspective.

It is a book that needs to be talked about, it is brilliant that it is a World Book Night title to get it into lots of hands, what is your one sentence pitch to get a reluctant reader to give it a go?

You Think You Know Me: you won’t know anything about this story until you read it!*

*Disclaimer: I am terrible at writing pitches.

Publishers one sentence pitch:

A stunning debut about finding the strength to speak up against hate and fear, for fans of The Hate U Give.

What kind of events would you like to do with the book?

With the kind of themes, the book explores, I would say school events. I love engaging with teenagers and discussing stories (mostly because I still feel like one myself!), but also because I believe it’s so important to encourage them in thinking critically about real life social issues. School events offer the best opportunity for that.

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

I’m just about to finish Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn. I love engrossing fantasy and her stories really are fantasy at its best. She writes beautifully and alongside the supernatural and fantastical, I really appreciate the sobering exploration of generational trauma. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some magical escapism.

Will we see more YA from you?

Yes! I have recently finished my second YA contemporary novel. This one is all about complex and messy family dynamics, with fabulous female friendships and a little sprinkle of awkward, young love. I can’t wait for it to be out.

YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME is out now from Usborne.

Thanks to Fritha and Usborne for organising a review copy and Q&A opportunity.

Yoto Carnegies Longlists Announced

A total of 31 books have been recognised, with 15 books selected for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing longlist, and 18 for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration – the stories range from intimate examinations of family life to sensitive introductions to societal issues impacting the world today, with many reflecting on past histories or looking to the future of our planet. Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

The lists include:

  • 25 books from 13 different independent publishers, including small presses Lantana, UCLan, Flying Eye Books, Child’s Play, Cicada, Otter-Barry Books, Little Island and Firefly Press.
  • Two books published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books longlisted in both Medal categories – a dazzling feminist retelling of the Greek myth, Medusa by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill, andThe Worlds We Leave Behind, written by A. F. Harrold and hauntingly illustrated by Levi Pinfold. Pinfold is a previous winner of the Carnegie Medal for Illustration, formerly known as the Kate Greenaway, for Black Dog in 2013; Lomenech Gill was shortlisted in 2014 for Where My Wellies Take Me.
  • Katya Balen, who was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Writing and Shadowers’ Choice Award last year for October, October– her third novel, The Light in Everything is a moving story of blended families and embracing change.
  • 2017 Carnegie winner Ruta Sepetys for I Must Betray You, a YA thriller closely based on the real events of the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
  • Multi-shortlisted author Marcus Sedgwick, who has been longlisted posthumously forWrath – his first book for small independent publisher Barrington Stoke, who create books for dyslexic and reluctant readers.

Janet Noble, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2023, said:

“It is a great honour to be chairing the judging panel during another outstanding year for children’s publishing. We were taken on amazing reading journeys by haunting prose and powerful poetry and found delight in the evocative worlds of stunning illustration, and were able to explore an incredible variety of themes including belonging, friendship and the climate crisis. I commend all the authors and illustrators on their wonderful work, which will bring young readers so much joy and hope in these challenging times.”

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing longlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

·         The Light in Everything by Katya Balen (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·         When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Natalie Sirett (Little Tiger)

·         Medusa by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·         The Blackthorn Branch by Elen Caldecott (Andersen Press)

·         Running with Horses by Jason Cockcroft (Andersen Press)

·         The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch (Little Island)

·         The Worlds We Leave Behind by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·         Green Rising by Lauren James (Walker Books)

·         When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando (Simon & Schuster Children’s)

·         Needle by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke)

·         Julia and the Shark by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Tom de Freston (Orion Children’s Books)

·         Wrath by Marcus Sedgwick (Barrington Stoke)

·         I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (Hodder Children’s Books)

·         The Silver Chain by Jion Sheibani (Hot Key Books)

·         The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly Press) 

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration longlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

·         John Agard’s Windrush Child illustrated by Sophie Bass, written by John Agard (Walker Books)

·         Rescuing Titanic illustrated and written by Flora Delargy (Wide Eyed Editions)

·         Flooded illustrated and written by Mariajo Illustrajo (Frances Lincoln)

·         Journey to the Last River illustrated by Teddy Keen, written by The Unknown Adventurer (Frances Lincoln)

·         Medusa illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill, written by Jessie Burton (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·         The Fog Catcher’s Daughter illustrated by Alan Marks, written by Marianne McShane (Walker Books)

·         Once Upon a Tune illustrated and written by James Mayhew (Otter-Barry Books)

·         Dadaji’s Paintbrush illustrated by Ruchi Mhasane, written by Rashmi Sirdeshpande (Andersen Press)

·         Alte Zachen: Old Things illustrated by Benjamin Phillips, written by Ziggy Hanaor (Circada Books)

·         The Worlds We Leave Behind illustrated by Levi Pinfold, written by A. F. Harrold (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·         The Visible Sounds illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Yin Jianling (UCLan Publishing)

·         Choices illustrated and written by Roozeboos (Child’s Play)

·         The Queen in the Cave illustrated and written by Júlia Sardà (Walker Studio)

·         Saving the Butterfly illustrated by Gill Smith, written by Helen Cooper (Walker Books)

·         The Comet illustrated and written by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

·         The Queen on our Corner illustrated by Nia Tudor, written by Lucy Christopher (Lantana)

·         The Baker by the Sea illustrated and written by Paula White (Templar Books)

· Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bearillustrated by Jeet Zdung, written by Trang Nguyen (Kingfisher)

Glow Up Lara Bloom

MY NAME IS LARA BLOOM AND THIS IS MY LIFE . . . Meet Lara Bloom – the best friend you never knew you needed. This is her diary . . . When Lara meets super-cute new boy Caiden, she begins to think that the way to his heart is to give herself a glow up. But her friends are not impressed. You should never glow up for a boy, only for yourself! As Lara and her friends embark on their project of empowerment and self-love, Lara shares her innermost thoughts with her online journal. How can she keep her hair under control when she’s playing football? Why is she so fast on the pitch yet so uncoordinated off it? And how will she ever convince Caiden to take an interest in her? With her worries safely locked in her top-secret journal, Lara is on track to unlock the glow-up of her dreams. Surely nothing could possibly go wrong . . .?! A heart-warming story of friendship, crushes and learning to love yourself. Perfect for fans of GEEK GIRL, Louise Rennison and Alesha Dixon.

Published by Hot Key Books Teens
Cover art by Amanda

Glow Up Lara Bloom is a great teen novel from debut author Dee Benson, publishing this week by Hot Key Books. It is lots of fun but also contains some strong messages for teen girls about self worth and friendship. I asked Dee a few questions:

Were you a big journaller at school?

I wasn’t. I only journaled occasionally, even though I wanted to journal more, because I was terrified that someone might read what I’d written. I’m really into journaling now, though. And I do it all on my laptop for security 😊

The conversations about body positivity and natural hair are great, it could easily have become preachy, did it take a lot of redrafts to sound natural?

I don’t think any redrafts were done on those particular aspects of the book apart from adding more positivity around natural hair. I was actually a bit too subtle about it in my first draft and had to emphasize it further.

I think I managed to avoid preachiness because Lara, the main character, is an ‘everygirl’ who is just like you and me and has insecurities. We see her learning about body positivity and starting to embrace her natural hair, and it’s usually easier to identify with a learner than a master, so to speak. There are a few characters in the book with strong opinions that could have felt preachy, but their views are always contrasted with Lara’s uncertainty so I think that helps to balance things out.

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

Ooh, I love this question. My dream event would involve Oprah and an audience filled with schoolgirls, and they’d all get a free copy of the book along with a glow-up kit packed with beauty products 😁

My realistic event would be speaking at a school either about body-positivity and self-esteem or going after your dreams.

Have you had much feedback from young readers?

Not yet—except for my two daughters who are 12 and 9. I read them the first three chapters and they loved it. My 9 year old has even started writing her own teen diary novel as a result!

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

I’m currently reading Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book in that series (Legendborn) and anyone who likes YA Fantasy. I’m still at the beginning, but it’s already so epic.

Will we hear more from Lara or do you have anything else planned?

Yes, definitely. There’ll be a second Lara Bloom book coming out in 2024.

Dee Benson