Monthly Archives: July 2023

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Overemotional by David Fenne

Steven is one unlucky closeted sixth former. Whenever he has a strong emotion, be that happiness or sadness, weird things happen. Like, potentially dangerous things. Recently, he kissed another boy for the first time and . . . the boy’s head literally exploded. Steven flees to the miserable town of Grunsby-on-Sea, determined not to hurt anyone else with his “Emomancy”.

With a best friend as determined as Freya, it is impossible to stay hidden for long though, especially when she realises Steven might be in danger after a mysterious organisation called DEMA start asking questions about him. Where Freya goes, her boyfriend Marcus and American friend Troy soon follow. Together, they are determined to find out more about this organisation and what “neutralising” someone like Steven might mean.

By chance, Steven meets a handsome stranger who claims to share his powers and who offers to teach Steven how to control them. But who is he in relation to DEMA? What on earth happened to make Grunsby-on-Sea so lethargic a town? And can you really trust a charismatic stranger you meet in a café bathroom?

Ink Road
Overemotional cover artwork by Jacqueline Li

I’ve been neglecting the blog over the last few months, but what better to come back to it with than a Q&A with a brilliant debut author, David Fenne. Overemotional, a UKYA queer fantasy set in the most boring town in England, is great fun.

What aspect of Overemotional came to you first?

The concept of the powers came first. I had been rolling the idea around in my head based on conversations I’d had with my husband about how his anxiety manifests. I thought emotion-based powers were an interesting concept to explore, but they would just result in someone just trying to be happy. So I thought, “What if it were reversed?” What would the pursuit of misery do to a person? Almost immediately, Steven’s voice began to form in my head.

How soon in the process of creating the story did you decide to start with a head exploding?

Actually, VERY early on. I wanted something to kick off the plot in an explosive manner … literally! It’s such an extreme scenario, especially after what was a formative first queer experience, that sets up his character arc for the rest of the book. The initial concept was slightly different to how it plays out in the finished book, but I think this way is great at catapulting Steven back in the closet and rasing his walls at the start of the book.

Who was your favourite character to write as?

I find Steven’s voice the easiest because he’s the most similar to me, but I love Troy. He’s so earnest, polite, and optimistic in everything he does, and his fish-out-of-water point of view (being an American in the UK) is a great comedic vein to mine. He’s such a golden retriever that you can’t help but love him.

Writing comedy is notoriously difficult, but the voices were full of humour, was it difficult to balance jokes with tension?

Sometimes. My background is in comedy, being an improv comedian, so humour comes quite naturally during the writing process. I never wanted the humour to eclipse sincerity, though. There are times when it can break the tension or subvert an expectation or trope, but I think people are a little exhausted with “Marvel-quips” that don’t allow moments of genuine sincerity to land. The book gets quite tense at points, so I made sure jokes or funny situations (like throwing breast pumps at a monster) don’t entirely diminish from the tension built up.

Have you thought about what Steven & his friends do next? Or have you finished with their story and moved on to something else?

Well, funny you should ask! I’ve just handed in book 2 in the OVEREMOTIONAL Trilogy! The gang will be heading off to London for university, but not everything is as it seems . . .[CFi ed: I didn’t notice that it was first in a trilogy and I’m so pleased that we’ll meet them again a little older, with the new challenges of uni!]

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

I’m currently reading Murder on A School Night by Kate Weston and I am LOVING IT! It’s a laugh-out-loud funny murder mystery featuring death by period products. It’s so refreshing to have such an overtly feminist, period-positive voice in the YA scene. Did I mention it was funny? It’s VERY funny. Highly recommend to any fans of YA murder mysteries like Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or just anyone who fancies a good giggle.

Review: As You Grow by Kirk Cameron & Brave Books

As You Grow is written by the Kirk Cameron. This fun story with brilliant art teaches the Biblical truths of the Fruit of the Spirit. Follow Sky Tree’s journey from a small acorn to a mighty tree that provides shade, sustenance, and lodging!

As a tool for proselytizing I think that Brave Books missed a trick here! I feel that had the authors tried to be less inspirational & ‘deep’ and focused on the Sky Tree’s growth along with the changing seasons (miracles in themselves) they could have created a story worthy of Juan Moreno’s art, instead they ended up with a product that feels more like book of inspirational quote posters than a coherent story.

Seriously, Moreno’s art calls out to the reader to take their time poring over the pictures, spotting the different creatures and imagining their stories.

Kirk Cameron has had a long career as an actor and speaker but needs more time & perhaps an editor to stand up to him and help him to find his footing as an author.

I don’t know, I think I will have to read the entire saga from Brave Books to properly appreciate what they were trying to do here, but as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown us, you don’t need to rely on the other parts of the series to enjoy the story contained in one part of it.

It would also be interesting to see how this book is handled during a storytime because as a regular storytime provider I think it would be a rather boring story for an audience if it was read without significant ad-libbing to fill in all the blanks.

Review: Johnny the Walrus by Matt Walsh

Johnny is a little boy with a big imagination. One day he pretends to be a big scary dinosaur, the next day he’s a knight in shining armor or a playful puppy. But when the internet people find out Johnny likes to make-believe, he’s forced to make a decision between the little boy he is and the things he pretends to be — and he’s not allowed to change his mind. 

As anyone that knows me or has seen my social media feeds may guess, my politics and personal views skew very much to the left. However one of the things I can do without letting my personal biases interfere too much is read and critically examine books for review thanks in no small part to my time as a judge for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards in the UK.

Johnny the Walrus is a board book and at first glance appears to be a book aimed at children. The majority of the audience of board books are pre-readers. The text makes use of complex words and sentences way beyond the understanding of children, this leads me to believe that the intended audience are adults that have a specific social and political views.

From a purely analytical viewpoint, Johnny the Walrus is way too wordy for a board book, if I completely ignore the words on the protest signs (page 11) and the posters in the woke doctor’s office (pages 12 & 13) the story consists of 267 words (301 with the words from the protest signs and posters).

On the off-chance that Mr. Walsh ever reads this review: board books should have a maximum of around 100 words, 301 is more in line with an average picture book for young readers. It would work better as a picture book after an editor has taken a look at it.

Moving on to the art style, I am not aware of the illustrator K. Reece, their art style leans towards rough sketches as if they did not have time to finish the drawings before they had color added prior to publication.

You can also play spot the author insert – I saw him twice, in a picture on page 3 wearing a diaper and also as the zookeeper.

Overall this book is about as subtle as a brick through a window. This is not to say that there won’t be an audience for this work, as rough as it is but it comes across as written for a specific group of people, to reinforce the viewpoints that they already hold.

Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medal for Illustration

In February of last year the news broke that Yoto had become the primary sponsor for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals and they would henceforth be known as the Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals.

In September of the same year there came an announcement that there was a wholesale rebranding, and that the Kate Greenaway Medal had become the Carnegie Medal for Illustration. I was surprised that the reaction to this was pretty muted, but there has been a lot going on and the majority of people outside of the awards circle had other things going on to take their attention.

More people noticed when the medal winners were announced in June. People’s heads popped up online and suddenly more folk were shocked that Kate Greenaway’s name had disappeared from the award was founded using her name. Interest and anger has been building steadily & quietly since then and on Monday a friend messaged me on social media with a link to a petition to return Kate Greenaway’s name to the award that had been set up by Rose Roberto, a Librarian and Historian, and Tamsin Rosewell, an Illustrator and bookseller.

The Kate Greenaway Medal is the oldest British literary award focused on illustration. It remains one of very few that highlights the contribution of illustrators and actively promotes the importance of their work. Kate Greenaway’s own work is a hugely important part of the heritage of the British Book Industry; she remains an influence on illustrators today and should also be recognised as one of Britain’s great female artists. In an age when illustrators’ names are still very often left off promotion and reviews for books, we feel it is vital to retain her name in association with this award...

You can access the petition & join the over 1600 people who have already added their names to it if you have an interest in celebrating illustrated works for children & recognizing one of the greatest British illustrators here:

News and Articles for more information:

New Sponsorship of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals by Matt Imrie

The Carnegies by Matt Imrie

Bring Back Kate Greenaway by Rose Roberto (archive link here)

CILIP responds to petition to bring back Kate Greenaway Medal (archive link here)

Libraries & Lemonade

This summer, For The People invites you to join us in defending public libraries by talking with your neighbors. Hand out free lemonade to your community, and spread the word about what makes public libraries so great.

Participating in LIBRARIES & LEMONADE is easy: pick a day, time, and location for a lemonade stand, download and print out copies of the toolkit, and have conversations with your neighbors about public libraries over a cool refreshing cup of lemonade.

Find out more here:

Inkyard Press Closing

Publisher HarperCollins today announced that they were shuttering their imprint Inkyard Press and transitioning their titles to Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Inkyard was a well-known publisher of books for middle grade and teen readers. Their catalogue boasted a large number of titles written by a diverse group authors from minority communities.

As the tagline on their website states:

Inkyard Press publishes smart, engaging Middle Grade and YA fiction across a variety of genres, from realistic contemporary to epic fantasy. We are passionate about publishing diverse voices and giving our readers a chance to see themselves and each other in our books, with grateful acknowledgment to the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop on the importance of “windows” and “mirrors” in literature.

Fury of the Dragon Goddess by Sarwat Chadda

While on vacation in London, Sikander Aziz gets his hands on the mythic tablet of destinies. Naturally Sik uses it to get his brother Mo back among the living. His wish is granted, but at a terrible cost. Sik’s troubles multiply a billionfold when the tablet is stolen by the elder god of insanity, Lugal, who brings back Tiamat, the great chaos dragon and mother of all monsters. 

Hey quick question: have you read City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda? If you have great news you are ready to read Fury of the Dragon Goddess also by Sarwat. If you haven’t, put a pin in this review and hunt down a copy of City of the Plague God because you definitely want it under your belt before you pick up Fury…

Anyway way back at the beginning of April I (very cheekily) asked Sarwat to put in a good word for me with his publisher in the hope of scoring an ARC of Fury of the Dragon Goddess for a number of reasons, firstly he is a phenomenal author and I have loved his works since the Templar Chronicle days (although for my money his Ash Mistry trilogy were the ones that sealed my love of his writing), secondly it is the second book from him that is being published under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint – and forget all about any small recommendation I could possibly make because if you see RR Presents on the cover you KNOW it is going to be beyond amazing. Also I have read City of the Plague God and knew that if there was a chance at picking up the continuing adventures of Sikander Aziz early that I had to take it.

Let me tell you that I did not, and do not regret taking this chance!

Fury of the Dragon Goddess is one of those books that once you start reading it it demands your complete attention. Sarwat has melded Mesopotamian mythology with contemporary action, Islam, the ethics of modern museum collections – I am pretty sure some fans of the British Museum will get their noses put well and truly out of joint (no bad thing really) I laughed out loud at a joke at the expense of of the sticky-fingered nature of British imperialism.

In a world where Muslims are usually portrayed as anonymous, fundamentalist antagonists it is refreshing to have positive portrayals of characters from West Asia. Sikander is a decidedly unheroic hero, preferring to eschew violence as a first resort and instead relying on dialogue and the spirit of compromise before reaching (reluctantly) for weapons and even then preferring to lean on the skills of his friends and allies but being unafraid to throw down if the situation calls for it!

As I get older I have noticed a change in my preferences in reading material, I tend to gravitate more towards books that celebrate family, friendship and standing together against sometimes unthinkable odds instead of books celebrating lone wolf antiheroes willing “to do what needs to be done” to achieve their aims.

Fury of the Dragon Goddess has, if not all the things you are looking for in a book, then at least most of them! Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Positive Representation (religion, ethnicity, etc): check

Mythology: check

Action: check

Ethics: check

Strong female protagonists: check

Positive portrayals of family: check

Look, this list has the potential to go on for ages, but all you need to know is that this book has mass appeal for readers of most ages – you will not regret picking it up (either your own copy or from your local library!), it may turn out to be the best book you read this year!

Trust me I am a librarian!

Fury of the Dragon Goddess by Sarwat Chadda is published by Rick Riordan Presents and will be available from all quality purveyors of books from August 1st 2023.

Book-banners in Mississippi have removed kids access to ebooks

Mississippi Statute 39-3-25 has made it impossible for young readers under the age of 18 to have access to Libby, an eBook platform offered by Overdrive or Hoopla another popular streaming service offered by libraries without permission from parents or guardians.

BookRiot has a comprehensive article about this ban available here.