Monthly Archives: March 2024

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Wednesday

Wednesday is a sleuthing, supernaturally infused mystery charting Wednesday Addams’ years as a student at Nevermore Academy. Wednesday’s attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, and solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago — all while navigating her new and very tangled relationships at Nevermore.

If I am completely honest Christina Ricci was always “my” Wednesday Addams. The Addams Family & Addams Family Values were my introduction to Charles Addams’ mysterious and spooky family and the movies still stand up, Anjelica Huston was a perfect Morticia and Raúl Julia was born to play Gomez.

But I digress! this is a review of Wednesday, Jenna Ortega brings a smoldering intensity to the role and exudes danger and vulnerability going from being a piranha in a tank of goldfish to being a monster in a pool of other monsters. This show was and is a delight to watch and rewatch! I cannot wait until my daughter is old enough to watch it with me, she is a self-described spooky kid but knows when to say no to scary things she is not quite ready for.

Wednesday is a wonderful monster, murder mystery that will keep the viewer guessing throughout. It is also a coming of age story as well as a celebration of friendship and surviving high school. The supporting cast is also marvelous, from Luis Guzmán and Catherine Zeta Jones playing Gomez and Morticia respectively to wannabe best friend Enid Sinclair played by Emma Myers to potential love interests Tyler Gilpin and Percy Hynes White. Christina Ricci also makes an appearance as a normal, but mysterious human teacher at Nevermore Academy.

Tim Burton directed the first four episodes of Wednesday and served as executive producer for the series which bears his trademark gothic touches throughout. It seems bizarre that this is his first tangle with the Addams Family, but I can honestly say that it was worth the wait!

Wednesday was released on Bluray and DVD on March 26th by and is available from wherever fantastic film and television can be found.

It should also be available from your local library, but if it is not you are always able to ask that it be purchased!

Mina and the Cult

Mina’s having a hell of a family reunion. After the death and chaos of Halloween, Mina and the gang are looking forward to their road trip to Roswell, New Mexico, where they are hoping to be thrilled by the alien stories and have some R & R with Mina’s parents. However, their trip ends abruptly and before they know it, they are back in New Orleans. Instead of enjoying the fall celebrations and renovating the mansion, they find themselves investigating a serial killer who claims to be a real vampire in disturbing letters to the press.
As the city is gripped by fear, a group of believers is planning to disrupt the fragile balance between the humans and the supernatural creatures hiding in the shadows. This threatens the peace that Mina and her friends have been working so hard at maintaining.
Caught between investigating the killer and trying to stop the group’s destructive plans, Mina’s third mystery might be her last…

UCLan Publishing

I horrified Antonia, the publicist that organised this guest post for us by telling her that, in a school library, a book set in the 90s is a historical novel 😁 The Mina series are <historical> horror mystery for teens and YA and should be in all your libraries! The author, Amy McCaw, wrote a piece for us about how she establised the setting.

Why the fascination with 90s nostalgia?

Books, music, fashion and movies from the 90s seem to be more popular than ever. I’m still as obsessed with my 90s favourites as I ever was, and I have a few theories about why the fascination with the 90s persists.


When I started writing Mina and the Undead, I wasn’t sure what year I would set it in. During the very early stages of writing, I realised that the Interview with the Vampire movie came out in 1994, and 1995 was also the deadliest year in New Orleans history, with over 400 people being murdered that year alone. Those two things came together in my imagination to produce a murder mystery where vampires might be responsible for the high crime rates.


Once I’d settled on the 90s, I realised how fun it would be to lean into 90s pop culture in the plot, music, movie references and clothing. The book ended up having the feel of things I loved in the 90s, including Scream, Buffy and Charmed. I was a teenager later in the 90s, and I think enjoying those things so much in my formative years left a lasting impression on me. When I watch my 90s favourites, they’re still great on their own merits, but they also take me right back to that time.


There are a lot of reasons why the 90s might have continued to have such a lasting impact. The music has a distinctive feel, with that grunge and indie sound never really being replicated since. Slashers and paranormal books and TV shows had a real moment, and horror series like Point Horror and Fear Street were at the peak of their popularity. Like me, some people circle back to their old interests, but this can’t be true of younger readers who weren’t born in the 90s. In my experience, teenagers enjoy dipping their toes into a time period that feels relatively recent and yet so different from current pop culture, with an instantly recognisable flavour.


If you’re a fan of 90s pop culture, I highly recommend visiting the original influences I’ve already mentioned. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still my all-time favourite form of any pop culture, and Scream reinvented the slasher genre, making it self-referential and delighting in outlandish, gory kills.


There are also plenty of YA books set in the 90s or that have that 90s feel that I always crave. Reading anything by Kathryn Foxfield, Cynthia Murphy or Kat Ellis will fill that Point-Horror shaped gap in your life. I also recommend Kendare Blake’s Buffyverse books if you’re looking for something that reads exactly like the Buffy TV show. I recently read The Babysitter’s Coven by Kate Williams, and that’s packed with 90s references and has a feel somewhere between Buffy, Charmed and The Babysitters Club.


I love delving into different time periods in my reading and writing, and I’m delighted that readers seem to agree with me.

Amy McCaw is a YA author and YouTuber. She’s the author of the Mina and the Undead series, YA murder mysteries set in 1995 New Orleans. She also co-curated the A Taste of Darkness horror anthology with Maria Kuzniar. Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her novels have elements of all of these. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.


If you want to talk with Amy about books or 90s movies, you can find her on Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube.

Mina and the Cult, the last in the trilogy, is published in the UK by UCLan Publishing on 4th April 2024

Yoto Carnegies Shortlist Announced

16 books have been shortlisted in total, with eight in each category for the Carnegie Medal for Writing and Carnegie Medal for Illustration; whittled down from the 36 longlisted titles by the expert judging panel which includes 12 librarians from CILIP: the library and information association’s Youth Libraries Group. Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

 

  • Picture books prevail on the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration shortlist, which includes previous winner Catherine Rayner and three-time shortlisted illustrator Poonam Mistry.
  • Poetry dominates the shortlist for the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing with three novels written in verse – two by former shortlistees, Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho, and New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander, and one debut, Tia Fisher – alongside a poetry collection by prolific children’s writer Nicola Davies.
  • The shortlists include a further two debuts; Nathanael Lessore for the Medal for Writing, and Chloe Savage for the Medal for Illustration.
  • Independent Welsh publisher and British Book Award Small Press of the Year finalist Graffeg have a shortlisted title in each category.
  • Journeys, literal and metaphorical, are a common theme across both lists, with books encouraging empathy and hope and promoting an understanding of historical and contemporary global issues, including the environment. 

 

The 2024 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing shortlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

 

  • The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander (Andersen Press)
  • The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell (Usborne)
  • Away with Words by Sophie Cameron (Little Tiger)
  • The Boy Lost in the Maze by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner
    (Otter-Barry Books)
  • Choose Love by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horáček (Graffeg)
  • Crossing the Line by Tia Fisher (Bonnier Books UK)
  • Safiyyah’s War by Hiba Noor Khan (Andersen Press)
  • Steady for This by Nathanael Lessore (Bonnier Books UK)

 

The 2024 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration shortlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

 

  • The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker (Walker Books)
  • April’s Garden by Catalina Echeverri, written by Isla McGuckin (Graffeg)
  • Lost by Mariajo Ilustrajo (Quarto)
  • The Wilderness by Steve McCarthy (Walker Books)
  • To the Other Side by Erika Meza (Hachette Children’s Group)
  • The Midnight Panther by Poonam Mistry (Bonnier Books UK)
  • The Bowerbird by Catherine Rayner, written by Julia Donaldson (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Search for the Giant Arctic Jellyfishby Chloe Savage (Walker Books)

 

Maura Farrelly, Chair of Judges for The Yoto Carnegies 2024, said:

“The judges have worked incredibly hard to select 16 outstanding books; books that celebrate the very best of writing and illustration for children and young people. These are books to empower young readers, and for some will provide validation and refuge; stories of courage, of characters striving to find themselves and their place in the world, often in difficult or dangerous situations. The books shortlisted for the writing medal exemplify immersive and compelling writing with the power to inspire and move readers across a range of forms. The illustration shortlist is entirely comprised of picture books, with a strong theme of the environment, underlining the way picture books can speak to all ages, and showing how nature and illustrated books can heal and empower. We are excited to share these lists with shadowing groups and young readers, and very much look forward to reading their reviews and discovering their winners, alongside our own, at the announcement in June.”

Craig Before the Creek

Before he was Craig of the Creek, he was just Craig – a new kid in a new town. All Craig wants is to go back to his old friends at his old home. But when he learns that the nearby creek is hiding a lost treasure that could make his wish come true, Craig sets off on a journey to find it – navigating the perilous suburban wilderness, forging new friendships, all while being pursued by a fearsome band of pirates who are bent on destroying the Creek itself.

Craig of the Creek is one of my family’s favorite animated series, my eight-year old and I always watch it when we find it while flipping through the channels in our TV downtime. The show is a paean to friendship, adventure and the thrill of a childhood spent outdoors that we wish would never end.

Having watched the series from end to end several times I was delighted to hear that Craig Before the Creek is finally being released in a physical medium on March 26, 2024. Suitable for the whole family it is a wonderful beginning to a story that is loved by millions (including my little gingersnap and me). I highly recommend it – buy your own copy, stream it on HBO or request it from your local library – they are sure to have multiple copies and if not you can request that they do!

Trigger

An unflinching verse novel about a teenage boy who is sexually assaulted in an attack he struggles to remember.

Jay wakes in a park, beaten and bruised. He can’t remember what happened the night before. But he has suspicions.

Jay realises he has been raped — and that his ex-boyfriend may have been involved.

Counselling sessions cause Jay to question everything. His new friend Rain encourages his pursuit of justice. Jay wants answers, but his search will lead him down a perilous path.

Warning: sexual assault 

Little Island

TRIGGER is not an easy read by any means, definitely YA+, I read it in one sitting with my heart in my mouth. It is definitely one to spark conversations but also definitely one that requires talking about because it could bring up a lot of feelings for some readers. It ends with hope but isn’t unrealistic about how such a traumatic event affects a victim’s life in an ongoing way. If you’re feeling up to an emotional rollercoaster in verse, it is a gripping read!

I was given the opportunity to ask the author, C.G. Moore, a few questions:

Your very first novel was prose and then your second was verse, as is TRIGGER. What prompted you to try verse? How different is the process?

Both TRIGGER and GUT FEELINGS are deeply personal novels. When I was having a relaxing weekend in the Lake District, everything clicked into place and I started to write GUT FEELINGS it in verse. It was all very natural. Initially, I tried to write TRIGGER in prose but as someone who was a victim of sexual assault, I often felt like I couldn’t talk about it and there was shame attached to my experience (like I had brought it upon myself which is obviously not the case). I couldn’t find my voice in the moment so when approaching TRIGGER, it became clear that it needed to be in verse with each word carefully weighted. Writing in free verse is a massive challenge and it has its limitations but it makes you hyperaware of the words on the page and how they contribute to the plot, characterisation and narrative of the story.

Do you think you’ll only write in verse now or does it depend on what you’re writing about?

I have no plans to write in verse going forward although I am sure I’ll return to it at some point. With that said, I have a lot of ideas that play with form so we’ll see. For now though, I’m focused on prose.

TRIGGER is, unsurprisingly given the title, about a very emotive subject. How did you balance writing an impactful story with the potential for sensationalising or downplaying the ongoing impact of rape on the victim?

There are also different ways to approach subjects like this but I think that inferring the rape was more important than showing it and making it somewhat gratuitous. I wanted consent to be one of the key focuses of the story, and for the book to facilitate discussion and engagement around this. The main character’s – Jay’s – experiences are not my experiences. It was definitely a challenge tapping into the emotions of my past without letting those memories and experiences seep into my writing. One of the key messages I wanted readers to take away was to think about what consent means and how it might apply to them in their own lives. I was also conscious of the audience I was writing for and ensuring the reading experience allowed them to explore some issues that are often considered taboo, but doing so in a way that was sensitive and considered.

In your author’s note you mention that you had similar experiences yourself. Do you think that made it harder or easier to write this?

I think it was easier to write than GUT FEELINGS in some ways. I’d already written a verse novel and although I won the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award, I didn’t feel any pressure or concern in being compared to GUT FEELINGS. I had a clear idea of Jay’s experience, what happened and how the story would turn out which made it easier to write.

Was the ending different when you first wrote it or did you know what you wanted to happen (if you can answer that without spoilers)?

The ending was always the same but I wrote Jay as having a gun but agents found it a bit sensationalist and unrealistic, and I agreed.

Who, do you think, is the target audience of TRIGGER?

I would say readers aged 13+ but although it’s considered Young Adult, it shouldn’t stop adults picking it up. I wrote in a way that could bridge that gap and appeal to both audiences without patronising teenage readers.

What are you working on at the moment?

I can’t say too much about it but it will definitely be told in prose. It’s a YA “coming out” story with a massive twist.

C.G. Moore

C. G. (or Chris) Moore is the published author of three books. His second book – Gut Feelings – explored his own experiences living with chronic illness and was nominated for the Yoto Carnegie Medal and won the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year Award 2022. His new book – Trigger – is inspired by his own experiences of sexual assault and looks at consent. Chris has also contributed a poem to Our Rights – an anthology endorsed by Amnesty International. He previously taught on the BA and MA in Publishing programmes at the University of Central Lancashire. When Chris isn’t writing, he can be found walking his Jack Tzu, Lola, baking or caffeinating at his local coffee shop.

National library organisation sounds alarm over ‘fire sale’ of library buildings

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), a national charity which exists to raise standards in library provision has sounded the alarm over a potential ‘fire sale’ of library buildings following the Government announcement of ‘exceptional financial support’ to 19 Councils[1].

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that 19 councils in England will benefit from an ‘Exceptional Financial Support (EFS)’ framework for the fiscal year 2024-25, totalling around £1.5 billion.

Rather than representing new investment or capital support, the framework allows the Councils involved to use capital receipts from the sale of assets or borrowing to cover their day-to-day costs up to this amount. Additionally, there is further support for capitalisation requests from previous years amounting to £976 million.

Commenting on the announcement, CILIP interim CEO Jo Cornish said,

This ‘exceptional financial support’ announced by Government is in reality nothing of the sort. Instead, central Government is suggesting that cash-strapped Councils should do the equivalent of using their savings (long-term investment budgets) and selling property to cover day-to-day running costs.

This framework creates a material risk that Councils will sell off parts of their property portfolio, including libraries, to address the funding shortfall caused by the withdrawal of central Government grants. We know from our experience supporting library services across the UK, this is a one-way trip – once a library building is sold off, it permanently impairs the life chances and property values of local residents. It’s a one-way deal and very much like using the credit card to pay the mortgage.

We urgently call on central Government to work with Councils to provide long-term sustainable investment to protect local services and halt their decline, including statutory public library provision.

In response to increasing concerns over proposals to reduce or close library services, CILIP has launched the ‘Libraries at Risk Monitor’ – a regularly-updated map of proposed changes to libraries across the UK with an indication of where CILIP and their partner organisation, CILIP in Scotland are intervening to seek better outcomes for local taxpayers (www.cilip.org.uk/libraries-at-risk).


[1] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptional-financial-support-for-local-authorities-for-2024-25