Author Archives: Matt Imrie

The Great British Bump Off

When she enters her country’s most beloved baking competition, Shauna Wickle’s goal is to delight the judges, charm the nation, and make a few friends along the way. But when a fellow contestant is poisoned, it falls to her to apprehend the culprit while avoiding premature elimination from the UK Bakery Tent…and being the poisoner’s next victim!

When an uptight and unpopular contestant in the UK Bakery Tent ends up in intensive care can amateur baker (& sleuth) Shauna Wickle unmask the culprit and prevent rising temperatures in the tent from causing the entire show to melt down.

Gently poking fun at one of Britain’s remaining cultural institutions and those that participate in it, The Great British Bump Off is a joy to read again and again. Fans of Agatha Christie will notice nods to the Queen of Crime’s novels and lovers of The Great British Bake Off will recognize the tropes and types that have become synonymous with the show.

Will Shauna and her friends be safe from elimination long enough to unmask the culprit, are the contestants safe or will the poisoner strike again before filming wraps on the latest season of UK Bakery Tent?

Written by John Allison and illustrated by Max Sarin, better known for their collaboration on the award winning series Giant Days, their latest series, is a gingham-wrapped murder mystery set under the canvas of Britain’s favourite baking show.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages!

Another Sign of Libraries under Threat: Chuck Tingle & the Texas Library Association

It is a widely-shared belief that Public Libraries are one of the greatest things that society has come up with. For well over a century they have grown and evolved as places that are safe for all segments of society to use and see themselves reflected in the collections and made to feel welcome.

I am a believer in the potential of Public Libraries and a lifer in the service (30 years as student volunteer and library professional this year). However I do not believe that they are an eternally safe and secure space. Over the decades I have seen libraries under threat from those who should be supporting and defending them. I have seen branches crumble and fall, shedding staff like trees dropping leaves in the fall.

A more insidious threat often comes from above and within, the latest sign of this danger popped up in my social media feed last night, with Chuck Tingle announcing that his invitation to speak at the Texas Library Association had been rescinded.

Chuck wrote a post about it on his Patreon that you can read here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/texas-library-to-96183885

As I have been writing this. the TLA have released a (to my mind very unimpressive) statement:

As much as many Public Library workers attempt to live up to the publicly stated ethos and values of the profession, Libraries have always been controlled by local government, through the boards that oversee the rules and regulations that govern how libraries are managed and run, and, if right wing individuals gain control of these boards they can negatively affect the services that libraries offer.

You can read previous articles I have written about this subject here:

It can’t be up to Library Workers alone to make sure that Libraries live up to their potential of being safe and open to all.

A Reading for the Edward Said Libraries with Mosab Abu Toha & Friends

Although not required, you may book a ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-reading-for-the-edward-said-libraries-with-mosab-abu-toha-friends-tickets-780355854367

Gaza’s libraries have been destroyed over the course of the last several months of bombing. The Edward Said Public Libraries, the first English-language libraries in the region, have been at risk for months and require support for their continued existence.

During this virtual event, free to attend and streaming on YouTube, preeminent writers will offer short readings in a show of solidarity with the literary and reading communities of Palestine, and a confirmation of the vital nature of literature and access to written culture.

On December 7th a Librarian died in Gaza. 

Doaa al-Masri and her family were killed in an Israeli airstrike on December 7th 2023. 

Doaa receives a group of schoolgirls at the Edward Said Library in Gaza

Why have I focused on Doaa you may ask. Well, we shared a profession and belief in public service, and it is hard to get one’s head around the scale of the tragedy and loss of life that has been unfolding in the Middle East; from the 1,139 Israeli lives lost in the Hamas attacks on October 7th to the sheer brutality of their response across Gaza.

To paraphrase a statement allegedly made by Stalin: 20,000 deaths is a statistic, one death is a tragedy. 

It is not easier to acknowledge a single death that 20,000 but it is less numbing. Each of the thousands of lives lost to this violence will have a ripple effect on thousands more, but their faces blur and get lost in the scale of this tragedy and they become numbers, rather than individuals.

In their tribute to her memory, the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) captured in part her spirit and dedication to her community: 

…Doaa Al-Masri was killed with her family on Thursday night. Doaa was the librarian at the Edward Said Public Library in Gaza. She was a kind and energetic young woman who organized many activities for children and youth at the library including reading groups, classes, and field trips for schools. 

Doaa was also a volunteer in many other projects. During each Israeli attack on Gaza, she joined her colleagues at MECA partner Youth Vision Society in procuring, packing, and delivering emergency aid to children and families. Just last week, in the midst of intense Israeli attacks, she joined two other  volunteers to provide warm clothes to children in northern Gaza. 

We mourn the loss of Doaa, a loss for MECA, for the many children whose lives she touched, and for Palestine. We will miss her smile and her radiant energy. Doaa is one of tens of thousands of people killed in Gaza over the last 64 days. Each one is a terrible loss to those who knew and loved them. 

Let’s be honest, when one thinks of Gaza and the West Bank, Libraries are not the first thing that pop into your mind. No matter who they are or where they live people enjoy reading and need to find information – and those are two of the core functions of public libraries. 

The Gaza Municipal Library and the Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center that was the home of the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library  that contained more than 100.000 books and was founded by Haseeb Sabbagh in the memory of his wife Diana Tamari, have both been razed by Israeli forces. There is currently no news on the current condition of the Edward Said Public Library in North Gaza. 

The bombed-out remains of the Gaza Municipal Library
The remains of the Gaza Municipal Library

The Gaza Municipality has alleged that the destruction of libraries by Israeli forces during the conflict has been a deliberate act and has called on the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to intervene and protect cultural centers and condemn the occupation’s targeting of these humanitarian facilities protected under international humanitarian law.

Public Libraries form one of the cornerstones of a society that nurtures and cares for the people that comprise its individual parts. Apart from educating and entertaining their users, libraries function as repositories of history and cultural knowledge. To destroy a society first you wipe out the commonalities that bind them together, their shared history, their art, anything that ties them together and the fastest way to do that is to start with destroying their libraries and those that care for them.

When Libraries in Sarajevo were bombed people stood up and protested, when al Qaeda attacked the library in Timbuktu there was eventually a book celebrating those who stood up to save priceless, ancient manuscripts, when Russia invaded Ukraine there was a massive outpouring of support for Ukrainian Libraries and Library workers. In Gaza there is proof of libraries being destroyed and one confirmed report of a Librarian (& her family) being killed in an aerial attack and nothing – where is the outrage?

Understand me when I write that I unequivocally condemn Hamas for their bloodthirsty action on October 7th, but the heavy-handed response by the Israeli War Cabinet and the IDF is just as reprehensible!

Articles 6, 7 & 8 of The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court specifically outlaw Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity & War Crimes.

Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention specifically outlaws collective penalties, pillage & reprisals:

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons* and their property are prohibited.

* The term “protected person” means any person entitled to protection under one or more of the Geneva Conventions, including civilians not taking an active part in hostilities, military personnel placed out of combat by sickness, wounds, or detention, and military medical or religious personnel.

Do the actions of Hamas and the IDF rise to these levels of criminal wrong-doing? I think they do, but untrained as I am in international jurisprudence I may be wrong; I do however know that the murder unarmed civilians is wrong, no matter who does it!

Links:

Founding the First English-Language Library in Gaza by Mosab Abu Toha

Libraries in Gaza: Between Despair and Hope by Mosab Abu Toha

Articles by Mosab Abu Toha

How girls built a library in the Gaza Strip by Mohammed Abu Sulaiman, with Chris Niles

Gaza’s main public library has been destroyed by Israeli bombing. by Dan Sheehan

Gazans mourn loss of their libraries: Cultural beacons and communal spaces by Mohamad El Chamaa

Middle East Children’s Alliance

Youth Vision Association

Youth Vision Association: Edward Said Public Library

Edward Said Public Libraries in Gaza

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Pushback against the renaming of the Kate Greenaway Medal continues

Ahead of the upcoming CILIP AGM, creators of the petition to return Kate Greenaway’s name to the award Dr. Rose Roberto & Tamsin Rosewell issued a statement urging members of the organization to speak up about the removal of the Kate Greenaway name from what is now the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration.

We’re delighted that this petition has attracted so much attention, interest and, above all, support. We’re disappointed with what we feel is a brush-off response from CILIP, which we feel is unnecessarily dismissive to more than 3200 people who signed a petition that was constructively worded, and behind which was genuine industry knowledge.

You can read the full statement (& sign the petition if so inclined) here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-back-the-kate-greenaway-medal

If any CILIP Members reading this are interested in attending and raising this issue, you should have an opportunity to do so during the any other business section of the meeting.

You can find information about the upcoming AGM here.

Having read the recent Minutes of the July 20th CILIP Board Meeting it appears as if CILIP does not have the appetite to revisit their decision:

11. A.O.B.

NP alerted the Board to a petition that had been launched by people dissatisfied with the change of name from ‘Greenaway Award’ to ‘Carnegie Award for Illustration’. This change happened in 2022 and we do not intend to change it further.

However, if enough members make their voices hard then it may give them pause.

You can read more coverage about the Kate Greenaway Medal here: https://teenlibrarian.co.uk/category/kate-greenaway/

Erasing Kate Greenaway

Great article about the removal of Kate Greenaway’s name from what is now the Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration written by Dr Rose Roberto.

Erasing Kate Greenaway

World Book Day 2024

World Book Day 2024 has appeared on the horizon and with it the list of £1/€1.50 books that will be available. To whet your appetite you can watch the video and scroll down to see what titles you can spend your World Book Day £1/€1.50 book token on between 15 February and 31 March 2024.!

  • Elmer and the Patchwork Story
  • Andersen Press
  • Greg the Sausage Roll: Lunchbox Superhero
  • Puffin
  • Charlie McGrew & The Horse That He Drew
  • HarperCollins Children’s Books
  • Dinosaur Club: On the Trail of a T. rex
  • DK
  • InvestiGators: Hi-Rise Hijinks
  • Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Marv and the Ultimate Superpower
  • Oxford University Press
  • Can You Get Jellyfish in Space?
  • Puffin
  • Loki: Tales of a Bad God
  • Walker Books
  • Onyeka and the Secret Superhero
  • Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
  • The Amazing Edie Eckhart: The Friend Mission
  • Hachette Children’s Books
  • Dread Wood: Creepy Creations
  • Farshore
  • The Doomsday Date
  • Usborne
  • Inis Mara
  • LeabhairCOMHAR

Register here: https://www.worldbookday.com/register/

An Interview with Sarwat Chadda

1. How did you get involved in writing for Rick Riordan Presents and how did it feel to be asked?

I’ve been with Disney-Hyperion since 2008, and Stephenie Lurie has been my editor through all that time. She’s also Rick’s editor. So I was given a heads up when RRP was starting, that she and Rick would love me to be involved. But the pitch I sent didn’t really work, so I didn’t get involved till a couple of years later, basically I needed the right idea. Then I wrote up a partial (first few chapters, outline) of CITY OF THE PLAGUE GOD and sent that to Steph. She took it to Rick and the rest of the team, we got the thumbs up and we were off!

2. As a very white guy raised in a western/Christian milieu it was a delight to read a book that was steeped in Muslim values and a story based in Mesopotamian mythology, do you have more stories planned that pull on these influences? I know that City of the Plague God was supposed to be a one-off but after Fury of the Dragon Goddess I am hoping for more stories of Sikander and his friends.

Oh, I have SUCH PLANS! I am literally waiting for the publisher to give the okay to go public. So much of publishing is waiting…

3. For readers that enthralled by the Mesopotamian influences in your Sikander stories what books would you recommend that they discover more?

I mainly used the works of Stephanie Dalley and Andrew George. Look at their translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh and Myths of Mesopotamia. Plenty of great history books covering that period too. Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux was brilliant.

4. I cheered during the British Museum scenes in Fury of the Dragon Goddess and am sure that some people will get hot under the collar at the criticism of the British Imperialism method of collection development. Do you have any suggestions on where people can find out more information about repatriation of museum collections and ethical museums?

I think the key thing is supporting local museums. They don’t need to be in Iraq! This is a HUGE topic, the fallout of colonialism. It won’t be sorted out in our time, but the signs of the shift are already there. The recent unrest in Niger is rooted in its colonial past, and those same pressures created much of the modern Middle East and we’re seeing how native Hawaiians are bringing their stories of American colonialism to the fore with their recent eco-disasters. Our problem us thinking that colonialism is in the past. It isn’t. The old colonial powers still wield great power (most to their advantage) over their former colonies. We are in for a rough time, but we must keep an open mind with regard to whose narrative we are being fed.

5. One of the early quotes in City of the Plague God is one that has stayed with me since I first read it (& it is in the pages that I read whenever I am asked to give book recommendation talks in schools):
Daoud laughed. “Guys like us don’t get to be heroes. You know that.”
“Why? Cause you’re an Arab, or ‘cause you’re a Muslim?”
“Take your pick, cuz. Take your pick.”
Can you recommend any books (for readers of all ages) that have positive representations of Arabs and Muslims?

Pick a book written by a Muslim and/or Arab! I’ll recommend the following authors off the top of my head but there are more: Sufiya AhmedSF SaidIrfan MasterSaadia Faruqi.

6. I recall seeing a tweet (RIP twitter) from you a while ago wherein you mentioned that Ash Mistry had been optioned, can you share any details about that?

Ah, it’s with LIGHTHOUSE, a production company. It is a slow, slow process but there’s a young British-born Asian director involved and writing the pilot, so I feel it’s in safe hands.

7. What are you currently reading?

Just finished 1984, which was brilliant. A masterclass in writing Third Person Perspective as well as (almost goes without saying) incredibly powerful about the manipulation of the masses. Always current, always essential reading. Not sure quite what to start next. Got the Three Musketeers ready as my big holiday read.

8. I am aware that you are an avid collector of tabletop role playing games, do you have any plans to create or work on a RPG?

Too lazy to create one of my own, tbh! I just love running games, leaving all the hard design work to better gamers than me. Just wrapped up a 2 and a half year campaign we ran online throughout covid. Really helped me get through the lockdowns having that to look forward to every week. Now running a few short mini-campaigns. Star Trek (TOS), some JUDGE DREDD and now STORMBRINGER, set in the world of Elric of Melnibone. It all, one way or another, feeds into my writing, keeping my story cells refreshed. If you want to become a writer, start running an rpg.

Babylon 5: the Road Home

Return to Babylon 5 as the epic interstellar saga continues with The Road Home. Travel across the galaxy with John Sheridan as he unexpectedly finds himself transported through multiple timelines and alternate realities in a quest to find his way back home. Along the way he reunites with some familiar faces, while discovering cosmic new revelations about the history, purpose, and meaning of the Universe.

I was there…. when Babylon 5 was first broadcast in 1994. God it was a great series when it first came out, and it still stands up today; ok some of the effects look a bit ropey when compared to modern sci-fi shows but the character development and stories that developed slowly and thoughtfully over seasons made it more than worthwhile!

I owned the big box set and purchased the DVD release of The Lost Tales, and although I have not watched the series in over a decade I can still remember the story clearly, starting with : It was the dawn of the third age of Mankind…

Arc driven storytelling at its best!

Babylon 5: the Road Home is a triumphant return to the universe of the Babylon 5. Long enough to be a movie, but still short enough to seem like an extended episode of the series it was a joy to watch from beginning to end! Seriously J. Michael Straczynski has not lost his touch!

Jumping from timeline to timeline and giving Sheridan (and us) a glimpse of what might have been if things had turned out differently in the series was a delight and gives me hope for what may still come if this movie is as big a hit as it deserves to be!

Seeing Starfurys dogfight Shadow Fighters in the lee of Babylon 5 made me very happy!

Watching The Road Home also brought back memories of some of the original actors who have passed away since the end of the series. Rebecca Riedy captured Delenn’s voice perfectly, had I had not known that Mira Furlan had passed away I would not have noticed that she had been replaced, Andreas Katsulas’s G’Kar was one of my favorite characters in the show and Andrew Morgado’s take on his voice was likewise excellent! I also missed Jerry Doyle and Richard Biggs’ voices but hearing Bruce Boxleitner and the voices of the original cast was a pure delight!

Much like the series which took epic, galactic level storytelling and focused it by concentrating on a very human viewpoint The Road Home does not disappoint, providing heart in the throat tension cut with moments of unexpected levity and Zathras.

Babylon 5: the Road Home is out now and I think you should watch it if you are a fan of the series, it will also serve as a solid introduction for those who are new to the series!

Do it for Zathras!

Simon & Schuster Publisher acquired by Vulture Capitalism Group KKR

Having added Overdrive (creator of the Libby app) to their portfolio in 2020, KKR a private equity group best known for its role in the buyout and subsequent collapse of Toys R Us (the last stores closed in 2021) has signed a deal with Paramount to acquire 99 year old publisher Simon & Schuster for $1.62 billion.

Find out more about this deal here:

Paramount Agrees to Sell Simon and Schuster to KKR, a Private Equity Firm

It’s Official: Paramount Global Sells Simon & Schuster To KKR For $1.62 Billion In Cash

After Blocked Deal, Paramount Sells Simon & Schuster to Private Equity Firm KKR for $1.62B

Paramount’s sale of S&S to private equity company KKR confirmed

Learn more about KKR’s purchase of Overdrive here

Until July of this year, KKR also owned audiobook publishing company RBMedia but sold it to another private equity firm H.I.G.