Category Archives: Books

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/

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.

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.

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.

The Witches of Hogsback by Sally Partridge

Zelda is a self-proclaimed do-gooder and cannot stay quiet if she sees something wrong. Unfortunately, this doesn’t win her any popularity contests – and now not even her ex-boyfriend, Dylan, wants to put up with her anymore. Desperate to escape from everything for a while, Zelda signs up for the school’s hiking trip to Hogsback. Her illusion of having a nice, relaxing time shatters when she stumbles upon a mystery nobody else wants to solve: the death of local teen Stephan Dale. Quickly, she is neck-deep in trouble: from having her room vandalised to nearly being killed. Someone clearly doesn’t want her solving Stephan’s death. Her prime suspects are the group of teenagers known as the ‘witches of Hogsback’, but are they really witches?

There is more to this case than meets the eye.

Sally Partridge is a phenomenal author! I have a fan of her work since I picked up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books back in 2012. She imbues her work with such a sense of place that for me it is like visiting South Africa each time I start reading her work. If you have never had the privilege to visit Hogsback then this novel will take you there.

In an era of epic 300+ page young adult novels and multi book series it is an absolute delight to pick up a self-contained novel that rattles along at a fairly fast pace and takes you with it. Initially I found Zelda to be a vaguely annoying protagonist (possibly because I was similar to her when I was in my teens) but as the story progressed I found myself warming to her and as the sense of mystery and danger deepened as the story continued I found myself becoming more and more concerned for her safety (and that of her hiking club buddies) and saying things like “Why are you making such poor decisions?” in my head.

If I may take a short digression for a moment: mystery books are bad for people with teens and kids in their lives because we worry about the protagonists and get stressed out when they make poor decisions that are necessary to progress the plot along

Anyway back to the review:

The story had just the right amount of holiday rebound romance, mystery and uncertainty; the aura of menace hooked me and kept me reading through the night. For me the real star of the story was the landscape (I can’t help it – I miss South Africa, and this novel took me home for a few hours).

Overall I found The Witches of Hogsback to be an incredibly satisfying read, the ending felt like a beginning for Zelda and he new-found friends rich with hope and excitement.

The Witches of Hogsback is published by LAPA Publishers in South Africa and is available digitally via most online retailers.

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Valerie Chu is quiet, studious, and above all, thin. No one, not even her best friend Jordan, knows that she has been binging and purging for years. But when tragedy strikes, Val finds herself taking a good, hard look at her priorities, her choices, and her own body. The path to happiness may lead her away from her hometown and her mother’s toxic projections–but first she will have to find the strength to seek help.

Hungry Ghost is a tale of love, loss, mental health and obsession. Victoria poured aspects of her life into this story, as she said in her afterword Val is not me, but I was her. This is a beautifully told and illustrated graphic novel, I saw parts of myself in Val, trying to cope with the loss of a parent and it gave me a deeper understanding of people suffering with disordered eating and dysfunctional relationships. For all the heavy topics contained within, there is also a thread of hope woven throughout the story which leavens what could have been an otherwise grim and heartbreaking story. Safe to say for all the sadness, Hungry Ghost left me in a happy state, with renewed hope – and that is one of the things I hope for in the books I read these days!

Hungry Ghost handles the topics of eating disorders, loss and acceptance sensitively and with nuance giving insight for those wishing to know more and, hopefully, providing visibility to those thinking they are suffering alone . This will be an important addition to any collection and perfect for readers looking for works on mental health.

Hungry Ghost is written and illustrated by Victoria Ying and is published by First Second Books. It is out today.

The Censorship of Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Love in the Library

On Wednesday April 12, author Maggie Tokuda-Hall shared her experience of Scholastic wanting to feature her book Love in the Library in their Rising Voices Library

I reached out to the Scholastic communications team with some questions. You can read the text of the email I sent below.

Good afternoon, my name is Matt Imrie, I am the editor of the TeenLibrarian blog and newsletter, I hope that you are the correct person to contact about the questions I have about the recent post (https://www.prettyokmaggie.com/blog/2023/4/11/scholastic-and-a-faustian-bargain) by author Maggie Tokuda-Hall that Scholastic recently made an offer to license her book Love in the Library contingent on removing the paragraph from the author’s note on racism. I have been writing a series of articles on challenges to books in school & public libraries and I am reaching out to Scholastic for comment on Maggie’s claims.

This is concerning, especially in the light of the current bans and challenges to books for young readers in school and public libraries that are occurring on a daily basis across the US.

Has Scholastic been engaged in censoring books to preclude the chance of challenges to works they publish? If so has this disproportionately affected authors & illustrators form minority communities or has this been happening cross the board?

They responded pretty promptly yesterday afternoon, attaching a message from Schoalstic President & CEO Peter Warwick:

No matter what Scholastic say or do now I fear the damage wrought by this harmful action may take a long time to heal, if it ever does.

The ripples are still being felt and will be for quite some time. Trust, once broken takes a long time to be rebuilt.

One of the original Scholastic Mentors, Joanna Ho posted a statement on her Instagram feed:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CrBEpt0shhh/

Dr Sayantani DasGupta a mentor for the Scholastic Rising Voices AANHPI Narratives collection resigned her mentorship:

Publishers Weekly has also covered the story here.

In this instance it appears that enough people stood up in solidarity to shake the walls of Scholastic enough to make them walk back their attempts at censorship. Once again it is a person from a minority group in the US that has been the focus of this attempt.

This is wrong and should not be happening, and it will not stop until enough of us stand together with the BIPOC people that bear the brunt of these attacks and demand genuine change and accountability so this does not keep happening.

Open Letter to Scholastic’s Education Solutions Division re: Censoring Authors:

https://forms.gle/rgNbsA5Ft3pGqv7v8

Former mentor Dr DasGupta has also revealed that the exclusion of queer voices in previous Rising Voices collections was systemic:

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.