Category Archives: Non-fiction

What You Need To Be Warm

Sometimes it only takes a stranger in a dark place… to say we have the right to be here,
to make us warm in the coldest season.

In 2019, Neil Gaiman asked his Twitter followers: What reminds you of warmth? From the thousands of replies he received, he composed an extraordinary poem in aid of UNHCR’s 2019 winter appeal. This poem will now be available in a beautiful hardback edition, featuring contributions from 13 extraordinary illustrators. Every copy sold will be supporting the work of UNHCR.

What You Need to Be Warm is an exploration of displacement and flight from conflict through the objects and memories that represent warmth in cold times. It is about our right to feel safe, whoever we are and wherever we are from, and about welcoming those who find themselves far from home.

Click here for a message from Neil Gaiman.

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book and it is so beautiful, the notes from the illustrators (*so* many talented creators) about how they approached their page are very moving. It, unfortunately, remains very pertinent.

There is a celebration at Waterstones Piccadilly on the evening of the 2nd November, I’m sure it will be a wonderful event.

The book publishes on the 26th October

Black History Month UK 2023

I said on twitter (‘X’) that I wasn’t going to do a thread of favourite books for Black History Month this year because I’m trying to wean myself off it (but also it may well have imploded by the end of October…) but then I felt bad because there have been some real gems this year! So I decided to put a month’s worth in a blog post (each picture should have a link to more details)…

The eagle eyed amongst you might notice that there are only 30 books there and 31 days in the month of October…that’s because my last recommendation is in recognition of this year’s official theme of SALUTING OUR SISTERS…that you simply must read (and push on younger readers) everything by the inimitable Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Nadia Shireen, and Malorie Blackman (even if they are all terrible at updating their websites 😅)!

There are loads of resources on the Black History Month UK website, including a reading list of books for grownups.

While it is still accessible, have a look through my old lists for some more faves!

But also, Matt and I have both moved over to Bluesky for some fresh air, so come find us.

Ten Ways to Build a Brilliant Brain

A fun and practical guide to making your brain brilliant, from well-being expert Nicola Morgan.

Build a brilliant brain with this fun and practical guide for young people from award-winning well-being expert Nicola Morgan. From the benefits of the right food, sleep and exercise, to how to be creative, curious and resilient, discover the incredible science and top advice to make your brain the best it can be. Packed with fascinating facts and brain boosting activities, this illustrated guide gives you the power to build your brilliant brain!

Walker Books

Ten ways your brain is different from the person’s sitting next to you

By Nicola Morgan

One of the most important things a human has to learn is that everyone else is both the same as and different from them. Our brains are wired the same as every human’s for hundreds of thousands of years but we have different psychologies and personalities, influences and experiences, different biology, and so we will not always think, feel, behave or react the same as another person in the same situations. Knowing that is the basis of empathy and of how we make our way through our world.

What are ten specific differences to be aware of as you think about the person sitting next to you?

1. Genes

Our genetic make-up makes each of us literally unique, including in the detail of our brain. We don’t know exactly what the genetic effect is in a given situation but we know it’s there and for some things more strongly than others. For example, we know that dyslexia often has some genetic link.

2. Age

Age makes a difference. Obviously, if the person sitting next to you is two, or 102, and you’re 42, their brain is not the same as yours. And there are biological stages of development that make a typical 12-year-old teenage brain different from both a typical two-year-old brain or a typical 19-year-old or 40-year-old brain. There are some things that older brains can do better than younger brains and vice versa. And we all age differently, too, depending on genes and lifestyle, amongst other things.

3. Past experiences

Everything that happens stamps its mark on our brain and changes us in ways big or small. A significant, perhaps memorable, experience can directly affect how we act later. Someone praising us or not praising us can make a difference to our confidence – we might not remember the original moment but it will leave its mark. No two people have identical experiences.

4. Neuro-divergence

The person sitting next to you might have a neuro-divergence. It could be dyslexia or dyspraxia, ADHD or colour-blindness. Whatever it is, it makes their brain different from yours – even if you also have the same neuro-divergence. No two are really the same even if they have the same name!

5. How time has been spent

The brain of a person who has spent a lot of time playing the violin is physically different from the brain of someone who spent the same amount of time reading books. What we spend time on changes our brain.

6. Introversion/extroversion

Introversion/extroversion is widely regarded as a largely fixed personality trait. It’s a fascinating topic and when I give INSET talks in schools it’s usually the bit that teachers are most intrigued about as it impacts learning so much. It’s not about shyness but a biological level of sensitivity to stimuli, especially when people are the stimuli. Understanding the introverted nature of the people around you will really give you insight into their experience of the world.

7. Type A/B

Another personality aspect is to do with reaction to goals, ambition, success. Type A people are fiercely competitive and beat themselves up when they don’t come top; Type Bs are more laidback and are better at switching off. Their brains behave differently.

8. Support network and friendships

Our mental strength is very much affected and changed by support from the people around us. Do we have people who make us feel confident, people we can go to with a problem or doubt, who we can share success and excitement with? Each friend and connection is part of us and changes us – and therefore our brain.

9. Optimism

Optimism is not a fixed personality trait but more a mindset or learned behaviour. But how optimistic someone is (at the moment) will profoundly affect how they behave or react and whether they go for opportunities. And optimistic or pessimistic thoughts are formed in and by our brains. You can train your brain to think and behave more optimistically and in doing so change your neural pathways. Check out my ‘Pathways exercise’ on my website – or ask me to speak to your staff about building positive neural pathways.

10. Luck

There’s so much we can each control in our lives – and that’s what I focus on, teaching people of all ages that their brains can be ‘in their hands’. But there’s also a lot we can’t control. We should spend very little time thinking about that but it’s worth recognising that a lot that makes our brains how they are is down to luck. Knowing that helps us not be judgmental.

I don’t know who’s sitting next to you. I don’t know you. But I know that your two brains are different in fascinating ways. You could, if you wished and if it is appropriate, start to talk to them and get to know them. Then you’ll know a bit more about what is in their brains – you’ll find similarities and differences. You still won’t know exactly what is going on in their brain, but the endless quest to get closer and closer to the mind of another person is what connects us. It’s pretty much the whole meaning of life – not to feel alone but to be at peace with the brain inside our own head as well as the ones nearby.

Nicola Morgan, aka The Teenage Brain Woman, is an award-winning author and speaker on many areas of well-being and learning. Her best-selling examination of the teenage brain, Blame My Brain, was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize; the prize-winning Teenage Guide to Stress, along with The Teenage Guide to Friends, Positively Teenage, Life Online, Body Brilliant, The Awesome Power of Sleep and Be Resilient, underline Nicola’s unparalleled expertise. In 2018, she was awarded the SLA’s prestigious award for Outstanding Contribution to Information Books. She used to be a teenage novelist and one day will be again. Her new book is TEN WAYS TO BUILD A BRILLIANT BRAIN, published by Walker Books. www.nicolamorgan.com

Empathy Day 2022

EMPATHY DEFICIT FOR LOCKDOWN GENERATION COUNTERACTED BY POWER OF READING

EmpathyLab launches its 2022 Read for Empathy book collection at a time when empathy has never been needed more. An expert judging panel has selected 60 books for 4-16 year-olds, each chosen to empower an empathy-educated generation.

The primary collection features 35 books for 4-11 year olds; the secondary collection has 25 books for 12-16 year olds. 43% of the collection are by authors of colours, and there are seven illustrators of colour. Many of the books help readers understand the lives of those experiencing tough situations, from becoming homeless, or a refugee. Others help children build their understanding of emotions or inspire positive action towards the climate or animals or people in their community.

Primary list
Secondary list

Free guides for parents & educators here: https://www.empathylab.uk/2022-book-collections-and-guides

Queer Up by Alexis Caught

A positive and uplifting book for young people who are queer or questioning – and their allies looking to support them.

In this empowering and uplifting book, award-winning podcaster Alexis Caught sets out to help queer and questioning teenagers explore their LGBTQ+ identity and understanding. Alongside the author’s personal experiences are first-hand stories from notable LGBTQ+ figures, providing an inclusive account of what it means to grow up queer. With chapters on questioning, coming out, friends and family, love and relationships, sex, shame, pride, being transgender and/or non-binary and allyship, this helpful, honest and heart-warming book is essential reading for any queer or questioning teen and their allies looking to support them.

Walker Books

I was excited to be asked if I’d like a review copy of QUEER UP, as I immediately thought of students of mine who have asked for books that do exactly what this does: answer questions, through advice and activites, about (basically) how to understand themselves…

To kick of the blog tour, I’ve been given the opportunity to share an extract from the very beginning of the book, part of the chapter on questioning:

Copyright © 2022 Alexis Caught

Cover design and Illustrations © 2022 Walker Books Ltd.

From QUEER UP: AN UPLIFTING GUIDE TO LGBTQ+ LOVE, LIFE AND MENTAL HEALTH by Alexis Caught

Reproduced by permission of Walker Books Ltd, London, SE11 5HJ

www.walker.co.uk

About the author

Alexis Caught is the creator and co-host of the British Podcast Award-winning LGBTQ+ podcast Qmmunity, exploring queer culture, history and identity. He is also a mental health advocate, qualified psychotherapist, writer, speaker, model and rugby player. His writing has been featured in Attitude magazine and The Mirror along with the best-selling anthology It’s Not Okay to Feel Blue. His areas of passion and expertise are mental health, wellness and the queer community. On talking about the book, Alexis said this is the book that he “so desperately needed when [he] was 14.”


Walker Books will be donating 20p for every copy sold to Shout 85258, a free, confidential, 24/7 text support service for anyone in the UK who is struggling to cope, for which Alexis is an ambassador and trained mental health volunteer. 45% of young people who text Shout 85258 identify as LGBTQ+.

Allies

This book is for everyone. Because we can all be allies.

As an ally you use your power-no matter how big or small-to support others. You learn, and try, and mess up, and try harder. In this collection of true stories, 17 critically acclaimed and bestselling YA authors get real about being an ally, needing an ally, and showing up for friends and strangers.

From raw stories of racism and invisible disability to powerful moments of passing the mic, these authors share their truths. They invite you to think about your own experiences and choices and how to be a better ally.

There are no easy answers, but this book helps you ask better questions. Self-reflection prompts, resources, journaling ideas, and further reading suggestions help you find out what you can do. Because we’re all in this together. And we all need allies.

A donation of 5% net sales in the UK will be donated to The Black Curriculum

DK

By coincidence, I received a copy of this title in the same week as I read a post by Dr Muna Abdi about the term “allies” and its limitations, so had that in mind when I started reading…and the very first chapter, DANA’S ABSOLOUTELY PERFECT FAIL-SAFE NO MISTAKES GUARANTEED WAY TO BE AN ALLY by Dana Alison Levy addresses the same issues in brilliant fashion. The collection of essays is wide ranging, eye opening, and thought provoking, including contributions from Shakirah Bourne (co-editor alongside Dana Alison Levy), Derick Brooks, Sharan Dhaliwal, Naomi and Natalie Evans, I. W. Gregorio, Lizzie Huxley-Jones, Adiba Jaigirdar, Brendan Kiely, Dana Alison Levy, Cam Montgomery, Andrea L. Rogers, Aida Salazar, A. J. Sass, Eric Smith, Kayla Whaley, and Marietta B. Zacker. The stories they share are both personal and powerful and will encourage readers to think critically about what allyship means to them. The authors are from all across the globe, with uniquely personal essays, and include UK based Lizzie Huxley-Jones, to whom I put some questions!

What do you think of the term ‘ally’?

I think ally as a phrase is useful in terms of reminding people who aren’t part of marginalised groups that they should care about the struggles of people within those marginalisations, literally to ally their aims and work to the community’s own aims. As with all language, it evolves really quickly and we will drop certain words over time (and some people have suggested moving on from allyship to solidarity), but I think the overarching concept of allyship, or solidarity, is really important! We cannot be complacent within our role as supporters, and over identifying *as* something without doing the work to *be* something is always a danger when we’re talking about stepping out of our comfort and privileges. Every day must be a learning day.

Have you read the other contributions? If so, did any particularly strike you?

I was lucky enough to get a proof of the US edition this week which I just finished reading. Each essay was really brilliant and made me think a lot. Naomi & Natalie Evans’ essay about being an ally in a racist situation made me think a lot about how easy it is for people to be bystanders – this is something I touch upon in my essay – and Eric Smith’s piece about finding a chosen family and his culture was beautiful. I think Dana’s essay that sets the tone of the book is really great, and Adiba Jaigirdar’s piece about racism in feminist ‘safe spaces’ really resonated with me. Basically, everything is extremely well written, interesting and important. I’m so honoured to be a part of such a key activist text.

The essays are very personal, did you find it difficult to write yours or did it come easily *because* it is so personal?

I’ve had seizures for basically my entire adult life, and have been on Twitter pretty much since then. When I was having video telemetry (a fun process where you live in a tiny room wired up to scanners for a few days to see if you have any seizures) I turned to Twitter for comfort and friendship but to talk about my experiences – this was back in like 2008. I think because I’ve been openly and frankly speaking about  my seizures for a long time, that confessional aspect wasn’t too hard. It was strange to write about during the pandemic, though. And I really did start to worry about what it’d be like as things started opening up, whether people would help more or less. I think that was the hardest part, really.

You have edited your own anthology, Stim, of stories by autistic authors, what, do you think, is the appeal of anthologies?

I think there’s a few things – the opportunity to access a lot of different voices in a small book, plus the focus on a particular topic but from multiple viewpoints. I personally also love mixed anthologies, so you’ll read something, not entirely sure if it’s an essay or fiction – sometimes that blur can make it really interesting when, for instance, a selkie turns up like in Robert Shepherd’s story in Stim. They’re just a really great way to explore a topic, I think, and a good anthology can keep you interested for a long time. I also really like that you might not enjoy every part of an anthology, though I know not everyone feels that way, as to me that’s part of the process of coming across different voices. I also edited 3 anthologies at 3 of Cups Press, On Anxiety, On Bodies and On Relationships, so I’m a big antho fan, haha!

You’ve also written a non-fiction children’s title about David Attenborough. Do you favour any particular style of writing?

I’m really a fiction writer at heart! Nothing definite I can talk about now, but hopefully in the future you’ll see some fiction from me on the shelves. I do love essay writing though, so I think Allies has spurred me to think about writing more of those in the future.

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

I just finished All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue which is a The Craft esque modern witch tale about a girl who discovers a lost set of tarot cards. What struck me about it is that it’s also very much about modern Ireland and the pushback against queerness we are seeing all around us from fundamentalists and transphobes, particularly against trans people. The love interest, Roe, is a non-binary femme who I completely love. I’d recommend it to fans of Moira Fowley-Doyle and Deirdre Sullivan. The next YA book on my pile is Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, which I’m so excited about. It’s Gossip Girl meets Get Out. Outside of YA, I’m listening to a lot of memoirs that touch on disability and are laced with humour. I’ve really been loving Samantha Irby’s three books of essays, and right now I’m in love with Keah Brown’s The Pretty One.

What will we see from you next?

Hopefully, some fiction, but you’ll just have to wait and see!

Lizzie (Hux) Huxley-Jones is an autistic author and editor based in London. They are the editor of Stim, an anthology of autistic authors and artists, which was published by Unbound in April 2020 to coincide with World Autism Awareness Week. They are also the author of the children’s biography Sir David Attenborough: A Life Story (2020) and a contributor to the anthology Allies: Real Talk About Showing Up, Screwing Up, And Trying Again (2021). They are an editor at independent micropublisher 3 of Cups Press, and also advise writers as a freelance sensitivity reader and editorial consultant. In their past career lives, they have been a research diver, a children’s bookseller and digital communications specialist. They tweet too much at @littlehux, taking breaks to walk their dog Nerys. They are represented by Abi Fellows of The Good Literary Agency.

ALLIES was published in the UK on 29th July 2021. Thanks to DK for sending a review copy and Antonia Wilkinson for organising the interview.

Silence is Not an Option

Silence is Not an Option is the first book by Stuart Lawrence – the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence who tragically died in an unprovoked attack on 22 April 1993. The book is interspersed with reflections on his brother Stephen’s life and murder as well as the tools that have helped him live positively and kept him moving forwards when times have been tough. An inspiring read directed at younger readers (aged 10 +) Stuart’s aim is to use his
own experience to help young people – to help all people – find their own voice, stand up for change, and contribute towards creating a more positive society.
Stuart is determined to ensure that children today understand the impact of their actions against others and the importance of inclusion through teaching tolerance and celebrating difference. He has a background in education – working as a teacher for over 15 years – and is now a motivational speaker and youth engagement specialist. Stuart is also a mentor for several young people in the South London area.
Since his brother’s death, Stuart and his family have had a huge impact on the change of attitude towards racism within British society. Their story is still as impactful and important today.

Scholastic

This is a great book to read slowly. It gives the reader practical activities in each chapter, to really think about themselves and how they can impact those around them, before moving onto the next chapter. It is for independent reading and reflection, but could also prompt some brilliant discussions between young people if shared with a group. Chapters range from the influence of role models (Stuart discusses meeting Nelson Mandela) to championing yourself and others. Stuart is incredibly busy, but I just asked him to quickly recommend some books for teenagers to help them understand their place in the world and how to contribute positively:

– Black and British by David Olusoga (I’ve read the abridged “short history” version for younger readers and it is brilliantly fascinating)

– This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany  Jewell (another full of practical advice)

– Everyone Versus Racism by Patrick Hutchinson

– No Win Race: A Story of Belonging, Britishness and Sport by Derek A Bardowell

Scholastic also allowed me to share this excerpt from chapter 3: YOU ARE IN CONTROL:

SELF-CONTROL

After losing my brother Stephen, I really had to learn self-control. Suddenly, my family and I were in the newspapers and on the TV. A lot of the time, the public were being misinformed about our story. I was so angry that my brother was being portrayed as a gang member and a drug dealer, when he was an A-level student aspiring to become an architect.

However, I had to control myself, because lashing out would only affect my family and my brother’s case negatively. It didn’t mean I didn’t speak out, but I had to exercise self-control in the way I handled the situation. I had to be calm and composed, even though I didn’t feel like it.

What is Self-control? Having self-control means being able to manage your decisions, emotions and behaviours so that you can achieve your goals. This skill is what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom!

Self-control is rooted in the front part of our brains, in an area called the prefrontal cortex. This is the planning, problem-solving and decision-making centre of the brain. Did you know that this part of the brain is much larger in humans than it is in other mammals? This area of our brain acts differently at different stages of our lives. For example, teenagers are more likely to act on impulse or to misunderstand their emotions than older people. As much as you might not want to believe us adults and feel like you are an exception to the rule, these are scientific facts!

You can only control yourself. For example, let’s say you are trying out to become the captain of the school netball team and, unfortunately, you aren’t picked for the role. Instead of sulking, getting angry or upset, you show good sportsmanship and shake the hand of your competitor. In doing this, you use your self-control. You are unable to control the situation but you are able to control your reaction and that is what is important. Don’t forget, it’s always useful to get feedback so that you can improve and win next time.

About the author: Stuart Lawrence is the younger brother of Stephen Lawrence, the young man who, on 22 April 1993, at the age of just 18, was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. Stuart is an educator and motivational speaker, dedicated to helping to transform the life chances of young people.

Stephen Lawrence Day is held on 22 April each year to commemorate Stephen’s life.
Follow the journey: #SilenceIsNotAnOption Insta @hon_stuartlawrence Twitter @sal2nd

SILENCE IS NOT AN OPTION is published today by Scholastic.

With thanks for sending me a review copy

The Awesome Power of Sleep

The essential guide to sleep from award-winning teenage well-being expert Nicola Morgan, author of bestselling Blame My BrainThe Teenage Guide to Stress and The Teenage Guide to Friends.

Late nights, addictive technology and minds racing with exam stress and friendship worries: it’s no wonder the teenage stereotype is tired eyes and sleeping through the weekend. Just like adults, teenagers are sleeping less now than ever before, yet sleep is crucial to our health and well-being. Internationally renowned expert on the teenage brain, Nicola Morgan, tackles this essential subject – asking why teenagers so desperately need a good night’s sleep, exploring what a lack of sleep does to their developing brains, and explaining how to have the best sleep possible. Authoritative, accessible and informed by the latest scientific evidence, Nicola Morgan writes a fascinating and helpful guide for both teenagers and adults alike.

Walker Books

Nicola Morgan has written extensively about the teenage brain and mental health, and this, her latest book, focusses on the science of sleep. Now, I go through life feeling tired, thinking that there’s nothing I can do about it as it is all down to being woken up most nights by a restless child, but THE AWESOME POWER OF SLEEP reminded me that there are so many things I can do about it…and I’m trying! Less screens in the evening (she typed, on a screen, just before bedtime…), less alcohol and caffeine, more deep breathing and stretches – I really do think everyone could get something out of reading this book.

Nicola wrote this piece for Teen Librarian (any similarities to persons living or dead are purely coincidental):

In which I become a little bit bossy (to adults) about sleep

While I was writing THE AWESOME POWER OF SLEEP, this was a common scenario when I arrived at a school to talk to teenagers about some aspect of their wellbeing.

The librarian and someone in the Senior Leadership Team – let’s call them Matt and Caroline, just for fun – greet me and we walk towards the staffroom. “What are you working on at the moment?” Matt asks, conversationally.

“Sleep,” I say. Two pairs of ears prick up. They ask for some tips.

On questioning, I discover that Caroline arrives home exhausted after work, eats some biscuits (because sugar), collapses on the sofa and falls asleep with the TV on, wakes an hour later feeling groggy, cooks a meal, has wine, does some work, goes on social media, has another glass of wine “to help me sleep” and then settles down to finish her work and answer emails before going to bed.

Matt is similar except that he isn’t allowed to fall asleep on the sofa because the house is cacophonous with family members at various stages of homework or emotional meltdown and he can’t do his emails and work until he’s in bed and everyone else is asleep. He has strong coffee to keep him awake enough to do the work. The wine still features, though. Thank goodness, he thinks. Because wine helps you sleep, doesn’t it?

Matt and Caroline have only done one thing right: created a routine. And, yes, I recommend a routine. But not like this! These are terrible routines which will wreck their sleep length and quality.

The main mistakes are:

  • Having a nap late afternoon or early evening. It’s OK (though not practical on a workday) to nap earlier but a nap after work hinders the important night sleep.
  • The second glass of wine. (Possibly the first, too, but I won’t take all your pleasures away!) Alcohol raises heartrate and we need a lower heartrate to get the benefits of deep sleep. More deep sleep happens in the first half of the night while the alcohol is still in your blood, so a huge proportion of restorative sleep is damaged.
  • Answering emails (or doing anything on screen) in the late evening – because of the light and because emails are almost never relaxing…
  • Working late at night, because it wakes your brain with adrenaline and dopamine while still making you tired. So, you are tired but alert.
  • Caffeine – but you know that.

I don’t blame Matt and Caroline for any of this! These are very natural habits for over-worked people. They are so focused on getting through the work and life stuff, thinking about the young people in their care, never having enough time to look after themselves, that they have done what busy people tend to do: take the easiest paths down the hill.

Matt and Caroline are not getting enough sleep. This negatively affects their:

  • Concentration
  • Mood
  • Appetite and food choices – sleep deprived people are hungrier and more drawn towards fatty, sugary and salty foods
  • Self-control and resistance to temptation
  • Controlling words and actions in response to emotions
  • Memory and retention of information
  • Hormones
  • Immune system
  • Mental and physical health and wellbeing in pretty much every way

Matt and Caroline need to read The Awesome Power of Sleep before a teenager gets their hands on it and starts telling them off! But what I really care about is that everyone gets better sleep because when we have better sleep we feel better and when we feel better we function better. Matt and Caroline, by looking after themselves will be better able to look after the people they care about.

So, if I seem to be critical, I’m really not. I just need to be a little bit bossy because I care! I also know what it feels like not to have enough sleep: I’ve had my baby grandson living with us for the last six months. Now, there’s a boy who’s going to need The Awesome Power of Sleep as soon as he can read!

The good news is that habits are not so difficult to break. You might need a bit of help, though, and that’s where I come in. You’ll find all the tips and explanations in my book and on my website. The main one is to create a healthy routine in the winding-down period towards sleep, avoiding the things that hinder sleep: alcohol, caffeine, stress, work, and the lights and notifications from screens.

2020 was hard on many people’s night-time rest because anxiety is one of the worst enemies of sleep. But as we enter 2021 and really need to take care of ourselves, I hope Matt and Caroline, and all the other adults working or living with young people, will sleep well: but not on the sofa after work!

Nicola Morgan, The Teenage Brain Woman, is a multi-award-winning author whose work on young brains, psychology and mental health is loved by teenagers, schools and families around the world. For someone whose last school science report said, ‘Nicola has no aptitude for science subjects’, she’s written a lot of science-based books and gained the respect of real scientists. She has been a YA novelist, English teacher and dyslexia specialist and the mother of two teenage (now grown-up) daughters. Now, when not writing and dreaming in a garden office over a valley, she keeps herself physically and mentally healthy as a passionate vegetable gardener, decent cook and determined runner.

Nicola does talks, online or in-person, for conferences, schools, parents and public audiences. She has created unique teaching materials, including videos: terrific value for schools, bringing all the benefits of repeated visits at a fraction of the cost of one!

Website: www.nicolamorgan.com

Twitter: NicolaMorgan

Insta: NicolaMorgansBrain

The Awesome Power of Sleep is out now!

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

Adapted from A Short History of Nearly Everything, this stunningly illustrated book from the extraordinary Bill Bryson takes us from the Big Bang to the dawn of science, and everything in between.

Perfect for ages 8 to 80.

Ever wondered how we got from nothing to something?
Or thought about how we can weigh the earth?
Or wanted to reach the edge of the universe?

Uncover the mysteries of time, space and life on earth in this extraordinary book – a journey from the centre of the planet to the dawn of the dinosaurs, and everything in between.

And discover our own incredible journey, from single cell to civilisation, including the brilliant (and sometimes very bizarre) scientists who helped us find out the how and why.

Penguin

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson was published just as I was coming to the end of my Geological Sciences BSc and I *adored* it. So much so, I bought 3 copies to give to my best friends on the course. I’ve read a number of Bryson’s books for grown ups, he’s got this amazing skill to write on just about any subject and make it fascinating, funny, informative, and understandable without patronising readers. So I was really excited when I saw that he had rewritten this particular title for younger readers and begged Penguin for a copy. They very generously not only sent me a copy but also said I could host a competition for 3 TeenLibrarian readers to win a copy too*! Just comment with your email address if you would like to be in with a chance of winning one (comments will remain hidden).

I’m loving looking through this adaptation, it really does still contain nearly everything, this time brilliantly illustrated by Daniel Long, Dawn Cooper, Jesús Sotés, and Katie Ponder. The design of the book is really appealing and it is a wonderful introduction to just about every aspect of science and technology.

*UK only, I will contact winners on 1st December 2020

Youthquake!

A collection of inspiring stories about incredible young people who have shaped the world we live in!

No one is too small to start a YouthQuake! This is the story of fearless activists, brilliant inventors, champion athletes, gifted creators and inspiring leaders. It is the story of tremendous trailblazers who have influenced change with their passion, courage and determination, and whose inspirational actions and groundbreaking achievements have shaken the world…

Stunningly illustrated and wonderfully written, this incredible collection contains the true stories of 50 children and young people who shook the world. With wise words from each of the children, fascinating facts, beautiful photographs and gorgeous art, this powerful gift book will engage, entertain and inspire future change-makers everywhere.

List of children and young people featured: Greta Thunberg, William Kamkwamba, Ruth Lawrence, Mary Anning, Ann Makosinski, Blaise Pascal, Richard Turere, Boyan Slat, Reyhan Jamalova, Jordan Casey, Stevie Wonder, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Emma Watson, Pablo Picasso, Björk, Louis Braille, Clara Schumann, Skyler Grey, Shirley Temple, Wang Yani, Anne Frank, Nkosi Johnson, Gulwali Passarlay, Marley Dias, Malala Yousafzai, Momcilo Gavric, Michaela Mycroft, Calvin Graham, Mohamad Al Jounde, Hannah Taylor, Pelé, Laura Dekker, Ellie Simmonds, Jade Hameister, Sachin Tendulkar, Red Gerard, Bethany Hamilton, Temba Tsheri, Nadia Comaneci, Billy Monger, Pocahontas, Hector Pieterson, Samantha Smith, Claudette Colvin, Iqbal Masih, Thandiwe Chama, Kimmie Weeks, Mayra Avellar Neves, Neha Gupta, Emma González.

Other titles in the series include: HerStory and WildLives

Nosy Crow
Youthquake is brilliantly illustrated by Sarah Walsh

I really enjoyed this collection of short biographies of some fascinating young people. The range is brilliant, in terms of area of interest, the era the child lived/lives in, and geographically. I asked the author, Tom Adams, a few questions!

How did you begin researching the book? I thought a collection of stories about children that had done extraordinary things would be both appealing to readers, but also incredibly interesting to research and write. I started gathering ideas and as ever, as soon as you’re aware of something, possible subjects seem to pop up everywhere.
Once I realised there were plenty of incredible stories to tell, I started looking in earnest. A lot of basic research was done online but I found that whilst you got a hint of story, you didn’t always get the details that fleshed out characters. I spent quite a while at the British Library tracking down
specific books for extra background.

I’m sure there were lots of interesting characters that you didn’t have space for, how did you decide who made the cut? I put together a long list of possibilities with my editor at Nosy Crow, the brilliant Victoria English. We had a couple of meetings where we discussed each of the children and their stories and gradually began to build a list of 50. Victoria had the great idea of grouping them into chapters that focussed on different qualities – leadership, creativity and so on – which helped us make decisions whilst ensuring an even spread.
We were keen to have a mix of boys and girls, older and more modern stories and and stories that focussed on different cultures. And, importantly, they had to have a story we felt people would be interested in hearing about. We drew up a long list and slowly whittled it down to 50.
I did start work on a good half dozen or so other characters, but eventually felt their stories weren’t strong enough, were too politically driven or I found some skeletons in the closet that didn’t seem appropriate for a children’s book.

The design of the book, and Sarah Walsh’s illustrations, are a big part of why this is a great book. Were there lots of conversations about how it would look and what pictures would be used before you started writing, or during the writing process? Or did you write the words first and the rest fell in to place around them? Very much the latter. I’d seen Sarah’s work in HerStory and WildLives so knew I could expect some brilliant artwork with huge amounts of expression that would make the stories come alive. It was an interesting process, to see which parts of each story Sarah would gravitate to and decide to illustrate. It was one of the most enjoyable parts of putting the book together…waiting for her first roughs to come back to see how each page would look. I fed back very little – although I do remember explaining a little about how cricket works on the Tendulkar spread. Nadia Comaneci’s
backflips and Mayra Avellar Neves’s flower-filled portrait are two pieces of work that I really love.

If you could choose one of the featured children to write more about, who would it be? That’s a tough one! As Victoria knows, I often wrote a lot more than made the book. I find keeping to the word count very difficult. But, if I had to choose, it would probably be Iqbal Masih, a little boy from Pakistan. Shockingly, he was murdered when he was just 12-years old, but he was a boy with so much courage and determination. He had such a difficult start to life, essentially being a slave worker to a factory owner, and even when he escaped, his story didn’t end there. He fought the factory owners and that bravery eventually cost him his life.

Have you talked to children about the book? Would you/do you enjoy Zoom events about it? I’ve not talked to children about the book…other than my own. I’ve not done an author event before and the idea does slightly terrify me, but I think it’s good to get out there!

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? I’ve usually got a couple of books on the go, often fiction and non-fiction. I’m currently reading Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell. It’s the story of a ‘60s band and their path to stardom. I play guitar in a band in my spare time so it’s making me wonder what might have been! I’m also reading
Citizens of London by Lynne Olson. It covers a period in Britain from after WW1 to the end of WW2 and looks at certain Americans who lived and worked in the UK and helped cement the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt.
I also read a lot of children’s fiction and two books I recently enjoyed were The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison, a great story-within-a-story structure about the dangers of ‘writer’s block’, and The Dollmaker of Krakow by RM Romero. I thought this was a heartbreaking tale, beautifully written, that did a wonderful job of getting across the horrors of Nazism to young readers.

What is your next project? Might there be a Youthquake Volume 2?
I’m finishing off another book for Nosy Crow, working with Victoria again. It’s all about mysteries – everything from Bigfoot and the Yeti, to stones that move in the dead of night and ancient codes that can’t be cracked. I’m working with another great illustrator, Yaz Imamura, who can do ‘creepy’
so, so well! It’s looking amazing so far and I can’t wait until it’s finished.
Beyond that…I’m not sure. I’ve got some ideas that I’m working up, but I’d never say ‘no’ to a YouthQuake 2!

Nosy Crow very kindly let me share a couple of my favourite spreads with you: Mary Anning (some of you will know that I’m a geology fan) and Marley Dias (Books and #BlackGirlMagic!).

YOUTHQUAKE is out now! Thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy.