Category Archives: Recommended By A Librarian

The National Shelf Service

CILIP started the National Shelf Service on Monday 6th April, a daily recommendation of a book available to borrow electronically through local libraries, live at 11am. Hopefully you’ve been watching these great videos from YLG colleagues, but if you haven’t seen any yet then why not start with mine! I’m the only one (so far) that has talked about a book that isn’t aimed at teenagers or young adults, not really living up to the TeenLibrarian name, but as I say: this book can be read and loved by anyone of any age…

The illustrations on the banners are by Fiona Lumbers, from the book Luna Loves Library Day written by Joseph Coelho

Nothing Ever Happens Here

“This is Littlehaven. Nothing ever happens here. Until the spotlight hits my family.” Izzy’s family is under the spotlight when her dad comes out as Danielle, a trans woman. Izzy is terrified her family will be torn apart. Will she lose her dad? Will her parents break up? And what will people at school say? Izzy’s always been shy, but now all eyes are on her. Can she face her fears, find her voice and stand up for what’s right?

Usborne
Nothing Ever Happens Here by Sarah Hagger-Holt

Nothing Ever Happens Here is just brilliant. It tells Izzy’s story with great humour, not sugar-coating reactions from family and others, but sensitively portraying how things change and how Izzy feels about it. Perfectly pitched for a middle grade audience (but definitely also readable by teens and adults alike), it will broaden minds and inspire really positive conversations around empathy and the way the media currently often (mainly) poorly portray trans people. I highly recommend you get this book for your schools, your children, and yourselves!

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to ask Sarah a few questions:

You’ve previously written non-fiction for adults, when you initially had the idea of writing fiction did you always intend for it to be for children or did the story evolve that way?

I’m not totally sure! I don’t think I set out to write fiction at all – I simply had an idea for a story which wouldn’t go away, so I started writing something to see what would happen next… 45,000 words later and I had the draft of a children’s novel! I love reading children’s fiction. I have enjoyed so many excellent new children’s books recently – thanks to my daughters’ recommendations – as well as discovering my old favourites to share with them. It’s a real honour and excitement for me to know that Nothing Ever Happens Here will be alongside some of my favourite titles and, I hope, will be read and enjoyed by children (and maybe a few parents too).

What prompted you to write from the perspective of a child of a trans parent?

The most recent non-fiction book I co-wrote was a parenting guide for LGBT parents, informed by interviews with around 70 families – all of whom had fascinating stories to tell and experiences to share. A couple of those stories stuck with me, stories of families where a parent had transitioned while their children were at school. I started wondering about what experience would have been really like, from the child’s perspective as well as the parent’s, and that’s how Nothing Ever Happens Here began. I’m cis (not trans), but I am part of the LGBT community, and I’m very aware how few children’s books reflect families like ours. I hope that Nothing Ever Happens Here is not a one-off and we will start to see more LGBT families appearing in all kinds of children’s books.

Was it difficult to write? Which characters came to you most easily?

Looking back, it was a joy to write (but maybe that’s just hindsight!). Finding time to write was difficult, but the actual writing came quite easily. I think this was because I let the characters and dialogue develop in my head while I was doing other things – swimming, commuting to work, hanging up the washing – so that by the time I got my laptop out to write, everything was all ready to go. The first character to come was Izzy, but I really enjoyed getting to know the other characters too and I’m fond of them all. Perhaps Megan – Izzy’s older sister – and Grace – her extrovert best friend – were the most fun to write as they both have such strong personalities.

Did you involve sensitivity readers early on in the writing process or ask for input when the book was closer to being finished?

Both. The story itself was informed and inspired by in-depth interviews with families with a trans parent, so their experiences were at the heart of the book from before I wrote a single word. This means that some scenes have direct parallels in real-life, and that their voices influenced the whole tone of Nothing Ever Happens Here. Two of those parents read a first draft of the book and gave comments before I even submitted the manuscript to agents. Then I was fortunate enough to have two incredible sensitivity readers – Christine Burns and Jay Hulme – who advised on the manuscript as it was nearer to its final stage.

Have you had feedback from young readers?

My daughter, who is 11, was one of the first readers of Nothing Ever Happens Here – she gave me her unvarnished feedback and has now become a great champion of the book among her friends. It’s early days, but I’m starting to get feedback from pre-teen readers – my favourite feedback so far is from a 12-year-old reader who said “This book was so good and you know it’s a good book when you tell your mum that you can’t wait to go to bed so I could continue reading.”

Have you done any author events? What would you most like to do to promote the book?

The book is only just out, but I’m really looking forward to getting into schools or youth groups to promote the book, to encourage young people in their writing and to talk about some of the issues raised by Nothing Ever Happens Here. I did lots of events and workshops around my non-fiction books (both of which also had LGBT themes) but only with adults – so presenting to a younger audience will be a new adventure.

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

I have just started ‘Amy and Isabelle’ by Elizabeth Strout, after being recommended her books by a friend who always has good reading tips. It’s the first novel I’ve read by her and I’m totally hooked already. I’d recommend it to fans of Anne Tyler or Kent Haruf, it’s a similar, character-led approach which draws you into the lives and emotions of ‘ordinary’ people in a powerful but gentle way.

Are you planning another book for children?

Yes. Well, it’s beyond the planning stage now, as my second novel is coming out with Usborne in 2021. I won’t say too much, apart from that it also involves an LGBT family, like Nothing Ever Happens Here. However I have lots more stories I want to tell that touch on the issues which I care about, so hopefully there will be many more books to come.

Sarah Hagger-Holt

Sarah Hagger-Holt lives with her partner and two daughters in Hertfordshire and is the Community Campaigns Manager for the LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall. She is the author of two adult non-fiction LGBTQ+ parenting books and has written for the i paper, the Huffington Post, and spoken on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about LGBTQ+ parenting.

Huge thanks to Usborne for sending me a review copy of the book, and to Sarah for answering my questions!

We Need Diverse Books

You might be aware of the American charity We Need Diverse Books, set up in 2014 by a group of children’s book lovers (mainly writers initially, rallied by Ellen Oh) with the mission to put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.
*We subscribe to a broad definition of disability, which includes but is not limited to physical, sensory, cognitive, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, chronic conditions, and mental illnesses (this may also include addiction). Furthermore, we subscribe to a social model of disability, which presents disability as created by barriers in the social environment, due to lack of equal access, stereotyping, and other forms of marginalization.

WNDB

Last night Knights Of, a newish and brilliant UK based publisher who are working so hard to improve inclusivity and diversity in publishing, invited Dhonielle Clayton, WNDB co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (an entirely voluntary position) to speak about the feasibility of starting something similar in the UK. The meeting was attended by aspiring and established authors, owners of small independent publishers, people who worked for larger publishers in all stages of book production and promotion, Inclusive Minds ambassadors, and of course some librarians!

We Need Diverse Books pin

The meeting was over in a blink of an eye with so much to talk about. The projects that WNDB manage are amazing:

  • Publishing internship programmes with stipends and mentoring to help break into the “Big 5” American publishers, mainly based in New York.
  • Speaking to marginalised students about publishing as a potential career.
  • Grants/mentoring/retreats for writers.
  • Making it easy for teachers and librarians to find diverse stock for their schools and libraries (and parents/teens themselves to find new titles) by creating the Our Story app, which highlights good books with diverse content from marginalised creators and even provides resources for many of the titles for educators to use.
  • Starting a book award for new books by and about diverse people, The Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, getting thousands of copies of these titles into the hands of children and young people across the country.
  • Fundraising to pay for all of this!

There was lots of discussion about the differences between the US and UK education system, book suppliers, nurturing homegrown talent, the problem of volunteer burnout, how to decide what to target first, what is already being done and by whom, funding, and including everyone. Dhonielle made it clear that their first priority in the US has been to get people from marginalised backgrounds into the publishing industry and actually producing the books, closely followed by getting those books into the hands of children that need to see themselves as heroes in what they’re reading. Afterwards I asked her whether, when talking to students about going into publishing, they discuss also becoming a “gatekeeper”, ie librarian/bookseller, and she said they do but (but) there’s no point having those conversations if these children don’t yet have a passion for books and reading.

A twitter account appeared after the meeting and already has over 500 followers:

So if you think you have something to contribute or want to know more then do get in touch with them, this will be a really exciting project to get involved in!

gal-dem manifesto

This is the manifesto that the gal-dem contributors created when putting together their powerful book of essays “I will not be erased”, a collection of stories based on diaries and letters from their teen years, full of understanding and advice they wish they could share with their younger selves. Rules to live your life by!

I shared “I will not be erased” on the blog last week, after being sent a review copy

“I Will Not be Erased” gal-dem

Fourteen joyous, funny and life-affirming essays from gal-dem, the award-winning magazine created by young women and non-binary people of colour.
gal-dem, the award-winning online and print magazine, is created by women and non-binary people of colour. In this thought-provoking and moving collection of fourteen essays, gal-dem’s writers use raw material from their teenage years – diaries, poems and chat histories – to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today. gal-dem have been praised by the Guardian for being “the agents of change we need”, and these essays tackle important subjects including race, gender, mental health and activism, making this essential reading for any young person.

Walker Books

The introduction to this book says “There is something in each of these essays that will speak to anyone who has ever wondered what they might say to their younger self…But it is our hope that these essays will especially speak to those of us from marginalised backgrounds…”. It really does cover every conceivable aspect of the teenage years, I want every 6th former in the country to read this book because they will recognise themselves in it (for me, it was Grace Holliday’s “The Uncool Girl’s Manifesto” in particular) and be inspired by the adults the contributors have become. They’re not saying their lives are all perfect, but that they want readers to “learn from our adventures, mistakes and heartbreaks so you feel less alone in your struggles and more at home in your joy.” The presentation of the essays is really smart, with illustrations by Jess Nash peppered throughout, and they are all really distinct and eloquent voices.

Jess Nash’s illustration for Niellah Arboine’s story “You Speak Well for a Black Girl”.

They made a fabulous short video, in this embedded tweet, and in amongst all the business made time to answer a few questions for us!

gal-dem started as a magazine, can you give us a bit of background as to how the book came about?

gal-dem magazine started when we were (almost) teenagers ourselves – we were in our very early twenties and feeling isolated at university and at the beginning of our careers. Much like with the book itself, we wanted to create something for our peers and for those younger than us, to make them feel less alone in their experiences. We are still a magazine which produces an annual print issue and online articles, but we also have ventured into the realm of events, takeovers and now books!

Can you share any favourite (recent or not) children’s or YA books?

YA is probably still my favourite ‘genre’, if you can call it that! Growing up I read everything from Philip Pullman to Jacqueline Wilson – The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and The Magicians Trilogy. Two of my recent faves have been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

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

At the moment I’m re-reading Beloved by Toni Morrison and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the legacy and trauma of slavery, who believes in good and bad magic, and who just loves a beautifully told story.

What’s next from gal-dem?

At the moment we’re planning some really exciting events for over summer around sport! We’re relaunching our website and redesigning our print magazine. Big things ahead and always looking for more people to get involved and do some paid writing for us. Pitching details can be found here.

“I will not be erased” is out now from Walker Books (thank you for sending me a copy)

Scholastic Voices

A series of gripping adventures that reflect the authentic, unsung stories of our past.

The series so far!

Last year Scholastic announced the launch of their new series of books, Voices, a series bringing to life BAME figures from British history, who’s stories are rarely told. I have been lucky enough to be sent the first two, both of which are fantastically paced, evocative, believable, heartbreaking, exciting, thought provoking, rage-inducing, and full of historically accurate information ripe for discussion. They are both brilliant stories in their own right, I expect to see them on topic reading lists in primary and secondary schools and in every school library, and I am really looking forward to finding out what is next in the series!


The world is at war and standing on the shores of Dunkirk, a young Indian soldier fights in defence of a Kingdom that does not see him as equal.
My trust in the kindness and decency of others ended. It seemed I had reached a point of no return...”

Bali Rai’s Now or Never

Bali Rai wrote the first, Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story, about a period of time that every British school child has to learn about, but an aspect of that historical event that has been brushed under the carpet by the history books. Faz is one of hundreds of Indians that volunteered to join the British army during WW2 and who were then so badly treated. Scholastic interviewed him about it here. It has been out since January.

When Eve and her mother hear that one of the African divers sent to salvage the Mary Rose is still alive, and that another wreck rich with treasures lies nearby, they set out to find him.

“The water was my destiny. I knew it…I breathed in slowly and slipped over the edge of the boat into the water.”

Patrice Lawrence’s Diver’s Daughter

The second book is Diver’s Daughter: A Tudor Story, from Patrice Lawrence, makes it clear that black people have been in Britain for a lot longer than the Windrush generation, and focussing on another oft-taught about feature of English history: Henry VIII’s flagship, Mary Rose. Her author’s note says she didn’t want to focus on slavery, but it is definitely clear that people of African descent were not safe despite it being illegal on English soil at that time. It is being published in May, look out for it.

Diver’s Daughter brought to mind Catherine Johnson’s many (and brilliant) historical novels…maybe she’ll do one of the future books in the series (fingers crossed)?

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards 2019

It is finally here! The biggest ever (again) nominations list for the best ever children’s books awards.

For those of you who don’t know, the Carnegie medal is awarded to the author of an outstanding piece of literature for children and young people while the Kate Greenaway medal recognises the illustrator of an outstandingly illustrated book for children and young people (the 2019 awards are for titles published in the UK between September 2017 and August 2018). Most nominations come from members of CILIP and so for a book to be nominated it must have been read and loved by at least one individual…hopefully, before nominating, that individual will have also considered whether the book meets the criteria that the judges then use to whittle the huge nominations list down to a long list of (up to) 20 each to a shortlist of (up to) 8 each to the eventual winners. Some of us (lucky us) get sent books by publishers, sometimes with a “we’d like this to be considered for CKG” note, but the nominations are all made by people with an interest in libraries for children and young people.

This summer a report was published into the diversity review (Matt blogged about it here) bringing a few changes to the process to ensure that it is as diverse and inclusive as possible:

This year, 254 books have been nominated for the 2019 Medals; 137 books are in the running for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and 117 for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Books have been put forward by a record number of nominators which, alongside CILIP members, includes several external bodies − BookTrust, CLPE, Commonword, IBBY, Inclusive Minds, National Literacy Trust and RNIB − invited to nominate as part of CILIP’s diversity and inclusion action plan for the Awards.

As part of this action plan, this year also sees:

o   an expanded judging panel of librarians, bringing a broad range of lived experiences and perspectives

o   enhanced diversity training for the judges

o   an equality, diversity and inclusion advisory panel to support and advise on the Awards process

o   a new prize voted for by children and young people

o   and a quarterly publication of Top 10 New Voices eligible for the upcoming Medals.

Scanning the lists, some favourites are there along with a few that I keep meaning to read. In the years before my judging tenure I read the full nominations list every year, and then obviously while judging I read everything (some things many times over), but as the list grows ever longer and more and more books continue to be published that will be eligible for 2020 (…2020! Wishing my life away in CKGs…) this year I’m going to alternate one book from the list with one new book and see how far I get. So far, I’ve only read 1/3 of the Carnegies (clearly spent too much time re-reading Pratchett) and nearly half the Kate Greenaways (will have to raid the public library for the rest).

What do I love that I’ve read so far? Oooh, it is fab to be able to think about favourites and not just about criteria. Every year I guarantee you every one of the judges will have to lose at least one of their favourites to those that the panel agree best meet the criteria. Judges can’t say “I loved this book because…”, they have to say “it meets this criteria because…”.

  • So my top 10 Carnegie favourites so far are: David Almond Colour of the Sun, Jo Cotterill Jelly, S.E. Durrant Running on Empty, Candy Gourlay Bone Talk, Frances Hardinge A Skinful of Shadows, Catherine Johnson Freedom, Zanib Mian The Muslims, Philip Reeve Station Zero, Jason Reynolds Long Way Down, Dave Shelton The Book Case.
  • Top 10 Kate Greenaway that I love, so far, are: Mehrdokht Amini Nimesh the Adventurer, Francesca Chessa Is it a Mermaid?, Rebecca Cobb The Day War Came, Ruth Hearson Zeki Gets a Checkup, Jean Jullien I Want to be in a Scary Story, Fiona Lumbers Luna Loves Library Day, Poonam Mistry You’re Safe With Me, Jackie Morris The Lost Words, Chris Priestly Long Way Down, Catell Ronca The Drum.

It was hard to whittle it down to 10 each and I’ve got so many left to read! I’m certain they won’t all be longlisted, but that’s the joy of picking favourites. It seems to me that the Kate Greenaway list has far fewer titles for older children than in the last few years, but of course that may well just be because half the ones I’ve not read yet are for teenagers and (having a 3 year old) I’ve gravitated more towards classic picture books! The Carnegie list seems to have something for everyone in there, I don’t envy the judges having to make those decisions*!

(*who am I kidding, of course I do, those judging meetings are intense but absolutely brilliant)

The Librarians’ Bookshelf

Suzanne Bhargava shared a photo of her brilliant “bookshelf” idea on twitter the other week, and we loved it so much that Matt asked her to write a bit about it for the blog:

When my school built its new library, it was designed with no walls or ceiling. Just shelves forming the perimeter, lots of tables and chairs for sixth form study, two giant trees and an extremely expensive sculpture in the centre. It is stunning. A showpiece. The bit of the school that is always shown to visitors. It’s a powerful message about our values. I mean, I was still annoyed of course, about the lack of display space. But oh well. It’s an awesome space anyway.

Ages ago, I came across a book display idea on Pinterest, but never knew how to riff on it or where to put it. Last summer the lightbulb moment finally arrived: I would create a sort of “What we’re reading” display to go with the little “Your librarian is reading…” chalkboard which was already on my desk.

I had the perfect space for it – the flat, blank front of my desk, which sits at the entrance to the library. The idea was that every time my colleague or I finished a book, we would update the display so it would be full of a wide range of book titles by the end of the year.

I started the year by making a little, unobtrusive sign saying “The Librarians’ Bookshelf (what we’ve been reading)”. Then I cut a stack of different coloured paper and card to roughly the size of a bookmark. When I finished reading a book, I wrote the title and author on one of the strips of paper and fixed it with blutac to the front of my desk. As the year went on, the “shelf” filled up and I started a new row beneath.

[First Day of School]
[Last Day of School]
I received lots of positive responses from staff and students. Staff would point to one of the titles and ask what I thought of it, or share their own opinions if they’d read any of them. In this way, I managed to get a lot of teachers to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and My Name is Leon (my two favourite grownup reads this year). It became a sort of unofficial bookclub that never meets.

Students interacted with it in a very different way. They didn’t use it for choosing their next read (except maybe with Ms Marvel – there’s a strong little Kamala Khan fan base amongst the Oratory boys now), but took a keen interest in my reading habits: “How long does it take you to read a book, Miss?” “Why do you read kids’ books, Miss?” “What are you reading right now, Miss?” “Have you read __________ yet Miss? Well you have to.” “What’s your favourite book ever, Miss?” That one always stumps me.

I will definitely do this again next year, as it has been one of my most successful efforts to date. Next academic year I’ll be in a primary setting, so I will definitely be including picture books this time. Other than that, there are only a few practical changes I’d make:
1. Use only card. It won’t tear or roll up so much when students inevitably pick at it! Also, paint pens are better on card.
2. Take time with the design of each bookmark. I scrawled some out when I was pushed for time, and they just don’t look as good.
3. Get student library assistants to create their own shelf too! Peer recommendations can be a very powerful thing.

Recommended by a Librarian: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Lauren Gibaldi

What Are You Recommending? Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

nonormal

What is it?

It’s a graphic novel about the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The majority of the first volume deals with her realizing that a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City can be a superhero, too.

Why have you recommended it?

Kamala is funny and strong and wonderfully real. She deals with her parents being embarrassing as much as villains ruining the city. I give this to all of my patrons, regardless of age. She’s a fresh face in the Marvel universe, and I’m so excited for her second volume to be out!

Recommended by a Librarian: In Bloom by Matthew Crow

The Recommending Librarian this week is: Hannah Saks

What are you recommending?

Why have you recommended it?

In Bloom is the story of Francis, a teenage boy who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. In order to receive treatment, Francis has to spend an extended period of time in a special ward for young people like him. He finds it difficult to get on with anyone on the ward but then Amber joins them. In Amber he finds a partner in crime and someone who has to deal with a mum as mad as his own.

When a story involves a teenager with a serious illness falling in love for the first time you might think you know exactly how the story will go. What I loved about In Bloom is that it was actually a very funny book. Francis is one of the most authentic teenage characters I’ve read in years, full of doubts one minute and ridiculous over-confidence the next. Matthew Crow has created characters that are realistic and relatable that will get inside your head and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.