Category Archives: Recommended By A Librarian

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.

The Yoto Carnegies 2023 Shortlist

The Yoto Carnegies celebrate outstanding achievement in children’s writing and illustration and are unique in being judged by children’s and youth librarians, with the respective Shadowers’ Choice Medals voted for by children and young people.

Matt and I have both been judges for the awards, many moons ago, and it is and extraordinarily rigorous process involving reading and re-reading dozens of books and forming proper arguments as to why things should be shortlisted (or not…in fact sometimes I was very passionate about *not* letting something get further…), judges can’t just say “this is my favourite because it is cute”. So we love seeing the longlist and then shortlist announcement and imagining the conversations that went on for them to be the chosen few! I definitely have favourites in this year’s lists:

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Writing longlist is (alphabetical by author surname):

·        The Light in Everything by Katya Balen (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        When Shadows Fall by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Natalie Sirett (Little Tiger)

·        Medusa by Jessie Burton, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch (Little Island)

·        Needle by Patrice Lawrence (Barrington Stoke)

·        I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (Hodder Children’s Books)

·        The Blue Book of Nebo by Manon Steffan Ros (Firefly Press) 

The 2023 Yoto Carnegie Medal for Illustration longlist is (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

·        Rescuing Titanic illustrated and written by Flora Delargy (Wide Eyed Editions)

·        Alte Zachen: Old Things illustrated by Benjamin Phillips, written by Ziggy Hanaor (Cirada Books)

·        The Worlds We Leave Behind illustrated by Levi Pinfold, written by A. F. Harrold (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

·        The Visible Sounds illustrated by Yu Rong, written by Yin Jianling (UCLan Publishing)

·        The Comet illustrated and written by Joe Todd-Stanton (Flying Eye Books)

·        Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear illustrated by Jeet Zdung, written by Trang Nguyen (Kingfisher)

Click here to read more about the fantastic books that have been chosen.

Something Certain, Maybe

Something Certain, Maybe is a powerful novel about first love, friendships and embracing the uncertainty of an unknowable future, from Sara Barnard, winner of the YA Book Prize.

Rosie is ready for her life to begin, because nothing says new life like going to university. After years of waiting and working hard, she’s finally on the road that will secure her future.

Except university turns out to be not what she hoped or imagined, and although she’s not exactly unhappy – really – she might be a little bit worried that she doesn’t really like her course much. Or her flatmates. Or, really . . . anything? But it’s normal to be homesick (right?) and everything will have settled in a month or two, and it’s totally fine that her friends seem so much happier than she is, and that the doctors don’t seem to know what’s wrong with her mother.

And then she meets Jade, and everything starts to look a little brighter. At least, it does if she’s only looking at Jade. But is first love enough when everything else is falling apart?

Macmillan

This is the 3rd outing with Rosie and her best friends Caddy and Suze. I thought Beautiful Broken Things was great, all those years ago before I put photos in tweets…

…adored Fierce Fragile Hearts

…and Something Certain, Maybe was no disappointment…

…so I’m very pleased to be sharing a Q&A with Sara Barnard as part of her blog tour today, A-Level results day!

  • Rosie’s voice is so authentic, as are all your characters, do you eavesdrop on lots of teenagers?

Thank you! I don’t usually eavesdrop on real teenagers, no! The voices of my characters always just come through very clearly to me. My biggest piece of advice for writers writing teenage voices is to not actively try to make them sound like teenagers. Just trust their natural voice.

  • When you wrote ‘Fierce Fragile Things’ were you already planning ‘Something Certain, Maybe’?

Not at all! I wish I had been, because it would have made Something Certain, Maybe much easier to write! One of the most difficult parts of writing this book was making sure it fitted alongside FFH. There are a lot of things I would probably have done differently with FFH if I’d known there’d be another book set over the same period. So maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know, because I love FFH a lot!

  • Which of the 3 girls came to you first, and who was the hardest to write?

Suzanne, and she came along quite a lot earlier than Caddy or Rosie. I wouldn’t say any one of them is particularly hard for me to write, because I could write all of them all day long and be very happy! But if I had to pick one out of the three, it would probably be Rosie, for reasons that are more to do with her book being the third one than her as a character.  

  • What kind of reaction have you had from teen readers?

Readers generally tend to respond to the friendship between the three girls, though I get the most messages about Suzanne! With Something Certain, Maybe in particular, I’ve been struck by how many people in their 20s and older who have got in touch to say how much the story of a disappointing university experience resonated with them, and how they wished they’d had the book when they were at university. I had hoped to put something on the page that doesn’t really get talked abou, so it means a lot that it has resonated with people in this way. 

  • What kind of reader engagement event, in schools or libraries or elsewhere, do you enjoy most?

YALC is always my favourite, but generally literary festivals are always a joy. There’s something about all those people choosing to be there out of a shared love of books. They’re such engaged audiences and there are usually some great questions. 

  • Have you finished writing about Caddy, Suze, & Rosie or do you think you could be tempted to write about them in their 20s?

I would love to write them in their 20s! I have written bits and pieces of them a little older. But I can’t imagine it would ever be something that would have a life outside of my laptop, sadly! 

  • What are you reading and who would you recommend it to? 

I am very late to the party, but I’m currently reading Life After Life. It is just as brilliant as everyone always said it was. I’d recommend it to everyone who likes reading.

  • What are you working on at the moment?

I’m editing my next YA book, Where the Light Goes, which will be out next year! 

Check out the rest of the tour. Thank you to Macmillan for organising!
Every single one of these books is brilliant.

The Boy Who Grew a Tree

Nature-loving Timi is unsettled by the arrival of a new sibling and turns to tending a tree growing in his local library. But there is something magical about the tree and it is growing FAST… and the library is going to close. Can Timi save the library and his tree, and maybe bring his community closer together along the way? A charming early reader for ages 5-8, filled with black-and-white illustrations.

Knights Of
Illustrated by Sojun Kim-McCarthy

I know this blog is called *Teen* Librarian, but I read a lot of books for younger reader as well, with Bea but also for the school that I work in…and when I saw what this book was about I just had to be part of the blog tour! It really is one of the best early readers I’ve come across, beautifully written and engaging with lovely illustrations, and could be enjoyed by and provoke discussion with readers of all ages. I asked the author, Polly Ho-Yen a few questions:

What is your fondest memory of using or working in a library?

This is a toughie because I have so many special memories being in libraries. I used to love running the baby bounce classes because the babies looked so amazed to be there and were (mostly) brimming with joy. I also helped out with a reading group where it felt like every week, the poem or story made a huge impact on all of us. I liked hearing the different thoughts of everyone there; in one session I’ve never forgotten, a blind man shared that he saw people as colours. A favourite memory from being a library user was overhearing a kid saying his imaginary friend was particularly powerful in the library because it got its strength from all the books.

How different was it writing for a younger audience? Was the idea for this story always for beginning readers or did it evolve that way?

I was pretty nervous before I began writing about whether I would be able to do it, to be honest! I knew how important every sentence, every word is – there’s no room to ride when writing for younger audiences. But once I put my worries aside and got started, I found the voice and finished it fairly quickly. And then I had a nervous wait to hear what my editor thought. I always find it useful to read my work aloud and this was even more important for this story.

I’ve had bits of this ideas floating around for a while but when I asked myself to think about a story for a younger audience, that’s when it really developed to become ‘The Boy Who Grew a Tree.’

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

I read more picture books than anything else at the moment because I have a book-obsessed two-year-old and so the last book I put down was ‘Where’s Lenny’ by Ken Wilson-Max. It’s a real favourite because it speaks so brilliantly to the games that are at the centre of a toddler’s world.

I’m also reading ‘The Ice Palace’ by Tarjei Vesaas which is such an intriguing read, with perfectly-drawn characters and a killer setting to boot. I’m only at the beginning but I’m recommending it to everyone, so far!

Will you be writing more early chapter books or have you more middle grade ideas?

I would like to write both because I have ideas for both and it’s a great challenge to write for different readerships. Also I know about myself by now that I get a bit overexcited about writing and creating and so writing across genres is a dream come true.

Polly Ho-Yen

The Boy Who Grew a Tree, written by Polly Ho-Yen, illustrated by Sojung Kim-McCarthy, published by Knights Of is out now, priced £5.99

Check out the rest of the tour! Thank you EDPR for organising

Fight Back!

Aaliyah is an ordinary thirteen-year-old living in the Midlands. She’s into books, shoes and her favourite K-pop boy band. She has always felt at home where she lives … until a terrorist attack at a concert in her area changes everything. As racial tension increases, Aaliyah is bullied, but instead of hiding who she is, she decides to speak up and wear a hijab. She’s proud of her identity, and wants to challenge people’s misconceptions. But when her right to wear a hijab at school is questioned and she is attacked and intimidated, she feels isolated. Aaliyah discovers she’s not alone and that other young people from different backgrounds are also discriminated against because of their identity, and feel scared and judged. Should she try to blend in – or can she find allies to help her fight back? Channelling all of her bravery, Aaliyah decides to speak out. Together, can Aaliyah and her friends halt the tide of hatred rippling through their community?

An essential read to encourage empathy, challenge stereotypes, explore prejudice, racism, Islamophobia and inspire positive action.

A story of hope, speaking up and the power of coming together in the face of hatred.

#FightBack #FindYourVoice #OurVoicesAreStrongerTogether

A. M. Dassu

Boy, Everywhere, was such an astonishingly good debut that I have to admit I was quite worried about how Az might follow it up. I had the absolute pleasure of reading an early version of Fight Back! and was totally blown away by how good it is, and now that it has been polished it is even better. I’m very proud to have my quote in there:

I asked a few questions of our esteemed author:

Your 2 novels (+1 short chapter book) have very different protagonists! Does the character come to you first or the plot? Yes, they are so different! I think the plot always comes first. Although Sami definitely came to me with a loose plot for him in mind. And Aaliyah formed in my head because this time I wanted an upbeat, feisty character who you’d connect to but also hopefully make you laugh through the way she observed things. But with both books, my characters had something they had to say and that needed to be more widely discussed.

I’m so impressed with how you’re able to include so many “issues”, helping young* (*& old…frankly everyone needs to read your books to bolster their empathy) readers to understand at the same time as keeping them engaged with a brilliant story. Is there anything you’ve really struggled with making accessible? Thank you! I thought Boy, Everywhere would be the hardest book I’d write, but actually I found writing Fight Back so hard because the themes are challenging and painful. Adults tend to think that young people don’t think about what’s happening in the news, but sadly the ripple effects of events in the news can be far reaching and when writing, I kept in mind that there are children all over the world experiencing the same prejudice Aaliyah does. And that was simultaneously a struggle but also motivating.

What advice would you give to a girl considering beginning to wear the hijab to school? Ooh! Hold your head high. Be proud to be different, be your best self and take each day as it comes.

You’ve written non-fiction as well, how different is your research and writing process? What do you prefer to write? Interestingly, the process is so similar. Of course writing fiction is much more fun but also in some ways more stressful as you don’t want to make things up about a character from a particular background that might stereotype them or harm them. It’s about finding a fine balance of a plot that is gripping that is still based on fact. I do a lot of research! With non-fiction I can check facts via books or websites and I can trust that references are sound, but with fiction I go beyond this and ask people for their views and experiences – it feels like a bigger responsibility and always lies heavy on my heart. And even though Fight Back is own voices, I still had to do the same amount of research as I did for Boy, Everywhere, which surprised me. Again, I wanted to ensure the story was nuanced, where readers would feel seen and also perhaps discover something and so my editing process meant I double checked my research and cried a lot (writing and editing makes writers cry, part of the job).

I know you’ve done a number of virtual school visits with ‘Boy, Everywhere’, have you thought about what you’d like to do with students in person for ‘Fight Back’? I have already planned them! In the Fight Back workshops I’ll ask students to engage in an activity exploring identity, and we will discuss how you can help someone being bullied/discriminated against because of their identity or because they’re different. We will explore what it means to be an ally and the importance of coming together in the face of discrimination and ways to support those that are being bullied/discriminated against. We might even look at the United Nations  Convention on the Rights of a Child  to express themselves.

As well as your own writing, you’re also a director of Inclusive Minds, how did you get involved with them? Inclusive Minds is a unique organisation for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility in children’s literature. We have a big network of Inclusion Ambassadors from across the country with diverse lived experiences of race, ethnicities, disability, neurodivergence, LGBTQIA+ etc. I connected with the founders a few years ago at a conference and soon became an ambassador. Then in 2019 they asked if I’d be interested in taking over from them and despite me just having signed my first book deal, I couldn’t say no. It was a brilliant opportunity to help amplify our ambassador’s voices at events, ensure they get paid and give them the chance to work with publishers to check if books being published are authentic and accurate.

What are you reading at the moment and who would you recommend it to? Oh my goodness, I picked up my proof of The Midnighters by Hana Tooke the other night and I am hooked. I’m only five chapters in but it is so sumptuously written I must finish it. I think it’ll be a classic! It’s perfect for middle grade and adults too (of course).

Are you working on anything that you can tell us about? I have some extremely exciting news that I can’t talk about but let’s just say you’ll all meet Sami and Ali again. The Boy, Everywhere spin off is going to happen in a number of ways!
I am also plotting my next standalone novel and this time it will be a dual narrative – two characters who couldn’t be more different, a girl and a boy. It’s nothing like anything I’ve written before and I am so excited to write it! Please just send me some time!

A. M. DASSU is the internationally acclaimed author of Boy, Everywhere, which has been listed for 25 awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, nominated for the Carnegie Medal, is the 2021 winner of The Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction and is also an American Library Association Notable Book. A. M. Dassu writes books that challenge stereotypes, humanise the “other” and are full of empathy, hope and heart. Her latest novel, Fight Back has just been published by Scholastic and A. M. Dassu is currently touring the country signing as many copies in as many bookshops as she can!

Fight Back! is published in the UK this week by Scholastic

Comics your Kids should Read (and you should too!)

To say that Comics are a gateway reading to ‘real’ books or that they are a way to ‘trick’ your small people into reading is to demean their true worth. Comics are a bone fide artform in their own right, reading comics and decoding images and text stimulates the brain more than reading text alone.

This is a *small* selection of comics that are recommended for all ages. This list will evolve and grow over time.

Hilda by Luke Pearson

The series is an ode to adventure, fun, friendship, exploring, family and learning. The artwork is beautiful, the stories epic in scope yet focusing on humanity and growth. There is also a beautiful Netflix adaptation and a some novelizations (that I have not yet read, but they do seem to have fans).

The Phoenix Comic

Weekly subscription comic for readers aged 7 – 14 (& beyond) – many of the strips are also collected as graphic novels. A range of authors and artists work on this beautiful comic.

Hilo by Judd Winick

A robot boy from another dimension falls to Earth, makes friends and fights evil while trying to discover where he came from and why?

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

An achingly beautiful graphic novel about a young girl, her imagination, school, friendship, belonging and a spiral into terror with phantasms coming to life to steal her away for her creative spirit.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano

No punches are pulled in this gripping child’s-eye view of the refugee crisis. From Ghana to Tripoli and the perilous journey across the sea to safety in Europe.

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick & Thomas Taylor

High adventure and monster hunting collide in this epic tale of an orphan (& her loyal butler) who wants nothing more than follow in her parent’s footsteps and become a monster hunter.

Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes

A graphic novel series for computer nerds, you can learn coding while reading this fantastic series or just read and enjoy the story – no pressure!

Akissi by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Join Akissi and friends as they get up to all sorts of antics around their town in the Ivory coast. A funny, heartfelt and a very real look into the lives of children!

Full Tilt Boogie by Alex de Campi & Eduardo Ocaña

A high-octane, edge of your seats space opera featuring galactic empires, errant princes and a multi-generational bounty-hunting team in the middle of an intergalactic war.

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.

When Stars are Scattered

Omar and his brother Hassan, two Somali boys, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Separated from their mother, they are looked after by a friendly stranger. Life in the camp isn’t always easy and the hunger is constant . . . but Omar devotes everything to taking care of his young brother and pursuing his education.

Faber

This is set to be one of my favourite graphic novels of all time. You will laugh, cry, rage, and cheer many times over the course of the book, a study in empathy, as Omar and Hassan experience the ups and downs of life in a refugee camp with the dream of resettling in America hanging over their heads. It is based on Omar Mohamed’s account of real experiences of growing up, so obviously the relationships are real, but they are brought off the page so beautifully and in so few words, through the skillful work of Victoria Jamieson (brilliantly coloured by Iman Geddy).

Narrated by Omar, we see his perspective of the environment and people, and how it changes when he was feeling hopeful or down. Bad things do happen to them, as well as good things, and Omar talks them through and shares his feelings with the reader. One panel that really struck me was after Omar had been talking to a friend who’s family had been chosen to be resettled, he tries so hard to be positive all the time but can’t help but think “It’s not fair”. He tells us:

…Of course, thinking like this doesn’t do you any good. Somalis even have a word for it. BUFIS. It means the intense longing to be resettled. It’s almost like your mind is already living somewhere else, while your body is stuck in a refugee camp…

We first meet Omar and his brother Hassan once they have already been living in the camp for a long time (have a read of the first chapter in the extract) and the way their journey to the camp is told to us, as it recounted in Omar’s UN interview for potential resettlement, is really powerful. We follow them for years, until Omar is 18, and I was particularly moved by the relationship with Fatuma, how they came to be together, and how Omar realised more and more with age how lucky they all were to have one another.

Enjoy this exclusive extract of WHEN THE STARS ARE SCATTERED

It does have a happy and hopeful ending for Omar and Hassan, but doesn’t let you forget the thousands more people still stuck in the limbo of refugee camps. I think this is essential reading for, well, everyone aged 8+ frankly.

Huge thanks to Faber for sending me a copy for review and inviting me to join the blog tour. WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERD is out in the UK now!

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