Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guest Post: A Monument to Cognitive Dissonance by Lindsay K. Bandy

I can still see those Sharpie slashes. My middle school librarian had carefully, lovingly, censored out every swear word from every copy of every book in our small, Mennonite school’s library. Today, as I prepare to release my first young adult novel into the world, I imagine the things my former teachers and librarians will Sharpie out. Sure, there are few black-out-worthy words, but the book’s very theme is what will ban it from my former places of education: Learning how to think—not what to think—is the key to freedom. That theme, for me, has been hard-won. It’s turned me into a writer; and it’s turned me into a librarian.

I remember my intense, instilled fear of public school, my constant anxiety about being subject to secular agendas that would test my faith, sow doubt, or infect me with evil. As a young adult, facing cognitive dissonance was a painful and terrifying process, because my gatekeepers did not provide or value access to conflicting information or opinions. I was left to assume that, if I thought or felt differently, I was simply wrong.

Now, as a parent of two daughters, I understand the good and noble desire to protect children. We want them to stay innocent, unaware of the evil lurking in the world, because we don’t want it to ever touch them. But maybe we also want them to continue to see us, their parents, teachers, and librarians, as the people who know where everything goes. The people who can Dewey-Decimal the meaning of life in a jiffy. Maybe the longer we can keep them from asking us uncomfortable questions, the longer we can avoid facing them, ourselves.

I choose to admit that I don’t know all the answers at the cost of falling from goddess-status in the eyes of my children. But this fall leads to miracles, like searching the shelves of the library or the depths of the internet together for information. It leads to discussions about reliable sources, bias, and empathy. It leads to forming and finding answers together, to reflecting on our own biases, and trying to understand why good-hearted people arrive at polar opposite answers to big questions. It blurs the lines between us and them, because there is room in the library for all. (And hey, let’s face it: by the time they hit college, I’ll have fallen from goddess status, anyway.)

Still, it’s a stubborn part of our human nature to simplify. An organizational system is necessary for libraries and brains, and when things feel out of place, we can easily get angry, defensive, fearful, and fiercely dogmatic. Be honest: You know the library-quiet rage that bubbles up in your chest when a co-worker shelves Salt to the Sea in the “R” section for Ruta instead of the “S” section for Sepetys. Who did this abominable thing?!

Creating neat categories, whether for books, politics, religions and cultures, or personalities makes our brains’ jobs easier. It protects us from cognitive dissonance. It provides comfort. And it leads directly to stereotyping, racism, xenophobia, and hate.

As a parent, writer, and librarian, I choose to reject this comfort. I recognize that if every book that crosses my desk or every person in my circle of friends pleases me, confirms my beliefs and reinforces my feeling of being in control, I’m failing.

So, was my Sharpie-loving middle school librarian a failure? No, because she wasn’t a public librarian. She was a well-intentioned, kind person doing her job. Would she call me a failure for doing mine? Probably. And that’s okay, because a public library isn’t a monument to a certain ideology. It’s a monument to the reality—and the beautiful necessity—of cognitive dissonance.

As an author, that’s a monument I hope my books help to build.

Bio:

Lindsay Bandy works as a youth services librarian in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Her first novel for young adults, NEMESIS AND THE SWAN, releases on October 27, 2020 with Blackstone Publishing. She also serves as the Co-Regional Advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

You can visit her on the website at www.LindsayBandyBooks.com

Or say hi on social media…

Twitter @Lindsay_Bandy

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LindsayBandyBooks/

Instagram at LindsayFisherBandy

Library Sweets/Candy Club

I had this idea years ago, back in my UK Public Library days but I was unable to get it off the ground at the time due to not knowing any US Librarians and a smaller network than I have now. 

The basic premise is to set up two groups (at least), one in a US Library and another in a Library in the UK (or Libraries in other exotic parts of the world) and running a quarterly/bi-annual (more or less as your budget allows) candy/sweet tasting group. It can be tied in to holidays that have chocolates or other types of sweets/candy as a central part of the celebrations (thinking of Easter and Hallowe’en as two of the biggest examples). 

The idea muscled its way back into my fore-brain due to the Percy Pigs kerfuffle that erupted in the UK earlier this week, this made me realise how much I missed them and other British sweets, which in turn brought up the group idea as I pondered how American kids would react to tasting Percy Pigs.

This will only be able to run once we have Covid19 sorted out, but in the interim library folk can form alliances with colleagues in other countries and arrange to send examples of local confectionery from where they are from.

If anyone is interested in finding contacts in the UK or US leave a comment below for international colleagues to find you.

Andersen Press release FREE ‘Summer Staycation Activity Pack’

Andersen Press are continuing their commitment to supporting children and families who are at home with a free activity pack featuring their new summer titles. As many families will be taking their holidays at home or in the UK Andersen wants to offer families a cost-effective way to spend an afternoon (sunny or rainy) during the great British Summertime.

The Summer Staycation Activity Pack features free colouring sheets, word searches, spot-the-difference games and more based on a selection of Andersen titles;

Luna Loves Art by Joseph Coelho and Fiona Lumbers

The Mouse’s Apples by Frances Stickley and Kristyna Litten

The Baby Beast by Chris Judge

The Bug Collector by Alex G Griffiths

Don’t Go There by Jeanne Willis and Hrefna Bragadottir

Duck and Penguin Are NOT Friends by Julia Woolf

Bricks by Katie Cotton and Tor Freeman

The Bolds on Holiday by Julian Clary and David Roberts

And Mermaid School by Lucy Courtenay and Sheena Dempsey

Also included is a competition, for one family to win each book featured in the pack.

The pack is free for all, and has been sent to Andersen’s list of bookshops, libraries and contacts for their use too, and compliments the work Andersen Press has been doing to share their books online during the COVID19 pandemic, with free, weekly story times on Seven Stories Facebook page continuing until September, regular storytimes on Panto Dame Mama G’s facebook page, partnerships with Save the Children’s #SaveWithStories (which saw BBC One Normal People’s Paul Mescal read Elmer and Super El, viewed over 500,000 times) and Coram Beanstalk to reach as many families as possible in lockdown.

Sarah Kimmelman, Andersen Press’ Head of Marketing has said of the release, “We know that life for many families out there is nowhere near back-to-normal, and with a lack of events, appearances and festivals it’s also not back to normal for us publishers, so we wanted to offer something accessible to as many people as possible to brighten up a summer at home whilst introducing families to some of our gorgeous new books.”

The Summer Staycation Activity Pack is available to download free here: 

https://www.andersenpress.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Summer-Staycation-Activity-Pack.pdf

Racial Equity Tools

Racial Equity Tools is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity.

This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.

https://www.racialequitytools.org/home

Educational Resources

A short list of online educational resources :

Virtual Story-times

Storyline Online

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.
https://www.storylineonline.net/

If your library is closed and you have no access to storytimes or books, why not look at these resources

https://www.storylineonline.net/ The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.

Open Culture 6000 digitized kids books: http://www.openculture.com/2016/08/enter-an-archive-of-6000-historical-childrens-books-all-digitized-and-free-to-read-online.html

Mackin free (until the end of the year) offer: https://www.mackin.com/hq/resources/free-stuff/

Public domain children’s books at Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=children%27s+books

https://librivox.org/ free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers around the world.

Read More →

Grief Angels

15-year-old Owen Marlow is experiencing a great, disorienting loss after his father suddenly passed away and his mother moved them to a new town. None of his old friends knew how to confront his grief, so he’s given up on trying to make new ones. There is one guy at school who might prove to be different if he gives him a chance but lately, Owen has been overwhelmed by his sadness. He’s started to have strange, powerful hallucinations of skeletal birds circling above him. Owen tells himself that these visions are just his brain’s way of trying to cope – until one night, the birds descend and take him to an otherworldly forest. There, he is asked to go on a dangerous journey that promises to bring him the understanding he so desperately seeks – if he can survive it.

Grief Angels is an urgent and heartfelt look at the power of nostalgia and the many different forms of grief. It’s about young men learning how to share their stories, and teens discovering who they are, and who they might one day become.

Atom Books
Cover illustration by Leo Nickolls

Having never been one, I can’t be 100% sure, but my feelings are that David Owen writes teen boys *so well*. Owen and Duncan are just brilliant characters and reading about their growing friendship from both their perspectives, and how deeply they both feel things, really brought it to life. Owen’s grief is so raw and honest, the potential for it to overwhelm him is clear, while at the same time there is humour and self deprecation and a developing passion for Battlestar Gallactica…while Duncan has doubts about his friendships and himself and where it is all going. The writing is beautiful in places, witty in others, and hugely satisfying throughout.

I interviewed David just over a year ago when All the Lonely People was published, so do have a look there at his responses to some of my usual questions. I love that book but Grief Angels is so brilliant, definitely my favourite David Owen book and in my top 5 reads of 2020 so far, that I couldn’t resist asking a few more!

Your previous books included a fantastical element but this is the first to include a character being pulled into a completely different world. What inspired that?

Largely it was a tremendous act of self-indulgence! I read a lot of fantasy and have long fancied trying my hand at writing it. Having it alongside a contemporary narrative felt like a good way to experiment with writing more in that mode. Plus the ideas I had were better suited to that template – one set down by a number of books that I adore: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Skellig by David Almond, Eren by Simon P. Clark. Ultimately it felt quite natural to take a step beyond magic realism into having outright fantasy be a prominent aspect of the overall book.

The two voices are very distinct. Did you find one came to you more easily than the other?

Duncan’s voice came easiest, and therefore first, because the way he thinks – very self aware, wry, always searching for the humour in everything – is quite similar to how I think. The focus on humour in his voice also made him really fun to write.

Owen was a little harder to find. He needed to be more serious and thoughtful, but I didn’t want him to feel like a drag compared to Duncan! His internal pain and struggle needed to be clear without being overwhelming – I didn’t want the reader to find him difficult to be around the way his past friends did before they abandoned him. The answer came in thinking about why Duncan is so immediately struck by Owen – his honesty and openness is refreshing, but also he’s self aware and funny too. They’re actually quite similar people. Those are appealing attributes, and I built his voice from there.

I love your focus on male friendship. Why do you think it is important to have platonic relationships in YA?

The most important relationships most teenagers have are with their friends. Your friends at that age are one of the biggest influences on the person you become during the most significant transitional period of your life. You spend so much time with them, discover and explore your identity in relation to them, build memories together, have all the fights and reconciliations and drama. Losing those friends, whether you fall out spectacularly or simply drift apart, is often far more painful than the end of a romantic relationship. So writing about these platonic relationships, reflecting those experiences and helping young people to navigate them, is really important.

I felt I had something valuable and unique to say about the dynamic of friendships between teenage boys, and that formed the contemporary side of Grief Angels.

Have you had the opportunity to get feedback from teen boys?

I haven’t, to be honest. I don’t know any! I’m hoping my experience of having been a teen boy wasn’t radically different to how it is today!

Do you listen to music when you write?

I can never decide if I prefer writing with or without music! I’ll go through a phase where I’ll write with music on, and then a phase where I decide I concentrate better without it, before slowly creeping back to having music on. The truth is probably that it makes no material difference and at any given moment I’m trying to convince myself that my decision is making me better and more productive.

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

I’ve just finished The Loop by Ben Oliver. It’s a fast-paced, high concept YA dystopia for people who miss The Hunger Games and Maze Runner books. It’s out in April 2020.

Can you tell us anything about your current WIP?

I’m working on two things at the moment, neither of which are YA! I don’t want to say more than that because neither of them may ever see the light of day.

I haven’t abandoned YA – I just felt the need to try my hand at something new before getting cracking on my next YA project.

David Owen

Grief Angels is out on 5th March, thank you to Atom for sending me a copy.

TeenLibrarian Newsletter March 2020

The March issue of the TeenLibrarian Newsletter is available to read online here: https://us20.campaign-archive.com/?u=32ffbca7d353f6dcc0c7c0953&id=3fd33e0f90

UK CILIP School Libraries Group National Training Day: The Power of Us: The Many Roles of School Librarians

CILIP SLG will be holding their annual general meeting and training day on Friday, October 18th at the CILIP headquarters in London.

The course will explore the many roles that school librarians have in their schools. It will provide opportunities for librarians to share their experiences and learn from their peers as well as hear from leading children’s authors.

Topics include: librarians and great school libraries; librarians as reading promoters; librarians reaching out across the world; librarians as creators and developers and librarians as teachers and information skills developers

To book a place, please follow the link: https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/register.aspx?id=1258474
Costs: CILIP Members £50 + VAT, Non Members £65 + VAT

Closing date for bookings: Friday 11th October

The SLG will also be launching their latest Book Group Discussion packs at the AGM. This is entitled Girl Power, there will be a secondary as well as a primary pack.

It focuses, as you might expect, on books with strong female characters.

You can find out about previous discussion packs here: https://archive.cilip.org.uk/school-libraries-group/reading-guides