World Book Day 2024

World Book Day 2024 has appeared on the horizon and with it the list of £1/€1.50 books that will be available. To whet your appetite you can watch the video and scroll down to see what titles you can spend your World Book Day £1/€1.50 book token on between 15 February and 31 March 2024.!

  • Elmer and the Patchwork Story
  • Andersen Press
  • Greg the Sausage Roll: Lunchbox Superhero
  • Puffin
  • Charlie McGrew & The Horse That He Drew
  • HarperCollins Children’s Books
  • Dinosaur Club: On the Trail of a T. rex
  • DK
  • InvestiGators: Hi-Rise Hijinks
  • Macmillan Children’s Books
  • Marv and the Ultimate Superpower
  • Oxford University Press
  • Can You Get Jellyfish in Space?
  • Puffin
  • Loki: Tales of a Bad God
  • Walker Books
  • Onyeka and the Secret Superhero
  • Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
  • The Amazing Edie Eckhart: The Friend Mission
  • Hachette Children’s Books
  • Dread Wood: Creepy Creations
  • Farshore
  • The Doomsday Date
  • Usborne
  • Inis Mara
  • LeabhairCOMHAR

Register here: https://www.worldbookday.com/register/

An Interview with Sarwat Chadda

1. How did you get involved in writing for Rick Riordan Presents and how did it feel to be asked?

I’ve been with Disney-Hyperion since 2008, and Stephenie Lurie has been my editor through all that time. She’s also Rick’s editor. So I was given a heads up when RRP was starting, that she and Rick would love me to be involved. But the pitch I sent didn’t really work, so I didn’t get involved till a couple of years later, basically I needed the right idea. Then I wrote up a partial (first few chapters, outline) of CITY OF THE PLAGUE GOD and sent that to Steph. She took it to Rick and the rest of the team, we got the thumbs up and we were off!

2. As a very white guy raised in a western/Christian milieu it was a delight to read a book that was steeped in Muslim values and a story based in Mesopotamian mythology, do you have more stories planned that pull on these influences? I know that City of the Plague God was supposed to be a one-off but after Fury of the Dragon Goddess I am hoping for more stories of Sikander and his friends.

Oh, I have SUCH PLANS! I am literally waiting for the publisher to give the okay to go public. So much of publishing is waiting…

3. For readers that enthralled by the Mesopotamian influences in your Sikander stories what books would you recommend that they discover more?

I mainly used the works of Stephanie Dalley and Andrew George. Look at their translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh and Myths of Mesopotamia. Plenty of great history books covering that period too. Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux was brilliant.

4. I cheered during the British Museum scenes in Fury of the Dragon Goddess and am sure that some people will get hot under the collar at the criticism of the British Imperialism method of collection development. Do you have any suggestions on where people can find out more information about repatriation of museum collections and ethical museums?

I think the key thing is supporting local museums. They don’t need to be in Iraq! This is a HUGE topic, the fallout of colonialism. It won’t be sorted out in our time, but the signs of the shift are already there. The recent unrest in Niger is rooted in its colonial past, and those same pressures created much of the modern Middle East and we’re seeing how native Hawaiians are bringing their stories of American colonialism to the fore with their recent eco-disasters. Our problem us thinking that colonialism is in the past. It isn’t. The old colonial powers still wield great power (most to their advantage) over their former colonies. We are in for a rough time, but we must keep an open mind with regard to whose narrative we are being fed.

5. One of the early quotes in City of the Plague God is one that has stayed with me since I first read it (& it is in the pages that I read whenever I am asked to give book recommendation talks in schools):
Daoud laughed. “Guys like us don’t get to be heroes. You know that.”
“Why? Cause you’re an Arab, or ‘cause you’re a Muslim?”
“Take your pick, cuz. Take your pick.”
Can you recommend any books (for readers of all ages) that have positive representations of Arabs and Muslims?

Pick a book written by a Muslim and/or Arab! I’ll recommend the following authors off the top of my head but there are more: Sufiya AhmedSF SaidIrfan MasterSaadia Faruqi.

6. I recall seeing a tweet (RIP twitter) from you a while ago wherein you mentioned that Ash Mistry had been optioned, can you share any details about that?

Ah, it’s with LIGHTHOUSE, a production company. It is a slow, slow process but there’s a young British-born Asian director involved and writing the pilot, so I feel it’s in safe hands.

7. What are you currently reading?

Just finished 1984, which was brilliant. A masterclass in writing Third Person Perspective as well as (almost goes without saying) incredibly powerful about the manipulation of the masses. Always current, always essential reading. Not sure quite what to start next. Got the Three Musketeers ready as my big holiday read.

8. I am aware that you are an avid collector of tabletop role playing games, do you have any plans to create or work on a RPG?

Too lazy to create one of my own, tbh! I just love running games, leaving all the hard design work to better gamers than me. Just wrapped up a 2 and a half year campaign we ran online throughout covid. Really helped me get through the lockdowns having that to look forward to every week. Now running a few short mini-campaigns. Star Trek (TOS), some JUDGE DREDD and now STORMBRINGER, set in the world of Elric of Melnibone. It all, one way or another, feeds into my writing, keeping my story cells refreshed. If you want to become a writer, start running an rpg.

Babylon 5: the Road Home

Return to Babylon 5 as the epic interstellar saga continues with The Road Home. Travel across the galaxy with John Sheridan as he unexpectedly finds himself transported through multiple timelines and alternate realities in a quest to find his way back home. Along the way he reunites with some familiar faces, while discovering cosmic new revelations about the history, purpose, and meaning of the Universe.

I was there…. when Babylon 5 was first broadcast in 1994. God it was a great series when it first came out, and it still stands up today; ok some of the effects look a bit ropey when compared to modern sci-fi shows but the character development and stories that developed slowly and thoughtfully over seasons made it more than worthwhile!

I owned the big box set and purchased the DVD release of The Lost Tales, and although I have not watched the series in over a decade I can still remember the story clearly, starting with : It was the dawn of the third age of Mankind…

Arc driven storytelling at its best!

Babylon 5: the Road Home is a triumphant return to the universe of the Babylon 5. Long enough to be a movie, but still short enough to seem like an extended episode of the series it was a joy to watch from beginning to end! Seriously J. Michael Straczynski has not lost his touch!

Jumping from timeline to timeline and giving Sheridan (and us) a glimpse of what might have been if things had turned out differently in the series was a delight and gives me hope for what may still come if this movie is as big a hit as it deserves to be!

Seeing Starfurys dogfight Shadow Fighters in the lee of Babylon 5 made me very happy!

Watching The Road Home also brought back memories of some of the original actors who have passed away since the end of the series. Rebecca Riedy captured Delenn’s voice perfectly, had I had not known that Mira Furlan had passed away I would not have noticed that she had been replaced, Andreas Katsulas’s G’Kar was one of my favorite characters in the show and Andrew Morgado’s take on his voice was likewise excellent! I also missed Jerry Doyle and Richard Biggs’ voices but hearing Bruce Boxleitner and the voices of the original cast was a pure delight!

Much like the series which took epic, galactic level storytelling and focused it by concentrating on a very human viewpoint The Road Home does not disappoint, providing heart in the throat tension cut with moments of unexpected levity and Zathras.

Babylon 5: the Road Home is out now and I think you should watch it if you are a fan of the series, it will also serve as a solid introduction for those who are new to the series!

Do it for Zathras!

Simon & Schuster Publisher acquired by Vulture Capitalism Group KKR

Having added Overdrive (creator of the Libby app) to their portfolio in 2020, KKR a private equity group best known for its role in the buyout and subsequent collapse of Toys R Us (the last stores closed in 2021) has signed a deal with Paramount to acquire 99 year old publisher Simon & Schuster for $1.62 billion.

Find out more about this deal here:

Paramount Agrees to Sell Simon and Schuster to KKR, a Private Equity Firm

It’s Official: Paramount Global Sells Simon & Schuster To KKR For $1.62 Billion In Cash

After Blocked Deal, Paramount Sells Simon & Schuster to Private Equity Firm KKR for $1.62B

Paramount’s sale of S&S to private equity company KKR confirmed

Learn more about KKR’s purchase of Overdrive here

Until July of this year, KKR also owned audiobook publishing company RBMedia but sold it to another private equity firm H.I.G.

Overemotional by David Fenne

Steven is one unlucky closeted sixth former. Whenever he has a strong emotion, be that happiness or sadness, weird things happen. Like, potentially dangerous things. Recently, he kissed another boy for the first time and . . . the boy’s head literally exploded. Steven flees to the miserable town of Grunsby-on-Sea, determined not to hurt anyone else with his “Emomancy”.

With a best friend as determined as Freya, it is impossible to stay hidden for long though, especially when she realises Steven might be in danger after a mysterious organisation called DEMA start asking questions about him. Where Freya goes, her boyfriend Marcus and American friend Troy soon follow. Together, they are determined to find out more about this organisation and what “neutralising” someone like Steven might mean.

By chance, Steven meets a handsome stranger who claims to share his powers and who offers to teach Steven how to control them. But who is he in relation to DEMA? What on earth happened to make Grunsby-on-Sea so lethargic a town? And can you really trust a charismatic stranger you meet in a café bathroom?

Ink Road
Overemotional cover artwork by Jacqueline Li

I’ve been neglecting the blog over the last few months, but what better to come back to it with than a Q&A with a brilliant debut author, David Fenne. Overemotional, a UKYA queer fantasy set in the most boring town in England, is great fun.

What aspect of Overemotional came to you first?

The concept of the powers came first. I had been rolling the idea around in my head based on conversations I’d had with my husband about how his anxiety manifests. I thought emotion-based powers were an interesting concept to explore, but they would just result in someone just trying to be happy. So I thought, “What if it were reversed?” What would the pursuit of misery do to a person? Almost immediately, Steven’s voice began to form in my head.

How soon in the process of creating the story did you decide to start with a head exploding?

Actually, VERY early on. I wanted something to kick off the plot in an explosive manner … literally! It’s such an extreme scenario, especially after what was a formative first queer experience, that sets up his character arc for the rest of the book. The initial concept was slightly different to how it plays out in the finished book, but I think this way is great at catapulting Steven back in the closet and rasing his walls at the start of the book.

Who was your favourite character to write as?

I find Steven’s voice the easiest because he’s the most similar to me, but I love Troy. He’s so earnest, polite, and optimistic in everything he does, and his fish-out-of-water point of view (being an American in the UK) is a great comedic vein to mine. He’s such a golden retriever that you can’t help but love him.

Writing comedy is notoriously difficult, but the voices were full of humour, was it difficult to balance jokes with tension?

Sometimes. My background is in comedy, being an improv comedian, so humour comes quite naturally during the writing process. I never wanted the humour to eclipse sincerity, though. There are times when it can break the tension or subvert an expectation or trope, but I think people are a little exhausted with “Marvel-quips” that don’t allow moments of genuine sincerity to land. The book gets quite tense at points, so I made sure jokes or funny situations (like throwing breast pumps at a monster) don’t entirely diminish from the tension built up.

Have you thought about what Steven & his friends do next? Or have you finished with their story and moved on to something else?

Well, funny you should ask! I’ve just handed in book 2 in the OVEREMOTIONAL Trilogy! The gang will be heading off to London for university, but not everything is as it seems . . .[CFi ed: I didn’t notice that it was first in a trilogy and I’m so pleased that we’ll meet them again a little older, with the new challenges of uni!]

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

I’m currently reading Murder on A School Night by Kate Weston and I am LOVING IT! It’s a laugh-out-loud funny murder mystery featuring death by period products. It’s so refreshing to have such an overtly feminist, period-positive voice in the YA scene. Did I mention it was funny? It’s VERY funny. Highly recommend to any fans of YA murder mysteries like Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or just anyone who fancies a good giggle.

Review: As You Grow by Kirk Cameron & Brave Books

As You Grow is written by the Kirk Cameron. This fun story with brilliant art teaches the Biblical truths of the Fruit of the Spirit. Follow Sky Tree’s journey from a small acorn to a mighty tree that provides shade, sustenance, and lodging!

As a tool for proselytizing I think that Brave Books missed a trick here! I feel that had the authors tried to be less inspirational & ‘deep’ and focused on the Sky Tree’s growth along with the changing seasons (miracles in themselves) they could have created a story worthy of Juan Moreno’s art, instead they ended up with a product that feels more like book of inspirational quote posters than a coherent story.

Seriously, Moreno’s art calls out to the reader to take their time poring over the pictures, spotting the different creatures and imagining their stories.

Kirk Cameron has had a long career as an actor and speaker but needs more time & perhaps an editor to stand up to him and help him to find his footing as an author.

I don’t know, I think I will have to read the entire saga from Brave Books to properly appreciate what they were trying to do here, but as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shown us, you don’t need to rely on the other parts of the series to enjoy the story contained in one part of it.

It would also be interesting to see how this book is handled during a storytime because as a regular storytime provider I think it would be a rather boring story for an audience if it was read without significant ad-libbing to fill in all the blanks.

Review: Johnny the Walrus by Matt Walsh

Johnny is a little boy with a big imagination. One day he pretends to be a big scary dinosaur, the next day he’s a knight in shining armor or a playful puppy. But when the internet people find out Johnny likes to make-believe, he’s forced to make a decision between the little boy he is and the things he pretends to be — and he’s not allowed to change his mind. 

As anyone that knows me or has seen my social media feeds may guess, my politics and personal views skew very much to the left. However one of the things I can do without letting my personal biases interfere too much is read and critically examine books for review thanks in no small part to my time as a judge for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards in the UK.

Johnny the Walrus is a board book and at first glance appears to be a book aimed at children. The majority of the audience of board books are pre-readers. The text makes use of complex words and sentences way beyond the understanding of children, this leads me to believe that the intended audience are adults that have a specific social and political views.

From a purely analytical viewpoint, Johnny the Walrus is way too wordy for a board book, if I completely ignore the words on the protest signs (page 11) and the posters in the woke doctor’s office (pages 12 & 13) the story consists of 267 words (301 with the words from the protest signs and posters).

On the off-chance that Mr. Walsh ever reads this review: board books should have a maximum of around 100 words, 301 is more in line with an average picture book for young readers. It would work better as a picture book after an editor has taken a look at it.

Moving on to the art style, I am not aware of the illustrator K. Reece, their art style leans towards rough sketches as if they did not have time to finish the drawings before they had color added prior to publication.

You can also play spot the author insert – I saw him twice, in a picture on page 3 wearing a diaper and also as the zookeeper.

Overall this book is about as subtle as a brick through a window. This is not to say that there won’t be an audience for this work, as rough as it is but it comes across as written for a specific group of people, to reinforce the viewpoints that they already hold.

Kate Greenaway and the Carnegie Medal for Illustration

In February of last year the news broke that Yoto had become the primary sponsor for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals and they would henceforth be known as the Yoto Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals.

In September of the same year there came an announcement that there was a wholesale rebranding, and that the Kate Greenaway Medal had become the Carnegie Medal for Illustration. I was surprised that the reaction to this was pretty muted, but there has been a lot going on and the majority of people outside of the awards circle had other things going on to take their attention.

More people noticed when the medal winners were announced in June. People’s heads popped up online and suddenly more folk were shocked that Kate Greenaway’s name had disappeared from the award was founded using her name. Interest and anger has been building steadily & quietly since then and on Monday a friend messaged me on social media with a link to a petition to return Kate Greenaway’s name to the award that had been set up by Rose Roberto, a Librarian and Historian, and Tamsin Rosewell, an Illustrator and bookseller.

The Kate Greenaway Medal is the oldest British literary award focused on illustration. It remains one of very few that highlights the contribution of illustrators and actively promotes the importance of their work. Kate Greenaway’s own work is a hugely important part of the heritage of the British Book Industry; she remains an influence on illustrators today and should also be recognised as one of Britain’s great female artists. In an age when illustrators’ names are still very often left off promotion and reviews for books, we feel it is vital to retain her name in association with this award...

You can access the petition & join the over 1600 people who have already added their names to it if you have an interest in celebrating illustrated works for children & recognizing one of the greatest British illustrators here:

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-back-the-kate-greenaway-medal

News and Articles for more information:

New Sponsorship of the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals by Matt Imrie

The Carnegies by Matt Imrie

Bring Back Kate Greenaway by Rose Roberto (archive link here)

CILIP responds to petition to bring back Kate Greenaway Medal (archive link here)

Libraries & Lemonade

This summer, For The People invites you to join us in defending public libraries by talking with your neighbors. Hand out free lemonade to your community, and spread the word about what makes public libraries so great.

Participating in LIBRARIES & LEMONADE is easy: pick a day, time, and location for a lemonade stand, download and print out copies of the toolkit, and have conversations with your neighbors about public libraries over a cool refreshing cup of lemonade.

Find out more here: https://www.librariesforthepeople.org/lemonade

Inkyard Press Closing

Publisher HarperCollins today announced that they were shuttering their imprint Inkyard Press and transitioning their titles to Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Inkyard was a well-known publisher of books for middle grade and teen readers. Their catalogue boasted a large number of titles written by a diverse group authors from minority communities.

As the tagline on their website states:

Inkyard Press publishes smart, engaging Middle Grade and YA fiction across a variety of genres, from realistic contemporary to epic fantasy. We are passionate about publishing diverse voices and giving our readers a chance to see themselves and each other in our books, with grateful acknowledgment to the work of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop on the importance of “windows” and “mirrors” in literature.