Great Reads for younger Readers

With the new term about to start there are many teachers out there who are looking for good and exciting books that they can read and recommend to their younger pupils this year.  These suggestions are hopefully ones that will help them; they are really for KS1 and KS2L and whether the children read them individually is obviously a matter for the staff.  However they have all got potential to be read to the children if teachers are looking for funny, interesting or exciting stories that do not take the whole term to read.  Give some of them a try and decide whether they will work with your young people.

Barrington Stoke, 9781781127681

“Rose’s Dress of Dreams” by Katherine Woodfine and Kate Pankhurst is one of the first titles in a new series by Barrington Stoke.  The books are a smaller format than usual and have coloured illustrations, all of which makes them very attractive to the younger reader.  This title is about a young girl and her dream of becoming a dressmaker during the pre-revolutionary period in France.  The young Rose eventually became the first of the famous couturiers and an influence on generations of designers. It is really about holding on to your dreams and trying to overcome the challenges that life throws at you.  It is particularly good for those who have an interest in history or fashion

Usborne, 9781848127333

“Marge and the Secret Tunnel” by Isla Fisher and Eglantine Ceulemans is the fourth in a series about one of the most eccentric babysitters you are likely to meet.  Jemima and Jakey often have to spend time with a babysitter and until Marge came on the scene they had always disliked the experience.  However with Marge everything becomes an exciting adventure and in this story they go exploring in a secret tunnel that they find at the bottom of the garden.  there are actually three stories in this book, the other two being about a”great shopping race” and the “lost kitten”.  Having these short stories makes them very accessible, not only to new readers but also for reading in class; they are just long enough to read the whole tale in one session.  Great for KS1 children.

Usborne, 9781474928120

“Meet the Twitches” by Hayley Scott and Pippa Curnick.  This is a delightful introduction to a young girl, Stevie and the family of toy rabbits called the Twitches.  When Stevie and her mother move from their tower block flat she is given a wonderful and quaint dolls’ house, in the shape of a teapot.  Included are all the furnishings and fitting and a complete library; most fantastic of all are the family of toy rabbits that inhabit the house.  What Stevie does not know is that the rabbits magically come alive and when the father, Gabriel is lost in the garden during the furniture moving, it is up to the family and especially young Silver to find him and get him back home.  It is a lovely story about the importance of home and family and I am looking forward to reading more of their adventures in the future.

Barrington Stoke, 9781781127551

“Hari and his Electric Feet” by Alexander McCall Smith and Sam Usher.  The author is well known for the crime series that he has written over the years, but he has also become known for the stories that he has written for children.  This book is by Barrington Stoke and is a delightful story of hope and how music and dance can have a beneficial effect on people.  Hari and his sister live with their aunt in a big city in India, as their parents have had to go away to earn money and Hari helps by making sweets and delivering lunches.  he is an avid fan of Bollywood films and loves the dancing; so when his sister suggests he tries it himself, he does and discovers a talent to make others dance along with him.  This leads to all sorts of adventures and a happy ending for the whole family.  This is a real “feel good” story and has lots of lessons for the adults of the world, so why not get dancing.

Hodder, 9781444932065

“Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure” by Alex T. Smith is the fantastically funny story of an intrepid adventurer and detective as he searches for a lost treasure.  The fact that he is a penguin  and his sidekick is a spider just adds to the totally whacky plot.  The illustrations are weird and wonderful and Alex T Smith has created a truly original new hero.  there are lot of twists and turns in the plot and you cannot be sure who are the villains and who are the good guys.  I am sure that we will see a lot more of this exciting hero with a love of fish finger sandwiches.

Hachette, 9781444921724

“Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack” by Julian Gough and Jim Field.  This is the third in a series of short stories about Bear and his friend Rabbit.  One day they are out swimming when a creature crash lands in the lake and they pull it out, but they have no idea what it is. Eventually they discover that it is an Owl and all their friends have a view about what type of animal an owl is.  It is a fascinating look at how we are affected by rumours and scaremongering and I think there are many links to what can happen in the real world.  Children however are going to love the information at the end of the story, as the Owl (he is a burrowing owl) explains that he lines his hole in blueberry Poo, in order to attract beetles to eat.  There are brilliant illustrations and  extremely funny characters; it will be a great read for those gaining confidence, but also a lovely class read.

Usborne, 9781474932011

“Tanglewood Animal Park: Elephant Emergency” by Tamsyn Murray is the third story about the Tanglewood animal park and in particular Zoe, the daughter of the owners and Oliver, the son of the park vet.  Each of the stories has followed the fortunes of new animals as they are introduced to the park and in this story it is a family of six elephants who are being re-homed, from a zoo that is closing down.  This is a wonderful story of the ups and downs of looking after animals and there is a real sense that the author truly knows what it is like to be involved with all of these creatures.  For anyone who loved the TV series about Longleat, or just loves wildlife, these are a fantastic read.

Oxford University Press, 9780192764058

Night Zoo Keeper: Giraffes of whispering wood” by Joshua Davidson and Buzz Burman mixes magic and wild animals in a lovely story.  When Will is transported into the world of the night garden he enters a world of imagination where he has to save the animals from the  robotic spiders, called Voids.  It appears that he is the next “Night Zoo Keeper” and he and his friend Riya have to help the giraffes who inhabit this part of the zoo. This is a great story about letting your imagination fly and not being afraid to be different from everyone else.

Well, there they are.  Hopefully you will have found something that excites you.  I would also suggest that you look on the websites of these publishers, because they are going to have other titles that you may want to consider and they often have additional materials that the children can use both in class and at home.  Anyway, do Enjoy!

The wonder of factual books

I thought it was time for another look at some of the amazing factual titles that have been coming out in the last twelve months.  It is fascinating that we are having such a resurgence in information book publishing and yet at the same time we still have the doom-mongers who say that we only need the internet for our information needs.It is fair to say that the number of non-fiction books found in schools seems to be on the decline but that may be a symptom of lowering budgets rather than a desire to be online all the time.

 

” Usborne Politics for beginners” by Alex Frith, Rosie Hore, Louie Stowell and Kellan Stover.  It is not often that a book about politics, written for children, causes such a stir but this title has done exactly that.  Whilst aimed at KS2 and above this is actually very suitable for adults who have not shown an interest in politics before.  It is divided into six main chapters, covering everything from kinds of governments to some of the major ‘questions’ that people as, such as “what is terrorism?”It is a well laid out book and has been very well researched.  It has also used a range of experts, from BBC reporters to MPs.  I particularly  like the section on how to hold a debate because it makes you think about different aspects of the discussion.  It has a good index and glossary and is really recommended, both for school and for the home.

“The Lost Words” by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris is a totally stunning work of art, both in the poetry and in the illustrations.  The premise it simple;  it is an alphabetical list of terms associated with nature, that seem to be disappearing from everyday knowledge and usage.  However the reality goes far beyond this, because each definition or description is a poem in its own right and the first letter of each line adds up to create the name of the subject matter.  Jackie Morris’s illustrations are almost beyond description; they are sumptuous, lyrical, magical evocations of the world around us.  This is one of those books that totally transcends the way we label books.  It is something that can be read and pored over with a small child, but it also works  as a wonderfully absorbing read for adults.  It is possibly at the top of my non-fiction list for the last year.

“Where’s Jane” by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill is a look at the novels of Jane Austen.  It covers six of her most famous works and gives a very concise description of the stories.  Each book is given a double page spread with details of the plot as well as a small vignette of the characters.  There is also a double page of just illustration which shows scenes from the book and which has an element of “Where’s Wally as the reader has to find the character of Jane, as well as her Pug dog.  there is a great deal of complexity in the illustrations, all of which show everyday activities of the period and give us a real sense of the time.  What is particularly helpful is the slight change in the colour palette for each of the books, this creates a natural division between the sections and brings a different atmosphere to each story.  As we commemorated the bicentenary of her death in 2017 this book seems particularly well times.  It will be extremely useful, not only as an introduction to the books, but also a look at the social and cultural elements of life in the early 19th century.  Definitely one for the KS2 classroom.

 

“The People Awards” by Lily Murray and Ana Albero is a look at 50 people through history who have had an impact on the lives of the world around them and changed the way that we think.  Some of these people are household names but many of them are not; however they have all been chosen to represent specific quality.  the book is aimed at younger readers, from about 7 years upwards and it is heavily illustrated with bright and cheerful pictures. this introduction really whets the appetite and will hopefully lead young people to find out about the award winners in more detail.

“Great Women who made History” by Kate Pankhurst is one of the many books about strong women that have been produced in order to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage.  This one is aimed at a relatively young audience, the lower end of KS2 or even good readers who are slightly younger.  The range of women cover the last four thousand years of our history from Ancient Egypt to the Russian Cosmonauts; whilst most of them are well known there are one or two who do not usually appear in such books and it is great to see this variation.  It is a brightly illustrated book with plenty of information, but in bite-sized chunks and I am sure that readers will be encouraged to go ahead and find out more about the amazing women mentioned.

“Animal surprises:how to draw” by Nicola Davies and Abbie Cameron.  Nicola Davies is one of the most well known and respected writers of narrative non-fiction for young people, with an emphasis on the natural world.  This book is part of a series that she has written in collaboration with a young illustrator called Abbie Cameron.  The idea is to show young people how to draw some of the creatures that are found in some of Nicola’s books, starting with “Animal Surprises”; this will be followed by other titles such as “The Word Bird” and “Into the Blue”.  Each animal has a short half page description by Nicola but the main emphasis is on the building of the illustrations.  It is aimed at the absolute beginner, using circles, ovals and lines to construct frameworks and then filling in the details.  I feel as if even I could have a go at creating the animals shown.

“10 reasons to love a bear” is part of a series aimed at younger readers and which introduces them to some of their favourite creatures in the wild.  There are double page spreads and just three or four lines of text on each page, so that it makes for a great book to read on a one to one basis.  the facts act as a starting point for more in-depth searching.  It is a very child friendly series and further titles include Whales and Elephants.

This really is just a taster for some of the many titles that are coming out at the moment.  I have already got a small pile of them, ready for the next review  and there are several that have really got me excited.  What a really brilliant time for children’s publishing and especially for non-fiction titles.  This resurgence is something that we can only be grateful for and hope that it continues.

Bristol celebrating Children’s Books

Usually when I attend any book events it means a long journey by car or train, however yesterday I went to a really great little day in Bristol.  It was hosted by Horfield Primary School who have been gaining a reputation for their emphasis on reading;  in fact, last year they were the winners of the UKLA Literacy School of the Year award.  It was lovely to walk around the school and see the examples of ‘good practice’ that they were taking on board, so that pupils are constantly reminded of the joys of reading.

There was a very full programme of events during the day and I managed to fit in five of the authors and illustrators.  Firstly I saw the truly inspirational Andy Seed, who is well known for his series of very funny but informative books about a wide range of topics.  Yesterday he used the event to launch a new wildlife  book  entitled “Wild Facts about nature” which he has written in conjunction with the RSPB.  Andy is a really funny speaker who had the audience of both children and adults in fits of laughter.  The session was very interactive with helpers being  persuaded up on to the stage to help with the explanations and quizzes found in the book.  If anyone is looking for a really superb author to connect with their primary pupils then Andy Seed comes highly recommended.

My next session was with the lovely Amy Wilson who has made quite a stir with her book “A girl called Owl” and her latest “A Far away Magic“.  She also introduced us to her next book “Snow globe”, which will be published in October, ready for the Christmas market.  This was a very interactive workshop, with Amy working with the children to think around the concept of Magic.  It was really lovely to hear from the children about what they had been inspired to write.  Given the emphasis that there is on writing within the curriculum this was a brilliant way to enthuse children, without making it feel like ‘work’.

Ross Montgomery is a very talented young author and has produced books for a wide range of ages; these range from picture books such as “Space Tortoise” to his new book “Max and the Millions“.  This workshop was for what is often called ‘middle grade’ readers and was centred around ‘Max’ and how Ross created the world at the centre of the story.  The children had to imagine they were only the size of a grain of rice and then think about how they would describe objects they see when entering a new space/room within a house.  It was fascinating to hear their thoughts and to try and visualize the process for yourself.  Even though these workshops are intended for a children’s audience, they are so useful for adult who want to write, or who work with children in an educational setting.

The largest event of the afternoon was that with S F Said who is well known in most primary schools for his books about a cat called “Varjak Paw” and many of the children in the packed audience would have read the book in school.  The author spoke about his journey into writing and it was fascinating to hear that he had also suffered book rejections in his time.  He also admitted that his understanding of the writing and publishing process had to develop over time, especially the fact that writing ‘The End’ means it is the End of the beginning process.  Thing such as agents, editors, drafts and re-writes were something that he had to learn about and take on board in order to achieve success.  His latest book “Phoenix”, which has been out for several years now, took seven years to write and is on a much larger scale than his first works.  It is a fantastic space odyssey, which I really loved.  The children had lots of questions at the end of the session and we heard that there will be a third Varjak Paw at some time in the future, but only when S F is older!

My final session of the day was with the delightful Chris D’Lacey who is so well know for his wonderful “Last Dragon” series, of which I am a great fan.  He spoke about how he started writing and the book that first brought him attention as an author “Fly Cherokee, Fly” which was listed for the Carnegie medal.  When his publisher asked for another book on a similar theme, with squirrels , he was also asked what was the occupation of the landlady where the central character was living.  By a very circuitous route he came up with her being a ceramicist who makes models of dragons; the series was born.  Chris also spoke about his two later series “The Unicorne Files” and “Erth Dragons”, both of which are possibly for slightly older audiences.

 

Mini Grey

Leigh Hodgkinson

Kjartan Poskitt

There were six other authors and illustrators that I was unable to sit in on, but I was lucky enough to speak to several of them when they were signing or just enjoying the atmosphere.  Mini Grey (“The Last Wolf”), Leigh Hodgkinson (“Are you sitting comfortably”), Emma Randall (“The twelve days of Christmas”) and David Lucas (“Grendel”) are all superb picture book creators and it was a shame that I did not get time to hear them speak.  However based on their charming way with their audience, I will try and get to listen to them in the future.  I also want to know why Mini was wearing little furry ears!  John Hegley (“I am a Poetato”) is very well known as a poet and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at a conference a couple of years ago.  He is full of energy and his use of language is amazing, I would highly recommend him for schools.  This recommendation also applies to the final speaker that I did not see, however I have also seen him in the past.  This is Kjartan Poskitt, a man who can make mathematics really interesting, amusing and even understandable.  His books about “Murderous Maths” are a staple of most libraries and schools and like “Horrible Histories” they are very popular with the intended audience.  To listen to him is a real experience and I would have loved to catch some of his event.

Overall this was a really lovely day and I would like to give a big thanks to the organizers and staff at Horfield Primary School for putting it all together, as I know how much effort must have gone into the day.  I particularly loved the small bouquets of flowers, crafted from old books by the children, that were given to each author.   It was advertised heavily on Twitter and in Bristol so I am sure that it must have been a disappointment that the audience was not as broad as it could have been.  However I did see several friends and had the great pleasure of meeting a Twitter friend, Brindy Wilcox, who is a self published children’s author and lives a few miles from me.  It really was a wonderful celebration of children’s books and the fantastic wealth of authors and illustrators that we have in this country.  Those of you in the area who did not attend missed a real treat.

 

 

Spring into Picture Books

Firstly I am going to look at a selection of stories based around reading and books, which seems somewhat appropriate, given the theme of this blog. It has become quite common to see books and reading become the focus of books, both picture books and those for slightly older readers.  I have noticed that there are several others being published during the summer, so I hope I will be able to write about them later in the year.

Andersen Press, 9781783446025

“Not just a book” by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross is full of the magic and imagination that we have come to expect from Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross.  It is very simple  text with Tony Ross’s now classic style of illustration.  We see the multitude of things you can do with a book (even if it is not such a good idea) but the focal point is that reading a book enables us to use our imagination, to feel emotion and empathize with others, to learn from and to enjoy.

Little Red Reading Hood” by Lucy Rowland and Ben Mantle.  this is another look at the magic of reading and how a little imagination can change the stories that we know.  It starts out as a version of ‘Little red Riding Hood, but takes an unexpected turn, thanks to the librarian who had been tied up by the wolf.  It encourages children to change things around if they don’t like the way a story is going and is a wonderful encouragement for those wanting to write their own stories.

“Birdy and Bou: the Floating Library” by David Bedford and Mandy Stanley is a charming story aimed at the very young.  Bou, the panda and his friend Birdy live on the edge of a river.  Imagine their excitement when they see the Library Boat on its way to their village, so they and their friends hurry down to the river bank so they can choose some books to read.  they become so involved that they do not notice that the boat is about to leave and they need to get the book back.  Luckily Birdy is able to fly the book to the Library! A great introduction to using a library and a way of reminding us that in other parts of the world having access to books is more difficult than for us.

Read the Book, Lemmings” by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora is a tale about the importance of being able to read.  Foxy is reading his book about Lemmings and finds that they don’t actually jump off cliffs, unfortunately the three on board his ship can’t read and keep jumping into the water, where they need to be rescued. Despite all his efforts, I am not sure that the Lemmings really understand what he was trying to say  A great story for the very young, but with a very important message for even the adults among us.

 

 

The rest of my selection for this time are all new titles and most of them deal with various issues that young children are likely to come across at home, or in school.  While the subjects vary and the illustrations and text  range from the conventional to the extremely quirky, I think that these are all great books that you will enjoy reading to young listeners.

“Picking Pickle” by Polly Faber and Clare Vulliamy.  this is an absolutely gorgeous story about choosing a new dog.It is a simple discussion between the reader and a dog called Pickle and he is trying to help us find the right dog to take home.  Well, you can imagine who the perfect animal turns out to be!  This is a magical  story to read to any child, especially if you are thinking about buying a pet.  It makes you think about the animal and whether it will fit in with your family, so that you become the perfect family for this dog.

“The Itchy-saurus” by Rosie Wellesley is the story of a T-Rex who suddenly finds that his skin has become red, dry and very itchy and he doesn’t know what to do about it.  Luckily Doc Bill (a Platypus) comes along and helps him get better with some soothing creams and treatments.  Whilst this is a great story it also has a very strong role in helping young children who have eczema  understand what is wrong and how the doctors are trying to help them.  Definitely one for schools, nurseries and even doctors’ surgeries.

“What’s at the Top” by Marc Martin.  This is a totally fantastic flight of imagination as we are asked what might be at the top of a ladder.  The questioner comes up with increasingly more complex possibilities; the amount of text increasing as the book continues.  The twist at the end of the story, when we see who is asking the questions will have everyone smiling, but I am not going to give away the identity.  A longer review for this book can be found in Armadillo magazine on-line.

“Erik the lone wolf” by Sarah Finan is the story of a young wolf who wants to be independent and get away from the pack.  However he finds that there are occasions when it is very helpful to have the support of the pack, especially when danger is close by.  It is a lovely tale of  trying to grow up, testing the boundaries and then understanding the meaning of family and friends.  the illustrations are great and you get  real sense of connection with Erik and his attempts to grow up.

“The Station Mouse” by Meg McLaren is one of my favourite picture books so far this year.  It is the story of Maurice, a station mouse, who collects all of the lost items every night but no one ever comes to claim them back.  How Maurice changes the rules of the ‘Station Mouse Handbook’ and makes things better for everyone makes for a fantastic book, which leaves you with a warm  glow when you have finished reading it.  This is going on my list of  ‘forever’ books.

“Between Tick and Tock” by Louise Greig and Ashling Lindsay.   What a totally enchanting story about the pressures of living in the modern world and having that breathing space to sort everything out.  This is the story of Liesel, a little girl who lives high in a clock tower.  When she see things going wrong and people being unhappy she stops time and uses that space to help mend, replace, find or save people and things that need help.  It really reminds us about the importance of kindness and helping others and has a really magical quality.  It is yet another book that will be on my ‘forever’ books list because of the thoughtfulness that it evokes.

“Ruby’s Worry” by Tom Percival reminds me a bit of  “The Huge bag of Worries” by Virginia Ironside and Frank Rodgers, but it is an updated look at the issue that many children (as well as adults struggle with).  When Ruby discovers a worry gradually getting bigger she worries so much that it begins to take over her life.  Then one day she discovers someone else with a worry and they find that talking about them makes them grow smaller and eventually disappear.  The simple, clear and supportive message is one that we all need to remember and this is a perfect story to tell to young children who are in the same situation as Ruby.

 

 

Enjoy the books and have a lovely summer!

 

London Book Fair

This visit to the London Book fair seems to be turning into an annual pilgrimage for me.  For those who have never been to it, this is the biggest event for publishers in the UK.; it is also a showcase for publishers from around the world and one of the most prestigious events of its kind. It takes place over 3 days in April and there are a huge range of workshops, launches, showcases and parties (if you are lucky enough to be invited).  The main reason for the fair is to promote publishers, sell rights to other countries and buy rights from overseas concerns.  Teachers and Librarians are not the central audience but there is still plenty for them to enjoy and learn from.

This year the focus was on the Baltic states, so there were sessions about publishing in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as well as the broader issue about translation.  There was also a wonderful exhibition of illustration from these states, which showed the sophistication and skill that is being used in their picture books and even books for an older audience.

There were so many sessions that I wanted to attend, so I stayed in London and visited the fair on two days.  On the Tuesday, the day started off with a discussion panel comprised of

Speaker Sarah CrossanAuthor Peter KaluAuthor Emily DavidsonYoung AmbassadorInclusive Minds Heather LaceyAmbassador for InclusionInclusive Minds Alexandra StrickCo-FounderInclusive Minds Nikki MarshCommittee MemberIBBY UK”  who were talking about “MInd the Gap: celebrating authentic inclusion”  There was an additional member of the panel, but I did not catch her name unfortunately. This was a fascinating discussion about the way disability in particular is represented in children’s and YA fiction and it really made the audience think about what is acceptable as both a writer and as an audience.  In the afternoon I sat in on the first part of a long session about Illustration in which art directors and designers shared their insights into becoming a published illustrator.  As someone who is not good at art this was of great interest and helped with understanding the broader picture (sorry about the pun).

On Wednesday I had arranged to meet up with a couple of friends during the day, but I started off by having a wander around the Children’s hub and also the larger stands on the ground floor which had children’s elements; these included Bloomsbury, with some amazing pictures from Chris Riddell, Hachette, Penguin/Random House and Scholastic.

At lunchtime I went to the launch of a new book at the Firefly stand; this is a really great Welsh publisher which has produced some fantastic books.  The one we were celebrating at the Fair was called “Dog Town” by Luize Pastore, a young writer from Latvia.  I was also able to meet up with the lovely Tricia Adams and the author Saviour Pirotta for a good chat.  Also there were Megan Farr from Firefly and authors Miriam Halamny and Eloise Williams.

The highlight of the afternoon was the publishers presentations, where about 13 publicists tried to woo us with their up and coming big   titles.  I must admit that I came away with several pages of titles that I want to read.  There were several titles from Michael Morpurgo, a new book from Jacqueline Wilson and follow ups from Cressida Cowell Kieran Larwood, P G Bell and Philip Reeve among many.  I am particularly looking forward to a new book from Emma Carroll, Patrick Ness  and the team of Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve.  It looks  as if we are in for a bumper crop of great titles with a wide range of themes ranging from WWI (to commemorate the end of the conflict), Christmas, fantasy, witches and science fiction.  Definitely something for everyone.

 

 

 

By the time I got home at about midnight I was feeling exhausted and yet very happy with the events I had attended, the friends I had met and the book suggestions I had received.  All being well I will be going back next year.

A few books to whet the appetite.

The last few months have been an absolute treasure trove of new middle grade fiction; it has ranged from favourite series reaching their conclusion, to the start of some fantastic and truly imaginative adventures.   Recurring themes seem to include elements of ‘Steam Punk’ , Time slip adventures, magic and crime.  In other words there is something for everyone if they can search out the books.  As always I hope that these little tasters will help people find something that suits them.

Chicken House, 9781911077657

“Tin” by Padraig Kenny is the first book by a very talented writer and it is set in a world where mechanical persons and animals are commonplace.  Christopher is a ‘real’ boy who was orphaned as a small child and is now apprenticed to an inventor who creates mechanicals.  It is a great story that is full of adventure and a few secrets that will tug at your emotions when they are revealed

Bloomsbury, 9781408854877

“The Explorer” by Katherine Rundell is a wonderful story of a group of children who find themselves stranded in the Amazon Jungle after their aeroplane crashes and the pilot dies.   When they find evidence that someone has been in the area before them, they start to see if they can find the person or ways out of the jungle.

Nosy Crow, 978-0857638427

“Evie’s Ghost” by Helen Peters is a lovely time slip story for middle grade.  When Evie is sent to stay with an elderly and rather eccentric godmother she does not expect to find herself transported back to 1814.  She finds that the daughter of the house is being forced to marry a friend of her father; however back in the modern world there is a story that this same person has been imprisoned by her father and then mysteriously disappeared, presumed dead .  How Evie copes with life in the 19th century and searches for a way to help the daughter makes for a thrilling story which I really enjoyed.

Scholastic, 9781407181707

“Brightstorm” by Vashti Hardy is a wonderful mix of  steampunk, exploration and  the importance of family.  It has two strong and determined siblings who set out to find what has happened to their explorer father, after he is pronounced dead and accused of having sabotaged another airship crew.  I think we are going to have great fun with Arthur and Maudie as they take on further adventures.  We also have a wonderfully evil villainess in the shape of the aptly named Eudora Vane.

Sky Pony Press, 978-1510739420

“Me and Mr P” by Maria Farrer is a truly delightful story of Arthur and his younger brother Liam.  Arthur often feels left out because of the problems that Liam has to cope with (he is on the autistic spectrum), so when the mysterious Mr P, who just happens to be a Polar bear, turns  up on the doorstep he wonders what is going to happen.  This is a gorgeous story that leaves you feeling warm and cuddly inside, even though Liam has to cope with some serious issues.  I am looking forward to Mr P’s next adventure as he continues to help those in need.

Egmont, 978-1405282901

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the final book in the ‘Sinclair’s mysteries’ series and the author provides a really exciting and satisfying finale.  When Sophie and Lil are invited to a Christmas/New Year  party at Winter Hall,they did not expect to find yet another mystery for them to solve.  Thy are pitted against old enemies and are in a race against time to prevent a disaster.  It has recently be announced that the intrepid duo will be starring in a new series of books over the next few years, so all of their fans will be jumping up and down with joy.

Bloomsbury, 978-1408872758

“The Prisoner of Ice and Snow” by Ruth Lauren is set in a country not dissimilar to old Russia with snow, wolves and warring nations.  Valor has created a situation where she has been sent to a terrible prison called Tyur’ma, made of ice and stone; however this is part of her plan to free her twin sister from this same place.  Why they are there and how they can escape and save their country forms the basis of this exciting story.  I loved the relationship between the girls but there were also lots of twists and turns in the plot which kept me guessing for a while.

Puffin, 978-0141373782

“Spoonful of Murder”  by Robin Stevens is the latest in the “Wells and Wong” series featuring the two schoolgirl detectives Daisy and Hazel.  This time they are staying in Hong Kong, after the death of Hazel’s grandfather, so that she is the one who is comfortable and in control, unlike daisy who is quite out of her depth.  This is an extremely personal investigation for the two girls and is a worthy addition to the series.  I find myself recommending this all the time and the followers are growing, book by book.

“The Eye of the North” by Sinead O’Hart  sees another intrepid young girl, this time called Emmeline, setting off to discover the whereabouts of her missing explorer parents.  It is a steampunk novel with two opposing and still very nasty villains both of whom want to stop Emmeline and her companions from solving the puzzle and finding the missing parents.  (Stripes, 978-1847159410)

“The Empty Grave” (Lockwood and Co.) by Jonathan Stroud brings the Lockwood and Co. series to an end and it does so with a really fantastic story which brings all of the story strands together.  A really great series for those who love the supernatural, magic and a fair bit of investigation.  The unlikely team of investigators face not only the supernatural but also real adversaries and finally discover secrets from the past. (Disney-Hyperion,  978-1484778722)

“Carnival of Monsters” (S.C.R.E.A.M) by Andrew Beasley is the second story in a new series by this author and featuring a Victorian crime-fighting duo called Charley (a girl) and Billy.  The twist is that they are part of an organization that specializes in dealing with the supernatural.  It is also great to see that Charley is a strong and leading character in the books, with no ground being given because she is in a wheelchair; an excellent role model.  (Usborne,  978-1474906937)

Usborne, 978-1474940665

“The House with Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson gives the game away with its name; that is if you know the Russian folk tale “Baba Yaga”. this is an updated version of the story, where the heroine live with her grandmother, the eponymous Baba Yaga but does not want to follow in her footsteps and help the dead to cross into the next world.  All Marinka wants is to be a normal girl, live in the same place and have some real friends.  Her attempts lead to some unfortunate events and she gradually learns that she needs to compromise in order to get the best for herself and those she loves.

Hodder, 978-1444936704

“The Wizards of Once” by Cressida Cowell is the first in the new series by the wonderful Cressida Cowell.  She has moved away from Dragons but this time she has  Wizards and Warriors who are hereditary enemies.  However things are about to change when it is accidentally discovered that Witches are not extinct and that the queen of witches is on the move and wanting to get rid of the two groups who banished her in the past.  A very funny story with two great characters in the centre of things.  I can’t wait to see how this continues.

Orion,978-1510104112

“Nevermoor” by Jessica Townshend is yet another story set in a magical world.  Since early childhood Morrigan has been blamed for every bad thing that has befallen the people of her village: from her mother dying in childbirth to people tripping over or even wishing someone a good day.  Because she was born on Eventide night she is doomed to die at the same time on the night she turns 11; unfortunately that date is fast approaching.  However before this date there is the annual ‘bid’ ceremony where children are chosen to attend different types of education. Morrigan is allowed to attend as an observer and is shocked when someone bids for her. When the eccentric Jupiter North offers her the chance to train for the Wundrous Society in the secret city of Nevermoor, Morrigan jumps at the opportunity to escape her fate, but is it ‘out of the frying pan’?  This is the first part of a wonderful new series that is gaining lots of fans and I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

I do hope that people find stories that they will enjoy among this selection.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of them  and had a roller-coaster ride as I looked forward to the next stories in new series and said goodbye to old friends as other tales came to an end.  With Easter about to arrive I hope that you find time to enjoy several of these magic and imaginative stories.

 

 

A Christmas Wreath of books

This has been an amazing year for Christmas books and this is just a small selection of those that are available

“A Tree for Christmas (Winnie the Pooh)” written by Jane Riorden is a charming little story about how Christmas came to the Hundred Acre Wood, with a little help from Christopher Robin and the wonderful animals in the wood.  It is in a miniature format which is disappointing but it is still worth reading to the young ones in your life.

“A Newborn Child” by Jackie Morris is a totally wonderful, magical retelling of the Christmas story.  the author has created the most sumptuous illustrations and the text is short but totally reflective of the images.  The name Jackie Morris always means quality and she has maintained her high standards with this book.  It is a real classic.

“Bah! Humbug” by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross is another way of re-telling the story from “A Christmas Carol”. Harry is playing the role of Scrooge in the school play and desperately wants his dad to attend, but that is beginning to look very unlikely.  There is a very poignant and yet uplifting contrast between the plot of the play and the everyday life that harry is having to cope with.  Yet another one to add to my Christmas shelf.

“One Christmas Wish” by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton is a beautifully written and illustrated story about young Theo who has been left at home on Christmas Eve while his parents are both still at work.  When he thinks he sees a shooting star he makes a wish that he could have some friends for company and that is when the magic starts.  The book is  truly lovely object and has a feel of the 1950s about it;  the paper is thick and creamy, the illustrations are of the period and the colour palette is bright but without the harshness that is often found today.

 

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the final part of his trilogy about how Father Christmas took on his role.  A fantastic ending and a reminder that we have to ‘believe’ if we are to keep the magic of Christmas

“I killed Father Christmas” by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell is a very funny story of what happens when people misunderstand what they hear. This is a delightful story from Barrington Stoke with matching colour illustrations from our previous Children’s Laureate.

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the really great finale to her series about Sinclair’s Department Store. Our heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves spending the holiday at Winter Hall but danger and intrigue seems to have followed them.  A cracking read and thankfully there is a hint that the girls will be back for more adventures in the future.

“Jingle Bells” by Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton is a collection of stories about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, with the first one being about their attempt to save Santa’s sleigh after it is taken.  This is great fun as always.

“The untold story of Father Christmas” by Alison and Mike Battle with Lauren A Mills is another version of how this mythical character became the person we know today.  The cover is sumptuous and the illustrations are beautiful, with soft and glowing colours and a feel of Scandinavian scenery.  This is for KS2 children probably, but is a great read for telling to younger ones.

“Let it glow” by Owen Gildersleeve is a charming look at what a child sees around him on his way hoe from the town and with a very precious package.  The illustrations are based on very intricate paper collage and this gives a 3-D effect.There is also a battery at the back of the book, which provides lights  at different points in the story.  The very young children will love this.

“The Nutcracker (The story of the orchestra)” illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle  is one for those who love their ballet.  This is a very straightforward re-telling of the story but with the magical addition of small excerpts of music; you press the relevant button and are transported to the performance.  It would make a wonderful gift for someone about to attend their first performance.

 

I know that this is late for the festive season but it will give you a head start for the coming year!  have a wonderful time reading and talking about books.

Time for my annual Bath (Festival of Children’s Literature)

For the 11th year in a row my September has been highlighted by the BathKidsLitFest.  Every year I get this in the diary and know that I will be stewarding for some fantastic authors and illustrators over the 10 days of the Festival.  this time was no different and I managed to pack my diary with events over both weekends.

Rachel Ward, Fox Benwell and Marie-Louise Jensen

The festival started on the evening of 29th September when I found myself stewarding for a Cressida Cowell event at the Forum in Bath.  There must have been about 6-800 in the audience and as usual Cressida gave an amazing session, talking about both her “How to train your Dragon” series but also about her new book “The Wizards of Once”  The session was highlighted by photos drawings and clips from the latest dragon film.  All in all it was a great event and the audience were delighted.  The signing queue was long and must have lasted nearly 2 hours, which meant that I missed most of the launch party; luckily several of my friends were still there, so we were able to have a catch up chat.

Saturday started with the David Baddiel session, talking about his new book “Birthday Boy” but also about some of his earlier works, like “The Person Controller” and “The Parent Agency”As he is a polished comedian and entertainer I was expecting a funny and well put together performance and I was not disappointed.  He spoke about his inspiration for the stories and really promoted the need for children to read for pleasure.  Once again he had a large and very attentive audience and it was good to see the mix of boys and girls, although especially good to see so many boys.

The next session was one for my grandson, or rather it will be at Christmas!  This event “Star Wars with JAKe” was aimed at a slightly younger age group, but really it was for anyone who loves Star Wars.  Of course with the new film coming out soon this was just the thing to whet people’s appetites.  JAKe is the illustrator of two small books called “How to speak Wookiee” and “How to speak Droid with R2-D2.  They are simple stories explaining about Wookies and Droids and giving insights into their respective languages.  Each page has a number and the book has a keypad, so that you can hear the sounds associated with that page by pressing the correct key.  Very interactive and great fun (but not necessarily for parents or grandparents!).  The children got the chance to draw a variety of characters from the films and some very lucky people got to take one of JAKe’s illustrations home.  It was a lovely family event that the audience really enjoyed.

Chris Riddell

My next day at the festival was Sunday the 1st October and unusually I did the afternoon session rather than the morning.  this was because I wanted to listen to two exciting and fascinating authors in conversation.  They are Emma Carroll, author of “Letters from the Lighthouse” and Eloise Williams who has just published her first book “Gaslight“.  The Session was described as “The History girls” and both authors have placed their books in the past, although in widely different places and times.  Emma has written about World War II although previously she has set her books in the Victorian period and this has enabled her to bring in a range of dangers and differing characters.  Eloise has set her book in Victorian Cardiff and has centred the story around a theatre and the docks, o there is again plenty of opportunity for mystery and villainy.  A really great time for all of those, especially young girls who love a great historical novel.  I was also lucky enough to meet Chris Riddell in the Green Room as he was preparing for his talk later in the day.  I know that the audience would have had a truly amazing time as he is such a brilliant speaker and artist.  We were so lucky to have him as a Children’s laureate and he is now an ambassador for Booktrust.  The day was further improved by seeing the lovely talented Martin Brown in the Green Room as he had just finished his event on illustrating the “Horrible Histories” series; his covers and ink sketches really are the icing on the cake as far as these books are concerned.  He has also just produced a book about unusual animals that I talked about in my post from the Federation of Children’s Book groups this year, absolutely brilliant.

Having had a few days off, Friday 6th saw me back in action stewarding for the Nadiya Hussain event.  She was promoting a book which mixed food and stories all linked in to the theme of Christmas, called “Bake me a Festive Story”.  She got several children to come on stage to help decorate gingerbread Christmas trees with green coconut and this was put on to large screens behind her.  There were also readings of at least one of the stories and it was a shame that they appeared to have been pre-recorded.  However the audience, both adults and children appeared to enjoy the event and were eager to get their hands on copies of her books.

I stayed on at the Guildhall for the following event, which was the brilliant illustrator/artist Jim Kay, whose illustrated ‘HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ has just been released.  It is truly amazing how he has taken the world created by J K Rowling and has added depth and reality to an already beautifully realized world.  The insight that we were given into the whole process was enlightening and the fact that the illustrations for the first book took him over two years to produce had the audience  gasping.  When he went on to say that he had been given a deadline of eight months for the second book, it made most of us cringe at the concentration and focus that was required.  We were then treated to some amazing drafts for pages  from the current book and Jim talked through the process of how the final images evolved.  It really was a must see event for those who love Harry Potter as well as those who just love high quality illustration and imagination.

My Saturday morning was a mix of very different books, but I enjoyed both events because the speakers were so enthusiastic about their subject. The first event was about the book “Kid Normal“, written by Radio 1 DJs Greg James and Chris Smith.  The book is about a young boy who accidentally finds himself at a school for superheroes, despite having no superpowers.  I must admit that I enjoyed reading the book and am looking forward to the follow up which is coming out in March 2018.  The presenters were fun and very positive about children and reading; it was obvious that the audience really enjoyed the whole session  and that included the suspiciously large number of lone adults who attended.

The following session was very different and was aimed at those young people who are fascinated by space and the skies above our heads.  Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the well known and very charismatic astronomer, was talking about the new Doring Kindersley  book “Star Finder for beginners”.  She gave a fully illustrated talk, with some amazing images taken from various telescopes and satellites.  Her knowledge and enthusiasm is boundless and it was obvious that her young audience were just as keen on the subject.  I was surprised by the depth of questioning that they provided.  It was a real treat to see how engaged everyone was.  Those were my only sessions of the day but I was lucky enough to meet up with the lovely Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton in the Green Room after they had finished their event about the new “Shifty McGifty” stories.  These are great reads for those who are just gaining confidence in their reading,

On Sunday morning it was difficult to believe that this was the end of the festival.  We spend months looking forward to it and then it just goes in a flash.  My final day was spent at a different venue, the Widcombe Social Club, which although smaller than the Guildhall had a very friendly feel, as well as very good coffee from the bar. I was scheduled to steward on two events and they were ones that I was really looking forward to.  The first session was a discussion between Gill Lewis, author of “Sky Dancer” and Kieran Larwood who has written two books about the eponymous hero rabbit “Podkin One-Ear”  It was  a fascinating look at the difference in their styles of writing.  Gill very much keeps her books grounded in the real world and the creatures are not humanized in any way, yet we are able to make a connection with the animals and their worlds.  Kieran, on the other hand, has created a world that is inhabited by speaking, clothes wearing and almost human rabbits.  There is a mix of magic and fantasy but still they retain their link to the natural world they live in.  It was fascinating to hear both authors explain how they went about creating their stories and I would recommend that readers give both of them a try; they are well worth reading.

My final session was with one of my favourite authors for the MG (Middle Grade) reader.  Robin Stevens has made a name for herself as the author of the “Murder Most Unladylike” series and all her fans are eagerly awaiting the sixth in the series, which will be published in the early spring.  I understand that she has already started writing number seven, so everyone is happy.  However at this event she was talking about something very different.She has been chosen to write the follow up to the “London Eye Mystery”by the late Siobhan Dowd.  Her book “The Guggenheim Mystery” has just been published and it was fascinating for the young readers to find out about the challenges of taking over the characters and plot conceived by such a loved author.  Whilst the main characters are the same as before, the story is set in the United States and this gives problems to the young hero and his friends as they do not understand the culture.  The fans were eager to ask questions and most stayed to have their book collections signed by the author.

The day was rounded off by saying hello to the lovely and brilliant writers Kevin Crossley- Holland and Francesca Simon who were preparing for their discussion about “Norse Myths”; a topic about which they are both very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about.  It is great to see how myths and legends seem to be coming back in to favour and there are so many great versions and variations that you can look out for.

Well that brings me to the end of my Bath for this year.  As always it was stimulating, educational and above all a very friendly festival.  I love the range of events and look forward to volunteering for my twelfth year in 2018.

A Harry Potter themed Chair!

 

Keeping out of the rain

This summer has been a real mix of weather and there have been many occasions when the best idea is to just curl up with a good book and a hot drink, however as I am finishing this post over the holiday weekend the sun has come out and reading starts to be enjoyable in the garden.  This has meant that I have managed to read more than my usual quota of books over the last month or so.  A few of them are review copies for journals and I have to admit that they have all been ones I enjoyed reading; not something that I take for granted.

 

“The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club” by Alex Bell is a magical tale, set in an unreal world with Unicorns, miniature penguins and man-eating cabbages to name just a few of the weird and wonderful characters.  Stella Starflake Pearl, the heroine, has been brought up by her guardian since he found her as a baby.  He is a member of the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club and Stella dreams of joining him in his travels, but girls are not allowed to be explorers.  How she overcomes this challenge, fights a range of dangers and finds out about the mystery of her own birth makes for a really exciting and  action packed story.  There is magic and adventure as well as messages about what family really means and the importance of friendship.  I was completely hooked by this story and am really looking forward to the next book about Stella and her friends.

“Greta Zargo and the Death Robots from Outer Space” by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Joe Todd Stanton.  I was lucky enough to hear this author/poet speak at a conference earlier this year, so I was excited to see what this story would be like.  Well, it was just as hysterically funny as you might imagine with a very determined heroine Greta Zargo, who really wants to be an investigative reporter.  There is the case of the missing cakes and the competition to win a reporting prize but in the background and moving ever closer to Earth is a Death Robot; can Greta find the culprit and save the planet at the same time.  You will have to read it to see.

“Chase” by Linwood Barclay is the first story for children by a well known writer of detective novels.  He has given us a mystery with two main central characters.  Their stories start individually but gradually things begin to merge until eventually we understand how they are linked together.  Chipper is a dog that has been kept in a scientific research facility since he was young.  He knows that the ‘white coats’ have done things to him, but his increased abilities allow him to escape and go on the hunt for someone (unknown) that he just has to find.  On the other side of the State lives Jeff, who has gone to live with his aunt after the tragic deaths of his parents.  How these two come together and what their connection is makes for a thrilling and very addictive story.  The next in the series should be a real roller-coaster I suspect.  One for years 6 and 7.

You can’t make me go to Witch School” by Em Lynas.  Daisy Wart just wants to become a great Shakespearean actress but her grandmother insists that she is a witch and sends her off to witch school.  Despite her protests she finds that she can do magic and she and her new friends are called upon to save Toadspit Towers (her school) from an ancient curse.  can she do this and also achieve her acting ambitions?  This is a funny and exciting story about finding yourself and also about friendship.  It is great for the lower end of KS2 and those who just want a light and very enjoyable story.

“Podkin One ear” by Kieran Larwood brings back memories of stories by both Brian Jacques and Robin Jarvis, which means that perhaps I am showing my age to some extent.  It is a fantasy with rabbits as the main characters, so there is also a nod to Richard Adams and ‘Watership Down’.  They are anthropomorphized, so that we are taken to a somewhat medieval landscape with warring  tribes and three young rabbits who are fleeing from a terrifying enemy and who have to save an ancient treasure.  It is a thrilling story for ‘middle grade’ children and could well be a favourite for many years to come.

“The Starman and me” by Sharon Cohen (NG) reminded me somewhat of ‘Stig of the Dump‘by Clive King, ‘Nation‘ by Terry Pratchett and another new book by Adam Stower called ‘King Coo’.   When Kofi sees an unusual small and very scruffy person on a roundabout he is in for the most amazing adventure of his life so far.  The character finally makes contact, but is he from our world and if so, how did he get to England?  this is one of those books that gradually hooks you and then reels you in.  A really great read.

Hospital High” by Mimi Thebo (NG).  this is a book for teens and is very personal to the author as it is based on a true story.  It is the story of Coco, who ends up in hospital after a car accident, where she suffers internal injuries including crushing her voice box.  The ensuing months and years follow her struggles to regain her health, but also to see how her relationships with family and friends pan out.  It is a totally uplifting tale that I will probably read again  and would definitely recommend to other adults as well as to the intended audience.

“School for Skylarks” by Sam Angus (NG)  follows the story of Lyla who is evacuated to live with her Great Aunt at the end of 1939.  She does not want to leave her mother and hates her father for splitting them up.  This is a real roller coaster of a story; the heroine is not one we naturally find sympathetic but over the war years we follow her as she gradually matures, both emotionally and intellectually.  More by accident than design Lyla finds that a small girls’ school is billeted in the big house and she learns how to work with others and gradually make friends.  It is such an heartbreaking story at times, but eventually we get a satisfying end that works well.  This is definitely an author to look out for.

Ban this book” by Alan Gratz (NG) is a thoroughly thought provoking story of what happens when Amy Anne’s favourite book is banned  from the school library.  For those of us who have been around for a long time it will bring back memories of “The day they came to arrest the book” by Nat Hentoff.   The situation in America is very different and they even have an annual ‘Banned Books Week’, so that people can stand up for their right to read what they like. If you look on the American Library Association website you will see the list of hose books which have been challenged over the years, you can find it here http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/banned .

“The Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein (NG) is an exciting story of a group of children who win the change to have a sleepover at the amazing Mr Lemoncello’s Library.  It is a place of wonder and mixes science with magic so it is not surprising when the challenge becomes harder and the young people have to learn how to work as a team in order to escape from the ‘lockdown scenario’ they find themselves in.  It is a great story and I am looking forward to reading the two other stories featuring the library.

Looking at this group of books I think I have been very lucky with the titles that I have been given access to recently.  The range of subjects is wide ranging and the age groups are also wide.  There is everything from high fantasy to the really heart rending stories based on real life.  Hopefully there is something for everyone, so dip in and give some of them a try.

(NG)  Thanks to Net Galley for providing access to a digital proof in return for a review.

YALC 2017

This definitely seems to be my year for having new book related experiences and yesterday I finally attended the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) which is now in its 5th year. It is part of the London Film and Comic Con, so there were a lot of people walking around wearing the most amazing and often weird costumes.  We had Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr Who, Steam Punk, as well as others that I cannot guess at.  However, it was brilliant to see so many enthusiastic and committed fans, all of whom seemed keen to let the world share in their passion.  YALC had its own area on the 2nd floor, so that it was a self contained unit.  Lots of out favourite YA publishers were there and there were plenty of freebies (in the guise of bookmarks, postcards and even book chapters), some proofs (all gone by the time I arrived) and books at generously reduced prices.

The whole set up was very well organized with a ‘room’ for workshops, a large ‘room’ for talks/panels and masses of space for author signing sessions.  It is difficult to describe the ‘buzz’ that was going on all day, but it was fantastic to see so many young (and not so young) people who obviously love reading these books.  Having said all of this I did not feel that the hall was crowded; after seeing tweets from the following two days I am convinced that they were the busiest days. On the plus side it meant that the queues were not too long and people were able to talk to their favourite authors as they enjoyed the activities.

I had marked up two panel events that I really wanted to attend and they did not disappoint in any way.  The first was a discussion about Historical Fiction, something that has been seen as “rather boring” by many in the YA world and yet the panel were totally convinced of the opposite.  The chair of the panel was Katherine Woodfine and the members were Juno Dawson, Catherine Johnson and Elizabeth Wein, all of them at the forefront of YA writing today.  Their motivation for writing about the past differed, with Elizabeth being inspired to write about young women pilots after she gained her own Private Pilot’s Licence, Catherine wanted to read about people like herself (people of colour) and Juno wanted to look at the lives of LGBT young people in the past. The panel spoke about how they went about the process of writing and specifically about the type of research they undertook.  I was particularly impressed by Elizabeth Wein who went “Wing Walking” as part of her research!  the panel also discussed what we learn from history and how we need to be skeptical about what we read as history is often ‘whitewashed’.  they all have  their favourite suggestions for getting the ‘feel’ of the book correct; this includes reading period books to get the language right, Pathe newsreels to hear the voices and see the clothes and early films.  Just as with Sci-Fi and Fantasy it is vital that the world building is accurate and feels right to the reader.

I found that I had time before my final session so I treated myself to a panel talking about writing “Thrillers”.  the panel was a large and well respected one including Sophie McKenzie, Teri Terry, Matthew Crow, Karen M McManus and Emily Barr.  there was a long discussion about what people used as their main focus; for some it was about the place and going somewhere very different, whilst others tended to use locations that they were very familiar with and which the readers learn to relate to.  Everyone agreed about the vital importance of characterization with “People in conflict with others and themselves”. The readers  are often in the 12-14 age group and they are also going through great changes in their lives.  Overall this was a very stimulating session which I thoroughly enjoyed.

My final session was one that I thought might teach me something about a TV series that I only seemed to watch the trailers for, it was called “We love Buffy” and was for real aficionados of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I was totally amazed by the knowledge that these people had about the show.  They knew the names of the episodes, the characters, the songs; it was incredible.  The panel consisted of Katherine Woodfine, Laure Eve, Alison Goodman, Non Pratt, Harriet Reuter Hapgood and Stefan Mohammed and their experience of the series was quite wide ranging, in line with the variations in their ages.  Some had watched as children and teens, whilst others had been adults.  This meant that their understanding and fear levels were very variable, but they had all been totally sucked into the series and till had that enthusiasm that denotes a true fan.  Everyone had their favourite characters, although whenever someone else was mentioned you could hear the mental re-assessment ; however they did agree that “Giles is the world’s coolest librarian” and who am I to disagree with that.

This had proved to be a fantastic experience meeting friends, listening to fantastic authors and generally wallowing in the world of YA books.  I definitely feel that I will be back next year and maybe I will include the Saturday as it seemed fabulous on Twitter.

 

Meanwhile I have a lot of reading to catch up on ready for the next set of blog posts on a wide range of books.