So Long, and Thanks For All the Fics, Non-Fics and Pic Bks*

*Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Books

So… this is it, for the first time in two years I am out of the club of Judges, I have handed in my badge and secret decoder ring; the codes on the doors have been changed and my e-mail address removed from the judges mailing list.

Yesterday the 2016 CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards for the most outstanding books were awarded to Sarah Crossan for One and to Chris Riddell for The Sleeper and the Spindle.

This marked the end of my active invlovement as a CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Judge, having read (and reread) a combined number of 325 books over two years, and in that time winnowed them down to four outstanding books I am now free! Not that I really want to be but the CKG Awards always require fresh blood periodically.

I have worked with amazing librarians from across the country, people I previously only knew from twitter, e-mail (and some not at all), became friends and allies in the battle to recognise the most outstanding books for young people. In no particular order these stellar examples of librarian judges are (in no particular order):

Kara
Victoria
Sophie
Kathryn
Jan
Lucy
Tom
Elizabeth
Isobel
Alison
Amy
Joy
Agnes
Siobhan
Jenna
Tracey
Jillian
Jennifer
Tanja
Martha
Ellen

Thank you all! I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for making me welcome and for the experience of critically examining and discussing some of the best books published for children and young people in the UK.

I get so little time in my daily life to sit down and discuss books with other people that are as passionate and excitable about literature as I am that each time we met to discuss the nominations, long and short lists it was like a holiday – admittedly one where there was disagreement and arguments about the suitability of the books we were championing. It was pure heaven!

This year I was proud to be involved in helping to organise the inaugural CKG Judges Blog Tour, if you have not had the opportunity to read the interviews and would like some insight into the judging process you can find them (in order) here:

https://churchillacademylrc.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/ckg-2016-judges-blog-tour/

http://mythoughtsaboutbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/carnegie-judges-blog-tour-2016.html

http://www.minervareads.com/an-interview-with-the-ckg-judges/

https://picturebooksblogger.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/ckg/

https://ylgnorthwest.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/all-about-the-feels-judges-blog-tour-2016/

http://bookfairyhaven.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-2016-cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway.html

http://www.serendipityreviews.co.uk/2016/06/cilip-carnegie-kate-greenaway-childrens.html

http://thedistrictcebookworms.primaryblogger.co.uk/2016/06/17/an-interview-with-ckg-judge-matt-imrie/

http://booksniffingpug.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-cilip-kate-greenaway-award-behind.html

I now have to go cold turkey from the judging process and am frantically looking for other awards that may be in need of an experienced judge, so if you are involved with the Kitschies, the YA Book Prize or any other national award and have a vacancy please let me know! Hell I’ll even take on the Booker!

Now, to all members of CILIP and the YLG I urge and implore you to consider getting involved with your regional committee and putting yourself forward to become a representative on the judges panel! You will not regret it!

Recognising the Importance of School Libraries

School Libraries have always had a special place in my heart (sandwiched between the pulmonary and aortic valves). For most of my school life they were a safe space and refuge from the bullying that I was subject to due to not being a sporty, outgoing sort of person and I had not figured how to stand up for myself until years later.

The secondary schools I attended had teacher-librarians, who, apart from occasionally shouting at students who were making a noise, generally left us to our own devices, lurking amongst the shelves reading.

Having been a school librarian for five years (this month) I still cannot understand why school libraries are not statutory, and have not been able to find an answer that satisfies me in any way.
CILIP has recently been more visibly active in the national conversation on libraries and their latest move in beginning an inquiry into developing a quality mark for school libraries is a move in the right direction to get senior management people in schools to recognise the value and importance of school libraries.
Quality marks have been around for a long while and I would guess that most people (in the UK) are aware that they show an organisation has been measured against set standards and has been recognised for offering a competent service.

A nationally recognised and agreed-upon set of standards against which school librarians can compare the service they offer is a move that is long-overdue.

It is fairly self-evident that not all schools are the same and thus the requirements they may have for a library service will differ from school to school but the underlying needs of teachers and students will be similar enough for set standards.
At present the inquiry is being run to determine the feasibility of such a scheme and shows that rather than acting unilaterally, CILIP is actively seeking out the views of school librarians, to include us in the decision that will ultimately affect all of us. I know two of the librarians involved, and rather than out of touch outsiders, they are professionals in good standing with years of experience in working in schools.

There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what libraries are and what they do amongst many people who do not use them regularly. They are looked upon as store rooms of books, with out of touch staff who patrol their territory mercilessly shushing anyone who attempts to talk above a funereal whisper. This view is sometimes held by members of senior leadership teams in schools who do not know what modern school libraries can offer to schools (there are also many SLTs who actively support and encourage school library use) and a quality mark will go some way to embedding the idea that libraries should be an integral part of all schools in the consciousness of SLTs.

In isolation I do not think that a quality mark will change ingrained misconceptions about school libraries but I do think that it is an important first step in celebrating what many school libraries already are and what they all can be!

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: Not Living the Dream

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About five years ago, I’d just graduated university with a shiny new degree and a heart brimming with hope for the future. Unfortunately, I’d gotten my degree in creative writing. And more unfortunately, I’d done so right when a recession smashed every hope my generation had of an economically prosperous future. So like many great writers before me, I went into food service.

I spent my early twenties slinging lattes for the one percent, and doing a number of other odd jobs besides. Slowly, through careful saving and a lot of luck, I turned my joke of a wage into a living. I found a good apartment, settled in with friends that felt like family, and slowly came into my own as an adult. I was a twentysomething creative in New York City, AKA the plot of at least one sitcom a year for the past three decades.

…and then I turned twenty-four and left behind everything I’d built for myself by moving to Los Angeles. And as I started to rebuild my life from scratch—learning new streets, or remembering how the hell I’d made friends in the first place—I did it while taking stock of what I’d done with my time in New York. And as I thought and remembered, I started to write. And after twenty-two days of writing when I should’ve been looking for a new job, I had a book: the very first draft of what would become Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge.

My heroine, Bailey Chen, is essentially my thoughts and feelings on my early twenties, as filtered through the lens of my mid-twenties. Like me, she was a good student who spent her whole life being told great things were waiting for her after graduation day. Like me, she found her life being pulled in a different direction—in her case, bartending—which she didn’t particularly want. And like me, her biggest challenge was learning to see the worth in what she did, even if others didn’t.

Unlike me, though, her other biggest challenge was using alcohol magic to kick demons in the face until they exploded.

Last Call drew from my lifelong love of fantasy, but it also drew from my attempts to reconcile my dreams of adulthood with the reality I graduated into. When I page through it, I can still see past-me’s frustration lurking underneath Bailey’s. When she grumbles about the unreasonable qualifications needed for an entry level job (“five years experience, two Olympic gold medals, and a phoenix egg in your personal possession”), that comes directly from my hours spent filling in digital job applications. And when the world challenges Bailey to see the value in a job she hates, it’s because once upon a time I was challenged to do the same thing.

Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, and is available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit www.quirkbooks.com, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.

How my addiction for Urban Fantasy led me to Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?

So, I have to admit something: I am a fan of urban fantasy, there I have said it! I have been carrying around this secret for over a decade now and I am glad to get it off my chest.

It is all Laurell K. Hamilton’s fault! When I first began working in libraries in the UK (Thamesmead Library to be precise), I had a massive commute, and one evening as home-time beckoned I found myself in need of a book – nothing too strenuous as I like to relax on my train journeys so I picked up Guilty Pleasures by the aforementioned LKH as the cover looked suitably cheesy and fun. Rich in snark, witty repartee and lashings of human on monster violence I loved it and had finished it by the time I got back to work the next day.

I read all the Anita Blake books up to Narcissus in Chains where the increased raunch of the stories began overshadowing the elements that made me fall in love with the series in the first place – the books are still massively popular and I support anything that attracts people to reading but sadly I felt that they were no longer for me! I have recently read Dead Ice and mostly enjoyed it (I am tempted to tentatively pick up the series again when I have more reading time).

Post LKH I discovered the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher who remains one of my go to authors for fun action and adventure but (as many fans discover) waiting for the next book seems like an exercise in eternity!


Fortunately just before I was fully up to date with the adventures of Harry Dresden my buddy Shaun introduced me to Ben Aaronovitch at an all-day board-game session, Ben as many will know is the author of the best-selling Rivers of London series which became the next fix of urban fantasy that I was desiring (and The Hanging Tree is out in October – yay).white barrier

It was through Ben that I discovered the works of Paul Cornell, specifically London Falling; the first novel in the Shadow Police series.

white barrierLondon Falling was amazing, combining the grunt work of metropolitan policing with a team of the Met’s not-so-finest dealing with having unexpected and unwanted abilities to discern magic thrust upon them.

The follow-up Severed Streets was good but left me feeling as if something was missing and I was on the verge of giving the series a break when awesome PR person Jamie-Lee Nardone sent me a copy of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? as I was unable to make the launch due to dad duty.

What can I say about Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? except that it gave me a new appreciation of Severed Streets and a greater respect for Paul Cornell as a novelist!

Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? tied together everything that came before in the first two novels and it made so much more sense! I realised that what bothered me so much about Severed Streets was a lack of understanding on my part rather than anything to do with the novel itself!

Opening with the murder of the fictitious ghost of Sherlock Holmes WKSH? drops us in the midst of an intricately plotted murder-mystery drawing in lightly fictionalised actors from the BBC’s and CBS’s television shows based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as giving the reader more insight into the revelations of Severed Streets while drip-feeding more information about London’s underground magical community while the team struggled to come to terms with what they have learned so far.

The only downside to being dazzled by such an intricately imaginative novel is waiting for book four*.

So if you find the need to get some of the filth of London under your nails and see how they cope with policing magical crime pick up London Falling, start the story at the beginning – you will not regret it, and you may just learn something new about London in the process!

*On the plus side I still have to catch up with Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series…

V for Violet by Alison Rattle a Review

v4violet

Battersea, 1961. Britain is entering the swinging sixties. the world is changing – but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She’s stuck in hr mum and dad’s fish and chip shop, where she can only dream of a more exciting life.

Then she meets Beau. Beau’s a Rocker – a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet’s grey little life, and she can’t believe her luck.

But things don’t go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet’s best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting.

Violet can’t believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He’s weird, and she feels sure he’s hiding something. He’s got a secret, and Violet’s got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all . . .

Dishing up a story rich in mystery, heartbreak, family drama, friendship crises, more mystery and a cast of characters that will hold your attention! Alison Rattle has given me my favourite mystery book of the year so far!

Born during Winston Churchill’s declaration that the war was over Violet has grown up in the shadow of the memory of her war hero brother. Now ages 16 she sees her life choices narrow to slinging battered cod and chips for the rest of her life.

In Violet we are given a protagonist and narrator who, although she may not be as good a judge of character or worldly-wise as she would like to think is incredibly engaging and worth rooting for as she navigates the mystery of her brother’s return, the threat of a murderer looming over Battersea and the tumultuous feelings of by first love and romance.

V for Violet has several mysteries that unravel slowly through the story and kept me guessing up until the very end. Somewhat appropriately for a tale involving a chippie there were several red herrings that fooled me and I kept changing my guesses as to whodunnit and why while I was reading.

If you feel the need for a genuinely engaging thriller that will keep you guessing then V for Violet is the book for you!

Published by the brilliant Hot Key Books, V for Violet is available from all good bookshops and on-line now!

An Article from the Archives: Volunteers and Libraries

I wrote this piece on volunteers and libraries for the Teen Librarian Monthly newsletter just over five years ago:

I have been a long-time fan of the idea of using volunteers in libraries, specifically using teens as volunteer assistants where possible. Due to a number of reasons, my work with volunteers has been limited but that is fortunately starting to change!

The recent and disturbing suggestion on having libraries run by volunteers has led to a bit of an outcry . Andrew Motion summed it up very well in a recent article in The Guardian which can be read here: http://bit.ly/akfWOx.

Libraries are currently facing uncertain times, as are many public services. With rumours of budget cuts and staffing cuts floating around it is an unsettling time for us all. I have attended a number of talks in local authorities about volunteer use in libraries and been involved in discussions on how to proceed with using a volunteer service in my previous library service. In all of these talks and discussions the role of volunteers was very clear, they were not permitted to perform duties that were usually run by paid members of staff.

In a time of staff and budget shortages we may become more reliant on volunteers to help us provide the level of service that we have always offered to the public. I would be interested in hearing from librarians that have had experience in working with volunteers and also anyone that has pro or anti-volunteer views.

The Sword That Saves by Ambrose Merrell Blog Tour: 10 Key Rules to Aikido

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  • Find a good teacher. This is tricky. As a beginner in aikido how do you know whether the teacher is good or not? Here are a few things to look out for:

The teacher should list his/her teachers on their website or when you ask them. Who has taught them the aikido that they will teach you? How long have they trained?

They should make no guarantees as to how quickly you’ll get a black belt. Any martial art school that does should be avoided.

The dojo (training hall) should be clean and tidy.

The teacher should teach with discipline but also good humour. Aikido is a martial art and serious injury or even death can occur if discipline is lax. But the class should also be enjoyable, with lots of smiles and occasional laughter.

You should feel welcomed by the teacher and your fellow students.

You should feel safe at all times. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a technique, then you should feel ok to say so. Your teacher should then modify the technique or excuse you from doing it.

Trust your gut. If the dojo doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.

  • Train as often as you can. If you don’t go to aikido practice you  will never learn aikido. The most important thing is to train as often as possible. A bare minimum of 2 times a week is necessary to make progress.
  • Train with beginner’s mind. If you see the teacher show a technique and think, “Oh I know this technique, I’ve seen it so many times before” then you are no longer seeing what the teacher is showing. You must treat every class as though it were your first, every technique shown as though it were the first time you have ever seen it. Then you will really see what is being shown.
  • Train with your whole heart. The energy and enthusiasm you bring to the class is vital to your progress. Aikido is a martial art. Each technique you do is a life or death situation. You should see the person you train with as though they were attacking you with the intent to kill you. You must be completely present to their attack.
  • Protect your training partner. Most aikido training is done with a partner. One person attacks and the other applies the aikido technique. Each time your training partner attacks you they are lending you their body. They are trusting you with their body. If you are careless you could seriously injure or kill them. Obviously that is also true for when you lend them your body. O’Sensei, the founder of aikido, said, “Treat your attacker as you would a new born baby.”
  • Train honestly. It is very easy to anticipate the technique and either block the technique or simply fall into the technique. Neither is aikido. If you block the technique, then your training partner will learn nothing. If you simply collapse without your partner properly applying the technique, then your partner will learn nothing. Attack honestly and as if you have no idea what technique will be applied.
  • Relax! Any video of an aikido master shows the same utterly relaxed movement. There is no strength or stiffness in their bodies. They move effortlessly and gracefully without an ounce of tension in their body.
  • Take your attacker’s balance. The core of aikido technique is unbalancing your attacker, called “kuzushi” in Japanese. If your attacker is unbalanced, then it is very difficult for them to continue to attack. However, if they are not unbalanced then your technique will likely fail.
  • You will find it hard! Aikido is difficult to learn. O’Sensei said, on the day before he died, that he was just a beginner in aikido. Do not be discouraged by the challenge. Train regularly and with a good attitude and you will make progress.
  • The essence of aikido is not about defeating another person. It is about self-mastery. It is about polishing your spirit and discovering the truth of who, or what, you are. O’Sensei said, “I am the universe.” Your dedicated aikido practice will eventually reveal what he meant.

Teen Librarian Monthly 10th Anniversary Edition

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SCOTTISH CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARDS SET FOR A BRAND NEW CHAPTER

Scottish Book Trust today (12 May 2016) announced that The Scottish Children’s Book Awards have undergone an exciting restructure, unveiling brand new reading initiatives which have been created with the purpose of inspiring even more children across Scotland to get into reading.

On 3 March 2016 the Scottish Government announced an exciting new reading initiative for P4-7, to be delivered by Scottish Book Trust in partnership with the Government. The First Minister’s Reading Challenge will be launched in August, and will encourage pupils in P4-7 classes across Scotland to read for pleasure.

To allow schools to embrace the first year of this new project fully, The Scottish Children’s Book Awards will be replaced by two new prizes, The Bookbug Picture Book Prize and The Scottish Teenage Book Prize. Scottish Book Trust will no longer run a book award for 8-11 fiction as this age group is covered by The First Minister’s Reading Challenge.

The Bookbug Picture Book Prize will be for children in nursery, Primary 1, Primary 2 and Primary 3. There will be three picture books by Scottish authors on the shortlist – pupils will be encouraged to read the three books and then vote for their favourite. In addition, every P1 child in Scotland will receive the three books in the Bookbug P1 Family Bag, gifted in November. There will also be a continued focus on involving P4-7 pupils in a shared reading project with younger pupils.

Based on feedback from teachers and librarians, changes to this category include an earlier voting deadline to reduce the time pupils wait to find out the winning author and the provision of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)-linked classroom activities and author videos. On announcement day schools will be sent an exclusive video which unveils the winning author, to serve as a base for the pupils’ own celebrations.

The First Minister’s Reading Challenge will initially be for Primary 4, 5, 6 and 7 pupils. Pupils will set personal reading goals to achieve by March 2017 and reading journals will be distributed to all schools in the Autumn term. A new website will be unveiled in August with support materials and a list of suggested book titles, to provide inspiration for pupils and teachers alike. A range of prizes will be awarded next summer to pupils and schools taking part in the challenge.

The Scottish Teenage Book Prize will be aimed at pupils in S1 right through to S6 and will include a short-list of three Scottish teen novels – pupils will be encouraged to read the three books and then vote for their favourite. In addition there will be a Book Trailer competition and CfE-linked learning resources with activities suitable for book groups.

Changes from previous years include an extension to the voting deadline to allow more time to complete the three novels. There will no longer be a book review competition, but instead pupils will have the chance to win an event with the short-listed authors in their school. On announcement day, schools will be sent an exclusive video which unveils the winning author, to serve as a base for the school’s own celebrations.

The key dates for the new projects are as follows:
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FOR ALL PRESS QUERIES, PLEASE CONTACT
HELEN CRONEY – 0131 524 0160 / 07751 69 58 54
HELEN.CRONEY@SCOTTISHBOOKTRUST.COM

Jo Frost becomes BookTrust ambassador

Britain’s largest reading charity, BookTrust has revealed that beloved parenting expert, bestselling author, and television personality, Jo Frost has become their celebrity ambassador.

Jo who has starred in a variety of her own television shows including Supernanny, Family Matters, and her newest show, Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour, agreed to become an ambassador for BookTrust after following their work for many years and strongly believing in the charity’s mission to inspire every child to read confidently.

Through her past career as a professional nanny she became well-known with BookTrust’s early years reading programme Bookstart, which gives every child in England and Wales a free reading pack in the first year of their life and again when they are 3-4 years old.

Jo said: “I have found during my 20 years in childcare that when children are read to it can have a wonderful calming effect on them. Reading doesn’t just give children a head-start in learning; the ritual of sharing a story and providing special time for parents and carers to build a strong and loving relationship with their child is vital.

“I believe every childhood should be enriched by books – that’s why I’m looking forward to working with BookTrust to ensure all children get to experience the joy of a story.”

Diana Gerald, BookTrust Chief Executive said: “Reading changes lives. Books bring knowledge and reading develops empathy. It can help children who are going through difficulties – whether it’s by reading about people in similar circumstances, or simply escaping into another world. We want families everywhere to prioritise books and reading, even if they’re not confident readers themselves. It’s such an easy way to make huge difference to your child’s future. By working with Jo Frost we know we will be able to spread this message to even more families and support them to read with their children.”

Jo Frost is the most recognisable and trusted parental expert and family advocate worldwide. With over 20 years in childcare, beginning her career as a professional sole-charge nanny, she has honed her successful methods of child-rearing with hands-on, real-life experience.

Jo will be campaign ambassador for Bath Book Bed which launches on Monday 16 May.