Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is one of the most beautiful books I've read, the illustrations and the story telling are amazing, so I was partly excited by and partly dreading the release of the film 'Hugo' on December 2nd until I saw this trailer...

...at which point I started to wholly dread the film because it looks like a typical American kids' film :-(  The fact that they've made it 3D just puts me off straight away as it should be a celebration of the tradition of film making!

Hopefully Martin Scorsese can prove me wrong...

Added 28th November - I saw a trailer on TV at the weekend and the way they're advertising it for the British public makes it look far better than the American trailer...I'm kinda looking forward to it again.

Final update!  Saw it and loved it, phew!  Beautiful imagery and a nice retelling of the story.  My only complaint is that my eyes do not enjoy 3D so quite a lot of it was blurry for me :-(

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Longlists 2011

The longlists for the two awards, nominated and voted for by Children's Librarians, were announced this month.  As I've mentioned before, the Greenaway award is for outstanding illustration in a book for children/young people while the Carnegie is for the writing.  The main criteria is that the book has to have been published in the UK between september 2010 and end of August 2011, and not have been published in another country more than 3 months earlier.

Remember they're not necessarily amazing literature, at the moment each book is on the lists because at least one Librarian in the country enjoyed reading it and so voted for it (each member of CILIP can vote for 2 books in each award).  The judges have to read them all and narrow them down to a shortlist by Easter 2012.  By that point they will have looked at the detailed list of criteria for winning the awards (you can find these on the CKG website if you're interested).

Here's the Carnegie list.  Those in red I read and love, those in green I've read but don't think they're amazing, those in white I haven't read yet.  For the last 3 years running I've read the whole shortlist before it was announced so I'll try to keep that streak going!

Almond, David My Name is Mina
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9780340997253
Barraclough, Lindsey Long Lankin
Publisher: Bodley Head ISBN: 9780370331966
Bedford, Martyn Flip
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406329896
Blackman, Malorie Boys Don't Cry
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385604796
Bowler, Tim Buried Thunder
Publisher: Oxford Children's Books ISBN: 9780192728388
Boyne, John Noah Barleywater Runs Away
Publisher:David Fickling ISBN:9780385618953
Brahmachari, Sita Artichoke Hearts
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9780330517911
Bruton, Catherine We Can Be Heroes
Publisher: Egmont ISBN: 9781405256520
Collins, B.R Tyme's End
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408806470
Condie, Ally Matched
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141333052
Crossley-Holland, Kevin Bracelet of Bones
Publisher: Quercus ISBN:9781847249395
David, Keren Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery
Publisher: Frances Lincoln ISBN: 9781847801913
Deary, Terry Put Out The Light
Publisher: A & C Black ISBN: 9781408130544
Diterlizzi, Tony The Search for Wondla
Publisher: Simon & Schuster ISBN: 9781847389664
Dogar, Sharon Annexed
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849392211
Doherty, Berlie Treason
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849391214
Donnelly, Jennifer Revolution
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408801529
Downham, Jenny You Against Me
Publisher David Fickling ISBN: 9780385613507
Earle, Phil Being Billy
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141331355
Eastham, Ruth The Memory Cage
Publisher: Scholastic ISBN: 9781407120522
Evans, Lissa Small Change for Stuart
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385618007
Fine, Anne The Devil Walks
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780857530646
Forward, Toby Dragonborn
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406320435
Gibbons, Alan An Act of Love
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781842557822
Grant, Helen Wish Me Dead
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141337708
Halahmy, Miriam Hidden
Publisher: Meadowside ISBN:9781845395230
Hardinge, Frances Twilight Robbery
Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 9781405055390
Hartnett, Sonya The Midnight Zoo
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406331493
Ibbotson, Eva One Dog and His Boy
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407124230
Kennen, Ally Quarry
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN:9781407111070
LaFleur, Suzanne Eight Keys
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141336060
Lewis, Ali Everybody Jam
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9781849392488
Lewis, Gill Sky Hawk
Publisher: Oxford Chldren's Books ISBN: 9780192756237
Mason, Simon Moon Pie
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385618519
McCaughrean, Geraldine Pull out all the Stops
Publisher: Oxford Chldren's Books ISBN: 9780192789952
McKay, Hilary Caddy's World
Publisher: Hodder ISBN: 9781444900538
Mitchelhill, Barbara Run Rabbit Run
Publisher: Andersen ISBN: 9871849392495
Morpurgo, Michael Shadow
Publisher: HarperCollins ISBN: 9780007339594
Mulligan, Andy Trash
Publisher: David Fickling ISBN: 9780385619011
Ness, Patrick A Monster Calls
Publisher: Walker ISBN: 9781406311525
Peet, Mal Life : an Exploded Diagram
Publisher: Walker ISBN:9781844281008
Perera, Anna The Glass Collector
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141331157
Pitcher, Annabel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece
Publisher: Orion ISBN: 9781444001839
Priestley, Chris The Dead of Winter
Publisher: Bloomsbury ISBN: 9781408800133
Rai, Bali Killing Honour
Publisher: Corgi Childrens ISBN: 9780552562119
Revis, Beth Across the Universe
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141333663
Rooney, Rachel The Language of Cat
Publisher: Frances Lincoln ISBN: 9781847801678
Rosoff, Meg There is no Dog
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141327167
Saunders, Kate Magicalamity
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN:9781407108964
Sepetys, Ruta Between Shades of Gray
Publisher: Puffin ISBN: 9780141335889
Stephens, John The Emerald Atlas
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780857530189
Young, Moira Blood Red Road
Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books ISBN: 9781407124254

So I've read 22 out of 52 so far...how many have you read and which is your favourite?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko

I don't understand how I've not seen loads of reviews for Gennifer Choldenko's latest gem 'No Passengers Beyond this Point'!  I didn't even know it existed until I saw it on the shelves in a public library (where would we be without them eh?) and it has been out since May 2011 in the UK (Feb in America) so I've missed the chance to put it on the CKG longlist for this year, boo.  Hopefully someone else in CILIP found it in time, but anyway I digress...

 Three siblings - India, Finn, and Mouse - have less than forty-eight hours to pack up all their belongings and fly, without Mom, to their uncle Red's in Colorado, after they lose their house to foreclosure. But when they land, a mysterious driver meets them at the airport, and he's never heard of Uncle Red. Like Dorothy in Oz, they find themselves in a place they've never heard of, with no idea of how to get home, and time is running out.

In a total departure, Gennifer Choldenko tells a story of adventure and survival, set in a fantastical place with rules all its own. Sharp dialogue, high stakes, and taut action make this a book that will stick with you long after you read the incredible ending.
summary from Goodreads

It is a typical sibling relationship, with a selfish older sister, conscientious middle brother and loopy younger sister (I'd guess autistic although she never states that) but stretched by an atypical happening that is very well devised.  Their mum suddenly tells them that they have to move to their Uncle's house because they are losing theirs, and they have to fly there without her while she finished the term teaching.  Plot spoiler here: the plane they are on crashes but they don't know this, in fact the reader doesn't really, they think that they've landed in a strange place.  It turns out that the challenges they face will determine whether they survive or not.  All the way through (because I figured this out straight away, probably kids will too) I was worried, thinking "She can't possibly let them die but how can they survive a plane crash without a ridiculous miracle?" but I was actually really pleased by the end, which I won't spoil :-)

It is quite different to 'Al Capone Does my Shirts' (and '...Shines my Shoes') and 'If a Tree Falls and Lunchbreak', the other books by her that I've read over the years and loved, but it is still in her lovely child-friendly style.  As there is such an age difference in the characters, and there are chapters from each of their perspectives with well created voices, I'd highly recommend it for confident readers of all ages!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Snuff by Terry Pratchett

I love Terry Pratchett, and every time a new book is announced I preorder it immediately and spend the follwing months alternately jumping up and down in excitement or worrying that it won't be as good as I expect...thankfully Snuff was worth looking forward to, hooray!

It is really dark...really dark...but it is a Vimes story and he does tend to attract violence, even when on holiday.  As usual he makes you think about the way the world is, and the way people can be, in fact it is a much more serious book than earlier Discworld.  It will still make you laugh though, and perhaps make you feel for the characters more than ever before.  I think you can't just class the Discworld as 'comic fantasy' any more because the issues Terry Pratchett tackles are so real you actually forget that Goblins don't really exist.

My favourite aspect of it was Vimes's relationship with his son.  I love that, as in Thud, he thinks that the most important thing in the world is to be home to read to Young Sam or listen to him read aloud, and really loved that everything he reads has led him to a passion for poo.  When I was telling my Dad that loads of kids books at the moment include poo he didn't believe me, but just put it into Amazon as a keyword and you'll see the range!  The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his Business is my favourite for sheer 'ick'ness, there's even a plop-up version available.

The action scenes are exciting, the dialogue is witty, the relationships are great...to cut a long story short, read it!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

YLG London CKG Nominations evening

This evening the Youth Libraries Group London is meeting to decide which books they will put forward as a group vote for the CILIP Carnegie Greenaway awards awards this year.  The committee has decided on a shortlist and each of us is going to tout one or two of them to the rest of the group.  The Kate Greenaway award is for an outstanding picture book, as I don't see many picture books nowadays I'll enjoy watching the others pitch them.  I'm nominating My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher  for the Carnegie, which is for an outstanding piece of literature for children or young people - here's my pitch:

Her first book, it is for a younger audience than many other Carnegie contenders or past winners, has a lovely simple and accessible style.
It is a story about a family coping, or not, with the death of Jamie's older sister Rose in a terrorist attach a few years before we meet them.  Mum deals with it by running off with a member of her support group, Rose's twin sister Jas deals by rebelling against their parents' image of her.  Dad deals with it by turning to drink, and turning against Muslims who he blames for his daughter's death.
Jamie, our protagonist, is too young really to remember Rose, and believes his Dad when he says that moving to the Lake District will be a fresh start, until Rose's urn goes straight on the mantlepiece and he finds empty vodka bottles in the recycling.
To make matters worse, in his new school he is sat next to <gasp> a Muslim girl who, shock horror, turns out to be lovely.  We follow his innur turmoil as he tries to reconcile his feelings for her with the opinions of his father, and as she turns into his best friend, trying to keep her a secret.
It is a very moving and well written book, a perfect candidate for the Carnegie!

The others being put forward for the Carnegie are:
My Name is Mina - David Almond
0.4 - Mike Lancaster 
Small Change for Stuart – Lissa Evans
Noah Barleywater Runs Away – John Boyne
One Dog and His Boy – Iva Ibbotson
I've read My Name is Mina and Noah Barleywater, have you read any yet?  I'll let you know whether I can persuade a room full of Librarians that my choice is the right choice!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Teen Librarian Competition and review

Teen Librarian competitions are always a lot more fun than the usual 'leave your name and e-mail addess', one time it was a picture of you as a zombie, another time thinking of your favourite baddies, but this time I found it really hard - to win a copy of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor write a rhyme to explain why you should win a copy.  Have a go!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I want to re-read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish blog that I occasionally remember to do on the right day!

I've completely reneged on my promise to blog at least once a week, having done nothing since going back to school, but real life got in the way!  3 weeks into term and routine has re-established itself so hopefully I can start back up.

Anyway, top ten books I'd like to re-read...I like to buy books that I've read and loved (having nearly always borrowed them from a library, as you know) so that I can look at them on my shelves and pretend that one day I'll have time to read them again.  Unfortunately at the moment re-reading seems like a luxury I don't have time for but one day, maybe when I retire, I will start with...

1. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - I have mentioned before that this is one of the greatest books ever written, and one of the few that I have read more than once!
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell - I read this yeeeeeeears ago and remember that it was amazing, but apart from that only remember "four legs gooood two legs baaaaad" which I quote to kids swinging on their chairs and they look at me like I'm a loon...
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - definitely deserves a re-read, maybe I'll find the time to do it before going to see the film
4. Postcards from No Man's Land by Aiden Chambers - beautifully written
5. slightly cheating with this one because there are loads of them...but all of the Discworld by Terry Pratchett!
6. Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher - I'd like to read it and go find all the statues around London that take part in the story!
7. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - I read them about 20 years ago so it must be about time I refreshed my memory

The next two are ones that I really have to re-read:
8. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak - I didn't really enjoy this when I first read it but everyone goes on about how amazing it was.  Also, I've joined a reading group for which this is the next book!
9. My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher - in a few weeks I need to tell a group of Librarians why to vote for this as the CILIP YLG London suggestion for the Carnegie award!

And I'm cheating now but number 10. goes to every book I've rated 5* on Goodreads ;-)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Review: Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David

I loved When I was Joe and the sequel Almost True, so when I saw that Keren David had a new book out I was desperate to read it!  While it is the summer holiday I've not been in school so despite having ordered it it won't arrive until September, so I was really pleased to see that UK Book Tours was offering a copy to review!

Money can’t buy you love. But it can buy many other very nice things. Lia’s mum is a nag, her sister’s a pain and she’s getting nowhere in pursuit of the potentially paranormal Raf. Then she wins £8 million in the lottery, and suddenly everything is different. But will Lia’s fortune create more problems than it solves? Everyone dreams of winning the lottery - but what’s it really like?
Synopsis from Amazon

Lia is an excellent main character, such a proper teenage girl, and I really enjoyed her voice. The characters are believable and at no point did I think 'that wouldn't have happened', with Lia's thought processes and understanding of situations sounding perfectly believable all the way through.  Saying that, I thought that the references to paranormal romance were brilliant, with the questions surrounding Raf's background keeping you guessing right up to near the end!

A couple of serious issues are broached in this book, Lia's best friend has recently become more religious, her younger sister has been bullied, and of course with a romance there's the physical aspect of a relationship as well as the emotional.  The 16 year old characters are very mature about it all and I thought it was well done.

It is a very different story to Keren's previous two novels with a much more lighthearted plot, but it is written with the same wit and style and so was equally enjoyable.  I'd expected a lot and I was not disappointed, 5/5

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mindless Violence or Realism?

In which I disagree with one of the most popular authors for teen boys in the UK.  I feel terrible but I can't help it...
 Grey Wolves
Spring, 1941. German submarines are prowling the North Atlantic, sinking ships filled with the food, fuel and weapons that Britain needs to survive. With the Royal Navy losing the war at sea, six young agents must sneak into Nazi-occupied Europe and sabotage a submarine base on France's western coast. If the submarines aren't stopped, the British people will starve.
taken from Goodreads

I loved the first couple of books in the Henderson Boys series by Robert Muchamore, but I just finished reading Grey Wolves and was frankly disturbed by the coarse language, not just that the characters used but in the descriptions, and the blunt killing of dozens of German soldiers without remorse. So ok, the Germans are the bad guys in the book but they are still human beings.  At one point near the end I think perhaps Muchamore thought about the emotional impact and so had one of his young characters feel bad (admittedly a minor character had earlier had a small attack of conscience), with Henderson giving the worldly advice “When you stop feeling it you're not human any more”. Too little too late for me, especially with other characters very obviously  enjoying the large scale devastation and slaughter.

I am always amused by how violence is much more acceptable in something written for children than s*x scenes but I don't like it having no real purpose or consequence. I'm a big fan of a lot of books that have extreme violence in them, and often these scenes are necessary to give life to the story, but I think there needs to be consequences or at least a bit of remorse! As a couple of brief examples: The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins are extremely violent, but Katniss was not a willing participant and the series has a strong message, while Darren Shan's Demonata series might be gory enough to put me off my lunch but it is demons that are the bad guys and although a large number of humans die the deaths are regretted. 
Having recently read All Quiet on the Western Front, written between the Wars by a German about a German boy sent to the front in WWI, I was particularly aware of the truth that the majority of German soldiers were fighting for the same reason as the majority of the British – their country was at war so they had no choice. Remarque's story happened to be about a German boy but change a few sentences about home and it could have been about a British soldier. The German soldiers that Henderson and his young team murder in cold blood in many scenes of the book could have been trussed up or avoided rather than taken out using such vicious means. Even if a lot of them were actually terrible people (I'm sure in real-life there were few Gestapo Officers I'd get along with) it does not follow that every soldier they came across deserved to be tortured and killed.  A battle scene is one thing but sneaking up behind someone and cutting their throat, although something that would have happened in occupied France, is not something to promote to young readers as brave and honourable. The very brief mentions of French civilians being killed in retribution for the acts of the Resistance at a couple of points in the book were probably intended to highlight the evil actions of the German occupiers, but to me they just highlighted the callous, selfish nature of Henderson and his team and the lack of worth they afforded a human life.  Muchamore might make the point that Luc is abnormally nasty but he needs to get more of a comeuppance, not just the occasional scolding as if he is a naughty schoolboy.

It could have been a really exciting story, indeed it was in places, but in my opinion so many horrible happenings without any real emotional fallout (I know the point is that teenagers can be hardier than you'd expect with a bit of training but there are limits!) made it uncomfortable reading. It is going the same way as the Cherub series, in which the levels of moral corruption of minors – s*x, drugs and violence – in later books have begun to wear thin. Instead of 'gritty realism' they are books in which the characters just feel like bad role models for our kids, and although I don't like preachy books that have an obvious moral being forced down the readers' throats, I like heartless books even less.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

World Book Night

Last year I signed up for the first World Book Night.  For those of you that don't know, 20,000 volunteers chose from a list of 25 titles to give away 50 copies of (hopefully) their favourite book, so a million books were given out in one night.  I chose The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre (it is an excellent book, I was very pleased it was on the list) and pledged to give out my 50 books at an evening about Reading For Pleasure that I would hold in my Library, for parents, school governors and staff.
I planned an amazing evening, with book trailers on the electronic whiteboard, displays of literacy stuff & brilliant books, tea & cake, and a kick-ass speech...to which 1 parent, no governors, and 15 teachers turned up...it has not put me off though!  The number of teachers that said they'd wanted to come, and that have told me since how much they enjoyed the book, made me think that this year I'll just do it for staff because, honestly, teachers are just as likely to be reluctant readers as other members of the public.
They're doing it slightly differently this time round, firstly it is being held on April 23rd (Shakespeare's birthday, and the international World Book Day - the UK does it in March so as not to clash with schools' Easter Holidays).  Secondly, they're letting The Public create the list by gathering everyone's Top 10 books.

I thought long and hard about what to choose as mine, trying to think of things that should have wide appeal, and here's my list:

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Across the Nightingale Floor by Lean Hearn
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Go sign up to the website and tell them your's, you have until the end of August so get thinking, if enough of us do we can get some great YA novels into thousands of hands!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Who Next...?

Who Next...? front cover

The new (4th) edition of Who Next...? A Guide to Children's Authors was published last month by LISU, edited by two Librarians, Viv Warren and Mary Yardley.  I just received a copy in the post as thanks for contributing to it.

It is a tool for parents and Librarians (and anyone else interested in children's books) to help them find authors that write in the same genre or on the same theme, so if they've found a book they love they could find similar things through this book.  It is divided into the age ranges 5-7, 8-11, 12-14 and 14+, obviously not a perfect division because every child is different, but it is still a helpful way of determining whether the content might be appropriate.  There is also a section that just separates by genre, and a list of useful websites and prizes worth perusing.

Worth a look methinks.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Building a Dyslexia Friendly Library

As you may have noticed reading is one of my favourite things, and I can't imagine not being able to do it. For some people though the simple pleasure of sitting down with a good book is unthinkable. This may be because they just prefer to do other things with their time, but for 1 in 10 people in the UK it is because they are dyslexic. I wrote an article about making a Library dyslexia friendly, because even though reading might be a struggle for someone with dyslexia a story can still be enjoyed by other means, information still needs to be found, and the Library as a space can still be important to them. Really that applies to people with all sorts of needs, those with visual impairment, any learning 'difference', physical access issues, or simply the reluctant reader, but I focused the article on dyslexic users in a School Library as my school is working towards achieving the British Dyslexia Association's accreditation of Dyslexia Friendly School. An edited version of the article is Information Today Europe, and look out for the full length version in a future edition of Teen Librarian Monthly!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

What I read

I've always been a reader.  We did tests in middle school (so aged 10 or 11 I think) to establish our reading ages and I got one mark away from full marks, meaning I had a reading age of over 18 (that was as high as the scale went).  I actually don't remember reading many children's books...of course there was Roald Dahl & Dick King-Smith, I loved Flat Stanley and The Worst Witch, will always have a soft spot for The Moomins and The Beano comics and there was one about a house that sailed away...but I skipped out the odd teenage novel that existed back then, I'm ashamed to say I never read a Judy Blume novel because I thought they were a bit girly.  Agatha Christie and Stephen King were my mainstays from 11-14, with the odd classic like Swiss Family Robinson, Coral Island and Campbell's Kingdom slipping in from Dad's bookshelves.
At the age of 15 I discovered The Discworld by Terry Pratchett \o/ by which time he was already up to Jingo (there's a clue to my age folks) so I had some catching up to do!  Amongst other comic fantasy I read a huge number of Robert Rankin and Tom Holt books because they were kept in the same area of the bookshop/library as TP but didn't enjoy them as much (but of course I loved Douglas Adams).  I have a rule that I will only buy a book if I have borrowed it from the Library and loved it.  Terry Pratchett books are the only ones I will preorder without thinking about it.

By the time I went to University I'd caught up with Sir Terry's back catalogue and actually I stopped reading as much because, to be honest, I was having too much fun!  Not much stands out...I picked up the odd Ellis Peters (I do love a good medieval murder mystery), finally got round to reading Lord of the Rings (great, but what's with all the songs?!) and decided I should read all the Jane Austens (I read them too close together though so all the stories have blurred into one).
My degree was in Geology but I didn't really want to be a geologist, and when I finished I decided that my ideal job would be working in the Earth Science Library of the Natural History Museum in London.  With that in mind, I volunteered in a Public Library one summer.  I did try to keep reading the grownup novels, things that would be popular with library users but I didn't particularly enjoy, but because I was the youngest person there by about a million years (in attitude at least) they threw me into the children's section to deal with the Summer Reading Scheme...a real job as a Library Assistant came up and I applied, and they kept me working in the kids section as often as possible simply because no one else really wanted to do it!  Long story short, I did an MA in Library and Information Studies with the intention of becoming a Children's Librarian in Public Libraries but then was totally demoralised - all job applications were met with the criticism that I had no management experience - and I continued as a Library Assistant in various authorities.  Eventually - from the day that I was told I would be taking over running the over 50s club in the Library instead of working with young people (horror) - I started applying for School Library positions.  So here I am, just finished my 2nd year of working only with teenagers (and the odd teacher of course) and love it, yay!

So for nearly 6 years I have really only read children's and YA books, mainly those aimed at 11+.  I particularly love the action packed stories for boys (and discerning girls) - Darren Shan (Lord Loss made me nauseous), Anthony Horowitz (Scorpia Rising was an amazing conclusion to the Alex Rider series), Derek Landy (the humour in his books is fantastic) and Mark Walden (I love that the heroes are on the side of evil!) are some of my favourites.  I don't enjoy the girly books at all but feel I should read the odd one to keep my pupils happy (they think I've read every book in the Library and I like to maintain my image).  I've read a lot of the paranormal romance that has come out in this time, so that some of them have blurred together into one big Vampire/Were/Angel-thing, but I love everything by Maggie Stiefvater and Shiver is one of my favourite books.  I loved Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori and lots of historical books (where you might learn something by accident while enjoying the story, or it will make you think about events you've studied) I rate highly, for example Burning Mountain by R.J. Adlington or Apache by Tanya Landman.  There is a fine line though, between writing an exciting story with a factual background and preaching or teaching a lesson, that is difficult to keep to!  I read a lot that I guess you could call 'issues' books, that also walk a fine line between casting judgement or preaching morals and being a good story, recently I enjoyed Killing Honour by Bali Rai, and reviewed Entangled by Cat Clarke.  Jenny Valentine writes brilliant books along the same lines.  I'm a big fan of the dystopian genre, having read the odd world-changing book like the Chaos Walking and Hunger Games trilogies that I mentioned in my Top Ten Books and of course there's the comic fantasy, like the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.
I have read and enjoyed too many books to mention, but I've had a Goodreads account for 2 years now, that I imported a couple of year's worth of reading into from another online bookshelf so have a look if you're interested (search for Caroline Fielding, I'm the only one!) or go back through my twitter mini-reviews.  No long reviews but I give a star rating in Goodreads to everything I read, I'm pretty mean with my stars, to have got 4 or 5 I have to have been totally engrossed!  My top 5 books (that I haven't mentioned either here or in the Top Ten) that I've read this year and particularly loved are, in no particular order:
When I was Joe by Keren David - A boy and his mother go into witness protection - really exciting and well written, the sequel Almost True is also excellent.
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - a story about a family's grief and prejudices, from the eyes of the young son - very moving.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - a beautiful story about a boy who's mother has cancer.  I briefly mentioned previously but I feel worth mentioning again - just don't read it in public because you'll blub like a baby!
Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish - a girl is settling into a new foster home and discovers she has supernatural powers - to be honest I have no idea why I loved this book, the premise is ridiculous, but it is just so well written!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney - so silly, and I love it!

I tend to not enjoy things that adults say you must read, especially the 'classics', but recently I've been reading a few grownup books - I asked friends and family for recommendations - because it was about time really, but I'm alternating things I 'should' read with things I want to ;-)  If you guys can think of anything I'm missing out on then let me know!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Review: Entangled by Cat Clarke

This is the first book I've read since starting this blog that has left me wanting to say more than my usual 140 character review!

The same questions whirl round and round in my head:
What does he want from me?
How could I have let this happen?

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with a table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got here.

As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see?

Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

A story of dark secrets, intense friendship and electrifying attraction
summary taken from GoodReads

Entangled is Cat Clarke's first novel but her story telling skills are fantastic.

Grace might not seem like a particularly likable character, she does a lot that is less than wonderful, but you are completely on her side and dreading what  event is being built up to leading up to her being locked in this room.  It is all from her point of view as she is writing her memories down, so you can only imagine what is going on with the other characters when their life isn't revolving around Grace's.  She is a very self centred and demanding character but as you read more you can forgive her for that and wish her a lucky break.  The relationship with her Mum is very difficult and I would like to know what was going on in her Mother's mind.

A key feature in the story is Grace's cutting.  I know a lot of people are very against writing about 'issues' like this...and drug taking/drinking/s*x...for teenagers but I think, if done carefully, it can only be helpful for young people to read about these issues and their effects on individuals as well as families and friends.  Reading about characters that self harm will not cause teens to go out and try it but it might strike a chord with some of them that already think about it, and demonstrate that they are not the only one that ever feels that way.  This book definitely does not glamorise it.  In fact, I thought the descriptions of her feelings of guilt and self loathing were very moving and realistic (though obv. everyone that thinks about self harm will have their own motivation and reaction).

Although I thought some of the growing relationships were a bit of a cheat to give more hope than someone in this situation in real life might feel, I did think the ending was quite appropriate - not too Disney happy ending but not too depressing, I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it!

All in all well worth a read, in fact School Librarians definitely read it before stocking it in your Library so that you can brace yourself for potential (but I honestly think unnecessary) parental concerns.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My Top Ten Books that should be Required Reading for Teens

Thanks to SisterSpooky I have just discovered the Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday, and this week their top ten is of required reading for teens - what better for me to jump in on?!

I thought I'd give it a go but realised it is harder than it sounds, I have hundreds of books that I recommend to different teenagers for different reasons, depending on reading age/maturity/likes/dislikes.  I struggled to whittle it down to 10 but I like to think there's something here for everyone. I guess 'required reading' could be interpreted to mean 'worthy' books, but I like to think that reading for pleasure is reason enough...so here, in no particular order, are 10 that I have read and would blanket recommend to 13-18year olds...
  1. 1984 by George Orwell- a classic novel but still horribly believable future!  Even though it was written in 1948, before we used the internet daily, it is still relevant and will really make them think about censorship and government.
  2. Hero by Perry Moore - Thom has two secrets - he has special powers and he is gay - a really good story about family, friendship, and being happy with yourself.
  3. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathon Stroud - first of the Bartimaeus books, all hilarious.
  4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - the first of the trilogy is the best but they all left me speechless.  Very violent but excellent.
  5. Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman - a young lad is literally left holding the baby as his ex-girlfriend decides she can't look after the child she hadn't told him she was expecting.  It also includes a carefully thought side story about homophobia and it's consequences.
  6. Three for the price of one here - The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness - awfully, epically depressing but fantastic.  Patrick Ness is currently one of my favourite people, having written some of my favourite books (I was tempted to include A Monster Calls because it is beautiful), and his inspiring CILIP Carnegie acceptance speech
  7. Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace - set in a Zimbabwean boarding school just as Robert Mugabe came into power after the war for independence, the story demonstrates racial tensions perfectly
  8. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - the very best of all the paranormal romance type books (plus sequels).
  9. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve - the first novel of the Hungry City Chronicles is by far the best but I enjoyed the whole series.  Municiple Darwinism is a fantastic idea and the story and writing are excellent.
  10. The Declaration by Gemma Malley - the first in yet another trilogy but a chilling tale of a future where the Longevity drug has given everyone a long life at the expense of younger generations.
Man alive, with all the trilogies/series this is a lot more than 10 books, if you've not already read them then get a wriggle on!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Indigo event at Orion

Ok, small admission, I started my blog 2 weeks earlier than I had planned to because my good friend MattLibrarian told me if I had it up and running in time I could go with him to the Indigo Bloggers event at Orion Publishers on Tuesday 12th July...of course I couldn't resist that offer (and thanks to Nina at Orion for allowing me to tag along), and so turned up on the evening feeling like a total fraud!  Funnily enough though I recognised loads of the bloggers from author events that I've been invited to through being on the YLG London Committee, a number of them I follow and they follow my mini-reviews on twitter already, so they were very nice about my virgin status :-)

It was a fantastic evening, four authors with books due to be published on this new teen imprint were there to talk about their books, some of which I was really pleased to nab proof copies of:

Marcus Sedgwick kicked off talking about how he got the idea for his new book, Midwinter Blood:
Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens. In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting. Beautifully imagined, intricately and cleverly structured, this is a heart-wrenching and breathtaking love story with the hallmark Sedgwick gothic touches of atmosphere, blood-spilling and sacrifice*
It sounds pretty immense, which is what you expect from Marcus so I hope it lives up to it!  While mingling on the terrace after the event I had a really nice chat with him about libraries and reading, such a nice man, and was ever so slightly gushy-fan when he signed my copy for me...

We then heard from Sara Grant who introduced us to her first YA novel, Dark Parties:
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...
Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most*
I really liked the sound of this book, and it was another I mananaged to get a copy of that she signed for me later on while chatting about meeting children and signing bookmarks...

Kate Harrison next told us a bit of her background as a journalist and her reasons for writing Soul Beach:
When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again - and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love . . . . But why is Soul Beach only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead? Who really murdered Megan Forster? And could Alice be next? The first book in an intriguing and compelling trilogy centred around the mystery of Megan Forster's death*
I didn't get a copy of this book but not because I don't think it sounds good, I'm sure it will go down really well at my school so I shall definitely be putting it on my next order...

Last but definitely not least, Sally Gardner teased us with the opening chapter to her new novel for older teens, The Double Shadow:
Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father's plan. Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted*
I loved listening to her read, so much so that I plucked up the courage afterwards to tell her that I think she should read her own audiobooks!  While she signed my copy we had a really interesting conversation, along with Matt, about children's and YA literature and the difference between being able to read a book and being ready to read about the subject covered, and how subject should or shouldn't be softened for a younger market.

We were also told about some other books in the pipeline for the Indigo imprint, some that have been published before but are being repackaged for the YA market but some completely new books, including:
Shelter by Harlan Coben - I picked up a copy because I always like to see how an 'adult' author manages the cross-over into YA
The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish - had to take this because I love Breathe and Savannah Gray
Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding - one I read a while ago and really enjoyed
An Act of Love by Alan Gibbons - no copies to run off with but one that I really want to read
Firespell by Chloe Neill - bought for my Library ages ago and it is in and out pretty regularly

Darkness Falls by Mia James - sequel to By Midnight, another that is popular with my girls
White Cat by Holly Black - I read it a while ago and I'm afraid I didn't like it much...can't remember why though, which probably says something!
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - LOVED this book when I read it a few months ago - wasn't what I expected at all - they're planning a completely new look for the cover that wasn't ready to present yet so I will be interested to see how it turns out.

Next week is the last week of term for my school so I'm looking forward to being able to spend a bit more time doing reviews longer than 140characters, although I find it very difficult sometimes to get beyond 'I really liked it'...after spending so long encouraging children to write book reviews you'd think I'd be really good at it! Anyway, here goes...

*book summaries taken from Goodreads

Friday, 8 July 2011


I've been thinking about starting a blog for ages, those of you that follow me on twitter will be used to me tweeting my opinion of the book I've just read or sharing my opinion on various literacy and library related happenings, but every now and again I want to say a bit more than I can in 140 characters!

I promised myself, and some others, that I'd start it this summer so here we are, and I thought I'd start by linking to something I wrote for a colleague's online magazine about the pros and cons of School Librarianship: http://www.infotoday.eu/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/The-highs-and-lows-of-school-librarianship-75759.aspx