Thursday, 23 December 2010

Why Patrick Ness is better than Tom Cruise and other miscellany

Well, the snow and the end of term have got in the way of blogging for quite some time, so here are some of the items I'd been meaning to write about all thrown together in an end of year pot pourri. No particular order, but I've put Patrick Ness first because I liked the headline!

Why Patrick Ness is better than Tom Cruise comes from those nice people at Scottish Book Trust who recently took Ness on tour around Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire. Alison, the librarian from Clydebank High School, posted on their blog to talk about the effect of Patrick Ness on her pupils. There's also a video from the tour.

Still with Scottish Book Trust, did you know about their Teachers' Online Bookgroups? There's one each for books for primary and secondary age children, and one for professional development. Each has downloadable material to go with the texts, e.g. for Choke Chain by Jason Donald (a book for secondary children) there are teachers' notes, an interview with the author and a podcast of him reading an extract from the book.

Picture books do still work for kids - an article in October in the New York Times suggested that picture books were no longer a staple as parents tried to push their children towards "chapter books". This has promted responses from both CBS News and Publisher's Weekly - don't write the obit for picture books yet, they say. Certainly not in this Library, where they remain very popular.

Enid Blyton falls out of children's favour is an article in the Telegraph which relates that Blyton has fallen out of the top ten list of children's authors for the first time in decades because youngsters cannot relate to her language. Hmm, we don't stock her anyway because we don't consider her good enough quality (though I read them all when I was growing up and I turned into a librarian, so they can't be that bad!)

If you want quality, Julia Donaldson is a safe bet. An article in the Guardian's Books Blog praises Stick Man as a potential Christmas classic.

Looking for fiction for 10-14s? Look no further than the Literacy Adviser (Bill Boyd, latterly of Learning and Teaching Scotland) - and happily, most of the recommended titles on his long list are in stock here. The rest of the site is worth a look too. I now subscribe to his blog, and after the New Year I hope to create a Blogroll of this and others that I consult regularly.

Another good blog to follow for children's and teenage fiction is Tall Tales & Short Stories. For example, here's an interview with Keith Charters and Graham Watson of Strident Publishing - a Scottish publisher based in East Kilbride, many of whose books we have in our catalogue.

David Almond is a popular, and award-winning, author whose My Dad's a Birdman is now a play - Observer review here. Skellig, of course, was made into a film and we have both book and DVD in stock.

If you like Michelle Paver's Chronicles of Darkness series you might want to listen to her reading from the 6th and final title, Ghost hunter, in a Guardian podcast.

Books for Keeps has started a film-review section. Guess what the first review is? Harry Potter of course!

And finally - the "Books of the year" lists have started coming out. Here are 32 gathered together (not all children's) by SCC English blog and an international collection (all children's) from Chicken Spaghetti.

Season's greetings to everyone. See you in 2011!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Scotland's Stories and Scotland's Songs

Have a look at these great new sites from Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Scotland's Stories:
"Scotland is a treasure house of stories, from myths and legends to wee tales told in the playground.
The strange and fantastical stories of Scotland have inspired writers, artists and poets for centuries. Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson both recalled as adults the tales of ghosts, magic and witches they had heard as children.
Stories, storytelling and storymaking can have an incredible impact on a child’s growing imagination. Scotland’s storytellers and the Scottish Storytelling Centre provide opportunities for everyone to celebrate and share in Scotland’s rich storytelling heritage, promoting storytelling as a vibrant contemporary art form."
Scotland's songs:
"Families and friends, heroes and villains, games and laughter, school and work, love and freedom – it’s all here in Scotland’s Songs. Listen to more than 130 songs and tunes, in Scots and Gaelic, and learn about the long and rich tradition of Scottish music, still very much alive across the nation and known and loved across the world.
You can learn about traditional songs and music, understand themes in Scottish music and find out more about Scotland's instruments, like the bagpipes and the clarsach.
There’s a short introduction to each song or tune, along with song lyrics and the musical notation for almost every tune.
Why not start by finding your favourite Scottish song?"

Monday, 29 November 2010

The 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books?

Last week, we had the 25 Best Children's Books from the Telegraph. This weekend, The Observer got in on the act with it's 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books, as chosen by Kate Kellaway. Again, I think it's a bit of an eccentric selection. I've never heard of The lonely doll by Dare Wright (1957) for example. I cetainly agree with Shirley Hughes' Dogger and Quentin Blake's All join in, but not with Babar. The newest title is a Lauren Child but, as one commenter says, where is Emily Gravett? A bright, new Greenaway award-winning illustrator who should be on the list. Again, see what you think.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Eleanor Farjeon Award goes to Seven Stories

Seven Stories - the Centre for Children's Books based in Newcastle - was last night awarded the Eleanor Farjeon Award 2010. The Award is made for distinguished service to the world of children's books and will be given to a person or an organisation whose commitment and contribution is deemed to be outstanding. Here's a picture of staff receiving the (very well deserved) Award. I've blogged about Seven Stories before, most recently in October about their acquisition of papers on Enid Blyton. If you are ever in the North East of England, it is well worth a visit, whether or not you have small children in tow (nice cafe too!)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The 25 best children's books?

At least according to the Daily Telegraph which says "From classics to modern day tales of magic, here are 25 stories that have delighted young readers for more than a century". The list starts in 1883 with Treasure Island and ends in 1999 with The Gruffalo (though the 2000s are represented by Harry Potter which is included as a series from 1997-2007). Some are unarguable - The very hungry caterpillar has to be a landmark in innovative picture books - but The Mr Men? Really? It also seems a little predictable and anyone who knows anything about children's books will have come across all of these before.

What do you think?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Open Book on young adult fiction

Mariella Frostrup presented a special edition of Open Book on Radio 4 yesterday exploring the recent boom in fiction for young adults. She spoke to young adult authors Marcus Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman and Gemma Malley, to help find out what distinguishes teen novels today and what challenges and possibilities they present for the writer. The programme is currently available on Listen Again and will be repeated on Thursday at 16.00.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Roald Dahl Funny Prize

The winners were announced today:

Funniest Book for Children Aged 6 and Under
Dog loves books by Louise Yates

Funniest Book for Children Aged 7 to 14
Withering tights by Louise Rennison

Read more about them via Booktrust. We have both books in stock.

PS - currently on BBC iPlayer, Blue Peter visits Roald Dahl's house.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Manfred the Baddie

This month every Primary 1 pupil in Scotland is receiving a free copy of John Fardell's Royal Mail Award-winning picture book Manfred the Baddie. Scottish Book Trust has put together a collection of teaching resources including two great Manfred-inspired videos to celebrate! The slideshow below shows Manfred and other books by John Fardell that we have in stock.

I'm a character in a teenage novel ... get me out of here!

I toyed with this title back in 2002/3 when I first compiled our Survivor booklist. I'm a celebrity was newly on-screen, but I decided it might be a flash in the pan and no-one would get the title after a few weeks or months. How wrong could I be? The programme is still going, but so is my list with its much more prosaic title. Mostly set in apocalyptic versions of the future, the books on it share a common theme: the battle for survival. Their central characters, usually teenagers, have to overcome fire, floods, demons or some other horror as they struggle to build new lives or new societies. As well as being good stories, the books will also make their readers think about the way we treat our world today.

I've just updated the list to include two recently completed trilogies. I've already written about Patrick Ness's Chaos walking books here and here. (For a sneak preview of the cover of his next book, see his blog.) The other trilogy is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I've just finished reading. (Catalogue details here.) In the first book, we are introduced to a dystopian society based on what is left of the USA after a global disaster. The wealthy Capitol is surrounded by 12 poorer Districts which, 75 years ago, had tried to break away. As punishment for the failed rebellion, every year each District must supply one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 to take part in the Hunger Games. These sound like I''m a celebrity with the added excitement of being a fight to the death - the last participant alive wins. The very first time Prim Everdeen, from District 12, is eligible her name comes out of the hat but her older sister Katniss volunteers to take her place and it is her adventures we follow through the three books. It's not pretty - by their very nature, the games have to involve violence and Collins doesn't shirk from describing it. The politics are presented in a thought provoking way too, without being heavy handed. There are also gentler themes though - love, for instance, as Katniss explores her feelings for both Gale, her childhood friend, and Peeta who accompanies her into the Arena.

I was first recommended these books by my 14-year old neice who really enjoyed them and I have to say I agree with her taste. It took me a while to get into the first few chapters, but after that I was hooked and tore through all three. As with Chaos walking I found the quality tailed off a little towards the end - I didn't find the final battles terribly convincing - but on the whole they were a great read.

Suzanne Collins has her own website and there's also a special Hunger Games one. You can find information in various other places - for example on Wikipedia, on the publisher's website (Scholastic) on My Hunger Games or on Youtube (trailers). Play the game Find your Hunger Games name, keep track of the movie, expected to come out in 2013, and Google it for much more!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Inspiring young readers with film

The Guardian recently ran a piece Films in schools are inspiring children with the joy of learning about the charity Filmclub which supplies schools with free films from a 1,800-strong cinematic library and claims that movies help disengaged pupils to connect with their lessons. One example is The boy in the striped pyjamas of which one young reviewer says "You actually feel like you witness the horror of the Holocaust and you connect with the characters in the movie." Of course, you can do this with our stock - we have both the book and film of Striped pyjamas and many other titles. One section of our Books for Boys list is devoted to film and TV tie-ins.

More and more children's books are being filmed - recent announcments include Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes , Michael Morpurgo's War Horse and Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry.

Finally in film news, Scotland on Screen is an exciting educational resource that puts hundreds of important historical film texts online, providing students with a rear-view mirror on our society over the past century.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Booktrust Teenage Prize

"A bit like Rain Man but much better, and without Tom Cruise." So said Chair of Judges, Tony Bradman, of Unhooking the moon which today won Gregory Hughes the Booktrust Teenage Prize. It's the story of two siblings, 10 year old Rat and her big brother Bob, who set off from Winnipeg after their father dies to search for their only known relative in New York. I can't tell you much more than that since the book hasn't arrived in the Library yet, but I can't wait to get my hands on it after reading about it today. Here's the Booktrust announcement, the Books for Keeps review, the Bookbag and two articles from the Guardian, one mainly on the book and the other on the author. The subject matter, a road trip with unforgettable charcters, also reminds me of the Dicey Tillerman books by Cynthia Voigt, starting with The homecoming, which we do have and which I heartily recommend.

PS Booktrust interview with Gregory Hughes added 4/11/10

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Monsters of men: Patrick Ness

I reviewed the first two parts of Patrick Ness's Chaos walking trilogy in the summer when The Ask and the Answer (part 2) was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I've just finished the final part, Monsters of men (as one of the character's says, "War makes monsters of men"). Rereading that earlier post, I was struck by how tense I had found the writing, particularly in the first book, The knife of never letting go. While I was certainly intrigued to find out how Ness would resolve the dangerous situation Todd and Viola found themselves in, I didn't find the conclusion quite as gripping. The war on New World becomes very complicated and a bit confusing, especially when a third force, the Spackle, the planet's indigenous species, also takes up arms. Each battle felt as if it was going to be decisive and then more followed. However, there is a satisfying ending with themes of revenge, forgiveness and redemption and Todd, Viola and the relationship between them are finely drawn - I was reminded of Philip Pullman's Lyra and Will. Overall, I would heartily recommend this trilogy for avid readers of 12+.

PS - click here for an online short story prequel to the trilogy, telling how Viola arrived on New World (via Booktrust).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Eva Ibbotson 1925-2010

Eva Ibbotson's publisher, Curtis Brown, has made the sad announcement that she died on 20th October aged 85. Eva only started writing in her 50s, but she kept on right up until her death. We have some of her titles in our catalogue, including Journey to the river sea, which won the Gold Medal for the 2001 Smarties Prize and was written in honour of her deceased husband, a former naturalist, and Morning gift which features in our Love lessons reading list. It's a romance set in England and Vienna in World War Two - this reflects her background: she was born in Vienna in 1925 and moved to England with her father when the Nazis came to power. I took it on holiday with me this year and found it a great read. Below are the covers of the titles we have in stock:

Books for Keeps
Horn Book
New York Times
Nosy Crow

Older articles:
Books for Keeps, May 2002
Guardian 6/10/10

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Gruffalo tops list of children's favourite books

The Gruffalo has come out top in a Booktrust survey of children's favourite books. Almost one in five children (18%) picked the Julia Donaldson tale, while Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peppa Pig, by Ladybird books, came joint second with 11%. See the BBC's story for more details - and, of course, we have the Gruffalo and many other Julia Donaldson titles in our catalogue.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Brian Wildsmith

I discovered recently that there is a Brian Wildsmith Museum of Art in Japan, founded in  Izukogen in 1994. It is modelled on his atelier/house in Southern France and contains original illustrations for picture books and stage designs, posters, large-scale paintings, drawings produced during his art school years, work by his family, photographs and small artefacts.

For more information about Brian Wildsmith, see his own site, this Booktrust interview and lots more if you Google him. And of course, we have a good collection of his work in this library.

Should kids still be reading Enid Blyton?

I devoured just about every Enid Blyton when I was a child, but even then I was aware they were slightly frowned upon - although I maintain they never did me any harm. However, they aren't considered literary, therefore we don't stock them in this library (though we have books about Blyton if you are interested.) Anyway, today I came across two pieces of Enid Blyton news. First of all I read Feminism and the Famous Five on the blog I was a teenage book geek. I follow quite a few children's literature blogs, but have only recently discovered this one. It's author, Lauren, maintains "My reading age is stuck at sixteen. And I like it that way." Lauren, whose mother disapproved of Blyton because of negative gender stereotypes, read them in secret as a child and recently she has re-read Five on a Treasure Island. While agreeing with her mother's opinion, she argues that the book reflects the culture of its times and, in fact, the character of George could be regarded as something of a feminist icon.

The other piece of news is that Seven Stories (the Centre for Children's Books in Newcastle) has recently acquired several original Blyton typescripts and staff are busily cataloguing the collection with a view to putting it on exhibition. In the meantime, you can follow progress on their Blyton blog. I've written posts about this fantastic museum before, and if you ever do find yourself in the North East of England it's well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson is a fantastically popular author. She consistently tops, or comes near the top, of "most borrowed lists" in public libraries and her books go out very well here too - here's a full list of what we have. Her latest book, which hasn't arrived yet, is The longest whale song - but as a preview, here's a link to Jacqueline's home page where she reads aloud an extract. Just a few of Jacqueline's many titles are shown below:

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Polly Dunbar

Booktrust recently introduced its new writer in residence, Polly Dunbar. Polly has written and illustrated many much loved picture books including Dog Blue, Flyaway Katie and Penguin. She is also the illustrator of My Dad's a Birdman and The boy who climbed into the Moon, both written by David Almond. Penguin won the Nestle Silver Award 2007, Booktrust Early Years Award 2007, the Red House Award 2008 and was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal. For more information from Booktrust about her, see the Writers in Residence blog and resources. For information from elsewhere, see Walker Books, Wikipedia and the Guardian Gallery. To see our own library holdings click here (books written and / or illustrated by Polly Dunbar, covers below).

What's hot in picture books?

Today I've been following two of my Twitter friends (@nosycrow and @Booktrust) who've been tweeting from the Bookseller's annual children's conference in the British Library Conference Centre in London. One interesting thing I learnt (via the talk from Philip Stone, the Bookseller's Charts Editor) is that the overall market for books is down 4% for the year to date - adult non-fiction is down 8% and children's books are down 2%. However, within this last category, picture book sales are actually up 2%, driven by the likes of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Apparently, in picture books, animals and monsters are hot but princesses and fairies are not hot. So you might want to bear that in mind next time you choose books to go out on placement! Here are just a few animal and monster book suggestions that we have in stock - find locations through SUPrimo.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

It's Banned Books Week

We're in the middle of Banned Books Week which launched on 25 September and is a celebration of the freedom to read. It originally started in America in 1982 as a reflection on the rise in challenges faced by libraries, bookstores and schools regarding the content of books. The Banned Books week site has lists under various headings:
  • Corrosive to young minds
  • Politically incendiary
  • Downright sexy
  • Just wrong
We also have our own page, Banned: controversial books for teenagers and children, which covers similar ground:
  • Young upstarts: books written for younger children
  • Teen trouble and contentious kids
  • Controversial classics
  • Further reading
You will probably be surprised at some of the titles included! Here's just a taster:

Friday, 17 September 2010

Roald Dahl Funny Prize - shortlist announced

The shortlist has just been announced for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Click on the link for full details, including reviews. The prize was founded in 2008 by Michael Rosen as part of his Children’s Laureateship and is the first prize of its kind, i.e. for those books that simply make children laugh. There are two categories, for children aged 6 and under and for children aged 7-14. As usual, we aim to stock all titles nominated for prizes, and in this case we already have half of them and will be adding the rest as soon as possible. The slideshow below illustrates the ones in stock now. The prize, administered by Booktrust, will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on 17 November 2010.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

New literacy and football resources from NLT

The National Literacy Trust's Reading the Game is an initiative to promote reading, writing, and speaking and listening for all ages through the motivational power of sport. They've just added a new section to it - football-related literacy resources by children's writer Tom Palmer. There's a toolkit of ideas for activities and games, reading and writing exercises, stories and book reviews. It does feature English Premier League stars in places, but could easily be adapted to fit the Scottish football scene. There's also a competition.

We have a good collection ourselves of football stories for children and our Books for Boys webpage has reviews of some of them on its football page.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books

The shortlist for the 2010 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books was announced recently. The awards recognize excellence in Scottish writing and illustration for children across three categories: Early years (0-7 years), younger readers (8-11 years), older readers (12-16 years). There is also a special Gaelic and Scots category, which in 2010 will take the form of a creative writing competition for Gaelic-speaking children across Scotland. The winners of the awards are decided entirely by children and young people in schools and libraries across Scotland, reading and voting for their favourite books. Registration is now open for children who wish to be young judges either as individuals or as groups. The awards, which are run by Scottish Book Trust, will be made in February.

We've got about half the books already if you want to borrow them, check SUPrimo for locations:

0-7: What the ladybird heard; Stormy weather.
8-11: Secret of the black moon moth.
12-16: Grass; The witching hour.

The rest will be available as soon as possible.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Horn Book: family reading issue.

A new issue of the Horn Book has arrived in the library. It's theme is family reading and you'll find articles such as  What makes a good book for all ages, Boy books and Girl books. In addition, in Reading on the spectrum, Ashley Waring writes about the reading experiences of her two sons, one of whom is autistic, and Leonard Marcus discusses The size of things in relation to picture books - giant or miniature? Size matters.

The Horn Book is a US publication so the reviews aren't always relevant here, but the articles are usually interesting and you can keep up to date online via - they have a blog and newsletter.

Find the Horn Book going back to 1964 on the Serials Gallery at S808. If you check our catalogue, SUPrimo, you can also access it electronically (Strathclyde staff and students only).

It's Roald Dahl Day - 13/9/10

Roald Dahl Day is celebrated every year on the author's birthday - he would have been 94 today! Click on the link to download information about events and activities. There's also a challenge (to read 3 Roald Dahl books before December) in which 5000 children will win a Revolting Reader badge. You might also be interested in the official Dahl website and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. Plus, of course, we have loads of books by and about Roald Dahl - see the list here. Which is your favourite?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Are some picture books too "creepy" in their message?

How carefully do you think about the underlying message in some of the picture books you read to young children? An article by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times Magazine yesterday caught my eye (via Achuka Blog) - Children’s books you (might) hate. It started with a discussion of The giving tree, by Shel Silverstein, about a boy and a tree who are friends, but the boy takes everything form the tree. To quote Belkin: "For the next 60 pages that little boy takes and takes and takes from the tree — selling her apples when he needs money, chopping off her branches when he needs shelter, cutting down her trunk when he needs a boat to sail far away. In the end, the boy is an old man, and he comes back to the tree and sits on her. Which, we are told, makes her happy." She asks if this is a good message, that you can keep taking without giving back. This leads on to further examples such as Marcus Pfister's Rainbow fish, about a beautiful fish who gives away all his scales, which could be read as a warning not to be unique or different. The article provoked lively discussion with lots of suggestions in the comments of books people disliked for similar reasons.

We have both the books mentioned above in the Library, multiple copies in the case of Rainbow fish which is always popular. When I checked this morning, The giving tree was out and also has an active loan history. So are Belkin and the others she quotes over-analysing? Or, if they are right but children like the books anyway, should we just let them get on with enjoying them? What do you think?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Children's Books about Libraries

Libraries are very much in the news just now, particularly in England where there seem to be serious moves to cut them. If children are to grow up as enthusiastic readers they should be encourgaed to appreciate the worth of a good library. What better way to start than with picture books about libraries? We have some of the titles listed in the link here and its comments, plus others such as:

Maisy goes to the library
Lucy Cousins
London : Walker 2005

Carlo and the really nice librarian
Jessica Spanyol
London : Walker 2004

The ghost library
David Melling
London : Hodder Children's 2004

When the library lights go out
Megan McDonald & Katherine Tillotson
London : Simon & Schuster 2006

If you agree with my point about libraries and want to support them, you might be interested in a new website, Voices for the Library, which has been set up as a place for everyone who loves libraries to share their stories and experiences of the value of public libraries. Please take a look.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Headteachers in books give lessons on authority

"Children’s literature that depicts headteachers as sadistic and evil helps youngsters learn about authority" a study has found, as reported in today's Glasgow Herald. The article continues "School-based novels encourage children to think about power and whether it is being used wisely, it is claimed. The research at Nottingham University considered the characteristics of headteachers in 19 children’s books written since 1970. Of these, nine are portrayed negatively, from the “evil and messianic” head in The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross to the “sadistic, child-hating” Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. A further six are remote figures of power. Just one, Professor Dumbledore of the Harry Potter series, is seen positively, described as wise and moral." Read the full article through the link above, or borrow our copies of the books to check out the theory for yourself. Find their locations in our catalogue.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Children's Literature in Jordanhill Library

Welcome to our new PGDE students who start this week. I hope this blog will be useful to those of you studying Primary Education or Secondary English. We have a good collection of picture books, children's and teenage novels and poetry which you can find on the library gallery. You'll also find there a collection of leaflets and booklists (e.g. Books for Boys, Recent Children's Book Awards, Teenage Poetry) - these can be downloaded too from our Children's Literature Webpages. Other pages on the site include Poetry, Children's Literature in Scotland and Reluctant Readers.

Find out which new books have been added to stock by checking out LibraryThing and find their locations through our catalogue search service, SUPrimo - NB, to help you find fiction on particular topics we have added themes to the catalogue records, so that if you search for a subject such as "bullies" and use the limits on the left hand side to restrict your results to Children's books you will find suitable fiction and poetry as well as non-fiction.

Also on our webpages is a list of children's literature internet sites. These are many and varied, for example (a random selection):

Author Hotline Exclusive author, illustrator and poet profiles enabling young readers to connect with published professionals.

Cool Reads Books for 10-15 year old readers by 10-15 year old reviewers.

Smories Original stories for kids, read by kids. 50 added every month.

Four times a year we publish Children's Literature Update. This is an index to articles on children's literature available in Jordanhill Library or online. You can pick it up from the children's gallery or have it emailed to you - leave a comment on this post if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Finally, news about the Library, including about children's books, appears regularly on our Twitter feed. Please follow us! we are @JordanhillLib. And don't forget - for more information about the above or any other library matter, just come and ask. We're here to help.

Monday, 16 August 2010

David Almond's prequel to Skellig

Earlier this year, David Almond won the Hans Christian Andersen Award (for a living author whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children's literature.) He's written many books, but is perhaps best known for Skellig (which is also a film) about Michael, a boy who finds a strange creature, part angel, part man, in his garden shed. Almond has now written a prequel to Skellig which concentrates on Mina, Michael's spirited neighbour and friend. Almond is a great writer - find his books in our catalogue here if you want to find out why. My name is Mina is published by Hodder on 2nd September - there's an interview with Almond in Saturday's Herald in which he talks about the new book and his writing in general. Unfortunately there's no electronic link, but you can find it in the library. Ask at the desk for cuttings file number 1225.

Poetry competition

Scottish schools are back now - time to get the children working on some new poems?

Old Possum's Children's Poetry Competiton 2010: Roger McGough is to chair the judging panel for a worldwide poetry competition for 7-11 year olds. The Competition is organised by the Children's Poetry Bookshelf, a poetry book club for young people run by the Poetry Book Society. To link with National Poetry Day on Thursday 7 October, children will be asked to write a poem in English on the theme of 'Home'. The competiton opens on 10th September.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Library Day in the Life 5

This is the second time I have taken part in Library Day in the Life so I'll leave the explanation of what it is and details of my job to the introduction of my previous post on the subject. This time was rather different - in January, we were in the full swing of term, but at the end of July we were in the middle of the summer vacation and, as there were several library assistants on holiday, I spent large chunks of each day covering the counter (although there were very few students about so I'm afraid this didn't yield anything interesting to write about.) We're also much further down the road of "reshaping" the University which I touched on last time. The Faculty of Education, served by our campus, ceases to exist tomorrow and becomes subsumed into the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The Information Services Directorate is also in the throes of restructuring - the Senior Management Team is now in place, but the rest of us still await our fate. Part of the reshaping involves an extensive Early Retirement / Voluntary Severance scheme and by the end of September Jordanhill Library will have lost 6 staff to ERVS, a quarter of our total. Maintaining service levels will therefore be a challenge next session.

So how was my week? I tweeted my activities (@anabelmarsh) with decreasing regularity as the week wore on and have used those tweets as the basis for this post which picks out the main theme of each day.


Monday morning's first task is always to deal with the timesheets for the weekend staff. This week, I also had a contract to sort out. One of our Sunday staff who was due to start work again next term phoned me on Friday afternoon to say she no longer wished to take up her contract. I immediately thought of the volunteer we had earlier in the year who was looking for experience before going on to do an ILS qualification, got clearance from HR to approach her and had her signed up by Monday afternoon. I'm ridiculously pleased with myself because I think it must be a university record for appointing someone - and for anyone thinking of working in libraries, it certainly shows the value of being proactive and getting your foot on the ladder early.


Tuesday was a day of meetings. The first was quite informal with our Campus Librarian, who is one of the staff retiring and therefore needs to make sure he has handed over all his duties effectively. The second was in Glasgow University Library (in their cafe to be precise, coffee in a meeting can never be a bad thing) and was to plan our programme of visits and courses for library assistants in the West of Scotland next term. As I live near GUL I had originally planned to take flexitime and go home afterwards, but I had to dash back to Jordanhill to meeting 3 which was to meet the newly appointed Head of Customer Services for the Directorate. A lot of talking today!


I usually put Wednesdays aside for purchasing, mainly because that's when Holt Jackson updates its online list which is one of the selection tools I use for children's books. As it's the end of the Financial Year I can't order anything just now but I made some choices for later. This is one of my favourite jobs of the week. In the afternoon a lecturer hands in 3 reading lists which, astonishingly, are in good time and have all the information I need on them. This is such an unusual occurence that it prompts one of my Twitter correspondents to ask if there are four horsemen of the apocalypse at the front door - there aren't, but I am a bit shaken and decide to get on straight away with moving books to short loan and ordering extra copies - surely the least the lecturer deserves?


Thursday was the Library Management Committee at the Main Campus and I found out a bit more about the restructuring process. It also gave me a chance to meet two staff in the main library who will be working on our campus one day a week and to discuss how this might work - one of the solutions to our loss of so many to ERVS. They both seemed keen to broaden their experience in this way so there should be mutual benefit.


As a follow-up to yesterday's Library Management Committee I fed back what I had learned about the restructuring - staff are inevitably concerned but I try to make sure people don't worry unnecessarily by keeping them as well-informed as possible. The rest of the day was an endless round of phone calls and desk duty and trying to tidy up loose ends. I wrote in January that my to-do list was much the same at the end of the week as at the beginning, and this was also true this time. The one thing I managed to cross off was proof-reading the update of our Books for Boys web page - resulting in a headache from looking at the screen too long.

Oh dear, that's a negative note to end on, can't have that. There were some lovely things that happened this week. By using the #libday5 hashtag I made some new friends on Twitter. I organised a card and present for one of our staff who has just had a new baby and two staff at the main campus got engaged - "effective networking" as the boss put it. Love and romance. A far better way to end.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Bookbug takes over from Bookstart in Scotland

Scottish Book Trust's Early Years Programme (formerly known as Bookstart in Scotland) was relaunched as Bookbug on 30 June. Well-known Scottish illustrator Debi Gliori created the new Bookbug mascot (find out how she went about it on the Scottish Book Trust website).

The core format of the programme will stay the same, but there are a number of changes including:
  • bespoke gift packs for Scotland featuring more Scottish authors and illustrators and linking in to Scottish education and parenting strategies;
  • improved logistics using a Scottish company Spring Distribution to deliver to local authorities and the NHS
  • a greener and more ethical programme (fair-trade canvas bags, improved delivery)

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Books for Keeps

We've held Books for Keeps in the Library for years. Now you can access it online from - see the whole of the current issue and archived material from previous editions. Books for Keeps was launched in 1980 and has over 12,500 reviews on the website and more than 2,000 articles including interviews with the top children’s authors and illustrators. July 2010's edition includes articles on: nursery rhymes; Beverly Naidoo (whose Journey to Jo'burg is now 25 years old); animator / illustrator Leigh Hodgkinson; Rick Riordan (author of the recently filmed  Percy Jackson: The Lightening Thief); and Tom Sawyer (Classics in Short). Plus all the usual news and reviews.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Carnegie / Greenaway winners

And the winners are:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Harry & Hopper Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Read more about them and see video from today's ceremony on the award's website - and read the Guardian article and BBC page.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Terry Pratchett

A tsunami leaves a boy dealing with the trauma of burying his people in Nation, Terry Pratchett's latest Carnegie-shortlisted novel – a book he says he's been preparing to write all his life. Here he is discussing it in Andrew Johnson's article in The Independent. In addition, Pratchett has set up a new prize Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now for debut novelists resident in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. It's an odd title, but he gives a long explanation which begins: "Anywhere but here, anywhen but now. Which means we are after stories set on Earth, although it may be an Earth that might have been, or might yet be, one that has gone down a different leg of the famous trousers of time (see the illustration in almost every book about quantum theory)."

We have Nation and other Terry Pratchett books in our catalogue.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Cast announced for Morpurgo's War Horse

"Steven Spielberg has rounded up a clutch of quality British acting talent to head up the cast of War Horse, his first film to reach the screens since 2008’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch have all signed on the dotted line, but taking the lead (or the reigns) is young actor Jeremy Irvine, who has earned his stripes with both the National Youth Theatre and the RSC." From Empire Online.

War Horse is by Michael Morpurgo who today took part in a Scottish Book Trust Authors Live session - read about it and download teaching resources here. We have the book and a CD version in stock - check the catalogue for a full list of our Morpurgo holdings.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

What would you do if you were invisible? Teenage writing competition

The Booktrust Teenage Prize writing competition has launched. Tell all the 12-16 year olds you know! Here's the brief:
"Bod, the main character in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, the winner of the 2009 Booktrust Teenage Prize, can become invisible to living people, when the situation calls for it – he can ‘fade’. What would you do if you could ‘fade’? How would it work? Where would you go? Think about the different interpretations of invisibility, not just the literal meaning. Would you feel powerful or lonely? In no more than 500 words, write a short story that is original and creative. You might like to read The Graveyard Book for background and inspiration."
There are details about prizes on Booktrust's website and the deadline is 5th July. If you want to borrow Gaiman's book, we have it in stock. Other relevant titles you might consider borrowing from us are Robert Cormier's Fade and HG Wells' Invisible Man, both excellent.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

World Cup Resources

Ok, I know Scotland's not in it but loads of people will still be watching. The National Literacy Trust has a great page of World Cup resources for teachers and librarians to help encourage young people's reading through the power of football. It includes, amongst other things, a daily episodic story, book reviews, word searches and crosswords. Find more resources on the LTS Global Citizenship blog,Walker Books'  World Cup page with booklists and activities, and Teachers TV which has a Summer of Football page. And don't forget our own page listing football-themed novels, and a few poems, for children (part of our larger, Books for Boys list which is currently being updated - watch this space). See a selection below.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Additions to our list of children's literature internet sites

The House of Illustration - the world’s first centre dedicated to the art of illustration in all its forms. It is the brainchild of Quentin Blake, though not restricted to children’s book illustrations.

Storylineonline - Screen Actors Guild members read children’s books aloud (US).

Storybird - short, visual stories that you make with family and friends to share and (soon) print.
Modern language versions are also available.

For more sites, see the full list on our web pages.

Monday, 7 June 2010

New author links

A mixed bag of links which have dropped into my RSS/Twitter feeds recently:

Philip Ardagh's Grubtown site.

Lots on J M Barrie because of the 150th anniversary of his birth: the official site; Books from Scotland; and the NTS.

A Theresa Breslin podcast from Scottish Booktrust.

A Booktrust interview with Lucy Cousins to celebrate Maisy's 20th birthday.

A YouTube trailer for Michelle Harrison's 13 Treasures.

A Telegraph Book Club piece about Clive King's Stig of the Dump.

Two blog posts about Nicola Morgan, one from Scribble City Central and the other from Absolute Vanilla.

Finally, some film news. Films are definitely on the way about Judy Moody, Diary of a wimpy kid and, possibly, Mr Gum. I couldn't find any links about the latter apart from this tweet from its author on 20th May:
@AndyStantonTM EXCITING INDUSTRY GOSSIP: I am meeting with a film company today to discuss possible 'Mr Gum' movie.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Shaping readers through choices

How can teachers, parents and other interested adults help children to become avid readers? A number of theories have been aired recently. For example, the TES reported that Teachers' book club helps boost boys' reading ability. Giving teachers contemporary children's books to read for themselves has apparently helped them to narrow the gap between boys' and girls' achievement in literacy.

What goes on in the home is also important. Vanessa Thorpe wrote in The Observer that Parents 'must let children choose what they read'. In The Guardian, Rachel Williams bemoaned the fact that Many parents failing to read to children, survey shows. According to this survey, more than half of primary teachers say they have seen at least one child with no experience of being told stories at home - but, as the Telegraph tells us, Books in the home 'boost children's education' . Keeping just 20 books in the home can boost children’s chances of doing well at school, according to a major study. Sharing stories and reading together as a family are vital to the development of a child’s literacy skills - forthcoming National Literacy Trust research will show how that children who are encouraged to read by their parents are more likely to have above average reading levels. Without adequate literacy skills a child is less likely to succeed at school and to become a happy and confident young person. They therefore launched their Tell Me a Story campaign on 2 June to raise awareness that every child has the right to share stories and develop the skills they need for their future. Book Dads is another site which encourages reading in the home by providing advice and resources for dads.

Other recent help on choosing books for young readers comes from Lucy Mangan's article How do you choose books for children? in which she asks questions such as "does The Railway Children's happy ending inspire false hope or a welcome dose of escapism for children with absent parents?" The Guardian has its guide to Best children's books ever (Lucy Mangan again) and you can find other people listing their Top 100 books, such as Trevor Cairney, who groups some of his by theme, topic and genre, while others are grouped by age, author or gender, and Maggi Idzikowski who has created a fabulous Animoto presentation of hers.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Children's book awards

As the Guardian announced the shortlist for its 2010 Children's Fiction Prize at the weekend, this seems a good time to catch up with some other snippets of recent award news. These include Red House Children's Book Award Winners and the 2010 English 4-11 Book Awards for the best children's illustrated books of 2009. On a slightly different tack, Ireland has awarded its first Children's Laureateship to Siobhán Parkinson, as detailed in the Guardian and the Usborne's Young Writers' Award offers children up to 14 the opportunity to finish a story started by a famous authors (Sophie McKenzie, Diana Kimpton, Anne-Marie Conway, Keith Brumpton, Steve Skidmore & Steve Barlow). Prizes include the winning story published as an iphone App, a trip to Usborne in London to meet all the authors and find out how a book is made and £100 worth of Usborne books. The closing date for entries is Wednesday 20th October 2010.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

New journal articles

The latest editions of Books for Keeps and Youth Library Review have arrived. They're both jam-packed with interesting articles - find them on the gallery upstairs. Here's an index:

PUTTING disabled children in the picture. (2010). Youth Library Review, 40, pp. 10-11.
Giving disabled children role models in literature.

Whitney, N. (2010). Winds of change and the emergence to the m-generation: moving from books, via the web, to apps. Youth Library Review, 40, pp. 6-9.

Eccleshare, J. (2010). Authorgrapgh no 182: Mary Hooper. Books for Keeps, 182, pp. 12-13.

Wyatt, B. (2010). Illustrators and public lending right. Youth Library Review, 40, pp. 18-19.

Mynott, D. (2010). Stories from the web. Youth Library Review, 40, pp.16-17.
A reader development site for children and young people:

MEYER, Stephanie
Tucker, N. (2010). Once bitten: the fang bang fiction of Stephanie Meyer. Books for Keeps, 182, pp. 4-5.

Styles, M. (2010). Ten of the best poetry books for children. Books for Keeps, 182, pp. 6-7.

Browne, A. (2010). Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne on appreciating picture books. Books for Keeps, 182, p. 8.
Evans, J. (2010). Picturebooks are for everyone: children’s thoughts about reading picturebooks. Youth Library Review, 40, pp. 1-5.

Barnes, C. (2010). The catcher in the rye. Books for Keeps, 182, p. 11.
How did J D Salinger’s pioneering creation influence later teen fiction?

Alderson, B. (2010). Classics in short no 81: The sword in the stone. Books for Keeps, 182, p. 32.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Writing & illustrating for children: National Galleries of Scotland.

This exhibition features the work of Catherine Rayner and James Mayhew and runs at the National Galleries of Scotland until 4th June. James Mayhew is famous for his Katie and Ella Bella books, and Catherine Rayner, creator of Augustus the Tiger and Harris the Hare, won the Greenaway Medal last year. Two new exciting trails for children and families have also been created to complement the exhibition and there's an art competition, which you can access from the exhibition site, which runs until 10th July. If you take children to the galleries, they might also be interested in the exhibition on Dance - or at leat part of it. When we were there yesterday, small children were queuing up to press the button on Jean Tinguely's Blind jealousy II a bead curtain which moves like a Hawaiian dancer's grass skirt when the motor is switched on.

Carnegie review: The Ask and the Answer

Patrick Ness has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2010 for his teenage novel, The Ask and the Answer. This is his fourth book: the first two were for adults, and this one is the middle volume of his Chaos Walking trilogy which began with The Knife of Never Letting Go. That title was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal and won the 2008 Guardian Children's Fiction prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the James Tiptree Jr Award, so Ness comes with a good track record.

It's quite hard to review The Ask and the Answer without giving away too much of the plot of the first novel for those who haven't read it yet. A quick summary - Todd lives in Prentisstown, which he believes to be the only remaining settlement on the New World. It seems that on arrival on this planet, sickness killed all the women and all the men found their thoughts, their Noise, could be heard by everyone - making a man "chaos walking", as in the trilogy title. However, Todd is shocked to discover a pool of silence which, he is even more shocked to find, surrounds a girl! He and Viola are soon fleeing for their lives and, as they travel, Todd begins to discover that everything he thought was true was a lie. I read many parts of this book with my hand to my mouth in fear, so tense was the writing.

The Ask and the Answer is equally exciting. I find it amazing that although several people had read the first book, I am the first to have borrowed this one - I just couldn't wait to find out what happened next! Todd and Viola have walked into a trap set by their worst enemy, and for much of the book they are kept apart with alternate sections of the narrative told in each of their voices. Todd is forced to serve the Mayor, an example of power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely, while Viola finds herself amongst the Answer, a terrorist organisation run by women. But are they any better than the Mayor and his cruel army? Although they have seemingly ended up on opposing sides, Todd and Viola never lose faith in one another and eventually they are able to come together to fight for what they believe is right. Whether they win or not is a matter for the final part of the trilogy.

This is gripping writing which can be taken at face value as an adventure story or used to ask deeper, moral questions on the nature of power, whether war or terrorism can ever be justified, the meaning of privacy and the role of women in society. Todd and Viola are both strong characters with a strong sense of justice but even they find it hard to stick to their principles in the face of violence and corruption. Minor characters are equally well drawn, such as the Mayor's weak son, Davy, who grows under Todd's influence from being a swaggering bully to at least a kind of redemption at the end. Even the animals have character - they too have Noise on New World, and Ness uses this to express exactly the nature of an excitable little dog (Manchee in book one) and an affectionate, nervous horse (Angharrad in book two). The way Todd interacts with these creatures also tells us a lot about his personality.

What happens next? You will need to read book three, Monsters of Men. You can find more information about it in previous posts about Patrick Ness, on CMIS Fiction Focus and the Ultimate Book Guide, which also has an interview with him.