Babette Cole: in Memoriam

I noticed the news starting to filter through social media yesterday around midday.

At first a number of her friends and colleagues were optimistically hopeful that the news was a practical joke that Babette had pulled as she was that kind of person.

Sadly it wasn’t and last night it was confirmed that the first person to make me fall of a chair laughing (at work) had indeed passed away.

I first encountered her work shortly after I left Library School and my Librarian qualification still had the scent of newness to it. It was a Friday – the day I spent the afternoon on duty in the Junior Library of the Fish Hoek Public Library. It was a quiet afternoon, I had shelved all the returned books, tidied up the shelves and as I recall could not quite face ordering the picture books, so I took a quick breather and grabbed a picture book at random. This book was Mummy Laid an Egg

Had I been drinking a cup of tea at the time there would have been a spit take of note but instead I laughed so much I was unable to stay seated and did indeed fall off my chair, fortunately the library was empty at this point and my dignity remained intact.

I reread it three times that afternoon and laughed each time, to this day at times when I am tired or on the verge of falling asleep I often remember the book and giggle to myself.

Mummy Laid an Egg was my first Babette Cole and after that I looked out for her books and made sure I got my hands on them as soon as possible as (and many, many people will attest) she was a phenomenal and hilarious talent!

I never knew her personally but will miss her wonderful stories and illustrations!

#TeenLibrarian Monthly January 2017

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Read the Movie / Watch the Book Display Materials

As Oscars Season is just round the corner I have put together some resources to aid library staff in schools and public libraries to put together a display of books that have been adapted into movies. An A4 colour Oscar Reading poster and five A3 pages of books for children and young people that have been adapted for the silver screen in film strips.

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If anyone would like to create their own filmstrips with book covers you can download the transparent film strip here:

Scoop Magazine scoops a unique creation by two Laureates

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The Worshipful Company of Arbitrators Reading for Pleasure Offer to London Schools

The Worshipful Company of Arbitrators is committed to promoting education in its widest sense and particularly in supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds who have fewer opportunities than others. This is a commitment that has been encouraged by successive Lord Mayors.

During 2017, the WCA Trust has decided to support literacy development and the encouragement of children’s reading for pleasure in London schools. The WCA Trust will sponsor a number of author/ illustrator / poet / storyteller visits for disadvantaged pupils in London schools, throughout 2017. The project will be organized by Sue Bastone, Mistress Arbritrator and Authors Aloud UK.

To apply for visit funding download and fill in this application form:

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The Author of Tomorrow Award

The Author of Tomorrow Award is designed to find the adventure writers of the future.

Run in partnership with a number of non-governmental organisations dedicated to improving global literacy levels, it is open to anyone aged between twelve and twenty-one who has completed a short piece of adventure writing in English.

To enter the Author of Tomorrow Award

The author must be aged between twelve and twenty-one years of age (on 1 January 2017).
The piece of short fiction entered must be between 1500 and 5000 words.
The submitted work must, in the opinion of the judges, fall within what can be defined as adventure writing (using the definition provided here).

The author must provide

An electronic copy of their piece of short fiction
A short synopsis of their work
A scanned copy of their birth certificate

Closing date

Entries can be submitted from the 31st of October 2016 until the 23rd of January 2017. Any story submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for entry.

The winning author will receive £1,000 pounds sterling and a framed certificate.

Full details are available here:

http://www.wilbur-niso-smithfoundation.org/awards/author-of-tomorrow

The Territory: Escape by Sarah Govett

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The year is 2059. Fifteen-year-old Noa Blake has passed the exam to stay in The Territory but her childhood friend Jack has been shipped off to the disease-ridden Wetlands, a death sentence in all but name. Noa and Raf have vowed to rescue him, but how? With an electric fence, gun towers and a police state monitoring their every move, getting into the Wetlands looks impossible, let alone getting home again. Second in The Territory trilogy, The Territory, Escape follows Noa, Raf and Jack as they battle through a world of raiders, mosquito swarms and psychopathic prisoners. Noa faces her own battle too is it just friendship that drives her and if not, is Jack still even hers to claim?

The Territory: Escape is the sequel to The Territory – my favourite dystopian novel of 2015.

As a follow-on novel, Escape does not disappoint continuing Noa and Raf’s quest to save their friend. One of the things that gripped me when I started this series was that Noa was not a gung-ho action heroine; actually none of her friends are they are just young people much like teens today doing their best to survive and overcome the odds (which are definitely not in their favour).

In this current age of political uncertainty and the ongoing talks on sacrificing of rights for safety, The Territory trilogy brings young readers face to face with serious questions about survival, choice and the type of world we want to live in.

It is also a damn good adventure and survival story!

Lie Kill Walk Away by Matt Dickinson

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LIE

I check the Range Rover dash. The keys are in there.
The sirens are closing in. There’s a police helicopter coming over the hospital.

KILL

I have to decide. Decide right now. I can keep out of trouble. Not get involved. Just run away through the park and go home and pretend none of this has happened.
Or I can help Becca.

WALK AWAY

I stare into her eyes. Those deep blue eyes. Just for a split second.
I tell her, ‘get in the car’.

If you have ever wondered what a high-octane YA thriller looks like, then take a look here! Lie Kill Walk Away is possibly the perfect example of a high stakes, heart in the throat, no holds barred thrill ride!

It is the kind of story that you would expect to see in a James Bond film – the Daniel Craig variety rather than the guys that came before him, although possibly Sean Connery’s Bond would be able to handle it as well!

But anyway I digress the story can be summed up as boy meets girl on the run and together they have to save the world and more importantly – not get killed!

This is a seriously fast-paced story that will shamelessly pull you along for the ride and leave you wanting more!.

Get it today! Actually get two! One for yourself and the second as a Christmas gift because you will no want to share your one until you are done!

Refugees, Immigrants & Asylum-Seekers: a short list

This list is a companion to http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2015/11/20/book-list-refugees/

As we become immersed in the 2016 Christmas it is important to remember that the reason for the season was a refugee for a large part of his early life, not only that he was the son of a single mother from Palestine.

We are exhorted to welcome him into our hearts, what do you think the chances are of he and his family being welcomed to seek sanctuary in the UK in this day and age?

I have put together a short list of books about refugees, immigrants and asylum-seekers for readers of all ages below.

refuge-booth
Refuge by Anne Booth and Sam Usher, it is the Christmas story seen through the eyes of the Donkey, simply told with beautiful illustrations it is a timeless work that could be the story of a refugee family today.

Refuge is published by Nosy Crow

Alpha SOFTCOVER 13mm.indd
Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord by Bessora and Barroux, translated by Sarah Ardizzone is a heart-breaking, award-winning graphic novel detailing the journey Alpha takes from his village in Cote d’Ivoire to Europe. With a visa this would only take a few hours but for refugees it is a dangerous, life-threatening journey of many months.

Alpha is published by Barrington Stoke
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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon a love set in New York City, between Daniel a Korean-American and Natasha the daughter of illegal immigrants from Jamaica and the 12 hours they spend together before her family is deported.

The Sun is Also a Star is published by Penguin

arrival-tan
The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a wordless graphic novel detailing the arrival of a migrant in a strange, foreign land. The Arrival is a masterclass of wordless storytelling, showing through imagery the difficulty migrants often face when arriving in an alien culture.

The Arrival is published by Hodder Children’s Books

falling-star
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland is the chilling memoir of Sungju Lee’s life as a street child and later his escape from North Korea to a new life in Canada.

Every Falling Star is published by Amulet Books

journey-sanna
The Journey by Francesca Sanna is a picture book that has an effect like an unexpected punch to the stomach. After the death of her husband in a civil war, a woman takes her two children on a journey towards safety. I have never read a picture book that affected me so deeply, perfect for discussing war and refugees with readers of all ages.

The Journey is published by Flying Eye Books

My Top Five Fictional Librarians by Andy Robb

In writing The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker, I replaced the stereotype of the bespectacled, cardigan-wearing librarian with a crack-team of highly-trained, gun-toting, stogie-chomping misfits. These librarians operate outside law, tracking down books that have been banned by the government. Think bullet, blood and books.

Whenever I write a book, I tend to think that I’m the first person on Earth to have that particular idea. And then remember I’m not. The idea of librarians kicking butt, slinging guns and being as far away from the ones down your local library isn’t a new one and a few have come onto my radar before I wrote this particular tale – and some after. Here, in no particular order are my top five fictional librarians.

romneyRomney Wordsworth
I was a big fan of The Twilight Zone as a kid and, after wracking my brain for this post, I realised that I remembered this one really well; this one and the William Shatner one. In fact, now I think of it, I wonder if this one, The Obsolete Man, had more influence on the book that I thought. Romney Wordsworth is a librarian, who’s on trial for obsolescence. The powers-that-be have banned all books and being found guilty of being a librarian is a capital offence. However, Romney is allowed to choose the method of his death, and he goes for an assassin to kill him in a particular way. Being The Twilight Zone, Romney manages to turn the tables on the State and sort of wins in the end. The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker was written around about the time our government was starting its first major swathe of library closures, was making noises about banning certain texts from the National Curriculum and preventing prisoners from accessing books. Not good. With all that going on and The Obsolete Man living somewhere in the back of my head, I think Romney Wordsworth had more than a little to do with the story.

barbara-gordonBarbara Gordon
Yes, I’m a comic-head. While I love Marvel, DC was my introduction to comics, through the world of Batman. I got into Batman in the early 70s around about the time they started rerunning the Adam West series. Suddenly I could get double-Batman: in the comics and on the telly! The Caped Crusader was always my favourite, but who could forget Batgirl? Librarian by day and super-hero, by night! As a young boy, back in the Stone Age, heroes and heroines tended to be aimed at their respective genders: boys liked the male heroes and girls liked the female ones. But Batgirl is one of the first female heroes I remember that cheerfully walked the line between the two, probably paving the way for future characters, like She-Hulk and Spider Woman. I wanted to write a female character that was the female answer to Clint Eastwood, to the point that her gender became unimportant. Tam is a product of her environment and her thoughts, words and deeds belong to both heroes and heroines.

gilesRupert Giles
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was first broadcast, in the 90s. Personally, I didn’t get on with it. There were a few things that narked me – but possibly because I’m a bit stuffy about certain things. I didn’t like the way the vampires were reduced to being stupid creatures that hung around in groups. I like my vampires uber-intelligent and solitary. I also wasn’t a fan of the continual wise-cracking between Buffy and her buddies; for me it reduced the peril and the threat. However, I watched it and, amidst my narks, I found a character I really did like: Rupert Giles, the high-school librarian. Rupert was the stereotypical librarian: bookish, shy and impeccably-mannered. For me, he was a welcome antidote to the smart-mouth attitudes of the other characters and it was a genuine surprise when you saw him going toe-to-toe with a supernatural being or two. As an aside, I worked with Anthony Head years later and can confirm that he is as nice as you think he is.

pratchett-librarianThe Librarian
An orangutan who protects the world’s knowledge and can travel through L-Space. What’s not to like? I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only read two of Pratchett’s books: The Hogfather and The Colour of Magic and I read these because I was cast in the TV adaptations (check out Kring, the Magic Sword – that’s me!). However, the idea of an ape as a librarian is so good, I had to give it a mention!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

rex-librisRex Libris
If you haven’t read the Rex Libris comics, get out there and get some. These are new to my radar; I discovered them after writing the Tam Barker book – and I’m glad it happened in that order. Rex is the librarian at Middleton Public Library and a typical day for him involves dealing with zombies blocking up the building, chasing aliens who haven’t returned their books on time across the universe and defending the Dewey Decimal System. These comics are brilliant and have played on the stereotyped librarian superbly; his super-thick, jam-jar specs are useful tools in his unwavering hunt for lost books. Alongside his fists of steel and formidable arsenal of weapons.
 

However, when all’s said and done, librarians are real and they are heroes, guiding us to the right portals through which we can escape the real world or learn something mind-bending. Real-life librarians don’t need guns or fists or costumes, but the odds they face are just as stacked as the ones you’ll find in books, movies or on your TV screen. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.

Andy Robb is an actor and author, his latest book The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker is available now!

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