SP4RX by Wren McDonald

Are you on the hunt for a grimy, tech-noir thriller?

If the answer is yes then SP4RX is definitely the graphic novel for you!

It has been years since I last delved into the Cyberpunk realm and SP4RX was a brilliant reintroduction to the genre that did not disappoint!

Written and drawn by Wren McDonald, SP4RX reads as the love-child between William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Epic in scope yet incredibly personal in nature, the story focuses of Sp4rx, a hacker hired to steal a macguffin from a corporation and ends up as a rather less than willing recruit in a battle to save humanity from their evil corporate overlords.
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With echoes of (the original) Robocop using periodic news updates to provide necessary background information without resorting to infodumps and underscoring the humanity of artificial intelligence reminiscent of CHAPPiE, SP4RX is a brilliant graphic novel aimed at older readers.

Nobrow has been consistently publishing excellent graphic novels and with SP4RX this run continues!

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (& illustrated by Chris Riddell)

NEVERWHERE VIDEOLike many people of my generation I first encountered Neverwhere on video (thanks Shaun) – the story and concepts were excellent, some of the visual effects were a bit ropey but all in all it was a fantastic and fantastical introduction to London Below and for many years afterwards there were rumours of a sequel (not counting How the Marquis Got His Coat Back) and a big budget remake – but these have not yet materialised but I live in hope!

I discovered the book several years later, not having realised that Neil Gaiman had actually written one and it was exquisite (thank you local library)! It was only after coming to the UK and attending a talk by Neil that I discovered the existence of the author’s preferred edition which was even better.

Now in the year of the 20th anniversary of the broadcasting and publication of Neverwhere I have discovered how you can make a book that was already pretty much perfect even better – add the illustrations by Chris Riddell. In all honesty I already knew that Chris and Neil’s work go together like peanut butter and strawberry jam, their collaboration is akin to alchemy – two Masters of their Art combining talents to create a literary philosopher’s stone, I mean look at the CILIP Kate Greenaway winning The Sleeper and the Spindle as another shining example!

If you have never read Neverwhere then shame on you – get you hence to a library or bookshop and remedy this immediately! I am also incredibly jealous as you will be experiencing the wonders and terrors of London Below for the first time which is truly an unforgettable experience.

AND…

and if you have already read Neverwhere pick up this edition as it is the author’s preferred text and you may not have read that one yet; but if you have then get it for Chris Riddell’s artwork, as this will enrich your life and reading experience immeasurably!

Go on do it now! The Marquis is waiting!

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Plagiarism Revisited

In 2014 I created a powerpoint for my students on plagiarism, using the example of Shia LeBoeuf and Daniel Clowes. You can see it here:

http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2014/01/17/plagiarism/

It has been on e of the most popular resources on my site.

Since then there have been a number of other examples featuring people in the public eye that have come to light.

The most recent being Melania Trump being accused of plagiarising Michelle Obama’s speech:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-36832095

Beyonce has also faced several charges of plagiarism during her career:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/beyonce-sued-over-lemonade-trailer-singers-history-plagiarism-complaints-1564560

Azealia Banks has also accused Zayn Malik of plagiarism as well as providing an example of how not to behave on social media, she has since also accused Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift of the same:

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/07/14/azealia-banks-causes-yet-another-stir-music-industry/

Using people in the public eye is a good way of engaging with students who may otherwise not show much interest in library lessons. I will just say as a word of caution that Azealia Banks has has used racially charged language – particularly against Zayn Malik so it may be worth making sure that any links used will not cause a backlash against the library due to language.

Some Random Thoughts about Libraries

How many libraries that remain in local authority hands still have actual librarians running or working in them?

Public Libraries in the UK are a service arm of Local Authorities although one that has traditionally been left alone to do what they do until cuts are required then librarians are usually the first to go (most expensive staff) and more recently entire buildings and the staff that run them are cut loose.

When I worked in public libraries the majority of libraries that I worked in had a library manager (the rationale being to free librarians to do development, & outreach work & handle reference requests). I can remember one library where, after a restructuring, the Library Manager became the Customer Services Manager (CSM) and Library Assistants became Customer Services Officers (CSO) – I have not heard or seen this mentioned in library discussions (but I may be wrong), this ties in to a neoliberal view of turning library users into ‘customers’ rather than borrowers/patrons.

Going back to the perennial discussion/argument that “not everyone who works in a library is a librarian” I have recently begun to wonder when is a librarian not a librarian? If a qualified Librarian is hired as say a CSM or CSO are they still a Librarian? On the inside maybe, but the badge that they wear says differently and although they are working in a Library the nature of the job they do may be substantially different to the work a Librarian would do – at least this is what I have witnessed while working in public libraries.

It is a similar thought for schools – with so many School Libraries having become Learning Resource Centres and being run by LRC Managers doing Librarian work but with a different hat on.

Librarians have been under threat in the UK for a long time; during discussions with colleagues over the past few years several have brought up the cuts in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and how the numbers of specialist public librarians dropped precipitously. Over the last five years specialisms have been eroded further with a number of local authorities doing away with children’s librarians and having only general purpose library staff covering everything from children’s activities to senior book groups.

Lastly I am currently wondering if a library run by a local authority with no actual Librarians is still a library; the argument against volunteer run libraries is that without professional staff can they still be called libraries? I think a discussion needs to be had with regard to libraries run entirely by CSMs and staffed by CSOs, in the past there were a number of whom that I worked alongside that were proud not to be Librarians and were able to, in their own words “work anywhere within the council if required”.

It is a worry of mine that in time public libraries will become generic council services that have a few books and computers with for profit organisations plugging what they offer into so-called community services.

Diverse Books in School Libraries Survey

An MA student at Oxford Brookes University is conducting research into the provision of diverse books in school libraries and would like your help. If you could fill out this short survey (and share it with any friends or colleagues who might have missed it) that would be very much appreciated!

http://goo.gl/forms/22roodkMVuTTf8FE3

Geis: a Matter of Life & Death

The chief matriarch is dying. Drawing her last breath, she declares a contest: let fate decide the one worthy to rule. Fifty souls are summoned in the night; fifty souls bound to the same fate. But this is no ordinary trial… And so begins the first task.

The first thing I learned was how to pronounce Geis – it is ‘Gesh’ in case you couldn’t wait to pick up the book!

It is a Gaelic word for taboo or curse (that I knew). When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. you might be prohibited form calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.

But a geis is always broken.

As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.

The first thing I realised when I opened the book was that I already know Alexis Deacon’s work, he was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustration of Jim’s Lion and he wrote the award-winning picture book I am Henry Finch.

I was not sure what to expect when I picked it up, possibly an enjoyable fantasy romp through a fantasy world based on Celtic myth.

I was right about the fantasy world – but my God, this story is dark – beautifully illustrated, but utterly merciless! The protagonist is the Kite Lord’s daughter, a young girl who finds herself out of place amongst the high lords and ladies of the chieftain’s court, who are summoned and scattered to find a suitable soul to replace the chief. The desires and humanity of the characters are laid bare as they face the temptation of ultimate power, and as was once said – no good deed goes unpunished!

It is the first part of an epic trilogy – get this book now, trust me I am a librarian!

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How to Survive in the North

A brilliant graphic novel written and illustrated by Luke Healy:

Weaving together the true life historical expeditions of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett with a contemporary fictional story. How to Survive in the North is a unique and visual narrative journey that shows the strength it takes to survive in even the harshest conditions – whether that be struggling for survival in the Arctic in the 1900s or surviving a mid-life crisis in the present day.

I finished this book with the impression that Vilhjalmur Stefansson was at best criminally inept and worst culpable for the death of the men he abandoned on two expeditions in the Arctic Circle.

Simply and beautifully illustrated it contains a wealth of history that made me research the histories of the characters once I had finished it. I love Luke Healey’s artwork and the changing colours to denote the different expeditions and the contemporary story is an excellent idea! The isolation of each of the characters throughout the book is the thread that binds the narratives together and the choices they make to survive and stay sane in the face of fraying relationships and loneliness makes the stories as gripping as they are tragic!

As with other Nobrow titles, How to Survive in the North is beautifully crafted and makes a bookshelf look better just by being on it!

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Youth Libraries Group – South East (YLG-SE) Career Development Grant 2016

Youth Libraries Group – South East are offering two members a career development grant to fund a place at this year’s national conference – CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) conference 2016 on Friday 7 October 2016 at 09:00 – Saturday, 8 October 2016 at 17:00 at the Mercure Cardiff Holland House Hotel. The successful candidates will also have their travel expenses reimbursed.
We will ask the successful candidates to attend the YLG South East meetings from November 2016 to June 2017 and write up a piece for the Youth Libraries Review.
In order to be eligible candidates must be a South East YLG member, with involvement in children and young people’s library services. The grant is particularly aimed at colleagues who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend. In this respect applications are welcome from all interested parties, qualified librarians and support staff.
Candidates are asked to explain in a written submission of not more than 600 words: 

current role & experience in children & young people’s library services

interest in reading & literature for children & young people

personal professional development goals

how the candidate would benefit from this grant

 Submissions emailed to 

Elizabeth.mcdonald@wokingham.gov.uk by 31st July 2016. The successful candidates will be notified by 12th August 2016.

We are also looking for enthusiastic new committee members to join us in continuing to represent YLG-SE members and help to plan future events. Committee members come from all over the South East.
For more information please contact – Elizabeth.mcdonald@wokingham.gov.uk

1400 a Graphic Novel by Jag Lall

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1400 is a hard hitting original story that delves into the inner psyche of the emotional battle of 15 year old Sharanjeet, who through her nightmares we see struggle to lift the lid on the trauma of rape and emotional abuse that she suffers at the hands of the monsters.

While stylistically very similar to the Frank Miller’s artwork in his Sin City series the content of 1400 by Jag Lall could not be more different.

Any story dealing with rape and its aftermath should be handled incredibly sensitively as it is an emotive, triggering subject and Jag Lall has done this wonderfully.

Sharanjeet’s mental battle to come to terms with her rape and assault at the hands of her boyfriend and his friends is portrayed as a single-handed struggle with monsters in her dreams. Her struggle in the waking world to open up to her parents and friends, all the while blaming herself for what happened and fear of rejection if she does so will resonate with survivors of many kinds of abuse.

1400 is an upsetting story, powerfully told with an important message to all survivors of sexual assault and everyone in showing that we can all play a role in aiding survivors of abuse.

Visit Jag Lall’s website to find out more about his work and how 1400 can be used in schools:

http://www.jaglallart.com/1400/4588940773

My Best Friend’s Exorcism: a Novel by Grady Hendrix

A novel of friendship, the ‘80’s and demonic possession
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1988 Charleston, South Carolina. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong Gretchen begins to act… different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby.

Abby’s investigation leads to some startling discoveries – and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question:

Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
 
 
 
 
 
 
I did a lot of my growing up in the 1980’s – South Africa instead of America, I would have been a few years younger than Abby and Gretchen and despite growing up in another country on a different continent I recognised a number of things that were similar to my growing up.

The first was I knew a family like Gretchen’s, overly religious with a habit of handing out holy writ as gifts as well as forbidding many popular television shows (my parents enjoyed watching The Thorn Birds), having religious road-shows come to my schools giving talks on salvation and the satanic panic, seeing the work of the devil in everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Bionic Six to back-masking and rock music being the devil’s music. My Best Friend’s Exorcism awoke some old, weird memories for me.

It was a fantastic and at times uncomfortable read, initially I was not sure where the story was going or if Abby was right in her suspicions or merely going off the deep-end as her friends abandoned her as so often happens in high school friendship arguments – it all seemed plausible and within the realms of normality and then Grady Hendrix started in with the gut-clenching horror that made me nauseous at the same time as forcing me to read further to find out what would happen next.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a ‘80’s, teen angst, horror novel with style! I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can create a playlist from the chapter headings and go on to read all night because once you have started you will not want to turn off the lights or you will start to imagine that you feel a soft touch on the back of your neck…