Lancashire SLS Fantastic Book Awards – And the Winners are…

The votes have been counted and the winners have now been declared of the Lancashire School Library Service Fantastic Book Awards 2017.

The Fantastic Book Awards aim to support reading for pleasure by introducing newly published fiction titles to upper Key Stage 2 pupils. The awards involve thousands of children aged 9-11 from primary schools across Lancashire who read and vote for the books they consider the best. The schools then hold Oscar style celebrations to announce the winners.

The winning authors have received uniquely engraved fountain pens and special letters of congratulation, written by the schools that voted them winners!
So here they are – Lancashire children’s choice of winners – the top reads for 9-11 year olds!

Well done to the winning authors, to all the library and school staff involved in putting together and running the awards and to the pupils that took part and chose such brilliant winners! 












Report: Cecelia Ahern at County Hall, Preston 

On Tuesday evening I was lucky enough to be able to accompany 3 of the young volunteers I work with to see Cecelia Ahern at County Hall, Preston, an event that was organised by Silverwood Events in partnership with Lancashire Libraries.

Going to any author event is a treat. But going to see an author you particularly admire in an impressive venue like County Hall is extra special. And seeing young people inspired and enthused and then desperate to get home and start reading is the absolute cherry on top. 

Cecelia was in conversation with our very own YLG North West representative and current Chair Elect, Jake Hope, and was promoting her new novel Perfect, the follow-up to her debut YA novel, Flawed, which was published in 2016 and brilliantly received.

Topics discussed on the night included Cecelia’s career so far, the differences between writing adult and young adult fiction, and the ways in which (particularly with the proliferation of social media) people can be so quick to judge others and publicly shame them for their mistakes. This is a central theme in the Flawed series, in which anyone that is deemed to be imperfect is physically branded with an F for Flawed – with the location of the F dependent on what it is they are judged to have done wrong. It’s dark and compelling and the parallels with our own society give real pause for thought.

Cecelia also talked about her experiences of promoting her young adult books and some of the schools she has visited. She talked about how often the pupils that ask the most questions are the ones described by the teachers as the ‘quiet ones,’ and how vital author visits are in showing young people that they can make a living from writing, that there are people out there that have done it and do it every day. 

This was a really well-organised, enjoyable event – Jake has a lovely interview manner and Cecelia was a brilliant speaker – refreshing, down-to earth and funny too. The young people were buzzing about the event on the train home  – and so was I! 🙂


Review: The New Adventures of Mr Toad: A Race for Toad Hall -Tom Moorhouse (author) and Holly Swain (illustrator)

100 years on from The Wind in the Willows, Toad Hall lies in ruins. Teejay (Toad Junior), Mo and Ratty are exploring the place when they make a discovery in the Ice House – it’s a very frozen Mr Toad! Nobody can quite believe he’s alive – especially not the dodgy weasels who want to claim Toad Hall for their own.

This is one of the first chapter books I have read with my eldest daughter (just-turned 5) and she absolutely loved it. As did I! When she asked for “just one more chapter” I was powerless to resist and three bedtimes later we’d finished the whole book! 
Mr Toad is as gloriously eccentric as you would expect him to be and the new young characters are smart, brave and adventurous. Holly Swain’s illustrations are vibrant and vivacious, with a colour palette of mostly greys, greens and blacks with occasional splashes of red. And the car racing action is brilliant fun!

Looking forward to the next instalment in the series.


A Race for Toad Hall is published by Oxford University Press

Review: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

The blurb:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? 

The Review:

Okay, I’m going to be totally honest here. Whilst I’m clearly not averse to using the occasion (and accompanying Twitter hashtag) to shamelessly try and get some views for this post, I am not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day in general. I really don’t like the idea of making grand romantic gestures on one particular day just because Clinton Cards says I should – if my husband gets a card at all it will be Card Factory all the way and the last grand romantic gesture I made was letting him watch a whole episode of Ancient Aliens without snorting sarcastically once…

But although I don’t like Valentine’s Day, I do think I’m a romantic at heart. And although I don’t agree that one particular day should hold so much romantic pressure, I do believe that any one day can hold a huge amount of romantic promise. I also believe that someone can come along one day and change everything you think you know about love. 

“Save me from the nice and sincere boys who feel things too deeply”

And that is why I loved The Sun Is Also A Star. One of the criticisms I’ve heard levelled at this book is that it’s all a bit too insta-love, but I loved the optimism and possibility and was completely swept along by Natasha and Daniel; helped on the way by the constant switch in POV and the deliciously glorious short chapters (hooray for short chapters!). 

Natasha and Daniel are intelligent, thoughtful and engaging main characters and I loved the way their narrative was interspersed with snippets from the other peripheral characters that they come into contact with as their own love story unfolds. It’s testament to Nicola Yoon’s writing that she made me care so much about a character (Irene) that only appears on a handful of pages in the book. And although the events of the novel take place over a period of only around twelve hours, it feels like Natasha and Daniel really get to know each other on a deeper level – they find out about each other’s backgrounds, likes and dislikes and what will frustrate as well as endear them to each other, and their love story feels progressive and genuine. There’s humour in there too and, as someone who often wonders ‘what if…’ I particularly liked the exploration of coincidence and the ripple effect that seemingly random, minor incidents can have upon people’s lives.

So there you have it. My name’s Emma and I’m a hopeless romantic. And The Sun Is Also A Star is my ideal Valentine’s date (sorry husband!)


Report: Families – An Open Door to Literacy; YLG Conference 2016

On Friday 7th & Saturday 8th October, a catalogue of children’s librarians, of which I was lucky enough to be one, descended upon Cardiff for the annual Youth Libraries Group conference. The conference brings together librarians, publishers, authors and guest speakers for two packed days of networking, talks and workshops and is definitely a highlight of my professional calendar.

One of the best things about conference this year was the breakout sessions. From using sport to entice young people into the library to engaging families with reading through nature (anyone up for the Twig Towers challenge!?) the workshops were full of simple, practical tips and ideas that were no / low-cost, achievable and relatively straightforward to implement.

Twig Towers – perfect for a Stick Man themed session

Tracey Cooper from Scottish Booktrust led an excellent Bookbug session (forget garlic bread, stretchy Lycra is the future!) and showed that simplicity is key when it comes to planning sessions for under fives and their families – it’s not about how many nursery rhymes you know but about the reassurance, security and enjoyment of a shared experience. In fact, repetition of a few well known rhymes often works better than a wider repertoire as carers feel more confident and relaxed and less worried about getting things wrong and so are more likely to engage and interact with their child.

The session with Becky Wells on engaging children with autism was also really useful. Becky showed us a video which showed how overwhelming an everyday experience such as visiting a shopping centre can be for a child with autism. We were then given the chance to talk in groups about some of the things which could be triggers in our libraries and what simple steps we could take to help children with autism and their families and make visiting the library a positive and reassuring experience for them. 

Having been to conference for the first time last year, this time I was much more prepared. By that I mean this time I took a suitcase. A big one! For one of the best things about conference is being surrounded by so many brilliant, beautiful books and being able to take lots of them back home with you. 
One of my favourite bits of the whole weekend is when the publishers each take their turn on the stage to highlight their forthcoming titles and the opportunity to get hold of advance copies of those books is a little piece of librarian heaven. I get so excited, not only at the thought of reading them myself, but also at the thought of the enjoyment and wonder they will bring to the children and young people that borrow them.

Books glorious books!

Other highlights of the programme included Nicky Parker and Laurence Anholt’s discussion on racism and the ways this can be explored and challenged through fiction; learning all about West Sussex’s Communication Library and services for children with disabilities and their families; and the privilege of watching Barroux paint live on stage. Not to mention the presentation of the CKG medals and CILIP Amnesty Honour and the sumptuous gala dinner that followed.

I returned from conference not only with a suitcase full of books but with a head buzzing with ideas and sense of affirmation about the importance of libraries and librarians and their ability to change the world, one book and reader at a time.