#SLAYLG17 Joint Conference

#SLAYLG17

In the lead-up to this year’s joint SLA + YLG conference, dubbed #SLAYLG17, I often joked to my friends that it was really all a ruse: SLAYLG was for trainee watchers, and not for librarians who focus on books for children and young people.

By the close of the conference, it was clear to me that it was both.

Now, as any self-respecting Buffy fan will tell you, a watcher is a trainer or guardian for a slayer (girl who is meant to save the world by killing monsters and demons and vampires). Watchers are usually British trained librarians, partly due to the location of the watcher’s council, in London. A watcher’s role often requires a lot of research, teaching ability and adaptability to the lives of their typically teenage charges.

#SLAYLG17 was my first professional conference. I am currently doing my masters in library and information management, and hold the student position on the YLG Northwest committee.

As a student, I paid for conference myself and would advise anyone who is thinking of doing their masters to start saving a little pot of money, which you can draw upon to attend special events like this.

The conference was held at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate from Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th June 2017. The theme was lightbulb moments, powered by librarians.

On arrival at the hotel I asked a group of school librarians, who turned out to be from the north-west if I could join them for tea /coffee whilst we waited for lunch to be served before starting the day’s activities. I’ve since kept in touch with a few of them via twitter.

Following lunch, the exhibition opened (I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many ARCs and proofs in my life!) and we were led to the formal welcome and introduction, which explained what was going to happen during the weekend.

The introduction was hosted by the chairs of the SLA and YLG, and local children’s poet, Sue Hardy-Dawson, read some of her work.

This was followed by a presentation from Amnesty international and Chicken Shed theatre, ‘Dreams of Freedom’. The two presenters talked about how the Amnesty CILIP Honour came to be, how Chicken Shed started and how the two groups came to be working together on various children’s theatre projects. My favourite moment from their talk was how they could show the positive effect the projects have on children, and how books were helping children to express themselves in ways that they had previously found difficult.

Amnesty presentation ylgsla

The following session was a presentation by Paula Wride, a librarian and archivist from the well-beloved children’s literature archives, Seven Stories. This focused on the legacy of Eileen Colwell, who was a pioneer in the field of children’s librarians, and a founder of the Carnegie award.  Eileen herself was one of the first people to insist that children should have their own library space, tailored to their needs.

This led into the publishers’ roadshow, during which various publishers did very fast ‘elevator pitches’ about their hottest and newest titles. My favourite pitch came from Anderson press who wore ‘votes for women’ sashes to promote a new YA title inspired by the suffragette movement (Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls).  As a Mancunian (as Manchester is the birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst) it is a piece of history that is very dear to my heart. I had spoken to Harriet from Anderson Press very briefly earlier in the day and explained my own link to Manchester’s feminist history and she kindly saved me a proof of that title.

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After the roadshow, everyone dashed off to their rooms to get ready for the Harry Potter 20th anniversary dinner. I’d made my own version of a Hufflepuff uniform for the party, and was easily the first person ready to go.

There were some amazing costume efforts including Professor Trelawney; Hagrid; Moaning Myrtle and many more. The dining room was decorated with themed bunting and posters, and each guest received some Harry Potter goodies. I sat with the school librarians who I had met earlier in the day, and so my table comprised of Mad-Eye Moody, Rita Skeeter, Luna Lovegood, two Gryffindor students and two muggles.

Partway through the dinner, the winners of the fancy dress competition were announced. Rita Skeeter came 1st, Hagrid was 2nd, and moaning Myrtle, complete with toilet seat was 3rd. The atmosphere in the room was great, and as a casual cosplayer myself I was enjoying seeing how much effort everyone had put into their outfits.

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After dinner we had a talk from Laura Dockrill, YA author of Aurabel and the upcoming Big Bones. Laura read from a few of her books and signed the sampler of Big Bones for me.

Unfortunately, the wine had gone to my head after the long day so I didn’t join everyone at the bar after leaving the dining room, and went to bed instead.

Saturday 24th

I got up around 7.30 am on the Saturday, feeling a little tired but otherwise ok. I joined a few people who I recognised from the North West YLG committee for breakfast. There were more vegan options at breakfast than I had expected to see, and so I filled up as much as I could (my advice to fellow vegans would be to take plenty of snacks with you to conferences as vegan options can be very limited, with small portion sizes).

I had hoped to attend the Aliens Love Underpants 10th Anniversary breakfast session but unfortunately couldn’t find the room. Ah Well!

Saturday began with Welcome to the day introduction for the day delegates, leading into “The Big Debate: Has the Carnegie Medal helped or hindered getting controversial books published?” This discussion was led by Joy Court, with a panel of authors: Melvin Burgess, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Gillian Cross, Will Hill and Lisa Heathfield with the publisher’s perspective from Liz Cross of Oxford Children’s Books. Key points raised during the discussion was how few YA titles make it into the winning selection for the Carnegie award, but also how the award has highlighted titles that have had controversial topics woven into their main plots.

As part of the conference, attendees could select optional sessions to attend during the Saturday.

The first optional session I attended was looking at ‘Illuminating inclusion’, led by Jake Hope (eagle eyed readers might remember Jake from the Carnegie anniversary blogs during which Jake has been reading and reviewing all the past winning titles, which is no mean feat, especially as being a part of the Carnegie team means reading all 140 long list titles as part of the role. You can read Jake’s anniversary blog here: http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/anniversary-blog.php). This session looked at themes of inclusion within children’s and YA fiction. The author, Glenda Millard, whose novel, The Stars at Oktober bend was shortlisted for the Carnegie award was meant to be present to discuss her novel, but couldn’t make it due to illness. Instead, her publisher stepped in her place to deliver a reading from the novel.

Following on from a Where’s Wally coffee break, the second session focused on ‘Teenage mental health & reading’. This was led by Nicola Morgan, a leading expert in children’s mental health, and writer of books including Blame My Brain and The Teenage Guide to Stress. The authors who took part were Sara Barnard, Tamsin Winter and Katie Thistleton. Both of Sara and Tamsin’s latest novels look at selective mutism aimed at different age brackets – A Quiet kind of thunder is YA, and Being Miss Nobody is aimed at 9-11+ readers.

Katie Thistleton, who some may recognise as being a host of CBBC (I recognised her from seeing her introduce the remake of The Worst Witch) has a book, Dear Katie, due out later this year, in which Katie, with the help of a team of suitable experts and advisors, responds to fans letters about their problems with advice. Katie explained that some of the letters she had received were truly heart-breaking, and that she and her team arranged for help for those people as she knew that their needs were greater than the book would be able to offer. These submissions were not included to protect the privacy of those individuals. Main topics that will be included in the final book will include advice on how to deal with bullying, making friends, first kiss, and where to get advice for various topics that might not have been included.

After lunch, the third workshop was led by Amy McKay, winner of the librarian of the year award, and was entitled ‘Stealth Librarian’. This was easily one of my favourite talks of the conference, and one of the two occasions where the idea of a librarian being a watcher really resonates.  The main section of Amy’s session was about how she teaches the pupils at her school how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Dealing with zombies 101 is something a watcher would really know about. Now, zombies aren’t real, unless you’re doing a zombie walk of course. However, the point of the exercise was to encourage participants to think about all the types of fiction they consume, as well as to build familiarity with the library. I’ll admit I’m rather jealous of the pupils that get to take part in some of Amy’s activities as they looked amazing. If I ever get to work as a school librarian, or in a situation where the audience is YA, this is definitely something I want to run.

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Books glorious books

For the last session of the day I’d opted for the exhibition. If any of you reading this get to attend a similar conference, my advice is to always opt to do the exhibition last. The pictures of my haul will explain why! During the exhibition, attendees get the opportunity to speak with publishers, and pick up arcs, proofs, samples and other goodies. As many exhibitors bring finished and currently released books, you can often get some of these as well if you time it right as they don’t usually want to take books home with them again. My favourites that I received included the hardback V&A edition of Little Women, Hufflepuff edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner.

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More books!

At 16.25 there was a tea break with ‘Dear Zoo @ 35’. The author, Rod Campbell in conversation with Stephanie Barton. This session was really sweet, as Rod explained the inspiration behind some of his characters, including how Buster was based on the child of a neighbour of whom he had spent time with and had adored very much. It was great to see some of the sketches that were used in the creation of his books.

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Following on from Rod Campbell’s talk was a speech by Chris Riddell, ‘My Love Affair with Librarians’, introduced by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Chris did a live drawing of Kevin, whilst Kevin talked about some of the work that he and Chris had done leading up to Chris becoming Children’s Laureate in 2015. Chris then talked about how he feels about librarians, showed some of his other sketches and shared anecdotes from his work history as well as a few light-hearted jokes looking at the current socio-political situation in the UK.

After this session, everyone went to get dressed for the Gala dinner. As it was a more formal occasion, I opted for a blue 50’s style dress.  After getting ready, I joined everyone for a drinks reception which led into the formal ballroom where the exhibition had been previously held.  We were informed that we had a present from Lane Smith, as he was disappointed that he could not make the occasion, and so we all received a signed copy of the Kate Greenaway award winning book, There Is a Tribe of Kids.

During the dinner, several speeches were given, including Carnegie, Kate Greenaway and Amnesty CILIP Honour Presentations and YLG Honorary Membership (given to Chris Riddell). After food was served, the guests could approach the authors present to have their books signed. I had books by Chris Riddell, Gillian Cross, Lauren Child signed, along with a proof of Sarah Crossan’s new novel.

After the gala dinner there was the option to go into the bar, but I opted to go pack my bags ready for the following morning.

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Sunday 25th

I got up around 7am and went down to breakfast, then attended the breakfast session, ‘A Murder Mystery Breakfast with Robin Stevens. During the session, Robin talked about her novel, The Guggenheim mystery, the sequel to Siobhan O’Dowd’s The London Eye mystery – she was approached by the Siobhan O’Dowd Trust to work on the book. Robin also had audience members vote on elements of a fictional crime which she then solved.

A very short AGM for the YLG was held at 9am, followed by an AGM for the SLA. I then checked out of my room prior to attending the welcome introduction for the day at 9.50am.

After introductions were given, the first talk of the day was looking at ‘The Forgotten Tradition of Radical Children’s Literature and its Relevance Today’ by Professor Kim Reynolds (Newcastle University and OUP). Elements of the talk looked at youth self-publishing and at Enid Blyton’s work in which the female had equal roles with the male (famous five is an example of this). The talk ended with a reading from We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen which was pleasant – I am used to reading stories to children at my local public library, but it’s been a very long time since somebody has read to me.

Next up was David Almond and Lauren Child in conversation. Both authors talked about highlights of their careers and Lauren outlined her hopes for her Children’s Laureate role.

Lauren child david almond ylgsla

Following on from this was the last talk of the day, ‘Young People’s Mental Health and Reading’ by Natasha Devon from the Self Esteem Team. Natasha’s talk highlighted how there is a growing need to help young people navigate societal and peer pressure as the online world is harder to escape from, and how targeted advertising can encourage more self-shaming than ever. Natasha showed some of the activities she runs during her school sessions and gave examples of reactions from pupils. The message that I took away from Natasha’s talk is how we (as librarians, supporters, teachers) need to provide teens and young people with the tools they need to avoid mental health issues being created or made worse, including showing boys and young men that there is more than one way to be strong. And also to show girls and young women that the images they aspire to are often false (eg photoshop, sfx).

Afterwards, there were some closing remarks from the SLA and YLG Chairs leading into the farewell lunch at 1pm and then home time!

Hope you’ve all enjoyed my diary log of the SLA + YLG conference! Check out #SLAYLG17 on twitter for pictures and conference highlights by some of the speakers and attendees.

Pamela, @puffybooks

 

Gill Lewis in conversation with Jake Hope

Winner of the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for radical fiction, Gill Lewis books often probe at social and ethical issues. Her latest book, A Story Like the Wind, poignantly recounts the story of a refugee boy escaping an impossible situation in his homeland. A powerful treatise on the importance of stories, music and art in our lives, A Story Like the Wind is an emotionally sophisticated, engaging but highly accessible story illustrated throughout by Jo Weaver.  
The book has been endorsed by Amnesty International, an organisation the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals works with on the Amnesty CILIP Honour for a book from the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals which seeks to recognise a book from each shortlist which illuminates, upholds or celebrates human rights.

Jake Hope recently met with Gill to find out more about A Story Like the Wind.


JH: ‘They are only memories; moments of light locked into his synapses and pockets of time spilling away to the stars.’ 

There’s a beautiful blend of poetry and science around this depiction of memory, how key is the idea and past to Rami and the others in the boat?

GL: We are made up not only from our DNA, but from stories. Some of these are the big stories that have shaped the world around us, but many are the smaller stories of our own lives; the people and places that have influenced us. Some of these stories are passed through generations; some are the shared moments with friends and family. Stories make us who we are. They give us our identity. How do you hold onto your identity, onto these memoires when you are torn away from home? In the story, Rami tries to hold onto these memories, and it is through his music that he manages to do so.

There is a sense of community and camaraderie on board the boat, how did you go about building this up and how important is this to the idea of the story as a whole?

Initially the passengers are strangers to each other, all frightened and alone. As Rami shares his music, they begin to share their stories with each other and in doing so, give each other comfort and hope. Jo Weaver’s wonderful illustrations show the sense of community has been built up through the story.

The image of the boat on the ocean seers itself onto the minds of readers and instantly brings to mind all manner of images of refugees from the popular presses, how much research was involved in crafting the novel and were there any stories that particularly stayed with you?

Several years ago, I heard a Mongolian folk-tale Suke and the White Stallion, a story about the power of music to overcome oppression. It is also a story about the origin of the violin. I didn’t know how to tell the story until I saw a news-story about a young Syrian man playing his violin at a border control. The image was a powerful one, showing how music can cross physical and political boundaries and also boundaries of prejudice and fear. Music and stories allow us to connect with each other, and share our common humanity. Not long after the publication of A Story Like the Wind I discovered that the young Syrian I has seen in the news-story had made it to safety in Germany and is continuing his musical studies. He has an album My Journey of which the proceeds are being donated to the Red Cross.

‘My name is Rami and I am still alive’. In spite of the a lot of the sadness of the story, there it is also a tremendously humane and life-affirming story. The writing deftly suggests tragedy and trauma without ever being gratuitous, was this a difficult balance to achieve? 

Writing about the refugee crisis is a huge challenge, to achieve the balance of reality and yet offer hope. It is important not to shy away from difficult subjects yet bear in mind the age of readership for some of the dark themes. In the story we realise that each of the passengers has witnessed and experienced traumatic events but I hope I have managed to balance this with an offering of hope and a vision for the future.

Whilst being timely and topical, there’s a fable-like quality to the story. Was it very deliberate to make the experiences feel universal?

Yes. I love folk tales and how they have been passed down through history, often through oral story telling. Folk-tales and fairy-tales have universal themes that speak to us all, no matter what culture or religion. The fable in A Story Like the Wind tells of the origin of the violin from the Mongolian horse head fiddle, and how the horse head fiddle carried stories and music along the spice routes and silk roads, and eventually became the violin and cellos that first appeared in Europe. The stories of our global connections go back thousands of years and show how stories and music bring us together now as they did in our past. The passengers in the boat recognise their own stories within the story Rami tells, and it gives them hope for the future and for freedom. There is some comfort from knowing that stories about overcoming oppression can be hundreds, possibly thousands of years old, and what people have fought against in the past can be fought against again.

‘The soldiers forbade us to play more music. Perhaps they knew its power.’ The role of the arts and stories are massively important as mechanisms for change in the character life. How important do you think they are and what contributions can they make to our everyday lives?

Stories and the arts are incredibly powerful for telling universal truths and for shining a light on the darker side of humanity. In many countries today musicians and artists are restricted from creating and sharing their art as it threatens the authority of those in power. During the Second World War, the Nazis classified any art they deemed ‘unpatriotic’ as degenerate art. They didn’t want art to reveal the truth of the horrors and reality of war. We need art now more than ever, in all its forms, from books, to art and sculpture, to music and films to satirical cartoons to speak out for us all, for justice and freedom. I was honoured that Amnesty International endorsed the book, as the charity supports artists and writers around the world whose voices can’t be heard.

Rami’s story about Suke and the wild foal is heart-breaking but ultimately is uplifting. A lot of your novels have explored quite dark issues but shine moments of hope into these. Is hope necessary in fiction for children and young people?

My stories do explore some dark issues, and I try not to shy away from the bare truths and realities. I think children see many worrying stories in the media and need access to a way to understand these issues and have an opportunity to discuss them. Fiction is unique in providing this, and a offering a narrative to understand from another person’s perspective. For me, hope is a vital part of story telling, because stories become our maps and guides. They are there to shine a light in the darkness, to offer hope when there may little to be found.

You won the ‘Little Rebels’ award for radical children’s books with ‘The Scarlet Ibis’, what did winning the award mean to you and has this altered any of your approaches to books and to your writing?

Winning the Little Rebels Award was a huge honour. The award recognises children’s fiction which promotes social justice or social equality, challenges stereotypes or is informed by anti-discriminatory concerns. So, I was very chuffed to be considered a little rebel. I think my books have always had a central theme of justice for both human rights and animal rights. However, the award has brought to my attention the need for more diverse books so that children can have books as mirrors to their own worlds as well as windows to others’ experiences. The award also champions the need for the voices of more BAME authors to be heard to offer a greater variety, richness and depth of stories in the world of children’s publishing.

Jo Weaver’s illustrations create an incredible sense of place and emotion on the story. Can you tell us a little about the process of how these were created? Did you and Jo have any interaction over stories, characters or moments in the stories?

Jo Weaver’s charcoal landscapes and her characters and animals are indeed wonderful and add another layer of depth and understanding to the story. I was lucky to meet Jo and hear about her approach to the illustrations. The art director at Oxford University Press designed the layouts and spreads for Jo to create her artwork to fit within the pages. Then Jo created her vision of the book. I think it’s wonderful to see another person’s interpretation of your words and Jo manages to capture the moments of isolation on the sea, to the warm memories of home and the stunning sweeping landscapes and horses of the Steppe mountains in Mongolia.

What would you hope readers take away from reading ‘A Story like the Wind?’

I hope that the book enables the reader to empathise with those people fleeing war and conflict, and to understand the human stories behind the headlines we see in the media.

Many thanks to Gill Lewis for this interview. A Story like the Wind is published by Oxford University Press and is out now. 

CKG Review: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

What the Judges Say:

“Simply and innocently told from a child’s perspective this important and timely novel brings to life the risks people are willing to take to make their voices heard and the resilience of the human spirit…The plot is skilfully executed, blending together the two different narratives of the main characters, allowing both to influence the other’s life and propelling the action forward. Finally the credible and consistent ending offers hope, but no easy happy ending.” – Judges comments

What the Publisher Says:

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The Night Sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

 

What We Say:

Subhi is smart and sweet and is a particularly unique narrator, given that he was born in the detention centre and that’s all he’s ever known. He has never seen the world outside but through stories passed down from his mother and his rich imagination he builds a picture of a better, kinder world. There is a maturity in his voice but many childlike elements too – such as his conversations with a rubber duck – these all knit together to make him multi-layered and authentic. Subhi’s friendship with Jimmie is endearing and uplifting and beautifully demonstrates the fact that children don’t judge, that they look for connections not divisions.

Some of the most difficult to read, and yet most important, parts of the story are the parts in which the treatment of the refugees at the hands of the guards (the sinister ‘Jackets’) is described:

Nasir hops on his crutch over to his bed. He’s only got one leg. He used to have a plastic one to go with his real one but the jackets took that away when he got here and never gave it back. Nasir says he doesn’t mind so much about his leg. He says it is worse for people like Fara, who is deaf and had her hearing aid taken, so that now she can’t hear the memories people tell each other to keep themselves alive in here. Or the ones like Remi, who needs medicine every day and had that taken away by the Jackets and even the letter from his doctor was destroyed. Remi has these fits and headaches that make him scream so hard it cuts through your thinking. He says all he needs is his medicine. ‘I thought you would help me.’ He says that over and over again. I don’t know who he’s talking to though.

You find yourself staggered at the fact that innocent people, who have fled persecution and horror, are being subjected to more barbarity at the hands of people who should be helping. And although this story is fictional, the knowledge that real-life refugees are being subjected to similar inhuman treatment in places where they deserve to be safe is particularly sobering and galling.

This book is beautiful, important, heartbreaking and hopeful all in one and is an excellent exploration of empathy, friendship, human rights and the power of stories.

Find out more:

Watch Zana Fraillon talk about The Bone Sparrow on the CKG shadowing site:

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=12

CKG Review: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

What the Judges Say:

“The language used in this novel exquisitely conveys the atmosphere of the 1940s American rural setting…Every character is believable, well developed and fully rounded, combined with well observed small domestic details. This is a truthful exploration of small-time attitudes and injustice without being overly sentimental, and exploring questions of morality within the confines of the story.”


What We Say:

“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.”

From the moment I read that gripping first line, I was absolutely hooked on Wolf Hollow. There aren’t many books that I read in one day but I swallowed this one whole. 

Compelling is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. It’s not a cheerful story and it takes you to some pretty dark places but, from that first line onwards, you’re completely drawn in and have no choice but to go there.

The book tells the story of twelve year-old Annabelle, whose unremarkable life in sleepy, rural Wolf Hollow is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a new girl at school, Betty Glengarry. Betty’s reputation precedes her (she has been sent to live with her grandparents in the country because she is “incorrigible”) and she very soon reveals herself to be a cruel and manipulative bully.

Before long Betty is bullying Annabelle and making threats against her brothers. But Annabelle has an ally in Toby, a First World War veteran who lives on the edges of Wolf Hollow’s small community:

He didn’t ask for food or money. He didn’t ask for anything at all. But instead of drifting through on his way to somewhere else like the others, he circled endlessly, and I confess that I had been nervous about him in the beginning.

When Toby challenges Betty, she soon sets out to get revenge in startling and very disturbing fashion. And Annabelle is forced to tackle questions such as, when is doing wrong actually right? And what if lying is sometimes actually in the best interests of the truth? 

This book has been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and it’s easy to understand why such comparisons have been made – a rural American setting; a small community; a lying antagonist; the “mockingbird” character, wrongfully accused of something terrible and left facing the wrath of the townsfolk; and a girl approaching adolescence being confronted by some very grown-up dilemmas. 

Wolf Hollow is a really well-crafted novel, a challenging read that explores some pretty big concepts and really makes you think about human capability, motivation and morality.

Emma

Wolf Hollow is published by Corgi Books

Find out more: listen to Lauren Wolk talk about Wolf Hollow here:

http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/watch.php?id=10

National Bookstart Week reflections: Let’s Explore Outdoors

So National Bookstart Week is over for another year. As someone who works a lot with Under Fives and has a five-year-old and four-year-old at home, I have to say that it is always one of the highlights in my yearly calendar,

It’s a brilliant opportunity to invite nursery groups and families into the library and the free resources that Booktrust send are always excellent quality – as somebody who is not the best at coming up with craft activities, having a simple yet lovely craft provided is always particularly appreciated, and it’s always great to be able to give away the free books and rhyme sheets.

This year’s theme, Let’s Explore Outdoors, was probably my favourite to date as it combined two of my absolute favourite things – reading and being outside. I was also particularly lucky in that, right in the middle of a rain sandwich, last Wednesday morning was dry and bright in Bolton (if perhaps a little breezy), and the outdoor event we’d planned at Smithills Hall could actually go ahead outdoors. It was wonderful to share Everybunny Dance and other stories, sing songs and play instruments on the beautiful lawns at the hall and we were even joined by some bunnies and guinea pigs from the local farm, which made the occasion extra special.

In total I led four Bookstart Week sessions last week and thoroughly enjoyed every one. There were lots of other events across our service and feedback from library colleagues, nurseries and families about National Bookstart Week is always really positive.

Then yesterday, despite it being what Winnie-the-Pooh would call a rather blustery day, my daughters spent almost all of it playing outside with their friends. Partway through the afternoon they came rushing into the house, breathlessly declaring that they needed a book. They grabbed one each and ran back outside where they proceeded to sit with three of their friends on the drive, each engrossed in their own book. It was a really lovely sight to see and got me thinking about some of the picture books we’ve shared together over the years, especially those with an outdoorsy theme. These are some of our favourites:

what small rabbit heard

What Small Rabbit Heard by Sheryl Webster & Tim Warnes

Small Rabbit doesn’t want to go for a walk but Big Rabbit isn’t taking no for an answer. They get wrapped up and head outdoors – but the wind is blowing hard and Big Rabbit’s instructions get lost on the breeze, with some very funny results. Who knew windy walks could be so much fun?

stick man

 

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

We are huge Julia Donaldson fans in our house (who isn’t?) and Stick Man is a particular favourite, with his quest to get back to the family tree. Perfect for children who love finding sticks, and grown-ups who never knew you could feel so much love for one!

 

 

Shark in the Park Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

“Timothy Pope, Timothy Pope, is looking through his telescope…and THIS is what he sees!”

My go-to book for story sessions with younger children, this also works brilliantly for children with English as a second language. It’s a visual delight and so interactive, with an exciting element of surprise. It also lends itself really well to a whole range of craft activities – make a telescope and go shark-spotting in your own park or make one of these brilliant shark headbands: https://fileserver.booktrust.org.uk/usr/resources/1416/nbw-2016-shark-headband-a3-online_final.pdf

we're going on a bear hunt

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury

An absolute classic and a favourite to recite on family walks through the woods. We’re NOT scared!

 

Everybunny Dance Everybunny Dance by Ellie Sandall

This year’s featured National Bookstart Week title, Everybunny Dance is a charming tale of bunnies who love to play and a fox who just wants a friend. Great for reading outside with instruments, dancing around and hiding behind bushes from the fox. You can listen to Lauren Laverne read Everybunny Dance here: http://www.bookstart.org.uk/events/national-bookstart-week/nbw-2017/storybook/

There are loads more brilliant outdoors themed books – please leave a comment to tell us your favourites.

Well done to Booktrust and all the library staff that always work so hard to make National Bookstart Week such a great success. Roll on 2018!

Em