Libray-versary: a decade in school libraries!

This time ten years ago I took my first steps as a School Librarian. I can’t actually believe it’s been ten years.  It was never my plan to work in a school library, dare I say it?! But I’ve always been a reader and always loved books. I loved visiting the public library as a young girl, taking out as many books as I was allowed, devouring them one after another.  This was where I discovered some of my favourite authors –  causing a few raised eyebrows as I took out virtually an entire shelf of books by the same author!

I’d had various ideas about what I wanted to do when I grew-up, but as is often the case life happens and plans change or adapt.  When I did my degree, I recall thinking the Classification unit was really quite boring and I would avoid the Dewey System if I could…! I worked in events management initially after University and as a ‘born organiser’ (as my parents would say), this suited me very well and I loved it.  The arrival of children meant it was difficult to balance this career (late nights, long days and lots of travelling) with parenting and this is when I applied to work in a local school in the library. I will admit like many who are attracted to working in schools, the hours and holiday times were well-suited to family life. But little did I know this would lead me to discover a brand new career and rekindle my passion for books.  Not that I had ever stopped reading; I hadn’t, but I had never thought about sharing and encouraging others to discover a love for reading, beyond my book group.

It was a huge culture shock going from industry to working in a school. After six weeks I had a complete panic and went to see the Personnel Manager to discuss handing my notice in.  She was brilliant – kind and reassuring and encouraged me to stick with it till the end of that term, saying that many people who come from industry find it a big adjustment.  She also sent me on a training course  all about how to run a school library.  This was a huge turning point for me.  I suddenly realised the value of the job I was doing and will never forget what the man running the course said:

“You can either be the person who sits behind the desk stamping books or you can effect real and positive change in the lives of the children who walk through the school library door.”

It was definitely a light bulb moment for me. Up until that point, I had felt that I had no real purpose other than to look after the very dusty and underused library space, stop students from misbehaving when they came in for the odd lesson and issue the occasional book. I went back to school with a new focus: I was going to revamp the library and make it a hub of activity! A place where students couldn’t wait to be; where they felt supported; where they were inspired and most importantly, a space that celebrated and enabled the discovery of the joy of reading.

Quite a challenge in a library that had had little love or attention for many years!  But despite this, I did achieve a huge amount, working with some great people, of which to this day I feel very proud.  I was able to make good use of the skills I had learnt in running events, marketing and PR. At its simplest level, I saw the library and books as the ‘product’ and the students and staff as my target audience.  It was just a case of working out the right sales pitch amongst other things!

This first experience stood me in good stead throughout my career and I’ve had the rewarding task of revamping nearly all the libraries I’ve worked in.  I’ve learnt a huge amount over the last decade. Not just in terms of running a library; but also working with children, school staff and parents; in teaching and learning; understanding special needs; general education issues; managing a team and a myriad of other things I’d never even thought about.

Without the wider support of those working alongside you, a school library (and the librarian) can quickly become obsolete.  I’ve collaborated with some amazing teachers, teaching assistants and fellow librarians, who have been fundamental to ensuring the success of the libraries I have worked in. I’ve also continually developed my understanding of the importance of reading to a child’s development across all areas of their lives.  I realise how incredibly blessed I was to discover a love for reading at a young age (thank you Dad) and have it come completely naturally to me.  And now even more, I realise that it was a lot easier to grow-up when I was young; these days children have so much to deal with and as school librarian I feel a huge sense of responsibility in supporting young people in school. It’s this that keeps you going when you’re having one of ‘those’ days.

Since that first day, I have worked with nearly 7,500 children ranging from two to eighteen years.  It is a unique position to be in, interacting with the entire school community. In a single day, librarians can be teaching and supporting upwards of five different curriculum subjects for a range of ages, taking book groups, running reading campaigns, recommending books to individuals, writing school policy, as well as the general administration of the library. Add to that the role of tutor in my current position to a group of Year 8 boys and it’s busy!  Perseverance is key as are good working relationships. It is absolutely a full time job and should never be underestimated; but it’s also totally rewarding.

This career has led me to some wonderful things, not least founding The Book Activist. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of sharing my love for reading and been able to read hundreds of wonderful books ‘for work’! I’ve faced challenges in ways I couldn’t have imagined and I’ve had moments of fulfilment that I will never forget. I’ve been fortunate to work with some lovely people and made some friends for life. So on my library-versary, it’s a good time to thank all of those who have supported, inspired and encouraged me. And to thank all the many children who have made my job so rewarding.  And of course, all those amazing authors, illustrators, publishers, editors and brilliant book-ish people who create the stories we love.  I don’t know where the next ten years will take me, but I expect if books and reading are involved, it’s going to be brilliant!

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Sophie Finds a Fairy Door by Laura Sheldon, illustrated by Erica Jane Waters

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Sophie Finds a Fairy Door by Laura Sheldon illustrated by Erica Jane Waters

Tidying her Teddies, Sophie finds a secret fairy door hidden in her skirting board. Before she knows it she is flying through fairyland, where she is just in time to save the fairies day.

When Sophie uncovers a magic fairy door, she is taken on a magical adventure through fairyland with a beautiful fairy called Bella.  Sophie cannot believe her eyes as she sees the fairy world, and even grows some fairy wings of her very own. And when the fairy tea-cup train is in trouble, it’s Sophie who comes to the rescue and finds out how to get the train working again.

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Well I will admit my smile grew bigger and bigger as I read this gorgeous rhyming story with fairy magic galore!  Sophie Finds a Fairy Door is a charming book and I can just imagine all little readers falling in love with Sophie, Bella the fairy, and their fairy adventures. The lyrical narrative carries you on a cloud of fairy dust and makes it a lovely story to read aloud.  There’s just enough excitement to keep readers captivated, with the opportunity for Sophie to literally put the power of her dreams to the test. I love the use of imagination as the key to solving the problem! The story takes me back to childhood days of hoping I’d discover a fairy living at the bottom of the garden or a door leading to a secret magical world.

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The delightful illustrations beautifully bring to life the fairy world and all its inhabitants. Published in March by Firefly Press, Sophie Finds a Fairy Door is perfect for all those little ones who dream of make-believe magical lands and hope to have a magical visitor one day. Although, be warned, this is the first in the series and once you ‘let the magic into your home’ you’ll be hooked!

Find out more at www.fireflypress.co.uk and on Twitter @LauraSheldon76  and @Ericajanewaters.

With thanks to Firefly Press for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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Author Interview: Alice Broadway

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I am absolutely thrilled to welcome the author of the Ink, Alice Broadway to the blog.  Alice is sharing some of the ideas and inspiration behind her brilliant debut novel Ink and the writing process in general.  Thank you Alice for joining us!

I just have to say this loudly – I LOVED INK! Couldn’t put it down. For the benefit of those poor people (!) who haven’t read it yet, tell us a bit about it. That makes me so happy – thank you! Ink is set in Saintstone: a world where all your good and bad deeds, all your successes and failures are tattooed onto your skin. Everyone can look at you and know all about you. The purpose of life in Saintstone is to be remembered after you die – and only the worthy deserve this honour. If you are counted worthy after your death your tattoos are preserved in a skin book for your family to keep forever. Ink tells the story of Leora who is sixteen; her Dad has just died and when she looks at his skin book she realises a mark is missing and then everything she thought she knew unravels.

In Ink, people’s memories and significant life moments are tattooed on their skin to create a record of their life story: what was the inspiration for this idea and how did you go about researching it? It’s hard to put my finger on an exact inspiration, but I am definitely indebted to Ancient Egypt: I’m so fascinated by their approach to death and their ways of honouring the dead and their physical bodies. I love anything that makes me think twice about people’s motivations and I’m also really intrigued by the way we present our lives to near strangers on social media.

The world you create is very real, as are the people in it. I loved the use of fables to illustrate the history of Saintstone and where the people’s beliefs come from.   It’s impressive enough to write a novel, let alone the fables within the story too – how did you go about writing them? If I’m facing writer’s block, my solution is to write or dream up a fable. There is something about the magic and gruesomeness of old traditional tales like Grimm’s that captures the idea of story for me. I sometimes work through my own difficulties by creating a fairytale-esque story. Is that weird?! I also come from a background of deep religious faith (although my own faith is very confused!) and I see story as the backbone of so many spiritual worldviews and I wanted this to be represented in Ink.

Leora has some really interesting relationships with the other central female characters in the story – her mother, her best friend and her mentor. Did your own relationships with female relatives and friends inform this? For me, relationships are the things that either cause you to flourish or to fold. I am very lucky to have good female friends, family and role models. I don’t feel that any of the relationships in Ink are exactly representative of the lovely people I have in my life, but I really hope I’ve been able to show the way other people can shape your world and thinking. I really like a lot of the characters in Ink and I feel for each of them. I should say that my Mum is much more chilled than Leora’s!

Faith and belief play a central part in Leora’s story; she is clearly grappling with things she feels she should believe versus the reality of what is happening around her. How important do you think faith is in today’s world?  This is something I wrestle with personally, so for me it’s a big thing but I have no idea how it seems to anyone else. I guess we all spend time trying to work out what life means and how to live a life that is really worthwhile. I have experienced both the comfort of a very rigid faith and the freedom of having no faith at all and I wish I could see how other people make their way on this journey.

You’ve talked about your fascination with death and the afterlife in previous interviews. In the book, the people’s ancestors live on through their skin books; the family get to keep (literally) a part of them – perhaps in the same way that some people in our culture keep the ashes of loved ones. Has writing Ink changed your perception of death and keeping memories of loved ones alive? Researching Ink led to some amazing discoveries and one of those was the death positivity movement, which is a non-religious group of people trying to ease the fear of death and normalise what is a very ordinary thing. I’ve been greatly inspired by the words of Caitlyn Doughty who writes and vlogs brilliantly about death, dying and post-death practices. For me it has forced me to think about death and to talk about it more openly. It has made it a little less scary, which has to be a good thing.

The idea of the Blanks (outcasts and people who don’t share the beliefs of the inhabitants of Saintstone) is quite chilling. This is reflective of so many cultures across the world controlled by religious beliefs or where people who don’t share the same ideals – is this something you wanted to address through your novel? My feeling is that we love to create an identity, and belonging to a group gives us that. I’m concerned about the ways our loyalty to our own group can mean refusal to empathise and understand others. I didn’t aim to write a political book but I’m really interested in the ways it’s inspired people to talk about division, prejudice and control.

Ink is your debut novel; tell us a bit about the process of writing – how long it took; highs and lows; anything that kept you going if there was a low point! I’m super aware that all my answers so far have been a bit gloomy, serious and morbid and I really want to be super cheery BUT, I started writing Ink just after I was diagnosed with depression and for me, writing has been a great therapeutic thing. Of course, it also meant there were days I couldn’t write and that it was slow-going. On a much happier note, it has been just amazing to sign with my dream agent (Jo Unwin) and to then be snapped up by Scholastic, and get to work with an incredible editor (Genevieve Herr). Writing is so solitary and once I had other people giving me feedback and helping shape the book I kept feeling like I was cheating! I think getting to work with gifted and brilliant people has been one of the huge pluses – when people see what you’re trying to do and help you make it better it feels like a dream!

It must be a life-changing – writing a novel, being published, reaching so many readers. How does everyday life feel now and what do your family and friends make of your success? I’m still changing nappies and getting woken most nights by the kids! In all the best ways life hasn’t changed a bit but my dad published a blog post after reading Ink and he wrote that ‘it just goes to show that childhood dreams can come true’. I really feel I’m doing my dream job and I couldn’t be more thrilled. My family and friends have been LOVELY and so supportive and sweet. And so far they’ve been excellent at laughing at me being slightly crap at publicity and the like.

Finally, what would you most want to be recorded on your skin if we lived in a society like Saintstone? I’ve been thinking about this so much! For me, the family tree would be crucial but I wish there would be ways of showing more than just how someone is related to you. Family is so much more than blood or marriage and I would love a way to express how much I love those who are precious to me.

Thank you Alice for such brilliant responses and sharing your insight with us.  We wish you every success with Ink and can’t wait for the next book! 

Find out more at www.alice-broadway.com and @alicecrumbs.

Review of Ink coming soon!

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Chiddingstone Castle Literary Festival 2017: coming soon!

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Chiddingstone Castle in Kent hosted it’s inaugural Literary Festival in 2016 and was a huge success. A celebration of books and reading for both adults and children, the 2017 festival sponsored by Brooks MacDonald starts on Sunday 30th April.  This year, I’ll be at the festival working alongside Beanstalk for Kent in the Reading Zone, a special area for children and parents to give them lots of reading ideas. I’m also one of the judges for the fantastic Short Story competition for children aged 7-13 (entry now closed) and have had a wonderful time reading the brilliant entries! I’m delighted to welcome Victoria Henderson, Festival Director to the blog today to talk to us about this year’s event which is just under two weeks away. Thanks for joining us Victoria!

The Festival is now in its second year; how did the idea for the festival come about? I was working for the book review website Lovereading as their Literary Festivals Coordinator arranging marketing and sponsorship of festivals all over the country and it suddenly occurred to me that there wasn’t a literary festival where I lived in West Kent. Given we live between Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and East Grinstead it struck me that Chiddingstone Castle would be the perfect place to hold such an event. I approached the Castle’s Director and Chairman of the Trustees with the idea, and as they say ‘the rest is history’!

Tell us a bit about what visitors can expect this year. This year’s line-up is a wonderful mix of events for adults and children. We’ve tried to find something for everyone, so story-lovers of all ages will be able to enjoy a choice of historical fiction, biography and memoirs, good mood food, education and the Great War, coping with bereavement, the latest on Brexit and Trump and stories of great lives well lived. For children we have a number of theatre performances and storytelling shows including a musical version of The Ugly Duckling, Sock Puppet Theatre performing Shakespeare and a Comic Strip Masterclass. There’s a guided tour of Chiddingstone, delicious food from our tearooms and vintage food vans, reading advice from your good self and Beanstalk for Kent and some surprises too. Our highlights include appearances from Terry Waite, Rev. Richard Coles, Artemis Cooper, Nicholas Crane, Anthony Seldon, Conn Iggulden, Alison Weir and children’s authors Piers Torday, Lauren St John and A F Harrold.

It’s a big operation coordinating an event on this scale. Do you have help?! We are a small team of 4 (myself – former Publicity Manager at various publishing companies, Mark Streatfeild – retired International Sales Director at Orion, Ali Ditzel – Director of the Castle, and Lisa Prifti – Sponsorship) but we have a wonderful number of smiley volunteers who help out over the 3 days of the festival – manning the box office, checking tickets, parking cars, meeting and greeting our authors, performers and members of our lovely audience.

The festival has a fantastic line-up of authors; do you follow a particular theme or idea when putting the programme together? We don’t have a particular theme as we’re keen to give a really good spread of events and interests. Both Mark and I previously worked in publishing so we still have contacts we can call on for advanced information on up-coming books. Some authors are suggested to us, some we have spotted and chased up and some approach us.

The festival includes a day especially for schools; which is brilliant! Why did you decide to have this? I felt it was really important that we provide an opportunity for local schools and pupils to have access to some exciting children’s authors who they may not otherwise have seen or heard. We’ve chosen authors who are great performers and who will enthuse young people with their love of writing and storytelling.

Is there anything you’re particularly excited about for this year? On the adults’ side, I’m particularly thrilled to have grief therapist Julia Samuel in conversation with Guardian journalist Decca Aitkenhead whose husband tragically drowned saving one of their children. I think their event will be poignant but inspirational, and encourage people to talk about their grief. We are honoured to have two pre-publication exclusives from two bestselling writers of historical fiction; Alison Weir’s new book on Anne Boleyn and Conn Iggulden’s latest novel Dunstan. We are thrilled to have award-winning children’s author Piers Torday talking about his Last Wild trilogy on our Family Day and about his new novel There May Be A Castle on our Schools Day.

Why do you think it’s important to hold literary events such as these? There’s so much to learn from hearing authors speak about their writing, their influences and their experiences. There’s also something very special about bringing the community together, united by a love of books and good writing in a beautiful location in a historic house in the glorious Kent countryside.

And finally, what would your top three tips be for anyone hoping to organise an event like this?

  1. Location, location, location!
  2. Persevere when seeking out your authors, you’ll get turned down and passed over but follow up every lead
  3. Enthusiasm and hard work…and a belief that it’ll be alright on the night (day)!

Thank you so much for talking to us about the festival; it’s going to be brilliant!

Find out more about the festival programme here and book tickets !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Danielle Younge-Ullman

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I’m delighted to welcome Danielle Younge-Ullman to the blog today for our spring feature! Her new YA book Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined has just been published by Scholastic and with it’s gorgeous (and very spring -like!) cover is a welcome addition to the TBR shelf! 

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Danielle is a novelist, playwright and freelance writer who has always had a passion for books, language and storytelling. Before turning her attention to writing, Danielle studied English and Theatre in Montreal, then worked as professional actor for ten years in her hometown of Toronto.  Danielle is also the author of the YA novel, Lola Carlyle’s 12 Step Romance , and the adult novel, Falling Under.

It’s great to have you on the blog today Danielle. I love the title of your latest book! Tell us what Everything Beautiful is not Ruined is about. EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED is about a teenage girl, Ingrid Burke, who has promised her mother that she will go to wilderness camp for three weeks in return for the chance to pursue her dream during her senior year of high school. But once Ingrid gets to the “camp” she discovers that the whole thing is much worse than she expected it to be. It’s more like a bootcamp, and her fellow campers all seem to be really messed up–not the “kids with leadership potential” she was expecting. Ingrid details many of the hilarious/gruesome/harrowing details of the wilderness program in sarcastic letters to her mother, written in a journal she has with her on the trip, and tells the rest of the story in first person pov. At the same time, the story of Ingrid and her opera star mother, Margot-Sophia, is woven in via alternating chapters. As both stories progress, you start to get to the heart of why Margot-Sophia really sent Ingrid on this gruelling wilderness adventure.

The story has been described as a “gorgeous novel about mothers and daughters”.  Did your relationship with your own mother inspire your writing? Yes and no. I am really close with my mom, and always have been. We’ve been through some hard times, and that brought us closer. Those times gave me an intense admiration for her strength, but also a heightened sense of her fragility. Our life is nothing like Margot-Sophia and Ingrid’s life, and my mom is nothing like Margot-Sophia, but I have experienced a similar weight of fear and worry over my mom’s well being and an almost crippling sense of responsibility–even though my mom was not expecting or asking me to feel responsible. Because of this, when I got to be an older teen, and then even into my twenties, I found it really hard to draw the line between her wants and needs, and my own. I found myself making the choices that I knew would make her feel safer, more peaceful, and sometimes those were not the right choices for me. It took me a long time (and some therapy) to figure out how to detach, how to have my own sense of self, how to have the courage to do things that might freak her out (become and actress, become a writer, etc) because they were what I needed to do. And did manage it, and we remain very close, but now I am aware of us as separate people. This mother-daughter disentangling was part of what I wanted to explore in this story, but I did it with characters who are not us, and stories that are not ours.

How did you research the setting of a trek through the wilderness?! I actually went on a trip very similar to Peak Wilderness as a teen, (and against my will, btw) so many of the physical circumstances of the hiking portion of EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED are taken directly from my experience. I have not done much canoeing though, so I interviewed a young cousin of mine who has done a ton of camping and canoeing to get more detail and make sure I was using correct terminology.

Some of the narrative is in the form of letters.  Letter writing is almost a lost art-form! Why did you decide to write the novel in this way? The novel started with the letters, and they came so easily and were so much fun to write. They were the jumping off point and then really became the heart and soul of the story.

Do you aim to ensure a positive message for teens reading your books when you’re writing about issues such as depression and complicated family relationships? I always want to give positive messages, but I am careful that they’re not fake-positive messages, if that makes sense. I want to be real and honest with my readers. I wanted to send a message of survival with this book–the message that you may be going through hard times, that you may not feel (or be) in control of your circumstances, or of the people you love, but you can survive almost anything, and come out stronger and wiser in the end. I hope I am also just letting readers know they are not alone when they are suffering–that others have gone and are going through similar things. And I guess another important thing I wanted to convey is that when someone you love is dealing with depression or mental illness this can be overwhelming and take over your life as well as theirs, but YOU, and your needs, wants and dreams are still important, are more important than ever, in fact. Those dreams, the goals you have, they will help to pull you out of the depths of despair and out of your circumstances, they will help you find meaning, they will help you survive…so don’t give the dreams up and don’t give up on yourself, ever.

You studied English and Theatre at University and worked as actor.  What led you to becoming a writer? I loved being an actor and doing theatre, and that’s a big part of what led me to become a writer. Studying theatre is studying the human condition, life, storytelling. Everything you do as an actor to get into the skin of a character you’re going to play, and to try to understand and interpret the intentions of the playwright and then the director–all of that is extremely useful to the writing process. Some of it is exactly the same as the writing process.

What happened for me was that I had always secretly dreamed of being a writer, but I didn’t think I had the talent or self-discipline. I started getting frustrated with the kinds of roles that were available to me as an actor, and decided to try to write something for myself to act in. I wrote a play, discovered I was actually not too bad at writing and that I enjoyed it, and then I was still thinking I’d like to try writing a book, but thinking I was too lazy. Then I read a kind of…not-great book, and thought to myself, “Well, surely I could do at least as well as that!” And that convinced me to give it a shot. Once I started, I quickly realized that this is what I needed to be doing, and over the next couple of years I transitioned out of acting and into writing.

This is your second YA novel and you’ve written for adults too. For you, does the writing process differ when writing for different audiences? The result may be different, but the process is not. Whatever story I’m writing, I write from the point of view of my characters. I work to see the world through their eyes, think their thoughts, write their actions. (This is the same thing you do as an actor, and that’s how I learned it.) The first YA book I wrote, LOLA CARLYLE’S 12 STEP ROMANCE, was very different from my previous work, which was for adults. A lot of readers thought the lighter, funnier tone was created because the book was for teens, but that’s not true. The lighter, funnier tone came about because of the main character, and her way of looking at the world…and if I were to write a story about her as an adult, for adults, it would still have that same tone because of who she is. So, the tone and perspective changes from book to book, but to me that’s not about the age of my reader, it’s about the age of the character I’m writing about.

Also, I don’t think of a teen audience being drastically different from an adult audience. When I was a teen I was reading everything–adult books, middle grade books, teen books–whatever interested me. And I wasn’t into in being told what category of book was “for me” or “not for me”–all the books were for me! I think of my readers being the same way, and just try to tell the story as best I can.

Finally, what would your three top tips be for anyone writing for a YA audience?

1: Do not write down to them. (See above.)

2: Dig deep, so as to find something that really matters to you to write about.

3: Be creative.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Victoria!

Thank you Danielle, for such brilliant words of advice and sharing your inspiration for your new book!

Find out more at www.danielleyoungeullman.com and follow Danielle on Twitter . With thanks to Scholastic for my copy of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined.

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The Wooden Camel by Wanuri Kahiu illustrated by Manuela Adreani

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A stunning new picture book, The Wooden Camel is out today from Lantana Publishing written by Wanuri Kahiu and illustrated by Manuela Adreani.  Born in Nairobi, Wanuri Kahiu is a hugely successful African filmmaker. Her films have received international acclaim and have screened in over 100 film festivals around the world.  The Wooden Camel is her first picture book. Manuela Adreani lives in Turin, Italy. After taking a diploma in Illustration, she worked as a graphic artist and then animator.  She was one of the winners of the illustration contest organised for the 130th anniversary of the creation of Pinocchio.

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The Wooden Camel by Wanuri Kahiu, illustrated by Manuela Adreani.

For those who keep on believing, even when it seems impossible….Etabo dreams of being a camel racer.  One day he might even beat his older brother when they race. But with the price of water rising, Etabo’s father must sell the camels. What will Etabo do now?

Etabo’s heart’s desire is to be a camel racer and he dreams every day of winning camel races.  Sadly his family have to sell their herd of camels but Etabo doesn’t stop dreaming. Along with his brother and sister, he helps looks after the family’s farm animals – and even tries to race on them, without success! Etabo prays to the Sky God Akuj, who whispers to him “Your dreams are enough”. And one day, he discovers with the help of his older sister, that his dreams are indeed enough.

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I loved this story. Beautifully told with a gentle narrative, it’s a simple tale of a young boy and his dream.   Set against the backdrop of the Turkana people in North Africa, who farm the land and care for their livestock; a sometimes difficult life. All the family help to earn a living and make the best of what they have – a lesson we can all learn from. Their day to day life is not so different from our own; we all experience moments of worry, sibling rivalry and changes in circumstances. And we all have dreams.

When Etabo turns to his faith to help him, we see that through the love of family and the talents people are blessed with, you can achieve even your dreams.  The stunning illustrations evoke the spirit of the tale, and beautifully bring to life the Turkana people and the landscape they live in. I particularly love the depiction of Etabo’s sister making him his gift; a beautiful portrayal of kindness and showing that our dreams are often achieved in a totally unexpected way.

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The Wooden Camel is an inspiring story of the power of dreams, belief and holding on to hope even when something seems impossible. The reader is uplifted by the wonderful messages portrayed by the narrative and the gentle humour throughout. I would highly recommend The Wooden Camel as an insight into a different culture but also to demonstrate that wherever and whoever we are in the world, we all have hopes and dreams.

Find out more at www.lantanapublishing.com. With thanks to Lantana for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Author Interview: Rachel Hickman

Today Rachel Hickman, author of One Silver Summer joins us on the blog. Rachel is also co-founder of Chicken House children’s books publishers and is talking to us about her new novel and how different it is being on the ‘other side of the fence’!

9781910646298 One Silver Summer

Tell us about the inspiration behind One Silver Summer. One Silver Summer was inspired by so many things, some of which I didn’t realise until the book was finished. It’s inspired by my time spent in Cornwall with my family where the weather has its own moods; it’s inspired by the horses I’ve loved my whole life, and a small, badly behaved black terrier at home who came from Dog’s Trust. I grew up abroad so my heroine isn’t English; and Alex is a little like my son in character.  First novels are like pockets filled with everything in the author’s head, or certainly, mine is.

The story really reminded me of some of the romance sagas I read when I was a teenager.  What books did you enjoy in your teens and how have they influenced your writing? It was inspired by my own love of reading to escape, set in wild and romantic settings. I loved everything by Daphne Du Maurier especially Frenchman’s Creek; Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and just about any horse story I could lay my hands on, most especially KM Peyton’s Flambards, or Patricia Leitch’s A Devil to Ride. I would have loved Lauren St John’s novels to read and when my daughter and I were looking for a name for our new young horse, I was unbelievably touched when she suggested we name her Storm.

In One Silver Summer Saskia has recently lost her mother and is going through the painful process of grieving. It must have been difficult to write the moments where she is in turmoil; how did you research this? I’m an overly emotional person who can never hide things well, with a tendency to read too much into almost anything. It wasn’t hard to draw on my own personal stuff: the what ifs, the tough stuff of life that makes you stronger in the end, but hurts so much when it’s happening. Grief isn’t always about death and you can’t get to my age without experiencing it first-hand. I think books can prepare you, or help comfort when it comes.

You’ve worked in children’s publishing for many years. How has your insight into publishing helped you as an author and what advice would you give to anyone in a similar position? I have been shocked at how different it feels on the other side of the fence. I love my job and I get to see the overall picture which is something an author never does. I just want to enjoy the moment, reach readers, and hopefully keep writing if time allows. My work has taught me to temper my authorial expectations and to know that everyone will have an opinion – good or bad, or hmm – on something I wrote from the heart.  If you put it out there, you take the rough with the love! Also, my background in publishing tells me that there is an enormous ocean of books for readers to swim in and not all of them will float. It’s nothing to do with what’s good or bad, but opportunity and luck. Publishing is the most glorious random thing; no one really knows what will be ‘the next big thing’!

Are you working on a new project and if so, will it be a similar genre? Or perhaps a sequel!  Or maybe even a prequel – I’d love to hear more about Alex’s Grandmother and her secret wartime romance! I have got a sequel in my head, and I would love to write your prequel, but the advice I always give authors is to have something new and different worked out. Right now, I’m deep on Dartmoor in winter with a modern-day highwayman, but I am thinking about taking it younger. See ‘the job’ is poking its nose in after all!

Rachel Hickman (col)

Rachel Hickman

Thank you Rachel for participating today and we wish you every success with

One Silver Summer.

Read my review of One Silver Summer. Follow Rachel Hickman @hickman_rachelWith thanks to Old Barn Books and Liz Scott for their support with this interview!