100 words on Libraries – Day 2

All of this week on the blog we are celebrating National Libraries Day, taking place on Saturday 4th February, by asking authors for 100 words on Libraries. Today’s contributions come from Scottish writers Cathy MacPhail and Julie Bertagna.  Cathy talks about her fond memories of libraries as a child, whist Julie compares libraries to lifeboats! More contributions tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Cathy MacPhail

“My mother was never out of the library. She was a widow with four little girls and three jobs to support them. She couldn’t afford to buy books so libraries were her lifeline. And where she went, her four daughters went too.  My mother loved reading, and I could never get over the fact that she could walk out of the library with a pile of books and didn’t have to pay for them. She loved a good murder-always headed for the crime section. Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammet, A.A.Fair- Now know to be Erle Stanley Gardner- I knew them all long before I knew about Enid Blyton . Libraries bring back so many wonderful memories of my childhood.”

Julie Bertagna

“Libraries are lifeboats. Just think: you have access to all the books and ideas in the world – for free! That gives you great power – the power to understand the world, to imagine who you might become and what you could do. Books were my lifebelts when I was growing up. They took me on exciting journeys and gave me a sense of escape and possibility. Now I am an author and write books that you can find in your library. Free access to a local library all through my life helped me to make that dream come true.”

100 words on Libraries – Day 3

National Libraries day is getting ever closer and we continue our celebration of libraries with day 3 of 100 words on Libraries.  Today’s contributions come from author Jonathan Meres who makes the case for libraries having to move with the times, fellow author Keith Gray acknowledges the enourmous impact his local library has had on his life and Deputy Head of Stewart’s Melville College, Neal Clark shares his vision of what a school library should be…

Jonathan Meres 

“Once upon a time libraries were places where you went solely to read and borrow books.  They were places where you got glared at for wearing a loud shirt.  They were places that the vast majority of the community never actually set foot in.  And whilst on one hand there are people who would argue that in an ideal world, that’s how libraries should still be – on the other hand, those people are wrong.  And besides, as everyone knows, it’s not an ideal world – and hasn’t been since I was nine.  In an age where it’s possible to download a book anytime, anywhere, libraries are being forced to move with the times. This is a good thing – not a bad thing.  Coffee shops?  Computers?  Games consoles?  Who cares?  Whatever it takes to get bums on seats.  And stamps in books.”

Keith Gray


“I grew up in a house without books, but luckily the local library was a ten minute bike ride away. I admit I didn’t read absolutely everything I borrowed, but the act of browsing the shelves was a pleasure in and of itself. And I soon figured-out that a library is a room of a million doors and a million windows, all leading to new worlds, strange peoples, real passions and huge dreams. I wouldn’t be a reader without my local library. Which means I wouldn’t be a writer either. Let’s be honest, I doubt I’d even be me.”

Neal Clark


“A library should be the soul and imagination of an organisation – it is the guardian of history, the wellspring of experience and the intellectual seedbed of its users.”

For more information and to find out what is happening in your area for National Libraries day visit the National Libraries Day Website

You can also follow National Libraries Day on Twitter @NatLibrariesDay and keep in touch with the latest events with hashtag #NLD12

100 words on Libraries – Day 4

Welcome to day 4 of 100 words on Libraries, our special week long feature in advance of National Libraries Day on Saturday 4th February.  It’s been really interesting reading what each of our writers has to say about libraries and it’s been heartening to read the love for libraries that our contributors have.  This is echoed today with pieces from Lari Don, Gillian Phillip and Jeff Marsh.  Lari and Gillian are both children’s authors whilst Jeff is deputy Head of S6 at Stewart’s  Melville College, Edinburgh.

Lari Don

As a children’s writer, I often visit libraries, to read books about bottoms to wee ones on their mums’ laps, or to talk about adventure books with after-school book groups. The highlight of these visits is seeing so many children happy, comfy and confident in their own libraries. I once watched an 8 year old girl, who’d got her library card through school, show her mum how to borrow a book. Lots of kids don’t have many books at home, but if they feel at home in their local library, they can borrow and love any book in the world.

Gillian Phillip

When I was seven, my local library burned down; from my parents’ window I watched the flames, stunned. Next day I couldn’t believe it wasn’t national headline news (its spot went to something trivial – Watergate, I think). Most tragic was my knowledge that JB Priestley’s SNOGGLE was in there – the rain-damaged copy I’d lost in the garden and had only just returned. (I’d quiveredwith terror, but the kind librarian didn’t have me jailed.) The Snoggle trauma endured till I found a used copy on Amazon three years ago. But I’m not sure I ever got over the library…

Jeff Marsh

The 7 ages of Libraries : which stage are you?

Infant : Comfy chairs, reading with Mum …all those books!

Schoolboy : Something to read of my own choice … all those books!

Student : Personal research, all the answers I need … all those books!

Young man : I couldn’t afford to read otherwise ….all those books!

Career man : Escape from it all in a “good read” … all those books!

Married man : “Dad” time with the kids … all those books!

Old man : Time to read at last – thank goodness for the large print … all those books!

For more information and to find out what is happening in your area for National Libraries day visit the National Libraries Day Website

You can also follow National Libraries Day on Twitter @NatLibrariesDay and keep in touch with the latest events with hashtag #NLD12

100 words on Libraries – Day 5

Welcome to the fifth and final day of 100 words on Libraries.  I’ve really enjoyed each of this weeks posts and I’ve found it fascinating to read the thoughts of authors (and others) on Libraries.  What has struck me most is the love that each of our contributors has for Libraries and, maybe just as important, how vital they feel libraries are to all of us.  

Today’s final contribution from author Theresa Breslin highlights the importance of libraries in our local communities.  Theresa was instrumental to the day of action which too place outside the Scottish Parliament last February in what was the start of a concentrated year of national campaigning for libraries, which has culmniated with National Libraries Day. 

Happy National Libraries Day tomorrow, remember Use it, Love it, Join it!

Theresa Breslin

In this digital age and in the present economic climate libraries and librarians, both public and school, are absolutely crucial. One of the fundamental roles of libraries is to provide access for everyone to any information they may require, with librarians to help them find and evaluate that information. Trained staff guide choice and promote reading initiatives.

The provision of literature for self-advancement or for pleasure promotes literacy, cultural awareness, and social and emotional competence. In addition to this libraries are social spaces hosting a many and varied range of activities. The library is the beating heart of a community.

Photos and video from last years day of action at the Scottish Parliament…(photos courtesy of Scarpa)
Theresa Breslin is the popular multi-award author of over 30 books for young people. She won the Carnegie Medal for Whispers in the Graveyard, a compelling story of a dyslexic boy and last year Prisoner of the Inquisition was voted favourite by the Carnegie Shadowing Groups. Divided City is a sell out show at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow.

For more information and to find out what is happening in your area for National Libraries day visit the National Libraries Day Website

You can also follow National Libraries Day on Twitter @NatLibrariesDay and keep in touch with the latest events with hashtag #NLD12

Socks are not Enough

Socks are not Enough; Mark Lowery; Scholastic; 2 Feb 2012

Book summary (taken from Amazon UK): Mike Swarbrick’s life couldn’t get any worse. His pervy best friend gets him embroiled in a scandal involving the girls’ changing rooms, his idiot of an older brother is snogging the girl of his dreams and he’s just come home early from school to discover his parents are secret nudists . . . but they’re ready to go public! A chain of events beyond his control are set to RUIN HIS LIFE. But instead, his teachers think that he’s having trouble \”dealing with his feelings\”. The result is that Mike’s forced to meet with the school councillor who thinks that a \”cool\” university professor can fix his problems. And so begins Mike’s \”Chats with Chas\” which really are as humiliating and cringe-worthy as they sound…

Literature for Lads review:
Described as “Adrian Mole meets the Inbetweeners” Socks are Not Enough by debut author Mark Lowery is just as heart wrenchingly embarrassing as Adrian Mole and as hilarious, albeit a little less crude, as the Inbetweeners. It’s a great combination of teenage angst, desire, farce and will keep you in stitches from the first to last page.

The book opens with a list of the ten bad things that have happened to our main character Michael Swarbrick in the last three weeks. At number one is the fact that his parents ‘decided to stop wearing clothes.’ This in turn triggers a number of events which result in Mike meeting the school counsellor on a regular basis. And so the scene is set for Mike to share with us his thoughts and feelings.

The lists continue as a feature throughout the book as Mike lays bare to us the many facets of his teenage angst.  However it’s not just lists that allow us to see the inner workings of Mike’s mind.  The book is also littered with footnotes, (who would ever think these would work in a teenage novel) which are full of hilarious anecdotes on Mike’s life.

Not only do we see lists and footnotes used as a medium for Mike to explain what’s happening in his life but we are also treated to the session transcripts from his meetings with a university psychologist.  Written in explicit detail these once again prove that with the right language and ideas, it’s amazing what we as the reader can find funny.

Lowery doesn’t just have a book full of unusual writing styles it’s also full of characters who are engaging and believable.  Best friend Paul with the wild imagination, University Psychologist Chas who tries maybe just a little too hard to be cool and older brother Steve, the Stevenator who is the local ‘ladies man’. Each features in Mike’s musings on the state of his life at the moment, often in hilarious situations, and sometimes in situations which will have you cringing with embarrassment, never mind Mike.

This is a hilarious debut novel from Mark Lowery.  It’s full of both laugh out loud moments and points where you will find yourself snickering behind you hands.  In amongst the lists, footnotes and laughter Lowery has written a great story which moves along at a good pace and will have you reading ‘just one more chapter’ every time you pick the book up.  This book will leave a smile on your face but you may find that you can never quite look at a box of Coco Pops in the same way again!

Marks out of 10: 9

Make sure and check the blog tomorrow where we will have an exclusive guest post from none other than Michael Swarbrick himself. He will be telling us what he got up to on National Libraries Day…

Plus on Wednesday we will be launching a Socks are Not Enough giveaway – full details Wednesday!
Here is the trailer for the book…

Main character Michael Swarbrick is on Facebook and Twitter
Michael Swarbrick Facebook
Michael Swarbrick Twitter
For more information on the author Mark Lowery click here  

Socks are not Enough – Exclusive post from Michael Swarbrick

Today I’m delighted to welcome to our blog, Michael Swarbrick, star of the hilarious novel, Socks are not Enough(read our review here). Michael, in his own distinct style, has written an exclusive post for Literature for Lads.  Using lists and footnotes, that feature so prominently in the book, Michael tells tells us what happens when he went to the library on National Libraries Day…  

National Libraries Day

Today I went to the library at lunchtime. I wanted to see if they had any books about how to divorce your family because of: 

1) My brother. He is the worst human being alive. 

A) He is vain. Sometimes he wears girls’ make-up to cover his spots, even though he is not a girl. He also uses so much hair gel that from behind he resembles a seagull that has been plucked out of an oil slick. 
B) He has recently tricked Lucy King into being his girlfriend. Lucy is nice. Some people say she is attractive although I have not noticed. She is also Britain’s second most promising swimmer(1)

2) My parents. Yesterday I returned home to find them completely nude in my front room. Apparently they are “practising at being nudists”. And, even worse, they are building up to being naked outdoors. Outdoors, I tell you. I would rather they were building up to destroying the entire universe(2)

Anyway, so I went into the library with my so-called best friend Paul Beary. Paul is an imbecile. Here are some facts about him: 

A) He is obese. However, he claims he is big boned. Nonsense. Bones are hard. They do not wobble when you run to the vending machine. Nor do they roll over your belt when you sit down like a big marshmallow waterfall. 
B) He is obsessed with girls. And not in a good way. Sometimes he steals their pencils and licks them before putting them back in their pencil cases. Apparently, girls always chew their pencils so this is “just like snogging them”. 
C) He lies. According to him, his sister’s husband owns a rhinoceros farm in Kenya (at which Paul often milks the rhinos), he used to be in a New York street gang called (honestly) “The Naughty Alberts”, and his uncle invented the caravan. Paul had heard about a new book in the library called My Changing Body – Pop-Up Edition by Floella Rampazzo. The promise of seeing “nudey women in 3D” was so exciting that he even let me have a piece of his Toblerone. The Toblerone came straight from his pocket. It was covered in fluff and

  1. Source: Swimming Gazette. Number one was some shaven-chested diver with goofy teeth. I do not wish to be nasty about his teeth but I think that maybe he missed the pool with one of his dives and landed face-first on the tiles. He clearly did not deserve to beat Lucy (who is obviously superior in every way), but I am glad for him that he has found some success. It cannot be easy having teeth like a camel. Actually, perhaps they act like parachutes when he is diving. This would give him extra time in mid-air, therefore enabling him to perform more complex tricks.
  2. OK, maybe not. But it would have been less embarrassing.

warm to the point of being completely melted. However, Paul does not give food away often, so I did not complain.(3)

As I was looking through the “Family Issues” department of the library, I noticed there was a talk going on for National Libraries Day. A group of people were sitting around listening to a short, chunky man with messy hair and no dress sense(4) droning on about being a writer. Do not get me wrong, I like books a lot. But this writer sounded seriously dull. Anyway, at this point he was just finishing his talk. As he thanked the audience for “absorbing his musings” (I have no idea what this means), I noticed Lucy King in the front row, applauding enthusiastically. She looked absolutely lovely.

N.B. Just to be clear, I mean “lovely” as in “a very nice girl” rather than“phwoah, I want to share a McFlurry with her”. As a brief aside, if I were to share a McFlurry with Lucy, I would insist on separate spoons. This is not because I believe that she is diseased; it is simply because I am sensitive to germs. For instance, in the library I was wearing gloves so I did not have to physically touch books that other people may have read.

I joined in the applause in order to support Lucy. I know that her ambition if she does not make it as a swimmer is to become a writer.(5) Knowing this level of detail does not make me a stalker. It just means I am closely following the life and career of a promising athlete. Lots of people do this.(6)

As everybody drifted away, Lucy smiled at me. The top of her nose wrinkled like a beautiful used tea bag.(7)“Hi, Mike. Did you enjoy the talk?”

“Absolutely loved it,” I said.

Lucy narrowed her eyes. “Are you wearing gloves?”

“Yes,” I said. I did not wish to say that I did not like sharing books with other people. Some people would think this was weird. I needed something fast. “I have a terrible skin disease.”

Skin disease? Good grief.

“Oh,” she said, stepping backwards.

“Yes. My hands are flaking like a pair of overcooked sausage rolls.”

This was not going well.

[3] Incidentally, this was Paul’s first visit to the library since last year, when he came in to steal a stepladder. He now uses this to spy on the girls getting changed after PE.

[4] I do not exactly dress at the cutting-edge of fashion but this man was something else. He had what appeared to be a curry stain across his T-shirt and was wearing socks and sandals.

[5] Source: Meet Our Champions page – Preston Piranhas Swimming Club Website.

[6] Although I will accept that not everybody keeps a scrapbook of their chosen athlete, including such artefacts as discarded energy bar wrappers and strands of her hair that fell out when she removed her cap after a big race.

[7] Actually, I am not sure that this image is a particularly good one. Perhaps it is more like the skin of a baby gerbil. No. I do not think I am doing it justice. It just looks nice, OK.

This was not going well.

Lucy bit her lip. “Looking for a book?”

“Yes. I want something about …” I did not want to mention the nudity. “… swimming. Yes. I want to improve my swimming.”

This is actually true. Despite being a member of Lucy’s swimming club, I swim about as well as a bucketful of crippled pigeons.

“Well, there are a few books over in the sports section and—”

There was still a chance of escaping with a shred of dignity.

That was, until Paul returned.

And this what he did:

1) Clutching My Changing Body – Pop-Up Edition, he barged round the corner, drooling like an overexcited walrus.

2) In doing so he bundled over a bookshelf and the writer, who then lay there on the floor moaning about how his “creative juices” had been knocked out of him.

3) Ignoring the stricken writer, Paul stood up right between Lucy and me.(8)

4) He opened the pop-up book right into our faces.

Of course, Paul did not choose any old page. He chose the pop-up picture of a naked lady. It was gross. He could have had our eyes out. And he opened it again. And again. And again. Each time he said things like “Check ’em out!” and “They’re still there!” and “Look at the detail!” 

Eventually, Lucy kicked Paul in the shin.(9) He yelped and hopped backwards.

“See you, Mike,” she said, looking at Paul like he was a bag of rotting grapefruits. “I’m off to meet your brother.”

I watched as she walked away.

(8)Paul does not respect personal space. He was so close I could smell the encrusted beef stew that had somehow made its way into his ear during lunchtime.

[9] I realized that he was standing on her other foot, hence why she had not escaped earlier.

Socks are not Enough is written by Mark Lowery and features many lists and footnotes just like this exclusive excerpt does. If you would like to find out more about Michael Swarbrick he is on Twitter and Facebook:

Michael Swarbrick Facebook

Michael Swarbrick Twitter

Socks are not Enough Giveaway – 5 books to be won!

**This giveaway is now closed**

Thanks to those lovely people at Scholastic we have 5 copies of the book Socks are not Enough to giveaway.  Socks are not Enough is the debut novel from Mark Lowery and I guarantee it will be one of the funniest books you will read this year. Read the Literature for Lads review here and read an exclusive guest post from star of the book Michael Swarbrick here. Details on how to enter the giveway are below…(For full terms and conditions of our giveaways check ourcompetition page)

Ailenated – Help create a new book!

As well as bringing you regular book reviews (apologies for the gap over the last couple of weeks – the day job has been getting in the way…) we also like to bring you news about exciting new projects in the world of literature.  One such project which has come to our attention over the last couple of weeks is something called Alienated.

With the many and varied distractions available to young readers (and, some might argue, especially boys!) Alienated is looking at new ways to engage readers from very early on in the writing process. With this in mind readers are invited to get involved and send reviews and feedback on Alienated – the memoirs of Sherman Capote, the only human boy in the High School at Area 51, even before it is published.

In this unusual move, readers are being included in the creative process of developing the book. At www.alienatedbooks.com readers can read the first 3 chapters of Alienated and provide invaluable feedback on the direction of the story. In a further collaboration, readers can also enter a competition to draw their interpretation of one of Sherman’s alien classmates. The winner will be included in the finished book in the form of a Yearbook entry. Readers are also kept up to date with all new developments, such as the newly designed school logo, via the Alienated blog.

This looks to be a really exciting development in the writing of children’s books – it opens up and demystifies the whole writing process for children.  If you are interested all of the details of how to get involved in both the reading and the competition are at www.alienatedbooks.com

Blade,1: Enemies – Tim Bowler

Blade, 1: Enemies, Tim Bowler; OUP; Feb 2012 (Reissue)

Book summary (taken from Amazon UK): So what am I going to tell you? Not much so don’t get excited. You probably want to know my name. Well, that’s a bit of a problem. I got loads. But there is one name I like. Everybody called me it in the old days. No one does now cos no one in this city knows it. And that’s fine. I don’t like to remember. But I do like the name. You can use it if you want. BLADE. Previously published in two parts as Blade: Playing Dead and Blade: Closing In, this is a stunning new package for this groundbreaking series. Narrated by Blade himself, be prepared to enter his world. It’s not pretty . . . it’s urban, real and dangerous. As Blade’s story unfolds, readers will become completely hooked by this unforgettable character.

Literature for Lads review:
The ‘Blade’ series of books was 1st issued in 2008 and comprised of 8 books with the 1st in the series titled ‘Blade: Playing Dead’.  ‘Blade: Enemies’ is a reissue of the 1st two books in the series and was reissued by Oxford University Press in February of this year. I have to confess that I missed this series 1st time round but having read the reissue I’m disappointed that I did. Tim Bowler already has a reputation as one of the best writers in the teenage literature field and this set of books highlights just how good he is.

The story centres around, and is narrated by central character Blade.  From the opening pages Blade is a an intriguing and mysterious character, refusing to give us his name and insisting we call him Blade.  And yes he does talk to us as we read through the novel. (He even gives us a name – Bigeyes.)In fact at times it feels like we are actually having a conversation with Blade as Bowler cleverly builds a depth to the dialogue between ourselves and him.

Each of the chapters in the book is short, sharp and often adrenalin fuelled.  The pace of the book is relentless as we travel with Blade on a odyssey which in this 1st book gives us more questions than answers.  We are kept on edge as the book progresses and chapters often end on a cliffhanger, urging us to read just one more.

The central theme of the book, unsurprisingly given the name of our central character is that of knife crime.  Bowler doesn’t pull any punches when dealing with the subject yet at no point is the issue ever glorified.  Gang culture is also prevalent in the novel and Bowler creates a realistic underworld inhabited by young people with a very different outlook on life and what it means.

Bowler has also given Blade his own personal slang, meaning we often come across unusual words or Blade will use familiar words in a different context.  The use of the language helps to take us, the reader, into Blades world and emphasises again how different this young boy is.  Although it sounds like this could be confusing Bowler always makes sure that the meaning of the word is clear in the context.

This is book which deals with hard hitting issues whilst taking us on a roller coaster ride of a story.  The pace of the book is electric, with suspense and mystery in nearly every chapter and in Blade we have a terrific main character.  Bowler’s writing is once again exceptional as he reaches out to us and pulls us into the heart of the story.  This is sharp stuff but be prepared, book 1 is only the beginning…

Marks out of 10:8
Here is the trailer for the book…

To visit the Blade mini-site click here
For more information on Tim Bowler visit his website here

Scottish Children’s Book Awards

Today I was lucky enough to be invited to the Scottish Children’s Book Awards ceremony which was held in the wonderful setting of the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.  This celebration of Scottish literaturewas originally set up by the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 but is now run by Scottish Book Trust in partnership with Creative Scotland.

Record numbers of children took part in the voting, with over 23,000 children from all over Scotland voting for their favourite books – a staggering 42% more than last year – and over a quarter of all Scottish schools registering to take part. Votes were cast from every single Scottish education authority, from Dumfries and Galloway to Shetland, in schools, libraries and nurseries.

The ceremony started with the authors and illustrators from the shortlisted books in the Bookbug Readers category (0-7 years)drawing characters from their books live on the stage.  In addition to drawing in front of a live audience the illustrators were also interviewed by fellow shortlisted author Chae Strathie! I was extremely jealous as each of the illustrators effortlesslybrought to life characters from their books. Winner of the Bookbug Readers category was Ross Collins for his picture book Dear Vampa (published by Hodder Children’s Books). Ross said:

“I am delighted and honoured to win the Bookbug Readers Category of the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2011 for ‘Dear Vampa’. I’d like to thank all the schools and children who participated this year. I only wish that I could bite each one of them personally.”

For the Younger Readers category (8-11 years) we were entertained with videos of how school pupils across Scotland had engaged with the books in this category.  This ranged from quizzes to devising their own version of top trumps based on some of the characters from one of the books!  Winner of this category was debut young-fiction author Ross MacKenziefor his first novel, Zac and the Dream Pirates (published by Chicken House). He said:

“I’m delighted (and stunned!)…Knowing that thousands of children across Scotland have enjoyed my book enough to vote for it is incredible. Perhaps it’s fitting that the story is about dreams – I can’t help thinking I’m going to wake from this one at any minute!”

The final category was the Older Readers (12-16 years). The Lyceum youth theatre had adapted a chapter from each of these novels and performed them to the captivated audience.  I’m sure the authors were delighted to see their novels brought to life in such excellent fashion.Popular teenage fiction author Nicola Morgan, based in Edinburgh, won the Older Readers Category (12-16 Years) for Wasted (published by Walker). Nicola commented:

“I am overwhelmed and still can’t quite believe it. ‘Wasted’ was a risky book to write, because it’s unusual – well, ok, weird – and that meant it was really hard to predict whether readers would respond well. But the risk paid off and I’m utterly thrilled and incredibly grateful to all the readers who voted and the adults who worked so hard to organise the awards.”

Nicola also thanked school librarians for the ‘wonderful work they do in helping readers in schools’ and made a plea that the importance of school libraries is not underestimated.  

Also present at the award ceremony was Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell who said:

“One of the important things about these awards is that the readers decides who wins, meaning the children themselves are not only encouraged to read, but also to think about the books and share their thoughts by writing reviews. 

“Reading is one of the most important life skills we can have. It helps us learn and improves our communication skills, as well as bringing huge enjoyment.’’ 
My thanks to all of the team at the Scottish Book Trust for a wonderful afternoon!

Videos of each author reading and talking about their book are available atwww.scottishbooktrust.com

Have you read any of the winning books? Do you agree or disagree with the winners?  Please let us know your thoughts!