Category Archives: Awards

Another Brooklyn

Astrid Lindgren laureate Jacqueline Woodson’s most recent novel, Another Brooklyn, is a short adult novel, which would almost work as YA if you wanted it to. It reminded me of Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace, which I felt was more of a children’s book for adults.

Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn is poetic, with beautiful language. Almost too much so. It’s about four young girls growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1970s, as told from the point of view of one of them. I recognise the period, but obviously not the setting.

In a way, though, I reckon us outsiders have seen these streets in films and feel we know them anyway. All four girls have some sort of issue, like being motherless, having too strict a family, being the child of a teen mother. But they love each other and live very much in each other’s pockets for a number of years, until age and development takes them away again.

We see how they go from quite young, to mid-teens, experimenting with boys, with the expected results. It’s an interesting period, both in the world and in their lives.

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Geniuses

Well, isn’t that just fantastic?

Less than a year after I wrote about Sara Danius, permanent secretary to the Swedish Academy, she’s been forced out. I’m fairly certain her being a woman is not immaterial.

It’s so bad the King is planning on knocking some sense into the remaining members. Except, I’m fairly certain this is another instance when there are already too many ‘posh’ older men involved, and we don’t need another one, even if he is the boss of the so called geniuses of the academy. He’s also been in hot water, in the not too distant past.

As Jonas Gardell, who is someone very famous in Sweden, wrote in one newspaper, if it happens behind locked doors, it’s not going to be good. That’s true in more everyday circumstances, and I’m fairly certain he’s right. It was just we didn’t think about it before.

Klas Östergren i Edinburgh 2009

I somehow believed people, even when they are men, could be decent. The two academy members I’ve met have been. That’s one ordinary member – Klas Östergren – and one former permanent secretary – Peter Englund. And presumably I was right about them, as they were two of the three who resigned first. I was surprised when I read about that, but should have realised it was a sign worse was to come.

Peter Englund

In a year when women are standing up for their rights, it’s sort of interesting that in a country like Sweden, the establishment feels so established that they can ignore reports of rape and generally inappropriate sexual behaviour by people in and out of, but close to, the academy. That they can just get away with it.

It seems it’s one or two of the former permanent secretaries who can’t quite give up being boss, and who are of an age where they feel entitled, who are [mostly] behind all this. As Jonas Gardell wrote, they’ve won the battle, but they won’t win the war. I hope he is right.

And how can you have a member who passes on academy secrets, such as who’s about to get the next Nobel Prize for literature, to her husband? And if she didn’t do it, it appears the husband is tight with enough members that he could have heard it from any of them. He is the sex pest, apparently. As an exile I’d never heard of him, but it seems he runs a business financed by the academy, where he has access to women to pester.

I’m fairly certain that this will be a tough problem to solve, if it’s even possible. But I fail to grasp how this could have been the fault of the relatively new, and female, permanent secretary. My bet is on a few of the men. Perhaps kick them out in Sara’s place?

The problem being, of course, that you are supposed to die on your chair. You can’t resign or be fired. That’s why there are now too few members left.

ALMA for Jacqueline Woodson

The 2018 winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is Jacqueline Woodson.

I had heard of her, but only just. Based on what I’ve found out after yesterday’s announcement, I am looking forward to learning much more about Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Woodson, by Marty Umans

‘Jacqueline Woodson is an American author, born in 1963 and residing in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of more than thirty books, including novels, poetry and picture books. She writes primarily for young teens, but also for children and adults. One of her most lauded books is the award winning autobiographical Brown Girl Dreaming.

Jacqueline Woodson frequently writes about teens making the transition from childhood to adult life. Her books are written in the first person, usually from a female point of view. Racism, segregation, economic injustice, social exclusion, prejudice and sexual identity are all recurring themes. In January she was named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in the United States.

The young Jacqueline grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, decades marked in the US by civil rights marches, police brutality and violence. Her most recent novel, Another Brooklyn, published in 2016 and a National Book Award nominee, portrays the fascination and challenges of growing up as a young girl in the Brooklyn of the 1970s.

Her books have been translated into more than ten languages.Woodson’s many honours include the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Newbery Honor Awards.’

Sounds great, right?

Pupil Library Assistants

The other night I had a dream about one of the pupil library helpers at Offspring’s secondary school. It was probably the effect of reading about the finalists of this year’s Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award. They went to London last week for an Award Ceremony, which involved lots of authors and librarians. And at the end they marched over to Downing Street to let Theresa May know what they think is important about libraries. (I suspect she has no idea.)

I’d have loved to have been there.

As I said, Offspring did this kind of thing, back in the day. I was so keen on the whole library thing that I joined them there. Hence me knowing other library helpers I can dream about.

I think we all enjoyed it. At first I was taken aback when I discovered Son joining up immediately on arriving at his new school. I didn’t disapprove; I was just not expecting it. Younger siblings clearly need to follow in the footsteps of older ones, so Daughter went along on her first day. And I doubt Bookwitch as you know her would have existed without that school library.

There was one fail, though. When asked if I could suggest any new helpers, I came up with the sister of one of Daughter’s peers from primary school. I felt she’d be perfect. However, she’d got to the stage where she needed to be cool, and the library wasn’t cool, so she declined. I think she’d have fitted in well, so it’s a shame that peer pressure can take you away from books.

Scottish Book Trust Awards 2018

After months of secrecy, all the Scottish Book Trust Awards for this year have been made public, culminating in an awards ceremony in Edinburgh last night.

I don’t actually know where to start. They are all important, so does one go from less to more, or the other way round?

OK, I’ll go with the Learning Professional Award. Where would we be without such hardworking people, especially someone who sounds as absolutely fabulous as Eileen Littlewood, Head Teacher at Forthview Primary in Edinburgh? First I marvelled at all Eileen has achieved, and then I quickly felt both exhausted and not a little envious of all her great work.

Eileen Littlewood upright pic - credit Jonathan Ley

When Eileen started, the school library had been dismantled, and in order to create her vision of an in-house library catering for all ages, she applied for and secured over £10k of funding. She was able to start a reading community, and also helped the Family Support Teacher to start a parent book group, using Quick Reads and comic books to engage parents who were reluctant to read.

Eileen has established a paired reading initiative, has organised author visits to the school and has ensured her staff are trained to deliver reading projects. She also runs a lunchtime book club for pupils, as well as regular writing workshops. And she has recently worked with parents to create a book of poems on mental health to share with their children.

The Outstanding Achievement Award has gone to Vivian French, who has written hundreds of books. She has also worked hard to promote books by other authors and illustrators. Vivian is not only an inspiring figure to those in the industry, but has also acted as a mentor to budding authors and artists. Vivian is an active advocate for dyslexia.

In 2012, she and Lucy Juckes set up Picture Hooks, a mentoring scheme to encourage emerging Scottish illustrators.  And Vivian has been Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and a guest selector for the children’s programme. She also teaches at Edinburgh College of Art in the illustration department and is a Patron of the Borders Book Festival.

Vivian French wide pic - credit Jonathan Ley

Vivian’s comment to all this was; ‘I have the most wonderful time visiting schools and festivals, tutoring young illustrators, talking (always talking!) and discussing books and pictures… surely such an award should be for someone who’s earned it by the sweat of their brow? Not someone like me, who skips about having such a very lovely time! I’m not ungrateful – truly I’m not – it’s the most amazing award to be given… but I’m going to redouble my efforts now to ensure that I really deserve it.’

There’s modesty, and then there’s modesty. Vivian deserves this award!

SBT_BPBP_18_web-2124

And finally, there’s the Bookbug Picture Book Prize for Gorilla Loves Vanilla by Chae Strathie and Nicola O’Byrne, and the Scottish Teenage Book Prize to Caighlan Smith for Children of Icarus.

Caighlan Smith

Mustn’t forget to mention runners-up Michelle Sloan and Kasia Matyjaszek, Debi Gliori and Alison Brown, Danny Weston and Elizabeth Laird.

Phew, what a lot of talent and good books!

Of dung beetles and other creatures

I miss those dung beetles. And the dinners.

When I got in touch with Gill Lewis a few weeks ago, after having reviewed her most recent book, Gill said she’d just re-read my post about the dung beetles. And because I had reminisced about the Salford book award dinners shortly before it, I re-read the post as well. Had forgotten them, but never the man who suggested writing a novel about dung beetles; Jamie Thomson. Crazy, but lovely, man.

And that was the point; the reason I had been thinking about the dinners and missing the diners. Despite me wondering if I’d gone mad each time I set off to meet another batch of half unknown – to me – authors for dinner, after having emailed them out of the blue to suggest we meet up.

Those dinners were successful, perhaps because we were a bunch of ‘strangers’ getting together. We weren’t strangers afterwards. Strange, maybe. (Remember the dung beetles!) So in hindsight I’m really very grateful to the Salford book award organisers, for having no evening plans for their visiting authors.

It was one of the things I wanted to take with me when I moved. But around here most visiting authors are well looked after and don’t need a witch to make overtures and suggest meals out. Shame, really…

You can thank me when that bestseller about dung beetles appears.

The Carnegie/Kate Greenaway nominations

Some I’ve read. Others I would have wanted to read.

I haven’t counted how many books were nominated for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, but a quick search through the two lists suggests I have read maybe thirty of the books in total. Which is not much.

The wonderful news is that Barrington Stoke have ten books on those lists, and I have read nine of them. I was never sent the tenth one, so have a slight excuse there. It’s so good to see both that dyslexia-friendly books aren’t overlooked when it comes to list-making, and also that there are so many competitively great books written for those who find reading challenging.

Carnegie Barrington Stoke nominated books

As for the books I’ve not read, a few have arrived here at Bookwitch Towers, but most haven’t. And based on what I wrote about the other day, I now feel quite disinclined to request any of them.

But it’s good to know I’ve had the opportunity to read so many potential prize-winners from Barrington Stoke. I should know. One – The White Fox – was on my best of 2016 list.