Tag Archives: Beverley Naidoo

They come in waves, don’t they?

‘What if I say Beverley Naidoo?’ I asked.

I had been talking YA authors with someone; someone who had only started reading YA not very long ago. And I wasn’t thinking, so mentioned Celia Rees and was met by a blank stare. It’s understandable. If you are recommended books to try right now, it will be the most talked about books and authors, plus some olden goldies like Philip Pullman and David Almond. Names ‘everyone’ has heard of.

Whereas when I began reading current YA novels 20 or 25 years ago, there was no Meg Rosoff or Keren David or Angie Thomas. At the time Celia Rees and Beverley Naidoo were the reigning queens to me, along with Gillian Cross and Anne Cassidy. Adèle Geras and Mary Hoffman and Linda Newbery. Anne Fine. Malorie Blackman.

No matter how many I list here, I will forget someone really important. Most of them still write and publish, but perhaps not as frequently as before.

There’s the group of authors who appeared when Bookwitch [the blog] was in her infancy, with 2010 being a particularly fruitful year. Candy Gourlay and Keren David, followed by Teri Terry and Kathryn Evans. Again, I will have left someone out.

And now, those ladies have many books under their belts, and there is a new wave of YA authors. I mentioned Angie Thomas, because she’s brand new, both in the book world, and to me. She’s also American, which seems to be where things are happening now.

When I reviewed Celia’s latest novel, I compared it to Truth or Dare, and her reaction to that was that I’m probably the only person who’s been around long enough to have read both it, and the new book. This struck me as silly, as surely everyone would have read Truth or Dare. Wouldn’t they? Well, they haven’t, and it’s not lack of dedication, or anything. Most YA readers don’t last a couple of decades. Real, young people, grow up, and move on to other stuff. And if you’re already ‘old’ and catching up, you can’t read everything.

But when I first met Beverley Naidoo, I almost curtsied.

Day #4 of the 2018 EIBF

That’s my fourth day, which to my surprise turned out to be a Wednesday and not a Saturday, meaning I was able to contemplate a much better train home. And as I said to Daniel Hahn when I waylaid him on his way in, having just the one event felt positively holidayish.

We exchanged fond memories of an event at Waterstones piccalilli three years ago, which Daniel seemed to remember even more of than I did.

I was there ‘early’ because I’d agreed to meet up with Toddler Tollarp and his mother. So we had a couple of hours chatting about everything under the sun. Almost. Unfortunately for TT, he slept through most of it, not even getting cake!

Sitting in the greenhouse watching the bookfest world go past, I saw Beverley Naidoo and Jackie Kay. Later on as I checked my train timetable outside the yurts, Nicola Morgan ran past, but I knew she was in a hurry, so didn’t run after her.

It was a pleasant afternoon, which meant lots of people were enjoying drinks on the yurt decking. Saw Alan Johnson and Allan Little walk to their event.

Melvin Burgess

Strolled over to my lone event with Melvin Burgess, Steven Camden and LJ MacWhirter, who were talking to Agnes Guyon. Chatted to friendly, but hungry, lady in the queue, who had a poetry tale to tell. Those are always the best.

L J MacWhirter

Steven Camden

Afterwards, I had my good train home in mind, so made sure the photo session in the bookshop was swift, and I didn’t stop to chat. So you know what happened then, don’t you? The train was late.

Oh well.

Schools for Charlotte Square

It’s short and sweet, the schools programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. ‘Making books more affordable’ is a good motto, I feel. May it be successful and reach the children who need it the most.

I know I shouldn’t read the programme and plan, but I can read it and think. Some of the authors on the schools list will be doing ‘normal’ events too. And there is always the perfecting my school appearance. One of these days it will work.

Last year someone I’d just met talked very enthusiastically about Jason Reynolds, whom I’d never heard of. Well, this American is coming over, for an event with Chris Priestley who has illustrated his book. That should be pretty special.

Clémentine Beauvais is someone else I’ve not seen before, and she will be appearing with Sarah Crossan, which will be good. James Mayhew I have always managed to miss, so I could perhaps undo that, and Melvin Burgess, whom I’ve seen a lot, is coming back after a break of a few years. Or did I merely miss him?

Ehsan Abdollahi and Delaram Ghanimifard

Ehsan Abdollahi will return, which pleases me, and he’s appearing with Eloise Greenfield. I’ve not seen Beverley Naidoo for years, and I don’t know her events partner Marjan Vafaeian at all, which I hope can be remedied.

I will quickly tiptoe past the ‘star attraction’ on the Thursday morning, to mention that the last day will be special as always, with people like Theresa Breslin and Philip Ardagh and lots of other fun.

As you can tell, many school children will have some great events to look forward to. I’m always in awe of the school groups who get up before dawn cracks, to travel across Scotland to come to one of the events. Hopefully it will be a memory for life, and be the beginning of a bookish future for some.

Twelve don’t go to Anglesey

Or ‘how to fail at getting Daughter to read’. Something. Anything.

She went on a Geology field trip to Anglesey last week. So obviously they were going to spend lots of time staring at rocks. And other geological things. But you just never know what you might want if you wake up in the middle of the night in a strange place. Or if your room mates are boring.

Small luggage allowance in the college minibus meant we decided on just one very good paperback. But which one? Daughter wanted it to be adventurous. ‘It will be, dear’ I said. ‘Oh, the book you mean?’

Nothing girlie. Not too long. Not scary.

I dug out twelve contenders to share with the waterproofs and thick socks. They were: Between two Seas, Burn my Heart, Chains, Crossing the Line, Halo, Hootcat Hill, Ondine, Revolver, The Cat Kin, The Night of the Burning, Time Riders, When I Was Joe.

Having lined them up (sorted according to colour of the covers) on the piano, we met and she pruned. Oh how she pruned. Too pink. Too chavvy (cover). Scary dragon. No. Don’t get it. Too political. No. No religion. Prefer to read this at home. (!) Don’t think so.

Then it was down to two. Halo and Between Two Seas. Hard choice, but Between Two Seas ‘spoke’ to her.

So this historical tale set in Jutland was the one that got squeezed into her bag. The one she would have read, had she read a book there.

Oh well.

(Looking on the bright side, at least she didn’t tear the pages out and stuff them inside her boots to make them dry faster. Seeing as they had no newspaper to stuff with.)

Bookwitch bites #22

Let’s return to my bites after a bit of a bite break.

Had this link sent on by Beverley Naidoo. Her book Burn my Heart has been dramatised by the Trestle Theatre with Blindeye, and they will tour theatres up and down the country for a couple of months, starting on September 21st. Not enough of the upping and downing for my taste, since they have cut a wide circle round anywhere near me. Burn my Heart was one of my very favourite books a few years ago.

Horrid Henry Rocks

If you want to read about Horrid Henry and his beloved band the Killerboy Rats, then Horrid Henry Rocks is out now. I trust that none of you would prefer Perfect Peter’s Daffy and her Dancing Daisies? Francesca Simon was in Manchester on Friday, or so I’ve been led to believe. Before exhaustion hit, I’d fully intended to pop along, but I can tell you that very little popping will be done for a while.

It may be pink, but it’s still about reading. Voting for your Queen of Teen is open until Thursday 9th September. I can’t tell people who to vote for, but there are a few good ones on that shortlist. Think pink. Or not.

Then a final begging paragraph on behalf of Donna Moore, on behalf of a worthy charity (the Grandfather used to be involved with it). Signed books from authors, or possibly signed  – or even unsigned – books from non-authors, to put in a raffle. Donna, of the floral Doc Martens, is feeling self-conscious donating her own Old Dogs, and is hoping her book can hide between lots of others. Old Dogs has nothing to be ashamed of! But there is no harm in more donations. I might go and see if I have anything to donate. Perhaps I wrote and published a book without noticing, that I can sign and send?

Bookwitch bites #6

Once, when we got our first computer (and let me tell you that was a while ago), I had this idea that that was it. Once and for all. Hah, is what I say today, many many computers on. Maybe that’s how people felt about getting themselves a website, too? Now the time has come for many to revamp, just to avoid looking dated.

Mary Hoffman has recently given hers a facelift, and it’s definitely spring now. What with words like tweet and twitter, the countryside feel to Mary’s home page makes me think of ‘back to nature’. Mary has also changed her newsletter style blog, and it looks as if her old news blog is no longer in use.

Candy Gourlay has been to the London Book Fair and has written several posts about what she and her author friends got up to. By the sound of it, they rather took over the place, seeing as the lack of planes made for an emptier than usual fair. Wish I’d known. I love empty spaces. I could have set up my own Bookwitch stall. Just think.

At the Love & Sex event this week I happened to be standing next to Keris Stainton who was telling William Nicholson all about her first book which is out now or soon. I’m not completely averse to eavesdropping, and when Keris gave William a postcard I swiftly asked for one, too. A book that comes recommended by Meg Cabot can’t be bad, can it? (I was thinking that really Keris could have done with carting round a few spare novels in her bag, in case people in the street or witches at bookshop events show an interest. Just a thought.)

Nicola Morgan launched her new blog, specifically created for her new novel Wasted, yesterday. There are a number of enthusiastic comments/reviews of Wasted. Me, I wouldn’t know. But there is a reason for that. Cough.

Friday saw another exciting event, which was the 25th anniversary of Beverley Naidoo’s Journey to Jo’burg. The invite went like this:

“Learning through Literature: A South African Story”, Celebrating 25 years since the publication of Journey to Jo’burg, by Beverley Naidoo.  Michael Rosen with Chris van Wyk, Njabulo Ndebele, Gillian Slovo, Ret’sepile Makamane and Beverley Naidoo.

And who wouldn’t have wanted to be there for that? I did. But for some reason Virgin want payment for their train tickets, and in this instance rather too much. I just hope it was as good without me as it would have been with. Beverley’s books are fantastic.

Depending on when you read this, you have approximately 24 hours left to attempt to win a signed copy of Tall Story by Candy Gourlay. Identify the authors above, and send list to contact, also above. Candy Gourlay has joined in the spirit of the thing, and just may win a copy of her own book…

What witches don’t know

I blogged earlier – I think – about how hard it can be to know what you don’t know. I’ve found one more thing I had no idea I didn’t know. Barrington Stoke. I didn’t know they specialise in books to help struggling readers to read. I just thought they were a publishing company among many other publishing companies.

Not so. But why did no one tell me? ‘That’s one of my Barrington Stoke books’ authors would say when talking about something they’d written. And I simply assumed that this particular book was with a different publisher. Now it all makes sense!

I have just been sent a sample Barrington Stoke book, along with their catalogue, and both make for good reading.

Twisting the Truth

Twisting the Truth by Judy Waite was for me a very quick read. But it’s good. Whenever I come across such brief stories, they are usually also more childish, whereas this is for 14+. It must be horrible to be in your mid teens and only have babyish books to choose from. Much easier not to read at all, I’d say. And that’s what they do, which is such a shame.

I recall coming across some similar books at Offsprings’ school library, except they were abridged versions of ‘real’ books. That’s another way of approaching reading, obviously. But I can see that having something written specially might be nicer.

So, Judy Waite’s story is about a girl who lies to her stepfather when she gets home late. She comes up with a tale about having been abducted, almost, on the way home. As with all lies, this leads to a situation she could not have foreseen. Very exciting.

The Barrington Stoke catalogue is full of books that I don’t need to read, because I can read longer books, but so many of them look very tempting. And I can see how almost anyone with dyslexia could be turned into a reader this way.

I’m fairly sure that Adèle Geras has one or two BS books under her belt, and I know that Theresa Breslin told me that the ‘Alcatraz book’ of hers I’d come across was a BS one. It is. I found it in the catalogue. I also found lots more of my favourite names in there, like Philip Ardagh, Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Terry Deary, Bali Rai, Anne Cassidy, Tony Bradman, Lee Weatherly, Beverley Naidoo, Oisín McGann, Catherine Forde, Joanna Kenrick, Hilary McKay and many more. Many more.

‘All’ that these writers have to do is come up with a great story, with short paragraphs and short chapters, and Barrington Stoke will print it on cream paper in their own clever font in a good size. But only once the book has been tested by test readers, of course.

Why didn’t I know this?

The unwanted children

In my defence I should mention that I think of them often. But then impotence sets in, because I always feel there isn’t much, if anything, we can do about the children who come to Britain seeking asylum. So thank God for people like Beverley Naidoo, who has just been to Yarl’s Wood – where the children are detained like prisoners – on a visit. Then she wrote an article for the Guardian about it.

There is nothing in Beverley’s tale that suggests this isn’t a prison. They can call it whatever they like, but ‘nicer’ words won’t change what it is. But I suppose it’s reassuring they still required Beverley and the accompanying illustrator Karin Littlewood to bring their enhanced CRB forms and proper ID. To search a visiting author for so long that a great chunk of the time intended for the children just disappears is beyond belief.

And were the teachers in uniform with the keys really guards? Would real teachers stand for this kind of thing? (I asked Beverley if she found out in the end, and she reckons they are teachers, but special Serco teachers.)

It can never be easy to come to a new country as an asylum seeker. To be a child and to be treated like a criminal in one of the supposedly good countries of the world, must be totally bewildering. There is a petition you can all sign at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/NoChildDetention/

Please do so now. It’s very quick.

The campaign End Child Detention Now can be found here.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo and Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah are two of the strongest ‘asylum’ books for young readers that I know. Not new, but well worth reading if you haven’t already.

Campaign for the Book (3)

Just imagine! There I was in a classroom sitting next to Linda Newbery, with Frank Cottrell Boyce and Beverley Naidoo rushing in late (and without a reservation, I believe), sitting down at what they soon named the ‘naughty table’. In fact, Frank continued looking slightly naughty throughout the session with our ‘teacher’ Bali Rai. Our workshop had the fancy name ‘The Importance of Identity and Race in Young People’s Fiction’, but Bali called it Diversity. I’d like to think that our room was so crowded, because it was the best of the workshops.

Bali Rai

I was somewhat dubiously placed, sitting right underneath a photo of the recently departed President Bush, but then Obama was there, too, and Yeltsin was nearby with Gorbachev. I’m full of admiration for Bali’s powers. When the session began it started raining fairly heavily. Before long we had a full-blown storm with thunder and lightning and rain cascading down from the gutters outside the window. Very dramatic. It ended when the workshop was over.

As so many people on Saturday said, Bali reckons he wouldn’t be where he is now without the library. Books were a precious thing for someone growing up in a one-parent family with little money. If he’d asked for pocket money he would have had to go without food instead.

Bali feels that to get ‘minorities’ to read you have to start by putting them in the books. When he talks about minorities he doesn’t just mean poor immigrants; it covers anyone who is different in some way. One of his most favourite books recently was The Curious Incident, so he and I are clearly on the same Aspie wavelength.

His local library in Oadby, Leicester, is ‘brilliant’, and seems to do all that Bali wants from a library. He tells of the father who comes in to use the computer, and whose daughter learns to look at books while her dad goes on the internet. So in effect the girl becomes a reader simply because they don’t have a computer at home. The reverse can also be the case; with library staff putting adult books near parents who bring their children in for various child sessions. It’s a case of catching people where you find them.

Libraries need to shout ‘we are here!’, so prospective users can find them.

Another thing Bali has noticed is that as soon as you have a book about a single parent, they are immediately labelled ‘issue novels’. He himself  has a book on a recommended reads list for schools, which he is pleased about, but also annoyed, as it comes under ‘reading about other cultures’, when Bali has written about life in Britain. So if it’s about people with another skin colour it automatically turns into ‘other cultures’.

He also mentions schools which shadow the Carnegie, where books on the shortlist can be too inaccessible for keen but less able readers. There needs to be alternate lists of books.

Bali’s most recent novel is a mirror image story, about a white boy who is in minority, and is bullied by a group of coloured boys. His next one is about non-white British soldiers in World War I, something that comes as a surprise to people who think that British soldiers always are white.

Publishers need to adapt and publish more ‘minority’ books or they will soon not have any readers left. And it could be a good idea for bookshops not to treat prospective customers as hooligans just because they are young, male and non-white. They might just still want to read, and even buy, a book. Or two.

Campaign for the Book (2)

Thank heavens for people like Alan Gibbons. Someone who not only thinks that things are wrong, but who does something about it. I have barely had time to take in all his emails and newsletters this winter, let alone act on them. Just imagine how busy Alan has been; writing, digging, travelling. Possibly even doing some writing for himself once in a while. Must find out.

So, after the lighter introductions, we settled down to more serious things. Question Time with the politicians, except we ‘only’ had Ed Vaizey and Richard Younger Ross, because Lyn Brown had been promoted to the Whips office during the week, and in this mad world that means she can no longer say in public what she thinks about a subject she is very interested in. A lot was said by those present, but whether any of that will ever happen is anybody’s guess. The panellists had reasonable ideas, but they would, considering the circumstances. The audience had lots of questions and ideas, and we could have gone on forever.

After lunch it was time for two wonderful talks by the librarians who have been in the centre of the storm, so to speak. Clare Broadbelt, who was made redundant when her school library was closed, spoke eloquently on what it had been like both before – when things were normal – and during the period leading up to the closure. It was a good thing to hear how many of her pupils had spoken up. They had started petitions, only to find them torn up and told they were rubbish. And the reading room that had been promised in place of the library has not materialised.

The second talk was by Cath McNally, librarian from the Wirral, where they have an awful lot of millionaires, but also a great deal of child poverty. If all librarians can speak as well and as touchingly as Cath did, then we have much to be proud of. She cried at the end, describing how ‘her’ children had recommended books back to her, which just goes to show how much influence the library has had. I wonder if the suggested small stock of books in the GP’s surgery will have quite the same effect?

Gillian Cross spoke about her use of the mobile library, both forty years ago, and now, noting the changes in needs. The difference is the internet and as she said, the old ways won’t be coming back.  Miranda McKearney from the Reading Agency and Marilyn Mottram from the UK Literacy Association spoke about their findings from experience and research. According to Marilyn there is plenty of money out there; we just need to look for it in different places. Martyn Coles, head teacher at the City of London Academy, is unusual in his love for libraries in schools, and he reckons that architects need to be pushed in the right direction by caring head teachers, if new schools are to be built with sensible libraries.

After a number of smaller workshops, the day finished with Beverley Naidoo and Frank Cottrell Boyce. Beverley spoke movingly about her own early experiences from South Africa. Post-Sharpeville Beverley learnt to look at things in new ways, and she was introduced to other types of books than those she’d been reading. She mentioned a number of books that have helped her and inspired her. She was saying how wonderful it would be if our taxes were spent on books instead of on bullets and bombs, and her vision of planes dropping books instead is a powerful one. She told a Nigerian friend about coming to this Campaign for the Book conference, and her friend was shocked that we in the UK would need a conference like this. Beverley quoted Susan Sontag,  ‘libraries are a precious treasure chest.’

Frank Cottrell Boyce told a long and funny tale about his daughter’s tin whistle ‘lessons’, which was a random way of describing how anything that is good should be taught. You share, rather than teach. He had had a recent bad school visit, which convinced him of how books should not be treated in schools. As Frank pointed out, his own father had taught him a love of football by playing it with him, not by turning it into lessons. One of Frank’s daughters who is not into reading, had been given Northanger Abbey on her iPod. Apparently Austen doesn’t work so well on shuffle, however; you just don’t know who is married to whom or for how long.

Alan Gibbons finished by saying that he is in this for the long haul. He wants more names on his petition, and he wants us all to organise many smaller local meetings like Saturday’s conference. He’d like authors to adopt an area as their own. ‘A library without a librarian is no library, but a room.’