Tag Archives: Joanna Kenrick

What are you doing tomorrow?

It’s National Library Day tomorrow and your presence is requested at a library near you.

So many authors – and other people – are working hard to save our endangered libraries. Joanna Kenrick has set up a Facebook page with links to libraries known to be under threat. My own local council appears not to have made its mind up yet, so there are no listed libraries for me. That doesn’t mean they are safe; just that I will find out later.

Worth seeing where you can go, and do attend another library if your own is ‘safe’. There will be readings and many other things happening and hopefully it will prove to be a turning point for the future of books.

Theresa Breslin, a former librarian herself, has been rallying her fellow Scottish authors to meet up and hand in a petition at the Scottish Parliament at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning:



11a.m. ON SATURDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2011 – A day of U.K. wide protest about Library Cuts.

We would like to protest at the widespread cuts to the library service taking place throughout Scotland. In addition to the promotion of knowledge, literacy, and information retrieval skills, a professionally delivered library service embeds the joy of reading in our young people, building self awareness, articulate self expression, confidence, validating their life and culture, and leads to social and emotional literacy. In a society experiencing a widening gap in household incomes, our libraries, in the great tradition on which they were first inaugurated and enshrined in the law of the land, provide access for all. The cuts to book budgets, library opening hours, mobile services, branches, and the drastic and unnecessary deletion of professional posts strike at those most in need of a library service and those least able to protest against the cuts in that service – the less affluent, the elderly, the frail, people who are challenged mentally and physically and their carers, those who look after babies and toddlers and, crucially, our children – who are our future.

Theresa Breslin with Andrew Carnegie

Among those PRESENT ON THE DAY and available for interview will be: Julia Donaldson (writer), Theresa Breslin (writer), Lari Don (writer), Nicola Morgan (writer), Liz Holt (writer).

PROTESTERS (among others) include: Theresa Breslin, Julia Donaldson, Emma Barnes, Lari Don, Catriona Wilson, Nicola Morgan, Gillian Philip, Joan Lingard, Margaret Ryan, Catherine MacPhail, Sara Sheridan, Catherine Forde, Frank Rodgers, Barry Hutchison, Liz Holt, Alison Prince.

Pretty Monsters

As I usually say; you know how it is. You email someone obscure-ish, asking them to send you a book, please. They say yes, of course and btw their wife has a book out too, and maybe I’d be interested in reading it? So this is all because Daughter and I went to Oxford in the summer and we had lunch with Katherine Langrish and Joanna Kenrick and Katherine recommended this obscure-ish book and I emailed for it and…

Yes, and wasn’t that a good thing? The wife’s book is short story collection Pretty Monsters and the wife is Kelly Link. It is still a read-in-progress, I have to admit. I’m about halfway in my self-inflicted period of horror and other lovely stuff. Pretty Monsters is pretty good. And monsterish. A monster just ate some American kid campers. I think. Most of them were pretty horrible anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

I had read a story by Kelly before, without remembering her name. I’m not sure which anthology it was in, but I recognised it when I came across it. Kelly has a seriously weird mind, or she writes as though she does.

Pretty Monsters

The stories are interestingly different. What’s not to like about digging up your dead girlfriend, or skinless, ferocious dogs? I’m enjoying this collection, and I space the stories out, so I can’t start a new one when I’ve just finished the one before. They need digesting, and the mind needs to rest between the different kinds of weird. But as someone said last week, the good thing about short stories is that you can read one per day.

Pretty Monsters is one of the new Canongate/Walker co-published books for a crossover audience.

At some point I will even read the novel I wrote off for in the first place. But it’s Halloween just once a year.

‘Do you have a wedding, Jesus?’

They hadn’t bothered ‘putting the kettle on’, and they didn’t put their friendliest bowler-hatted man on the gate, they opened early but nothing happened. They tell you off for sitting in the wrong place, because ‘it looks bad for the tourists’ (on open day?), and still leave their rubbish sacks out. And no rooms available to look at, but they ‘are really nice’.

Good to know.

Christ Church, Oxford

I had shared a room with Daughter and allowed her to let Stephen Fry and Harry Potter share as well. Ron Weasley was shouting down the phone as I fell asleep, and when I woke up Fred and George were giving Harry the Marauder’s map. So I daresay it was fitting that Christ Church told people about Harry almost on arrival. We were allowed a peep in through the doors to the hall. And one of the porters told me to keep turning left, which could be taken as a political instruction if you like.

Philip Pullman’s Exeter gave me tea. That’s enough to get my vote. Generally quite lovely, we thought. Could have sworn the choir sang Silent Night, but maybe not. Nice with some distant hymn singing, however.

Knowing I’d need rest from colleges at some point, I had fished for people to eat lunch with, and the lovely Katherine Langrish and Joanna Kenrick both gave up their days and came into Oxford to eat Lebanese with us. Very nice to see them, and great food.

Katherine Langrish and Joanna Kenrick

The Jesus quote above is from Katherine, who had a sad tale about college porters and a lost wedding. In between the chicken liver (yes, I know, but better than the brains of lambs) and all the veggie stuff, there was time for gossip and some discussion about writing and how hard it can be to get past page three. (No, not that kind of page three.) And also how to get any writing done while dealing with toddlers, or any other family members who may have needs that come before literature.

Joanna is doing her best to avoid pink, which can be hard with a series called Sweethearts, and Katherine may have to think up a whole new world, which I gather is not as easy as it sounds.

To anyone who feels the report above is shorter than they wanted, I have to say that Joanna and Katherine spoke ‘off the record’ a fair bit. They said… And then they mentioned… There is also a photo I’m not using. But other than that there were no secrets.

It was a very hot day, and a hot bookwitch is not a pretty sight. Nor is a cool one, come to think of it. At the physics department I saw ‘the coldest thing I’ll ever see’, if I’m to believe the man playing with dry ice and colder stuff, and going on about Kelvin this and Kelvin that.

Coldest ever or not, we were still melting as we shuffled to our bus and our hosts and a great dinner in an Oxfordshire garden, to the peals of bell ringing. There must have been a murder somewhere.

(Photos by Helen Giles)


Out by Joanna Kenrick is another Barrington Stoke book. It’s another one for the older age groups, but it’s even shorter and easier to read than the one I blogged about before. I’m guessing* it’s because it’s aimed at a different reader category. So to me as an adult it’s almost just a short story, but hopefully it will be somebody’s first proper book.

It’s about first love. Two childhood friends; one boy and one girl. Both discover they are in love. Girl is in love with the boy, and the boy is in love with another boy. He’s just worked out he’s gay, and he shares this discovery with his best friend. Only, she has just realised that she loves him, and now she can’t ever tell him.

*I just checked, which I should have done first. Both are for 14+, but Joanna’s story is for those with a reading age of 7, whereas the other book was for reading age 8. It’s amazing what an author can do to make fiction accessible. And I have to say again what a great idea these books are!

If I could, I’d be halfway into schools with a pack of these books.

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?