Friday, 21 February 2014


Bill is the grip of Graphic Novel Fever at the moment. After a friend shared the first volume of a Manga adaptation of Darren Shan's 'Cirque du Freak' with him in the back of the bus on a school trip a week or two ago he came back with eyes blazing. "It's SO SICK. Please can we get it? Please can we? Please can we?? Can we, can we, CAN we????" I've not seen him with that book hunger in a while.
Cue a trip to Gosh, Orbital and Forbidden Planet at the weekend to stock up with half term treats. I'd never taken Bill to Forbidden Planet before. He actually got a bit quivery when we went inside. He was like...well I guess he was like a kid in a comic shop. We spent a LONG time browsing Adventure Time figurines...

The required volumes of Manga 'Cirque Du Freak' proved disappointingly tricksome to track down however even within these warehouses of delight. It didn't stop us spending money. Another volume of Adventure Time comic, the acclaimed graphic novelisation of Coraline, Silverfin- all have been gobbled down on the sofa and on the tube this week as we've been out and about seeking half term Fun.

I picked up the first volume of Kazu Kibuishi's 'Amulet' series almost in passing. It looked too tempting to pass by. It's already proved an expensive impulse buy- as we immediately had to go back for the next two volumes and I am now being pestered continuously for the two last. Ah well. It's a bit lovely-an investment that'll be returned to I'm sure.

There is a whole vocabulary and set of references that I'm sure I should be employing to write about it- but although I'm not completely illiterate in the form, I am basically a newbie to the world of graphic novels. This is an outsider's perspective: 'Amulet' is an action packed romp through a fantasy world of glowing stones, evil elves, martial art expert foxes, talking trees, walking houses and lost cities in the sky. It's a bit Hobbity, a bit Star Warsy and a bit Studio Ghibli-y. There's a lot of fighting, some occasionally portentous speeches, and some funny robots too. There's also (be warned) some rather sad/scary bits. It has LITERALLY been unputdownable for Bill (alright I didn't put it down either... ) It also has the requisite kickass heroine. Huzzah.

Elf based fantasy isn't necessarily my bag but all I can say about 'Amulet' is that I can't imagine a more enticing book to put in front of that often mentioned mythical creature- the 'reluctant reader'- whether male OR female. The speech bubble text is clear, linear and easy to read and the action is non-stop. There's some awful pretty spreads in there too. Bill was finishing off the third volume in the tube yesterday and there was a boy sitting opposite him who was almost salivating at the sight of it, craning and jiggling to get a better look. He ended up asking his Dad for a piece of paper and a pen. As he got off the tube I saw he'd written a big underlined heading BOOKS and then halfway down the page the single word- 'Amulet'. Pester power based on the cover alone (and maybe Bill's obvious greedy pleasure).

The 'Amulet' series by Kazu Kibuishi, pub. Scholastic isbn 978-0-439-84681-3 This is a US import only (I think) so you may need to visit a specialist comic shop or (sigh) use Amazon to get hold of it.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Our Little Free Library

About 4 weeks ago, Twitter chum and all round rather-amazing-force-for-good-with-children's-books-things person, Carmen Haselup drew my attention to something called the Little Free Library organisation.

Set up in America but now spreading all over the world, these are mini self-contained book sheds put outside people's houses or in community spaces to provide an opportunity for sharing and swapping books with friends, neighbours and passers by.

Carmen herself knows a bit about community libraries, being the founder of the AMAZING Rainbow library- a labour of love that has put a whole lot of picture books into the hands of a whole lot of local previously unbooky nursery kids over the last year. She blogs about the powerful effect it has had here. Go look.

I went off to look at and thought two things.

1. That's cool.


2. I want one.

Being a Veruca Salt kinda girl I didn't stop there. I forwarded the link to my handy with tools father-in-law, a retired man with two and a half sheds of his own and a fondness for a Project.

Two weeks later he had built this-
almost entirely out of salvaged bits and pieces too. Just £10 for a bit of interior insulation and the cost of a fence post to put it on.

Our little library opened on Sunday. It's got a mixture of picture books, older kids fiction and grown up fiction and non-fiction- as broad a general mix as we could get from a random clear out of our shelves. And four days later, about 8 books or so have been 'borrowed' from all different categories and 3 new ones have appeared too. We've had lots of lovely comments from people passing and the local paper have even been to take a photo.

I love it. I keep going out to stroke it and rearrange the spines. Turns out I have a rampant inner librarian that was itching to be released...
 What I love most about it is that it's easy- manageable- something almost anyone can do (depending on your location and outside space obviously). People have been sending me photos of amazing little library spaces customised out of old phone boxes or popping up in pubs- and many are gorgeous but rather bigger enterprises than ours. Yes- it may get vandalised , yes- someone may take all the books but I'll take it calmly if that happens- it's just wood and old  paperbacks after all.

And what seems much more likely is what is already starting to happen- that we'll make some new friends, spread a little booky love and I'll always be able to find something new to read in the bath.
fellow librarians at work