Author Archives: ncheeseman

Café Littéraire

Tea and conversation flowed freely on Saturday afternoon as we enjoyed  Tea & Tattle ‘s pleasant surroundings, scrummy food and an opportunity to chat with authors and other lovers of children’s books.

Author Sufiya Ahmed with trainer Anne Harding and CILIP SLG's Barbara Ferramosca.
Author Sufiya Ahmed with trainer Anne Harding and CILIP SLG’s Barbara Ferramosca.

Inclusivity was a major topic of the day, as ‘diversity superhero’ Anna McQuinn, Sufiya Ahmed (Secrets of the Henna Girl) and trainer Anne Harding got together to put the world of children’s book publishing to rights!  Don’t miss Anna’s seminal blog on how recognition of this vital issue led her to found independent inclusive publisher Alanna Books and Anne’s recent post with links to copious book recommendations.

What are you playing at A copy of What Are You Playing At? by  Marie-Sabine Roger, published by Alanna Books will make the perfect centrepiece for a Diversity Week display.


Highlights from the eleven years Paul Crooks spent researching his Afro-Caribbean roots were fascinating, particularly the mixture of dedication and sheer luck that led to his eventual success.  A copy of  Ancestors, his fictionalised version of the personal history he uncovered will be a great addition to the shelves.   Extremely knowledgeable on Britain’s transatlantic slave trade he will also address KS3 students and 6th Form.

Tamsyn Murray shared highlights from her recently published Completely Cassidy 2  - Star ReporterCompletely Cassidy: Star Reporter.  A second episode in the hectic, Year 7 life of Cassidy Bond, subject of Tamsyn’s popular and very funny series for pre-teens.

Devil in the Corner by Patricia Elliot

Patricia Elliott talked to us about teaching children’s literature, her current plans and the breadth of her work to date.  Promoting her brand new Connie Carew mystery The House of Eyes published just this month,  The Devil in the Corner a Victorian, gothic, murder mystery from last year and not forgetting, of course, her popular, romantic Pimpernelles series set during the French Revolution.

Mark of Cain

Lindsey Barraclough treated us to a glimpse of the creative process behind her atmospheric tale of witchcraft from last year, Mark of Cain.  Hugely popular with KS4, it is her second story set the village of Bryers Guerdon and begins a few years after Carnegie Award nominated Long Lankin.    

Finally, it was also a pleasure to meet Amanda Lillywhite and learn more about the life of an illustrator, her styles, work in magazines, brochures, posters and educational books and particularly her online webcomics.

All in all, a very pleasant and informative afternoon, and a format that we hope to repeat very soon!

Authors Tamsyn Murray, Anna McQuinn, Sufiya Ahmed and Paul Crooks at Tea & Tattle on Saturday

Authors Tamsyn Murray, Anna McQuinn, Sufiya Ahmed and Paul Crooks at Tea & Tattle on Saturday

Café Littéraire – Saturday 27th June

Join us in networking with fellow librarians, authors, and illustrators at our upcoming event –  Café Littéraire!

Dating back to 17th Century Paris the Café Littéraire has always been a venue for the  discussion of  literature, the lively exchange of ideas and the enjoyment of light refreshments!Tea & Tattle Teapot

Join us at Tea and Tattle tea room 41, Great Russell Street (opposite the British Museum) on Saturday 27th June, any time between 1-5pm for classic afternoon tea and conversation in the company of some great children’s authors:   Paul Crooks  (Ancestors / A Tree without Roots) Sufiya Ahmed (Secrets of the Henna Girl / Zahra’s Great Debate), Patricia Elliott (The Devil in the Corner / Pimpernelles), Lindsey Barraclough (Long Lankin / The Mark of Cain) plus Amanda Lillywhite (illustrator).  After tea take some time to visit Arthur Probsthain, the Oriental & African Bookseller, which shares the same site, and browse their collection of books, music, film, gifts and their exquisite gallery of art.Tea and Tattle-002-16.07.10-1 (2)

Special prices of only £5 for CILIP members and £10 for non-members mean that numbers are limited so please do book in advance.

Contact Christine Belsham
phone: 0208 677 8400.


tinderIn her latest book Tinder, Sally Gardner rewrites Hans Christian Anderson’s first story The Tinderbox.  A symbolic, often horrifying account of a child-soldier’s inability to turn his back on the ghosts of war, she recasts the action during the events of the Hundred Years War to tells the story of a young soldier – himself both a victim and perpetrator of terrible violence – who turns his back on death to pursue a life of wealth and romance, only to realise that all of his actions lead him inevitably back to death and violence.  Hans Christian Anderson’s original story (itself based on older folk tales) of a soldier who comes into possession of a magic tinderbox that allows him to summon three monstrous dogs remains largely intact, but is turned into a series of powerful symbols which explore the soldier’s realisation that violence is both a power he can wield and a curse that he can never escape from.

Gardner’s previous Carnegie winner Maggot Moon divided readers by absolutely refusing to talk down to its audience by delivering the usual, safe exposition – readers who weren’t willing and able to read between the lines were often left complaining that it “made no sense” or was too simplistic – and she continues this with Tinder. The story is told with the fractured, dream-like dislocation of both fairy-tales and fever dreams, the power being more in the subtext than the narrative itself, and readers unable to follow that may find the story dislocated or nonsensical.

The content and tone may also discourage some readers – Tinder sets out to comment on the damage done to child soldiers and those forced at a young age into violence, and she doesn’t shrink away from this. The mundane elements of the story contain frank (and no less chilling for their lack of graphic detail) accounts of war-rape, murder and children being forced into violence as indoctrination, while the fairy-tale aspects use mutilated ghosts, werewolves and witches to create an atmosphere of the uncanny and horrific which supports and strengthens the real-world horrors. It’s a merciless story, where any glimmer of light the main character experiences only serves to lead him back to death, violence and the ghosts of his own past.

The combination of a fairy-tale story structure, deep subtext and horrific content will narrow the audience for Tinder – some older readers will dismiss it out of hand as “childish”, while younger readers may be confused by the largely symbolic story and disturbing images (supported by the excellent, frequently horrifying artwork of David Roberts). For others, a lack of familiarity with The Tinderbox may make some aspects of the story seem arbitrary or hard to follow.  For those who are willing and able to engage with Tinder on its own level, however, Gardner has written a savage, horrifying and utterly real meditation on war, damage and the unbreakable cycle of violence that will stick with them for years to come, and a book that treats young readers with the respect they are so often denied by absolutely refusing to talk down to them.

Barbara Ferramosca

LIBMEET – Saturday 25th April 2015

On Saturday 25th April we held our third annual one day Libmeet. Hosted once again by Barbara Ferramosca, Librarian at Lilian Baylis Technology School in Vauxhall, and subtitled Embracing Change, we are pleased to report that it was our best ‘unconference’ yet with more than 90 delegates attending, including 11 authors 7 library resources exhibitors and 73 librarians from all over London, the South-East and the Midlands.

A great day for making new contacts and catching up with old friends, it was packed with information and ideas to inspire us.

Dzifa Benson at Libmeet 2015

Dzifa Benson at Libmeet 2015

Still smiling from a lively performance of The Signifyin’ Monkey by our Artist in residence Dzifa Benson of Authors Abroad, we separated into groups to get to grips with our choice of workshops…

Running Project Qualifications from the Library

Project qualifications are great for students, giving them experience of independent learning so valuable for university and for life. They are also good for the library, raising our profile across the subject departments and offering us an opportunity to impart information skills at point of need in the context of a recognised qualification. Projects are offered by various exam boards – AQA  OCR and Edexcel at Level 1 Foundation, Level 2 Higher which is equivalent to half a GCSE, and Level 3 or the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which is equivalent to half an A’ Level.  Universities particularly value the EPQ and some will reduce the grades they require from a candidate who has done well.

Projects can be run within or beside the curriculum. Form time or lunchtime clubs are an opportunity for the able or gifted & talented learner in Key Stage 3, 4 or 5 to broaden and extend their knowledge in an area of their own choice. They will also cultivate skills in communication both written and verbal, project management, research, product development and self-evaluation. Run in lesson time, project qualifications can offer the same benefits and sense of individual achievement to those who are less able and / or less engaged with formal classroom learning.

Nancy Cheeseman began our session by explaining in detail how Year 13 students at Parmiter’s School in Hertfordshire undertake the Edexcel EPQ, tackling the work in their own time over just 4 months but supported by teaching staff and librarians. See the slides from her talk Running Project Qualifications from the Library

Barbara Band  then described how experience with different groups of students has led her to develop her delivery of the AQA Level 2 Higher Project at The Emmbrook School in Berkshire. Barbara currently offers her course to able students in Year 9, running her sessions extra-curricularly, largely during Form Time, and acting as supervisor to each student. Lively discussion followed around the different ways of delivering these qualifications, potential groups of students who might benefit and consequent challenges. 

The potential of Augmented Reality (AR) for the school library

Barbara Ferramosca led a workshop on the growing phenomenon of Augmented Reality (AR) and its applications in the school library. The workshop kicked off with a few short introductory videos to one of the leading platforms Aurasma

Barbara has been experimenting with Aurasma, at Lilian Baylis School, using just a couple of Galaxy Tab 3 tablets. Barbara says “The Augmented Reality app adds an exciting new dimension to student book browsing, every cover and display come alive with trailers, videos, pictures, book reviews and so much more! The library turns into a veritable treasure hunt, and all the students need is a device that can run the app.” Any Apple or Android device will work, including mobile phones.

Then we had a chance to try out Aurasma for ourselves by scanning a few book covers from Barbara’s library.  The benefits were immediately clear, and lively discussion ensued:

  • It means we can archive all types of library generated content – written book reviews, video book talks, student podcasts, reading lists, information booklets etc. in one place, particularly as Aurasma currently include a huge storage space with their platform.
  • It will allow us to display all this content, at the drop of a hat, to impress line manager, parents, or Ofsted Inspector!
  • We can support the curriculum by creating short tutorials for teachers focussing, for example, on developing student research skills, or exploiting an online resource that the library has purchased. Once created, the AR experience could be re-used or modified year on year.

Naturally there were a few questions:

Q. How much time, effort, and support are needed?

Barbara Creating a quality AR experience is a long-term commitment, so plan strategically from the beginning. Target specific stakeholders, perhaps parents, special needs or reluctant readers? Remember too that showing off an exciting, cutting edge library is good for recruitment – a Senior Management Team priority in every school.  

As a solo librarian myself I have enlisted work-experience students from a local college who run our Aurasma project under my supervision.

Q. What types of content can be displayed with AR? 

Barbara MP4, JPEG and PNG. Anything that can be converted into these formats can be displayed, maximum size100 MB.

Although very new, see some examples of its application in education at

Q. Could this be a project for students themselves? 

Barbara – Yes, creating AR experiences could be an engaging way for students to study a topic in depth or enjoy literature afresh.

The options are virtually limitless!

Wheeler’s e-book Platform and MLS Reading Cloud

Our third choice of workshop comprised practical demonstrations of two recently-launched online e-book platforms: Wheelers’ and Micro-Librarian’s Reading Cloud

Having recently linked with Peters’ Bookselling Services, Wheelers now offer a range of titles not found on other platforms. We were impressed by both the children’s books, e.g. the wide range by Michael Morpurgo, and the young adult titles which included work by authors attending the Libmeet!

On the other hand, MLS Reading Cloud is attempting something new… a unified platform, compatible with their Library Management System and allowing students to respond to their reading via a safe social media-style environment. If the reading cloud delivers as promised at the demonstration, it will allow us to watch students’ reading levels, deliver aptitude tests and more all within just one platform. Definitely worth keeping an eye on!

Workshop Materials for Children’s Literature

Our fourth and final workshop was led by a group of authors, poets and a storyteller from CWISL (Children’s Writers and Illustrators from South London) who explored the impact on pupils’ attainment of access to good literature and author visits. There was discussion around how to build a good case for such expenditure especially when budgets are limited.

See presentation by  Chitra Soundar

Chitra Soundar and Ivan Todorov at Libmeet 2015

Chitra Soundar and Ivan Todorov at Libmeet 2015

Other authors joining us the  workshop and , indeed for the whole day were:

and non fiction author  Bybreen Samuels promoting Non-Profit Booster, her practical guide to setting up a charitable organisation.

Our exhibition area was available throughout the day offering a lunchtime opportunity to get to grips with school library resource suppliers including:

After lunch we grouped into a Library Surgery to share good practice and thoughts on some thorny topics suggested by delegates.

  1. Ideas for clubs competitions and how to run a club successfully
  2. How do we effectlively manage the diverse people who support us in the library
  3. Effective reporting for school librarians

The day finished, as it began, with Dzifa Benson, who performed ‘Bottom Power’ her poem about the exploitation of Saartjie Baartman, and last opportunities to visit Lilian Baylis School library or catch up with our library resource exhibitors.

Many thanks to Barbara Ferramosca for hosting the day and for all her work in organisation and looking forward to meeting even more of you at our events in the future.