Review policy

I am very happy to review any novel that fits in with the theme of this blog: novels aimed at 9-14 year olds, preferably with a fantasy/ speculative world setting. However, I will make clear in the review that I was sent the book by the publisher and I will write my honest opinion. Please feel free to contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or fantasticreads at gmail dot com.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

World Book Day

Last night I was lucky enough to go to the very swanky offices of Slaughter and May in the City of London, to hear Anthony Horowitz give the Sir Simon Hornby Memorial Lecture for the National Literacy Trust on World Book "Eve". In a typically iconoclastic address, Horowitz posited that we are not having the "right debate" about library closures. While making it clear that he does not support the closure of "a single library anywhere", he pointed out that not only are adult borrowing figures at an all-time low, but the most borrowed adult author is James Patterson, the unfeasibly prolific author who has just signed a contract to produce 17 novels in 3 years; a feat he achieves by working largely with co-authors who write the first draft of his novels. Horowitz suggests that the Public Lending Right is not aimed at such writers; so perhaps there should be a mechanism for successful writers to pay it into the public purse to support literacy.

Horowitz was equally bracing on World Book Night (Saturday 5th March), which he felt could be in danger of being simply "nice, bookish people giving books to nice, bookish people". I was excited about the idea of World Book Night- registering to give away 48 of your favourite book- until I saw the titles. Now, these are some wonderful books, don't get me wrong- but my particular interest is in children/ young adult titles, and only Pullman's Northern Lights and two "crossover" novels: Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and Yann Martell's The Life Of Pi are listed. I've read all of these, and loved them, but they are already best sellers and well known. I wanted to use the occasion to metaphorically grab someone by the collar and in the style of the Ancient Mariner, rant on about an amazing title that I had read recently and loved. Then I read this, by Nicola Morgan.

Coincidentally, 6th March, the day after World Book Night, is the third birthday of the totally wonderful Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. It is my local bookshop. Wood Green is in Haringey, North London. It is a borough where 22% of children- close to 1 in 4- grow up in severe poverty (i.e. where the weekly income is less than £134 for a single-parent family with one child or £240 for a two-parent family). Wood Green High Road has a number of closing down (or closed down) shops, pound shops, charity shops and chain stores: not the environment where you might expect to find an independent bookshop.  It is however very close to the more well-heeled parts of North London, such as Muswell Hill or Highgate, both of which have excellent independent bookshops that I had visited regularly. Crouch End (a far wealthier area) lost Prospero's Books last year.

Waterstone's Wood Green closed down with 9 days notice in 2007 (replaced, predictably, by a chainstore selling cheap clothes), and Tim and Simon, former Waterstone's employees, opened their shop in 2008. It's a great, friendly place to buy books, and is a truly community bookshop- it holds quizzes, book groups, baby and toddler storytimes, a board games afternoon on Sundays... I could go on. I have seen Carl Barat, former Libertine, playing live there; I met Phill Jupitus there, as the Tottenham Choir sang carols in the shop on one of the snowiest Saturdays of the year.

And then came this blogpost. It seemed that we'd become a little complacent and had got used to the shop being there. So I decided that on World Book Day I would give a book as Nicola Morgan suggested, since I'll be at a birthday party on World Book Night (although my present will be books, bought at the Big Green Bookshop- family and friends, please get used to this!) I bought the breathtaking Unhooking The Moon from the shop:
I registered it with Bookcrossing.com, then I wrote a note, explaining that it was a gift. I slipped a 10% discount leaflet for the bookshop inside, hoping that it will encourage someone not familiar with the shop to visit. I went to Caffe Latino, an independent coffee shop in Wood Green (where one of Big Green Bookshop's book groups meet), and had a latte. I was planning to leave the book on the table:
But instead I decided to leave it in the newspaper rack:

I hope that one of the many customers in the caffe will pick it up and take it home for their children, or maybe read it themselves and enjoy it. It's a marvellous read. And they'll visit the bookshop and support it.

Anthony Horowitz believes that independent bookshops are vital for children's literacy, as are school libraries, with properly qualified librarians. Please consider donating a few pounds to Literacy Trust, who do vital work in promoting literacy in schools but have lost 100% of its government funding (£1 million). Please use your local independent bookshop, or if buying from Amazon, click on the new from tab and buy from an independent bookshop. Because if we don't use them, they won't survive. Buy fewer books, but from independent shops, and use your library more.

Zoe from Playing By The Book is organising a book donation scheme for Christchurch families who have lost everything in the New Zealand earthquake. This seems to me to be a great way to help- I'm sure you can remember as a child the devastation of losing a favourite toy or book. It must be so much worse to lose them all. Please have a look, and contact Zoe if you'd like to help.

2 comments:

  1. Lovely lovely post. Would be so exciting to find out who picked up your book crossing book :-) I hope they really enjoy it. And thanks for spreading the word about our book project for Christchurch families.

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  2. Thank you so much! I'm not going to the cafe for a couple of days in case it's still there!

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