Books Are My Bag – Part 4

By Britt S Van Klaveren, on 10 March 2014

Another piece from the Books Are My Bag adventure! This blog is written by Naomi Barton

To read a book is to partake of a universe unknown.
Of course, you might have heard of said universe. You might have a picture of it, based on a fancy blurb. An excited tweet. Your favourite critic’s latest jibe.

But to actually sit down with the printed word flowing in front of your eye, is to live somebody else’s mind. It is not mere verbiage on a hunk of paper, not the three hours your eyes might take to scan it. It is most certainly not the ten or so pounds (Ten whole pounds! Gasp!) that you have exchanged for it.

To read is a ritual. An act of change, no matter how inconsequential. And all rituals must have a before, an after, and an in-between.

This in-between-ness is where your local bookshop plods in happily and sets up shop.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

Stop staring and just walk in already. We promise not to bite. Unless we’re on Hagrid’s curriculum.

A tiny buzzer sounds as you cross the threshold of Victoria Park Books, subtly alerting its owner to your presence. It is muted, unintrusive. The door shuts behind you, and you take in the spill of light from the backyard, battered little child-sized beanbags on the warm wood floor, and the books.

Jo Guia, owner, will peer over her computer and gently ask you if you need any help. She knows children better than most, their desire for an original familiarity. Your child might be reading Maisie, but Jo will deftly take out a volume by someone you haven’t heard of yet. You should know without a doubt that your child will love it.

“Good on you for bringing them up right,” she says, modestly. “Not enough children read anymore.” To be on the safe side, she organizes book readings for infants and toddlers too.

Mommy, you need to accept my subversive understanding of the cultural ramifications inherent in gastronomy. Of course I like Green Eggs and Ham.

The store is designed for children more than their parents, despite who’s holding the purse strings. The books are shelved in a chronological flow, with picture books low on the ground and teen fiction high above, out of the grasp of curious fingers with too-tender minds. One solitary wall in a corner houses Adult Fiction, keeping parents occupied. Harvey the dog whimpers plaintively at you if denied a pat on the head.

I cat, therefore I am.

Every single element of this place says it is about you and what you are going to read, paying silent tribute to the ritual path you have just begun to tread.

This, is the core difference between Amazon and your local bookshop.

Amazon pays homage to the clean, jingling Cash Machine In The Sky, and good devout priests they are too. Books are their currency—as against Victoria Park Bookstore, saying loud and proud, that Books are My Bag. Books are you and me and the entire world bound by the genius of one mind reaching out to the fertile grounds of another, and books can be our everything.
But sometimes, everything isn’t enough.

The Wardrobe only took us to Narnia.

It’s not enough to close your eyes and clap your hands anymore.

Join the Books Are My Bag Campaign, and go buy something from your local bookstore. It’s worth the price.

Happy World Book Day!

By Laura A Lacey, on 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day from everyone at UCL Publishing!

All across the UK today, children will leave school clutching their £1 book token that we all remember so fondly. As ever, pupils will be able to get £1 off the price of a book or exchange their token for one of the specially produced WBD short stories.

Since WBD began in 1995, these titles have always represented the greatest in children’s literature, with something to appeal to everyone. This year sees a Horrid Henry title, Tony Robinson’s Weird World of Wonders: Funny Invention, and new books by beloved children’s authors Cathy Cassidy and Anthony Horowitz.

They also now run a Young Adult campaign, including a free downloadable app, a forum for book discussion, and a chance for budding authors to have their own novellas showcased.

It’s wonderful to see that so many publishers are supporting this worthy charity and continuing to inspire children to read. I’m sure that many of us on the course will be lucky enough to get involved when we graduate.

But for now, I urge everyone to celebrate by cracking the spine of a book that’s been calling to you from the shelf, or indulge in a beloved tale from your childhood, and remind yourself of why we’re all so committed to working with books!

 

‘One more chapter, Dad!’

By Laura A Lacey, on 5 March 2013

By Hannah Goodman.

An OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study in 2011 found that parental involvement through reading to young children in their first year of schooling leads to a lasting impact upon their literacy skills into their teenage years. Not only dpic dad2oes reading as a child have an academic benefit, but it also develops the relationship between parent and child. However, the majority of reading that does occur within households is between mothers and children, with only 13% of fathers identified as the main reader.

The Booktrust launched in February their ‘Get Dads Reading’ campaign to encourage involvement in this essential activity. The hashtag #dadsreading is spreading across twitter to call up a new generation ‘Dad’s Army’, complete with tips and ideas to emphasise how important this quality time is. The eternal problem of boys limited reading habits may be improved through recognition at a young age that reading is for all genders, and not just ‘for girls’. Top tips for Dads include; sit close together somewhere quiet, let your child choose the book and use funny voices (who can resist the opportunity to be the real life Gruffalo?!).

Let’s get using the #dadsreading hashtag to suggest our favourite books as children, and support the Booktrust’s campaign.

By Hannah Goodman, hoping to work in children’s publishing.

Sick-Lit?

By Laura A Lacey, on 18 January 2013

There has been much discussion in the press recently of ‘sick-lit’, sparked by the popularity of John Green’s The Fault in our Stars. The Daily Mail (obviously known for its balanced and considered opinions) dubbed the genre ‘a disturbing phenomenon‘, suggesting that these stories, which follow characters through terminal illnesses, are gratuitously shocking and that publishers are exploiting children’s emotions, rather than having their best interests at heart.

Having worked with teenagers as a Youth Theatre tutor, I am very aware that young adults need to be given the opportunity to express and experience emotions in a safe space; for me, this was through drama and books. My friends and I were lucky enough to have a wonderful drama tutor who let us explore all sorts of extreme scenarios. For a couple of hours a week as teenagers, we were all dying of some horrible disease, being bullied, self-harming, having sex and planning suicides – this may sound morbid, but exploring these ideas together certainly helped us deal with them in real life. I also had several fabulous teachers who pointed me in the direction of great books that deal with the same awful issues.

So I believe that publishers and authors of young adult (or YA) fiction are absolutely considering the consumer. Our teenage years are our most formative and emotional, where we thrive on dramatic situations. Young adults should be exploring the issues raised by these books – sexuality, illness, death, self-harm, suicide – because this is a vital part of their education and books such as these encourage communication.

Perhaps these critics are too old to remember that as young adults every emotion is an extreme one: the rush and exhilaration of first love, inevitably followed by the devastation of first loss. These books help young adults realise that they are not alone. As scary as these emotions may be, they are not unique in experiencing them, and they are only temporary. This is the driving force for most authors of YA, to reach out to their readers in support. Books that deal with life and death help teenagers to contextualize their own feelings; getting dumped by a boyfriend may seem like the end of the world, but these books offer hope and a reminder that things could certainly be worse!

John Green’s book is now on the Richard and Judy book club. The King and Queen of bookselling clearly see its value, praising it as ‘honest, charming, raw and deeply moving’. As long as authors and publishers ensure sensitivity and realism, these novels will continue to fascinate, enlighten and help young adults navigate through the complicated world in which we live.