Helen Dunmore posthumously wins Costa Book of the Year

Ali Inside the waveWe are so pleased that Inside the Wave by the late Helen Dunmore has been named winner of the 2017 Costa Book of the Year. The collection, Dunmore’s tenth, explores the borderline between the living and the dead – the underworld and the human living world – and the exquisitely intense being of both, and includes her final poem, ‘Hold out your arms’, written shortly before her death in June 2017, aged 64.

The announcement was made on Tuesday evening at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London where Dunmore’s son, Patrick Charnley, accepted a cheque for £30,000, from Dominic Paul, Managing Director of Costa.

Ali Days withoutInside the Wave, published by Bloodaxe Books, is the eighth collection of poetry to take the overall prize. Poetry has a strong record in the Costa Book Awards, often winning the overall prize several times in a row. Most recently, Christopher Reid won in 2009 with A Scattering, followed by Jo Shapcott with Of Mutability a year later in 2010. The 2016 Costa Book of the Year was Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, the first novelist ever to win the Book of the Year twice.

Ali in the days of rainInside the Wave beat the bookmakers’ favourite, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by bestselling debut novelist Gail Honeyman, In the Days of Rain by author and academic Rebecca Stott, Reservoir 13 by novelist Jon McGregor and The Explorer by children’s author Katherine Rundell for to win the overall prize and a cheque for £30,000 at the awards ceremony.


Since the introduction of the Book of the Year award in 1985, it has been won twelve times by a novel, five times by a first novel, six times by a biography, eight times by a collection of poetry and twice by a children’s book.

To see our previous blog post following Helen Dunmore’s death, with links to her books, please click here.


A Poem for Christmas

Happy Christmas from Leeds Libraries to all our blog readers. Here’s hoping you have a lovely time, and you find lots of books under the tree.


’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The books were all stacked by the chimney with care,
In hopes Dr. Seuss soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While How the Grinch Stole Christmas crept through their heads;
And in festive bright jumpers and a Santa Claus hat,
We wakened our brains for a literary chat;
When into our discourse there rose such a matter,
Of which story was best, we proceeded to natter.
Little Women by Alcott, a heart-warming tale
Of sharing a feast that is hearty and hale.
And what of Charles Dickens, that classical writer,
Who tells us of Scrooge that miserly old blighter;
When visited by Christmas ghosts numbered three
He realizes his life is a catastrophe.
A Christmas Carol does come in numerous varieties,
With ones for the aged and the youths of societies.
We both liked Miss Christie’s seasonal fair;
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, beware!
Gems hidden in dinner and Poirot prowling round;
Of intrigue and scheming Agatha does herself proud.
The mood then turns sombre, and tears do unfurl
As we consider the fate of Andersen’s Little Match Girl;
Pitied by those who had not shown her kindness,
A lesson to all suffering poverty blindness.
Through a wardrobe we tumble to Narnia’s cold winter-scape,
From the Snow Queen’s harsh rule, we aim to escape;
With four adventurous children and a lion as guides,
Across frost covered hilltops we slip and we slide.
Then arriving home on our hearth, we lay out on a plate,
A pork pie, some turnips, for the Hogfather we wait;
To Pratchett’s Discworld we eagerly go,
Listening earnestly for the cry “HO. HO. HO.”
“Blooming Christmas here again!” is the cry we next hear
As Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas brings on some good cheer.
These famous tales suit a cold winter’s night
When each of should be all snuggled up tight;
So “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Christmas Reads

Get the fire on, put on your slippers and pour yourself something Christmassy. That’s definitely a Snowball for me but hot chocolate will do. Settle down and get in the mood for the holidays with this selection of books.

Don’t worry about the shopping – that’s what the internet is for!

Xmas AfterAfter the Snow by Susannah Constantine

Christmas morning, 1969. All eleven-year-old Esme Munroe wants for Christmas is for her mother to be on one of her ‘good’ days – and, secretly, for a velvet riding hat. So when she finds an assortment of wet towels and dirty plates in her stocking, she’s just relieved Father Christmas remembered to stop at The Lodge this year. But later that day Esme’s mother disappears in the heavy snow. Even more mysteriously, only the Earl of Culcairn seems to know where she might have gone. Torn between protecting her mother and uncovering the secrets tumbling out of Culcairn Castle’s ornate closets, Esme realises that life will never be the same again after the snow.

Xmas UncommonThe uncommon life of Alfred Warner in six days by Juliet Conlin

Shortly before Christmas, 79-year-old Alfred Warner arrives at Berlin’s busy central train station, to meet his granddaughter Brynja for the first time. When she fails to arrive, Alfred, afraid and alone, is taken in by a stranger, Julia, who quickly realises that there is something remarkable about him.

Xmas ProjectThe Christmas project by Maxine Morrey

Professional organiser Kate has never been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O’Farrell is the most obnoxious – and heart-stoppingly gorgeous – man she has ever met. If he weren’t her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour. Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home. But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen.

Xmas ColdCold Christmas by Alastair Gunn

Nobody remembers the young men entering the abandoned London flat a few weeks ago. Nobody cares if they left. Until the unbearable smell of decay. DCI Antonia Hawkins is called in to view the dead men; three, lying neat in a row. There’s no damage to the bodies, no obvious cause of death. Is this a suicide pact? Or is that just how it’s meant to look? But Hawkins soon discovers the link between the three men. They had all been fascinated by the supernatural and the occult. And they had recently met in a tiny village just outside London. A village named Cold Christmas.

Xmas sevenSeven days of us by Francesca Hornak 

It’s Christmas, and the Birch family are coming together at their second home in Norfolk. Emma and Andrew’s daughter, Olivia, is back for the first time in years, and while Emma is elated at them all being under one roof, her younger, more frivolous daughter Phoebe is braced for inevitable clashes. But aid worker Olivia is only home because she has nowhere else to go. Having recently returned from Africa, where she’s been treating a life-threatening virus, she has been told that she must stay in quarantine for a week, and so, too should her family. For the next seven days, no one can leave the house, and no one can enter. It doesn’t sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they’re all harbouring secrets.

Xmas cakesChristmas cakes & mistletoe nights by Carole Matthews

Fay and Danny are madly in love and it’s all Fay’s ever dreamed of. But she left everything – including the delightful cake shop she used to run – to be with Danny on his cosy canal boat The Dreamcatcher. And as she soon finds out, making delicious cakes on the water isn’t always smooth sailing! Then Fay gets a call from her friends, a call that sends her back to where it all began, back to where she first met Danny, back to her friends and the Cake Shop in the Garden. It will be hard being away from Danny but their relationship is strong enough to survive – isn’t it? Fay soon falls happily back in love with her passion for baking – especially now she’s on dry land again! – and starts to wonder if she ever should have left.

Xmas wellThe well of ice by Andrea Carter

Mid-December in Glendara and solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is working flat-out on the usual raft of sale closings before Christmas, so the last thing she needs is a complaint about noise emanating from the Oak pub. The one bright spot on the horizon is the anticipation of her first Christmas with Sergeant Tom Molloy. In Dublin to close another sale, she walks out onto the street. Two trams pass each other, and staring at her from across the tracks is Luke Kirby, the man who killed her sister. He approaches her, remorseful, conciliatory, plausible. She walks away. But as she does so, he says something that chills her to the bone. Back in Inishowen, Glendara is in chaos. The Oak has burned down. To make matters worse Carole Kearney, the Oak’s barmaid, is missing. And then on Christmas morning, a walk up Sliabh Sneacht results in a gruesome discovery: a body found face-down in the snow.

And a few for the kids:-

Xmas soulsChristmas dinner of souls by Ross Montgomery

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lucas, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive – and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. They demand bottle after bottle of wine, flinging their cutlery and howling like banshees until – silence. The Dean of Soul’s College has arrived, and the evening’s ceremonies must begin. For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas.

Xmas LeopardThe storm leopards by Holly Webb

 The countdown to Christmas has begun, and Isabelle and her family take a trip to a nearby zoo, where Isabelle catches a glimpse of a snow leopard. Fascinated by these rare and secretive creatures, Isabelle tries to find out what she can do to help them. Little does she know she’s about to have an amazing snow leopard adventure of her own.

Xmas fatherFather Christmas and me by Matt Haig

It isn’t always easy, growing up as a human in Elfhelm, even if your adoptive parents are the newly married Father Christmas and Mary Christmas. For one thing, Elf School can be annoying when you have to sing Christmas songs every day – even in July – and when you fail all your toy-making tests. Also it can get very, very cold.But when the jealous Easter Bunny and his rabbit army launch an attack to stop Christmas, it’s up to Amelia, her new family and the elves to keep Christmas alive. Before it’s too late . . .

Xmas saurusThe Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

This is a story about a boy named William Trundle, and a dinosaur, the Christmasaurus. It’s about how they meet one Christmas Eve and have a magical adventure. It’s about friendship and families, sleigh bells and Santa, singing elves and flying reindeer, music and magic. It’s about discovering your heart’s true desire, and learning that the impossible might just be possible.

And some to read out loud:-

Xmas huglessMerry Christmas, Hugless Douglas by David Melling

Hugless Douglas knows what Christmas is all about – it’s excitement, lots of deep snow, finding a tree, sledging and being with friends. And one more thing of course – Christmas hugs!

Xmas wantAll I want for Christmas by Rachel Bright

The countdown to Christmas has begun and there is so much for Little Penguin to be excited about: decorating the tree, cooking festive treats, sending a letter to Santa, wrapping presents, and much more. But what does Big Penguin want for Christmas? The answer will warm the hearts of every penguin, big or small!

xmas itsIt’s Christmas! by Tracey Corderoy

Otto is SO excited for Christmas! He makes Dad’s Christmas cookies look even better by adding globs of frosting and LOTS of sprinkles. When Mom uses new ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree, Otto decides that they need all of the old ornaments, too-especially the star that never stops blinking! But Otto isn’t done-he’s determined to make this holiday the most Christmassy Christmas ever!








Literary Challenges

Louise – Senior Librarian Manager – Local & Family History

Lou WutheringWhen I found the BBC list of 100 books you should read before you die I must admit to feeling quite smug.  Here I am a graduate with an English degree, 17 years’ experience of working in libraries and reading as a favourite pass time, surely I can score highly on this list.  However it was not to be, I was brought back down to earth with a score barely in the twenties, and while my English course had covered some of the lists authors, they were not the right books to allow me to tick them off the list.  And so began my literary challenge, my aim to complete at least two thirds of the list, why not the full thing? Because I know there are some on it I have no interest in reading and I fully believe that life is too short to read a book that doesn’t grip you.  I started with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and found to my surprise it was not at all the story I thought it would be, thanks to overly romanticised TV adaptations and one Kate Bush song I really thought this was an epic romantic tale, instead I found a book full a characters I really couldn’t like, spoiled, abused, abusive and cruel these were lives to be endured not rooted for, but it did grip me, and so I look forward to continuing on and finding more from this list of classic and contemporary books to keep me invested.

lou AnimalSo far I’ve discovered that ‘Animal Farm’ is as relevant to today’s political landscape as the time it was written, that the minor characters of Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ are as fascinating as the main ones (I mean you Mr Wemmick), and that Roald Dahl is as enjoyable now as he was when I was young.  So far this challenge has allowed me to focus my reading, and I’ve read more in the last 6 months than in the year leading up to it adding another 12 to my running total. I’ve begun to read outside my comfort zone, enjoying books I never thought I’d been interested in.  The challenge has also reinvigorated my reading and I’m spending less time in front of the TV and internet and more time curled up with a book, it also sparked conversations with colleagues who I found out have a number of literary challenges of their own.

Antony – Deputy Manager – Local & Family History

My reading challenge – started ten-years ago, and still ongoing – is to read one book for each entry in the Dewey sequence (e.g. 172, 389, 505, etc). That’s a lot of books – and I’ve only managed around forty in that time. That’s OK, though, because the challenge was really only designed as a way to focus my reading when I had nothing specific in mind to pick-up next: confronted with the myriad of possible options presented in any public library, all equally valid and thus impossible to choose between, I needed a system that would help me work my way through that maze – and so the Dewey Sequence challenge was born. A secondary purpose: the challenge would oblige me to read books that I wouldn’t normally choose (so no ticking off as complete just because I knew I’d previously read a book for that sequence number).

What have been the most and least interesting books? Well, I don’t really want to single anything out as being dull, because I firmly believe that no amount of learning about the world is ever wasted (another motivation for the challenge) – but I do have to admit that titles such as Teach Yourself: Windows Vista (005) and  Skywriting: The Best of Air Jamaica’s In-Flight Magazine (052) were, let’s say, a bit niche (albeit that reading the latter did mean I’ll never forget the name of Jamaica’s first Premier, Norman Manley).

Lou NaturalAs for the best reads – Roger Clarke’s A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting For Proof (133) stands out in a relatively crowded field, just above books such as Phillip Blom’s Encyclopédie : the Triumph of Reason in an Unreasonable Age (034), Phillip Knightley’s The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Vietnam (070), and Melissa Katsoulis’ Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes (098). Most recently I’ve read Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die (300), which in some ways perfectly sums up the challenge: I’m not sure I completely agree with every argument made in the book – but I’ve at least opened myself up to the kinds of perspectives that I wouldn’t usually be confronted with; a core purpose, surely, for any public library service.

Helen – Librarian – Local & Family History

I set myself a literary challenge many years ago and I am still slowly working my way through it. In my youth I was a big fan of the band The Divine Comedy. If you’re not familiar with the name then you may remember the theme tune to Father Ted as well as the (fictional) Eurovision entry ‘My Lovely Horse’ – both written and performed by the band. In 1994 the Divine Comedy released their third album Promenade and track 3 features an unusual song entitled The Booklovers. The song itself is little more than a list of authors followed by a greeting or reference to a piece of their work. For example, we hear singer and songwriter, Neil Hannon, recite ‘Graham Greene’ followed by the words ‘Call me ‘pinky’, lovely’ (a reference to Greene’s Brighton Rock)’.  The song clocks in at nearly 6 minutes long and over 70 authors are mentioned in total.

Lou MobyLong ago I decided that I would read something by each of these authors. Luckily the list is of fairly well known writers so getting hold of works by each has not been a problem so far, especially working in a library… I’ve managed to read 33 of  the authors so far, possibly more, but if I cannot recall the storyline of a particular work then I’ve discounted it and will have to read it again sometime for it to properly ‘count’. Through this song I’ve discovered many of the classics of literature including Melville’s Moby Dick, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and one of my all-time favourites Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

Ross – Librarian Manager – Local & Family History

I’ve set myself a reading challenge based on the traditional Japanese parlour game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, usually translated as ‘A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales’. The game became popular in the 17th Century and often an entire village would play. After sunset, villagers would gather in a darkened house and light a hundred candles. Each would then relate a strange or supernatural tale, finishing by blowing out one of the flames. The game would continue long into the night, and it would be up to those present whether or not they dared extinguish the last remaining candle. (As well as being a frightening prospect in itself, doing so was also believed to summon a demon!) In my version of the game, I plan to read a hundred ghost stories, blogging about each as I go. I’ll try anything from Victorian classics to modern creepypasta, but I definitely intend to include some works by the Japanese author Ryunosuke Akutagawa, who’s written some brilliantly spooky-sounding short stories but is better-known for Rashomon. I probably won’t get going until December (that being perfect ghost story season) but, if you want to follow my progress, you can do so at: 100flickeringflames.blogspot.co.uk

Sally – Deputy Manager – Local & Family History

Lou HarryTo coincide with our latest exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic I set my self the challenge to read the Harry Potter book series. To everyone’s dismay I have never given the books a proper chance, and even more embarrassingly I was the perfect age to read them when they came out, being ten years old when The Philosopher’s Stone was released – somehow they managed to pass me by and I never got past the second book…

Whilst still not quite finished, I’m ploughing through with a new found, and growing appreciation for the series.  I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition in London whilst working on our own here in Leeds Libraries along with watching live panel discussions on the books and their effect on the world – working with and understanding our special collections which are on display in our exhibition has enabled me to put clear links between legendary literature and the hard work and real magic Jk Rowling put into the series. I’m excited to finish and become a fully-fledged fan!

So those are our literary challenges, I think a common theme appears to be that these challenges will take time, in some case decades to complete and while reading off list is fine in some ways it’s nice to have something to come back to.  Do you have a literary challenge of your own?  If so please let us know in the comments box below.

Librarian’s Choice: Crime Favourites

This blog comes from Lynn, a Senior Community Librarian based in the south of Leeds.

Although I love reading and will read anything and everything I am particularly drawn towards crime, especially those with a psychological edge.
I’ve picked a few of my more recent reads to share, I hope you enjoy them!

Lynn The OneThe One by John Marrs

Oh wow, this book gripped me from the start,  I couldn’t put it down. It features matchmaking with a difference, where a simple DNA test will match you with your perfect DNA genetic match. But of course nothing is a simple as that because of course we all have secrets. What if your match lives at the other side of the world or is a serial killer, what do you do? I felt the confusion, the excitement and fear of all the characters in this excellent read.

Lynn Gone without traceGone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen

A brilliant novel of psychological suspense that asks, if the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why? Hannah Monroe’s boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house, images removed from social media, he’s not at work, it’s almost as if he never existed! All is not as it seems.

Lynn CoupleThe couple next door by Shari Lapena

A great debut psychological thriller novel. A dinner party next door is not a good night out. The wife Cynthia is all over Anne’s husband Marco and the birthday boy Graham is his usually boring self. Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels at the last minute, and Anne is persuaded to leave the baby and to rely on the baby monitor. Hours tick by and Anne’s unease increases – they return home after midnight to find the baby gone and she and her husband are the chief suspects. The twists and turns of the plot will you keep you on your toes.

Lynn Apple Tree YardApple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Yvonne Carmichael is a strong independent professional woman who embarks on an ill-fated affair with a mysterious man she meets at the houses of parliament. They both end up in court charged with murder after many plot twists, lies, and intrigue. This book is both creepy and compelling with devastating consequences for all concerned. The book in my opinion is much better than the tv adaption.

Lynn Something wickedSomething wicked by Kerry Wilkinson

Nicholas Carr disappears on his 18th birthday, the world moves on except for his father, Richard. His last hope is Andrew Hunter, a private investigator. Andrew will need to go back to basics to try and find out what has happened to Nicholas, revisiting the site where three of Nicholas’s fingers were found and talking to friends and family. Andrew and his assistant mysterious assistant Jenny delve further into Nicholas’s life and discover he was getting involved in something dangerous……

And for a crime novel with a very local flavour:-

Lynn Skin Like SilverSkin like silver by Chris Nickson

This book features Detective Tom Harper and is set in Leeds in October 1891. An unclaimed parcel at the Central post office is discovered to contain the body of a baby boy. A fire at the railway station leaves a fireman dead and the body of a young woman is recovered, although it soon becomes apparent her death isn’t as a result of the fire. Tom works with former colleague Billy (now a fireman) to solve the case and during their investigations they find links to the suffrage and socialist causes, votes for women, abusive husbands and much more. The story reveals a lot about the political agenda at the time and the changing role of women including that of Tom’s wife. The plot builds to a violent end.

Book Advent

This blog is from Rachel, the children’s librarian in Central library.

Book AdventWe are approaching that magical time of year where we count the days till Christmas. I have a daughter who has just turned 3 and doesn’t like eating chocolate (I know it’s hard to believe). So for us chocolate advent calendars are just not that exciting. The one thing she really does love is having stories read to her especially at bedtime. We are strong advocates of the Books Trust’s Bath, Book and Bed campaign, see more here. Each year we just combine the two things, bedtime story and advent and make it a little bit more special in the build up to Christmas Eve. I select 24 picture or board books and individually wrap them with a number tag on, 1-24. Each day we unwrap the book to read for that day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make books exciting, enjoy those quiet moments of bonding and learn about Christmas traditions.

24 books sounds a lot, but that’s the brilliance of the library service, I just borrow the majority of them. I use some old books we already have at home, I’ll buy a couple of new books for her collection and borrow the rest. I like to get a mix of stories, some about sharing, giving and kindness and some that tell the tale of Christmas traditions. Here are some of my favourites.

Rachel GiantThe Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson.

A story of kindness, sharing and giving. George was very happy being the scruffiest giant in town. But one day, when he sees a shop stocking giant-size clothes, he decides it’s time to update his image. With smart clothes, George is a new man. However, as he goes home, he meets various animals who desperately need his help

Rachel JollyThe Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg.

A lovely story about letters at Christmas time. It’s Christmas Eve and the jolly postman is delivering greetings to various fairy-tale characters – there’s a card for Baby Bear, a game called ‘Beware’ for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf and four more surprise envelopes.

Rachel FatherFather Christmas by Raymond Briggs.

Meet Father Christmas: a very human gift-giver with a tough job to do. You’ll find out that he sometimes gets a little grumpy living at the icy North Pole and squeezing down chimneys, but he more than makes up for it in heart and
humor. Raymond Briggs brings this endearing character to life in over 100 wonderfully illustrated vignettes that follow the adventures of Father Christmas on his big night of the year.

Rachel StickStick Man by Julia Donaldson.

Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three’. But it’s dangerous being a Stick Man. A dog wants to play with him, a swan builds her nest with him. He even ends up on a fire! Join Stick Man on his troublesome journey back to the family tree.

Rachel StockingThe Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis.

This is a fun story about siblings being naughty or nice but ultimately being kind and doing the right thing. It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is asking – have you been good this year? For twins Sam and Charlie this is a big worry. Charlie has been especially naughty and everyone is sure she won’t get any presents at all. But when Santa makes a mistake, it’s up to Charlie to put things right. Will her last-minute act of kindness be enough?

Rachel weeFather Christmas Needs A Wee by Nicholas Allan.

At each different house that he visits, Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. Before long he really, really, really needs a wee. Find out what happens, and whether Father Christmas ever gets to relieve himself, in this funny counting book from Nicholas Allan

Rachel nightThe Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore.

A classic magical story of the Christmas Eve. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. Clement Moore’s popular festive poem about a visit from Santa Claus, illustrated in colour by Tomie DePaola, is a delight to share with children.


Librarian’s Choice: Books with Pictures

This blog post comes from Kate, a community librarian based in the east of the city.

I thought about organising my recommendations for illustrated books by age group, or category but in the end I decided against it. “Picture Books” are still often regarded as the territory of small children, but I hope this selection proves that is not the case.

Kate Iron ManThe Iron Man by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin

This is a classic modern fairy tale of a boy who befriends a dangerous, but misunderstood, metal guzzling robot who goes on to save the world. In this edition Laura Carlin’s stunning illustrations evoke a real sense of drama. The book includes gatefold pages and peep holes giving a physical dimension to sections of building tension as well as the huge scale of the story and its monsters.
The striking images and simple drama of Hughes’ text are so successful at creating the world of The Iron Man that I find myself getting lost between the pages of this book over and over again. The message of love and peace is universal, applicable across age groups and decades.

Kate SallySally Heathcote, Suffragette– by Mary M. Talbot artist- Kate Charlesworth

Telling the story of Sally Heathcote, a character of a maid working for Emmeline Pankhurst in turn of the century Manchester, the graphic novel offers another way into the world of the suffragettes. As a reader, you journey through time with Sally, watching the movement progress and the main character become more informed, better educated and increasingly politically involved. Using the personal viewpoint of Sally gives already shocking elements of the story, such as the force feeding of political prisoners, even more intensity and brings home both the horror of the event and the strength of the women who went through it.

The format of the graphic novel drew me in to the narrative, immersing me in the emotional and political turmoil experienced by activists whilst also feeding me information about the struggle through the inclusion of headline events and important dates. The artist uses gentle tones throughout, but with shocks of colour, including Sally’s red hair that show the passion and strength of the women. The purple, green and white of the suffragette movement are also prominent and the pictures deliver a lasting visual impression of the determination of the women involved. Whether as an introduction to the subject, or as an emotive read for those already familiar with the facts, I think this powerful book is well worth a read.

Kate BearSomething About a Bear written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

On a recent trip to our suppliers to purchase children’s non-fiction books, I couldn’t tear myself away from the gaze of the beautiful brown bear gazing out from the cover of this book. Every double page spread is filled with an immense and detailed painting of bears and poetic descriptions of the species and how they live. Despite undeniably offering an education on bears, this book is far from being a typical information book. I challenge you to walk past this book on a shelf without picking it up and burying yourself in its pages.

Kate ChildA Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Anyone who knows much about my reading habits will not be surprised to see a book by Oliver Jeffers on this list. They may be surprised to see only one and I must admit it was a hard choice. If you are not familiar with his work, get out there and explore it!

The plot follows a little girl leading a boy on an adventure of the imagination through the varied worlds of literature but A Child of Books if much more than a story- it’s a mantra for reading, a reminder about the importance and magic of the imagination. Would it go too far to say that this should be compulsory reading for all children, parents, educators, librarians, those who love books and those who don’t…?
Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers collaborated on the illustrations combining Jeffers’ stylish line drawings and Winston’s typography to create a world truly made of books which the characters explore. Winston has used extracts from children’s classics from appropriate genres to match each setting. The illustrations in this book not only strengthen the story but add a historical, literary dimension encouraging readers to explore literature beyond the picture book world.

Kate MonsterA Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness illustrated by Jim Kay

This is the heart-breaking story of a real life nightmare as teenaged Connor struggles with the impending loss of his mother to cancer. Visited nightly by a monster, telling dark and twisted tales, Connor comes face to face with his situation and learns a difficult and upsetting truth.

There are many editions of this beautiful story available, and it has also been made into an amazing film, but this illustrated version, with its dark, tangled illustrations is particularly haunting. Kay’s pictures evoke the deep sense of oncoming doom felt by Connor. If you can bear the heart-break of the inevitable ending, choose to read this illustrated version of the book.

Kate HatThis is Not my Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

My favourite of a trilogy of picture books by Jon Klassen featuring hats, conflict and controversy, This is Not my Hat tells the story of a small but plucky fish who has stolen the hat of a much larger fish. Klassen’s bold pictures give a sense of dramatic irony as the text relates the little fish’s thoughts and the illustrations show us what’s really going on! I highly recommend all three titles, the other two being I Want my Hat Back and We Found a hat. Fabulous to share with children (those who can’t or won’t read will certainly want to “read” the pictures) or to take pleasure in on your own (I bought a copy for my Dad for father’s day and he loves it).

Kate ShackletonShackleton’s Journey written and illustrated by William Grill

Telling the epic survival story of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of The Endeavour, there is something about the size of this book along with the glorious double page spreads, which give the reader a sense of the scale of the adventure.
Some of my favourite pages include those which feature an illustration of each member of the crew along with their names and roles on board and the page which pictorially lists all of the equipment and supplies taken on the expedition. As the journey progresses, you are treated to dramatic seascapes in tones of blue, black and white. The text may seem minimal in comparison to the pictures, but it tells the true story in a narrative style that entertains and informs. This is a luxurious non-fiction book that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.

Kate LovelaceThe Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: the (mostly) true story of the first computer written and illustrated by Sydney Padua

This graphic novel takes place in a fictional history where Charles Babbage completed the building of his Analytical Engine and teams up with Ada Lovelace for a series of adventures. The pair bump into various historical figures including George Eliot and Queen Victoria in comical but historically relevant scenarios.
Bold, steampunk inspired illustrations successfully engage the reader into wanting to know more about the topic and the copious footnotes, endnotes and appendixes comply, straightening out the facts from the fiction.
This is one for computing enthusiasts, comic lovers and the uninitiated alike!