I attended this event last year and loved every minute of it, so naturally I was eagerly anticipating this year’s Children’s Book Day. This is an event organized by Central Bedfordshire/Bedford Borough libraries for staff to meet and discuss a selection of titles and to hear guest speakers. It is hosted at Flitwick Library.
This year the ‘set’ books were:
J.A. Buckle Half of my Facebook Friends are Ferrets
Sally Green Half Bad
E. Lockhart We were Liars
Cat Patrick Just Like Fate
G.R. Gemin Cowgirl
Philip Reeve Cakes in Space
Emer Stamp Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig
Lara Williamson A Boy Called Hope
Lauren Child The New Small Person
Emma Dodd The Entertainer
Sue Hendra Supertato
Sue Pickford Bob and Rob
Julie Rhodes & The Very Noisy House
Mark Sperring Max and the Won’t Go To Bed Show
If I remember correctly, this is one book less than last year, which was a promising start. Last year we only had about six weeks to read fifteen titles, and we had to share each copy between four people. This meant we had to juggle and rotate the titles and at times had to wait for someone else to finish a title. It felt quite pressured and I only just managed it. To be honest, I was surprised that I did manage it! Of course, it helps that the biggest section is the picture books, which only take five minutes to read.
It was still quite a commitment to read all fourteen books this year, though we did have longer. We got the titles on November 27th 2014, which gave us three and a half months – fourteen weeks, or a book a week. Plus there were only two of us from my branch this year, so we managed to work around each other quite well. The added pressure for me this year was that I also had to fit in reading titles for my Chatterbooks group every month – so my personal reading for pleasure was well and truly on hold.
Nevertheless, I approached the task with enthusiasm.
To give me a psychological advantage, I read all six picture books in my lunch break on the day they arrived. That way I ‘only’ had eight ahead of me. The downside of such an early start, of course, was that by the time the actual day rolled round, I’d pretty much forgotten the first titles I read. Good job I made notes and posted reviews on Goodreads so that I could refresh my memory.
Having got the short books under my belt, I deliberately chose the longest one next – Half Bad. I quite liked this, enough to want to read the sequel when it comes out, but I agree with colleagues that it was a bit slow going in places.
I’m not going to comment at any length on every title here. Check out Goodreads if you’re interested – or read Amazon reviews.
I will say that I didn’t agree with all the ‘winners’ on the day.
‘The Entertainer’ was voted best Picture book. I liked it a lot, but it would have been my second choice. My vote went to ‘Max and the Won’t Go To Bed Show’.
I was amazed that ‘Just Like Fate’ garnered the fewest votes in the teen category – I thought it was by far the best. ‘We Were Liars’ came second, and that one just didn’t work for me – despite reading it twice. I think that is very much a ‘Marmite’ title, you either love it or hate it. Maybe I just went into it with my expectations too high. I thought it was over-hyped and disappointing. “Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets’ won. I confess I wasn’t that enamored of this one at first, but I warmed to it much more on a second reading.
The junior category was really a game of two halves. ‘Cakes in Space’ and the ‘Unbelievable Top Secret Diary of Pig’ are firmly aimed at the younger end of the group. I found both very irritating, and I love Children’s books. “Cowgirl’ and ‘A Boy called Hope’ are for more mature junior readers, nearer the ‘pre-teen’ end. Both were endearing, with ‘Cowgirl’ a worthy winner, and in this case the one that got my vote.
’Cowgirl’ is a real ‘feel-good’ story and one that would make a great ‘moo-vie’ as the author puts it. I could easily see it as a TV movie on afternoon telly as I was reading it. It could even become a classic like ‘The Railway Children’. It is charming. The author Giancarlo Gemin (@grgemin) was one of the guest speakers and he was very interesting and engaging. We learnt a lot about his books, and a lot about cows! Also, it was interesting to hear about the Welsh scheme ‘E-CALM’ – Every Child A Library Member. Amen to that.
The other speakers were equally interesting – Helen Freeman from Curious Fox publishers and author Tracey Corderoy, who challenged us to create some craft activities around the picture books we’d read, using very limited resources and only a short time. I think we all earned our ‘Blue Peter’ badges!
As a wannabe Children’s Picture Book author I was very interested to hear that Curious Fox accepts un-agented pitches direct to their own slush pile. I will most definitely be trying my luck with them. They are a relatively new company but with a background and affiliations with more long-standing and experienced professionals. I liked the sound of their friendly, ‘family’ approach. Who knows, this could be the one? Fingers crossed.
All in all I had a wonderful day.
There has been some talk of this being the last one of these events. I do hope that isn’t the case. It is a brilliant excuse to read books we wouldn’t normally look twice at. It is a great chance to meet and engage with colleagues from other branches. It is a marvelous opportunity to hear guest speakers from various aspects of the literary world and ask them questions.
Long may it continue.
I can’t wait for next year’s selection of books.