“I swear to tell the post-truth, the alternative truth and nothing like the truth”.

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We live in strange times. The new US President has made very clear that Truth is a flexible commodity and that News will be faked. To underline this, we find that post-truth is the Oxford Dictionaries 2016 Word of the Year.  … Continue reading

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2017 Arts Society: Book a ticket now!

Full details from the Library.  Please book an Opera ASAP. All Tickets £5!

Halle Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Thursday 26 January
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Friday 3 February
The Woman in Black Theatre Royal Tuesday 21 February
Vienna Tonkunstler Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Wednesday I March
Paradise Lost (is open before me) Playhouse Friday 10 March
The Grapes of Wrath Playhouse Wednesday 29 March
Opera North:

Hansel and Gretel


La Cenerentola


The Snow Maiden


Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal


Theatre Royal


Wednesday 22 March


Thursday 23 March


Friday 24 March

Halle Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Saturday 29 April
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My Favourite Book of 2016.

Right at the end of the dying year I started hearing about a book that was getting huge respect in the Young Adult realm, particularly the UK YA blogs.  Although the first book in the South Crongton Trilogy Liccle Bit had been published in 2015, it was Alex Wheatle’s second YA book Crongton Knights that has really started gaining ground for him.  In November 2016 it won the 2016 Guardian Children’s Fiction Award, this month it has become the choice for the @MidlandsCLS (Creative Learning Services) 9 for 9 Challenge and was named on the @readingagency #MoodBoostingBooks List.  I haven’t checked but having read it, I know it won’t stop there.

Crongton Knights is the story of a group of friends who go to retrieve a phone from an older ex-boyfriend of one of their group.  She had used it for sexting him and now more mortified for her own under-age mistake than aware of his sexual abuse, was desperate to get it back.  Knights without armour, terrified but determined, the group had to take the bus to a neighbouring estate where different gangs ran the area and weren’t going to appreciate the visit.

The writing is both very funny and deadly serious; brutal and tender.  Very unpredictable but with a pace and coherence that pulls you along even through places you’d rather avoid.    Dialogue driven with an adapted street slang which  emphasizes the complete otherness of how many young people live today, it is nevertheless deeply recognizable.

What is so brilliantly remarkable about this book, along with the very best of the contemporary YA stable, is the absence of armour.  Wheatle shows us the real courage it  takes to navigate through an environment of broken rules for which you are ill-equipped, and the consolations of open friendship and self-control.

I’m looking forward to April and the third in the trilogy, Straight Outta Crompton.  I’ve a few readers here tapping their fingers.

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“Twelve Words of Christmas” A selection…

The third can, the second needle, the last penny, his final Christmas. Ben W. Y9 One year his present was life.  This year he gave it back.  Thomas B. Y9 Gaze upon the fireplace. Sit with the family. Celebrate altogether. … Continue reading

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The 2016 Library Christmas Quiz

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The Twelve Words of Christmas

The 12 Words of Christmas Competition 2016 Write a 12 word story/poem on a Christmas/winter theme. Prize for the best pupil entry and one for Staff. (independent adjudicator) Entries to the Library by 13th December at 1.00.    

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The Rest Of Us Just Live Here vs All of the Above.

dawson-ness-001In the past few weeks I’ve read two acclaimed YA books both published in 2015 and both by high profile YA Authors. The similarities between the two stories are striking with themes of identity, change, loyalty and Coming of Age. I thought I’d compare the two and see why I thought one was very good and the other was not.

All of The Above by James Dawson is set in an English seaside town in the final year of school for a group of friends, seen through the eyes of a new girl. The characters are well written and recognisable; dealing with various issues as they study for their final exams; sexuality, eating disorder, self-harm, mixed heritage and parental alcoholism alongside a disconnect from what seems like a rigid hegemony. All treated with a light touch and no easy answers. This makes it reassuringly unpredictable without seeming contrived. I think any but the most self-assured teenager with find a friend in this book. The ending is generous without being trite. It’s a lovely book.

Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here, set in a fantasy American lakeside town, has exactly the same ingredients but with Alzheimer’s and media intrusion thrown in. Where it differs is in a parallel fantasy story, told in the form of a synopsis at the beginning of each chapter about a different group of students (the indie kids) who are trying to save the world, and are being killed. There is an overlap between the worlds which involves an exploding school and sinister police but the parallel story is difficult to follow and breaks up the rhythm of the primary story. Added to that, Jared the gay character, is a Cat God.   Now, it has been pointed out that Ness might have been satirising the YA genre. Certainly his Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls were too good to not see this book as a bit of a hotch-potch of tropes. But I couldn’t identify the tone of the parallel story or the humour so it didn’t work for me. Ness, however, is up for all the prizes. Read them yourself and let me know what you think.

I also enjoyed the Goodreads reviews such as:


— “This may be one of the most pointless books I have ever read”.

+   “It’s a hilarious combination of contemporary profoundness and overly cliché paranormal romance”.


— “This book was most possibly the worst book I’ve read this year or ever. I don’t know what you, James thought by writing this book”.

+ “A very enchanting, honest and engaging novel of what it’s mainly like to be a teenager growing up in England”.

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Arts Society Programme Autumn 2016

Arts Soc                         All students tickets £5.00 from the Library.  Sign up today.

Sleuth Playhouse Thursday 22 Sept 7.45
The Underground Man Playhouse Tuesday 4 October 8.00
Darkness, Darkness Playhouse Tuesday 11 October 7.45
Halle Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Wednesday 12 October 7.30
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Royal Concert Hall Fri 21 October 7.30
The Revenger’s Tragedy Playhouse Tuesday 8 November 7.30
Opera North: Billy Budd Theatre Royal Thursday 17 November 7.00
A Tale of Two Cities Theatre Royal Weds 23 November 7.30
London Philharmonic Royal Concert Hall Sat 3 December 7.30
Halle Christmas Concert Royal Concert Hall Weds 14 December 7.30




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To Read: what we had to learn.

book-1293414_640For those of us who find reading a slog, who find it hard to get immersed in a book and who never really understood why other people could read so much better than us, it may come as some comfort to see the development hurdles we have to get across in order to start to access the world of Literature.  Where are you in the process?

Emerging pre-reader (on parent’s knee); Novice reader – breaking up words, pronouncing; Decoding Reader – Expression and comprehension; Fluent Reader – Not speedy but fast enough to comprehend the parallel universe of the book. Being able to think about what we read as we read it. Emotional (and intellectual) engagement with the text; EXPERT READER.  Lucky you.  Here is how it happened…

Phonological DevelopmentHearing, segmenting, understanding small units of sound, using letter sounds to decode.

Orthographic Development: Visual aspects of print, features of letters, common letter patterns. Sight.

Semantic and Pragmatic Development:  Learning the meanings and words from the language and culture around  helps us to recognise a word and comprehend quicker. The educated guess.


ISBN 978-184831030-8

Syntactic Development: Grammatical forms and structures of sentences. Enables us to make sense of the ways words are used to construct sentences, paragraphs, stories. Teaches us how events relate to each other in the text.

Morphological Development:  How words are formed from smaller, meaningful roots and units of meaning. ie: un and ed, helping you to read and recognise faster.

A good short term memory.

Learning to read is very complex. Sometimes it takes years. Stick at it.

This information is gleaned from this fascinating book.  I wish I’d known earlier.


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UKYA Vlogs and Blogs and Book Tubing

In the past month via some serendipitous tweets @SeniorLibNHS   I have come across a rich vein of articles, blog posts and book tubes about childrens’ and Young Adult novels that completely open up the world of current and classic fiction for anyone over twelve (i’d guess).   Many very good blogs are written by publishers and editors in their professional capacity, many by authors and many are written by older people like me who love books and work to promote books and reading every day.  The vast majority of book bloggers and book tubers seem to be from the US who had a head start with social media.  The range is massive and of course very connected.  So I thought I’d pick a small selection of bloggers and vloggers that are actual UK Young Adults to give a taste of the vast UKYA community of readers and reviewers in the blogsphere/vlogsphere. Be inspired.  People are interested in what you read.  Join the conversation.

bring-paperback Bringing Paperback






Delve into Dystopia






Luna’s Little Library


Pewter-Wolf-1  The Pewter Wolf




BookTube is an incredibly vibrant community of people who vlog (that’s video blog for those of you who are unfamiliar with the lingo) about books on YouTube.

Enjoy a bookshelf tour at

Shoutame  8,479 subscribers 244,190 views
Joined YouTube 19 Nov 2010

The Readables • 4,346,653 views
Joined YouTube 1 Aug 2010

Read all the Books 2,733 subscribers 50,525 views
Joined YouTube 3 Feb 2015


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