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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Revision: That Time of Year

Early summer term and it seems like a good time to look at what will help you revise because almost certainly you’ll be spending longer in the school library than usual and it would be good to make that time super-effective. How to stop it becoming a slog?

The Basics.

You may hate these but they are proven and if you ignore them you are already on the back foot.  2036-001

  1. Eating regularly a balanced diet especially breakfast
  2. Quality beauty sleep. Phone off.
  3. Exercise and fresh air.  Go outside.

Treat yourself like a racehorse and build stamina.

The Specifics

Sitting gazing at a generic revision guide has to be at the bottom of the best-value-for-time ratio.

pocket watchPlan your time.  Create a timetable and change your daily routine to accommodate it.  You may be able to concentrate for 20 minutes or for 60 minutes but then get a drink, visit the bathroom, change focus.  Restrict your access to the phone during the work period.

Get organised.  You have notes from classwork designed specifically for this.  Put them in order and check they are complete.  Add them to the revision guidance from your teachers.  Work through them methodically.organised

Change the form of the information: Write memory cards for data, dates and prompts, keywords and useful quotations.  Mind map information relationships, links and connections. Summarise.

Test yourself. Testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information. Do questions from test papers. Later, time yourself answering questions.

Repeat at intervals. Spread out your revision sessions on a particular topic over days or weeks.  Cover things several times.  Going back over sections with space in-between increases your recall.  You will soon be able to see the improvement.

Explain to someone or work where you can talk to yourself without scaring anyone. (Lower School Library probably).  Organising information in your head as if you are telling someone will build your confidence in what you know and show up your gaps.Advice

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¡Hola! World Book Day

smart-978144723667201WBD2015_yellow_leftdown-01Thursday March 3rd is World Book Day for the UK. Nottingham author Kim Slater is visiting us for a round of Year 7 Writing Workshops with her first novel, Smart, receiving multiple book award nominations and four prizes to date. Slater has produced a very convincing contemporary murder mystery with a light touch for addressing difficult issues. I recommend it. Her second book, A Seven Letter Word, will be published on March 24th.

The concept of a national book giving day could be said to originate in 16th Century Spain with the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author, poet and playwright on April 23rd 1616, the same day as Shakespeare. In 1928, Spanish booksellers in Catalonia made April 23rd an annual day to celebrate the life and work of Spain’s greatest writer and this being The Day of the Roses in Spain, the tradition of giving presents on the day became a tradition of giving books in memory of Cervantes. In 1995, UNESCO chose this day for World Book and Copyright Day. For the Spanish, the importance of celebrating the culture of reading is reinforced by several very generous literary prizes including The Miguel de Cervantes Prize awarded annually on this day by the Ministry of Culture to honour the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer in the Spanish language, presented by the King of Spain. The event is also marked by two day readathon of Don Quixote, Cervantes most famous work.

Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be”. (Miguel de Cervantes)

Illustration by GA Harker

Illustration by GA Harker

In the UK, World Book Day has become a children’s event the date of which changes with Easter School Holidays. A Google search mainly returns websites about fancy dress costumes. Some might say that compared to our European counterparts, the UK has a dumbed down approach to Literary Culture. In a period of unprecedented Public and School library closure, I couldn’t possibly comment.


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Immerse yourself in Culture…

Arts Soc

Performance date
Pay by
Philharmonia Concert
Mozart, Mahler
Feb 5
Fri 29 Jan
Jane Eyre Theatre Royal
Feb 9
Tues 2 Feb
Any Means Necessary, Nottingham Playhouse
Feb 11
Thurs 4 Feb
Rambert Dance. Dark Arteries
Theatre Royal
Feb 23
Fri 13 Feb
BBC Philharmonic
Smetana, Dvorak, Bartok
Feb 26
Fri 13 Feb
Opera North
L’Elisir d’Amore
March 10
Thurs 3 March
BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ibert, Orff
March 12
Fri 4 March
The Glass Menagerie
Nottingham Playhouse
March 22
Tues 15 March
Hallé Orchestra
WW1 Memorial Concert
April 8
Wed 23 March
Discovering Prokofiev Concert
April 21
Wed 23 March
Noises Off
Nottingham Playhouse
April 28
Thurs 21 April
RSC A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Theatre Royal
May 3
Tues 26 April
Royal Philharmonic
Berlioz, Sibelius, Beethoven
May 12
Thurs 5 May
Hallé Orchestra
June 2
Friday 27 May
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Human Rights Day December 10th

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, was written 25 years ago by UNICEF, the part of the UN dedicated to children, and was ratified by 193 States of the UN. The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated recognising them as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity. By ratifying the Convention, 193 governments stated their intention to put this commitment into practice. State parties are obligated to amend and create laws and policies to fully implement the Convention; they must consider all actions taken in light of the best interests of the child.

CRCToday, as the movement of separated and unaccompanied children across the continent escaping war and hunger represents an immediate crisis within a crisis; at a time when Barnardos states there are currently 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK, over a quarter of all children,  with  1.7 million of these children living in severe poverty; when countless millions of children still suffer abuse, unequal access to education and justice in Industrialised and Developing countries around the world; there has never been a more urgent need to be aware of the Rights of the Child.

Everyone under the age of 18 has all the rights of this convention.

Many YA authors have taken this as their subject, directly or indirectly writing about the lives and rights of children with clarity and insight, humour and anger.  A vast wealth of high quality children’s literature is written with an urgent need to illuminate the many ways children and young people are left to manage in dangerous situations out of their own control or making.  The very best fiction in our school library reflects on these issues in a way that current adult popular fiction barely touches on.  In my view each book represents a kind of prayer for a better world.  They work to keep us focused on the job in hand.

Here are some of our favourites:
Reading your (Human)Rights on PhotoPeach

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Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Remember, Remember, Father Henry Garnet, O.N.

by Guest Blogger William Ruff

Garnet-with-strawIt is at this time of the year in particular that we remember a man who is perhaps the High School’s most historically important former pupil. When Henry Garnet died in 1606 he was much more notorious for his alleged involvement in the Gunpowder Plot than ever Guy Fawkes was.

Garnet was a pupil at the High School in the 1560s. His father Brian was Headmaster at the time, and his name can be seen on the board behind the Reception desk.  After a few years Henry went to Winchester College, then to London and ended up on the continent training to be a Jesuit priest.

HeadmastersAs it was treason under English law at the time to persuade anyone to become a Catholic – and as that was one of the main aims of the Jesuits – it was practically suicidal for Garnet when he was sent back to England in 1585. This meant that he and his travelling companion, Father Robert Southwell, had to spend their time in hiding, especially in the country houses of rich Catholic families, such as Baddesley Clinton and Coughton Court.  If you visit them, you can still see today the ‘priest-holes’ in which they were hidden by their fearful hosts.

Robert Southwell was eventually caught and put on trial. One of the most damning pieces of evidence against him was that he had told Catholics that it was justifiable to lie under oath, as long as this just meant using words misleadingly.

Following Southwell’s execution, Henry Garnet wrote a work which was to bring about his own downfall and make him the most notorious man in England. This was his Treatise on Equivocation, a text which attempted to justify using language in an ambiguous way – as practically the only means of defence that Catholics had against arrest and execution for treason.

After the failure of the Gunpowder Plot Garnet was hunted down and arrested. His was accused of conspiring with Robert Catesby and others to kill the King, the rest of the royal family and the English Government.  In fact, Garnet was a man of peace.  It is true that he knew of the Plot – but only because he was told by another Jesuit priest of what Catesby had said under the seal of the confessional.

However, the King and Government were determined to give Garnet a show trial (at which James I was present). They would not listen to any excuses as to why Garnet did not tell the authorities about the Plot – and, more significantly, Garnet was attacked because of his doctrine of equivocation.  It was essential for the Government to make a high-ranking Catholic priest into a devilish figure who promoted lying and deception.  This propaganda clearly worked, if only because Garnet (‘The Equivocator’) is specifically mentioned by Shakespeare in Macbeth, a play which is saturated in examples of ‘equivocation’.

It took the jury 15 minutes to find Garnet guilty of treason. On May 3 1606 he was dragged on a hurdle to St Paul’s churchyard to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  Before the rope was put round his neck the Bishops of London and Winchester stood on the scaffold with him trying to force him to confess to all sorts of crimes which he had not committed and trying to force him, at the last moment, to renounce his Catholicism and become a Protestant.  He refused.

Picture-1cUsually traitors were still alive when they were cut down from the gallows to be disemboweled. In Garnet’s case, people in the crowd pulled on his legs to ensure that he was already dead.  And rather than the usual cheers, only silence greeted the hangman’s traditional, gruesome words: ‘Behold the heart of a traitor.’

There is also a legend that a miracle occurred at the moment of Garnet’s death: his miniature portrait appearing on piece of straw from the scaffold.

So please spare a thought for Henry Garnet the next time you make a bonfire and light your fireworks to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot.

William Ruff (Guest Blogger)

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Seven Stories is 10 Years Old

Seven Stories

No, that is not a grammatical error.

Seven Stories is the home for British children’s literature, the National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. Housed in what used to be a Victorian mill with beautiful views of the Ouseburn River, Seven Stories (a play on words, it is a tall building) contains exhibitions, original artwork, writer’s manuscripts, the best independent Children’s bookshop in the country and space for events, research, and above all story-telling.

The Centre has a growing archive, preserving the collections of many of the key British authors we love including Philip Pullman, Enid Blyton, Judith Kerr (The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog) and Tom Westall (twice Carnegie Medal winner with Machine Gunners and Scarecrow). Despite Enid Blyton’s huge output and immense popularity, there is no other substantial archive of her work in any public institution anywhere in the UK.  This year Michael Morpurgo donated his entire archive to Seven Stories, as it stands now and for the remainder of his creative life.

story chairIt is a truism now to say that what we read as children is fundamentally important; seminal in our development of comprehension, nuance and empathy, and so many learning skills. But a dedicated Centre for British children’s fiction only came into being 10 years ago and even now seems new.

“Seven Stories is unique in Britain” says Kate Edwards, who has led Seven Stories as Chief Executive since 2007, “we set out to raise the profile and appreciation of children’s literature in Britain by celebrating the talented authors, illustrators and makers of children’s books.  A children’s book is work of art that we all can own, and for most children it will be the first experience of the art and story that they encounter. Seven Stories was founded to showcase and celebrate the important contribution that children’s books make to our cultural life in Britain”.

Little MouseOpen every day, from November 14 the main exhibition will be Illustrating Harry Potter showcasing original illustrations, sketches, models and final prints to celebrate Jim Kay’s stunning full-colour illustrations for J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Reader, Writer or Illustrator.  This is the place for YOU.


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