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UK Children’s Laureate 2017-2019 is…

Today, with huge thanks to my day job, I was able to spend a few hours at the UK Children’s Laureate announcement. It was a beautiful afternoon spent in the company of a crowd of people who love books as much as I do. In fact, I am willing to concede that some of them might have even loved them more. Of course, those people were definitely the crowd of school children that descended on Hull City Hall for the ceremony.

The role of the Waterstones Children’s Laureate is a title which is awarded every two years to a children’s author or illustrator to celebrate their achievements and to enable them to promote specific aspects of children’s literacy.

Chris Riddell, UK children’s laureate 2015-2017 ended his time as Laureate by sharing a glance through his awe-inspiring sketchbook before getting everybody involved in a ‘draw along.’ Now, I can doodle, but I wouldn’t imagine that I could illustrate anywhere near as well as Chris. But he had us follow him whilst drawing a mouse in a raincoat and I don’t think mine turned out all too bad!

 

Soon enough it was time for Chris to hand over the baton to the new UK Children’s Laureate 2017-2019…

 

Charlie and Lola creator, Lauren Child!

 

Both Chris and Lauren spoke of the importance of school libraries and of literacy. But also of the importance of children being allowed to be creative in any way that pleases them.

“Children need the freedom to dream and imagine; to enjoy reading and drawing and telling their own stories without value judgement or restraint.” Lauren Child

Lauren spoke of watching television and seeing movie posters that sparked her imagination as a child. She encouraged us to allow our children to see the world, stare out of the window and imagine. Because being creative isn’t just about writing or drawing, it’s about being able to look at the world and allow their minds to explore.

She also expressed her concerns about equality in story books. Perhaps setting the tone for her time as Laureate.

Thank you to Chris Riddell for all of his amazing work and of course, Good luck Lauren. I cannot wait to see what you do with your two years.

For my Father

This post is a change to the usual for this blog. As a writer I must write a million things that nobody ever reads. But this one felt like it needed to go somewhere more public and this is, after all, my little piece of internet.

My birth Father passed away on the 18th February after a long illness. The past nine days have been a million times harder than I ever expected them to be. I have felt pain like I didn’t know existed, cried harder and longer than I thought possible and I have felt a sort of numb that is explainable unless you have felt it yourself. I’m full prepared to keep feeling those things, but writing has always been therapy to me. Anybody who has seen the number of notebooks and journals that I go through can vouch for this. So, I have written this in the form of a letter to my father. I cannot explain why I have put it on here. But here it is.

Dear Dad.

I don’t brag about many things. I never have. But one thing that I have always been happy to tell people is that I’m lucky. I am lucky because I got two dads when everybody I know only got one.
My Mum never kept it a secret that the man I grew up with was my stepfather, and who my birth father was. She never shied away from telling me stories of you and never once told me anything that would make me see you as any less than a really good person.

She wanted me to know where I came from. I wanted to know where I came from. At around 9 years old I wandered onto the street that she told me you lived on because I wanted to know you for myself. That day I met my sisters and my Grandparents, and eventually, you. I loved you from that very first day. You were just as amazing and interesting as she had made you out to be. To anyone else looking at your tattoos, beard and leather jacket you might have been scary. To me, you were the legendary man who created me, and the one who stayed away because you knew my Mum could care for me. You promised to only ever step in if it was needed, and that is a promise you kept until the very end.

I grew up calling both you and my stepfather “Dad”. It wasn’t confusing to me. It might have been to other people but it was my normal. I had two men who would always have my back.

As I got older, as a teenager, I tried to visit. Often I found myself visiting my Grandfather instead. He lived near to you and you worked a lot. I wanted to spend time with you but you never seemed to be the type to enjoy visits, cups of tea and small talk. You never turned me away but things always felt strained. I never knew why, and I never judged it. I grew to realise it was just your way.
At Grandad’s I would ask him endless questions and listen to his stories of Nanna, your siblings and You. I wanted so much to have grown up as a part of these memories. I don’t blame anyone for that not happening though, and until he left us I lived through those stories.

You see, Dad, I wanted a relationship with you and your side of my family. That is why, after using my stepfather’s surname for most of my childhood, I changed back at 16. That name was a label that identified me as one of yours. As a part of you. I took it back and I have worn the label proudly.

As a teenager I began to learn about my family history. My mum told me to get in touch with you because it was an interest of yours too. I still have the few emails where we shared information. It was the only time I felt like we truly had a connection and I loved to call you with questions when I got stuck. You would get so animated when you started telling me about the places you had got stuck, or when you told me about your Grandfather. You didn’t like him much, from what you told me he didn’t really like anybody. You shared his files with me and his history in the army. I adored these times. I loved sharing this with you. I am continuing the tree because every time I look at those files I feel close to you.

My love of bikes (although I have never ridden one), biker history and tattoos were all born from wanting to be closer to you too.

I remember my sister calling me to say you had had your heart attack. She reassured me that you were OK and they were going to operate. I remember coming to visit not long afterwards and you had quit smoking. You were going through lozenges like candy, but you refused to smoke and begged me to quit too. I did Dad. It took years, but I finally did it the same week last year that we found out you were sick. I made a promise to myself that I would never smoke again if you got better. I never told anyone that. I guess they all know now. You didn’t get better, but I still won’t ever smoke again. For you.

You see I always wanted to be a part of your life. I listen to memories and stories now but I only really have those that were told to me. I know this is my own cross to bear, but I truly never knew how. I was three years old when I left with my mother. I never worked out how to erase those years and bond with my family. I never worked out how to form a real bond with you. Instead I idolised you silently and enjoyed the small moments I got.

I always felt that I was outside of your side of my family. That I was never truly a part of it, just distant from it. I wanted to be involved. I didn’t know how.

When I came to visit you in the hospital it scared me. I try to put forward the image that I’m independent and strong and that I can cope with anything. But every time I sat beside you. Twice in the hospital, once the day the surgeon came to talk about your surgery, and on those few days I came to see you at home… I felt like a scared little girl. I was terrified of your illness, and of losing the chance to finally be a part of your life. Every time I left I planned to come and see you again as many times as I could. Then I would talk myself out of it somehow and found it harder and harder to face you again. I was too scared to keep facing the changes, facing the fact that time was going by too fast. I was too scared.

By the time I saw you in the other hospital you were already deteriorating. I sat in that room with my Uncle and Cousin and I just wanted to climb on that bed and hug you.

Dad, if there was any way you could read this I would want you to know this. I loved you always. I loved every short second I got with you. I wanted to make you proud and I will still try to. Every single day. Did I ever make you proud?

 You weren’t around half as much as I wanted you to be. I don’t blame you for that. But if I could go back I would go back to when I was nine years old and I would stand in front of you and say every word of this directly to you. Then hopefully I would have had the relationship with you I was too scared to ask for.

For not trying. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being the daughter I should have been. I’m sorry for letting everyone thing that I would rather not try than for saying how I really felt. I’m sorry for blaming everything but fear out of my own pride.

I’ll love you forever Dad.

Tracy x

Top 10 Reader/Blogger Confessions

Confession posts are everywhere! I have seen them on many of the blogs that I have visited this month, regardless of their subject. It seems that releasing a confession into the wild is a good thing.

So I decided to give it a go!

Being new to book blogging I have mixed these up.
My top 10 reader/blogger confessions:

1. I DON’T READ NEW RELEASES. I want to, I really do. Unfortunately, up until recently, I haven’t had the budget to pre-order books or to buy them whenever I wanted them. I got most of my books from sales, charity shops and libraries. Very rarely I had a little extra cash, but my wishlist was so long that I would usually buy a book that I really wanted rather than a new release. I am working on this now that my budget is better but I’m still working through the wishlist.

2. I SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON DESIGN. Like, wayyy too much time. I can spend hours staring at my blog and wondering if it would look better with a different template or font scheme. I am never happy with it for more than a few days.

3. SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A PRETENDER. Being a new blogger has nothing to do with this, but sometimes I feel like I’m intruding. Like I am not supposed to be doing this and that I am pretending. Then I realise how welcome the community has made me feel and I get past it.

4. I DON’T LIKE AUDIO-BOOKS. Not because I’m a book snob, but because… well… I fall asleep. I can’t be the only one who needs something keeping her mind and hands active. Can I?

5. I AM EASILY DISTRACTED. When blogging or reading I get distracted by everything. I need to turn off the TV, internet and have a completely empty room to focus for any length of time.

6. I HATE SAYING NEGATIVE THINGS. Even if they are part of an honest, fair review. If I have to say “I didn’t like…” about a book it feels as though I am being mean to the author. I can do it, but I don’t like it.

7. I GET OVER EXCITED ABOUT COMMENTS. Honestly, even if it’s something really simple I love comments. I have been known to squeal loudly when I see a new comment too. It feels like validation (see #3).

8. I USUALLY PREFER THE VILLAIN. It’s weird, but I tend to find myself trying to defend the villain’s actions. Even when they are indefensible. For example, Voldermort was just jealous of Harry, he wanted friends and to be liked. Yeah… it’s nuts.

9. I AM A BAD LIBRARY USER, ON PURPOSE. My local libraries are seriously underfunded and constantly at risk of closure. It saddens me, as I have been a big user of the library since childhood and still use it regularly. Sometimes I have been known to return books a day late on purpose so that I can pay £1 or so in fines. It feels like I am making a small contribution to keeping it open. Unfortunately they don’t take donations so this is my only real option.

10. I CRIED WHEN I GOT MY FIRST eARC. It was The Leveller by Julia Durango and when I received the acceptance email I blubbed for a good few minutes. Not because I felt like a real blogger or that I had achieved anything, but because I wanted to read it and didn’t have to wait.

What are you willing to confess? Share in the comments!

Top 5 Tuesday #1 – 5 reasons to become a book blogger

I am new to this book blogging game. I don’t really know the rules, and if I did I would probably break them anyway.

I don’t know the ‘how to’ things. Nor do I know the reasons that other people do book blogging. I only know my reasons and here they are. 
1. I LOVE BOOKS!

This has to be the number one reason that anyone does this. Even those who start a blog for “all the free” must have at least some love for books. 
My mum used to read to me as a baby and by school I could read to myself. I was allowed to ‘free read’ and choose my own titles and level by the time I was eight years old. I spent my high school years nerding out in the library and went into adulthood surrounded by fictional friends. 
I am now 30 and studying an English Literature degree with creative writing. Yes, I am a mature student due to personal reasons.
Basically books are my first love, my drug and my reason to breathe. Dramatic? Probably. 
2. I need to focus my reading. 

I have always just read whatever and whenever. This leads to epic slumps when I can’t find anything that catches my attention. 
Blogging is a way to track my reading and to learn what I like more. It gives me focus and a push to keep going. It gives my reading purpose. 
3. Community 

The book blogging community is amazing. I want to join in with memes and challenges. I want to get and give recommendations. I want in!
4. I write 

I am sure you spotted that I did creative writing as the first part of my degree. I want to write novels and I know that I have the technical know how. But wow is this industry daunting. Blogging is a good way to learn the publishing industry in a fun way whilst I continue improving my writing skills. 
5. I need an excuse to buy books 

Who am I kidding? Who needs an excuse for that?