REVIEW: Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman

young-vols-stamp1I am a huge fan of Malorie Blackman and advocate of her work ever since I first read Noughts and Crosses many years ago. Not only does Blackman create extremely well written books with relatable characters, but she also tackles difficult, sometimes controversial, subjects for YA literature, in an honest and thought-provoking way. Boy’s Don’t Cry is a powerful and unexpected novel. 

 

Boys Don’t Cry is told from two points of view, Dantes’ and Adams’ – to begin with the reason for this is unclear and though I liked Adam’s upbeat narrative in contrast to Dante’s, I couldn’t figure out why we were switching between the two. This lasted for about 70 pages and from then on I was hooked. I hadn’t realizsd when I started reading Boys Don’t Cry that this was a book about much, much, more than just teenage parenthood – Blackman has blended together two stories that deal with two very different topics. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone by telling you everything this one book manages to cover, and cover well. I will say that though, that while I loved both stories, it was Adam I grew particularly attached to as a character, and it was his voice and his journey that struck me the hardest and stayed with me long after I had finished reading it.

 

Image result for boys don't cry malorie blackmanBoys Don’t Cry takes a unique look at being a teenage parent, as it is told from the boys point of view. I have to applaud Blackman for choosing to do this as it is a topic that young male readers should be able to read about and because too often (in life and in books) the father is either forgotten, or considered less important in a child’s life. Then there is the stereotype that if anyone will walk away, it will be the father. In typical fashion, Blackman disputes all these assumptions (and more) in Boy’s Don’t Cry. She is an author you can depend upon to challenge the every day stereotypes all around us – her writing makes you think and I love her for it.

A few scenes that stood out for me were when Dante takes his daughter out for the first time and has to deal with strangers’ prejudices and judgment once they learn Emma is his. I see and hear people dismissing young parents all the time, always assuming they are lazy and exploiting the benefit system. By experiencing this type of public reaction with Dante, Blackman really hits home just how hurtful and wrong it is to judge people without knowing them – reminding us that just because someone is a young parent – doesn’t mean they are a bad one.

 

Though Boys Don’t Cry focuses on the prejudices young dads receive in our society, here Blackman briefly touches on how young mothers are looked down on and treated by society as well – you can almost see the word ‘slut’ forming in this woman’s mind as she looks at Collette. It is a sharp reminder not to judge Melanie too harshly for running out (another stereotype – it is considered pretty normal for the father to leave, but unforgivable if the mother does), as this is doubtless what she would of dealt over and over again, on her own, for the past 18 months.

Blackman also writes some fantastic scenes surrounding the local social worker. We immediately feel as defensive towards her as Dante does and assume she is not only a busybody poking her nose in but also that she is out to trick Dante and wants to take Emma away from him. Why do automatically feel this way? It seems not a day can go by without the paper’s reporting something derogatory about social workers. I loved that as we, and Dante, got to know her a little better, we see that this woman only wants the best for Emma and is, in reality, there to help Dante keep his daughter. It was great, for once, to see a social worker portrayed as someone who cares, who has a difficult, at times impossible, job, and who has to deal with an unfair reputation. I think society in general forgets what an incredibly hard and incredibly amazing job these people can, and do, do. Once again we have another character who, in their own way, has to fight against society’s opinion of them, a character who has been judged unfairly; prompting the reader to confront their own reactions and their own prejudices as they read.

Image result for malorie blackmanWatching Dante fall in love with his daughter is heart-warming without being overly sentimental – the tone in this book is just right to appeal to young male and female readers. What’s so great about Boys Don’t Cry is that it isn’t a cute story. It deals with the harsh reality of life as a teenage parent and doesn’t shy away from difficult and, at times, shocking truths. Dante doesn’t love his daughter immediately, or choose her above his own desires – it is hard, he has to make many sacrifices and deal with a lot of pressure from everyone around him. He comes close to breaking down and almost hits Emma – a feeling/moment I’m sure a lot of stressed out parents can relate to, but one that no one really talks about. We come to understand that coming close to snapping doesn’t make Dante a bad person, but walking away from the situation and asking for help does make him a good father. Throughout there is a lovely family dynamic and I enjoyed reading how certain events bring this family closer together and how they come out all the more stronger for it.

If Dante’s story is touching, Adam’s story is hard-hitting and heart-breaking. Already a strong piece of fiction, this is what made Boys Don’t Cry unforgettable for me. Both Adam and Dante are ostracized by society but for very different reasons and watching them deal with that, and reading about what happens them, is both upsetting and uplifting – particularly in Adam’s case. I loved his character from the start.

What made this novel so brilliant for me were the characters. All of them, even the secondary characters, felt very real – we can identify with them. Reading this story and experiencing things from a different point of view makes us question our own opinions and prejudices. Boys Don’t Cry tackles many important subjects. It shows us the importance of understanding, compassion and acceptance – and the power of words. The courage to be yourself and to confront ignorance and hatred in all its forms. A stunning book that every one should pick up, regardless of age or gender – because I think you will learn something about yourself and others by the end of it. Beautiful story, beautiful characters and beautiful narration. And yes – it made me cry.

 

Jade Nikoloff

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Carlos’ Five Roald-Reads

young-vols-stamp1Hi everyone! Carlos here, and due to the theme of this year’s summer reading challenge being Roald Dahl books, I figured I could write a blog themed around the man himself. Here are 5 Roald Dahl-related books for you to read. It’s not a top 5, and the numbering is essentially arbitrary. Some of these books he wrote himself, others are by other people but still have a direct or indirect connection to him. Let’s get to it!

Image result for roald dahl dicitonary5. Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

Available to hire from Brighton and Hove libraries, this book contains words Roald Dahl used in his stories, both everyday words and his own invented words. Containing illustrations by Quentin Blake, and examples from his other books. Examples include: “Propsposterous-adjective- ridiculous or extremely silly. They maybe is looking a bit Propsposterous to you…-The BFG”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE LIBRARY CATALOGUE

4. Oliver Twist

Dahl greatly enjoyed the works of Charles Dickens. I have chosen Oliver Twist due to the child protagonist, which is trait shared in the works of Dahl, and the common theme of food, which also often appears in works of Dahl. A graphic novel adaptation is available from Brighton and Hove libraries.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE LIBRARY CATALOGUE

 

Image result for captain underpants3. Captain Underpants

Roald Dahl Books and the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey actually have a lot in common. From untrustworthy adults, to heroic adult foils, to toilet humour, the shared DNA between the books and the appeal to children is very clear. Most of the Captain underpants series is available from Brighton and Hove libraries.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE LIBRARY CATALOGUE

 

2. The Far From Great Escape Or The Light The Switch and The Wardrobe

Way back in 2009, Philip Ardagh won the “Roald Dahl Funny Prize” for the first of his Grubtown Tales books, and in 2010 he was a Judge for the Roald Dahl Funny prize. This is the second book in the series. Other installments are also available from the library.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE LIBRARY CATALOGUE

 

Image result for the bfg book1. The BFG

Figured it would be nice to finish with a classic, what with the name of this year’s reading challenge being “The Big Friendly Read” and the new movie out this year. The original book, audiobook adaptations, stage adaptations and the animated film are all available from Brighton and Hove libraries. Quote from “1001 Children’s books you must read before you grow up”: “The BFG manages to be as marvelously silly as we expect from Dahl, while at the same time sustaining an exciting and tense plot. The BFG is a charming hero, and the addition of the down-to-earth and sympathetic Queen to the cast is inspired”

CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT ON THE LIBRARY CATALOGUE

There are many other Roald Dahl and Dahlesque books available from Brighton and Hove libraries. I hope you enjoy them!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Dahl#Writing

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/sep/13/top-10-roald-dahl-children-books

http://quentinblake.com/

http://quentinblake.com/index.php/books/new-books

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The Big Friendly Read – Summer Reading Challenge 2016 begins!

young-vols-stamp1Summer. If this blistering last week has taught one thing (except the importance of sun cream), it is that summer has arrived. Meaning one thing: another summer reading challenge.

For those of you who don’t know. The summer reading challenge is an annual summer event, for children ages one-twelve, and the challenge is to read six books over the summer, encouraged by fun prizes and games.
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Annually the theme changes. Marvellously (to celebrate 100 years of his work) this year’s theme is Roald Dahl. I believe the cheeky cheerful charm of his magically worlds will be the perfect encouragement to get children reading! Whether it be the magic of Matilda, Charlie’s chocolate or the fiendish felonies of fantastic mr fox. Dahl has effected most of our lives in some way, and hopefully this challenge will not only encourage reading, but continue his legacy, to the next generation.

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The challenge commenced on Saturday the 16th of July, with a wonderful talk by Juno Dawson, a fascinating panel about encouraging children to read and very popular and engaging ‘Read Aloud’ sessions run by Collected Works CIC of Dahl’s The (terrible) Twits.

Brilliantly the event was covered by ITV meridian news:

http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2016-07-16/summer-reading-challenge/

Now, a couple weeks in, the library board is filling up with signees, and it is only the start of the summer! In fact the website has already recorded that nationwide: 547,559 books (and counting) have been read, so far.
Think your children will be interested? Then don your book bags, get your library cards and head down to your local library. As Roald Dahl himself said:

If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.

Ellis Rossiter

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Extra! Extra! Libraries Extra!

Libraries Extra enables you to enjoy extra access to your community library at times when theLibraries Extra purple square library isn’t staffed. All you need is a special Libraries Extra card to get the extra access which a member of staff can provide you with. Just bring some photo ID to get upgraded.

You will be able to visit the library, meet friends and family, get information, browse the stock and read. You can also borrow and return books, CDs and DVDs and make payments through the self-service kiosk , book onto and use a public computer, and print documents. In short, all the services you already use and love. There will be a dedicated phone line which you can contact staff on our Info Hub if you need help. There is also CCTV that is monitored for your safety and security.

At a time when many authorities are cutting back on library services and closing libraries this is an innovative initiative to not only keep libraries open but extend their availability. We hope to see Libraries Extra enable your community library to become a vibrant community hub and welcome community groups to come on board.

More info about Libraries Extra

Would you like to volunteer in Libraries?

 

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Pssssst…..Jubilee Library Book Sale

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STOP THE PRESS! Specialist book sale at Jubilee Library

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A great opportunity has come up for lovers and collectors of specialist books to expand their collections!  Jubilee Library is holding an ex-stock sale from 23rd-26th June, focusing on Art and Design, Music, Vintage/Historical Periodicals, Architecture and much more.  Pre-sale viewings and offers welcome.  Email hovelibrarybookshop@brighton-hove.gov.uk to see the collections.

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Building a reading community at Woodingdean Primary – Part 2

wood-4By Kathryn Coleman, Woodingdean Reading Ambassadors Volunteer Coordinator

Third week into the Reading Ambassador volunteering and I thought I would join the 60 Year 1 (ages 5 and 6) from Woodingdean on their weekly visit yesterday to see how it was going and chat to some of the children and volunteers.

There seemed an infinite number of children clutching their books leaving the school, yet despite the hoards, you really could have heard a pin drop. Almost without exception, all were deeply buried in their book or sharing favourite bits to their neighbours in the queue. They weren’t eating them, hitting each other with them or chucking them! This looked very promising. ‘My book is about dinosaurs. That’s a Tinysaurus Rex on the front,’ Brandon volunteered. ‘Not so Tiny,’ I pointed out. That opened the flood gates and then they all wanted to tell me about their book!

wood-1‘Look where you’re going!’ a teacher helpfully suggested. Oh dear, a potential Health and Safety disaster! I was amazed, however, at how they had all seemed to master the skill of walking and reading. Brilliant start!

We arrived at the library and let ourselves in. The volunteers were already waiting and the children that they had been working with on previous weeks made a bee-line for them.  A happy reunion. Great! The rest of the 60 quickly gravitated towards the children’s section of the library and quietly and sensibly began their selection. Again, I was really pleasantly surprised at how quietly focussed they all seemed. They quickly settled into one of the many comfy chairs or tucked themselves into a quiet corner, either alone or in a small group and began reading. No riots, arguments or general mucking about?  Impressive! The sun was streaming into the room and I genuinely felt a wave of peaceful well-being. This was clearly a special moment in the week for these children and I marvelled at the sea of smiley faces deeply engrossed in their books.

wood-2A couple of the volunteer had already grabbed a handful of books that they already knew would hold the attention and interest of their child. One of the children had been talking about their love of spiders and there were a few non-fiction spider books alongside a copy of The Very Busy Spider on the table.

I left the volunteers to it and spent a really lovely half an hour sharing a book about Potties with Ronnie and learning about Tuataras with Vishikh.

After the children had left to go back to school I took a minute to check in with the volunteers to see how it was going. They were all very positive about the sessions. The children were loving have stories read to them about things they were interested in and were becoming more relaxed and confident to have a go and read to the volunteers. Lesley said “I’m not sure this is really relevant but Jake asked me today ‘how old actually are you?’ and when I replied that I was 72 his response was ‘how are you even alive?!!’ We had a good giggle about that but I thought afterwards how great it is that the generations were coming together in the community under the banner of reading in the safety of the local library. More to follow.

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Calling all comic lovers!

Welcome to our newest electronic resource – ComicsPlus!

Similar to Zinio (our free subscription magazine service), ComicsPlus offers unlimited access to over 16,000 popular and classic comic titles.

Here it is.

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Here are a few things you’ll need to know:

  • Comics Plus is free and can be used both in the library and remotely, anytime, anywhere.
  • As a streaming service you will need to be connected to the internet to view ComicsPlus content.
  • If you have an Apple device, get the ComicsPlus Library Edition App and download items to read offline.
  • You can check out an unlimited number of titles.
  • Currently we have access to titles from publishers including Dark Horse, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite, IDW, Peanuts and Archie with more titles being added all the time.

Look out for our future blog posts spotlighting publishers, new content and staff picks.

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Get online in libraries

It’s becoming more essential than ever to be online in order to operate in today’s world. More of our day to day services are based online, many will only be available online soon and money savings can be made if you’re online.

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As you’re reading this you’re probably aware of all this, but you may know someone who would benefit from getting online. Libraries can help. We run free one to one sessions teaching internet basics.

The sessions are informal, customer focused and have already helped hundreds of people become digitally literate. If you know someone who would benefit let them know how we can help.

Details here

 

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Building a Reading Community at Woodingdean Primary

On my way through the gates this morning, I passed a group of year 4 boys waiting to come into school. Delightfully, I overheard one of the boys say to his pals “did you know that my library card allows me to take out books from any library in Brighton and Hove?” Eureka! Here was a boy who not only saw books and reading as a pleasurable pass time, but felt the need to infect his friends with this enthusiasm.

wood4My name is Kathryn Coleman and I am the Every Child a Reader teacher at Woodingdean Primary School. I am a trained literacy specialist teacher with an overall remit to enable all our pupils to leave primary school as readers. At Woodingdean we appreciate the need to ensure all our children are not only able to read but, more importantly, develop a life-long love of reading. Research tells us that reading for pleasure is more likely to result in a child reaching academic success than their socio-economic background. Important then that in addition to teaching children the mechanics of reading, we foster the joy around books. This is why we have been committed to Building a Reading Community and looking to our neighbours in the local community to help us.

Library Visits wood2

We are really lucky at Woodingdean that we have a beautiful modern library on our doorstep. We work really closely with our friends at the library to ensure our children get to make the most of this wonderful facility.

Every class has a weekly 45 minute session using our Libraries Extra card. This enables us to use the facility alongside members of the public who are also card holders but when the library is closed. The children are able to browse independently through the fantastic selection of books. Due to the close working with our library colleagues, many of the books available to borrow are the ‘must-reads’ on our Literature Spine or books by the same world class authors which helps us to ensure that all children have access to the best reads around.

Reading Ambassadors- Library Volunteers

This term, we are piloting a new and exciting volunteer programme.

We appreciate the important role that significant adults play in fostering the idea wood3in children’s minds that reading can be entertaining. Many children have books at home, share books and book talk with adults and also see them  engrossed in a good book. However, this is not always the case for a number of different reasons. In order to try and give all children the same opportunity to become lovers of reading, we have invited local people to volunteer to help.

This week our lovely team of budding volunteer Reading Ambassadors will attend a training session at the school. The volunteers come from all walks of life with a wealth of skills and experiences. However, they all have a love of reading and some experience with children. We will be looking at how we can harness their own love of books and reading and try to instil that enthusiasm in our pupils. The idea is that they will meet up with the identified children during their library visits once a week for eight weeks. They will help and support them in choosing, reading and discussing books. By doing so, we hope they will encourage a life-long love of reading.

I was overwhelmed at our introductory meeting by the level of enthusiasm and expertise we have lurking in our community behind closed doors.  Let’s hope that we can put that to good use. Watch this space!

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a Reading Ambassador please e-mail me on kathryncoleman@woodingdean.brighton-hove.sch.uk or call 01273 680811

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