April 2017 Newsletter
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April's News from Bookbag Towers
Hello Bookbaggers! How are you? Well, we hope.
First up this month, our great friend SF Said reminded us of an important campaign the other day, and we want to remind you in turn.#coverkidsbooks draws attention to the lack of representative coverage of children's books in newspapers and other media. You can read about it here.As this blogpost points out, according to The Bookseller, sales of children's books overtook adult fiction for the first time in 2014, and they now account for over 30% of the UK publishing market. And yet children's books currently get just 3% of all book review space, despite accounting for that 30% of the market. That is an entire order of magnitude of under-representation. We couldn't agree more and we at Bookbag give equal priority to adult and children's books. But we know that we are preaching to the converted and we wish that newspapers would make more effort to get on board. There is more to children's fiction than Harry Potter, guys. A lot more.
And while we are on the topic of representation, this month will see the second Bare Lit festival take place. In 2015, the UK's three largest literary festivals featured over 2000 authors. Of those 2000+ authors, only 4% were from Black Caribbean, Black African, South Asian or East Asian backgrounds. Bare Lit is trying to change that by celebrating the work of remarkable writers in diaspora. There are some fabulous speakers and panels this year and if you'd like to go, you can buy tickets here.
Women in the US have been using Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale to protest anti-abortion legislation by appearing at state senates in costumes from the book. These are powerful silent protests against a worrying future for women in the US and it reminds us here at Bookbag of Atwood's peerless prescience.
Our blast from the past this month is actually a new book. Miraculous Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards, is a collection of fine examples of the locked-room genre, written by some of of the world's most popular crime authors, including Margery Allingham, Dorothy. L. Sayers, G K Chesterton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Each story is quite short; the perfect size for a tea-break, although readers may get so absorbed that they may wish to brew another cup in order to read the next. Crime fans shouldn't miss it.
Books of the Month
And on to to the new... . In fiction, Megan has picked out The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh, a thrilling return to the eloquently brutal world of Begbie, so long a tyrannical protector of the Trainspotting crew, now reformed, relocated and refocused. For fans of Welsh this bloody tour de force is a welcome addition to the vivid life of Francis Begbie aka Jim Francis, a criminal reformed, a visionary artist or the same old big bad Begbie with better PR? Megan loved the book and her only criticism is that it was over too quickly.
In non-fiction, Sue has chosen a niche book for you. Niche it might be, but it's an important topic. Choosing the Perfect Puppy by Pippa Mattinson. If you have ever, for even a fleeting moment, thought about getting a puppy, you really ought to read this book. Too many people are carried away in the heat of the moment and must have a particular breed and go ahead without any thought about the consequences. They then have to live with the problems which might have been avoided for a decade or more. The puppy and the adult dog also has to live with an owner who might not be able to accommodate his needs. Pippa Mattinson is Sue's go-to author on matters dog related: she talks sense. She doesn't try to talk you out of getting a particular breed or any puppy: she simply presents the facts and allows you to make your own decisions.
For confident readers and teens alike, John has picked out a graphic novel this month. Our character is a young lad at school, niggled at by many things. He's the last to be picked for sports – if at all. Nobody wants to sit with him in lunch break. The simple maths exam questions only seem set on tripping him up as much as the other kids do. And the niggles are also literal: it seems whenever he leaves a shadow, horrid floating blobby piranha type things are drifting out of the darkness and actually biting chunks out of him. What is the poor lad to do? Small Things by Mel Tregonning is a really quite lovely graphic novel, with not a word of dialogue or real text, that shows the powers of imaginative imagery in telling a story..
For the littlest ones, Sue fell in love with Good Dog McTavish by Meg Rosoff. McTavish the dog did wonder whether he was making a mistake in adopting the Peachey family: it was a decision which came from the heart rather than the head. You see the Peacheys were dysfunctional: Ma Peachey, an accountant by profession, decided that she was fed up with chasing around after an ungrateful family, so she resigned and dedicated herself to her yoga. And havoc ensues. This is a dyslexia-friendly book for the 8+ age group with a story they're going to love.
As ever, we have some great features for you this month.
It wasn't until someone on Twitter tagged her book The Liar's Handbook with #alternativefacts that Karen David realised quite how well the title and themes hit the zeitgeist.In a political climate labelled 'post-truth' the whole question of how we sift fact from fiction - particularly when they come from people in power – is crucial for all of us. See how Karen interprets this through her writing in her piece for us.
Jill thought that Confessions of Modern Women was both fun and funny to read and occasionally bawdy to boot. When she caught up with Spadge, congratulations were due. She got married! She claims it was her new-found publishing skills that seduced him, but we think there's a lot more to Spadge than that! Oh, and HD brows apparently leave you looking like a mixture of Angelina Jolie and Bert from Sesame Street. Who knew?
Sue's only problem with Granny with Benefits by Marilyn Bennett was that she would have loved to spend more time with the characters. When the author made a virtual visit to us, there was quite a lot to chat about. Sean was impressed when he read Ethics for a Full World or, Can Animal-Lovers Save the World?. There was a lot to discuss when author Tormod V Burkey popped in to Bookbag Towers.
We're always on the look out for people to join our panel of reviewers at Bookbag. We need people who understand that the reader wants to know what the reviewer thinks about the book and not just what's written on the back cover. If you think that you're one of these special people that we're looking for, we want to hear from you. You can find details of how to apply here on the site. Don't be shy!
We have competitions for some great books going this month, and every month, so get entering!
And that's about it for this month. If you're passing Bookbag Towers do pop in and see us – we're at www.thebookbag.co.uk .
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Ian Mathie said:
Well said Ladies about the amount of coverage children’s books get. Now having grandchildren I have taken a renewed interest in all sorts of writing for children and am really disappointed not to find more coverage. Of course the folks in my local bookshops have been very helpful and informative and it’s caused me to browse extensively. Even so, more coverage could have steered me towards something I may have missed.
You have inspired me to fire off some letters to a few book editors in the newspapers encouraging them to do more.
Thanks also for the book suggestions this month. As usual I’ve picked up something interesting.
Well done Bookbag!