May 2014 Newsletter

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May's News from Bookbag Towers

Hi, hello and please tell us it's not still raining in your parts. We are fed up with the wet at Bookbag Towers. We're in serious need of some sunshine.

What do you think of the ban on "unearned" books for prisoners? We don't like it. It's not like Sky TV or steak dinners. It's about books. Books should never be a privilege that anyone needs to earn. Books are something apart. And prisoners should be encouraged to read by any means possible. So we were glad to hear of a possible legal challenge. Do you all you fellow bookworms feel the same about this? Or do you find it a reasonable decision for the government to have made?

And here's another controversial one for you: should the likes of Russell Brand and Dizzee Rascal feature in a new A Level syllabus? Or is that a step too far for modernism for you? We're happy with it - all wordsmiths should be up for inclusion. But we don't want the classics to be frozen out either. So tread carefully, exam boards!

Golden Hour

Our blast from the past this month is a book you may never even have heard of. August Folly by Angela Thirkell. First published in 1936 and it perfectly captures that period between the wars, when life was somehow more leisured for those of a certain class and much less so for those born to serve. Unusually for books from this period which have stood the test of time there's no sense of impending war, no suggestion that all is not well with the world. This gentle, subtle satire is balm for the nerves and you should look out the reissue from Virago, which is out this month.

Books of the Month

And on to to the new... . In fiction, we're recommending something a little bit different this month: a graphic novel. The Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse is an unexpected delight - the scabrous sense of humour in its cartoons is not what one might expect from such a creator. The Bojeffries family must be one of the most unusual imaginable, and that's saying much in the world of sequential art. There are in-jokes, snide opinions about modern life and inventive displays of rudeness. Surely that must tempt you!

In non-fiction, Sue is raving about How to be Well Read: A guide to 500 great novels and a handful of literary curiosities by John Sutherland. It's a glorious selection of books to tempt you - all considered in witty and elegant prose. Being well read is rather like having good manners: it's something that we all aspire to but there's always a nagging doubt that there's something lacking in what we've achieved. Here, you'll find a book which tempts you to read differently and more widely. What more could you want?

For teens, Jill loved Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman, the story of Alex, a transgendered Australian teen. Brought up as a boy but identifying as a girl who also fancies girls, Alex's journey is one you'll never forget. It's an important, affecting story with layers of unreliable narration that will really make you think. It comes highly recommended by all of us at Bookbag Towers.

For the littlest of little ones, Lorraine recommends The Farmer's Away! Baa! Neigh! by Anne Vittur Kennedy. Arff, Yap, Baa, Neigh Neigh! There isn't a single "proper" word in this story. When the farmer goes away the animals have the most fun day ever. Let them talk you through what happens with the help of some splendid illustrations. This is a super book that has bags of re-reading potential and is one’s suitable, whilst not simplistic, for very young children. It will introduce the very young to what fun books can be. There is a lot to learn and enjoy here, from the art of story telling, to the feel and sound of language.


Ooh, how exciting! One of Jim's favourite authors popped in to chat to us about the TV version of Gone. Yes! Michael Grant is in the house! And yes! Gone is coming to your TV screens. We can't wait. And it's not just Michael who has been writing for us this month. Candy Harper came along to Bookbag Towers to chat to us about some stuff which helped her write some other stuff - her inspirations for the Faith series.

We've also had our virtual reporter pads out this month - does anyone actually still use physical reporter pads or even remember what they are?! - interviewing authors for you. Ani enjoyed Rough Passage to London: A Sea Captain's Tale, a Novel by Robin Lloyd and was intrigued by the background to the story. There were quite a few questions she wanted to ask when Robin called in to Bookbag Towers. Kicking off the Countdown to 5th June tour Keris Stainton came along to chat to us. You'll find all the tour dates here.


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

All at Bookbag Towers

See what we were reading last year.


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Ian Mathie said:

I agree, books of all sorts should be freely available to prisoners, although I might draw the line at giving them celebrity crap. Better that they have books which help them improve their minds, and the spectrum for that is wide enough.

On your second question, I think the likes of Russell Brand and Dizzy Rascal should definitely have a place in the A level syllabus, but not in the English Language or Literature curricula. Instead they should be included in the Psychology course, in the sections dealing with deviant and abnormal behaviour. I say this as a psychologist of some 30 years experience, and one who reads voraciously across a wide range of subjects, styles and genres. Oh, and I write a little too.

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