Are you ready to be an Earth Hero?

Climate change is big news, and it’s becoming apparent that making small changes to the way we live now, could be amplified, to have an even greater effect in 10 or 20 years time.

With this in mind, The Reading Agency chose the theme – ‘Wild World Heroes’ for the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge. With ideas from World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), the Challenge focuses on encouraging children to learn about real-world environmental issues, from plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss.

We have created a very special collection of books for ‘Earth Heroes’ to help children learn about the environment and nature, through stories, information on real-life climate heroes or simple, but effective actions they can take to make a difference right now.

If your child hasn’t signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge yet there’s still time. Participating children, who visit their local library, will receive a special collector’s poster and stickers when they read books – on any theme or topic. Children who finish the challenge can collect a certificate and medal from their local library too! For more information and to sign-up online please visit our Kids’ Zone website.

We will follow this collection with another selection of digital titles for older children and teenagers and a collection of books for adults, which will be released to coincide with the COP26 UN Climate Conference this autumn.

Story books (fiction)

The Last Bear, by Hannah Gold, with illustrations by Levi Pinfold

There are no polar bears left on Bear Island. At least, that’s what April’s father tells her when his scientific research takes them to this remote Arctic outpost for six months. But one endless summer night, April meets one. He is starving, lonely and a long way from home. Determined to save him, April begins the most important journey of her life…

“This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable.” Michael Morpurgo.

Jungledrop, by Abi Elphinstone

Eleven-year-old twins, Fox and Fibber, have been rivals for as long as they can remember, but when they are whisked off to’ Jungledrop’, a magical unmapped Kingdom in charge of conjuring our world’s weather, things get wildly out of hand.

Fox and Fibber find themselves on an incredible adventure in a glow-in-the-dark rainforest full of golden panthers, gobblequick trees and enchanted temples as they race to find the long-lost Forever Fern and save the world.

A Good Day for Climbing Trees by Jaro Jacobs

Marnus is tired of feeling invisible, living in the shadow of his two brothers. His older brother is good at breaking swimming records and girls’ hearts. His younger brother is already a crafty entrepreneur who has tricked him into doing the dishes all summer.

But when a girl called Leila turns up on their doorstep one morning with a petition, it’s the start of an unexpected adventure. And finally, Marnus gets the chance to be noticed…

Nominated for the 2019 CILIP Carnegie Medal Spectator Best Books of the Year selection

Hope Jones Saves the World by Josh Lacey

Hope Jones’ New Year’s resolution is to give up plastic, and she’s inspiring others to do the same with her website. When she realises her local supermarket seems to stock more unnecessary plastic than food, she makes it her mission to do something about it. She may be just one ten-year-old with a homemade banner, but with enough determination, maybe Hope Jones really can save the world.

The Bear in the Stars by Alexis Snell

There was once a bear, a great, white bear – Queen of Beasts. Her kingdom was a beautiful, cold, glistening place. But over the years the ice disappeared, slipping away like sand through an hourglass. Slowly, slowly, one by one, the other animals moved on. The Great Bear has no choice but to leave her snowy realm to search for food, friends and a new home. She soon discovers a world that is growing hotter whilst hearts grow colder – until one small act of kindness changes everything.

Melt by Ele Fountain

A boy lives in a remote, snow-bound village with his elderly grandmother. Their traditional way of life is threatened by the changing snow and ice: it melts faster every year. When the sea-ice collapses while he is out hunting, he only just escapes with his life and is left stranded in the Arctic tundra.

Meanwhile a girl is trying to adapt to another new school. Her father promises his new job at an oil company will mean they never have to move again, but not long after he starts, his behaviour becomes odd and secretive. When their fates take a drastic turn the girl’s world collides with the boy’s and they find themselves together in a desperate search for survival, and for the truth.

Earth Friends, Fair Fashion by Holly Webb

Researching her school project on Fairtrade has been a real eye-opener for Maya. She loves clothes and is appalled to find that her favourite sparkly T-shirts are made by children in other countries who lead very different lives from her own. She knows she must do something about it, but how can she make a difference without revealing her pop star secret to the world?

Burning Sunlight by Anthea Simmons

Zaynab is from Somaliland, a country that doesn’t exist because of politics and may soon be no more than a desert. Lucas is from rural Devon, which might as well be a world away. When they meet, they discover a common cause: the climate crisis.

Together they overcome their differences to build a ‘Fridays For Future’ group at their school and fight for their right to protest and make a real impact on the local community. But when Zaynab uncovers a plot which could destroy the environment and people’s lives back home in Somaliland, she will stop at nothing to expose it. Lucas must decide if he is with her or against her – even if Zaynab’s actions may prove dangerous…

Harklights by Tim Tilley

Wick has always lived in the dark and dreadful Harklights Match Factory and Orphanage, working tirelessly for greedy Old Ma Bogey. He only dreams of escaping, until one day a bird drops something impossible and magical at his feet – a tiny baby in an acorn cradle…

As midnight chimes, Wick is visited by the Hobs, miniature protectors of the forest. Grateful for the kindness shown to their stolen child, they offer Wick the chance of a lifetime – escape from Harklights and begin a new life with them in the wild…

Information books (non-fiction)

Climate Rebels – Ben Lerwill

Climate change is happening, now. But it’s not too late to change the story. Meet the people, who are fighting to save our planet. Featuring 25 hopeful stories including Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Wangari.

This book will transport you from the poles to the oceans, to the rainforests. These are true stories to make you think, make you cry, make you hope – and these are stories to make us all stand together and protect our home.

David Attenborough – Sanchez Vegara & Maria Isabel

His passion for animals led David Attenborough into a career in television, visiting animals in their natural habitats and sharing their untold stories with the world. This moving, illustrated book about his life features includes a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the broadcaster’s life.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a bestselling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

Helping our planet – Jane Bingham

Caring for the Earth is the biggest challenge facing us all today, but what can YOU do to help? This practical, hands-on guide is filled with helpful checklists of actions to take and choices to make in your daily life. There are chapters on planet-friendly eating, shopping and travelling, and on ways to save energy and cut down on waste. There’s also clear advice on getting drastic about plastic, and taking better care of the natural world, and links to recommended websites with more information.

Rebel Animals – Kimberlie Hamilton

Discover secrets, stories, and facts about the world’s most at-risk animals!

This beautifully illustrated collection tells the story of over 60 real-life courageous creatures. With incredible facts about animals from all seven continents and the oceans of the world.

This fascinating book includes information about animal conservation and climate change, making it an ideal read for those who love nature and animals and want to make a difference.

How You Can Save the Planet – Hendrikus van Hensbergen

YOU have the power to change the world! Climate breakdown, species extinction, environmental disasters – we know the planet is heating up and running out of time; but what can we do about it?

Lots of things actually like: building a green wall; making recycled bird feeders; rewilding; setting up a ‘swapshop’; organising cycling groups at school.. and so much more!

The Extraordinary Life of Greta Thunberg – Devika Jina

The story of a girl who is changing the world. Greta Thunberg is an activist best known for calling attention to the devastating effects of climate change on our planet. A bold voice even against people that want to silence her, Greta has become a source of inspiration for millions of people who want to work towards tackling the climate crisis.

From taking part in school strikes and owning that her Asperger syndrome is her superpower, to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a powerful stand against carbon emissions, this is the incredible story of a schoolgirl who is changing the world.

Guardians of the Planet – Clive Gifford

This environmentally positive book contains everything children need to become guardians of the planet. Kids can learn how to become keepers of the coasts, friends of the forests, home heroes and much more through a mix of compelling facts, creative activities, and proactive tips.

Key environmental topics are clearly explained, and the easy-to-follow projects and suggestions help to put the issues in an everyday context. From reusing clothes and composting food to reducing water waste and giving wildlife a helping hand, this book will encourage children to engage with environmental problems and inspire them to take care of our wonderful planet.

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth – Nicola Davies & Emily Sutton

Winner of the Margaret Mallett Picture Book Award, as part of the English 4-11 Picture Book Awards.

There are living things everywhere: the more we look, the more we find. There are creatures on the tops of the tallest jungle trees, at the bottom of the coldest oceans, even under the feathers of birds and in boiling volcanic pools. So how many different kinds are there? One, two, three … lots Lots, a beautifully illustrated introduction to the concept of biodiversity for younger readers. With words from Nicola Davies and exquisite artwork by Emily Sutton, this ground-breaking book is certain to enchant and inspire children.

Drastic Plastic and Troublesome Trash – Hannah Wilson

Most of us don’t think twice before we buy something new and when we go to the shops we take the packaging for granted. But where does all our rubbish go to and how can we keep it under control so that it doesn’t ruin our planet?

This thoughtful but incredibly fun book enters the mysterious world of recycling, discovering how materials such as plastic, glass, paper and electronics are made and recycled. It also looks at the many ways we can help to reduce the amount of waste we throw out, has suggestions and activities for upcycling and explains how recycling is crucial to preserving the beautiful and life-sustaining world we live in.

The Lost Spells – Robert MacFarlane

The Lost Spells is a pocket-sized treasure that introduces a beautiful new set of natural spell-poems and artwork by beloved creative duo Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

As in The Lost Words, these “spells” take their subjects from relatively commonplace, and yet underappreciated, animals, birds, trees and flowers — from Barn Owl to Red Fox, Grey Seal to Silver Birch, Jay to Jackdaw. Written to be read aloud, The Lost Spells summons back what is often lost from sight and care and inspires protection and action on behalf of the natural world.

Earth Heroes – Lily Dyu

When faced with climate change, the biggest threat that our planet has ever confronted, it’s easy to feel as if nothing you do can really make a difference . . . but this book proves that individual people can change the world.

With twenty inspirational stories celebrating the pioneering work of a selection of Earth Heroes from all around the globe, from Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough to Yin Yuzhen and Isatou Ceesay, each tale is a beacon of hope in the fight for the future of our planet, proving that one person, no matter how small, can make a difference.

From Winchester to Barchester: Anthony Trollope’s links with Hampshire

Anthony Trollope was one of the most popular authors of the 19th century, and his novels, including the Barchester and Palliser series, continue to attract new fans. This talk will explore Anthony Trollope’s links with Hampshire including family connections with Heckfield and Winchester, and some Hampshire locations that may have inspired places in Barchester.

The event also marks the 150th anniversary in 2021 of the publication of Ralph the Heir, much of which is undisguisedly set in northern Hampshire.

This is an online talk using Zoom. Participants will be required to download and use Zoom.

Previous knowledge/experience required: All you need to attend a talk on Zoom is some basic computer skills and experience in using the internet. Don’t worry if you have not used it before as we will send you some basic guidance when you book.

Book your tickets

Join Hampshire Record Office for this fantastic talk on Monday 27 September at 6pm. Tickets are just £5 and can be booked by clicking the ‘Book Now’ image.

Barchester Towers, which was published in 1857, as the sequel to The Warden wryly chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester. It opens with the Bishop of Barchester lying on his death bed; soon a battle begins over who will take over power, with key players including the rather incompetent Dr Proudie, his fiendishly unpleasant wife and his slippery curate, Slope. This is a wonderfully rich novel, in which men and women are too shy to tell each other of their love; misunderstandings abound; and Church of England officials are only too willing to undermine each other in the battle for power.

The only autobiography by a major Victorian novelist, Trollope’s account offers a fascinating insight into his literary life and opinions. After a miserable childhood and misspent youth, Trollope turned his life around at the age of twenty-six. By 1860 the ‘hobbledehoy’ had become both a senior civil servant and a best-selling novelist. He worked for the Post Office for many years and stood unsuccessfully for Parliament. Best-known for the two series of novels grouped loosely around the clerical and political professions, the Barsetshire and Palliser series, in his Autobiography Trollope frankly describes his writing habits. His apparent preoccupation with contracts, deadlines, and earnings, and his account of the remorseless regularity with which he produced his daily quota of words, has divided opinion ever since.

Winchester offers a veritable feast of history, much of it unrecognised by twenty-first century visitors. This history of the Saxon capital of Wessex is told through evocative photographs of its buildings and intricate nooks and crannies. Brought to life with intriguing accounts are: St Catherine’s Hill, the site of a hill fort in 150 BC; the Peninsula Barracks, once a military establishment and now home to a range of museums; Winchester College, built in 1352, and its fourteenth-century gothic chapel; Winchester Cathedral, parts of which date from 1079; the resting place of novelist Jane Austen; the working water mill, still on its original medieval site; and King Arthur’s Round Table. Featuring a map showing points of interest, this is a must-read for locals and visitors alike.

To reserve ‘Heckfield: A Village History’ by Gordon Timmins, click here: https://bit.ly/3iH69AB.

To reserve ‘History of a Hampshire Parish – Heckfield and Mattingley: https://bit.ly/2UcWI2w.

What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?…Was ever anything so civil?”

Anthony Trollope

Ten Titles inspired by Tokyo 2020

Are you missing the drama of the Tokyo 2020 games? Here are ten books about athletes and sport to get you inspired.

After more than two weeks of action-packed events we bet you’ll be missing your daily dose of athletic heroism. But don’t worry, we have plenty of stories full of tears and cheers to keep you going until the next games.

Inspiring true stories

They Don’t Teach This by Eniola Aluko
Eni Aluko: 102 appearances for England women’s national football team. First female pundit on Match of the Day. UN Women UK ambassador. Guardian columnist. First class honours law degree. Now an inspirational author.

They Don’t Teach This, steps beyond the realms of memoir to explore themes of dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, success, failure, and faith. It is an inspiring manifesto to change the way readers and the future generation choose to view the challenges that come in their life applying life lessons with raw truths of Eni’s own personal experience.

Born Fighter by Ruqsana Begum
Ruqsana Begum always stood apart from her school friends because she was so keen on sport. At home, she wore the clothes her mother wanted her to wear and behaved like a dutiful Muslim daughter, but at heart she wanted something different.

When she saw an advert for a Muay Thai club at college, she knew that her parents would never allow her to fight, so Begum fought in secret and discovered she was a natural. When her parents arranged her marriage her new world collapsed and she found herself unable to cope, until she broke free again, and worked her way to the top.

Women in Sport: 50 fearless athletes who played to win by Rachel Ignotofsky
A richly illustrated and inspiring book, Women in Sports highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable women athletes from the 1800s to today, including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than forty sports.

The athletes featured include well-known figures like tennis player Billie Jean King and gymnast Simone Biles, as well as lesser-known champions like Toni Stone, the first woman to play baseball in a professional men’s league, and skateboarding pioneer Patti McGee. Women in Sports celebrates the success of the tough, bold, and fearless women who paved the way for today’s athletes.

Anything is possible: be brave, be kind, & follow your dreams by Gareth Southgate
An inspirational book of life lessons for young people and parents, by England Manager Gareth Southgate. Gareth’s leadership and his ‘anything is possible’ mind-set helped bring the nation together, leading the England Men’s team to one of their best performances at a football tournament in decades.

Gareth’s humble, positive and compassionate style struck a chord with youngsters, parents and people of all ages. In this book, Gareth shares his thoughts on how young people can thrive and achieve their own dreams.

You are a champion: how to be the best you can be by Marcus Rashford
Tear up the rule book. Find your own lane. You are only in competition with yourself. Marcus Rashford MBE is recognised worldwide for his journey both on-and-off the pitch — but how did a boy from the south of Manchester become not only an international footballer but also one of the leading activist voices in the UK?

In this inspiring, positive, and practical guide, Marcus gives you the tools you need to reach your full potential and will show you that your possibilities really can be endless.

Fiction Favourites

Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella
Based on a remarkable true story, is a moving, inspiring novel of a life lived in hope.

Samia Omar grows up in war-torn Somalia, dreaming of being a world-class sprinter. She sleeps with a photo of Mo Farah by her bed and trains hard. After achieving a place on the national team to compete in the Beijing Olympics, she sets her sights on the 2012 games in London. But with the war encroaching on the lives of her family, Samia decides to join her sister and make the treacherous journey to Europe, putting her life and her dreams in the hands of traffickers.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
Talented and determined, Devon is the centre of her ambitious parents’ world, and the lynchpin of their marriage. There is nothing Katie and Eric wouldn’t do for her.

When a violent hit-and-run accident sends shockwaves through their close-knit community, Katie is immediately concerned for her daughter, a rising star of the gymnastics world. She and Eric have worked so hard to protect Devon from anything that might distract or hurt her. That’s what every parent wants for their child, after all. Even if they don’t realize how much you’ve sacrificed for them. Even if they are keeping secrets from you . . .

Splash by Charli Howard
Molly is in her final year of primary school, with secret dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer. Having always lived in the shadow of her manipulative friend, Chloe, Molly finally has the chance to compete in a regional swimming contest and define herself on her own terms. But with the pressure of fitting in, and the sudden arrival of her mysterious mum, will she give up on her dreams for a shot at popularity?

The dog that saved the world (cup) by Phil Earle
The only thing that Pickles loves more than football is his best friend, and owner, Elsie. She’s smart, kind, funny and amazing at football. But even though Dad works hard to provide for them, life off the pitch is tough. It’s their team of three against the world and right now it feels like their side is losing. With the announcement that the World Cup is coming home to England and that Elsie’s team might have the chance to play in a halftime match at Wembley Stadium, it’s the happiest they’ve ever been. But when disaster strikes their dreams are shattered and it looks like it’s up to Pickles to save the World (cup).

Go Mo Go: Dinosaur dash by Kes Gray in consultation with Mo Farah
Mo and his friends are running together in the local park. Then Mo suggests they run backwards for fun. But what they hadn’t bargained for was running back in time. There are dinosaurs everywhere – and they are hungry. Luckily Mo and his friends are wearing good trainers for running and finding places to hide. It’s a good job they like running! Follow Mo on his madcap adventures as his running skills go from strength to strength.


Author of the Month: Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan’s novels are as diverse as his upbringing. Born in Hampshire in 1948, his childhood was a transient one, spent moving between east Asia, Germany and north Africa, following his father’s military postings. His similarly wide-roaming career has positioned him as one of Britain’s foremost literary voices. 

Whether penning eerie psychodramas or delicately wrought period pieces, what unites McEwan’s novels is an unerring curiosity about people. Whether the book’s key concern is personal or political, it is the intimate interpersonal relationships that provide their emotional core.  

McEwan’s career began with a penchant for the gothic. His first two novels The Cement Garden (1978) and The Comfort of Strangers (1981) were released to uneasy admiration, with critic John Krewson describing the former as being “beautiful but disturbing”. Subsequent works went on to stray from this generic darkness and, in doing so, found a wider readership. After the divisive release of The Child In Time (1987), an unusual tale of time travel, cold-war era romance The Innocent (1990) was met with near-unanimous critical praise. 

The image shows the book cover of The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
The image shows the book cover of The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

 

It was his 1998 novel, Amsterdam, that marked a true popular breakthrough. The tale of love and death won him the Booker Prize, with critics praising its “sardonic and wise examination of the morals and culture of our time.” 

A popular candidate for adaptation, McEwan’s works have frequently been seen on screen. Joe Wright’s 2007 film Atonement, adapted from McEwan’s 2001 novel of the same name brings to life a confusion of sexuality, war and guilt, replicating the author’s ability to vividly capture a moment frozen in time and imbue it with sizzling heat.  

More recently, Man-Booker prize shortlisted On Chesil Beach (2007) was adapted into a 2017 film starring Saoirse Ronan. Once again McEwan’s meditations on desire in a repressive society of the past are proven to have a continuing contemporary appeal. This reliable appetite to see McEwan’s work reinvented speaks to his continued appeal to diverse audiences.  

With the ability to wheedle his way to the emotional heart of any story, regardless of how convoluted, McEwan brings his readers into an unfamiliar situation only to find relatable humanity. 

The image shows the book cover of On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The image shows the book cover of Atonement by Ian McEwan

These titles are also available to loan through our eBooks app, BorrowBox.

Written by Flora Pick

Books and me: on my shelves

John Coughlan CBE, who retired as Hampshire County Council’s Chief Executive last month, talks about his reading loves and recommendations as well as his vision for Hampshire’s libraries.

This blog post is taken from a longer conversation with Emma Noyce, head of Hampshire Libraries, which is available here.

Reading habits

I’m an English graduate, so I’m a reader by background. I love literacy, I love literature and I love books: I’ve kept reading since my university days. But I have to admit, particularly in the last three or four years, I’ve found it harder and harder so I’m very much looking forward to getting some time to read now as I retire.

Political instincts

Middle England by Jonathan Coe was a holiday read last year. It’s fantastic, highly comic, but also a state-of-the-nation novel. Jonathan Coe is a Brummie contemporary of mine, he went to St Philip’s School in Birmingham and I went to a Catholic grammar school not far away. When I first read The Rotters Club, which is about a group of the kids at St Philip’s school, I could recognise the streets, I could recognise the jobs the parents are doing, and recognise the pubs that they go to. I can hear his accent: posh Brummie a bit like mine, like sanded down Brummie. Since then, I’ve always liked returning to Jonathan Coe.

I’m not a political reader, per se. For me, the best literature is laced in metaphor, where you can read things into it. Charles Dickens is highly politicised, but in very well disguised ways. I love Dickens: I love his humour. I know it’s laced with sentimentality but that’s because he was a jobbing writer: he managed to put all his politics into material that was being read avidly on a monthly basis by a population who would queue at paper stands to buy his chapters. For me, Dickens just stands apart: a remarkable writer and person. I’d pick Bleak House as a particular favourite with its two major themes of child poverty and a legal system gone mad, and also Our Mutual Friend, partly because there’s a character who’s in the waste business: my dad was a dustman, so I always related to that.

Another favourite of mine is John le Carré. I first read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy when I was doing a serious and difficult staff investigation. It was one of those professional turning points, which we all have, when you decide where your career is going and what side you are on. The thing about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and most of le Carré, is that while they’re obviously really well-crafted spy stories, they’re also profound social commentaries. Tinker Tailor is a commentary on post-war, post-empire England. But for me, it’s also a tremendous management text because it makes you think deeply about how organisations take decisions and how you challenge those decisions if they happen to be wrong. It also talks deeply about issues of loyalty and betrayal, and the causes of betrayal and the nature of betrayal. It’s astonishing. I go back to it every year or two.

A non-fiction book, Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, is one of those books that was a ‘moment-changing’ read of my life. It’s astonishingly difficult to read – it’s a history of rape – but brilliantly put together and unarguable.  I think boys should be made to read it.

Irish roots, Irish stories

It is ridiculous how many astonishing authors have come from recent and modern Ireland. I’m one of the few people I know that have read Ulysses  properly: but I did it because it was on my curriculum. It’s an extraordinary read and one I’d like to return to in retirement.

My parents came to England when they were teenagers. They ran away to get work at the time when there was a depression in Ireland. For them, the word ‘home’ referred to somewhere else. So one of one my choices would be Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. It was made into a wonderful film but the book, as ever, is even better than the film.

Prose writing among this group of Irish writers is subtle, gentle and pointed: you suddenly realise you’ve been hit hard without knowing it simply by a passage describing a scene, or a journey, or a conversation. Tóibín, for me, is probably one of the masters of that. The narrative of Brooklyn is very simple but hugely meaningful. It’s the story of a young woman who goes to live in America, a classic part of the Irish diaspora. And I relate to it because the woman is a bit like my mum. She went in different circumstances and for different reason but there’s that same sense of losing your family to go abroad and how the traditional parts of Irish culture butt against modern culture. It’s just beautifully, beautifully written.

William Trevor is another Irish writer, a Cork man, where my mum was from. He was a prolific author with a fantastic prose style, who tended to write about England and Englishness as an observer in his earlier novels but then went back into themes of how Ireland was changing as independence came in his later work. He deals with the harsh underbelly of people and places and it can be quite disturbing when he gets to work with his scalpel. Love and Summer is poignant and at times, challenging; it’s a love story and very different from some of his earlier work. One of the reasons I love it is because it’s a thriller: it becomes a page turner from having been this very elegiac, gentle narrative about rural Ireland.

BookTrust and children’s literacy

I’m Chair of Trustees for an organisation called BookTrust, which is a children’s reading charity which works nationally as a universal book gifting service, working with Hampshire County Council and with every other local authority, providing free books to different age groups of children.

As my children’s book choice, I’m picking Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas because it was one of those books that my children kept asking us to read again and again. I don’t know how many times we read it. It’s a great story about a witch who abuses a cat by changing its colour too often, but I won’t spoil the ending for you. It’s an absolute page turner.

The future of libraries

I think libraries are wonderful and I think they are huge assets to communities and to places. But in a modern society, libraries have to modernise too. I believe deeply in the physical book: whether a picture book or a written book, they’re remarkable things, tactile objects. Having a community resource of books where people know they can go is hugely important.

If we want to have libraries as vibrant, real places that people can trust, then we’ve got to make them relevant, we’ve got to make them used, and we’ve got to make sure that they can keep pace with their own viability. If the library service is serious about itself, it must continue to modernise. Protecting our libraries as buildings in corners of streets is not protecting our libraries as viable, important community resources that are going to be meaningful. We have to keep looking at what the future is going to hold, because otherwise you won’t create libraries, you’ll create unused museums of books. And that’s not what they should be for. They should be vibrant places that people use and go to.

Written up by Kate Price-McCarthy