Supporting Ukraine in libraries

Dobro Pojalovat v bibliotyeku – Добро пожаловать в библиотеку
(Welcome to the Library)

Our libraries are pleased to have been able to work alongside colleagues, communities, and partners to offer support to refugees arriving in Hampshire.

Alongside free and flexible emergency library membership and information on our services, which has been translated into Ukranian and Russian, we have also been able to offer Ukrainian Connections drop-in sessions for Ukrainian guests and their hosts in many of our libraries. Needs have varied, but many people attending these sessions are seeking local information, activities for children, access to the internet, support with completing forms, and company in a welcoming space where people are willing to listen without judgement.

For information on all events and activities at your local library, including Ukranian Connections sessions please visit our website

In addition to this direct support, we have also created a special collection of books to take you beyond the headlines. Explore the country’s history, culture and literature with our two BorrowBox promotions – Ukraine and Read Ukraine.

In Wartime, Stories From Ukraine
Tim Judah
Making his way from the Polish border in the west, through the capital city and the heart of the 2014 revolution, to the eastern frontline near the Russian border, seasoned war reporter Tim Judah brings a rare glimpse of the reality behind the headlines. Along the way he talks to the people living through the conflict – mothers, soldiers, businessmen, poets, politicians – whose memories of a contested past shape their attitudes, allegiances and hopes for the future. Together, their stories paint a vivid picture of a nation trapped between powerful forces, both political and historical.

Ukraine Diaries
Andrey Kurkov
Ukraine Diaries is acclaimed writer Andrey Kurkov’s first-hand account of the ongoing crisis in his country. From his flat in Kiev, just five hundred yards from Independence Square, Kurkov can smell the burning barricades and hear the sounds of grenades and gunshot.

Life Went on Anyway (Stories)
Oleg Sentsov
The stories in Ukrainian film director, writer, and dissident Oleg Sentsov’s debut collection are as much acts of dissent as they are acts of creative expression. These autobiographical stories display a Tarkovsky-esque mix of nostalgia and philosophical insight, written in a simple yet profound style looking back on a life’s path that led Sentsov to become an internationally renowned dissident artist.

Death Positive Libraries

Death positive libraries aim to remove the barriers to talking about death and dying.

Almost 80% of British adults find it difficult to talk about death, even though we all have to face it. Not talking about death, not getting the right support and advice at the right time and the suffering that people go through when a loved one dies or when they are facing death themselves, puts enormous strain on mental health and wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for supportive services for bereaved individuals, at a time of vulnerability and low resilience.

Working with Libraries Connected and following on from pilot schemes in Redbridge, Kirklees and Newcastle Library services we are launching five Death Positive Hubs in early April 2022.

Libraries are uniquely placed to be a centre for bereavement support as well as a trusted space where conversations about death and dying can take place with caring staff on hand to help.

The Hubs, which are located across the county, to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from this project, will offer

  • A specially chosen collection of books for adults offering practical information and guidance
  • A collection of books for children, which use relatable stories to help initiate conversations about death
  • Trained staff who are comfortable talking about death and able to provide practical guidance for those seeking further professional support
  • Resources containing QR codes, directing customers to our webpages and signposting to relevant support services

Our five hubs, which are based in Basingstoke Discovery Centre, Chandler’s Ford Library, New Milton Library, Stubbington Library and Waterlooville Library; will also be working in partnership with specialist charities, organisations and businesses who support those who are dying or bereaved. These partnerships will enable us to offer practical and supportive events and activities in the Death Positive hubs later this year.

Existing services within libraries will also be helpful for people seeking support within Death Positive Hubs: social groups such as ‘Knit and Knatter’ or Scrabble club, access to digital information through our public network computers and WIFI and drop-in advice clinics such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Over time new groups and services will be offered, such as Death Cafes and special story times hosted by children’s bereavement specialists. We will be working with our Learning in Libraries team to offer a bespoke programme of learning too, covering a range of topics including, grief management, tackling end of life conversations, confidence building and wellbeing.

Our Death Positive books will be available in the five hubs and through Borrowbox. For physical copies, browse our online catalogue and, for a small charge, reserve the book or books you would like to pick up at your local library.

We will invite feedback from customers regarding the Death Positive booklist, exploring how useful particular titles are and suggestions for improving the collection.

Earth Matters March

The Earth’s climate is changing, human activity is causing our planet to warm at an alarming rate. International bodies of scientists have warned that we have just over a decade to halve our emissions to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change on our food supply, national security, global health, extreme weather, and more.

There is no time to waste. Everyone can do something to address our climate challenge, Hampshire County Council is working with all its services to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase biodiversity and make the land we manage as resilient as possible to climate change issues like flooding.

Plans include using our land and built estate to sequester carbon; making changes across our vehicle fleet; making the food we serve our customers more sustainable; ensuring we consider climate impacts when purchasing products and services and promoting changes that we can all make at work and at home.

To help us all make small changes at work or at home Hampshire Libraries launched Earth Matters March on 1 March. This month-long campaign features 31 suggestions – published as Instagram stories – for small changes most of us can easily make.

We are supporting this campaign with three special collections of books:

Our digital library is available 24/7 via the free BorrowBox app – you can join the library online if you’re not already a member – and get access to the app straightaway. All of the books from our three environmental collections can be reserved and sent to your local library for collection – you can reserve online, but a small charge applies to cover our costs.

Barbara Kingsolver

Through her novels, essay collections and poems, Barbara Kingsolver an ecologist and biologist by training, writer and political activist by inclination, combines grand and sometimes controversial themes with the gift of a true storyteller.

Her best-known novels concern the endurance of people living in often inhospitable environments and the beauty to be found even in such harsh circumstances, but Kingsolver likes to take a difficult subject and spin it into the most appealing package she can find, so that readers can enjoy wandering among her thorny questions. With each new book she publishes she is able to draw deeper on our complex relationships with the environment.

The Bean Trees
Her first novel, now widely regarded as a modern classic, is the charming tale of rural Kentucky native Taylor Greer, out of money and seemingly out of options, settles in dusty Tucson and begins working at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires while trying to make a life for herself.

Pigs in Heaven
An unforgettable road trip from rural Kentucky and the urban Southwest to Heaven, Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation, testing the boundaries of family and the many separate truths about the ties that bind.

The Poisonwood Bible
An international bestseller and a modern classic, the epic story of one family’s tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

Prodigal Summer
Over the course of one humid, Appalachian summer, four distinct and disparate characters find their connections of love to one another and to the surrounding nature with which they share a place.
With its strong balance of narrative and drama, Prodigal Summer is stands alongside The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna as one of Barbara Kingsolver’s finest works.

The Lacuna
Born in America and raised in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing mother, Salome. When he starts work in the household of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – where the Bolshevik leader, Lev Trotsky, is also being harboured as a political exile – he inadvertently casts his lot with art, communism, and revolution.

Flight Behaviour
On the Appalachian Mountains above her home, a young mother discovers a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature: the monarch butterflies have not migrated south for the winter this year. Is this a miraculous message from God, or a spectacular sign of climate change.

Unsheltered
Willa Knox stands braced against a world which seems to hold little mercy for her, her family – or their old, crumbling house. Willa’s two grown-up children, a new-born grandchild, and her ailing father-in-law have all moved in at a time when life seems at its most precarious. But when Willa discovers that a pioneering female scientist lived on the same street in the 1800s, could this historical connection be enough to save their home from ruin and keep the family together?

Small Wonder
This collection of essays is an extended love song to the world live in. Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, adolescence, genetic engineering, TV-watching, or the history of civil rights, these essays are grounded in the author’s belief that our largest problems have grown from the earth’s remotest corners as well as our own backyards, and that answers may lie in those places, too.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating
Barbara Kingsolver and her family attempt a year of eating only local food, much of it from their own garden. Inspired by the flavours and culinary arts of a local food culture, she shows us how to put food back at the centre of the political and family agenda. Part-memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book is full of original recipes that celebrate healthy eating, sustainability and the pleasures of good food.

Books and Me: On my shelves with Jayne Mushore

Jayne Mushore, Project Support Officer at Hampshire Libraries, speaks with us about empowering reads, childhood joys and the complexities of international identities.

Click on any of the book images to reserve that title.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I used to commute between Middlesbrough and London so a lot of my reading happened on the train, but I love listening to audiobooks in the car too – you can just put something on and drive, it’s a great way to pass the time. But for me, the best place to read is on holiday. Looking out across the sea without a care in the world, just getting completely lost in the book. I’m not rushing to get here or there I’m not rushing to do anything. There’s just that chilled vibe, knowing I don’t have to put the book down until I’m quite ready. I can just get lost in the pages.

How do you read?

I always read a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time. Sometimes the non-fiction becomes too much and I’ll need something more exciting and that’s when I’ll switch to the fiction book. With fiction, you have to conjure those images in your mind to picture how the scene would look and so I can’t read two fiction books at the same time. In an ideal world, I would love to start a book and finish it in one sit-in, but with work and home life, I really have to make time. So I take any chance I get to just sit down and read.

I love audiobooks and I use BorrowBox a lot. I would say my reading is about 50/50 between audiobooks and physical books. When someone is reading the book aloud to you, they will put the emphasis on parts that wouldn’t necessarily stand out to you. But when you read something yourself, you can pause on the parts that resonate with you personally. So while I love audiobooks I do really like to read a book myself when I can.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene. It’s a non-fiction book of black British women telling the story of their experience stepping on the career ladder. It talks about the challenges that they faced and how they navigate the working world. For example, one of the women talks about how they created a lingerie line for women of colour, producing tights that work for different skin tones. If it isn’t something you think about it can seem small, and if you don’t have the option, it may not be something you think you need. But actually, being able to wear something that works with your body is great and it’s really important for somebody to have that option.

“The quest for good is a marathon and not a sprint; it is measured over years, not fleeting moments; over failures and missteps and, of course, successes.” – Slay In Your Lane

The other book I’m reading is Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s quite out there and the cover really caught my eye. It’s about a girl who is communicating with spirits but is cursed by her community as her conception was from rape. It’s set in Africa and over the last year a lot of the novels I’ve been reading are Africa-based. I love reading about Africa in fiction, it’s always brought to life so differently each time, particularly in Who Fears Death. It’s quite different from any book I’ve read.

Reading patterns

I don’t really follow a genre or author in particular, I usually pick my books by going onto the library’s online catalogue to see what’s new and what catches my attention. Book covers really do grab me, they make me curious and tempt me to find out more. That may sound like a weird way to pick what you read but I always find something interesting by just having a browse. My friends and I always make recommendations to each other when we’ve read a really good book too. Slay In Your Lane was one that was a recommendation, I think it stood out because it’s such an empowering read for young black women.

I tend to read with my mood so if everything is going well, I will read quite uplifting books but if I’m going through something they’ll take a darker turn. Last year with the pandemic I was in the headspace of questioning a lot of things in my life and I couldn’t really be in “the now”. My friend recommended The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and it really kept me going through lockdown.

First love, best loves

I’m from Zimbabwe so most of what I remember reading at a young age was in my native language. When I started learning English, I remember I used to read a lot of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven series. Fantastic Mr Fox is the book that really stands out from my childhood. A talking fox sneaking around being mischievous was hilarious to me. The world in the story was so different from our way of life in Africa I found it so intriguing. When I was a bit older one of my school friends had the Harry Potter books, I remember we read a few chapters of the prisoner of Azkaban and started asking ourselves “should we be doing this?”. With my African background and the Christian culture I grew up in, reading about witches wasn’t really acceptable. It shows how different attitudes can be as well because that was quite a big thing and we felt so wrong we didn’t end up finishing it!
The Devil Wears Prada was one of my favourites too, I remember being really excited to get a hold of the second book when it came out. The Hunger Games series was another big favourite of mine as well, but I remember reading a lot of John Grisham novels too. He was a lawyer before he became a writer, and The Firm is one I really remember enjoying.

The series of books I used to really love was The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – I used to read the books over and over again, I think I know them by heart! Reading about this strong African woman who’s doing exciting things was really thrilling. They hold real sentimental value to me, I remember thinking “I want to be that woman who’s out there getting stuff done!”

A book I really connected with recently was We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Bulawayo is from Zimbabwe too and reading the book brought back so many memories. In the book, she writes about being playing ‘countries’ outside as children like I used to growing up. I can really understand the perspective she writes from. The main character, Darling, witnesses the violence happening in Zimbabwe as she’s growing up and doesn’t really understand what’s going on and then she moves to America. Something that made me quite emotional when I was reading the book is when she’s in America and calls a friend back home. The friend says that Darling can’t say ‘our country’ when talking about Zimbabwe because she decided to leave. I can relate to that because the friends and all the things you used to hold dear that built your friendship are no longer there. You don’t belong in Zimbabwe anymore, but you don’t feel as if you belong in this new world yet either. You’re in limbo. You’re very grateful for the opportunities you’ve found in this new world but trying to fit in parts of your old life with it is really hard. Then when you try to connect with the people back at home to say, “I’m one of you still”, they reject you and so you don’t know where you stand. It was very bittersweet to read about that through the story of Darling in We Need New Names. Everyone I know who has read the book and has migrated has agreed that this book perfectly tells the story of how it feels.

Overlooked Delights

Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter was extremely endearing and touching to me. I think the message of teaching a girl-child to be independent and themselves. That message of keeping going and finding your strength really resonated with my upbringing and some of what I witnessed as part of my cultural background. Reading a book like this, where somebody is really holding out their heart and saying, “things happen and life is hard but you do need to keep moving because there is light at the end of the tunnel”, is just so powerful to me.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Letter to My Daughter

Jayne Mushore is the Project Support Officer for the digital initiatives of Hampshire Libraries, working to deliver services such as the publicly accessible computers and the procurement of audiobooks. Jayne was speaking with Isaac Fravashi.

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.

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.


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

The Power of Kindness

The past year has been strange and difficult for most of us. It has been a time of loneliness, isolation and feeling unsure and we had to find new ways of being ‘normal’. Throughout this time the theme of kindness has been constant, with people volunteering to support their communities, donating food or cooking for frontline workers and fundraising for the NHS.

An act of kindness can be the tiniest thing, a simple smile as you step aside to let some pass on the street, it can start small and become huge. Kindness can improve our self-esteem, heighten our sense of belonging, reduce isolation, and help to keep things in perspective. Kindness also has the potential to make our world a happier place.

To celebrate kindness, we have put together a collection of books for adults and children, that promote kindness and its power to change our lives, communities, and world. Look out for these books in your local library or borrow them as eBooks and eAudiobooks from BorrowBox.

Jonny Benjamin – The stranger on the Bridge
In 2008, 20-year-old Jonny Benjamin stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to jump. A stranger saw his distress and stopped to talk with him – a decision that saved Jonny’s life. The Stranger on the Bridge is a memoir of the journey Jonny made both personally, and publicly to not only find the person who saved his life, but also to explore how he got to the bridge in the first place and how he continues to manage his diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.

Christie Watson – The Language of Kindness
Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, this book is an astonishing account of a profession defined by acts of care, compassion, and kindness. In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us and in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand.

Akwaeke Emezi – Freshwater
A sparkling debut novel exploring the idea of many ‘selves’, how we develop our identities and the impact of others around us.

Ingrid Persaud – Love after love
Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, ‘Love After Love’ asks us to consider what happens at the very brink of human forgiveness, and offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.

Elizabeth Laird – Secret Friends
Rafaella finds it hard to make friends when she starts at a new school. Her name sounds strange, her ears stick out, she feels different from the others. And Lucy is the first to tease, the first to call her Earwig. But then a secret friendship begins.

Onjali Q Rauf – The boy at the back of the class
Told with humour and heart, The Boy at the Back of the Class offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

In Siberia by Colin Thubron

About the book

This is the account of Thubron’s 15,000-mile journey through an astonishing country – one twelfth of the land surface of the whole earth. He journeyed by train, river and truck among the people most damaged by the breakup of the Soviet Union, traveling among Buddhists and animists, radical Christian sects, reactionary Communists and the remnants of a so-call Jewish state; from the site of the last Czar’s murder and Rasputin’s village, to the ice-bound graves of ancient Sythians, to Baikal, deepest and oldest of the world’s lakes.  It is the story of a people moving through the ruins of Communism into more private, diverse and often stranger worlds.

 

Reviewed by Newcomers

An Illuminating and evocative writing. He manages to humanise the map of Siberia – the encounters with the people gave relief to the subject matter. Very well written excellent travel writer”

star rating ***

 

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