Of all the monsters and heroes that people often dress up as at Halloween, the favourite for everyone are witches and wizards. They both appear in literature sometimes as protagonists and support characters, but most often they are the villains of the story, witches more often than wizards. The rabble of characters I have selected for my list are all the stars of their respective stories and all have a thing in common with each other, see if you can spot it in the list!
- Mildred Hubble – The Worst Witch Series – Jill Murphy
My personal favourite character on this list, Mildred is presented to us in Jill Murphy’s 80’s book of the same name as a bumbling, accident prone girl, a “worst witch” as you will. Everything seems to not go to her favour, from messing up in Potions class to not getting a black cat like the other girls but instead a grey coloured cat she calls ‘Tabby’. Mildred’s bumbling is actually her greatest strength in the books as she (unknowingly) saves the day in each one, with accidental consequences of course! What made Mildred my favourite over the years is that she was very gloriously average. Most characters I have read about up until then were Greek in their ways, flawless and ones to model ourselves after. Mildred in a way was us, and we were following her journey with her. I also thanks to Mildred, grew quite fond of tabby cats and used to always carry a beanie baby tabby cat with me and pretend I was Mildred, in fact I was her for Halloween three times in my life! Re-create the look by getting a black pinafore, thin scarf, blue shirt and witches hat. And don’t forget those famous plaits!
- Wizard Howl – Howl Series – Diana Wynne Jones
I admit I did not know who Diana Wynne Jones was as a child and I first came across her as
a teenage anime fan, seeing the movie adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle. But we are not here to talk about the movie version as this is a library blog. Howl is somewhat of a mysterious character when you are first introduced to him. Although the book is called ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ you are seeing the events through the eyes off a milliner called Sophie Hatter. Sophie is turned into an old woman for much of the story, and her meeting Howl is a happy accident. Howl is presented to us as a vain if quirky wizard who is supposed to be this ‘heart eating demon’. Throughout the book, you see (through Sophie) Howls personality change from that to a selfless hero who is a powerful wizard. Complete the look for Halloween by finding the dandiest suit you can find and putting a blond wig on.
- Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series- J.K Rowling
This series does not need any waffling from me to introduce it does it? Even though Harry is the main star of the series, it was his clever friend Hermione Granger that I always was in awe of. She was the straight woman of the 3 Man Band of Harry, Ron and herself. She would always use her cunning intelligence to get Harry and Ron out of trouble and lets face it, she was the real hero of the stories. Get the look by purchasing a Harry Potter Hogwarts uniform set from any fancy dress shop and letting you hair go wild.
Brent libraries are running Halloween events all half term so check brent.org/events for more details.
Autumn has arrived in full force which means falling leaves, bonfires, Halloween and the growing fascination with everything pumpkin spiced. But one little animal is as much autumn as the other things mentioned and is the topic of this blog. They are cute, spikey and some go fast! Out if ideas?
Well it is none other than the humble hedgehog! This bundle of spikes is a quaint autumn sight but numbers have been declining over the years. Here are a few tips to keep them safe and warm in the coming months:
- Check any bonfires you set up to see if there is a hedgehog sleeping there underneath. Bonfire piles attract hedgehogs because it is warm and away from danger but many get killed each year due to the bonfire so before you celebrate, always check your bonfire pile!
- Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs do not like milk as they are lactose intolerant. That means their bodies cannot process the enzymes that are in milk and it makes them very sick indeed. Instead, give them water and any cooked meat you have lying around as it goes down a treat with the ‘hogs. Even better, if you keep pets that require them yourself, live mealworms are perfect as they are similar to what hedgehogs eat in the wild.
- You can always try building your own ‘hedgehog house’ out of leaves, sticks, moss and anything else that you can find in the garden. They must be well hidden as hedgehogs have quite a few predators lurking about ready to pounce. You can also include a blanket but it is preferred if you have any natural insulation, like feathers.
Some even keep hedgehogs as pets but it is not recommended that you pick one up from the streets. There are many licensed breeders online or better yet check if your local animal shelter or hedgehog re-homer have any looking for a home if you want to commit to having one as a pet. If not those tips will have a rabble of little hogs coming to you. Hedgehogs do not like us as much as we like them but they are fun to watch from afar.
Our Libraries have many books on hedgehogs, from fiction books in the Children’s section to hedgehog care and animal books in the Non Fiction section. One of the more popular hedgehog books is The Hodgeheg, By Dick King-Smith which is about a young hedgehog who decides to become a road safety hero to his family and other hedgehogs.
Brent Libraries are also having a Green Cities Arts and Crafts session this October and the theme is you guessed it, hedgehogs! Children can make their own paper hedgie out of paper and dried leaves. A tip is to bring your own dried leaves from your garden at home. You can colour your hedgehog’s ‘leaf spikes’ in all the colours of the autumn leaves. The next session in time of writing is at the Library at Willesden Green, Saturday 22nd October at 2.30m,-4pm.
Make your own hedgehog as our craft event!
The month of October means chilly autumn winds, Halloween costumes and pumpkin spice lattes but another important event also takes place on the tenth month of each year. Black History Month celebrates the rich diversity and culture of many Black British people and all throughout the month there will be events all around the capital. Here at Brent libraries we embrace this all over our departments but none more so than our Children’s libraries. Here are five books for children that feature and teach all about Black culture.
- Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
10 year old Grace is a bubbly girl with a lot of ambitions for what she wants to be when she is older, but for now she really wants to be
Peter Pan for the school play. When she is put down by her classmates who say that she cannot play Peter Pan because she is a girl and that she is black, Grace is very upset. Grace finds solace in her grandmother who tells her about all the great things that Black people have done in history. With that new found confidence Grace shines as Peter Pan now she feels she can do anything. This book is great for teaching kids that there is no limit to what you can achieve, no matter who you are.
2. Through My Window by Tony Bradman
This vibrant book celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and it is worthy of that distinction for a very good reason that it
celebrates the diversity of London. The story is about a little girl called Jo who sees all the people and sights around her estate from the milkman, postman and her neighbour Mrs Ali who shares with Jo and her dad sweets from her country. This book teaches young children about all the varieties of people and sights that are all around us and how sharing is good.
3. I love my Hair! By Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Hair comes in many different textures, lengths and colours but when you are a child it can be hard to feel good about your hair, especially when it is not the ‘same’ as ‘others’. This book is all about celebrating Afro-Caribbean hair told in a lovely array of watercolours. It shows techniques of caring for Afro-Caribbean hair in which they can relate to. It also teaches young black children to be proud of their hair and heritage. This book is very useful and is a very nice addition to your child’s bookshelf.
4. Handa’s Hen by Eileen Brown
Handa’s Hen is a counting book about a girl called Handa from a Kenyan tribe. One day she goes out to feed her grandmother’s hen and finds out that she has disappeared. We then follow Handa and her best friend Akeyo to find the hen, learning numbers across the way. They come across sunbirds and lizards in their journey to find the missing hen. This beautiful book teaches kids about counting and how other cultures live and be together.
Allen Zadoff has written an unbelievable book. Honestly, it’s one of the best novels I have ever read. It dazzles in every aspect and never ceases to surprise.
So we start the book in the mind of our protagonist, this is a first person book. We don’t even know the protagonist’s name. The story starts off when “Boy Nobody” is friends with a kid called Jack. Jack invites “Boy Nobody to his house where his father is and that’s when we start to realise who “Boy Nobody” actually is, he’s an assassin. From the very first pages we sense that our protagonist is something special: “Jack’s dad wanders by with a beer in his hand. Chen Wu is his name. His friends call him John. He’s the CEO of a high-tech firm along Route 128. Lots of government contracts.” Our protagonist notices every little detail. Eventually he injects a poison into Mr Wu which kills him, “Boy Nobody” escapes, arousing no suspicion. That’s only the start of the book though.
Bit by bit we start to learn more about our protagonist. He gets new assignments every time he finishes one, his superiors are called Mother and Father and he still has memories of how it started. A few chapters in he’s sent on a new assignment, to kill the mayor of New York by befriending his daughter. I won’t describe what happens after that because then I would spoil your read.
What is so good about this book is how we discover more and more about our character as the story goes on. The author makes us believe that his mind works like a robot who’s constantly calculating but more importantly has no emotion at all. But as the story goes on we learn that’s not true. Our protagonist starts to feel emotion as doubt creeps in. The author completely submerges us into his brain; we know all his thoughts and dilemmas. What I also enjoyed very much was the attention to detail. I’ll give you an example: “She’s maybe fifteen, long brown hair, too much gloss on her lips. She has a backpack slung across one shoulder. The strap pulls her shirt tight, the swell of her breast pressing against fabric”, this is all in the mind of our protagonist.
This is a fantastic read, with plenty of surprises, I guarantee if you like action, thrillers and even romance books you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one, it’s a cracker!
In a recent staff meeting at Ealing Road Library one of my colleagues was discussing a book she’d noticed while shelving. Favourite Stories for Girls, the book is a fairly entertaining book of stories including one about a beauty pageant winner who defies her mother to play football with the boys and one about a girl detective who tries to solve The Case of the Appearing Sandwiches using the methods of Sherlock Holmes – but what struck us all was the title. Is it right to identify a book as suitable for one particular gender? I thought it was a shame boys might be put off reading this funny book by the title but on the other hand maybe it’s a helpful way to tell children what the book is about. Maybe I am too keen to be politically correct when encouraging children to read should be a priority. Whether we like it or not boys and girls do find aspects of their identity through gender roles and identifying which gender a book most suits might help them choose books they are likely to enjoy. Alternatively you could argue ‘which came first?’ do girls like fairies and boys dragons because it’s in their nature or because they’ve been told that’s what they should like?
“it’s a serious matter because it does narrow children’s sense of what they’re allowed to do or like, in a horrible, horrible way” Anne Fine
Last year Ladybird came down on the side of not labeling books and from now on ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ labels will not feature on their books. But as short a time ago as 2011 they published; Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls: the mix of princesses, fairies and classic characters is perfect for little girls everywhere and Favourite Stories for Boys: the lively mix of adventurous heroes, dastardly creatures and classic characters is perfect for boys everywhere. They defended this choice saying it was a way to make choosing a book easier, particularly for grandparents selecting a gift. I find these titles quite shocking! If you remove the words ‘boy/girl’ but leave the rest of the description you are still able to learn what the book is about but without excluding anyone, if your little girl loves princesses choose the first one if she prefers adventure stories choose the second.
“Books are for people. Stories are for people. Limiting that is foolish and short-sighted” Neil Gaiman
We do have a challenge though. Encouraging children to read is not always easy, particularly with boys, could a range of books seen to be especially for boys help encourage them to read more? I’m not sure but don’t think we should pursue the method even if it did work. We want children to read for a reason not just for the sake of it, we want children to read because it helps them learn about who they are, expands their ability to be open minded and imaginative – we have to practice what we are preaching! If you say ‘these books are just for you’ you are automatically saying to someone else ‘these books aren’t for you’ – and that seems wrong.
“what may seem to be a harmless marketing strategy, is, to an impressionable child, really a form of brainwashing, repeating the false message that boys are brilliant and brave, while girls are mostly just decorative”. Joanne Harris
David Walliams is described as “the fastest growing children’s author in the UK.” The book is about a 12 year old boy Dennis. Dennis loves playing football. However he doesn’t think he fits in. He enjoys reading vogue because it reminds him of his mother yellow dress that she was wearing in a photograph. His parents are separated and Dennis lives with his dad. Dennis and John (Dennis’s elder brother) aren’t allowed to talk about their mother in the house. Dennis thinks that his dad is depressed.
Dennis meets the most fashionable girl in school-Lisa, and Lisa encourages Dennis to wear a dress. He wears it to the corner shop and enjoys it. The boy in the dress is a good book but it is too long. I think that this is quite different kind of book. It is quite interesting. It tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy who enjoys cross dressing, it also shows us the reactions of Dennis’s family and friends.
I would give this book 3/5.
BY: Umaimma Asif
The author of the novel is David Walliams. The book is about a boy called Ben. Ben has to stay with his stay with his grandmother every Friday because his parents go to see a dancing show named Strictly Stars Dancing. He thinks that she is very boring and treats him like baby. His granny always feeds him cabbage related dishes, most commonly cabbage soup, they are constantly playing Scrabble. Ben wants to be a plumber when he grows up. However Bens parent want him to become a professional ballroom dancer.
The twist in the plot is that Ben thinks that his grandma is an international jewellery thief. Ben thought that his granny was on the world top criminals! The book has a very sad ending.
I found the book emotional and yes I know it’s a children’s book but it had some serious emotion. The only negative thing I can say about the book is that it is really long. It takes forever to finish.
I would give it 3/5.
By Umaimma Asif
This book has been long listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.
This story is set in the Australian outback at the turn of the last century. It focuses on the friendship between grieving 11 year old heroine Comity and Fred, an Aborigine boy. The story mainly takes place on telegraph messaging base where Comity’s Father manages communication of messages via Morse code. Comity’s father is an ‘absent’ father who has slipped into a deep depression following the death of his much loved wife by a snake. The telegraph outpost is staffed by about six male white staff and a small group of Aborigine people. Fred helps to support the grieving Comity and provide her with comfort that her father is unable to do, often enlightening her about Aborigine myths and beliefs. Together they combine both Christian and Aborigine beliefs to manage the grieving process. Into this mix comes an assistant telegraph manager who is a bully and racist, lazy and a trouble maker, with ambitions of taking over management of the outpost. The scene is set for some very tense storytelling highlighting what life was like for Aborigines in colonial Australia. There is also an Asian Muslim community referred to as the Ghans who keep to themselves whilst building a camel transport industry. I was unaware of their presence in Australian history. The story is very good and well written, but unsettling in terms of the casual racism, the parental neglect and the children’s struggles in the unknown outback to save themselves. This is a thought provoking story with opportunities for much discussion.
This is one of my childhood favourites (I’m not going to say exactly how long ago that was!) and it’s still very popular today. It’s recently been turned into a hit West End Musical.
I think I liked it so much partly because Matilda had so much against her but turned out to have a special gift. Being a child can make you feel very powerless sometimes, especially when parents are being mean, teachers or classmates nasty. There’s nothing you can do, you just have to keep your head down and follow the rules – but in this story the child does find themselves with power! It’s a fantasy I think many of us wish we could have played out, unfortunately I was never as clever as Matilda. It’s also such a great book because of how Matilda uses her wonderful local library!
Being a child isn’t always fun!
That’s enough from me, here’s what some of the young readers from Brent Libraries thought of the book;
“This in the best book because it is very rare to know hard things when you are little. The genre of this book is like a mystery because how did she learnt things that quick? 5/5”
“Matilda is clever. This is my favourite book because it is enjoyable to read. Matilda’s parents are rude and always mean to Matilda. Matilda’s headteacher is strong and she’s furious whenever one of the children does something wrong. I recommend this book for big children because it’s good entertainment for kids. 5/5”
“Matilda is my best book because it is very interesting and Matilda’s parents are sometimes funny and also Mrs Trunchbull is funny. This is the best book I have read and I feel like I want to read the book forever!”
“Matilda is a stunning book about a girl who is really smart for her age but her parents, who are rich, don’t care about her studies and think she is foolish. It is a children’s book and is written by a famous author Roald Dahl. This is the best book in the World and a real page turned. 5/5”
“Matilda is a very funny and interesting book, it is the best book I’ve ever read. I also liked the book because Roald Dahl used a lot of interesting vocabulary when he described Miss Trunchbull.”
“Matilda is a very interesting book, it has interesting words that I didn’t know before. the book was funny and Roald Dahl has a good way of writing. 5/5”
“This book is the most mysterious and hilarious book because Matilda is clever , kind and mysterious but can be incredibly powerful. Miss Trunchbull is powerful too but mean, rude and bossy. I liked reading this book at night before going to sleep.”
“Matilda is my best because it is funny and Matilda is very interesting. Roald Dahl is my favourite author. It is also a page turner that I wouldn’t put down, I would keep on reading it. 5/5”
So it’s unanimous 5/5! What do you think? Is this one of your childhood favourites?