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Discover the EmpathyLab 2020 Read for Empathy Collection with Brent Libraries

Today EmpathyLab announces the 50 books chosen by expert judges for the 2020 Read for Empathy collection.

Some illuminate the experience of people from a range of cultures or life circumstances. Others help children explore emotions, so they can understand how other people feel. Several reflect stories of our time, such as the refugee experience, or coping with anxiety (according to the NHS Digital report, Nov 2018, one in eight children in England have a mental health disorder).

They range from picture books and poetry to graphic and verse novels, divided into two collections, one for primary and one for secondary age children and young adults.

“Scientific research shows that reading builds empathy. So let’s use stories to help the rising generation develop superb empathy skills, and build a better world. It’s our best hope for the future.”

EmpathyLab Judging panel

What is Empathy?

Empathy is our ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings – to see things from their perspective and feel what they feel. It is an essential life skill, crucial if our young people and communities are to thrive.

We aren’t born with a fixed quantity of empathy – it’s a skill we can learn.

Excitingly, research shows that books are a powerful tool to develop it, because in identifying with book characters, young people learn to see things from other points of view. As they read, they are building their empathy skills.

Discovering the collections

There are two collections, one for primary school (KS1-2) with 33 books for 4-11 year-olds and one for secondary (KS3-4), with 17 books for 12-16 year-olds.

You can download guides to both collections, featuring full title lists from the EmpathyLab website.

The full collection will be available to borrow from Brent libraries in the run-up to Empathy Day on 9 June. Browse the Brent Libraries catalogue to find titles currently available.

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A Very Fine Exhibition of Clog-Wallopping or How Charlie Chaplin Found His Feet

Interesting stuff! Looking forward to learning even more at the event in December.

will / write and talk

“The boys roamed the streets for diversion, Syd wearing a pair of shoes as “holey as Gruyere cheese” and a worn out jacket. Charlie wore a pair of his mother’s red stage stockings… how the other children laughed at them.”                                                                                                                           (Picturegoer Magazine, 1952)

When you research Charlie Chaplin’s (and his elder brother Sydney’s)  life and work, you find an awful lot about shoes. Thanks to his diligent biographer David Robinson we know that Charlie was descended from Shadrach Chaplin, the village bootmaker of Great Finborough Suffolk, at the time…

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The Wrong Trousers: Making Laurel and Hardy’s “Liberty” — will / write and talk

“Liberty” was released in January 1929 and was the 28th short comedy Laurel and Hardy had made together. It stands today as one of their funniest achievements but also as an important transitional moment in their film-making. By the time the film was being written in September 1928 by Stan and his regular director, Leo […]

via The Wrong Trousers: Making Laurel and Hardy’s “Liberty” — will / write and talk

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April 13, 2019 · 12:44 pm

Book Review: Code of the Woosters by PG Wodehouse

What O, Jolly Old Fellow Bookworms,

One always loves to curl up with a tale from good old Wodehouse, and the Code of the Woosters is not the least ripe of his narratives. In fact, were a chap to inform me that he was entirely unfamiliar with the work of PGW, then I could do much worse than recommend this particular adventure to him. It’s a topping way to get to know Bertie and some of his friends and foes.

Old Pelham’s plots are always predictable once one becomes familiar with his modus operandi, yet somehow this makes them more rather than less amusing. Lacking a brain like that of Jeeves, I don’t know why this should be the case, but I maintain in the face of many a naysayer that it is. We begin with Bertie refusing to accede to a request from his faithful servant (in this case to undertake a world cruise) only to find himself embroiled in a sticky situation. His attempts to disentangle himself from the thicket succeed only to make him more entangled. Displaying the feudal spirit, Jeeves comes to the rescue, but there’s inevitably a price to pay. The master is made to look a silly ass and he grants the request made by fish-eating valet at the start of the saga. All this the experienced reader knows, but the enjoyment of the journey is the thing don’t you know?

More important than plot are the characters. Girls who can twist Bertie round their little fingers, fat-headed friends who fall in love with them, aunts who demand a nephew’s obedience and authority figures who instil terror until Jeeves spikes their guns. More than anything though there’s Bertram himself and his gentleman’s gentleman, who must be one of the great creations of English literature.

Best of all though is Old Pop Wodehouse’s use of language; what a magnificent wordsmith! Somehow he always finds the something juste, as I’ve heard Jeeves describe it. I think it’s the marriage of exquisite language to farcical plot that creates the magic.

Anyway, such are my feeble thoughts for what they’re worth.

Toodle pip,


code of the woosters

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Laurel and Hardy: Another Nice Mess

via Laurel and Hardy: Another Nice Mess

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October 22, 2018 · 4:38 pm

The Muse

Great review. I like reviews that aren’t afraid to be critical! I’m reading The Muse at the moment and so far I am really enjoying it but will wait to see if I am left ‘underwhelmed’ by the end like Rebecca.

What Rebecca's Read

The Muse
by Jessie Burton

Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 447


A picture hides a thousand words . . .

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer…

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The Bull and the Thunderstorm: An Artistic Partnership

Great preview of some of the issues that will be raised in the talk at Willesden on 22 May. Book now! –

will / write and talk

“She was anything you wanted. A dog, a mouse, a bird, an idea, a thunderstorm.”

A vital influence on Pablo Picasso’s life and art in the late 1930s was the Croatian/French artist Dora Maar (above, far right). Thanks to her we have the best visual records of Picasso at work, but her fiery socialism may also have awakened a hitherto dormant political passion within the artist that helped make “Guernica” the angry masterpiece we see today.

In 1936 Picasso was still married to the Russia ballerina Olga Koklova, with whom he’d had a son, Paulo. The two were now estranged because in 1927 the artist had met the 17 year old Marie-Therese Walter. Their secret affair didn’t remain secret for long as she became his model for a series of erotic, colourful portraits. A daughter, Maria was born in 1935 and Picasso ensconced both mother and child at the palatial…

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The Noisy Silent Cinema

Can’t wait for this talk on Wednesday!

will / write and talk

Silent cinema was never actually silent. You’ll probably know from your parents or grandparents that a large organ might rise up in front of the screen of the local cinema, not in a rude way, and entertain the audience between shows. This is a throwback to when movie houses used to employ thousands of musicians across the world, playing along to the flickers with stock tunes, jazzy improvisations and sound effects to accentuate the mood or action. These musicians would find themselves suddenly unemployed with the establishment of films with synchronised sound between 1927 and 1930. The comedian Harold Lloyd recalls in his youth around 1910 going to watch a movie that had live actors literally improvising the dialogue from behind the screen, but efforts to bring sound to the moving picture go back even further than that. To the very birth of cinema.

As part of my research into…

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Book Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This book is set in Iceland and is a fictional account of real events about the last execution that happened in Iceland in June 1829. The story is about Agnes Magnusdottir and her maid Sigridur Sigga Gudmundsdottir, and Fridrik Sigurdsson, the son of a local farmer, who have been convicted of the brutal murders of Natan Ketilsson and a visiting neighbour. The two men had multiple stab wounds and Natans remote farmhouse was torched to cover the crime.

The book draws you in with the main character and in particular for me Agnes. She has been sentenced to death.  She has to stay with a Christian family District Officer Jon Jonsson, his cold and iron stoned wife Margret and their daughters Lauga and Steina while she awaits her execution date. It deals with the horrifying aspect of housing a convicted murderer, and how they isolate Agnes at first. Then Toti, a priest has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian  and tries to understand who she is.

Burial Rites has a very raw description of how remote and cold the winter scene are, and the setting of the farm in its rural and arctic conditions. The book is very atmospheric and one can imagine the work on the farm which was harsh and bleak with the shearing, lambing, milking and the slaughter of the animals.

I would recommend this book to anyone as it is different and the setting of the scenes in this book will leave a sense of history and questions and would be a good topic to  discuss.


Burial Rites

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Guest blog in advance of our talk next week!

In advance of my next round of illustrated talks in London I’ve been delving into the history of libraries. There are a few good modern books on the subject, but mainly from American authors. Lionel Casson’s “Libraries in the Ancient World” (Yale, 2001) is highly recommended. It’s enjoyable and remarkably concise. Casson covers the history […]

via Uncovering the Library — will / write and talk

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