Little Ladybird Laughs for Large Children (or Grown-Ups)

Harefield Library have just got the complete and delicious new set of ladybird books that take you back to your childhood, but with a fantastic twist…


Here is a review from a member of Harefield Library Staff –

These books are brilliant, from the titles- eg The Hipster, The Hangover, The Mid-Life Crisis- right down to the hilarious faux-kitsch mock 50s/60s illustrations!

They ‘enable grown-ups to think that they have taught themselves to cope’ with the difficult world around them, when really they are just as much in chaos & in the dark as they were as children.
 If you are old enough to have learned the basics of living from the original children’s series, you will find these absolutely hilarious in the light of your ‘adult’ experiences!
Here is a quotation from Dating:
                     Men’s brains and women’s brains are different, even as children…
                     To get along, men and women pretend not to mind those little differences.
                     Or they become homosexuals.
By Len – Harefield Library 

Judging Books by Their Covers

Cover of the week – Appetite by Philip Kazan, cover design by Patrick Knowles & Michael Trevillion

Appetite by Philip KazanThis weeks cover of the week was chosen by Barbara at Uxbridge Library. She says,

love the aged look of the cover. The setting is Italy in the 1400’s, and the cover has a feel of a Leonardo Da Vinci painting. I can almost feel the fabric of the beautiful young woman’s robe. The peach signifies perfection and a wonderfully warm climate. The theme throughout this story is the quest for The perfect tasting dish. Such a clever cover which almost brings this story to life before even looking inside.’

From Barabara’s description I can see that the cover links wonderfully with the content of the book, something I always feel is important. The photograph by Michael Trevillion is cropped in a way that creates focus around the peach and therefore the act of eating. The image could feel like a freeze frame, with the young woman poised to take a bite. It can also appear as though she is contemplating the fruit in her hand as if there is some significance to her eating it.

The ‘Da Vinci’ style that Barbara mentions is probably the work of the designer, Philip Knowles. The designer’s job is to adjust the image to suit the style the publishers want to achieve. In this case the style is that of an old master’s painting. The faded effect at the edge of the book is reminiscent of old drawing or photographs and plays on our perception of aged artworks. The details in the corner of the cover and under the title have a very medieval quality as does the script of the title. All of these details will have been decided by the designer after discussion with the publisher.

If you click on the review link below you will find the cover displayed is different. This cover depicts two peaches in a still life composition very reminiscent of the times when the book is set.

Find more of Michael Tevillion’s photographs here.

Find reviews of the book here.

Harry Potter Night – Thursday 4th February

Hogwarts Express

Decorations at Ruislip Manor Library

Muggles, wizards and witches let me tell you a spellbinding tale about a wonderfully wizarding event!

Libraries across Hillingdon hosted a wide variety of Harry Potter themed events to celebrate Harry Potter Night on the 4th February. Yiewsley and Ruislip Manor both held a Night of Spells, Oak Farm


Making masks at Oak Farm Library

investigated a break in at Gringotts, Charville and South Ruislip Libraries also held events. Below staff discuss events at their library.


A Night of Spells at Ruislip Manor Library (by Sharon):
It was Harry potter book night on Thursday 4th feb, and at Ruislip Manor library we had a fun packed evening planned! Before we could begin there was a short disclaimer to be read out to the parents to let them know that Ruislip Manor library could accept no responsibility if their child was to get turned into a frog or toad during the course of the event , luckily as far as I know all children did leave in their original form.

The wizard recruits had arrived dressed in their Hogwarts finest , and we chose two outstanding winners of the fancy dress contest. All the young wizards were then presented with a train ticket for the Hogwarts express, and shown through to platform 9 3/4 then all aboard we were on our way to Hogwarts. Once we arrived there was something very important to do the sorting hat ceremony, each child was allocated by the hat to a house either Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin or Hufflepuff. Once in their houses they made themselves a house tie, and we began the exciting wizard duels. Each wizard had to pick a spell, and wands at the ready they began the contest. The winner was judged by how powerful we felt their spell was performed, and they were awarded house points for their team!

duel 2

Wands at the ready! A duel at Ruislip Manor

We then moved onto our fun quiz, again correct answers were awarded house points and the children were so knowledgeable it was most impressive.

It was extremely close but in the end the winning house was Gryffindor, but all the children did so well.

We had some wonderful feedback with comments such as ‘brilliant’ and  ‘fantastic event’. To finish everyone received a badge and a certificate congratulating them on taking part. It really was a magical evening and we cannot wait until next year to do it all again,  judging by the smiles on the children’s or should I say young wizards faces they feel exactly the same.

Harry Potter Night at Yiewsley Library (by Parmjit):


Dumbledore leads a class at Yiewsley

On the 4th February Professor Dumbledore welcomed students back to a new year at Hogwarts. Harry Potter Night at Yiewsley Library was a great success! The witches and wizards came dressed in their wizarding robes and after receiving their Golden tickets and report cards they headed off to Platform 9/34 to catch the Hogwarts Express.

There they were sorted into their houses by Minerva Mcgonagall who sent them off promptly to Ollivander’s wand shop to get their magic wands. After receiving their wands they went onto the wizard duelling event where they cast their spells, with such competitiveness.  Professor Snape was waiting for the children to conjure up magic potions with his disgusting but original ingredients.  The competitiveness didn’t end as the children all went off to play quidditch against their friends.

Colouring sheets, a quiz and a character hunt were all part of this mystical magical night. On completing all the events each child received a specially created certificate from Professor Dumbledore.


Shakespeare & World Book Night – What more could you want??


Celebrate Shakespeare & World Book Night with a special Open Mic at Uxbridge Library!


“The Bard at Night”

Saturday, April 23rd 2016



It’s 400 years since William Shakespeare walked the earth. To mark the anniversary, Uxbridge Central Library is holding a special Shakespeare-themed Open Mic night on April 23rd, the Bard’s birthday.  There will be some fantastic free books given out too, to celebrate World Book Night and our love of reading.

WBNDrawing on the success of the library’s regular Open Mic evenings, the occasion will welcome performers of all kinds for a night of entertainment, nibbles and drinks.

Tickets are £3.50, including a glass of wine or a soft drink.


You don’t have to wrap your tongue around the Bard’s words to take part if you don’t want to. Get into the spirit of Shakespeare by showcasing a song, poem, comedy act or story about love, the supernatural, revenge – or any of the themes the playwright tackled in his time.

If you prefer, you can take on a sonnet, speech or scene by Shakespeare in front of our friendly open mic audience.

Whether you’re a massive fan of the Bard or you’ve never read a word of Shakespeare in your life, it’s sure to be an fantastic evening!

To book a performance slot, email You can perform as an individual or a group, and slots last five minutes, although if you’d like to showcase a longer piece, we may be able to fit it in. A PA system is provided, should you need it.

6 Reasons Why We’re Looking Forward to a Bookish Night Out with Jen Campbell:


The wonderful Jen Campbell is popping into We Love Coffee on Harefield High Street on Friday 4th March at 7pm for our Bookish Night Out. And here’s six reasons why we’re looking forward to it:




  1. We love books! (In case you hadn’t noticed!)

  2. Everybody loves Jen Campbell (including Neil Gaiman)

  3. “Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?” Well, did she Jen?

  4. We’re rather fond of cake.

  5. In case cake and an author talk wasn’t enough there’s also a quiz with prizes.

  6. It’s a chance to buy some bookish things and hats. Why hats? Have you ever tried balancing a book on your head?

To book your place at our Bookish Night Out please contact your local library. Tickets are just £5 payable on the door.

Or you can email or call Harefield Library on 01895 558184.


by Mark – Uxbridge 

A Graphic Novel Review: Ms Marvel

msmarvel Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old second generation Pakistani-American Muslim immigrant living in New Jersey. She wants to go out to a party but her parents refuse to give her permission. They don’t feel it’s safe. She goes anyway. When she returns from the party her brother vows to summon up the boys from the mosque and sort out any man that has hurt her. Her parents ground her.


In actual fact Kamala left the party early and walked through a terrigen mist. The mist has given her the ability to shapeshift. Her powers arrive at the same time as a religious vision/hallucination involving Captain America, Iron Man and the original Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel). Kamala is a huge fangirl for the Avengers (her mother is confused by her Avengers ‘fan fiction’) and wants to be just like the original Ms. Marvel. And she becomes just that, turning into the tall, blonde superhero. Kamala soon realises, however, that the supposedly perfect body isn’t so ideal. The “perfect” hair gets in her eyes, the “perfect” costume gives her a “wedgie”. Over the course of this first volume of comics Kamala learns, through the power of shapeshifting, that she prefers to be herself. Only smaller, so that she can sneak through the gaps in a chain link fence, or with a giant hand for grabbing armed robbers.

At the heart of this latest incarnation of Ms. Marvel is the formula that has helped make Marvel comics so successful. Spider-Man, for example, is not just a teenage boy with good climbing abilities, he’s a geeky teenage boy with girlfriend troubles and money worries. Only Ms. Marvel is also an example of Marvel reaching out to different audiences, to cover different experiences of growing up in the United States, and yet at the same time creating a universal story that anyone can enjoy. Any reader can relate to a desire to fit in but Ms. Marvel also allows us to learn a little more about the experience of a teenage Muslim girl growing up in the U.S.


This contemporary story is told with a self-reflective wit, Kamala is mistaken for the original Ms. Marvel and when she seems confused the male character quickly corrects himself and calls her “Captain,” and images that almost resemble watercolour paintings. The art style adds a sense of timelessness to a story that has been praised for its contemporary approach to a superhero character. It produces a sense of youthful wonder rather than the urgency of more photo realistic art styles.

Of course, Ms. Marvel is still a mainstream superhero comic book. It has certain expectations to meet. There are still costumes to be worn, victims to be saved and laser gun wielding villains to be fought but it’s in the quiet moments that the book shines. The character immediately captured the public’s imagination, being recognised in mainstream newspapers such as The Guardian and The New York Times, and the comic is prepared to focus as much on Kamala’s everyday life as her superhero adventures. She argues with her parents for more freedom, she questions her faith, and she doesn’t realise that her best friend is in love with her. Comic books entertain but they, like all stories, have the possibility to let us enter the lives of other people, to get a better understanding of the world, and this is a comic book that achieves just that. If you’re a fan of the movies and new to the world of comic books, then this would be a good place to start.

By Mark – Uxbridge Library

Judging Books by Their Covers

Cover of the week: The Fox & The Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith

9781846148507This weeks cover was chosen by Lara at Harefield Library. She says

The book jumped out at me as the cover was so beautiful, almost fairytale-like. Then when you jump inside the book the pages inside are just as beautifully illustrated. The pictures carry you away with the story as much as the words do.

Designer Coralie Bickford-Smith made her name designing Penguin Classics covers. This book is her first and plays homage to the designs of William Morris and the Poems of William Blake. The book is illustrated with a very simple colour palette (five colours were used in total) using styles that come straight from Morris wallpaper designs. The beautiful printed designs create a beautiful object that can be enjoyed by adults and children.

I love the idea of a picture book for adults. I think that images can make stories more wonderful and inspire the imagination. A few weeks ago I looked at Brian Selznick’s Wonder Struck, another book that is full of fascinating images. When a book is illustrated in such a way it becomes more than just a book, and I love that about these books.

Going back to Bickford-Smith’s routes at Penguin publishing we can find the beginnings of cover design. Back in the 1970’s Penguin began to use artists to design a series of covers for their series. These books marked the beginning of the mass market paperback, affordable books for everyone. These books also became collectable and performed as tools to bring modern art into everyone’s homes. Find out more about the history of Penguin book covers here.

To view images of the inside of the book together with notes from the author follow this link

For more information about the book see this article.

The Kite Runner – Reading Group Review

kite runnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, reviewed by Oak Farm Reading Group.

I loved this book when I first read it about three years ago so I was looking forward to hearing my reading group’s opinions. I found it to be beautifully written as it sparked my imagination and filled my head with pictures of a very different Afghanistan from the one we see on the News today. The writing is well balanced as it describes society in Afghanistan just enough to understand what is going on but not so much that it becomes boring or tedious. This sentiment was echoed by other members of the group.

The main focus of this book is on the relationship between Amir and Hassan, two boys living in Afghanistan. The book starts with Amir, in his mid-twenties, reflecting on an event that alters his relationship with Hassan when they are boys. The group discussed how it is not necessarily Amir’ reluctance to intervene and save Hassan when he is attacked, but more his attitude towards him after this event that define his character in the book. He is just a child and running from something that is scary is a natural reaction, but to not comfort and instead shun his friend afterwards is the more shameful act. To some members of our group this was the reason why he needed to seek redemption and why he became unlikeable.

*Spoiler Alert*

It was commented upon that the story jumps from childhood, to escaping to America, to the period just before Amir’s return to Kabul very quickly. Some members of the groups said they would have liked to know more about Amir and his Father arriving in America. However we felt that this would have also taken the story away from its focus, the relationship between Amir and Hassan. This relationship is the focus of the book. It starts with Amir saying that he needed to redeem himself and ends with a glimmer of hope for Amir and Hassan’s son. The boys are almost like twins, their sometimes conflicting personalities complement each other and they appear to predict each other’s thoughts.

Amir does redeem himself through his actions at the end of the book. He suffers in order to rescue Sohrab, and this suffering, as well as him adopting Sohrab, is what redeems him. Though, as pointed out by some of our group, he has to have his arm twisted  before he goes to Kabul. We also questioned whether he would have been so willing to adopt Sohrab if he had his own children. We all loved the hint of a breakthrough at the end.

In regards to the character of Assef some of our members felt they knew he would be coming back and predicted that the Taliban official would be him. Others, myself included, had not predicted this and found this twist added more to the story and provided a reason for Sohrab being singled out.

Together we gave this book a 9 out of 10.

Oak Farm Reading group meets the second Tuesday of every month. Our next meeting is on Tuesday 8th March at 2pm where we will be discussing ‘The Universe Versus Alex Wood’ by Gavin Extence. If you are interested in joining please contact Rosie at Oak Farm library on 01895 556242 or

National Libraries Day – Author Event


Award winning author and poet, Helen Dunmore, visited Uxbridge Library on Saturday 6th February to discuss her latest novel Exposure. Helen, who was the winner of the first ever Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Literature), also took the opportunity to answer questions about her career, give advice to any aspiring writers and show her support for libraries on National Library Day.

Exposure is a literary thriller set during the Cold War. It follows the story of Lilly, a WWII German refugee hiding her Germanic origins, as she tries to hold her family together. Helen explained that the novel is inspired by the Cold War period when total war still seemed like a strong possibility, the Soviet Union were perceived as a “fearsome enemy” and a paranoia over who to trust was strong amongst the population of Britain. Helen was particularly interested in turning the comforting, such as a loved family garden or friendly policeman, into something dark and threatening. In this way she compared the story to an “earthquake.”

ExposureHelen identified her novel as owing more to the spy thrillers of Graham Greene or John le Carré, rather than the escapist fantasies of Ian Fleming, explaining that she was more interested in how their profession “deforms [and] damages” spies as well as their relationships with family and friends. Helen described everyone as having secrets, many that are never disclosed, and explained that this was one of the joys of literature, to get inside the minds of characters and reveal insular thoughts that are normally hidden from view.

In the questions that followed Helen Dunmore explained her writing process. This particular novel was more tightly plotted than some of her previous ones. Lilly’s journey, for example, was plotted out  because Helen felt that the character could not be passive and simply react to events around her but had to find things within herself such as her strength and determination. When asked about advice to aspiring writers she answered that she believes the act of writing to be particular to each writer but did point out the importance of being tough, both with yourself and in persisting with writing in the face of rejection.

Helen also declared her love for reading. Talking on National Libraries Day she praised libraries for being a “wonderful resource” and an “important” space. She remembered “always, always” visiting libraries as a child and borrowing the maximum number of books because there was never enough money to fill her appetite for reading. She described libraries as both “civilised” and “civilising” for their goals not to make financial profit but to make lives richer.

Our thanks to Helen Dunmore for her inspiring talk and Waterstones Uxbridge for providing books for signing. Exposure can be borrowed from Hillingdon Libraries or purchased from all good book shops.

There are many exciting author events coming up at Hillingdon Libraries, including A Bookish Evening with Jen Campbell on Friday 4th March 7pm-9pm at We Love Coffee on Harefield High Street. Join Harefield Library at their local coffee shop, We Love Coffee, for a fun bookish evening with an author talk, quiz, literary table and prizes. Tickets are £5 to be paid on the door and all Library proceeds will go to The Book Bus charity. Please visit the Hillingdon Libraries Twitter, Facebook or one of our branches for more information.

By Mark – Uxbridge Library


Judging Books by Their Covers

Cover of the week: A River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (cover photography by Peter Mukherjee)

river of stars image 2This book has had a variety of different covers. My favourites are the photograph pictured to the left by Peter Mukherjee and the paperback version below, which I presume to be by the same photographer. I like these covers simply for their artistic quality. The photography has a very painterly feel, reminiscent of Japanese brush painting. The book is actually set in a fictional version China around the year 1120. The murky, foggy images suggest the depths of the Chinese countryside and add an air of mystery to the book. The paperback cover is far more delicate than the hardback, and it is possibly a painting rather than a photograph. river of stars image 1The credits for this image simply say that it is sourced from

Publishers for adult books in particular often photography stock sites to source images that are later edited by designers at the publishing house. This can make it very hard to credit one person with the image, and frequently they are a collaborative element. In the world of children’s books things are normally a little different as illustrators often play a larger role. The responsibility of publishers to promote their cover illustrators and include their details on books is something that illustrator Sarah McIntyre is fighting for with her ‘Pictures Mean Buisness’ campaign. For more information check out her site here.

The third cover for this book, which I believe to be the Canadian version, is river of stars image 3completely different from the English versions. This cover is more typical of the fantasy genre with photographs layered over one another in photoshop. It is very clear from this image where the book is set. However this cover appeals to me far less than the delicate images on the British versions of the books.

Read reviews of the book here