Experiences from YA Shot 2018

For the last week Hillingdon libraries has had Amy Child joining us across the service to experience all aspects of book writing and how libraries work. Part of this experience included her attendance at YA Shot day on Saturday 14th April 2018 which she has written about to share with Hillingdon residents:


‘I was delighted to be invited to attend YA shot 2018 as part of my work experience with the library: an event held between the civic centre and library in Uxbridge. Before going to the civic centre, I went to Waterstones to pick up a copy of a few books by some local YA authors who I would be meeting in person later on. Waterstones had an amazing display of Young Adult books laid out for the event, all promoting the hard work and talent of the many authors who would be holding panels, conversations and workshops throughout the day.

What I first noticed when I entered the civic centre was the vast range of people who were coming to YA shot. There were people of all ages lined up to attend, and it was amazing to be around so many different people who shared my love for books.The first event I attended was the Power, Privilege and Inequality panel starring five incredible YA authors such as Helena Coggan, Mark Huckerby, Vic James, Nick Ostler and Samantha Shannon. As a young adult who has always dreamed of becoming a published author, it was both informative and inspiring to hear authors discussing the ideas and meanings behind their work. As well as the public, the authors themselves had a range of ages, genders and backgrounds- which really went to show how writing is accessible to anyone.

After the panel was finished, I headed over to the 5th floor of the library to attend the Characterisation and Empathy workshop held by Lisa Heathfield. She explained that empathy was ‘suffering with,’ and that for a reader to empathise with a character was perhaps even more vital than being able to relate to them. It was important that the author knew their character inside out, even the little things such as what they would have in their fridge or on their bedroom floor. Although such knowledge may never be used in the writing itself, this depth of understanding about a character would make them more real and believable for a reader.

Inspiration could be drawn from real life simply by looking up from your phone on the train and observing people around you. Lisa went on to explain why she preferred to handwrite her stories rather than type, which was definitely something I will take away and try for myself. We also discussed the difficult process of finding an agent, writing an intriguing cover letter and having your work rejected by publishers.

The last event I attended was the ‘In Conversation’ with Alwyn Hamilton and Melinda Salisbury. This event was particularly popular, and I was very excited for it since Alwyn and Melinda were both authors of books which had been waiting in my endless GoodReads ‘want to read’ list for a while. Their conversation was hilarious and I really enjoyed hearing all about the inspiration behind their worlds and characters. I was glad that I had bought a copy of both of their books before the event began, so was able to get my copy of ‘Rebel of the Sands’ and ‘State of Sorrow’ signed after the conversation finished.

Whilst the signing was taking place, I was able to briefly speak to both of the authors and ask them what the best advice they had ever been given was in regards to writing was. Both of them said surprisingly similar things: finish what you started. Alwyn stressed how important it was to finish a first draft no matter how much you disliked it, since nothing was perfect at first and you could edit it as much as you wanted once the words were on the page. Melinda described the writing process as making a clay pot: it would look ugly and rough at first, but once you had the clay down, you could change it and shape it to make a finished product you were happy with. But most of all, every author I heard from that day put forward the same message: write because you love it.

In summary, I had a fantastic day at YA shot. It really inspired me and confirmed what I had always known- that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Books are universal; it made a real impression to see this idea brought to life as so many different people were united by their love for stories. There was a real sense of community at every event, where anyone was welcome to join in or ask questions. The authors I had the pleasure of seeing and meeting were all lovely people who had so much to share, and I would definitely recommend this event to my family and friends. Anyone with a passion for writing, reading or even just stroking the covers of books (yes, I know we all do it) would have loved this day and I really hope to see even more people attending in the future.’

Written by Amy Child (Student work experience)

Copies of the books by the above authors who attended YA Shot 2018 (and many others there on the day) can be found and borrowed from your local Hillingdon library, please pop by to reserve a copy or ask a member of staff in branch.

Staff Reads: A Buzz in the Meadows by Dave Goulson


A Buzz in the Meadows discusses the life of insects and the authors personal studies and contacts with various wonderful mini-beasts.

The book had an eco, environmental, factual element but was rarely preachy or finger-pointy. It was made all the more enjoyable by the author’s casual style of writing, like he was having a good chat about a subject he was very enthused by. Illustrations would have added to the enjoyment and understanding of these small and intriguing critters.

Overall a very informative and enjoyable to read.


Review by Akbar (Uxbridge Library)

Recommended YA Reads

 YA reads by Schools’ Library Service

While researching newly published fiction to shortlist for the Hillingdon Secondary Book of the Year 2018 award, some titles veered more into older YA that simply deserved their own list and spotlight than we could give them on the award shortlist. Below is a collection of fantastically imagined YA reads that you can check out from your local Hillingdon library!
One of us is lying

One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus.

When a group of five American teenagers are sent to detention, they never suspected that one would drop dead in it, or that the rest of them would be accused of murder when it’s discovered that the deceased – Simon – planned to post their darkest secrets on his social media gossip app the next day. The novel leads readers on a satisfying thriller that delves deeper into the lives of these teenagers; Addy – the beautiful homecoming princess, Cooper – the baseball athlete set for stardom,  Nate – the bad boy already in trouble for drug dealing and Bronwyn – top of the class and who never breaks rules. The book subverts the quintessential american high school stereotypes and has great characterisation that will keep you second guessing as to who the killer is.


S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett.

16 year old Greer is accepted to an elite private boarding school on a scholarship, the school is ancient and filled with privileged upper class students, a far cry from her own working class upbringing and life. Things take a turn when Greer receives an invite to a secret society’s weekend getaway at the country estate of Longcross Hall, ancestral home of the most popular boy at school – Henry de Warlencourt – for some ‘huntin’, shootin’ and fishin.’ The weekend soon descends into chaos as the guests slowly realise the line between predator and prey is more blurred than they think in this Mean girls meets Hunger Games page turner.
flame in the mistFlame in the Mist  by Renee Ahdieh  

Renee Ahdieh’s New York Times’ #1 bestseller is a fantastic tale set in Japan and follows 17 year old Mariko. She is the daughter of a prominent samurai warrior and nobleman but is a headstrong and talented alchemist herself whose entourage is ambushed on the way to her arranged marriage with the Emperor’s son. Deciding against waiting for rescue, Mariko disguises herself as a young man in order to infiltrate the Black Clan, nomadic bandits she suspects of ambushing her and slaughtering her company. Slowly, she discovers a decades old political feud that has altered the lives of three families and her alliances begin to shift. This is an action packed YA well worth recommending to all who will likely be as gripped as we were as it also follows Mariko’s brother, a determined young samurai who begins searching for his lost sister.


Juniper LemonJuniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

Juniper Lemon is an american teenager trying to cope with the loss of her older sister Camilla, 65 days prior to the opening of the novel. When she finds a mysterious love letter addressed to ‘You’ written by her sister, Juniper sets out to discover who the mystery boyfriend no one knew of actually is. In the meantime, she begins a search for a lost index card, a daily ritual she keeps of writing down positive/negative experiences but this card harbours a deep secret she must get back before everyone finds out. The novel is certainly poignant and impresses upon the importance of respecting boundaries and teen grief surrounding love and past mistakes. Features great characters and the complexity of emotions in various relationships. I.e. the love/hate nature of siblings.  

Mind the gapMind the Gap by Phil Earle.

A brilliantly handled story of bereavement and friendship that takes place in a fantastically gritty London. This short book (just shy of 100 pages) is about a teenager determined to help his friend Mikey deal with the sudden death of his absent actor father. As 15 year old Mikey falls into alcoholism on their council estate, his friend journeys across the capital to find a voice recording of Mikey’s dad as a remembrance token but quickly falls foul of angry former work colleagues of the actor. This heart rendering tale of the two boys speaks volumes to their friendship and Earle’s storytelling.
wishbonesWishbones by Virginia MacGregor

When 14 year old Feather comes home on New Year’s eve to find her mother has slipped into a diabetic coma, her world flips. Now determined to help her housebound mum shift the pounds, her frustration grows when she realises her parents are unwilling to change their habits for a reason they won’t reveal. Feather sets out to uncover what happened so many years before to change her mother’s lifestyle so drastically in order to save her life with the help of her friends and pet goat. Feather’s concern for her mother is touched through with love that never turns condescending in the context of eating disorders as she also makes friends with a new local boy suffering from anorexia. These topics are handled very sensitively and interlaced with unexpected twists and turns that make this a very thoughtful and engaging YA read.

Please visit http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/libraries to reserve a copy or pop in to your local Hillingdon library and ask a member of staff.

By Kirsty (Schools’ Library Service)

Bernard Bear’s Birthday Books

Uxbridge Library are celebrating Bernard the Bear’s birthday this week! The festivities began on Monday with our newest Storytime at 2pm. Bernard joined Akbar, Ramie, Roksana and the gang as they read new books and sang their favourite songs! What better way to celebrate your birthday than by having fun with your friends?

Here are some of Bernard’s favourite birthday books:



I Love My Birthday by Giles Andrea & Emma Dodd

A lovely picture book that celebrates a birthday with colourful pictures and a musical rhyming style that’s sure to delight and send the little ones off to bed. We particularly love the final lines “I’m sleepy now. It’s time for bed. So, after stories have been read, it’s birthday cuddles warm and tight, to keep me safe all through the night,” as well as the birthday child’s ever present soft toy penguin and the extra colourful pages that surround the simple story and remind us of wrapping paper.




Spot’s Birthday Party by Eric Hill

We’ve expressed our love of lift-the-flap books before and Bernard Bear definitely loves them. This time he’s picked out a Spot the Dog book all about hide and seek. With tickled penguins, bears eating jellies and hippos in the bathtub it’s the usual fun Spot adventure but with a very big birthday surprise ending!




It’s My Birthday by Pat Hutchins

Even monsters have birthdays but as Billie soon learns birthdays are only fun when they’re shared! Bernard the Bear loves the illustrations which are detailed and vibrant.



Bernard Bear’s birthday celebrations continue this week at Uxbridge Library’s Storytimes on Thursday 12th April 11 to 11.30am and Friday 13th April 2 to 2.30pm.

To book your free place call 01895 250714 or visit Uxbridge Library.


To find out about storytimes at your local Hillingdon library visit: http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/libraryevents



By Mark & Bernard Bear (Uxbridge Library)

Reading Group Review

by Ben at Botwell Green library

Botwell green Library Reading Group met this afternoon to discuss the 1974 Stephen King novel Carrie –  The story of misfit high-school girl, Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers. Repressed by a domineering, ultra-religious mother and tormented by her peers at school, her efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom.


This is one of the most frequently banned books from American high schools apparently and it was certainly our most divisive read yet as a group.
One member couldn’t bear to open the book, 2 enjoyed it at no point whatsoever, 2 of us enjoyed it from cover to cover and a further 2 enjoyed only half the book (1 the first half, the other one, the second half).



Overall we rated the story as “OK”. Half of us would recommend this book to those who enjoy the genre and the other half would recommend it with caution!
Asked whether you would read this author again, half the group would read King whenever they discover another title, I said only if I feel like reading that genre (and last month I did, reading another novel, a non-fiction work on Stephen King and I watched a couple of films too), another member of the group would read the author “with reservations” and another “Only to save my life!”
Other individual comments include “Stephen King at his best”, ” I enjoyed the docu-drama style of reading the story via newspaper articles, academic research and biographical excerpts – inspired” and  “A horrible story, I would never ever read another Stephen King book”


Next month we’re preparing to celebrate the 2018 Royal wedding by discussing Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell – a novel of a foreign bride marrying into the English Royal family…