5 Books to Find Time for this Summer

by Samuel Osbourne

Perhaps to read is not to enter a fictional world and leave our own behind but to bring it with us. If that’s the case, as I suspect it might be, it stands to reason certain combinations might be more harmonious than others. Ever tried to read a horror novel in a crowded coffee shop? Unless said horror novel is set in a crowded coffee shop, the ambience gets a little lost. But, what if you were lucky enough to be in a field, reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when a white rabbit crossed your line of vision? Oh, if only we could be so lucky – but reading a summery book is the next best thing. Basking in the sunshine in your garden or a park, a book in hand that mirrors that summery feeling right back at you, now that makes for a great reading experience. Here’s a list of some of the books that have made my summers that little bit sunnier.

Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (1927)

Need I sell Ernest Hemingway’s second novel on anything other than the title? Set in the 1920s, the story follows a group of young American expatriates bar-hopping their way to Pamplona to see the world-famous bullfighting of the Fiesta de San Fermín. Yet, as tense as the bullfighting can get – and as cruel – the real drama is, in true Hemingway style, left between the lines. On the surface, Jake and Brett seem perfect sweethearts, but, as Jake struggles to learn, being in love is not the start of the trial, never the end.

This novel interrogates caustic love, and it asks only that we come openminded. Can you love more than one person simultaneously? Is having the person you love more important than loving that person? Hemingway has all the questions, but the answers are ours to reach for, and no doubt, every reader will be reaching for them in different places. But one thing is sure – Hemingway is more than competent in catching the feel of those warm summer evenings and the late nights in bars, that during lockdown seem like a fading memory.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007)

If the motion picture starring Timothée Chalamet and Arnie Hammer does a fantastic job of capturing the intensity of one’s first love, the shame that queer people often endure as a figurative tax on their romantic journeys, and the beauty of the Italian Riviera, Aciman’s original novel does a near-perfect one. Seventeen-year-old Elio begrudgingly has to give up his bedroom each summer for his parents to host a scholar, but from the moment he lays eyes on one scholar in particular – Oliver – the sometimes tender, oftentimes brutal pangings of affection take form. And as far as first lines are concerned, it has one of my favourites:

“Later!” The word, the voice, the attitude.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

The greatest thing about Strayed’s memoir is precisely that – it’s a memoir. Documenting her upbringing, the death of her mother, her heroin addiction, and the hike she did across America to make sense of it all, Strayed brings the darker side of summer to the surface. Being at one with nature isn’t quite as harmonious as any caricatured tree-hugger on the silver screen would have you believe. It’s tough, it forces you to reckon not only with your immediate surroundings and the dangers therein, but the burdens we carry with every step. And, as the Strayed tells in her memoir, there’s nothing worse than losing a hiking boot when you’re halfway up a mountain.

The Bees by Laline Paull (2014)

Bee phobia or not, I can’t help but submit to the impressiveness of Paull’s debut novel. To pull off anthropomorphising a hive of bees is one thing, but to succinctly attribute a complex set of political and sociological values – the hive mind collect can jailbreak into any individual mind – to the hive, that’s where The Bees really shines. Paull’s narrative is as informative and accurate as a non-fiction telling of the life of a bee would be. Did you know that every bee that leaves the nest is female? Neither did I, but it’s a fact I’m glad to know. 

Following Flora 717 from her first days as a larva with defected genes, to her later adventures out of the nest, Paull’s book won’t just keep your summer spirit high, it will give you newfound respect, infinitesimal awe, and a large dollop of affection for the precious creatures that gift us the season.

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)

The only thing with more of a summer feel than a book about bumblebees might just be a book about the sun. Well, Helios – the God of the sun – makes an appearance with his chariot of fire in Miller’s feminist recapitulation of Ancient Greek mythology. Forewarning: you won’t much like him, the cruel father that he is. Throughout her few literary appearances, Circe has been villainised on all accounts (looking to DC here, for naming a supervillain after her) and stereotyped to the high heavens, or the peaks of Mount Olympus, take your pick. Ovid might have painted her as a spiteful witch with a not so subtle habit of turning men into pigs in Metamorphoses, but Miller has worked to modernise and defend Circe – why does she turn men into pigs, you might ask? Well, wouldn’t you if they wanted to pillage your island and home? Between several picturesque islands, Miller will not only drum up dormant ocean vibes within you but bring paradise to you.

There’s ephemerality to the summertime. The longer gloamings, the sunbathing, and even the picnics, we take these moments full-well knowing they never last for long enough. The free dosage of Vitamin D only comes around for a few months each year, and let’s face it, in Britain, that’s rather generous. So, perhaps hold off on reading Frankenstein until the darker seasons, for now, is the time to double-up on the sunshine. From Hemingway to Miller, these books have made my summers brighter, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.

Bio: Samuel Osbourne is a freelance journalist and writer based between Stoke-On-Trent and Uxbridge, where he is soon to complete his master’s degree in Creative Writing. You’ll often find him at his desk, working on his first novel, or in any number of parks, catching up on his reading of all things queer. 

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Jane’s Digital Picks For Kids: Mega Mysteries!

Jane from Hillingdon Libraries helps you pick books for the Summer Reading Challenge by taking a look at some of the titles available digitally from our service

This week: crime and mystery stories.

This week, we’re looking at some crime and detective stories for children. So here is a selection of books with stories of young sleuths and detectives to entertain and inspire your kids. 

These are titles that are available on our BorrowBox app, which you can find out about here. They’re also perfect for any children looking to join the Summer Reading Challenge this year: find out more here.

Aged 7 upwards:

Goodly & Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap – Justine Windsor. eBook.

There are all sorts of strange happenings at Grave Hall, there are magical books, statues that move, Lord Grave the master has a secret – and Mrs Crawley the cook keeps experimenting with anchovies in omelettes!  Then outside, children all over the country start vanishing. Lucy Goodly, the new book girl at the hall, is convinced that these events are somehow connected so she sets out to investigate…

The Big London Treasure Hunt – Jennifer Grey

Read by Eloise Oxer. Listening time 1 hour 55 mins.

Ermine the Determined has landed in London.  

Ermine is off to London and is really looking forward to seeing the sights. She is also hoping to help her friend Minty find her family’s lost treasure from Tudor times. But Ermine and Minty are not the only ones after the treasure. They need to get to the gold first before the devious villain grabs it. 

Aged 8 upwards:

Millions – Frank Cottrell Boyce

Read by Stephen Tompkinson. Listening Time 4 hours 6 mins

If you suddenly find yourself with an awful lot of money and only a few days in which to spend it before the cash goes out of circulation, what would you do?  Damian and Anthony really want to buy a million pizzas, but maybe they should be virtuous and spend it on ending world poverty?  However this wondrous but alarming dilemma comes with a catch, the bank robbers who botched the burglary that resulted in the boys acquiring the cash in the first place now want it back!  The two boys need to decide what to do with the money – very quickly…

Framed – Frank Cottrell Boyce. AudioBook

Read by James Hughes. Listening Time. 6 hours 9 mins

Dylan is the only boy living in the tiny welsh town of Manod. He can’t persuade his sisters to play football with him, so that means he spends a lot of time helping his parents in the Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel garage. He’s in charge of the petrol log so he can keep track of everyone coming in and out of the small town. But one day, a mysterious trail of lorries heads off towards a nearby disused mine. Dylan is completely perplexed. What is going on there? Based on a real-life press cutting on how valuable works of art were stored in Welsh slate mines during WW2, this is the story of how a little boy is inspired by the beauty and treasures of the art world.

The Boy Who Flew – Fleur Hitchcock. eBook.

Athan and his friend Mr Chen are building a flying machine together, but when Mr Chen is murdered, Athan must try and save the precious machine. However doing so puts his family in peril. Must Athan put his lifelong dream of flight aside in order to save his family?

Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell. eBook

Sophie was found floating in a cello case wrapped in a sheet of Beethoven music. She was the only female survivor of a shipping tragedy in the English Channel. Another survivor, Charles, rescues Sophie and brings her home to  his flat in London where he lives alone. Sophie grows up strong and independent and is raised to always believe that anything is possible. So when the Child Welfare Agency wants to send her to an orphanage, Sophie and Charles decide to flee to Paris to try to find her real mother. The only clue she has is the address of the cello maker.

Scavengers – Darren Simpson. eBook.


This is the rule that Landfill has had to abide by his whole life. His survival depends on it as Old Babagoo has made it clear that he will look after Landfill on condition that he never looks Outside. But Landfill is curious – and some rules are made to be broken…

Murder Most Unladylike series – Robin Stevens.

Four adventures from Deepdean School for Girls where Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have set up their own secret detective agency. There are murders, missing bodies, poisonings, and secrets galore for Daisy and Hazel to investigate – and not just at school. In volume 2, Daisy’s mother throws her a birthday party at home where someone is mysteriously poisoned. In vol. 3 a trip on the Orient Express results in murder, jewellery theft and espionage – and in vol 4 the new Head Girl at Deepdean is found murdered. Daisy and Hazel find their friendship tested and strengthened as they work together to find the culprits amongst secrets and scandals at school and elsewhere. 

Aged 10 upwards:

Holes – Louis Sachar

Read by Kerry Beyer. Listening Time 4 hours 30 mins.

Stanley Yelnats is sent to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre following a miscarriage of justice. Not only that, but the camp isn’t green and it doesn’t have a lake!  All he can do there is dig holes. Every day, Stanley and his fellow inmates must dig a hole five feet wide by five feet deep and report back on anything they find there. What is the reason for this, and will Stanley ever find the truth hidden under the turf?

Aged 13 upwards:

The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd. eBook

At 11.32 one morning, Ted and Kat watch their cousin Salim board the London Eye. The Eye turns for one whole circuit and the pod lands back – but where is Salim?  Every other person in the pod gets out again – except him. Everyone is utterly baffled – including the police. So Ted and Kat resolve to find out whether Salim has been kidnapped, murdered or even spontaneously combusted?  They follow a series of clues across London in a desperate attempt to find Salim before it’s too late.

There are lots of other books available, including plenty for adults, so why not download the app, and as well as choosing a book for your kids,  you can choose something for yourself to read or listen to?

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Roksana’s robot craft – inspired by the book “House of Robots” by James Patterson

Roksana from Hillingdon Libraries created this fantastic robot craft inspired by robots from an amazing book,  “House of Robots’’ by James Patterson. It is a brilliant book with a gripping and funny story as well as interesting characters and awesome illustrations. 

Thus, why not to read “House of Robots’’ by James Patterson. and then, create this lovely robot craft?


  • silver card
  • blue card
  • black card
  • 2 googly eyes 
  • adhesive gems
  • glue 
  • scissors
  • black permanent marker 

1)  Take a half of a silver A4 card and create a roll from it. It is going to be your robot’s body. 

2) Take 2 googly eyes and stick them to the robot’s body. 

Remember, googly eyes are small parts – take care if you have preschool children at home. You may want to draw the eyes on, instead.

3) Take a permanent marker and draw a smiley mouth below the robot’s eyes. 

4) Cut a rectangle out of a blue piece of card and stick it to the robot’s body. An adult should help when using scissors, if necessary.

7) Stick several colourful adhesive gems to the blue rectangle on the robot’s body.

8) Cut two strips off a black piece of card and fold them into a fan. They are going to be your robot’s arms. 

9) Stick the arms to your robot’s body. 

Finally, your robot is ready and you can play with it. 

Debbie’s Amazing Bamboozle and Snook Automaton

Debbie from Hillingdon Libraries has created this fantastic automated craft inspired by Bamboozle and Snook, two of the characters from the 2020 Summer Reading Challenge. Find our more about the challenge here.

Bamboozle and Snook were both originally created by illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson.

You will need:

  • An adult to help – especially with any cutting out or piercing and when using skewers.
  • Kitchen towel centre, cut in half
  • Black paper
  • White paper
  • Small amount of yellow, orange and pink paper (if you don’t have some of these colours, improvise with white paper and paints, felt pens, colouring pencils, crayons)
  • Black pen
  • Googly eyes if you have them
  • 3 wooden skewers (or similar)
  • Cardboard
  • Paints, felt pens, colouring pencils or crayons
  • Drinking straws (the skewer needs to be able to pass freely through the straw)
  • Wooden beads if you have them
  • Scissors
  • Glue

1)  Cut two circles of cardboard to fit inside the tubes.  Make a hole in the centre of each large enough for a drinking straw.  Glue one circle of card into the top of each tube. 

2)  Cover one tube with black paper and the other with white paper, lining it up with the top of the tube and tucking it in at the bottom. 

The Penguin

1)  Cut a piece of white paper about 7 cm x 10 cm.  Decorate the paper and then stick to the tube covered in black paper as shown.  Tuck any excess inside. 

2)  Cut two wings 2 cm x 6.5cm from black paper, two feet 2 cm (at widest point) x 4 cm from pink paper and a beak 2 cm x 3 cm from orange paper as shown.  All sizes are approximate.

3)  Stick wings, beak and feet as shown.  Stick googly eyes on if you have them, if not a small circle of white paper with a black dot drawn on will do just as well.

4)  Cut the side feathers from yellow paper about 10 cm x 4 cm, and the centre feathers from black paper about 4 cm wide.  If they don’t look right cut another one until you are happy.  Stick onto the penguin as shown.  Tilt slightly forward to make sure the hat will clear the feathers.

5)  To make the hat cut a circle of card slightly wider than your tube, probably about 5 cms.  Cut a hole out of the centre about 3 cm. This will form the brim of the hat.  It is unlikely you will be able to cut this out in one tidy piece so you will need to cut another circle of card the same size as the hole.  This will form the top of the hat.  Using thin card, cut a piece about 2.4 cm high and long enough to fit inside the hole.  Draw a line on the card 7 mm from top and another 7 mm from the bottom as shown.  Snip to the lines as shown top and bottom.  For the top, turn the flaps inward and glue.  Feed the bottom of the card through the hole and turn the flaps outward.  Glue to the underside of the hat brim.  The hat should now look like this.

6)  Decorate your hat. 

The Panda

1)  On some thin white card (or card with white paper stuck to it), draw a circle about 5 cm diameter.  Add two ears as shown and cut out.  Colour with black pen as shown below.

2)  Stick googly eyes on if you have them, if not a small circle of white paper with a black dot drawn on will do just as well.  About 3½ cm from the top of the tube, draw a band with black pen as shown.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly straight.  It should be between 1½ – 2 cm high. 

3)  Cut two circles of paper about 8 cm diameter with a hole in the centre of each of about 5 cm.  Divide the circles into segments.  You will need an even number of segments.  Colour the segments blue and orange (or any colours you want).  If you want you can colour both sides of the circles and you could also cut a wavy line round the edge of each circle.  Snip all the way round the inner edge of the holes about 5 mm deep and about 5 mm apart.   Make sure that both parts of the ruff will fit onto your tube.  Cut a strip of paper about 5 mm high and long enough to go round your tube, not too tightly.  Stick this to the inside of the first part of the ruff.  Then stick the second part of the ruff to the first. 

4)  Place the completed ruff on the tube with a small amount of glue to keep it in place.  If you find this a bit fiddly, just stick the two parts of the ruff directly onto the tube.  Draw and cut out four paws as shown.  Stick the paws and the head on as shown.

5)  To make the hat you need to end up with a dome about the same diameter as your tube and about 2½ – 3 cm high.  You may find something to use, but if not, this is how I made mine.  From a clean, cardboard egg box cut out one of the parts that holds the egg.  Wet it thoroughly, don’t leave it soaking in water or it will disintegrate!  Using your fingers, mould the paper till it resembles a dome.  Don’t worry about any uneven edges, they will be trimmed when it has thoroughly dried.  Leave to dry completely.  Trim as mentioned and your dome should look something like this.

6)  Cut a set of propellers, mine were 7 cm from tip to tip, and the blades were 6 mm wide.  Paint or colour your hat and blades.  I used a ball headed pin to join the two parts so that the blades could spin.  You could just glue the blades to the top of the hat which is the safer option if there are young children in your house.

The Mechanism

1) Make a box as shown below.  It should be about 23 cm wide, 11 cm high and 11 cm wide.  The triangles glued to each corner front and back make the box stronger and keep it square.  Find the centres of the sides by drawing a line from corner to corner.  Make a hole in each side big enough for a piece of drinking straw to fit through.

2)  On the top of the box, make two holes large enough to pass a drinking straw through.  The holes should be about 10½ cm apart and in line with the holes on the sides. Place one of your skewers on the top of the box over the holes with about 1½ cm hanging over one side.  Mark the skewer where the holes are.  Cut six circles of cardboard 5 cm diameter and one 7 cm diameter.  Glue the circles to another layer of cardboard.  Cut round the circles when dry.  Poke holes in the centre of two of the smaller circles and 1 cm from the edge of the other 4 smaller circles.  Poke one hole through the centre of the 7 cm circle and another about 7 mm from the edge.  Be careful of sharp points when you are doing this – an adult should help here,

3)  To assemble the main shaft, mark about 13 mm either side of each of the marks you made earlier on the skewer.  Glue the circles with the off set holes onto the skewer on these new marks.  The first set need to be in line with one another like this and the second set at right angles to the first like this.  This will ensure that as one hat goes up, the other goes down.  I used pony beads to space the circles as they were the perfect size. 

4)  Glue small pieces of drinking straw in the holes on the sides of the box.  Leave about 2-3 mm showing inside and out.  Paint/colour/decorate all the parts of your mechanism and your box.

5)  Glue a piece of skewer about 3 cm long into the offset hole on the large circle.  If you have wooden beads glue one to the piece of skewer.  Glue a skewer to the each of the remaining two circles with the holes in the centre.  Manoeuvre the skewers through the holes in the top of the box from the inside.  You may have to wriggle them around a bit.  These are the push rods.

6)  Insert the cam mechanism into the box.  Put the longer end in first.  Make sure the push rods will sit on both cams as the mechanism is turned. Trim the drinking straws so they will just go through the top of the box and just poke out the top of the characters.  Glue into place.  Make sure they are upright.

7)  Glue the turn wheel onto one end.  Trim the skewer before gluing.  I used a wooden bead to make the join look nice.  Glue a wooden bead to the other end if you have one.  If not use a small circle of card to make sure your cam rod can’t be pulled out.  You need no more than 2 mm of gap at each end.  You don’t want the cam rod to be able to move out from under the push rods.

8)  Before you stick your characters to the top of the box, you may need to adjust the length of the push rods.  Get an adult to help you cut the skewers.  A pair of pliers or a very strong pair of scissors will be needed.  Take off a little bit at a time.  As far as possible you want the hats to be resting on the characters at the lowest point.  I had to settle for the penguin’s hat being raised slightly at the lowest point but it was still hidden by the head feathers.  When you are satisfied, glue down the characters and then glue the hats onto the tops of the skewers.  Wait until the glue is completely dry before you are tempted to turn the handle and watch the hats twist and go up and down.  Have fun!

Warning: due to the small parts use caution with this craft if there are pre school children in your household.

We would love you to share your creations with us. 

Twitter: @Hill_Libraries

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Lego Building Challenge Wednesday: Our Favourite Builds!

Hello everyone, it’s Wednesday, and it is our last on-line LEGO club for the time being 😢.  

We’ve had lots of fun building with you each week, but now it is time for us to return to our libraries and for you to go back to school.  So this week we thought we’d do something different and choose our favourite building challenges over the last five months.

Our first building challenge was Easter 🐣 and Jane built an Easter basket

We also celebrated VE Day with Suzanne’s amazing model of Captain Tom 

Shakespeare’s birthday was also commemorated with LEGO bricks

And we expressed our thanks to NHS workers with rainbows, made out of, you guessed it…LEGO bricks!

Fairy tales, and mini beasts were also challenges:

We marked Empathy week with some great facial expressions built by Caroline.

For the last seven weeks we have been setting you challenges based around the the Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge.

Flat Stanley is one of Jane’s funniest books so she built him out of bricks:

And Suzanne built mixed up animals to make them silly!

Every week Suzanne produced an incredible build along video.  Here are some of her favourites:

These are just some of our favourites.  We’ve LOVED building along with you and seeing your amazing builds always put huge smiles on our faces.  😀 We wish you lots of happiness, fun, learning when you are back at school.  Remember to keep building…and reading 📖.  Come and visit the libraries. We even have LEGO books 😀!

THANK YOU for building along with us. 

Bye bye LEGO crew, for now,

Suzanne, Caroline, Andy, Nathan and Jane

Look out for library LEGO events, via Zoom on our social media channels:

Twitter: @Hill_Libraries

Facebook: @HillingdonLibraries



Young Adult Fiction & Mental Health

by Brady Clark

Young Adult fiction and the subject of mental health go hand in hand. Many writers are finding new stories to tell as stigmas are broken, more about psychological illness is understood and the gateway for a discussion about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other conditions is continually widening. More than this, writers are working to break the stigmas themselves and expand this knowledge gap by providing fictional versions of the truth to educate others and encourage empathy.

These stories are becoming increasingly popular for a number of reasons. People can relate. People want to learn. People are finding resolutions. Roughly a quarter of the world’s population will experience a mental or neurological disorder in their lifetime, and there is still so much more to understand. YA fiction can be an outlet, a guide and a champion for these realities.

These are four defining books of the genre, each tackling mental health with a unique voice and powerful tone that seeks to represent the internal battle many people struggle with.

Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher (2007) Thirteen Reasons Why (Spinebreakers): Amazon.co.uk: Asher, Jay: Books

13 Reasons Why deals with the suicide of school girl Hannah Baker. We come to understand why she took her own life as friend and classmate Clay Jensen listens to a series of tapes that point blame at a number of people who caused Hannah hurt before her death.

Now likely more popular for the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why hits hard. It’s unique structure and tough subject matter combined, leaves an irrevocable mark on the mind. But more than that, Hannah’s decline through the eyes of a naïve male lead is an emotional journey that starts with scepticism, toys with guilt and lands on understanding.

Asher is gifted in character development and unafraid in his approach. There has been criticism as to the necessity of detail in Hannah’s suicide, particularly given the graphic visuals on screen, but this is reality hidden in fiction. It casts a light on desperation and the path to hopelessness that many experience. Relatability and understanding will be there for many, and not just with regards to Hannah, but also those left behind and how they must go on.

All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven (2015)

Finch and Violet both find themselves at the top of a bell tower, possibly ready to jump. Violet is struggling with survivor’s guilt from the car crash her sister died in, and Finch is depressed, traumatised by abuse and suffering from Bipolar Disorder. As they begin to understand each other and fall in love, one of them improves whilst the other spirals.

Niven’s YA debut is a very powerfully written novel. She navigates the complexity of the human psyche well, and doesn’t rush to define her characters’ complex psychological statuses. Instead, she finds a very real voice in both Finch and Violet’s perspectives, and manages the severity of anger, grief and loneliness masterfully.

Looking for Alaska, John Green (2005)Looking for Alaska - Wikipedia

Less direct in its understanding of mental health, Looking for Alaska is split into two halves: Before and After. Whilst this is more obviously measured as before and after Alaska’s accident, it could also be considered a split between obliviousness and realisation. Thinking all is well and knowing something is wrong. Was wrong. Similar to Asher, Green includes an element of ignorance in his lead character, perhaps a tool in schooling the unfamiliar. Those who have not understood psychological pain the way Alaska does and how it contributes to her deterioration.

Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter is an intriguing protagonist as well as a unique viewpoint to understanding Alaska. His obsession with the last words famous people said before they die provides an interesting education. Social awkwardness and sexual inexperience make him real, though it perhaps takes the reader a while to warm up to Miles given the initial lack of substance to his character. But his immediate infatuation with Alaska is the most enticing aspect of the novel, their developing friendship and the complexities of teenage love.

Green is a heavy contributor to the sub-genre ‘Sick-lit’, not that this should be given credit as a legitimate term in the industry. It suggests a cheap and one-dimensional approach, one that people who dislike the YA genre have constructed seemingly to disparage popular and recurring themes that have provided a certain type of novel with great success. Green’s later novel, The Fault in our Stars, has been criticised for its ‘glorification’ of teen cancer. But surely Green is doing what any good writer of this genre does – shedding light on issues others are unfamiliar with and engrossing the reader in a world they do not yet understand.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky (1999)

Chbosky’s debut novel is a wonderful representation of the outsider, searching for a way in. Charlie has side-lined himself to remain in control. The unreliable narrator approach means we’re not quite sure what he has lost control of, though it’s clear he has had some form of mental break.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: the most moving coming-of-age ...

The introspectiveness of this book can make readers fear for Charlie. The build-up implies something terrible will inevitably happen, though it is harder to suspect the truth of the past. His story is one of trauma and overcoming this through the help of new friends.

It’s hard not to be sceptical of Sam and Patrick at first – the reader is protective of Charlie and uncertain of their motives. But Perks is, for the most part, about kindness and friendship. It shows that trauma shared, whilst not an exact fix, can help to find a way forward.

Perks doesn’t expressly state its intentions towards the subject of mental health, certainly not to the same degree as 13 Reasons Why and this works very well with the story it is trying to tell. It is warming but difficult. We are lonely reading about Charlie, but desperate for him not to stay this way as he is so likeable – he is protective and kind, fun and understated.

Whilst the number of novels in this sub-genre is becoming increasingly inexhaustive, the four in this list all contributed heavily to YA’s exploration into mental health and inspired others to write in similar styles. It doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon which is great news for such a progressive genre, though there are undoubtedly many stories left to tell. YA can be imaginative and heartfelt, but most of all, personal. It can bring you to tears, but leave you with a far greater understanding of very real issues.

Brady Clark is a YA writer and Doctoral Researcher at Brunel University London. Follow him on Twitter @BradyRClark

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Debbie’s fox craft inspired by Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox

Debbie from Hillingdon libraries has created this wonderful fox craft inspired by Roald Dahl’s book ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ using a paper plate, cardboard and colouring pencils or paints.

You will need

  • Paper plate about 20 cm (or a 20 cm circle of thin card)
  • Cardboard
  • Paints, felt pens, colouring pencils or crayons
  • Googly eyes if you have them
  • Scissors
  • Glue

1)  On the upper side of your paper plate mark a ‘v’.  Paint the area above the line orange.  If, like me, you have a patterned plate, paint the area white first and then use a couple of coats of orange. 

2)  Fold the plate as shown.  Glue the flaps down.  Stick googly eyes on if you have them, if not – or if you have toddlers in the house and want to avoid using small parts – a small circle of white paper with a black dot drawn on will do just as well.  Cut a circle of card about 3 cm, paint it black and stick onto the point to form the nose.

3)  Print the body and tail and stick the paper onto some cardboard and cut out.  If you don’t have access to a printer, draw the shapes directly onto some cardboard.

4)  Paint or colour the body as shown.  Cut two triangles of thin card, paint or colour them orange for the ears.  Paint or colour the tail as shown.

5)  Glue the ears onto the head.  Glue the head and tail onto the body as shown.

Warning: due to the small parts use caution with this craft if there are pre school children in your household.

We would love to see the fox that you have made. please send it to:

Twitter: @Hill_Libraries

Facebook: @Hilllingdon Libraries

Instagram:@ Hillingdon_Libraries

WordPress: HillingdonLibraries.wordpress.com

Book Bunch: ‘How To Survive Summer Camp’ by Jacqueline Wilson (Week 3: August 22nd)

Introducing our Digital Children’s Book of the Month: How To Survive Summer Camp by legendary author Jacqueline Wilson. This title is available for free audio download now, plus we’ll be posting fun new activities every week! 

In How To Survive Summer Camp, we meet Stella, who has been unceremoniously not invited to her own mum’s honeymoon! Instead she has to face terrifying trouble like swimming lessons and awful new frenemies like Karen and Louise on a surprise trip to summer camp.

As someone who borrowed heaps of Jacqueline Wilson books from the library as a child – and absolutely hated swimming lessons – I’m super excited for this month’s pick!

This is a lovely short novel that we have available as an audiobook for free loan on BorrowBox, the digital library app. With a three hour reading time, it’s ideal for a summer holiday road trip or a lazy afternoon at home!

To borrow your digital copy, all you have to do is install our BorrowBox app, sign in and download. Find out how here.

Recent research suggests that 25% of boys and 22% of girls have been using audiobooks more often recently. This type of book might particularly help boys, according to the National Literacy Trust, whose survey also showed that 51% of boys questioned have become more interested in reading because of using audiobooks. 

This title would also be a wonderful pick for any child who is taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge this year, which is all happening online and which you can find out about on our website here

If you’re new to our book club, you can find our first week’s activities for this book here and our second week’s activities here.

Abbie’s Mega Magazine Cover Workshop  

Abbie from Hillingdon Libraries has created this brand new magazine cover creation activity, so kids can make their own magazine cover, based on an imaginary summer camp like the one in this month’s book…

We Want Reviews!

We’re very excited to hear what people think about this month’s book, How To Survive Summer Camp. We would love to hear children’s thoughts, the best review of the week will earn a special certificate. 

Kids could write a review, or even record a video or audio review. We’d love to see children’s most creative work. 

If you would like to share your children’s work with us, so we can show it off to the world, please do! We will assume work is okay for us to share on social media, unless you label your message ‘do not share.’ 

Share your reviews and creations at… 

Twitter: @Hill_Libraries

Facebook: @HillingdonLibraries 

Instagram: @Hillingdon_Libraries 

WordPress: HillingdonLibraries.wordpress.com

Quarantine blues? Why reading John Steinbeck novels could help get you through the pandemic.

Guest post by Benjamin Kirby from Brunel University

While a return to normalcy is an unclear destination— our daily lives reduced to eat-binge-sleep-repeat— the pressures and claustrophobia of isolation can be an overbearing sensation to many of us. The heatwave has proved to be another weight we did not need to carry as we are sweaty, stuck to our leather sofas, unable to avert our eyes as we witness the new form of horror on the television: news broadcasts of beaches and parks packed with people. With all this burden and sweatiness, reading a book may be the last thing on your mind, but it could be the most profound pastime you pick up in isolation. 

If your quarantine days are anything like mine, they are a disorderly series of underwhelming zoom quizzes, jumpy facetime calls, a sleep schedule similar to a cat’s, and panicked meetings with your university’s careers counsellor due to your considerable concern regarding the job market in the following months. Just me then?

Regardless, in a shallow effort not to sound like your mother: you’ve been having a lot of screen-time now haven’t you, dear. So, why not get away from all this? A refreshing break in another country, another time. Enter: John Steinbeck, on his dusty stallion.

A lot of people will be familiar with Of Mice And Men, a novella of Steinbeck’s, studied up and down the country. Chosen at GCSE level for not only its aptitude in displaying rural, working-class life in agricultural California, but also because it’s one of the shortest classics of all time. But, Steinbeck is more than just the subject of your GCSE essay, he is your quarantine companion.

I picked up a copy of East of Eden from a vintage store off of Brick Lane, an alluring gingerbread house for the edgier members of society. A partial shame must be admitted as I picked up the copy mainly due to Babyshambles’ B-side of the same name— inspired by the novel— and the flashy new covers that Penguin have done for Steinbeck’s novels. Flash-forward a couple months and I’m scanning my bookshelves for something new to read, once again caught by the cover: a disgruntled teen smoking a cigarette. I decide to take it for a swing.

What I was met with was a novel so refreshingly different from the current situation that I almost forget there was a global pandemic. I spent a least an hour a day in the Salinas Valley, an agricultural dip in the landscape of California, following the characters Steinbeck had brilliantly woven together. Steinbeck considered it to be his magnum opus— and rightly so— it’s incredibly well-written.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because it is radically different to everything going on right now. It feels alien in its tackling of droughts and floods, brothels and sheriffs, but relatable in the deep introspection of the human soul that any reader can follow and explore.

The characters are incredibly real, the length and pacing of the novel creates a detailed simulacrum of valley life, its virtuality is its greatest strength. Dashed with strong themes of brotherhood, shame and malevolence, and coupled with the apparent and important biblical allusions throughout, Steinbeck has created a novel hefting a complete spectrum of human consciousness. A work of literature that pleases your average reader and the snobby critic alike. Now that doesn’t happen often, does it?

If I had any complaint, it would be that the cast of characters is particularly male-heavy. So, while the novel is convincing, it isn’t completely balanced.

So, while you’re ordering your third takeaway this week, pretending not hear the roommate who’s been bugging you for the past two months, consider getting yourself a copy of East of Eden, or any book, for that matter. Whilst this blogpost may be an annoyingly persistent recommendation of Steinbeck and his work, I also would like to encourage you to pick up a book a little outlandish and alien to your usual taste, as this may lead you to feel a little refreshed and destressed from the ongoing crisis.   

Failing that, you’ve at least got yourself a 721-page paperweight.

Contributor Bio: Benjamin Kirby has just finished his studies in English Literature at Brunel University London. He is a lover of American literature, 60s music, and film photography. Follow his film photography and writing pages here: 

Blog: https://benjaminkirby18856052.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/albionfilm

My copy of East of Eden, photographed carefully to hide the wear and tear it has unfortunately been subjected to.

Roksana’s cute pigeon puppet – inspired by the book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems

Roksana from Hillingdon Libraries created this lovely pigeon puppet inspired by the pigeon from a wonderful picture book by Mo Willems. It is an amazing book, full of humour as well as colourful and bright illustrations that will appeal to children’s imagination. Thus, why not to read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!’’ and then, create this awesome pigeon puppet?


  • blue card
  • yellow card
  • 1 googly eye
  • blue lollipop stick
  • white paint
  • pencil
  • rubber
  • glue 
  • scissors

1) Take a piece of blue card, draw a circle and then cut it out. It is going to be your pigeon’s head. An adult should help when using scissors, if necessary. 

2) Cut out a beak out of a yellow piece of card and after that stick it to the back of the circle. 

3) Stick one googly eye to the pigeon’s head. Remember, a googly eye is a small part – take care if you have preschool children at home. You may want to draw the eye on, instead.

4) Take a lollipop stick and stick it to the bottom of  the pigeon’s head. 

5) Paint a white thick line just under the pigeon’s head on the blue lollipop stick. 

Finally, your pigeon puppet is ready and you can play with it. 

We’d love to see your pigeon puppets too. Please send them to:

Twitter: @Hill_Libraries

Facebook: @HillingdonLibraries

Instagram: @Hillingdon_Libraries

WordPress: HillingdonLibraries.wordpress.com

And remember to join this year’s Silly Squad Summer Reading Challenge!