Beautiful Trees has been out for a few days now and, so far, the response to it has been amazing. But I’m not here to talk about that. Nope – you’ve got a day off. Today I’m delighted to welcome Bookmonster Ally here.
I know Ally from my work in The Children’s Central in Sheffield , so I can happily say not only that she’s one of the loveliest book people out there, or that her displays are wonderful, but also that’s she’s someone who is absolutely passionate about books and young readers. She’s here to talk about her website (which is AMAZING – DO check it out if you’re a young reader, a teacher, a student, a parent, career – or if you love children’s and young people’s books) and what she does as a librarian. Over to her.
Write a guest blog Nik said, it’ll be easy he said… Thank you Nik for welcoming me so eagerly onto your creative corner of the internet. As a huge fan and respecter of everything Nik does, I am incredibly chuffed to be here to talk about my website www.bookmonsters.info.
I’m Alexis (aka Ally) and I’ve worked in the Central Children’s Library in Sheffield for over 10 years as a library and information assistant, coming initially from a short teaching background. I absolutely love my job and feel very fortunate to be able to work in such a worthwhile and wonderful environment. Every day I see the positive impact libraries and their staff have on customers and feel that they still have an important role to play in our communities. For libraries this should be a period of evolution not extinction.
Alongside my day job I create and maintain websites and I am also working towards being a fully fledged graphic designer in the very near future.
As a child I read anything and everything and my favourite books hold so much affection and nostalgia in my heart that I want other children to feel this way. If just one child is inspired in the way I was by Dogger (Shirley Hughes) or Cops and Robbers (Alan Ahlberg) then Book Monsters has done the job. 2015 has been a particularly great one for children’s publishing with so many incredible new releases. My favourite for this year has to be The Bear and the Piano ( David Litchfield), I’ve banged on about it a lot!! Beautiful, poetic and atmospheric it’s a picture book everyone can enjoy. I adore its heart warming, positive message and stunning illustrations.
Aside from that, I love the Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre books, unique, funny and very accessible. I’ve also been really impressed by Barrington Stokes’ new Red Squirrel books, a series of dyslexia-friendly picture books designed specifically for parents and carers with dyslexia, to help them read with, and to, their children. Wonderful idea perfectly executed. As for adult books, I don’t get much time for them anymore, but Matt Haig’s Reason’s to Stay Alive and The Martian by Andy Wier are my two top reads this year. My favourite book of all time,(it’s a cliché), but this is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, witty and romantic. The only book I’ve owned that has disintegrated through over-use.
I have always just loved loving books, but Book Monsters really came about as a direct result of my library work. In this job I am always trying to read and familiarise myself with the books in our library as we are regularly asked for recommendations. All these wonderful books go into my head space and stick there, only popping out when a customer specifically enquires or I can see they need it. This got me thinking about maybe creating a website about children’s books where I could share my favourite finds with a wider audience.
My aim was to create a site for parents, carers, librarians, teachers, students and anyone at all who just enjoys children’s literature. I admit one of my driving forces was the influx of reading lists we get brought into the library particularly at the start of a new school year. Over 10 years these lists are amazingly still haven’t changed all that much to the one I was given as a trainee teacher 14 years ago! Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of stunning classic children’s books that must be read, but there are also many wonderfully creative, interesting and educational new releases each year that I feel are being overlooked by some of the most influential people in children’s lives. I really want Book Monsters to exhibit the best of these books to people who will be selecting and recommending books themselves, so that children don’t miss out.
I wanted Book Monsters to be unique and very visual, something for people to enjoy looking at as well as reading. This is where my book monster drawings stemmed from. I’ve always called children little monsters as they all have such different characters and just tear through life with bundles of enthusiasm and fun. As I was thinking about my website, I had this image in my head of a little book monster, devouring book pages with relish. It seemed the ideal theme for my website, so I took the concept and developed a group of little eye catching monsters. I wanted to customise them to make each book review personal to the author and illustrator (where appropriate) and as a form of branding to help the blog be memorable and hopefully encourage return visits. It makes each review much more time consuming to do, but I hope it adds an extra dimension to them.
My long term aim with Book Monsters is to support authors and illustrators in promotion, help recommend titles for reluctant and keen readers, make suggestions for children and parents with dyslexia and just celebrate the wonderful array of books available. Through following authors and illustrators on social media, it’s clear the immense amount of work, heart and, at times, nagging self doubt that goes into producing their books. When we, as readers, come across a gem, the very least we can do is share and tell as many as possible. We need to support the talented people who create books as much as the children who read them.
Book Monsters is still very much a new website and a work in progress. I want to add more than just reviews on there for it to hopefully evolve into a useful resource for parents, teachers and librarians. It is all quite new and scary though, so I always welcome and appreciate feedback and suggestions on the site via the contact form or comments sections. I’m very grateful to anyone who takes the time to read Book Monsters and maybe tell others about a book or two they see on there and like the look of.
Thank you so much for reading
I can be found merrily munching on books at the following places:
(Image courtesy of the wonderful Emma Reynolds)