Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Welcome to the Ivory Tower

As an occasional librarian, the question I am asked most often is 'My son/daughter is looking for something to read, but they don't want to read children's books and I don't want them reading unsuitable books - what should I do?'

Well, okay. That's not really the question I'm asked most often. That's probably 'Excuse me, where are the toilets?', or 'My child/pet/grandmother chewed this book, can I return it?', or on one memorable occasion, 'Do you think the government is out to get me?'. But it is the question I'm most often asked that relates to books.

And the thing is, normally librarians are kind of busy. What with showing people the toilets, shelving books, cleaning up a spillage near the computers and trying to stop someone's toddler running slap-bang into that sharp corner you've been meaning to report, there's not always that much time to really help everyone pick a book. Not that we don't try, of course, but we'll normally just direct someone towards the Internet in the vain hope that there will be an appropriate website, or a school list, or even teachers, without stopping to think that actually, there might be a few books that we could recommend. 

I've got no particular problem with any of these, but  it strikes me that actually any list or website tends to be someone pushing their own book baby designed for a problem audience (boys who won't read! Give them football stories! All boys like football stories!). So, here I am, ready to offer impartial advice and hopefully draw your attention to a load of really inspiring books along the way.

And actually, I've really read most of the books I'm going to recommend, and can honestly tell you if there's anything unsuitable, or a bit gory, but if I'm really honest, kids are a lot more robust and capable of making their own decisions about books than you think, and can cope with the occasional monster under the bed... Who else were fairy stories written for? But here I am anyway, with a tower full of really good books that you can play around with, each with my own personal recommendation and seal of approval. Happy reading!

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