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A new leader

This week we've witnessed the first steps in a change of leadership of the government: it looks unlikely to be a quick or easy process. But there has been a quieter and more straightforward succession in the world of literature in the past few days, as the latest children's laureate has been announced.

Taking the post for the next two years is Joseph Coelho, a performance poet, playwright and author of picture books and verse novels for children aged three to 13. He is the 12th author to take on the role.

Past laureates include, most recently, Cressida Cowell who has championed school libraries during her tenure. Others were Michael Morpurgo, Quentin Blake, Malorie Blackman, Julia Donaldson, Michael Rosen, Jacqueline Wilson, and many more familiar names.

For Coelho, he hopes to use his profile to promote the power of poetry and "build the nation's library membership".

Prior to lockdown, in a Library Marathon, he joined 140 libraries out of 209 authorities. Now he says he has 70 left to do and on each visit he performs poems and stories, talks with staff and borrows books. The events seek to encourage local people who haven't joined to do so, and those who've already joined to borrow more books. 

He also wants to encourage children to see themselves as writers, poets, illustrators, and storytellers. 

And, in getting the nation writing and performing poems, he hopes to reclaim the term poet. "So often poetry has been 'done' to us," he says, "we've taken on poetry's baggage ... the notion that a poem has a right and a wrong way to be read, to be analysed, to be written. How could that ever be the case when poetry translates the soul." Exciting times!

Thank you for reading.

The Island House
Mary Considine

Islands always seem magical and the memory of visiting an island off the coast of Cornwall many years ago on a family holiday has always stayed with me. 

And it immediately came to mind when I saw this book though I didn't remember any details about the owners or even what the island was called. It was therefore a real treat to learn more about it...

The island is called St George's or Looe Island and it was home to two sisters, Babs and Evelyn Atkins, who remained here until their late 80s. They had prepared for their deaths by putting the island in the hands of Cornwall Wildlife Trust so that it might remain as they had left it, unchanged for decades, inviting visitors arriving by boat to wander and sip tea and eat cake just as if they were guests of the family. 

Mary Considine remembered being one of these special guests in her childhood. She had returned to the area when life in London had imploded and heard that the Trust had taken over the island and was considering its future role.

Mary and her husband had reached an impasse in their own career and life plans. But they loved the island and they felt that they could work for the trust by becoming the new caretakers, carrying on just as the two sisters had wanted.

It wasn't a comfortable transition. The Considines had had a comfortable life and the house on the island had fallen into some disrepair. Electricity and water were difficult to come by initially. But they were resourceful and determined and gradually they brought just enough control to the unruly location.

It's a lovely account of making a new and very different life in a beautiful, unique location and conjured up many happy memories for me. I'd love to visit again - or perhaps I'll remember it as it was for me then.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.

Luna Loves Dance
by Joseph Coelho
and illustrated by Fiona Lumbers

While this is the fourth in the picture book series about Luna and her family, it is my introduction to the writing of the new children's laureate, Joseph Coelho, and it's rather lovely!

When Luna dances, the world comes alive but when she takes her dance exam, she trips and stumbles and fears that she will never become a proper dancer.

Her friends and family seek to comfort and reassure Luna, reminding her of the pleasure she gains from all the different types of dance and movement she knows. 

In the vibrant colours, cheery faces and fluid illustrations, the characters in this delightful story seem to dance across the pages. A special fold out section shows the whole community enjoying a carnival too.

It's a beautiful book which celebrates family as well as different cultures, backgrounds, experiences and abilities. I'll be looking out for the other stories about Luna - she also explores books, art and libraries!

Read about more recommended children's books here.

Browsers Bookshop Book Group
at St John's Hall, Woodbridge

Monday 25 July 8pm 
talking about...

O Caledonia

by Elspeth Barker
A gothic coming-of-age story which reflects the joy to be found in literature and nature. It's Maggie O'Farrell's favourite book. 'A sparky, funny work of genius,' for Ali Smith. 'A wonderful oddity,' says Penelope Lively. What will we think of it?
Join in the discussion! Buy your copy of the book from Browsers Bookshop with the book group discount. Details about how to attend the meeting nearer the time.
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