World Book Day 2023
By: Library Staff
Hi-Dee-Hi Campers! Jake here and in the written word! Except this time, I am not alone……
If all has gone well you should be reading this on one of my favourite days of the year, National Fried Chicken Day! World Book Day! Why is it one of my favourites I hear you (or the voices in my head) ask? Because it’s all about books of course! And I would be a pretty bad Library so-and-so if I didn’t, y’know, like books. So with the help of some of my colleagues from across the Hub Libraries in the borough we have put together a list of staff recommendations to feast your eyes upon.
In The Distance by Hernan Diaz
Recommended by Marianna at Lewisham Library
In The Distance is a haunting look at loneliness in frontier-era America from an unlikely outsider. Hakan is sent from his modest rural homestead in Gothenburg, Sweden along with his brother Linus to seek a better life in the burgeoning United States of America. Separated in the tumult of travel, Hakan instead finds himself alone and unable to communicate both linguistically and culturally with those around him.
Lost and possessed by the idea of reuniting with his brother, Hakan encounters capitalists and colonialists, explorers and scientists alike on his search to find belonging. What effectively unfolds is a brutal portrayal of one man's journey to try and find his place in a violent and ruthless landscape during a time when the American Dream was in its infancy. In his attempt to re-join his brother, Hakan is pulled into a relentless stream of vicious and unfair situations which explore humanity and its willingness to stop at nothing for success.
Diaz writes with such clarity and precision that the eternal struggle for belonging is palatable on the page. Spanning the protagonist's entire life and presenting an honest portrayal of the early years of the birth of the New World, the struggles of migration and the subsequent isolation remain eternally relevant. For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo and the ceaseless human experience.
Hernan Diaz is an Argentinian writer raised in Sweden. In the Distance was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction among others. His second novel Trust was released in 2022 to critical acclaim.
Charlie Changes Into A Chicken by Sam Copeland
Recommended by Paul at Catford Library
There is a kind of personality and charm to the best children’s books. That’s what makes really great ones stand out because it is elusive and rare. I spend my life surrounded by children’s books, hunting for good ones to read aloud. They are nearly all wholly dull and formulaic – or pale imitations of Roald Dahl.
However, ‘Charlie Changes into a Chicken' is absolutely one of the great ones. I read it recently with my children (they are aged six and nine). We all enjoyed it very much. Charlie is a schoolboy who changes into lots of different animals which sounds kind of exciting at first, but he doesn’t enjoy the experience at all. I found it genuinely funny and silly. The story covers serious issues like worries, illness and bullying but it is honestly just really funny – normally you can spot a book that deals with ‘issues’ from a mile away but this really doesn’t feel like one of those. It was enjoyable to read aloud. And lots of fun.
I particularly remember a bit where it says ‘Charlie looks however you want him to look’ which struck me as a sweet and somewhat profound concept. My only complaint is that Charlie does not, at any point, turn into a chicken – but this issue is obviously taken very seriously by the publishers and addressed in the text. And it has a shiny gold cover.
Nervous Conditions Trilogy by Tsitsi Dangarembga
Recommended by Katherine at Lewisham Library
Nervous Conditions is the first of three novels about Tambu, a gifted child from a village in 1960s Zimbabwe. Determined to get an education, she grows maize and plans to pay her own school fees. Her brother steals the corn and laughs in her face. She gets to the school anyway. By the second book, she has won a scholarship to an elite boarding school. But by the start of the third, This Mournable Body, the adult Tambu is unemployed and bitter, disowned by her family, hating herself and pretty much everyone else.
Author Tsitsi Dangarembga published the trilogy across 30 years: from 1988 to 2018. The books show a changing society - Tambu is born under a white minority rule and lives through a War of Independence. Her personal life is dominated by a series of contrasting authority figures: her traditionalist Shona parents, her bullying uncle, racist teachers and dishonest employers. Pleasing all of them - or any of them - can seem impossible. She is cheated, ignored or humiliated, time after time.
Perhaps Tambu’s greatest struggle is trying to balance her own fight for survival with the idea of ubuntu - a person’s connectedness to others, the philosophy that “I am because we are.” Tambu is not a rebel: she doesn't want to change the world, she wants to win. She needs to be the best. But this ruthlessness cuts her off from others, and from herself. In This Mournable Body she looks in the mirror and sees herself as a fish or a hippopotamus; the voice in her head is like a hyena.
At different points in the books, Tambu can seem like a hero, a victim or a monster - she is always a compelling character, whose thoughts and feelings seem fresh and real.
The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
Recommended by Suzie at Downham Library
The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and finally the Wheel of Time appears on the small screen. But if you’re like me and can’t wait for season 2, why not delve into the 14 books that make up Robert Jordan’s masterpiece.
Start out with Rand and his friends in the quiet little village of Emond's Field and end up (spoiler alert) at Shayol Ghul and witness the Last Battle between the forces of good and evil. Yes, I know it sounds like the same old story that’s been retold in many a way (probably most famously by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings), but believe me, this is not simply following the cookie cutter approach that other fantasy writers might be taking.
Jordan’s word is rich not only in characters, but distinct cultures and places, all inviting the reader to find out more and immerse oneself within them. Find yourself exploring the Waterwood and the Waste, get lost visiting the sites of Caemlyn and Tar Valon, and experience the hospitality of the Borderlands. Learn about the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon and his fight against the Chosen (or the Forsaken as it were). Battle hordes of Trollocs, Darkfriends and Whitecloaks, and wield the power of, well, the One Power. Or just become a trickster like one of my favourite characters, Mat Cauthon.
If along the way you feel like slapping the fabled Dragon Reborn around his head a bit … trust me, that’s normal. Our dearest potential saviour of all has a lot to learn and big shoes to grow into, and sometimes he’s slipping back into stubborn wool head mode. Not that Nynaeve (my other favourite character) is much better. Well, at least not until she’s gotten over a certain block … but then, that’d be telling now, wouldn’t it?
I know that the idea of 14 books can be daunting, and yes, there is that thing Wheel of Time fans call the slog, but overall, it is by far the best fantasy series I’ve ever read (and also listened to). So come and join me as I follow the wind to a new beginning…
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Recommended by Lindsay at Deptford Library
The Murder Most Unladylike Series by Robin Stevens is one of the best series I have ever read and still do read. The stylish writing, the unexpected plot twists, and most importantly, the entertaining characters, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong, make the book an enjoyable read for a person of any age.
It also stands out from so many in its genre as the detectives are two young private school girls who solve murders in many locations - school, trains, and even abroad in China! What also sets it apart from the rest, is that the book is written through the point of view of Hazel Wong, a meticulous, organised girl who complies all the notes from their investigating into clear lists. This makes the book very easy to follow as you are constantly updated by the character on who they are investigating and why.
On top of this, the author’s style of writing is smooth and flows nicely from book to book in the series and not once does she break away from her characters so the books can be read independently or in order- you choose! If one is looking for a refreshing, relaxing read this series should be next on your list.
Miracle on 5th Avenue By Sarah Morgan
Recommended by Yasiga at Downham Library
An emotional and sweet story of love, grief, and learning to take chances.
Miracle on 5th Avenue is an irresistible book based on a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York. This book features an incandescent heroine named Eva. She is a hopeless romantic with a vaguely implausible job. The hero, Lucas is a grumpy, bestselling crime writer who hates Christmas. With the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he has never looked at love again. But being empathetic, Eva’s understanding of Lucas surprises him. This story brings a great knowledge to others’ point of view despite the mild but realistic conflicts. It is very intriguing how two opposites can earn their happily ever after.
The illustration is of people ice skating at night in Central Park, the lights of New York City buildings and many trees twinkling with lights. Romance is not the only theme, grief is a huge part of the story for the two leads, Eva and Lucas, both having lost a close one in their lives. They both deal with it in many different ways.
‘Be the sunshine, not the rain’, is the perfect description of Eva. She is seeing the best in everyone in every situation. With men who are only interested in her body, Eva has acquired the perfect comebacks to put these men in their place. Sarah has made her a more fascinating woman by hinting her empathetic character throughout the story.
I have read Miracle on 5th Avenue and I personally love it! A lovely story of understanding and empathy. I would definitely recommend this book to many others who love the spark between opposites along with a few disagreements and opinions.
The Paul Faustino Trilogy by Mal Peet
Recommended by Jake at Downham Library
When you have done as many of these as I have it gets tough after a while to try and figure out what books you haven’t written about. In the end I settled on something that combines my love of Fantasy Fiction and the Classics with my love of football (don’t ask me who I support, it is currently too depressing to disclose), The Paul Faustino Trilogy.
Written by Carnegie medal winning author Mal Peet the series consists of Keeper, The Penalty and Exposure. You gather very early on these aren’t your usual take on the genre of Sports Fiction.
Our series starts with Keeper. In a gloomy newspaper office late at night. Football journalist extraordinaire Paul Faustino. Sat opposite is the greatest Goalkeeper on the planet, maybe even of all time, El Gato. In between them on the table sits The World Cup. Over the course of a night Faustino will hear Gato’s tale. From his humble beginnings in a logging town in the jungle to the bombshell he will drop on Faustino (via a phantom football pitch) ancient powers and destiny converge in this story.
Book two, The Penalty, starts with a young man arriving in South America from Africa, about to embark on a frightful journey. Meanwhile in the same town, separated by decades and decades, Paul Faustino is trying to work out what to do with the information El Gato has left him with. Yet he finds himself being dragged into the mysterious disappearance of teenage football prodigy El Brujito (The Magician). Is it gang related? Has he just vanished into thin air? Or is this connected to something deeper and darker, hidden in a time before now? As past and present converge Faustino finds himself drawn into the middle of something far beyond his understanding.
Finally we round off with Exposure. A modern retelling of the Shakespearean classic Othello. Star player and captain of the national team Otello has recently joined a new club, and married to pop star Desemerelda he is a sensation. That said he faces discrimination being the country’s most prominent black player, and is regularly greeted with boos despite his exceptional talent. Elsewhere Faustino finds himself drawn into the lives of some street children, while trying to cover Otello’s fall from grace…..
We hope you have enjoyed reading our recommendations, and most importantly……..