Review: Hetty and the Battle of the Books by Anna James, illustrated by Jez Tuya

Cover image by Jez Tuya, to be published by Barrington Stoke,
7th July 2022

This is a book to make every school librarian or library advocate’s heart soar! As regular readers of my blog will know, I have loved Barrington Stoke books since discovering their titles for one of my own children almost twenty years ago. I have greatly enjoyed the books that they have commissioned from many of the top writers for children in the intervening years and Hetty and the Battle of the Books has just jumped straight to the top of my favourites list.

It is a funny, thoughtful, powerful manifesto for the necessity of having a library and a trained librarian in every school, published in fully accessible format so that it can be read and enjoyed by the very individuals to whom a library often matters the most. Anna James has wonderfully captured the voice of a quirky Year 7 pupil, Hetty, who is going through the friendship issues which occur so commonly as children progress from primary to secondary school. Her place of sanctuary is the school library, which in this story is presided over by Ms Juster, a librarian who knows how to cater for the needs of every pupil who enters her domain. When Hetty learns that the dastardly headteacher, Mr McCarthy, plans to close the library and make Ms Juster redundant, she puts her outrage into action, recruits her former friends to the cause and designs her own campaign to save the library. In a book of approximately one hundred pages the narrative crackles with a sense of urgency and is heavily laced with Hetty’s wry sense of humour. I absolutely adored the greyscale illustrations throughout by Jez Tuya, I am not aware of seeing his artwork before but I shall certainly be on the lookout for further books that he illustrates.

I urge all school librarians and literacy coordinators to purchase a copy of Hetty and the Battle of the Books for your pupils to enjoy, I think it will appeal to all readers of 8-13. In my opinion, this quote from the penultimate chapter summarises all that is magical about school libraries:

You can do your homework there as well as visit a faraway kingdom. You can research the Tudors as well as meet a Greek god, all from a beanbag. You can watch a film, or make a newspaper, or play Dungeons and Dragons. Or you can just read a good book…Because a library is a place for everyone…

Chapter 9

I am most grateful to Barrington Stoke and NetGalley for allowing me access to an e-ARC prior to publication, and I will certainly be buying a paperback copy when it is published on 7th July 2022.

Picture Book Review: So You Want to Build a Library by Lindsay Leslie, illustrated by Aviel Basil

Cover image by Aviel Basil, to be published by Raintree Publishers,
3rd February 2022

I am always attracted to a book with “library” in its title and therefore requested this picture book as soon as I saw it on NetGalley. Having spent some time looking at library design as part of my professional librarian course, I give So You Want to Build a Library a big thumbs up; author Lindsay Leslie and illustrator Aviel Basil have totally captured the playful, interactive aspects that attract youngsters to the library and keep them returning!

The story follows the vivid imagination, obviously fed by her reading habit, of a young girl who believes that:

There is no better place on Earth than where stacks and stacks of books are kept – the LIBRARY


…and who wishes to build her own, with an impressive number of extravagant features. As she chooses her location, gathers materials and  friends, including a helpful giant, and begins to build, her whimsical design cannot fail to delight. The simple text is colourfully brought to life by fantastic, full page illustrations in an ice-cream palette and I found myself longing to curl up in the “biggest, cushiest, floofiest chair” with a chilled treat from the sundae bar and a book! Everyone is catered for in this inclusive temple of books, from dragons to teeny, tiny fairies and I’m certain that young readers if not older librarians will be enthralled by the idea of zip lines and water slides!

A charming picture book for children of 3-6 which presents a lovely image of the joy and adventure to be found inside the library and the books within.

So You Want to Build a Library  is due to be published on 3rd February 2022. I am very grateful to Raintree Publishers and NetGalley for allowing me access to an advanced electronic edition in exchange for an honest review.