Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - Episode 1 - Comics in the School Library with Gemma Sosnowsky

January 01, 2023 Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Gemma Sosnowsky Season 1 Episode 1
Comic Boom - Episode 1 - Comics in the School Library with Gemma Sosnowsky
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - Episode 1 - Comics in the School Library with Gemma Sosnowsky
Jan 01, 2023 Season 1 Episode 1
Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Gemma Sosnowsky

In this episode I chat with Gemma Sosnowsky about all things comics in the school library.

Gemma is an experienced school librarian and member of the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival board, as well as judge on the Excelsior Award and, in this episode, shares lots of practical advice on how to maximise the use of comics in your school library.

Links to everything  discussed, including Gemma's reading recommendations can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Gemma on Twitter at  @gemmafrog
Host: @Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

Music by John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode I chat with Gemma Sosnowsky about all things comics in the school library.

Gemma is an experienced school librarian and member of the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival board, as well as judge on the Excelsior Award and, in this episode, shares lots of practical advice on how to maximise the use of comics in your school library.

Links to everything  discussed, including Gemma's reading recommendations can be found on the podcast padlet.

Follow Gemma on Twitter at  @gemmafrog
Host: @Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

Music by John_Sib from Pixabay

Lucy:

my first question is, about you just specifically your own personal journey, into reading comics. What, draws you to comics?

I think initially as a kid, I think like most of us, I was into kind of Garfield and you know, that kind of thing. But I do remember very specifically the first comic that really did hook me and that was uncanny X-Men in the early nineties. Which people might be cringing about because I know it gets, you know, a bad rep for it's awful costumes and, some of it's sexist art artwork, et cetera. I loved it. and I think it introduced me to a lot of things around sort of politics, interesting themes, but in a really accessible way. so that was kind of how I got started into comics. I then progressed on to things like 2000 AD as I got older, And then when I went to university, I stopped reading for pleasure, completely as a university will often do. and I didn't really come back to comics until I started working, in the library that I'm still working in now. So I was 26 when I started, and I've been doing it for nearly 15 years and I just saw that there was a huge gap in my skill library for comics. So I kind of just got back into them then really.

Lucy:

and did you go on that journey with some of your students alongside you? Was that something that you were able to explore together?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, it was really, it was difficult to get back into it just because when I, like I said, I, cuz I'd stepped out of it for so long. I just wasn't really sure what was out there. So I went back to kind of the old sort of hinterland of Marvel in dc but obviously. By that point. Young adult comics have come like a huge journey from that. So yeah, I think I started off trying to build the collection again with some of those kind of traditional, Marvel, DC type. Stuff. And then try to build on it a little bit more with some kind of more interesting stuff. And that was where, Excelsior Awards and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival came in, which I think we'll probably mention later. So, the, the kids did, take part in that, particularly when it comes to stuff like Raina Telgemeier I always call it the Raina effect, like when SMILE came out, it was just phenomenal. The kids went wild for it. I always try and listen to them and listen to what they want and then try and find, more of the same whatever's fashionable at the time.

Lucy:

I'm a fan of Raina Telgemeier, what do you think's the, appeal because I feel like Raina Telgemeier's got quite a broad appeal, and it, is often a surprise for people, when they first start reading her books. What, do you think draws people in so much to her work?

I think two main things really. Firstly, they're just so hugely accessible, the artwork and the page layouts. They seem simplistic, obviously. I mean, it's not simplistic at all. A lot of work gone in behind the scenes, but they've. Feel very accessible in terms of just how to read a comic. But also it's just the level of truth. And I know it's a really kind of cheesy phrase, but the authenticity of it and that's what comes through. You know, she's such a lovely person and her experiences that she's conveying are absolutely true to her. And I think the kids really tap into that.

Lucy:

Yeah, I think there's something around the familiarity of it as well, and it's, the stories they're brilliant stories, but they aren't big stories. They're kind of small stories about everyday life, aren't they? And kind of common experiences.

Definitely.

Lucy:

I think that really appeals to people because then they can maybe start to think that they've got stories of their own to tell when they realize that actually these kinds of stories are really engaging to read. so what kind of things are you reading at the moment do you read adult audience comics, or do you stick to reading kind of young adult and middle grade fiction?

When you're a librarian, you know, you very rarely get the luxury of reading for yourself. You are always reading for, the next kid that's gonna come and ask you for some kind of really niche material or, you know, miss, I'm willing to mountain biking. Is there a comic on that? so I very rarely read full series of things. I tend to only ever read the first volume of stuff, which is a shame. And I'm always trying to read as widely and as diversely as possible. But I do always have several things on the go at once. And I did actually pick out a couple of things, that I've been. Reading recently, which I'm really lucky in the fact that, you know, sometimes you go through a dry spell with reading and you kind of read something, oh, it was all right, but it wasn't brilliant. Then you read something else and oh, it's all right. But it wasn't brilliant. Well, at the minute I've got three brilliant books on the go that I'm absolutely loving. So the first one is Squire by Sara Alfageeh, and Nadia Shamas. Apologies if I'm butchering those names. I think we put it in our young adult section, but I think now that I'm actually sort of, most of the way through it, it's definitely suitable key stage three. And that is kind of medieval, an Arabic country, which I think is, is sort of made up. But I know that, Sarah, I think is Jordanian. And it's about a young girl who's wanting to be a knight. So that's super cool. It's brilliant. The artwork's incredible and actually, say that the artwork is, it's kind of a little. Raines. It's been taken on a little bit with a few more complicated page layouts and things. So yeah, it's really easy to read. The next one is, the volume two of that Texas blood,, by Chris Condan and Jacob Phillips. So, definitely not really for school. That one is for me. And that's a new Western and it's got some supernatural vibes to it, which is brilliant. And then the other one that I want me to talk about was, um, middle West, which people from like, hang on, that was our ages ago. by Scotty Young, and I think it's. George Corona, Jorge Corona maybe. But a friend of mine has just lent me the full hard back, addition. And he said, he said, honestly, Jeremy said, you're gonna love it. It looks massive, but you're gonna fly through it. Cause it's so compelling. And it absolutely is. It's brilliant. So yeah. Sorry, that's three

Lucy:

Brilliant. And do you, what draws you the most? Is it the artwork, is it the story? Does it, do you have to have both? Is it the characters? What's your recipe for a successful., graphic novel or comic that's definitely gonna interest you.

Well, I remember standing in front of a comics creator once, at a festival and I picked up their work and immediately flicked through it and they were like, don't flick, don't flick. You know, cause obviously you're gonna get spoilers, aren't you, with the nature of the media being visual. So, um, but you can't help it. So I think, um, yeah, the. Does really, uh, draw me in. But having said that, I mean, there are so many different types of artwork that I love, so I don't think it necessarily puts me off. if it's not the kind of thing I'm familiar with. I think, well, like any book, you know, it's nice to have a, a main character that you can kind of relate to or that you enjoy reading about. But yeah, otherwise I'm, I'm kind of a bit generalist really. I tend to just. whatever I can get my hands on and as widely as possible really. But I think that's probably just the nature of the beast of being a librarian. And I think, I don't, yeah, I don't really know what I'd do if I was just left my own devices blind me

Lucy:

Yeah, you've, you must have the mother of all two be red piles there waiting, constantly trying to find different things for different people.

Especially after we've just had two festivals kind of in a row. So there was, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and then a month. Thought bubble and they're both kind of close geographically to me. So I've just come back with, you always go thinking, oh no, I've gotta be careful this year. And then you come back with just absolutely piles of stuff.

Lucy:

Amazing. How much of an important role does comics and graphic novels take in promoting reading for.

Well I, it's funny really because I've been, so, I've been a librarian for nearly 15 years and, but it's been in the same school. So, although I do try and talk to other librarians in different schools, kind of across my county and we also border onto Yorkshire and Keer, um, I'm in Cumbria and I do, you know, you try your best to kind of network and keep in touch with what other people are doing. but it's, you know, it, it can be quite isolating at the same time being a school librarian. Now I'm very lucky in the fact that we have two libraries and I'm an assistant librarian to my librarian colleague, and she joined, I think she's been with us a year now, and, in her previous school, she'd had accelerated reader. which doesn't really accommodate comics. And she's totally open-minded and really, really whole, like loves the whole,, comic scene and everything. And it was really interesting that she had commented when she started like, wow, God comics, like they're really popular, aren't they? And every other book that was going out, was a comic. Now I thought that was kind of standard, really. Yeah, I may, maybe it's not across all schools, I don't know. But I think,, the importance really is just giving students the choice. you know, I mean, obviously I. I love comics, but I love regular prose books as well. So depending on the student that I'm talking to, I'll recommend, whatever it is that they're looking for. but it's just nice that, you know, you've got kids who are going to take both or some kids would just go straight for the comics and maybe if they weren't there, they wouldn't read at all, which obviously would be dreadful. So I hope that comics do kind of, Just offer a little bit more breadth really. And then for those who maybe find dense text, off-putting, then obviously they've got that alternative.

Lucy:

How do you display them in, the library? Are they in a separate section or on their own? Are they, because what's comics of our form rather than a genres? You have lots of genre within them. How do you kind of make that easy for. People to navigate.

It's a bit of a nightmare to be honest. And, I've tried to rejig things several times over the years because nothing seems to. Be right. So you just kind of try different systems and see how it goes. So currently we do have the comics separated out. And we have put them into some kind of, genre, we've given them colors, but really I mean, rather than having, like these are all the horror comics and these are all the fantasy comics. It's kind of gone more into, here are all. Raina esque comics, and here are all the kind of Jamie Smart kind of comics, and it's kind of, it's now morphed into something that's a little bit more stylistic, I suppose. Um, so yeah, I mean, we'll just see how it goes. The, the thing that I do struggle with is that we do have, manga. separate as well. Now I, you know, mango is a type of comic, you know, so I, I sort of feel like they should be in altogether. But again, the kids dictate it in so much as, you know, there are certain students who only want to read manga, so it makes a lot of sense to keep Mango as its own kind of separate, form. to me that's just splitting hairs really. As long as the kids can find what they want, then that's the main.

Lucy:

Yeah, it's about keeping it accessible, and navigable, isn't it? Interesting to have it stylistically as well. I suppose that helps. Once, someone's got into one type, of comic, then they can branch out more easily then if they know that the similar ones are are there. Right, right nearby. And so what are your most popular, you've mentioned Raina Telgemeier, and Jamie Smart. Now, what's your most popular at the moment? What's, what's flying out the doors of the library?

So still heart stopper. It's just absolutely huge and continues to be so, and the kids are just desperate for the next volume, you know, whenever it's coming out. I think we've got, Three copies of each volume. I think there's four so far, and they're hardly ever on the shelf. They're either in someone's bedroom, in someone's bag, or they're on the reserve shelf waiting for someone to come and collect them. I would argue that, since Raina, there probably hasn't been a, a bigger, comics fashion. And I think Alice Osman has really kind of hit that button again, and now it's the heart stopper effect and we're getting students coming in who. Either have never been in the library before or have never picked up comics before. and they're coming in and requesting those books, which is just fantastic.

Lucy:

And do you see the TV program as being part of inspiring those reading trends? Or do you think it's more word of mouth within the.

a bit of both really. But that, that's a really interesting point because I think we all know by now that your comics, franchise films it like, all the sort of Marvel universe. Hasn't actually not affected comic sales that much. However, I would argue that the TV program, I think people definitely came in more after the TV program had started. And asked for it. So I think that has actually booked that trend and yes, made the comic more popular, I think. we did show the TV program, in the library over, I think, Pride month. And we showed a couple of episodes and we had, I was very lucky. Again, I feel like I'm boasting now, but I did meet Alice Osman at Thought Bubble, last year, and got again a couple of signed copies, for competitions that the kids just absolutely loved. So yeah, we made like quite a big deal of it, I suppose. But, really, none of our promotion has made the difference. It's the kids coming in and asking for it. That's kind of made it such a.

Lucy:

That's just brilliant to hear. And do you do anything else in your library to try and, promote comics specifically? I'm thinking of like create writing clubs or comic creation clubs. Is there any that kind of activity going on?

Yeah, well, anybody that, knows school libraries, knows like how much we do in terms. All the visits and stuff. So basically all of the regular book promotion that we would do. And we also apply to comics. I run a comics club, we do comics lessons. So this term I've just finished doing, runs of lessons with year 7, 8, 9. I've got two, professional artists coming in on Tuesday who are gonna do like workshops. So we've, liaised with the art department and I've invited my comics club as a matter of course. And so we've got about 30 kids that are gonna, be lucky enough to have some, like one-to-one mentoring time and, be able to work on their own sort of passion projects with professionals. I do find that the comics community are so generous with their time. I always feel like comics creators are kind of, they're, so, they're. much kind of the underdog within that publishing world as it is that they always just seem to wanna help everybody out. And if you invite people into school, they quite often will do it for free or for a small fee. And I do feel bad that we can't pay them. Like if we could pay them, we would. Because I don't wanna take anyone for granted or exploit anybody. But I am very lucky that the two people we've got coming in on Tuesday are actually former students. So I've just kind of kept in touch with them and I'll just pull in a favor when I can So just anything that you would normally do for your regular book promotion, you can just kind of transpose that into comics. No problem.

Lucy:

and I know you said that you, you've sometimes, maybe a little bit in a bubble in your own library and not as aware of how different the things that you are doing are in comparison to other schools, but this sounds incredible to me. You must have a lot of budding comic creators. There must be a real culture of that going on in school with all of this activity.

I hope so. Yeah. I mean, I am, I'm very, um,, excited that one of our former students, an artist called Molly Ray has, just signed with Faber. So she, I first saw her work when I think she was 15 and she was doing, comics, just, as. A sideline as a hobby. And she actually, when it came to a level, she wanted to do a comic, but she wasn't allowed. Now that's no disrespect to our art department cuz they're absolutely amazing creative practitioners and they're fully supportive. But I'm assuming just part of the curriculum or whatever, you just couldn't kind of shoehorn comics in, terms of the criteria that the exam board was looking for. And so, Kind of stopped from doing a comic as her final piece. Now, 10 years later, she's done illustration at Edinburgh and after about a year of coming out of university, she got signed to Faber. So she's currently working on her first full length graphic novel called Giant, which is gonna come out I think in 2024. So we're still in touch. She's on the artist that's coming in on Tuesday. And I'm so immensely proud of her. She's just fantastic. Her work ethic is amazing, and she's made all of this happen for herself. I did get her involved with the Lakes International Comic Art Festival early on, and they sponsored,, a comic that she was doing, and she got to kind of have her first experience of tabling and like selling her stuff, which was great. but obviously, she's done all of the really hard work herself. We've also got another student who. this year. So again, so 10 years later,, he had a very different experience and by the time he got to do a level art, comics were absolutely fine and he did a comic as his final piece, which was incredible. And he's now, uh, gone to university to study comics. So, again, I've got him involved with the festival. So he was tabling this year., and I'm really kind of hoping for big things for him as well, so I'm always trying to. For new talent. I've got a few of my comics club at the moment that I'm kind of hoping are gonna stick with it. But the thing is, is that especially when you're working with key stage three children, I mean, they might love it now, but they're not necessarily gonna want to carry on as a career. But I just think it's really important that they know that they can, if they want to, you know?

Lucy:

Yeah, completely. And do you think there's wellbeing benefits to creating What have you observed?

So what I love about my comics club is that there's every different type of student there that you can possibly imagine. So there's everybody from the kind of really literate, very super able academic kids, and then there's, everybody else in between. And I find that whenever it comes to art in particular, children have a real, you know, they either think they're good at it or they're not, but the nice thing about comics is that because it's sort of interweaving this idea of storytelling as well as kind of how good you are at drawing, in inverted comics, I think you can bring lots of different skills to it. So you might get students who are brilliant storytellers, they've got. Crazy imaginations that are just overflowing with ideas, but maybe they're not massively confident with how to get them onto paper and, and, and vice versa. You might get some kids who are just like these in total perfectionists with their artwork, but really they're almost kind of paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong. but I feel like when they come to comics club, they can kind of come together and it's a real safe space and you are allowed to fail. You're allowed to make a mess. There's no judgment because everyone's sort of kind of working towards the same sort of goals and they're really supportive of each other. And I think. where they can sort of build up that little bit of confidence and self-esteem within a group like that, that is so supportive. Hopefully they can kind of take that out then and kind of apply that into other things outside of the group, you know.

Lucy:

When they, when their income was club, is it free reign or do you give them small projects to work on? A mixture of both.

I think when I, when I first started, so going back years ago now, I think there was this bit of, it was like, I must, you know, I must make sure there's like a set activity every week and that, It almost like, I think I was trying to sort of make it like a lesson, and I just very quickly realized that no, do you know what this is extracurricular. The kids are doing it in their own time. It's got to be fun. And the main thing that I want to do is facilitate a safe space where they can just be themselves and relax and not have to worry about the other pressures of school or any kind of like social pressures. And I find that the group then, self-regulate and it sort of runs itself. So I've had some years where students just wanna come and they just, they literally want to talk about comics and comic books and I mean, you'll have hours and hours and hours of conversation about what is and isn't canon, you know, you get that kind of group. But then sometimes you get the kind of group like I've got this year who are very much into the art side of. I kind of try and guide them a little bit. So we've done a little bit on how to make zines, but I mean, literally I've just showed them how to make the actual zine and then I've said, right, here's some examples of ones that, I've picked up so here's kind of some inspiration for you, but the whole point is that you can do it about whatever you want. there was one girl that's done aze about different feelings, so each page is a different feeling, which. So super cute. another, student made aine into like a flip book of a revolving door, which was just genius. So I try and guide them a little bit, but really kind of just let them do whatever they.

Lucy:

That sounds brilliant. I wish I could come. I really wanna be in your comics club. Great

Yay. Come see us, but love it.

Lucy:

so I wanted to talk to, you've talked about Lakes International Comic Art Festival a couple of times, but I'd love you to fill people in who maybe don't know about it. What is it, what's your involvement and how did that all start?

It started, in Kendall, which is a town close by to me and my school, 10 years ago. it started off on a shoestring and it was, the kind of brainchild of the wonderful Julie Tate who is unstoppable. She's an absolute force. And for the first few years, it was, as I say, it was kind of run on. Goodwill and favors essentially. And again, the,, comic creators are just incredibly generous. I got involved because obviously the, festivals, were always looking to get skills involved in young people. And I think maybe Julie. Heard about me through the Excelsior award, possibly, I can't remember now. But after a couple of years of working, doing some projects and stuff in school,, she then asked me if I wanted to be on the board, which was amazing, and I jumped at that chance. I think I've been on the board now for six years and since then we've now got, arts award, NPO status, and it's just gone from strengths to strength. it's, it's an amazing festival. It's truly international. And since we move location, we've just moved to a different town. And we are now literally on the shores of Lake Windemere and it's be.

Lucy:

And what's kind of things, if somebody's never been to any kind of comics convention before, You walk through the doors, what kind of activities, what do you see there?

What I'd say that's different about Lakes is that it's definitely a festival and not a convention. So it riffs more off the kind of, European festival model rather than the kind of American comic convention kind of model. So. you're probably not gonna find any cosplay or, and it's not gonna be like a, a huge kind of conference center,, kind of a one stop shop. What tends to happen is that the, the whole town is involved in some way, so different venues will have different things going on, so they'll be a. interviews and panel discussions, and workshops., there's like a kid zone. There's a comics marketplace,, where independent and small press creators,, sell, their stuff. And it's a little bit more kind of diverse rather than,, a regular convention which I mean, don't get me wrong, I love, but that will be more of you kind of cosplay and you kind of hardcore geeks, if you know what I mean. Like, and I say that in a positive way. Yeah. what I love about the lakes is that, you know, and it says it's international. It really is truly international. So I think this year, 25 countries were represented and Julie's really aware. You know, obviously that carbon footprint, et cetera. So, you know, we're not flying everybody in from 25 different countries, but we do have lots of international guests who do attend in person. So this year we had like Alison Bechdel, which is amazing. But we've also, have obviously homegrown talent, Posey Simmons and Sean Phillips, and, loads of incredible people. We had a Greek creator, Ukrainian creator, all kinds of people there, which is, it's amazing because it just introduces you to so many new things although to me it's, it's kind of overwhelming at times. I'm trying to read like, said as widely and diverse as I possibly can, and then you turn up at, at like half and you're like, oh my goodness. I've just literally just scratched the surface.

Lucy:

Comics in the late district to me is not something if I didn't know about the festival that would necessarily associate with one another. I tend to think of comics being a, around sort of city life. Is there a presence in comics the rest of the year round in your, area or?

Well, it's really interesting and actually it's amazing for me because when I first like picked up that first uncanny X-Men, I was living in Ambleside at the time,, and. Tiny little town and even, you know, it's, it's always busy with tourists, but I mean, not, it's mostly just like outdoor shops, you know? and in the local news agent, they only ever got one copy of this X-Men book, and I used to desperately try and scrabble to get hold of it. so. On the whole, you know, yeah, I mean there isn't a massive comics presence. We don't have a comic shop as such. I think our closest comic shop is Lancaster, which isn't too far away, but you know, it would be too far to kind of travel. We don't have any big forbidden planets or any page 40 fives or traveling men or anything like that. So, it's not that comics are there all the time. in that way. But, aff do have a year round presence. there are, schools programs going on year round. They're doing a lot of work on the west coast of Cumbria, which, really struggles, it's a kind of one of those post-industrial areas. there's a lot of, time and attention going in there from little lick half, which is our sort twelves and unders, side of things. and they're constantly working with projects with, different public libraries, all kinds of things going on really, It's a really active festival and it's not just part of one weekend. It does go year round.

Lucy:

We're just gonna move on to the Excelsior Awards now. Can you tell me what are the Excelsior Awards? for people who might not have heard of them,

oh, the Excels award is an absolute godsend I think it's brilliant for lots of different reasons, but I love it from somebody who, knows comics and feels comfortable, using comics, with young people. The Excelsior Award is excellent because you've just got these brilliantly curated shortlists, essentially it's key stages 2, 3, 4, and five. So depending on what your setting is, you could just choose whichever shortlist or, combination of shortlists is most appropriate for you. It's beautiful because it's voted for by children. So they read the short list and they rate each book and they give it, ratings. I think it's out of five for four or five different areas. Like artwork, characters, dialogue, and then everything is collated by the wonderful Paul Register, who created it, who's another librarian in Sheffield. It's just great because it gives the kids this amazing say in what comics they like to read. So that's, on one hand, that's brilliant, you know, if you're established, you know exactly what to do with it. But the other genius thing about the Excelsior Award is that if you're completely new to comics and you're not sure what to do, well, you know, you're not sure what to buy. Especially, when it comes to manga and stuff, quite often something maybe looks like it's suitable for children and then you kind of flicks and you go, oh, actually, maybe not. well, you just know. It's all been read through, it's all age appropriate. And if you've got a small budget, which most of us have, even if you just bought a couple of those short lists for your library or your skill collections, then you've got a pretty varied and good collection to start building up on.

Lucy:

You've got some nice quality assured content there for people to dig into. do you get young people in your school to vote as part of it?

Yeah. You can do it anyway, which is gonna fit your setting. I would run the Excel sheet award within my comics club and the idea being that I would encourage, the students to read as many books as they could off the shortlist. And for each book they get given a ratings form and then they fill that and give that back to me, and I send it off to Paul, by a deadline in, I think, Maybe just after Easter. the short list come out sometime just after Christmas. So you've got a few weeks to go at it. And then, yeah, so the kids, rate every single book that they've read. So you can do it a bit more formally like that within a club. But I know people that do it sort of just in the library setting and just have the rating form sat there. And if a student just happens to take out on Excel to your book, they'll just say, oh, here's a rating form. Just, you know, Return that when you return your book. What you'll find is, is that quite often, and this happens with, you know, with other book awards as well, you get those awards that are voted for by grownups in the industry and they'll vote for something that's. Worthy. And then the kids actually like something completely different. So that's why I like the Excel sheet war because there are no grownups involved. We just collate the stuff and facilitate, the short lists. But it's all voted for by the kids.

Lucy:

Yeah. I do think that quite often the more humorous, funny, fun side of books gets a little bit missed out because of the. Adult adult judging panels and what they think is, you know, worthy of award being, award-winning. So I could see that, child led would have some really different results. And do you ever get really, heated debates going on in the library about which book is, is the best?

I think maybe I have in the past, but it, it just sort of depends on the children that are reading them. I don't tend to run it, you know, like if you were gonna be doing. A regular prose book award say. I dunno if you're a shadowing Carnegie or something, and you might have that. Formalized, um, reading group sort of atmosphere of, you know, oh, you know, what do you think this character was thinking when they did this, or whatever. You could go down that route because there's enough to discuss within, the shortlisted books. But to be honest, coming back to my point before, this is extracurricular. It's meant to be reading for pleasure. And I think when you start trying to dissect it too much, it kind of takes the fun out of it. So if the kids wanna get into that, then brilliant. But, I don't lead them into that, if you see what I mean.

Lucy:

Yeah, I've, I've had moments in my book club as an adult where I've. He loved a book and by the end of the book club session, I've been like, oh, slow clap. Well done guys. Now Now. I hate this book.

I know. well. It's like, yeah, it's like when you get made to study a book as well at school, isn't it? And then like you think, oh God, I'm never gonna read that ever again. You know? And it, and it might be something really excellent, but they just kind of remming it.

Lucy:

Yeah, let's not kill things with too much dissection. You are right. This has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much. I've loved hearing you've got such a broad range of experiences. I wanted to end all of the podcasts with sort of three key takeaways that might, help people listening influence their practice, either in the classroom or in their library.

I think, try and not be too pretentious when it comes to comics. I always refer to comics as comics, and I know there's loads of different. Terms for them. And you know, sometimes graphic novel works depending on, the book that you're talking about but, in the end, let's face it, it's all just comics and like, let's not be snobby about it. So I think that's quite important. I think, yeah, let the students guide what you buy. Sometimes you. Pick out new things for them to show them what's out there. but as I say, with the Heart Stopper effect, I mean they just love it. So if you can find other things that are similar to Heart Stopper, then stock them. and also if you wanna get into comics and if you want to promote comics in your school, just start reading them yourself and kind of get out to some festivals because once you start talking to creators and things, you just can't help getting.

Lucy:

That is one thing I haven't asked you yet. Do you yourself make comics?

no I don't and I feel dreadful cuz I can, I mean I can talk comics. I'm an absolute geek when it comes to the process of comics. So recently there's just been, I dunno if you know, the Comic Pulp by Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker but the process edition has just come out and I desperately want it. Cuz I love. Listening to creators talk about their process. So I can kind of parrot that back at children all the time, but I do feel like a real fraud. Cause I'll be like, now, now we need to do your thumbnails and now we need to do pencils, and now I need to inks. And I'm like, actually, I don't practice any of this stuff myself. So yeah, I do feel dreadful. No, I'm definitely just on the reader side of things.

Lucy:

Just because you don't want to, or, or do you think there's barriers there? Is there some sort of block?

It comes back to that thing of like, when you're a kid, you either feel like you, you know, you're either good at art or you're not. Which is maybe one of the reasons why I'm so passionate about trying to get kids to just sort of have a go.

Lucy:

So one final thing that I want to end the podcast on you've always given us lots of different recommendations already, but if you could give us one more, if you had one book to our'to be read' piles tomorrow, what would it be?

I mean, it, it has to be Heart Stopper if you haven't read it already, just because it's such a huge thing with the kids right now.