Q&A with author Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden is the author of the Winternight trilogy, three books based on fairy tales set in snowy, medieval Russia. She will be at Brompton Library on Thursday 5 April and she will read from her new book, The Girl in The Tower and answer questions about her stories.

It’s a free event which is suitable for children aged 14 and over, book via Eventbrite

As we’re so excited about this – Katherine has answered some questions already! Over to her…

What books would you like to read this year?

Working on Barkskins by Annie Proulx next up is News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I don’t really plan my reading year.

What is your favourite fairy tale?

Sivka-Burka, King Frost, Vasilisa the Beautiful, the Snow Queen

If you were a character in one of your books, what type of character would you be?

A bard, possibly with magic powers. This is a future book that I haven’t written, but hey I have time.

How often do you write?

The goal is five days a week, 2K words a day when I’m drafting.

You have lived in many places, what is it about Russia that so inspired you?

Everything! The people, the weather, the landscape, the history, the literature.

What is your favourite book?

It’s a series, but The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

If you could give your younger self advice about writing a book, what would it be?

Don’t give up. You can do it.

You have said that writing is lonely, how do you deal with that and keep writing?

Take time for friends, keep people around.

What do you most love about being a writer?

The ability to travel when I want and set my own schedule.

What was the last thing you watched on Netflix?

Don’t have a Netflix subscription. It’s a giant time sink.

What do you most like to do when you are not writing?

I like to hike, ski, swim, and read!

If you could live in any book world, which would it be?

Redwall Abbey. I’d be a badger or a hare and just eat all day.

Thanks again to Katherine for taking the time to speak to us, and don’t forget to book a place to meet her on Thursday 5 April.

Fiona at Brompton Library


Post-war British actors

This month the theme of our Biography Collection display at Kensington Central Library is ‘Post-War British Actors’.  From the iconic glamour of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to the compelling stories of more recent stars like Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch, we have a range of fascinating biographies which give an insight into the worlds of film, theatre and TV as they have evolved over the last seven decades.

It’s a huge field, but we are putting particular emphasis on actors who have written their own memoirs – several, like Dirk Bogarde, were gifted writers whose reminiscences have become classics, and Rupert Everett’s beautifully written memoirs contain some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read! As it is Oscar season, we’ll also be including as many UK actors as possible who have been honoured with one of the world’s most famous trophies.

If reminiscences of stage and screen interest you, you are sure to enjoy hearing actor Robert Gillespie read from his new memoir ‘Are You Going to Do That Little Jump?’ A hilarious, poignant, and at times provocative assessment of the profession that has been his life’s work. Join him on Tuesday 20 March 2018, 6.30 to 7.45pm at Kensington Central Library. Book your free place via Eventbrite

The Biography Store team at Kensington Central Library

Harry Potter Book Night at Chelsea Library

On Thursday 1 February 2018, Chelsea Library joined hundreds of other libraries and schools in celebrating a special Harry Potter Book Night: Fantastic Beasts at Chelsea Library. It was a challenge to organize such event on a Thursday, after school, when children have arranged activities, but we had a great turnout. Suddenly, we had several Harry Potters, Gryffindor girls, wand duelling in the biography section under the watchful eye of J.K. Rowling (and alerted parents), toddlers who wanted to join in (and got a chance to colour Hedwig). A fantastic start!


We prepared a selection of exciting activities to mark this unique event: from arts and crafts, quizzes and games, word searches, and our photo competition ‘Magical creatures and architecture’. Although the idea was to place Harry Potter enthusiastic fans into various Hogwarts houses, we soon gave up as most of them wanted to be with their friends in Gryffindor. They all got house stickers and, after the welcoming introduction, we began with the first activity: decorate your magical creature.

I sketched the outline of four magical creatures – dragon, phoenix, griffin and hippogriff – four groups of children around four tables, had a task to decorate in 30 minutes their beasts to win reward points. Colouring pencils, crayons, feathers, felt tips and all sorts of collage papers were available. The team work was exceptional; and the parents got involved as well! While me and my colleagues, Christian, Colette ran around checking their progress. With so much fantastic creativity and effort, it was a very difficult task to choose the winners.

Luckily, we were able to declare all four groups the winners since so many of the local shops and restaurants in the King’s Road – Habitat, Pizza Express, Tiger, Venchi and Waterstone’s– had generously donated prizes and Waitrose had donated food for the event. The library almost looked like Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop. What a joy! I felt great giving out the presents to cheering children.

These are the final masterpieces!

Lots of entries for our photo competition, ‘Magical creatures and architecture’ arrived two weeks before the closing date. I’ve noticed that many of us take for granted beautiful architecture we pass on our way to work, to school, to the local park etc. J. K. Rowling’s magical creatures – dragons, griffins, hippogriffs, snakes, witches, mermaids, fairies, nymphs, sphinx … well they can be seen everywhere in London. When Christopher Wren designed St Mary-le-Bow church in Cheapside, after the Great Fire of London, he probably did not have Harry Potter in mind. Nevertheless, on the tall church spire a huge dragon holds a golden sphere! If you haven’t seen it, go and check for yourself.

Four judges – Roberta, Liam, Silva and Shaun – came, seriously observed the photographs and decided that Tabitha’s entry was the best. Maximilian, Carla, Max, Arthur, Lorenzo, Marko, Mateo, Jacopo, Tristan, Jack, Fredie, Maya, Noeleen, Leon, Leonella, Mila and another Leon were other successful competitors. All the children, who were rewarded by points from out judges, received prizes.

It was time for a quick snack and to get ready for the master quiz. While some younger participants needed to move from ‘watching films’ to reading Harry Potter books, several children showed admirable knowledge. Colette was very impressed!

We finished the party by playing musical-magical-statues and had great fun.

There were more activities ready in my ‘sorting hat’, but we didn’t have enough time. Next time! Meanwhile, don’t forget:

“Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.”

Zvezdana, Chelsea Library



Vote 100 2018

This month’s display of books at Kensington Central Library from our Biography Collection is to mark that 100 years ago today women got the vote for the first time.


On 6 February 1918, royal assent was given to the Representation of the People Act, and for the first time over 8 million British women were entitled to vote. The original legislation enfranchised only those women who were over 30 and owned property above a certain value, or who were university graduates still living in the constituency of their university. (It took another decade for women’s eligibility to vote to be based on the same terms as men’s.) It was widely considered to be a recognition of women’s role in the First World War (as almost thirty years later, their role in the Second led to women being given the vote in France), but the change in the law was also preceded by several years of increasingly militant protest and agitation by women determined to end their exclusion from the democratic process.

This month, we mark the centenary of this momentous legislation with a special display of suffragette and suffragist biographies from our special Biography Collection in Kensington Central Library. From the most famous names of the movement, like the Pankhursts, to working class women like Annie Barnes, campaigners for the female franchise left fascinating accounts of how they struggled and why. Picking up the resonance of the bitter conflicts of a century ago, we can also hear the voice of Mrs Humphry Ward, a passionate opponent of women’s suffrage.

I was unable to put down, amongst others, the memoir of Lady Constance Lytton, who created an alter ego, complete with physical disguise, so as to serve her sentence in Holloway Prison without deriving any benefit from her aristocratic status. Her intimate, immediate account of the conditions of the suffragette prisoners as they were force fed, tortured by being hosed with water, and degraded with filthy clothes and bedding, is a deeply shocking reminder of how much was endured for the cause.

To tie in with this display, we are delighted to be marking the service to that cause of a local woman, Kate Parry Frye, with a talk by her biographer Elizabeth Crawford . Elizabeth Crawford will be focusing on the biographies of this Kensington activist and of some of her fellow suffragists, and author Sonia Lambert will be reading excerpts from fictionalised accounts of women’s experiences that she has created based on extensive reading of the testament of suffragettes. The event will take place at  Kensington Central Library on Monday 26 February, 6pm – 7.45 pm. Book your free place via Eventbrite

One of the challenges we face with our Biography Collection displays is that some of our most fascinating books are hiding behind some of our least alluring bindings! Although we’re all familiar with the adage “never judge a book by its cover”, we are always looking for ways to entice potential readers to overcome their resistance to borrowing these less than beautiful-looking volumes. This has proved particularly true this month, with some of our truly compulsive suffragette memoirs looking, frankly, a little unglamorous. Our solution is to enhance these with a wrapper showing a picture of the author, and a quote from the text which will hopefully whet your appetites.

The Biography Store Team at Kensington Central Library

Our graphic novel reading group

On the second Monday of every month, our graphic novel reading group meets at Brompton Library.

The group is run by David at Brompton Library, and he spoke to three of its members to find out what they like about the group and their favourite graphic novels.


What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

In this my first year , what impressed me was the range of the graphic novel form. I started reading comic books as a kid and then came back in the 1990s by discovering the subculture with its fairs and cons, trying out books like Joe Sacco’s Palestine and manga like Akira. The diversity I discovered through the group is reflected in members’ choice of works and how we discuss them. Other readers’ focus on imagery has certainly advanced my appreciation of how to discuss sequential art.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My joint favourite works this year were both mentioned in the group: Democracy by
Alecos Papadotos, Abraham Kawa and Annie DiDonna, which is historical fiction, and
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, a teenage novel.
Democracy tells the story of one turning point in the history of ancient Athens. It satisfies both as a story and as an introduction to the subject. It has an art of strong colours with an edge of blackness but it’s no lecture. Ghost World is a narrower canvas with smaller panels and is the tale of a friendship in a small town – two girls growing up and growing apart. It seems that as well as mind-challenging futures, like Ghost in the Shell, a ‘graphic’ can tell a simple story like this with all its resonance in pictures and character. Reading it on the tube seemed more involving than sheer prose, even though it’s not fantasy as such.
Lastly, my time in the group has convinced me that the ‘graphic’ still has great possibilities which haven’t yet been fully explored.


What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

I’ve really enjoyed being a club member for exactly that reason; it’s helped introduce me to great reads that I would have never have investigated on my own, as well as giving me access to comics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Plus, it’s been really fun getting to know the other members too. Before I joined, I was apprehensive about not being accepted, as I didn’t have much knowledge about certain comics. But now, I really look forward to and enjoy spending at least an hour a week discussing our thoughts on the comics we’ve read together, especially because we’re all from very different comic-reading backgrounds so everyone can have very different perspectives and opinions.

I was also happily surprised at just how many graphic novels and manga titles the library has to offer. I can really recommend a lot of the available manga, but one in particular that we read with the group was, 20th Century Boys written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa; This was a series I had really wanted to read for a while. It’s an incredibly gripping conspiracy drama with cleverly thought out engaging characters and a cliff-hanger ending with every volume so it was great to get the opportunity to read a lot into the series using the library’s copies.

All in all, joining the group has been one of the simplest, most rewarding things I’ve done in 2017, and I really recommend to anyone interested in comics or graphic novels, to join us in 2018!!

20th Century Boys

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite read this year has been Transmetropolitan written by Warren Ellis and co-created and designed by Darick Robertson. I usually read manga/Japanese comics, and joined the library’s graphic novel group to expand my reading into more western-style comics. Transmetropolitain is a great mix of weird, surreal, pseudo-political, futuristic sci-fi that I really enjoy. I think it has a great script, strong and funny characters and fabulous artwork to give depth to the whole universe, and I probably never would have discovered it without the group.



What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

What I like about attending the reading group is that we get read things I wouldn’t necessarily want to read myself, but it allows me to hear from from other perspectives what resonates with them about the books. Because there is no standard format for comics in terms of art style or presentation, people tend to gravitate to different elements of a graphic novel, and it’s nice being able to see what types of art have the most impact on people. I like that a couple members of the group are also interested in other social events related to comics and it’s a good opportunity to learn more about what wider comics events are happening around London, and who is involved. It’s a great starting point to open you up about the possibility of involving yourself with other comics events.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite graphic novel that we read at the library’s reading group this year was Miracleman by ‘the original writer’ aka Alan Moore. The story really drew me in as it explored some ideas I didn’t expect to see come up. I could see the beginnings of how Alan Moore would approach deconstructing the concept of the superhero and the world they live; an idea that he would take even further in Watchmen. But honestly I felt that of the two books, Miracleman was the easier to digest. It was more of a personal journey and transformation of one guy discovering what it means to be a superhero in the real world. Delving into the toll that the title of ‘supehero’ would take on you and the ones around you. Including the sacrifice of one’s humanity, and being forced to ascend into something more. Which came with its own questions of how the world would regard such a being. I read ahead onto the further volumes and appreciated how the story evolved into something grander each time. It focused on the progressively wider circle of influence Miracleman had on people in life, the world around him, and the possible utopian or dystopian futures he could bring about.


Many, many thanks to Mike, Lara and Tari for sharing their thoughts with us. They’ll next meet on Monday 12 February at 6.30pm and they’ll be discussing The Flintstones by Mark Russell. Like to get involved? Email david.bushell@rbkc.gov.uk for more info.

We’d also like to thank Gosh Comics and the London Graphic Novel Network for their support.

Author Katherine Arden to visit Brompton Library

We are very excited to announce that in April author, Katherine Arden will visit Brompton Library. Katherine is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, the first two books in the Winternight trilogy. She will read from the third book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, which is due to be published in August this year. The trilogy is inspired by the fairy tales and folklore of medieval Russia that Katherine read while living there, and set in its snowy landscape.

To celebrate her visit, we will be reading the first two Winternight novels during February and March. Join us on Thursday 8 February when we will be discussing The Bear and the Nightingale which has been described as haunting, lyrical and a beautiful deep-winter story full of magic and monsters.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya, these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

These books are suitable for children aged 14 years plus. Katherine says:

“My absolute favorite thing to hear from a reader: ‘I read your book and then I gave it to my daughter.’”

To get your copy, please visit Brompton Library, or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk to get a copy sent to your local library.

If you’d like to attend the special reading group meeting in February, please book a place via Eventbrite

Edited to add – the next meeting of this special reading group will be on Thursday 8 March where they’ll discuss the second book in Katherine’s trilogy, ‘The Girl in Tower’. For more info or to book your free place, please visit Eventbrite

Fiona at Brompton Library

Musical anniversaries 2018

This month’s display of books from the Biography Collection at Kensington Central Library showcases musicians with significant anniversaries in 2018. Those we have most books on in the collection are Leonard Bernstein (born 1918), Claude Debussy (died 1918), and Gioachino Rossini (died 1868), but we include many others.

Gioachino Rossini

Other hard copy resources for music in our libraries are:

• Scores in at Kensington Central Library’s store

• CDs at Kensington Central Library

• DVDs of operas, shows etc and books on music, across all all our libraries

• A special collection of music reference books at Kensington Central Library

All these can be looked for on our library catalogue

We also have resources online:

Naxos Music Library – we have a workshop about using this music streaming service, more details below

Biographical and newspaper online resources useful for musician biographies and performance and recording reviews

Naxos Music Library workshop

Naxos Music Library workshop
Friday 26 January
2 to 3pm
Kensington Central Library

Come along to our workshop to find out more about the Naxos Music Library, the music streaming service which is free for library members. You will be shown how to:

  • Access the service
  • Find the sort of music you are interested in
  • Find multiple recordings of a work, or all the recordings available on the site by one recording artist or composer
  • Put together a playlist of your favourite music
  • Share your favourite tracks or albums

This event is free, no need to book – just turn up.

The Biography Store Team at Kensington Central Library

Christmas art and craft activities galore at Chelsea Library

Heavy snowfall in December led to scores of schools closing across the country, bringing Christmas holidays closer for some happy children. Snowy and icy conditions caused widespread travel disruption. Nevertheless, if you were lucky to be on Primrose Hill or in Hyde Park, while it was snowing, you probably had a wonderful time!

Our Christmas art and craft activities at Chelsea Library skilfully avoided snowy showers, plummeting temperatures and icy winds and offered a great fun to children and adults. We created Christmas decorations – baubles, wreaths, lolly stick decorations and paper-plate angels. In fact, we have two more sessions before Christmas – more info here.

Our guest from Belgrade, Ana Milovanovic, faced bigger problems than a few inches of snow and wasn’t able to be with us to run her  Azbuka Puppets’ Workshop.

So, we created another activity – ‘Let it snow’. Snowflakes in numerous designs, shapes and sizes and named in a variety of languages generated quite a joyful snowstorm for our display. In two hours we had representatives of English, French, German, Serbian, Macedonian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese speakers. When at 4.20pm a bunch of new people arrived, they could not understand why we all cheered when I discovered that they were from Malta! Snow – or borra – is not a frequent occurrence in Malta, but it made a fantastic contribution to our display!

Naturally, whoever comes to Chelsea Children’s Library, has been asked to give their own input and make their language-snowflake. So, it continues to snow at Chelsea Library!

Christian, Marion and Zvezdana, Chelsea Library

Winter Fair at Kensal Library

On Thursday, there was a very special event at Kensal Library – over to the staff there to tell us more –

We had so much fun at Kensal Library’s Winter Fair. There was a lot to keep everyone busy from decorating gingerbread men, having your photo taken via the photo booth, arts and crafts, guessing which stocking had the prize, drinking some tasty hot chocolate from the hot chocolate bar, a lucky dip and writing letters to Father Christmas.

The lucky dip proved to be very popular and we’re going through the letters to Father Christmas before posting them to the North Pole to find the best one which will win a prize.

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We believe we made a few new friends and we hope to see you all again throughout the new year!

Thanks to all our helpers: Ayoub, David, Kate, Eve, Isabelle and Sundus.

Merry Christmas from all the staff at Kensal Library!

Christmas cooking

If you want some ideas for your Christmas menu, look no further – whether you are looking for traditional or modern ideas, here is a collection of recipe books to inspire you. All of these books can be borrowed from our libraries, no need to just choose one!

The Hairy Bikers’ 12 Days of Christmas

From Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night, the hairy bikers have thought of everything, from a traditional roast goose to telly snacks, to what to do with turkey leftovers. It even includes a section on edible gifts such as sloe gin and chutney.

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas cookbook

Jamie has also got everything covered.  From pates to roast meats, herb butters to chocolate log, but what Christmas recipe book wouldn’t be complete without a whole section on potatoes!  Not only that, Jamie includes a lot of delicious vegetable recipes including creamed spinach, four ways with Brussels sprouts and Clapshot, a delicious vegetable mash made with bitter marmalade and “loadsa chives”.  Something special for everyone.

Delia’s Happy Christmas

Delia’s recipes always provide a safe pair of hands, just what you need to get you through the Christmas period.  Not only does this book include 100 new recipes such as chestnut cupcakes, along with old favourites and traditional recipes, Delia has taken away the stress of planning with sample menu plans to make sure you are ready for the whole period.

Nigella Christmas : Food, Family, Friends

If its luxury and decadence you’re after, then look no further.  Nigella shares simple recipes for start with a cocktail, prepare simple dinners with friends, go to town on the main event, make soothing soups and light bites to restore yourself ready for the next feast and finish off with a hot drink.  There are even gift ideas as well as sweet Christmas baking and preserves.

Great British Bake Off Christmas

Enjoy Christmas bakes and savoury treats from the hosts and participants of the Bake Off.  Including Paul’s mince pies and Mary’s best Christmas pudding or try a passion fruit and pomegranate Pavlova layer cake.  Ideas for the whole Christmas period whether for entertaining or relaxed suppers with some Christmas present ideas thrown in too.


Brompton Library