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


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



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

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!

A love of reading

You’re never too young to enjoy a good story, and at your local library children are welcome to join from birth. It’s absolutely free and for children there aren’t any fines for returning books late.

Did you know that all families with babies aged 0-12 months are eligible for a free Bookstart baby pack?  Each pack contains two books, a rhyme sheet and a booklet of tips and ideas for sharing stories with your child. Pop into your local library to pick yours up today.

If you’re interested in getting involved in your local reading community, check out the fun under-fives activities on offer at your local library.

And remember, we understand that children can be noisy (and sometimes messy!) so don’t worry too much about being quiet; we love to see young children enjoying our libraries and welcome their enthusiasm!

By taking out books and reading with your child every day you can help their physical, mental and emotional development as well as language and listening skills. Plus, you get to enjoy some fantastic stories!

“A love of reading is more important in academic achievement than a child’s social or economic background.” –Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘Reading for change’ 2001

Happy reading!

Harriet Skinner

Libraries Children’s Officer

Black History Month event at Chelsea Library

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Caged bird by Maya Angelou

Black History Month did not pass unnoticed at Chelsea Library. We were well prepared with a rich collection of books for children, teenagers and adults – and we had information displays throughout the library.

On Saturday 21 October, the library held a very successful Black History Month story and craft session. I invited Ade Akinbi, a teacher from a local primary school to be our special guest. As our events are free, and families can just come along – you never know how many will come, how old the children will be, and whether the planned activities will be appropriate for them. Therefore, I prepared for all possibilities – and hoped for the best!

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After my short introduction, Ade read ‘Caged bird’, Maya Angelou’s famous poem.

I then read Julia Donaldson’s ‘The ugly five’. This story is such a great fun and a fantastic introduction to our craft session – making animal masks. Tigers were absolutely the favourite choice, as you can see. Monkeys, lions, hippos, giraffes and cows (acting as wildebeests) could not compete with them.

After the first fifteen minutes of hubbub and excitement, everybody gradually got quiet and listened to songs from The Lion King in the background. (By the way – this is a guaranteed recipe for home-family-art-craft-workshop: talking book playing in the background and all sorts of craft materials on the kitchen table.)

The children and adults seemed content in designing, colouring and cutting, and I seized the moment for Ade to read another story – ‘When the rains come’ by Tom Pow and Malika Favre, set in a village in Malawi. We all enjoyed it, even learnt how to say “Hello, how are you?” “Moni. Muli bwanji.”

Six year old Christina made three masks – all tigers! Agynes (8), twins Phillip and Luke (7), Camilla (6) and Victoria (4) and many others, who had to leave earlier, spent a dynamic and creative afternoon with us.

Zvezdana, Chelsea Library

Dancing bunnies at Kensal Library

We just had to share these lovely pictures with you all – Kensal Library held a very special baby rhyme time on Friday last week to celebrate National Bookstart Week 2017.

There was lots of singing and dancing as prompted by Bookstart’s chosen book ‘Everybunny Dance’ by Ellie Sandall. Each child received a copy of the book plus a special rhyme sheet and a pair of cute bunny ears.

All the children had a fun time and loved the story followed by some great rhymes like Sleeping Bunnies and Jelly on a Plate.

Don’t worry if you missed out last week, Kensal Library’s baby rhyme time is every Friday, 10.30 to 11am – hope to see you there soon!

The staff at Kensal Library

Exploring other worlds with our children – it’s National Bookstart Week 2017

This week (Monday 5 to Sunday 11 June 2017), is National Bookstart Week and this year is an extra special celebration as Bookstart is 25 years old!

BookTrust, the organisation that administers the Bookstart programme, encourages children and families to read more. Over these 25 years, they have gifted more than 34 million books to children.

Bookstart currently gives free books and resources to every child in England and Wales, at two key ages before school, to help inspire a love of books and encourage shared reading.

This year’s special National Bookstart Week book is Ellie Sandall’s Everybunny Dance and many libraries will be reading this story and special rhymes to do with the great outdoors and we have many copies of this book to give away. Check out the times of the toddler mornings at your nearest Kensington and Chelsea library.

It’s never too young to share a story or a rhyme with your young ones so come along have some fun and start or continue your child’s journey to a life of reading for pleasure. Sharing stories is of huge benefit to children, particularly when done from an early age.

Children who regularly have books shared with them benefit in lots of ways:

  • better emotional health
  • children develop longer attention spans and wider vocabularies
  • it builds their language skills
  • and in the long term helps them to be better readers and learners.

All this by sharing a book together for a few minutes each day. Just 10 minutes spent sharing a story with a child each day can have a lasting impact.

You can hear Lauren Laverne read Everybunny Dance on the Bookstart website.

Nick Fuller
Tri-borough Libraries Children’s Services Manager

Comic Fun at Brompton Library!

An intrepid and curious band of children and adults rocked up to Brompton Library to discover the ins and outs of designing cartoons from scratch! We were guided by cartoon artist John Byrne who in next to no time got us recreating and producing our very own masterpieces.

Continue reading “Comic Fun at Brompton Library!”

Chocolate event with Canela Fina! at Brompton library

Our old friends Canela Fina! delivered yet another great event for Brompton library with their chocolate event for children. We had a full house with everyone champing at the bit to get to the eating part of the event. Of course, that came at the end, so before that we had a history of where chocolate came from and how it’s made, all with graphics on our screen, and then the chocolate song with hand actions that was so fast in the end no-one could keep up with it… but had great fun trying!

Then came the part that everyone had been waiting for – tasting the white, brown and black chocolate before drawing pictures of the Aztec god of chocolate (I hadn’t known there was one!) and then, even better, being given two little doughnuts to decorate with chocolate sauce (white and brown) and sprinkles.

Well, you can’t go wrong with chocolate, can you?