Be the Light in the Darkness

“Be the light in the darkness” is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021, 27th of January.

The theme encourages everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide…We can all stand in solidarity. We can choose to be the light in the darkness in a variety of ways and places – at home, in public, and online.

For more information about this and to find out more, please click here.

To commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, Chelsea Library held a virtual Chatterbooks last Saturday, reading the novel Friedrich, with a group of local children.  Ten copies of this poignant book were bought, giving an opportunity to our young readers to read it.

Hans Peter Richter‘Friedrich’

Superb, sensitive, honest and compelling

Hans Peter Richter wrote his novel ‘Friedrich’ in the style of a memoir. When the book was published in 1961, it was one of the first German books to deal with the Nazi period.

It is about two German families, who live in the same apartment house. It is the story of friendship of the non-Jewish narrator and his Jewish neighbours. ‘Friedrich’ begins in 1925, when the narrator was born, and ends in 1942, when he is 17. It takes place during the period when the Nazis came to power and into the early years of World War II.

“Before every genocide, perpetrators divide society into those considered worthy of human treatment, and those who are not. Distortions are deployed using propaganda and stereotyping to identify and victimise a specific group (or groups), followed by discrimination – often enshrined into law. The darkness leading to genocide also causes deep emotional trauma. For those affected, fear, hopelessness and dread all have a profound and long-lasting impact.”

This is exactly described in Hans Peter Richter’s novel.

A snowy day in 1929, the narrator is five years old and watches from his window Friedrich and his mother playing in the snow and making snowman. He is begging his mum to hurry up, so they could go downstairs and join the Schneiders. Eventually, they are ready, just about to leave, when this incident happened. The landlord, Herr Resch insulted the child, as soon as Mrs Schneiders went inside, and the five-year-old was on his own. The narrator’s mother did not say anything comforting to Friedrich or to her son, just to move away from the window. Neither did she want to be associated with the Jewish family (hence her delaying getting ready), nor did she want to get into trouble with their landlord.

Richter’s style encourages the reader, not only to learn about growing up in Nazi Germany, but to develop a nuanced view of the characters and circumstances of the period. The novel provides an accessible and complex picture of the issues of this period, tied to a historically accurate chronology.

Since the narrator and Friedrich are two, eight year-old boys, young readers more readily engage with them. As the boys grew older, the situation in Germany was getting worse.

This extract from “The Ball” (1933) illustrates that the boys were eight years old.

“Initially the Schneiders, the Jewish family, are much better off than the narrator’s family but gradually their lives become restricted and diminished, economically, politically, and socially. During this period the overwhelming majority of Germans came to believe in and support Hitler and the Nazi Party. The vast majority of Germans were neither sadistic nor perverted; they were normal people in extreme circumstances. The narrator’s father joins the Nazi Party and the narrator joins the “Jungvolk” (usually called “Hitlerjugend,” or Hitler Youth) and participates in Kristallnacht. One of the core issues that Friedrich allows students (readers) to explore is how, and why, the narrator and his family become Nazis.

As the events and incidents unfold, told from a boy’s point of view, we see the confusion and misunderstanding about the changes in society under the Nazis, and wonder who, if anyone, attempted to understand where things were heading.”

(Museum of Jewish History, Teacher’s Guide)

I would like to express my gratitude to Carla and Maximilian Lubin, our regular Chatterbookers, who read the novel and recorded “Potato Pancakes” and “Snow” for us to share with our readers.


Zvezdana, Chelsea Library


Chatterbooks Event

Chatterbooks, as we all know, is the national reading group for children and this year 11th – 18th October is Chatterbooks Week.


We got in a few days early with a great event from the very popular children’s author Steve Cole. Steve is the author of, amongst other things, the Astrosaurs and Cows in Action series, has taken over the Young Bond series from Charlie Higson and has also written episodes of Dr Who.

Steve Cole, Author playing ukele
Steve Cole, Author playing ukulele.

Over 100 KS2 pupils from local schools witnessed the most energetic author event I’ve ever seen, with Steve leaping on and off the stage and running up and down the aisles taking questions. When I asked the Reading Agency if he’d be bringing any equipment with him (I was thinking laptop, usb stick) I was told no, just his ukulele! His songs had the children screaming along with the choruses.

Steve Cole standing and engaging audience
Steve Cole standing and engaging audience

Steve was really strong in exemplifying the role of imagination in storytelling, improvising stories from the names of children’s (and teacher’s) pets, playing with words and making it all such fun.

The Chatterbooks reading groups are a great forum for children who enjoy reading to meet up and talk about their reading experiences, recommend books to each other and maybe do some fun activities related to reading and books like word searches and quizzes.

They are held monthly at most of the RBKC libraries – check here to find the nearest to you.

Bringing Books to Life at Brompton’s Chatterbooks

Brompton Librarian, Steph, writes…

As you all know, Chatterbooks is the monthly reading group for 8 to 12 yr olds and is a forum for young book lovers to discuss and discover authors and titles they have enjoyed.

At this week’s session we concentrated on the “discovering” as we explored the weird but decidedly wonderful world of augmented reality books. For those who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, with the help of a tablet and a free downloadable app the books come to life. Thanks to the stock team we had one book on dinosaurs and another on the solar system. In the iDinosaur book we watched a dinosaur hatch from its egg, another one walked out of the book, onto the carpet and under the table, roaring as it went.

Cover of iDinosaur book
This ferocious book cover hides some amazing 3D surprises…

With the help of the solar system app (iSolarSystemAR) all the planets were orbiting around the sun in (Learning) Space! The children and parents were suitably impressed and amazed and were all keen to have a go with the library iPads. Many thanks to Sally from the Stock Team, and Fiora for helping me with the two books shared between 6 children!

Picture of 3D dinosaur springing from idinosaur book
Download the free app and, using your smartphone, see dinosaurs come to life!

After exhausting the possibilities of the books, they had time to write a few lines about what they had just seen and start on a dinosaur and solar system word search.

So, it wasn’t a typical Chatterbooks session but I think our eyes were opened not only to the subjects of dinosaurs and the planets but also to new ways of learning and interacting with new technology. Now we’re buying more books and exploring more opportunities for showing them off to our users, young and old!

Picture of iSolarSytem App in action, with moons rotating around a planet
You can download the iSolarSystemAR app and try this at home!

If you’d like to see the books in action with ipads, give Brompton a ring and we’ll arrange a mutually convenient time for you to come along and try them out. Alternatively, you can borrow an augmented reality book and use your smart device to bring them to life.

Find the apps on the Apple Store/ Google Play.

Some titles you can borrow to begin with:




Chatterbooks at Brompton library

Stephanie Webb, Lending Librarian at Brompton Library, writes:

The Chatterbooks session on Monday 9 March was both a happy and a sad occasion as it was the last one led by Babita Sinha. Babita is leaving at the end of March and has led Chatterbooks here at Brompton for five years and before that at Chelsea for three years. She has a devoted following of children who will be very sad to see her go.

Babita's last Chatterbooks session at Brompton Library, March 2015
Babita’s last Chatterbooks session at Brompton Library, March 2015

However, she went out in style with a (slightly premature) Shakespeare Week event which had the kids searching the children’s area for Shakespearean clues, followed by word searches and other quizzes and some readings from the bard. All this was helped along with some naughty nibbles to mark Babita’s last session.

So, Babita is leaving (Boo-hoo!) but Katie Collis will be taking over (Hurrah!) in May.

Chatterbooks session at Brompton Library, March 2015
Chatterbooks session at Brompton Library, March 2015

There’s still room for a few more at our Chatterbooks reading group which is on the third Monday of each month at 3.45pm


Babita Sinha, SCSA at Brompton library, writes:

Just like last year, the kids at Brompton Library performed very well in the Summer Reading Challenge this year too. We had an extra special party for all those who completed the Summer Reading Challenge and read six books over the summer – A huge well done to them all.

We combined the Finishers Party on 15th September with the re-launch of Chatterbooks, our monthly reading group for children.

There were 30 children who joined us for the party. We had loads of fun, food and music. They played musical chairs and statues, coloured their favourite characters from the Mythical Maze and took part in a Mythical Hunt. They loved the theme this year very much. They had their favourite monsters: Ben’s favourite monster was the Minotaur, whereas Nessie was Stephanie’s favourite.

Musical statues!
Musical statues!

They enjoyed the party very much and are waiting for the next one….

We had lots of enthusiatic comments about reading:

From Lana
From Lana
From Estelle
From Estelle

As if that wasn’t enough our special guest Mike Clarke, Director-TriBorough Libraries and Archives, rolled up his sleeves and joined in the fun! (Sadly, no photos available…)

If you want to find out more about Chatterbooks, or any of our children’s activities, look on our website or ask in a library!

Brompton’s March round-up

Our Brompton Librarians write:

Hello to all our lovely readers!

Well, it looks like spring has finally sprung around town. Without wishing to jinx it, let’s hope the rain stays away for a while because everything looks so much nicer in the sunshine!

On the 8th March we celebrated International Women’s Day, and made a display for it that included books by important female writers such as Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood and non-fiction titles that explored the history of women’s rights. We also have a current display on historical fiction that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel, so come in and check it out!

Christian Stevens

Historical Fiction
Historical Fiction


Chatterbooks is a huge success with the children in Brompton library; always buzzing with creative children wanting to share their ideas. This reading club encourages them to read books, write reviews, recommend the books to each other and on top of everything chatting a lot (hahaha!).

Most of the time the children will select a theme for their next meeting. This month the group decided to write about favourite books/authors/characters on the paper leaves and stuck them on a paper tree. They were so enthusiastic that they drew the pictures of their favourite characters as well. Then they displayed it on the Chatterbooks wall in the children’s library.

For the next Chatterbooks session in April, the children will be bringing one friend along and discussing Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Oh how noisy it will be? But we love it!!!! (to find out more, or to join our Chatterbooks group, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Babita Sinha

 Brompton Library Reading Group

 On Tuesday night (after a lively discussion about what West-End productions everyone had seen) we chatted about ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki. An author, living on a remote island in the States finds a washed-up Hello Kitty bag on the shoreline. Thinking that this must have come from the time of the tsunami, she opens it up to discover some documents and diaries inside. These include the diary of a Japanese teenager, a bright and vibrant girl whose family is really going through the ringer. Nao is very inspired however by her 106 year old great-grandmother -a Buddhist nun- and by the diaries of her great-uncle who details his training as a kamikaze pilot.

 Short-listed for the Booker Prize last year, Ozeki really drew praise from the group with regards to her creativity of story-line and her prose (particularly one member remarked) of Hiroshima and her great uncles animosity to serve for his country. We all loved the character of Nao and her great-grandmother especially, we felt this was much stronger than the author and her husband (maybe this was intentional).

As gruelling as it was in parts, it was a very inspiring read and it was great to see how Nao and her family’s characters evolved, hopefully for the better. The quantum mechanics section at the end let it down slightly, however we would still highly recommend this book (to find out more about our reading groups, or to join, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Katie Collis


Our Community, Our Stories: the book!

Steph Webb, Brompton Librarian, writes:

At the beginning of the year Brompton library began another collaboration with Celebrate My Library for an inter-generational project called Our Communities, Our Stories. The project aimed to bring together local schoolchildren (largely from our Chatterbooks reading group) and older volunteers (from the Kensington and Chelsea Older Residents Forum) to discuss the differences between being a child now compared with the memories of childhood of their older “buddies”.

In the middle of January we all got together for a supremely well-organised session which had to find time for the discussions to take place, the children to do their creative writing and create the fashion mood-board and then for Hilary and Victoria (who are Celebrate my Library!) to gather it all up so they could produce another of their beautiful books. They discussed six different topics – At Home, Hobbies, Entertainment, Food, Fashion, Days Out and School – then the children drew pictures and wrote about the lives of the buddies when they were young, but I could see it was a learning experience for both groups.

 After that session came a nail-biting break of 6 weeks while Hilary and Victoria pulled all the material together (plus some of their own) to create the book.

On March 1st we met up again for the “great reveal” of the book “written by children at Brompton Library inspired by the stories from the residents of Kensington and Chelsea”. The children were shown the book first and loved seeing their names in print! Then they wrapped it in beautiful wrapping paper to present to the buddies. The children read out their work as a performance while the buddies, parents and friends who had also come along enjoyed tea, coffee, juice and choccy biscuits.

Celebrate My Library
Celebrate My Library

The finished product

Working with Celebrate My Library is always a pleasure. They are passionate about libraries, are wonderfully creative and produce beautiful books but also have an eye for the nitty gritty detail and organisation it takes for the sessions to run smoothly – and all this in their spare time!

 Brompton has one copy of the book but you can browse it here. I’m so proud of our Chatterbooks kids and the volunteers from the Kensington and Chelsea Older Residents Forum who gave up three Saturday afternoons for this.


Blog post from the North – October 2013

North Kensington Library
North Kensington Library

Hello to you all from our three libraries in the north.

Everyone’s a winner at North Kensington Library

The Summer Reading Challenge came to an end 14 September 2013 and this was our most successful challenge yet. Between the three libraries of Kensal, North Kensington and Notting Hill Gate we had nearly 150 children complete the challenge. To do this they had to read 6 books over the summer holiday period. To celebrate the children’s success we organised a party at North Kensington Library on Saturday 5 October. 47 children and 21 adults attended.

More Creepy House characters!
More Creepy House characters!

We opened the party with a Creepy House Story and spooky music. There were some warm up games and then the children completed a Creepy House Treasure Hunt where they had to find all the Creepy House characters which were hidden all around the library.  To make it more interesting I had one over my ID card. It took a long time before anyone noticed and then I was swamped by children as the message got out.

Yet more Creepy House characters!
Yet more Creepy House characters!

Ishwari, one of our Senior Customer Services Assistants led a pairs game where the children were given the name of a famous personality or character and then had to introduce themselves to the other children until they found their partner – e.g. Wallace & Grommit, Batman & Robin, Dennis the Menace and Gnasher. It was great fun.

All the children received  prizes, sweets and refreshments were presented with a signed Creepy House completers certificate. I’m not sure who had the most fun, whether it was the children or the staff who threw themselves into the party with much energy and enthusiasm. Even some of the parents joined in the fun.

Gaynor Lynch
Gaynor Lynch

Gaynor Lynch

Lending Librarian

Messy but fun at Notting Hill Gate Library!

The Notting Hill Gate Library’s story and craft session this month was fun and messy. The kids dressed up in their favourite characters and then had loads of fun playing with our games. We had a cowboy who wasn’t feeling very well and had to pay a visit to the nurse…

A poorly cowboy gets a check-up at Notting Hill Gate Library!
A poorly cowboy gets a check-up at Notting Hill Gate Library!

The kids then made some super flying aeroplanes which they flew all over the library, A few times we had to duck so we didn’t get hit :$

Fancy dress and games are available at Notting Hill Gate Library every school holiday where the kids can come in and let their imagination lead them.

Ihssan Dhimi
Ihssan Dhimi

Ihssan Dhimi

Senior Customer Services Assistant

October has been a busy month for Kensal.  We celebrated Black History Month and had some great displays as well as lots of customer interest.

 Scary spiders at Kensal Library

I had prepared a wonderful Halloween session for our Chatterbooks reading group (for kids aged 8 to 12. The children who came loved the spooky stories and activities and there were plenty of treats to go around, I think I might play some tricks on the children who missed this months meeting!

We have some spooky displays around the library for Halloween and already lots of books have gone from them, we are constantly topping up!

On Thursday 31st October we are having a half term event and I have prepared a great activity to go with our story.  We will be attempting to make pom pom spiders and younger members can make their own scary pumpkin faces.  So be warned…there will be lots of scary spiders in the North Kensington area!

Natasha Chaoui

Senior Customer Services Assistant

The Brompton Blog – October 2013

Welcome to the Brompton Blog.

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

The last few weeks have been really busy here, as students return to start a new academic year and sign up for library cards while families and schoolchildren come to make use of our great junior section, browse the study guides and participate in our children’s activity sessions. We have also noticed a surge in visitors borrowing and returning books, possibly boosted by the upcoming Booker Prize competition and perhaps the return of cold weather. As they say in Game of Thrones: Brace yourself, Winter is coming… As we say at Brompton: Brace yourself, Winter is coming…So stock up on library books!

In addition to our usual services we have had some interesting events taking place. Our weekly computer classes for beginners take place on the first floor in the learning centre and we are also currently hosting private piano lessons that are available to anyone of any ability. If you are interested in these services either phone libraries line on 020 7361 3010 or pop into our branch and speak to a member of staff.

This month RBKC history buff Dave Walker and resident Librarian Stephanie Webb hosted a local history event in the Brompton meeting room:

Silver Sunday event

Earl's Court Road
Earl’s Court Road

On a Wednesday afternoon in the week leading up to Silver Sunday, Brompton hosted a local history event concentrating on Earl’s Court Rd at the turn of the 20th century and some of the highlights of Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre long before it became home to the Ideal Home Exhibition and stadium style rock concerts. Dave Walker (Local Studies Librarian) brought along some fantastic photographs and original postcards and answered questions from interested locals. We were very happy to welcome Councillor Mills to Brompton as she was the lead Councillor for Silver Sunday in this borough. After having a good look at the exhibits every one sat down and had a good chat about more recent changes to the area and, inevitably, how much property prices had changed!


One of our most popular displays recently has been our “Haven’t you read…?” pod display. It started off as a means to promote our Reading Groups Book Collection which usually languishes in our first floor office but contains some classic titles.

October 2013 display

We went on to use it to display modern classics which often appear on student’s reading lists (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye etc) and were surprised at how popular it turned out to be, however, it had to make way for our Mood Boosting Books display to support World Mental Health day.


This summer it was great fun for the children to create a book at Brompton Library in collaboration with an organisation called Celebrate My Library. They are a -not for profit- project created by library lovers Hilary and Victoria. They celebrate libraries and everything they do by speaking to people who love them most and through this show people who don’t yet use libraries just how great they can be. They collaborate with councils to inspire the widest variety of library lovers possible.

The children took part in two workshops in the library during Summer Reading Challenge and created the book, Creepy Library. This is a result of fun packed story writing workshops inspired by the children and illustrated by up coming illustrators. The children enjoyed every bit of it and so did the parents. They are proud to see their names as the authors of the book.

Creepy Library
Creepy Library

The children who attended our weekly Saturday Storyland and craft session read a crocodile story and got a chance to make some crocodile-puppets!

Earls Court Fete

The Library Service participated in a local street fete in Earls Court in late September. The fete gave opportunity for local businesses and services to showcase their activities. Penny Girling from Central Library and I (see photo) staffed a stall, where we promoted our services, activities and events. We engaged with over 200 local residents and were able to register many, as new library members.

Earls Court Street Fete
Earls Court Street Fete

As well as promoting our quarterly events calendar and the forthcoming London History events, I was able to engage with locals about our Earls Court and Brompton Local History Event on Wednesday 02 October. I had displayed some very interesting photographs of Earls Court in by-gone days, including the Great Ferris Wheel, built in the 1890’s on the site of the Exhibition Centre. These photographs attracted a lot of attention and inspired some to attend the local history event at Brompton.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon and wonderful to be part of a local community event. It would be great to do more.

As an aside, my daughter, Abigail, was also there, singing with a local jazz band. She was fabulous!

Earls Court Street Fete Jazz Band
Earls Court Street Fete Jazz Band


A reminder that books are not the only resource we have available. All the libraries across RBKC, Westminster and Fulham have a fantastic selection of audio books, music CDs and DVDs to borrow, as highlighted by resident creative guru and library assistant David Bushell:

Recently I was given the task of organising the CD collection at Brompton- my, what a selection of music we have!

All the pop is covered of course, plus an amazing diversity of other music- from Heavy Metal to the rhythms of the Congo, From Jazz to Country and Western, plus soundtracks for films and a selection of easy listening compilations. Then there are extensive classical recitals, famous composers and all the opera you’ll ever need.

At £1 for three weeks, it sure beats trawling the internet for that elusive download. You can admire the artwork and read the sleeve notes and lyrics while you listen, just like old times!

Also don’t forget that the Nour Festival of Arts runs from 1 October until the 30th November and the London history Festival will commence from 18th November with a range of fascinating talks from respected authors and speakers. Visit your local library for more information.

A creepy party!

Creepy House banner
Creepy House banner

Saturday 14 September 2013 was the day the Creepy House Summer Reading Challenge officially came to an end in our libraries. To mark what has been an extremely successful Creepy House Challenge, a party was held in Kensington Central Library. Selected children – who had completed the challenge by reading a minimum of six books over the summer holidays – were nominated by staff in our six libraries to receive personally addressed party invitations. We could tell how eagerly children wanted to come due to the prompt replies by email and phone saying how thrilled children were to have been chosen to attend the party.

Creepy House characters
Creepy House characters

Admittance to the party was through a special entrance, where we were waiting to welcome guests with a Creepy House sticker and a goodie bag and to direct them downstairs to the Lecture Theatre. We were touched to see so many of the children proudly wearing their completer’s medals and clutching their invitations. One guest couldn’t wait to let us know that her mummy had opened her invitation by mistake! The same guest agreed that it’s nice to receive letters in the post.

A fearsome giant!
A fearsome giant!

When the guests had arrived and were seated, the entertainment began. A storyteller from The Freshwater Theatre Company entertained everyone present for an hour with his lively and interactive performances of ‘The Fearsome Giant’, ‘The Cedar Tree’ and ‘The Cracked Pot’. Children were chosen to participate in the different stories by climbing onto the stage and becoming one of a variety of characters; we had knights, archers, wrestlers and a variety of trees. The children had props to help bring their characters to life, and some children even contributed actions e.g. shaking knees when the Fearsome Giant roared!

It was heart-warming to see parents with a mixture of love, pleasure and amazement on their faces while watching their child happily performing. After an enthralling hour and a rapturous round of applause, it was time to welcome The Deputy Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Councillor Sam Mackover to the stage. The Deputy Mayor was pleased to show his support for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge by giving a short speech in which he congratulated the children for completing the challenge, and led everyone in a round of applause to thank all library staff and the team of wonderful volunteers who all contributed to the success of Creepy House Challenge. There was also a round of applause for staff and the volunteer who worked together to create such a successful party.

After such a memorable afternoon, the party ended with guests being given a limited edition Creepy House bag, a bear and book of their choice on leaving. We were pleased that the party, which turned into a real family affair, was a success. It was lovely to receive positive feedback from parents about how their child had reached a milestone by participating and completing the challenge and now have a love of reading.

Hopefully children who completed the challenge this year will continue to enjoy reading and may even join Chatterbooks, our monthly book group for children!

The Creepy House party team