I Was a Librarian's Pet and Other Stories

Tall Story has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal - if you've never heard of it, this is awarded by children's librarians and is the oldest and most prestigious children's prize for authors in the UK.

Before everyone leaps about and begins drinking startling amounts of alcohol, I have to point out that it's a  long list. Emphasis on lo-ong. I tried to count the nominations but I got confused. I think it's about 50. And the names on the list are stellar - Garth Nix, David Almond, Meg Rosoff, Sharon Creech, Louis Sachar, Geraldine McCaughrean, Michael Morpurgo, Jeannette Winterson for goodness' sake! And on and on.

But you know what? I don't care! Imagine, me on the same list as Geraldine McCaughrean whose book The White Darkness I still carry around in my bag just in case I need to dip in for inspiration.

And what about Louis Sachar? I was doing my taxes the other day - as a first time author, I am allowed to claim back the past seven years of book buying for the sake of my art. And guess what I found in my Amazon receipts seven years ago? Holes by Louis Sachar. That book made me SO want to write. It made me buy every single book Louis Sachar ever wrote!

And Garth Nix? What about him? I read Sabriel again last summer. When I got to the end, I went straight back to the first page to start reading again. Yes, it was that good.

I could go on and on about that long list. In a way it doesn't matter if I get on the short list (well, it matters but I'm trying not to think that far ahead), because forever and ever now I'll be a "Carnegie-nominated author"  - someone who got to sit at the table with the greats (even if it was a very big table).

And you know what else makes the Carnegie so great? It's the award given by children's librarians!

There's a lot of stuff about the dire state of libraries in the news these days. Librarians are like guerrillas in the shadows, with books as their weapons. They are struggling against economics that do not value books - as well as the overwhelming force of other media taking children away from reading. You might want to read this Guardian piece about the future of British libraries

Libraries have always been in dire straits - and some more than others. Becoming a published author has made me more aware than ever before of how the struggle to bring books to children is a gritty battle fought by book lovers on the ground - like Anthony Mariano who has made it his mission to build children's libraries in elementary schools in the Philippines.

Anthony has set up a foundation called the Sambat Trust to create bright, reading spaces to replace the ancient book dumps he found in some schools - one library, he was dismayed to discover, stocked titles like Preface to Econometrics and Reflectorized Soybeans: Growth, Production and Longwave Radiation Balance. No no no!

Anthony's work has turned this library:

Into this:

View the story of this library in a slideshow

It takes one book to change someone's outlook on life. And the someone who delivers that life-changing book could be a librarian near you.

I was the librarian's pet at my school - Miss Evelyn Diaz was her name. I must have been nine? Eight? Twelve? I am of the age now where the memory is all a blur. But I remember the books. Towers of them! We were only allowed to borrow two at a time but Miss Diaz kept some under the counter for me and when nobody was looking stamped me through with four, five, six in one go.

As a grade schooler, I loved the mystery serials. I borrowed every single serial there was - The Beverley Gray Mysteries, The Hardy Boys, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Bobbsey Twins, The Judy Bolton Detective Series and those mysteries by Enid Blyton starring Freddie Algernon Trottesville (Fatty, for short).

Miss Diaz made me feel special - like we shared between us this golden treasure that noone else had access to in the school. When I begged to add just one more book to the pile, she was amazed and excited. When I brought the books back, she was delighted that I had read them so quickly.

I found out recently that my mother secretly visited Miss Diaz and scolded her for giving me too many books, asking her to limit the number I took home. Mom thought I was reading too much.

I was at a library event last summer in which the opening remarks were delivered by a supremely articulate and confident young girl, Madina - who talked about how one book (it was in fact, in French and an adult book) transformed her from someone who pooh-poohed books to a voracious reader. I was waiting in the library after the event, when I saw Madina collecting a stack of books to take away. Aha! A librarian's pet!


Maybe it's vanity but one of the reasons I write for children is because I remember what it's like to be totally, absolutely blown away by your first FANTASTIC book. I remember the feeling ... and how I want to be the author that awakens that ravenous love for reading in a child. (As I write, I've got tears in my eyes, remembering how awesome the feeling of reading my first good book was - what a GIFT!).

But who's going to put that book into a child's hand?

A librarian.

So thank you, Miss Evelyn Diaz wherever you are, for ignoring my Mom.

You gave me the world.

Christmas raffle! I am giving away one copy of the UK hardback of Tall Story to commenters who are not based in the United Kingdom; and one copy of the illustrated Philippine edition to commenters who live in the UK! I'll be collecting the names of commenters from now on and the raffle will be on the 15th of December. You get a name in the raffle with every post you comment on (one ticket per blog post). Nice, well thought comments, hear? Happy commenting!


  1. I don't need an incentive to comment on that post - it was lovely. Thank you Candy, for reminding us why we do all this crazy writing stuff. And another big thanks to Miss Diaz, without whom Tall Story might never have happened...

  2. love this post! and it's national book week on nov. 22-27 here in manila :-) congrats on the carnegie nomination.

    pray over ko na manalo ka! LOL so pinoy!

  3. My daughter has just discovered the love of reading. I am so thrilled! It all started with Cathy Cassidy (despite the pinky glittery covers which usually put her off) and now there is no stopping her. Yesterday she chose to read HP and the Philosophers Stone rather than play games during wet play at school. Isn't that great?

    My son loves Louis Sacher. Wayside School is his favourite.

    At last I have a family of readers. Do you think they will now leave me alone so that I can get on and read in peace?

  4. Thank you! @Jo, Wayside School is what I always recommend to anyone with reluctant readers ... now he should read Dogs Don't Tell Jokes - that book should have won awards! @Zarah it's librarians like you who make the world go round. @Nick well ... soon it will be your turn!

  5. Your nomination is well-deserved. Tall Story is one of the best books I've read this year - hands down. Best of luck, Candy!

  6. Seeing the "before" pictures of that library reminded me of my old grade school library. Cabinets with glass doors to keep you out and books stacked on top out of reach. When i go to my local library ( The lovely old Carnegie Library in Herne Hill) I love that my kids can lol around on bean bags and prowl the shelves of the kids section as they like. Although the librarian hasn't offered for them to take out more then the 3 book maximum. I guess they haven't reached librarian pet status yet. There's still time.

  7. Candy,

    Thank you for mentioning Sambat Trust in your post- so surprised! At the mo, I am waiting for my girlfriend to let me donate my copy of Tall Story to one of our school libraries in the Philippines- she wants to read it first.

    I am sure many children in Tanauan City are going to be "totally, absolutely blown away" by YOUR FANTASTIC book!

    Congrats on the nomination.

  8. hi ms. candy...

    i heard your name from a colleague so i started browsing your name in the net... voila she was right! you're my inspiration now.. someday I'm also dreaming to be a author for the kids like you! thank u for inspiring me and making Filipino librarians like me to work hard to achieve their dreams... Congrats! :)

  9. Wonderful , resonant post - I was a Librarians Pet! Or pain - one or the other! And oddly enough we've just overhauled the school library at my sons' school and it looks FABULOUS - we are on the scrounge now for money and books for primary age children - any donations just give me the nod :O)

  10. One of the things I miss most about living overseas? British libraries!
    You don't realise what you've got until...

  11. Wonderful blog, Candy. I've been bringing my kids weekly to our local library since they were strapped to my front in a baby bjorn. They are now 8 and 11 and voracious readers. Huge connection.

  12. I don't care how long the list is I think it's awesome that you're on it! I love librarians as well - that library transformation is amazing. I find the librarians I meet while doing school visits are dedicated to children's literacy. Nancy Drew had a big influence on me as a child and you can see that influence in my two novels (Nancy Drew even gets a mention in the acknowledgements)!

  13. @jan ... and i love your blurb - 'Nancy Drew for the ipod generation'! it was Beverley Gray that I read over and over though - I wanted to be her, become a reporter, write a novel, travel the world, marry an Englishman ... oops, I think I did all of the above.

  14. Tall Story nominated in the Carnegie Medal! WOW! :))

    I would have to agree that the library is of the most awesome place in the world.

    Incidentally, I made a blog post about my favorite librarian during high school and the best EVER book recommended to me here: http://wp.me/p14wAA-5H

    I'm crossing my fingers now and hoping you'll win this Ms Candy. Wishing you the best of luck! ^_^

  15. Maybe we should design a badge or a card or something, so we can award all those lovely booky people who sneaked us extra books, or seemed genuinely happy to find someone who shared their own love of the written word? I remember with fondness and gratitude Sr Mary Edward OP who sat cross-legged on a table in the school library and read aloud to me pages of books we were supposed to be sorting and cataloguing. It was one of the first intimations in my life that leaving jobs aside to enter the world of a book was something approved by adults. She's my heroine.

    Well done on the Carnegie nomination: which writer, as yet unborn, will one day blog (or the future equivalent) on sharing a longlist with the great Candy G?

    I already have a copy of Tall Story, so no need for me to be in the raffle. Thanks, though.

  16. I'm feeling the love!
    And would just like to point out that in Bucks you can TWENTY books out on each card: and I know a few Librarian's pets who always max out their cards.

  17. Candy -

    Huge congratulations on being nominated for such a prestigious award!

    I first heard of Tall Story when I blogged about the National Book Day celebrations happening in the Philippines last July. http://www.papertigers.org/wordpress/national-childrens-book-day-july-20th-philippines/

    Zarah had told me that you would be the keynote speaker and then I found out that National Geo. Kids had listed Tall Story as one of their Brilliant Summer Reads. I've been dying to get my hands (and eyes!) on the book since then but haven't yet. Perhaps this will be my lucky comment in the raffle.

    As for Sambat Trust --- they are doing amazing work!! With Zarah's help, we were able to arrange a donation of books to them: The Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set (http://www.papertigers.org/ptOutreach/spt/index.html). The murals on the walls are amazing and the room looks so welcoming!

  18. Hi Ms. Candy! Cheers for that Carnegie nomination! I do hope that this country would see how important books, librarians and reading are.

    Bless you!


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