Youth & School Libraries Section

By Sonia Smith, Youth Section; Andrea Hyde, School Section; Linda Toivanen, School Section

On Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013, the Youth and SchoolSections of ABQLA, in conjunction with the Children’s 
Literature Roundtable of Montreal and Babar en Ville bookstore, welcomed British author Alan Gibbons to
Montreal.
 
After spending the day with students at Lower Canada College, Gibbons still had plenty of energy to entertain
the group gathered at Babar. With amazing storytelling skill and remarkable rapid-fire banter, he held court
for over an hour. We were delighted to learn that his passion as a writer was influenced by having access
to a public library, as his family could not afford to purchase books. Having discovered classics like
Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, he became an avid
reader.
 
Gibbons worked as a teacher for many years. This contact with kids and their real-life problems and
issues are the inspiration and source for his books. His honesty, passion for social justice and love of
rock music make it easy to see why he connects with students where ever he might be. In 2000, he won the
prestigious Blue Peter Book Award in the category, “The Book I Couldn’t Put Down” for Shadow of the
Minotaur (beating out J.K. Rowling and several other published ‘heavy weights’!). After balancing writing and
teaching for some years, winning this prize allowed him to leave teaching and write full-time. He was shortlisted
for the Carnegie Medal twice in 2001 and 2003. Gibbons is not afraid to tackle dark and disturbing
themes; he likes to write about social issues and conflict including racism, discrimination and bullying,
in such novels as Caught in the Crossfire, The Dark Beneath, and The Edge.
 
Alan travels around the world to visit schools and talk about books and reading. Using his spare time on
airplanes, trains and in hotel rooms to write, he has published 59 books and these have been translated
into 19 languages.
 
In February of 2011, Gibbons initiated a nationwide campaign Read In to protest library closures in Britain.
In March 2011, he also launched a second initiative calling for a National Libraries Day
http://www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk/ to celebrate reading for pleasure and libraries of every kind. He is
truly an advocate that devotes much time and energy to gathering allies and speaking publicly on the value of
library services.
 
We all enjoyed Alan’s passion and energy and added many of his titles to our ‘to-read’ lists.