Tag Archives: Libraries

Rida and Madiya: a Bloomsbury Reader – Niyla Farook and Umair Najeeb Khan


Bloomsbury Australia

May 2023

RRP: $14.99

ImprintBloomsbury Education
SeriesBloomsbury Readers

Yes, this is a sample of Bloomsbury readers and these have been written and aimed directly at the UK curriculum market, but don’t let that put you off. This series has been crafted by some top authors and the books written in a way that is both engaging and supportive of emerging independent readers. That being said, this is also a fun and warming story about siblings that young readers will thoroughly enjoy, and to which many will also relate.

Rida and Madiya are sisters in a blended family, who share a room, and are as different as chalk to cheese. Rida is quiet and reserved and looking forward to starting high school the following year. Madiya is a madcap 6 year old, boisterous and loud, and often quite outrageous with her ideas and actions. The two argue about everything and it seems their differences will continue to fuel their squabbles. When the local library is in danger of being closed down, Rida is determined to help save it and, reluctantly, accepts some unexpected help in her quest from Madiya. But it seems that this is only going to result in more conflict, until they finally work out a way to set aside their rivalries.

As well as the lively narrative, readers will enjoy the connections made to real life scenarios including family and diversity. I would suggest if you are looking for some new simple chapter books, this series would go a long way to filling a gap and encouraging our kiddos to think beyond their own sphere of knowledge.

Recommended for readers from around five upwards who are moving into this reading space.

The Little Wartime Library – Kate Thompson



FEB 22, 2022 | 9781529395402 | RRP $32.99

Subtitled: A gripping, heart-wrenching page-turner based on real events…

So in essence, I should have known…I rarely request an adult title to review (and generally speaking, that’s a memoir/bio)… but the ‘library’ bit got me in. Really, I should have seen that, even though it’s based on real events, the sub-title was a give-away that it is more chick lit than historical fiction. And this is sad, because I think it could have been a fabulous historical fiction and still engaged readers of lighter fiction.

I picked it up this week after ploughing through a number of middle fiction titles, and gave it the last four nights of my attention but, for me, it became harder going each night. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with it if you are after a light entertainment/escapist read – and who doesn’t in these weird and trying times? – but I was expecting more of the historical and less of the popular fiction tropes. There are some fascinating facts woven in but there is far more emphasis on the personal life of the characters, all of whom I found quite predictable and almost trite.

Young war widow Clara runs the Bethnal Green underground library, assisted by Ruby – cue bad girl with a heart of a gold. Clara becomes involved with conscientious objector but decorated ambulance officer, Billy and Ruby is being pursued by Eddie, the Yank with the penchant for buying up stacks of books. The ‘residents’ of the underground are amiably East Ender enough to be entertaining and Clara’s boss, the pole-up-his-bum misogynist, Pinkerton-Smythe plus the matriarchs, her own mother plus her mother-in-law are nasty enough villains of the piece. Ruby’s life is blighted by the abusive step-father who seems set upon killing her mum with his drunken rages. There are the inevitable tragedies e.g. death of a child and also an elderly regular patron separately via Hitler’s buzz bombs and other historical events such as the crush of people trapped in the underground stairs. There are children who are parent-less, there are children who are deprived, there are families with nine kids and an old man constantly drunk – it’s all very resonant of the social strata of the district in that time period. Clara faces much opposition for her part in empowering women in matters such as birth control and, in that sense, it takes a lot from Call the Midwife plots.

The final forty pages where the author describes her interaction with veterans of this period, collating eye-witness accounts and researching the actual history of the two men who ran the library is the best part of the book (why not write about them?) along with the quotes from librarians that head up each chapter.

I don’t want to put you off – even though it sounds that way – because really if you want an enjoyable Eastenders type read, you will love it. I, for whatever reason, was expecting a more meaty and true account of a fascinating and little-known aspect of the war years and so, remain disappointed.