Episode 49: Big Kids Book Club with Marcus Henson

Here to join us on this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm is Marcus Henson. Marcus is the host and producer of the Big Kids Book Club Podcast, where they are adults who talk about Middle Grade and YA books they love to read. We are so excited to be doing some collaboration between our two podcasts. He’ll share how the podcast got started and we’ll swap some great book recommendations. You can also tune into the March 17th episode to hear me give a guest mid-week review on The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

Then March 26th I get to join Marcus, Rab and Emma for their end of the month bookish chat about Fantasy books

Follow BKBC on Twitter at @bigkidsbookclub or listen on your favorite podcast player. 

Books from today's episode are on The Library Laura Bookshop (affiliate link) 

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Starting Big Kids Book Club - A Pandemic Project 

Marcus explained that Big Kids Book Club began because he got furloughed during the pandemic. That is very similar to the origins of the Library Laura Podcast, so it was interesting to compare notes on our experiences of beginning a podcast this year. 

He came up with the idea, recruited Emma and Rab to help him out with some episodes, and then started cold-calling publishers asking for authors who could be potential guests. 

When you go check out Big Kids Book Club, you'll find three main types of episodes: author interviews, book reviews, and the monthly book chat with Emma and Rob. I get to join the group for March's book chat, and I'm very excited about that! 

Marcus attended a book launch event online for a book (we find out later it's Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori) which brought up my "Last Fun Thing I Did Before Covid" story of going to the book launch for Anne Bogel's book Don't Overthink It on March 1, 2020, right before everything fell apart. We talked about how many things we did thanks to the Internet and how many things we missed out on thanks to COVID. There are so many of both...quite a mixed bag really. 

Meeting Emma and Rab! 

Marcus and Rab (@rabtales) met at a book event YALC (Young Adult London Convention?) about two years ago. They'd kept in touch on and off since then. Marcus knew Rab likes YA and middle grade books, so when the book project was coming together, he immediately thought of including Rab, and he was more than happy to get involved.

Marcus met Emma (@emmakeane10) at the University of Surrey when she "stole his job" aka he got promoted and she took his former job. She was instrumental in getting him to expand his horizons from middle grade to YA books as well. Again, when he started putting together the podcast, she came to mind and he's really enjoyed having her on those monthly episodes. 

What are some favorite guests you've had on the show? 

Thomas Taylor - He's the author of Malamander and also the first author to say yes to Marcus and therefore was on his very first episode. Marcus appreciates Thomas's faith in him, random guy who messaged him on Twitter about a previously non-existent podcast. Marcus was incredibly nervous about this episode but they had a really nice time. 

Alwyn Hamilton - Author of the Rebel of the Sands series. These were the books that Emma used to basically twist Marcus's arm into reading young adult books. When Marcus got in touch with a publisher in the UK called Faber & Faber, Hamilton's books were one of the ones he mentioned being interested in speaking to the author of, and they made it happen. When Marcus and Emma got to interview Alwyn, they both "fangirled" thoroughly and had a great chat. 40+ minutes of that chat were recorded for the podcast, but they kept chatting afterward and just enjoyed getting to know each other a bit better.

Who is your dream guest? 

If Marcus could interview literally anyone, it would be Neil Gaiman. Stardust, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere, and so many of his books have resonated with Marcus. "In this case, I would fanboy so hard," He said. 

Marcus the Reader: An Origin Story

Marcus had a huge comic book and Manga collection as a kid, we're talking about 400 to 500 books, which have since been sold, as moving that many books several times as a young adult does get a bit difficult!  He was (is?) definitely a bit of a "geek." He remembers enjoying reading Skellig quite a bit, but most books where for school or he found to be generally boring. He prefered superheroes and general weirdness. 

Comics and Manga were definitely what kept him reading, until he had his own son (who is now 10) and started reading books to him. That opened up a whole world of kids books with which he was previously unfamiliar.  He found himself thinking that some of the kids books were "half-decent" or maybe even enjoyable. They enjoyed trips to the library together to find bedtime reading material. 

At that point, Marcus started reading some of the older middle grade on his own and "got hooked," and then Emma got him started on YA, and here we are! 

Books Marcus Mentioned

Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood - Published by Faber & Faber. 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - a book Marcus read as a child. 

The Last Kids on Earth series by Max Brallier and illustrated by Douglas Holgate - This is a series that Marcus's son liked first and got them both hooked. It's being adapted for Netflix currently and there's a video game coming out soon. "It's everything 12-year-old me dreamed of," explained Marcus. These middle grade kids are surviving the zombie monster apocalypse and living in a treehouse with catapults and other weapons and being sustained off of Mountain Dew and snacks. What more could you want?  He's already preordered the one that comes out in April. 

 In terms of what Marcus looks for in terms of books he wants to read, he has two main types of stories he knows will be a home run. The first is the "Scooby-Doo type mystery where several kids and a dog are investigating a mystery," which he will "read until the cows come home." For example the Adventures on Trains series by M.G. Leonard (The Highland Falcon Thief, Kidnap on the California Comet,  and Murder on the Safari Star

Marcus is also "trash for a good old historical fiction," especially ones set in Viking times or WWII. He's read a few he's enjoyed set in Victorian era, and one recently was Tudor and pretty good. 

He's currently reading The Last Hawk by Elizabeth Wein, who is the same author as Code Name Verity and The Enigma Game.  The Last Hawk is being published by Barrington Stoke, a little publisher in Edinburgh, who specialize in dyslexic friendly and reluctant reader style books. Marcus was about 20 pages in and very interested so far in the story of Ingrid who idolizes this female test pilot while growing up in Nazi Germany. 

Books Marcus Recommended to Laura

Malamander by Thomas Taylor - Marcus's first podcast guest and it sounds like a fun story. A boy works in the hotel's lost and found, until one day a girl comes through his window and asks for his help evading the evil man who's chasing her. Set in a quaint seaside town and very whimsical. It's been optioned for a movie by Sony.  This recommendation made me think of a novel I read a few years ago, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. 

The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori - Visiting her granddad on Shetland, Stella befriends Tamar – an old woman with weather-controlling powers – in this dazzling story of friendship and responsibility, entwined with age-old island myths and magic. This recommendation made me think of the TV series Avatar The Last Airbender, which it turns out Marcus and I both love. This was one of the first series my husband and I watched as a married couple. 

Books Laura Mentioned

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo - the most recent Newbery (2004) I had read when I started catching up on the award winners in 2018. 

Newbery Award Winners - the list from 1922 to present 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - one of the books I read when catching up on the Newbery awards and found odd but quite enjoyable. 

Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin  by Tracy Newman - Picture book biography of a world famous violinist, Itzhak Perlman who had polio as a child. 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise - another beautiful and informative picture book biography about the woman for whom the ALA award for Latinx literature is named. 

Laura Recommended to Marcus

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - the first Flavia De Luce Mystery. It hits both of the categories Marcus mentioned as it's set in 1950's at a once-grand manor AND it's a mystery. Boom! 

Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri - the book I was currently reading at the time of recording. It won the Printz award for YA fiction in 2021 and it's the story of a boy who immigrated with his family from Iran to Oklahoma because his mother became a Christian. It's touching, humourous and beautifully written, but with enough blood and poop stories to delight the soul of any 13-year-old boy. 

Catherine's War by Julia Billet - a graphic novel originally written in French and translated to English, about a Jewish girl during WWII who travels with her camera and takes photos of her experiences while trying to evade Nazi capture. 

AJ Vanderhorst's two middle grade books: The Mostly Invisible Boy and Trickery School. AJ was on the Library Laura podcast on episode 24 and I think Marcus will really dig the treehouses, the magic school in the forest, the monster fights, etc. 

Be sure to go find and follow Big Kids Book Club! We'd love to hear what you're currently reading. 

With lots of literary love from library to yours,

~Library Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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