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MY BEST BOOKS 2019: A FEW FOR THE 'MIDDLE-GRADE' READERS

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Welcome back! Today, I am showing off my best books for what is called "Middle-Grade" readers; age range roughly 8 to 12. (Very roughly) Strong stories and the magical ability to transport the reader to another place; another time come to the fore here with some truly incredible reads. Let's hop right in...

THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR
author: Sophie Anderson
illustrator: Katherin Honesta
Usborne Books (9781474940672)
Yanka was found just outside a bear cave as a baby. Mamochka took her home and raised her as her own. As she grew (and became the biggest and strongest in the village), it is clear that she has unusual capabilities. But a freak accident changes things in a most strange way. Called into the forest by the birds and creatures of the forest, Yanka embarks on a quest to discover her beginnings...and her true self. Filled with tales and lyrical writing, this is a simply wondrous book. With nods to old Russian folktales of bears, princesses and the Baba Yaga, it is utter…

MY BEST BOOKS 2019: THE PICTURE BOOKS

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It's time to share my best; my very favourite childrens' books of 2019. This is never easy! There's always so many fantastic books and choosing just a few is a daunting task...so many too look at, so many things to consider.
So what makes a great book in my mind? First of all, it has to have a strong story...something that carries the reader through; something that consistently 'makes sense', whether it's a picture book, something for early readers or a novel. Then I look at the characters; are they believable; do their actions and feelings ring true with in the context of the story? If it's illustrated, do the pictures 'fit' within the text; do they accent it; do they carry the story in their own right? They can't be there simply for decoration! (Hint: it's very rare that this is the case.) What is the book really saying? Has the author really thought about their audience? Will the 'message' appeal? Will it give room for deeper tho…

PICTURE BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS

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Confession: Every year, I treat myself to a very special gift. Even though I am so grown-up and supposedly wise, I give myself a brand new Christmas/winter picture book. This started when I was a small child and it was my parents giving me the book. But it was a gift-giving tradition I choose to keep, now giving on behalf of my Mom and Daddy (who are long gone from the world.) And of course I share this gift-giving with my own children and grandchildren, but doing it for myself maintains a certain magical element of the season like no other act.
Which book to choose, however, causes a great dilemma. There are so many beautiful, enchanting picture books that the decision-making process is not easy. From the stacks of picture books published for the 2019 Christmas/winter season, here are a few of my favourites:

DASHER
author/illustrator: Matt Tavares
Walker Books (3 October 2019)
ISBN: 9781406387704
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Santa's sleigh was pulled by one beautiful, mag…

NATURE, ADVENTURE AND INSPIRATION: Nonfiction Books

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Ask any bookseller. They will tell you that the best time to sell nonfiction books for children is during the holiday shopping season. And the nonfiction books that are lushly illustrated, as well as being filled with incisive bits of information are sought after during this time of year more than any other. These are books to fascinate; pouring through the pages time and again, gleaning a bit more information and noticing something new each time. They stick in your memory for a lifetime.
This year has seen a bumper crop of nonfiction books for kids of all ages. Here are three of my favourites:

A WORLD OF PLANTS
author: Martin Jenkins
illustrator: James Brown
Walker Studio (7 November 2019)
ISBN: 9781406388565
After welcoming the reader to the world of plants, this book treats of to page after page of incredible scientific information. Presenting both the weird and the wonderful, it examines closely the plant/animal/human inter-relationship in brief, but insightful terms that build an unde…

HOW WILL SANTA FIND US?

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Before I start my seasonal posts of favourite new Christmas picture books, best books of the year, fantastic winter reads and, of course, my annual page, The Advent Calendar of Books; I have to take a moment to look at a very special new picture book recently released by Focus Ireland. If you only buy one picture book this Christmas, please let it be this one.
HOW WILL SANTA FIND US? authors: Shane O'Brien and Stephen Rogers illustrators: Lauren O'Neill, Steve Simpson,  Steve McCarthy, Peter Donnelly, Tara O'Brien, Fatti Burke, Kevin Waldron, Yasmeen Ismail and Alan Dunne Good Cop Good Cop Dublin (November 2019) (with the support of Gill Books) ISBN: 9780717186679 It's the week before Christmas and the children just can't sleep. It isn't the excitement of Christmas that's keeping them awake. Mum has told them their rent went up. It's just too much to pay and they have to move out and they don't have anywhere to go. As they go from a friends' house to …

HAPPY JOLABOKAFLOD

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The time is getting nearer...the shops are busy and people are rushing about trying to get the perfect gifts for their loved ones. And I am scanning the bookshops and catalogs, because for this busy bookworm it's coming up to Jolabokaflod!
Unless you've been hiding in a cave somewhere for the last few years, you've no doubt seen and heard all the fluster about Jolabokaflod; the Icelandic tradition of giving, receiving and spending Christmas Eve curled up warm and cosy reading. THIS is any bookworms dream Christmas. And an Icelandic tradition that I am delighted to see everyone embracing. And as each year passes and I see more and more references to Jolabokaflod, my heart warms, my happiness grows...and my stack of books for giving gets a little more out of control. (But that's another story.)
How did this all start, you ask? Here's a little Icelandic history, as I understand it.
In 1944, during World War II, Iceland gained its' independence from Denmark. And al…

THE BOOKELVES ARE COMING!

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Hello everyone! It's the gift-giving season once again and here in Ireland, has taken on a very special, very exciting meaning....The BookElves are coming!
The BookElves is the heart-child of Irish author and childrens book aficionado, Sarah Webb. As as author, childrens' bookseller and mother, Sarah understands how hard it can be to get recommendations for those special, wonderful books for children and young people...how to get them the books they really want to read. She also knows how hard it is for those of us with bucket-loads of knowledge and information to reach all the people we need to reach, Particularly at holiday time. So, each year Sarah puts together a team of enthusiastic, knowledgeable elves. This team consists of childrens' booksellers, teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators and general book people to share their knowledge with you. (And for those of you who are wondering, yes, I am a BookElf, and very proud of it.) 
Since 2016, at this time of year, T…