Sunday, December 26, 2010

UK Government U-Turn on Booktrust

In an amazing u-turn of it's decision to scrap all funding of the BookTrust scheme, the UK Department of Education has reversed it's decision and have announced it will now continue to fund the programme. BookTrust benefits 3.3 million children a year in England.
"The Department for Education and Booktrust are determined to ensure that reading for pleasure is a gift every child can enjoy. That is why the DFE will continue to fund Booktrust book-gifting programmes in the future," the statement said."
 Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who had been pressing for the restoration of funding to BookTrust,  has now written to David Cameron for explicit clarification on how much funding this, and other important charities will receive and for that a scheme in line with the current programme will be maintained.
Amazing news, altogether!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Andy Mulligan's Trash Talk

From an article in the Guardian book reviews on Monday, 20th December comes a great quote from Andy Mulligan, talking about his book 'Trash' (as well as other things literary.) This book is a thriller telling the story of streetkids living on a dumpsite in the developing world. 'Trash' was removed from the Blue Peter award's shortlist when the programme's editors overruled the judging committee over the use of one word... "shit".

"But a good book will upset someone, because the moment you engage with someone's imagination, you take them into both light and dark........ What's 'suitable' is the journey we ask our readers to make...."

...and that is a very valid point. One that would be taken by most, if not all, of our popular children's authors to date.

Save BookTrust!!!

This just in from Alan Gibbons ('Demon Assassin', 'The Number 7 Shirt', 'Legendeer' trilogy, etc.):

"Booktrust is to lose all government funding for its bookgifting programmes in England from 1st April next year.

The book charity’s bookgifting programmes, Bookstart, Booktime and Booked Up, received £13m from the Department for Education last year.
I suggest everybody write to the press condemning Michael Gove and asking him to think again. If we all take different newspapers we should get decent coverage." 

I would urge everyone who can to please, please write to the press (any and all.) These programmes have already had invaluable impact on the lives of so many young people. Michael Gove does, indeed, need to think again and should be called to task for ever suggesting such a thing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

'The Writer and the Wolf'

photograph: Armints Wallace

In today's Irish Times, there is a wonderful article by Arminta Wallace. She travelled to England, to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust for an interview with Michelle Paver (The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness). While she gained true insight into Paver's research methods and the journey(s) while writing her wonderful series, the most fascinating information shared in this writing was the insight into the lives and behaviour of the wolves themselves. Wallace spent time with Paver walking around the grounds of the Trust, accompanied by Torak (see photograph left), a young wolf named for the lead character of the Chronicles... And as if getting up close and personal with the wolves wasn't enough, Wallace also gives a view of the work of the Trust. As a long time fan of  Paver and of wolves, and as someone who has spent time in the company of these much malligned beauties, the article was most welcome.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Books for Christmas

With less than a week to go, the shopping is getting frantic and Santa's workshop is all abuzz. I thought I'd take just a moment to add a couple more of my favourite books for Christmas. (You can never have too many books in your holiday library!)
- The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
This is a wonderful book for the little ones to read and play with over and over. As the Jolly Postman makes his Christmas Eve rounds, he finds letters and little packages for Baby Bear (of Three Bears fame),  Little Red Riding Hood, Humpty Dumpty, the Gingerbread Man and more. Puzzles, board games, cards and annuals... even a 'Wolf Spotters Guide'; and there's something special for the Postman himself!
- The Christmas Bear by Henrietta and Paul Stickland
Very difficult to find, now, if you can locate this beautiful book, grab it and make it your own! Lushly illustrated and a charming story... don't forget to look for the mischievous penguin on each page.
- The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The most magical, wonderful Christmas story ever!
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by PJ Lynch
There's nothing I can say about this timeless Christmas classic; but PJ's illustrations add such life and vibrancy, this is the one to have and to share as a family and with friends.
- The Lighthouse Keeper's Christmas by Ronda Armitage
I love the sturdy and stoic lighthouse keeper (and his cat)! But what will happen when Mr. Grindley and his nephew George find themselves stranded alone on Christmas Eve in the lighthouse, with no food, no presents and no Mrs. Grindley?

And a very Happy Christmas to you all!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Read All About It" - Sarah Webb On Christmas Book Gifts For Young Readers

From yesterday's Irish Independent, our own author extraordinaire, Sarah Webb, took time out of her very busy schedule (currently finishing her latest book for her loyal adult readers) to let us in on some fantastic bookish gifts for the young readers among us. In her article, Sarah focused on, as she said in her own words "books that young people will genuinely want to read over and over again, as opposed to books that look beautiful but sit on the shelf." However, quite a number of them are also beautiful, as well as being great books to read over and over again. I'm thinking of Michael Rosen's "Tiny Little Fly", illustrated by Kevin Waldron and "Tales of Irish Enchantment" by Patricia Lynch. Also on offer are "Timecatcher" by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, the "Alice and Megan Cookbook" by Judi Curtin and "Cherry Crush" by Cathy Cassidy. Rather than bore you with a recounting of Sarah's list, Here's the link to the article. Great stuff!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Favourite Books for Christmas in the Guardian

Julia Eccleshare gives us her list of favourite children's books for Christmas. This remarkable listing hosts some remarkable choices, including The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy, Slightly Invisible (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child, Ottoline At Sea by Chris Riddell, and The Puffin Mother Goose Treasury by Raymond Briggs.

And from the 8th of December comes this interesting review of Susan Cooper's contemporary classic: The Dark Is Rising. The entire Dark is Rising sequence, a dark and menacing contemporary Arthurian quintet has been released, so once again, we can spend the dark winter months embedding ourselves in the stories of the Dark and Light forces battling for the souls of all humanity. If you have read them, I suggest you start immediately, but have always felt it's best to start with The Dark Is Rising, actually the second book in the series. This is especially apt now, as the story concerns our young hero, Will, about to celebrate his 11th birthday on December 21st. All the action takes place during the Christmas season. Forget the film from a couple of years ago.. the book is simply wonderful!

Chapter and Verse from the Irish Times

It's once again time for the Irish Times to publish their book picks of the year. This collection of articles on children's books from tots to teens includes expert commentary from some of the best in the business.... Robert Dunbar covering books for all ages, Leanne O'Sullivan on children's poetry, Anna Carey is all about the young adult fiction and Katherine Farmar brings us up to date on graphic novels. I was delighted to see some of my favourites of the year.... A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton, Vamoose by Meg Rosoff, Lob by Linda Newbery, Eric by Shaun Tan....
If you're not sure what to get the kids, or what to read yourself, here's the link to this invaluable article:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Picture Books!

A customer shared a Christmas tradition with me the other day and I thought it was just lovely. She has 3 young children, and it seems that every year on Christmas Eve, they have a tradition of sharing a family story and then, of course, it's time for bed before Santa comes. As each child goes to bed, it seems that Santa must have made a quick stop already, for on each child's bed, he has left a wonderful Christmas book for them to look at and ponder over as they drift off to sleep. MAGIC! It makes me wish my children were small all over again.
With that in mind, I began to think about which books I'd ask Santa to leave. Here are a few suggestions:
1) The first has to be 'The Night Before Christmas'. There are so many wonderful versions of this classic Christmas tale from which to choose, whether you lean more towards the traditional and delight in the Walker Books edition illustrated beautifully in black and white by Matt Tavares, or prefer the new edition out this year illustrated by Eric Puybaret, you can't go wrong.
2) 'Maisy's Christmas Eve' by Lucy Cousins is bound to be a hit with even the smallest of children.
3) Not strictly a Christmas book, by any means, but a wonderful winter's tale,  'One Snowy Night' by Nick Butterfield was the first of the Percy the Park Keeper stories, and is still the best. A severe winter storm brings all the animals to Percy's door seeking shelter.
4) 'The Santa Trap' by Jonathan Emmett is brilliant! Bradley Bartleby is very, very bad... and rich... and spoilt. One year, he gets fed up with only receiving socks from Santa and concocts a plan that will see him receiving ALL the toys for Christmas... or will it?
5) Classic, eloquent, and an absolute must.... 'The Snowman' by Raymond Briggs. I recommend the original (the one without the text added). You'll understand how a book can say so much with no words at all. (Another can't miss book by Briggs is, of course, 'Father Christmas'.)
6) 'Christmas Time' by Alison Jay, published by Templar Publishing. Beautiful folk-art style illustrations guide us through the festive season. So beautiful.
7)'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' by Dr. Suess. What more can I say?
8) 'The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey' by Susan Wojciechowski and illustrated by P.J. Lynch  This is one for older children to read, and to be shared with the whole family. A beautiful story with magnificent illustrations!
9) 'Santasaurus' by Niamh Sharkey   I just love this book. It's such a delight!
10) Again, not a "Christmas story" at all, really, but I have to add 'The Snowy Day' by Ezra Jack Keats. This uniquely illustrated story of a small boy's adventures in the snow is one to be enjoyed over and over and over... and is one every child can relate to.
11) And another not strictly "Christmas book" that I have to add is 'The Tale of Jack Frost' by David Melling.
Melling's illustrations and quirky sense of humour shine through to make this a firm favourite.

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Tell me, please, what picture books would you add to the list?

'Picture Books Do Still Work For Kids'

This article was sent to me by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick on Facebook. From, it is written bu Dr. Deborah Pope, director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. It (somewhat) addresses a previous article in The New York Times that stated parents have been pushing their children away from picture books and on to 'chapter books' in order to challenge them early to help them perform better in an increasingly competitive environment. But, as quoted here by Pope...
"If a parent pushes a child through their developmental stages too quickly, the child often ends up frustrated and behind later on",
 and further,
"Picture books nurture a child's ability to conceptualize. At this early stage, they're learning to connect the dots -- following the events of a story from beginning to end and linking images with words to develop the mind's eye. Armed with this experience, they'll eventually make an easy leap to more text-heavy chapter books."
Very valid points, indeed. I believe that we have developed a tendency to take picture books away from children at far to young an age. The development of their visual literacy allows them to create expanded patterns of thinking and reasoning. It increases the capacity for further and varying types of literacy throughout life. And the huge amount of joy picture books give children is irreplaceable. It's great to see an expert defend picture books.
For anyone interested in the many different aspects of picture books and childhood (and social/societal) development, I can whole-heartedly recommend the book How Picturebooks Work (Children's Literature and Culture) by Maria Nikolajeva and Carole Scott.

And, here's the link to the article: 

p.s. Thank you, Marie-Louise

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More on the Pat Kenny Broadcast

Here's the list of books discussed on the Pat Kenny show this morning by Kim Harte and Siobhan Parkinson (I'm just rattling them off, sorry guys):
- A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton
- On The Road With Mavis and Marge by Niamh Sharkey
- The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
- Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers
- Tiny Little Fly by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
- There Is a Bird On Your Head by Mo Willems
- Who's Hiding by Satoru Onishi
- Something Beginning With P
- Daisy and the Trouble With Christmas by Kes Gray (this is currently temporarily unavailable from the publisher)
- The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, illustrated by Laura Carlin
- The Boy Who Climbed Into The Moon by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
- Fugitives! A story of the Flight of the Earls by Aubrey Flegg
- The Great Rabbit Revenge by Burkhard Spinnen
- Over The Wall by Renate Ahrens
- Tiger Boots by Joe O'Brien
- Eva's Journey by Judi Curtin
- Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil by Derek Landy
- The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
- Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes
-Prim Improper by Deirdre Sullivan
- This Ain't No Video Game, Kid! by Kevin Stevens
- Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
For more about these wonderful choices, here's the link to Kim's blog:

Also, you can have a listen to the broadcast itself by going to :

Kim Harte and Siobhan Parkinson on RTE with Pat Kenny

Don't forget to tune in today at 11am to hear Kim Harte, children's buyer from Dubray Books in Bray and Siobhan Parkinson our own Laureate na n'Og discussing the latest and the best in children's books.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Listen To the Pat Kenny show Wednesday morning!

I'm told the my exceptional colleague from Dubray Books, Kim Harte, will be on the Pat Kenny radio programme (RTE) tomorrow morning (that's Wednesday, 8th December) at around 11am. She'll be talking with Siobhan Parkinson (Ireland's Laureate na n'Og, the driving force behind the new children's imprint Little Island and incredible inspiration). The subject is, of course, children's books. Remember to tune in! It'll be brilliant.
And here's the link to Kim's blog:

A Christmas List of Books from the Irish Independent

Alison Walsh has unveiled "A Christmas List to Fill Stockings and Dreams" in  the Irish Independent with an article featuring some of the best and brightest books for children of all ages. She begins by assuring us that books "are the perfect gift for Austerity Santa", and I couldn't agree more. They're actually the perfect gift for both Austerity Santa and Prosperity Santa...providing hours of entertainment and pleasure and giving a gift that lasts in the hearts and minds of children for life. Included in Walsh's commentary are such wonderful books as Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick's Timecatcher, A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton, the wonderful board book for the very young Say Hello To The Snowy Animals by Ian Whybrow (of Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs fame), Judi Curtin's Eva's Journey, Garret Carr's new and dramatic Lost Dogs; an impressive list with something brilliant for every age!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Galway's Christmas Market

Here are just a few photos of the Christmas Market Village set up on Eyre Square. It's really added to the holiday atmosphere and made the dismal weather a bit more bearable.

It's December!!!!

It is December did that happen? With the month, of course comes all things holidays and Christmas and cold and snow(!) I know, here in Ireland, we're not ready for this weather and don't really quite know what to do with it. But please try to enjoy it.
The first bit of my winter holiday news is going to be ...... PANTO!
 Just to let my fellow Galwegians know, if you don't already, the Renmore Pantomime will be presenting it's 32nd annual pantomime this year. Beginning 30th December and running through to the 16th of January 2011, 'Sleeping Beauty' will be performed for 12 evening performances and 10 matinees at the Town Hall Theatre. Extra matinees will be held on Sundays 9th and 16th of January. You all know the story... now come live the dream.
See you there!
(For more information, check out the website :

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Late Late Toy Show

This year's Late Late Toy Show on RTE attracted the highest viewer audience in well over a decade with an estimated 1.4 million viewers tuning in to Ryan Tubridy and his guests in order to view what's hot and what's not for this Christmas. The great thing about this show is always the kids.... they let you know exactly what they're actually thinking on the toys... and (especially what we're concerned with here) the books. Books got a fantastic showing with year, including some of my favourites. A Bit Lost by Chris Haughton is wonderful, humorous... a pure delight. (My further thoughts are on the Picture Books page.) Also, from our dear friends at Walker books, and equally wonderful, were There's Going To Be A Baby by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury and, an oldie, but definitely a goody (making a surprise return) Don't Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus by Mo Willems. Another not to be missed picture book featured is Up And Down by Oliver Jeffers. For the older readers among us, don't forget Rick Riordan's return of Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero, Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil by Derek Landy, Eva's Journey by the wonderful Judi Curtin (a great story for austere times!) and a new offering by an old friend, The Longest Whale Song by Jacqueline Wilson. A marvellous addition to this year's lineup is Willy Wonka's Whipplescrumptious Annual 2011 by Roald Dahl. (Now I'm not normally one for annuals, but I may buy this one for myself!) The list goes on and on. These are just my highlights.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly...Review by Linda Buckley-Archer

The link below is for the Guardian review of Jennifer Donnelly's stunning new young adult novel Revolution. I include this here because it is the best, most precise review I've seen to date. Revolution is a spectacular book by a truly gifted author and this review tells you exactly why. A novel full of texture and emotion, it treats it's themes with such sensitivity and authority that it cannot fail to move you. And if you haven't read Donnelly's previous book A Gathering Light, please do so immediately.

10 Best Illustrated Children's Books from The Guardian

Today's Guardian (on-line) featured a very interesting gallery of children's books over the years. Chosen by The Observer's Kate Kellaway, these are her "The 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books"; the finest picture books for children. Included are some real gems: Dogger by Shirley Hughes, The Princess and the Pea retold by Lauren Child and 'captured' by Polly Borland, The Cat and the Hat by Dr. Suess, The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan... but there are also some completely unexpected inclusions and some notable exclusions. (I'm thinking of E.H. Shepard and Eric Carle most immediately.) I know if you only have 10 slots for the best illustrated books, it' would be very difficult to chose.  I'm certainly NOT going to argue the validity of any of her selections...they are all wonderful. But I'm wondering about Kellaway's criteria. Was she applying a specific criteria or formula in her choices? Or were they simply her favourites? Not a criticism, simply curiosity.Of course, we'd all have different books in our "best", wouldn't we?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bord Gais Irish Book Awards 2010.... and the winners are (junior and senior chidren's categories)

This just in...... at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards, held this evening at the Dublin Mansion House, the winners for 2010 were announced... all very interesting and brilliant (the shortlist was fantastic!)... Here on my blog, I'm of course most interested in the children's categories. And the winners are.....

For the best children's book, junior category : On The Road With Mavis and Marge by Niamh Sharkey !!!!! (Yayyyy!!!!)
In the senior category for best children's book: Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil by Derek (he's done it again!) Landy.
CONGRATULATIONS NIAMH AND DEREK!!!! Couldn't be more pleased for you if I'd written the books myself.

If you looking for more information on all the winners of this years awards, here's the link for the Irish Times breaking news article.

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Of Thee I Sing' by Barack Obama

For a while now, we have been anxiously anticipating the release of Barack Obama's children's picturebook, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters, and it has now hit the shops as of the 16th (November). Of Thee I Sing... was written (before he became US President) as a letter to his two young daughters, Sasha and Malia, who feature through the story and is dedicated to his wife, Michelle. A word of caution, this book is very, very, very US centred. But that in and of itself does nothing to detract from the sentiment of the book. While it features only historical figures from United States history, reminding his daughters of the significant role each figure played in the development of the nation, the focus is not so much on specific US events in history as it is the qualities these people represent... courage, justice, strength, belief in oneself and in others and the ability to create change in themselves and others surrounding them. It may noy sell as well over here as it will in the States, but it is a worthy picture book with beautiful illustrations. Quite frankly, I like it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Darren Shan in the New York Public Library

Also from PW, the New York Public Library played host to our good (and scary) friend Darren Shan as part of their TeenLIVE programming, which looks to “spotlight current cultural trends and important mainstays that inform the lives of today’s teens.” The event was held to celebrate the publication of Shan's newest novel The Saga of Larten Crepsley: Birth of a Killer. Shan was seen hobnobbing with actors dressed as characters from the Cirque du Freak series, and crow puppets made just for the occasion. And from all accounts, a good time was had by all.

Q&A With Michael Rosen

There is a veritable treasure trove of children's book news from Publishers Weekly this week. One item of particular interest was a Q&A with former UK children's laureate and nearly everybody's favourite author, Michael Rosen. (I know he's mine!) In the Q&A, Michael addresses such ponderings as the whys of writing poetry and it's impact on children's literature, the importance of the picture book, his role as children's laureate and his newest (simply wonderful) offering Tiny Little Fly, illustrated by Kevin Waldron. Here's the (rather long) link:

Self-published Author Wins YoungMinds Book Award

Congratulations to self-published author Siobhan Curham for winning the YoungMinds Book Award 2010. Curham has beaten titles from major publishing houses like Puffin, Headline and Egmont to take the award, announced at an awards ceremony on the16th November. The YoungMinds Award is given to a book which most helps young people aged 12+ deal with the issues and pressures of growing up.
Curham's novel Dear Dylan (Authorhouse) is about a fourteen year old girl who begins writing letters to a soap star. The novel had some really stiff competition on the shortlist with books like Inside by J. A. Jarman, The Truth About Leo by David Yelland, and Zellah Green, Queen of Clean by Vanessa Curtis. On her own blog, Siobhan admitted that she thought she had no chance of winning, so was still a bit speechless. For her clearly stellar effort in Dear Dylan, Siobhan has received a £2000.00 prize sponsored by the reading charity BookTrust (the same folks who sponsor the Roald Dahl Funny Prize.)
Below is the link to Siobhan's blog, which in addition to her musings on winning the award, also has some brilliant pages on her writing and how to publish. Great words of encouragement!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Michelle Paver Moves to Puffin!

Puffin Books proudly announced today that they have signed award winning, best-selling author, Michelle Paver. The new series, entitled Gods & Warriors, is set in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. The first in the series is expected to be published in the autumn of 2012. Paver has already begun extensive research for the new books.
The same trademark, near forensic research is what made The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series vivid and textural explorations of prehistoric life, as well as brilliantly written, gripping adventures that tell the story of Torak, a young boy orphaned and alone with a companion wolf cub. The last book in the series, Ghost Hunter, won the prestigious Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2010.
As for her move to Puffin and the new series, Paver had this to say:
'I've been overwhelmed by Puffin's passion for GODS & WARRIORS. As a child, my bookshelf was crammed with Puffin paperbacks, and I'm thrilled that my next series will become part of that tradition.' 

Winners Announced of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2010

The winners of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize in children's literature have been announced!
The Funniest Book for Children Aged Six and Under is.....
Louise Yates for the wonderful, wonderful Dog Loves Books ! Louise was inspired as a child by the work of Quentin Blake to become a children's illustrator, and from a very competitive short list (including Quentin Blake, himself), she came up trumps! It's no secret that this book is one of my favourite picture books of the year.
Michael Rosen , the chair of the judging panel, had this to say about Dog Loves Books:
‘An outrageous idea, beautifully told and illustrated. Sometimes, what you want from a new book is a surprise, something fresh and odd. So this book leaves behind some of the staples of present-day humour and gives us humour on every page with a dog that just wants to read books.’
In the Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen, the winner is none other than that Queen of Teen, herself, Louise Rennison for the first book in her new series Withering Tights! Rennison's new book revolves around the adventures of Tallulah Casey, a boy-crazy, gawky teenage girl and student of a Yorkshire performing arts academy. Tallulah may be at that awkward stage in life, but her observant, clever commentary on life is not only laugh-worthy, but quite accurate!
Both authors were presented with their awards today at a lunchtime ceremony in London.

Jeff Kinney Strikes Again with "....The Ugly Truth"

As you must all be aware (from all the excitement in the air as vast numbers of children exited bookshops clutching a shiny new purple coloured hardback with HUGE grins on their faces), last week on the 10th of November saw the release of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth". Greg Heffley is growing up fast, and,  he now has to deal with the pressures faced in the teenage years, particularly difficult, and hilarious!, for a wimpy kid. "Wimpy Kid" has always had huge success, but this is ridiculous! As, I said, the book arrived on the 10th, in quantity, and we (Dubray Books, Galway) were completely sold out by Tuesday afternoon. (Don't worry, quantity is on the way back in... and may even be there as we speak!) According to Bookseller, during the last week, which was it's first week, "...The Ugly Truth" ranked third in sales, including all sales, not just children's books, selling an impressive 30,312 copies. And, Wimpy Kid outsold the other big book released on the day (Decision Points by George W. Bush) by nearly double the amount!
Truly fantastic news for such a delightful, hysterically funny and exciting series that has very quickly become a favourite of every child (and some of us big kids, too) in the country. Wimpy Kid is an everyday hero we can all relate to....
Go, Wimpy Kid, Go!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Galway Christmas Market

Admittedly...this is NOT about books. This is about Christmas!!!!!
The Christmas lights of Galway will go on this Friday evening, 19th November. And, simultaneously, the Continental Christmas Market in Galway will open in Eyre Square. So...while the cynics can say (with a good bit of truth, to be fair) that this is a commercial venture.... I chose to see it as a grand opening of a truly magical season. Eyre Square will be transformed into a magical winter wonderland with up to 70 market stalls offering items from all over the world (Russia, Peru, USA, all over Europe...), rides and activities for the little ones, (You can't fool me...I saw the carousel being delivered!), food and hot chocolate!, and, of course Santa's Grotto (direct from Lapland to you)!!!! The Christmas market village will be in place from 19th November until the 19th of December.
I've been watching the construction taking place in all kinds of weather (well...mostly high winds and steady rainfall). With each day, I get more and more excited. Today, they were placing lights on the tree in the centre of it all.
While I will put up some photos as I get them...I fear I'll not be able to attend the official lighting. I'll be in Dubray Books, working away... but I will be right in the middle of town when the lights come on. It makes me feel so much better about working the evening shift.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Those good people at have published their latest online issue dedicated to the Christmas holiday season. Included are some wonderful features: most notably a feature on one of (if not my all-time) favourite author Cornelia Funke and some reviews by yours truly and others.
Here's the link (directly into the review page). If you follow the link and go to the home page, you'll be able to sign up for mykidstime and receive their issues on a regular basis. With links to every region in the country, it's well worth it for any family, teacher, children's author, publisher....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Philip Ardagh on Judging the Roald Dahl Funny Prize

With the Roald Dahl Funny Prize for children's literature due to be awarded on the 16th of November, there is a very insightful (and thoroughly marvelous and chuckle-worthy) article in the Guardian by Philip Ardagh. As part of the 'perks' of winning last year's award, Ardagh was given the task of being on the judging panel for this year's list. In this article (see link below), he discusses the process and the challenges of this arduous task in his own inimitable and observant style. (to understand fully what I mean by this, you simply have to read one of the brilliant and hilarious 'Grubtown Tales'. Oh, what the heck, read them all!)
Also, Ardagh includes the short list for both categories: Aged Six and Under and Aged Seven to Fourteen. While all of the offerings are wonderful, my personal favourites are 'Dog Loves Books' by Louise Yates (Aged Six and Under) and 'Clumsies Make A Mess' by Sorrel Anderson (Aged Seven to Fourteen.) But that's just me....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Book and website Launch!

Morag Kelly is set to launch her new children's book and website this Saturday, 13th November at 2 pm in the Druid Theatre Company in Galway. The book tells the story of a child's adventure in Greenieland, bringing  important environmental and seasonal messages to light, teach a bit about gardening and tell a cracking tale. Written for young beginner readers with delightful illustrations, children will be entertained and learn a little bit more than those all important reading skills. With a great companion website, the adventures in Greenieland will go on and on!
I'd like to extend my personal congratulations to Morag!
If any of you are interested in attending, check out the site below to complete the survey. Morag wants to be certain there are enough crayons for the children to enter the Haughty Heron colouring competition... and wine for the parents!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!!!!

As I'm sure you know by now, the first part of the final Harry Potter film will be released here on the 19th of November, with part two making it's appearance in spring 2011. (Personally, I think they were dead right to release it in two parts. Too much happens in that book to cram into one film. I wish they had done that with "....the Order of the Phoenix.") The trailer promises much...dramatic, dark, gripping. I can't wait.
And for those of you who haven't had a good look at the previews yet, what follows is the 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' website link. Brilliant!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Award Nominations

There has been a huge amount of activity in regards to children's literature awards in the past week. Along with all the other, the CILIP Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway Award nominations have been presented. The list for the prestgious CILIP Carnegie Award is extensive! I'm absolutely delighted to see one of my most-talked-about (and truly beautiful) books, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is included; along with many other of my favourites such as Lob by Linda Newbery, Spirit Hunter by Katie Moran, The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine, The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh.... these are just a few of the wonderful novels for young people. Check out the list yourself!
And while you're there, be sure to check out the Kate Greenaway Award nominations as well. This list (also very extensive!) of incredible picture books also has quite a number of my personal favourites from this year:
Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates, Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet, Elspeth Graham and Juan Wijngaard, Diary of a Baby Wombat by Vivian French and Bruce Whatley, When Night Didn't ComeRed Ted and the Lost Things by Poly Bernatene, and (of course) Michael Rosen and and Joel Stewart's ..... and, again, many many others. 
The best of luck to all! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2010

It's time, once again, for the presentation of the short list for The Irish Book Awards 2010. What I want to focus on here, of course are the selections for the DAA Irish Children's Book of the Year in two category sections; junior and senior.
Junior section is comprised of the following four truly wonderful books:
- On The Road With Mavis And Marge by Niamh Sharkey, published by Walker Books
- Adam's Pirate Treasure by Benji Bennett, published by Adams Printing Press
- The Heart And The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers published by Harper Collins Children's Books
- Alfie Green And The Chocolate Cosmos by Joe O'Brien, published by O'Brien Press

The senior section also has four wonderful selections:
- Ask Amy Green: Bridesmaid Blitz by Sarah Webb, published by Walker Books
- Skulduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil by Derek Landy, published by Harper Collins Children's Books
- Timecatcher by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, published by Orion
- Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne, published by David Fickling

These awards are selected by popular vote, so go on line ASAP and vote for the book you'd like most to win in these and all the other categories. I know I'm going to have a difficult time selecting my favourites!

Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010

The Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010 has gone to Gregory Hughes for his debut novel, Unhooking The Moon. The judges cited the novel's "genuinely unique voice" when awarding the prize. And I, for one, would certainly agree. Unhooking The Moon tells the story of 10 year-old Rat, who travels across Canada with her older brother, Bob, in search of their Uncle.... either a very successful businessman, or a very sinister drug lord. While on their way, they meet a con man (great comic relief here) and famous rap star and find themselves in and out of severe danger, sometimes just by the skin of their teeth. The characters are astounding and their story is classically memorable. Tough, hard-edged and heart-warming, Unhooking The Moon truly deserves this, and any other accolade which happens to come it's way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Story Spark At The Ark

And no sooner have all the Children's BookFest events come to an end, but our dear friends... those brilliant people at Children's Books Ireland... have begun another extravaganza to keep all the enthusiasm for children's literature rocking on through the cold winter months. (No better time to curl up with a good book, is there? Or to venture out for a good story telling event, for that matter!)
From November 23rd through the 19th of December, The Ark (A Cultural Centre for Children) on Eustace Street in Dublin will be playing host to a number top children's writers; such as Derek Landy, Philip Ardagh, Mary Arrigan, John Boyne and Roddy Doyle....; and top storytellers; such as Pat Ryan, Liz Weir, Niall de Burca.....; to take part in a unique celebration of the story. There will be exclusive story-telling sessions, workshops for those who want to explore the possibilities of writing and recording their own stories or enjoying those left by others. A true hive of activity.... there is so much going on at the Ark during this time, I couldn't possibility list it all here.
But here's the link so you can check out the full programme of activities yourselves (please, do, it's an amazing event series!)

A Farewell To October

As it is now time to bid farewll to my favourite month of the year, I must play a bit of catch-up before the doors shut completely on this month of festivals dedicated to children's literature.

The Children's Book Festival is done, with many happy faces from all the brilliant events everywhere... and here in Galway, Baboro is but a mere memory. I did however want to treat you to a few photographs from the Macnas Moments offered at Baboro.
Along with all the other fantastic performances, readings and exhibitions, as the week ended, we, at Dubray Books on Shop Street, had some very unusual occupants in our window. It seems that the characters from the Series of Unfortunate Events were searching high and low across Galway to find the books that were their own. Aided by children and their families, they were on tour until they arrives at the right book for each. I think I can speak for Count Olaf (as he can't speak for himself at the moment) in saying he was both delighted and relieved to find his book in our window. And I think I can speak for the children of Galway (you have read the books, right?) in saying that we are all both delighted and very relieved that Count Olaf was duly placed back in his book where he belongs..... 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Red House Children's Book Award

The results are in and counted and the Red House Children's Book Award winners has been announced!
The overall winner comes from the category of 'Older Readers' is 'Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins. The other nominees in the Older Readers category were: 'Auslander' by Paul Dowswell and 'Love, Aubrey' by Suzanne LaFleur.
Category winners and nominees were as follows:
For the Younger Readers, the winner is 'Mondays Are Murder' by Tanya Landman. Also nominated in that category were 'Angel Cake' by Cathy Cassidy and 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw' by Jeff Kinney.
In the category of Younger Children, the winner is ' Bottoms Up!' by Jeanne Willis and Adam Stower. Others nominated were 'The Baby Dragon-Tamer' by Jan Fearnley, 'Crunch Munch Dinosaur Lunch' by Paul Bright & Mike Terry and 'A Very Strange Creature' by Ronda Armitage & Layn Marlow.
The Red House Children's Book Award is given annually in three categories. It is the only award that is judged entirely by children from nominations through to the final overall winner. The top 50 titles nominated in each year are published as the 'Pick of the Year' list. (Agreat way to find out what the children themselves are thinking about their books!)
The Red House Children's Book Awards have a great website which gives all the information on the current and past winners, who they are, what they do, travelling exhibitions and even how to nominate for the next years awards...and an on-line newsletter to subscribe, in order to keep up with all the latest children's thinking on great books! Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

JK Rowling Wins Hans Christian Andersen Literature Prize

Announced on October 20, JK Rowling has become the first winner of a new Danish award, the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. The prize, which is distinct from the much coveted Hans Christian Andersen medal awarded to David Almond earlier this year, is given to a writer whose work can be compared to that of Andersen in that it's characters and themes speak to enduring appeal. Speaking at the awards ceremony in Odense, Andersen's birthplace, Rowling said she was "humbled and deeply honoured" to become the first winner of the prize.
"Hans Christian Andersen is a writer I revere, because his work was of that rare order that seems to transcend authorship..."
Rowling went on to praise Andersen's "indestructible, eternal characters."
Many congratulations, Ms. Rowling!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Children's Authors In School Visits

This article from The Guardian on 18th October presents a view of the current trend for children's authors in school visits. While some of the article seems a little cynical (re: the view that children's authors are a marketing tool - This may be true, for who could represent a book better than it's author?), this would not be the main emphasis here. When a children's author goes into a school, they introduce and reinforce something that any teacher, who is by necessity adhering to a curriculum and a time schedule, finds it difficult at times to get across. Reading is fun.
"We're in the enviable position of being able to prove that reading and writing is fun: a teacher could battle for weeks to get a child to read something, only for an author to come in one morning and talk about giant robots, (and if they were Neill Cameron, draw them), and suddenly books are fabulous."
These wonderful people go into schools and libraries and bookshops and bring their books to life for us all. As they engage with their audience, they bring an enthusiasm to reading that teaching can't possibly get across. And the children then bring that back into the classroom with them.... and they take it forward into their lives.
Like Alex Milway (the author of this article and author of 'The Mousehunter' and 'The Mythical 9th Division'), we rarely had interesting visitors in the classroom. Authors seemed to be residents of a land far, far away... or they were dead. But now, authors spend a lot of their time in the schools, engaging with young people and inspiring a new generation of readers and writers. As I prepare to go past the Christmas crazy season in the bookshop into the schedule of World Book Day events (the first week of March), I'm extremely grateful and endlessly excited about these wonderful people (I wonder who will be there this year?) who come and share their gift with the (massive numbers of) school children who attend every year. What a great gift!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Obituary: Eva Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson 1926 - 2010
I'm very sad to report the death of Eva Ibbotson, one of the finest children's authors today. Her career as a writer spanned three decades and included such marvelous books as : The Star of Kazan, Journey to the River Sea, A Company of Swans, The Morning Gift, The Secret Countess.... I could go on and on. Each and every book she penned was exquisite, which beautiful flowing writing, memorable characters and exceptional insight into children's literature. Her latest book, The Ogre of Oglefort, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction prize 2010.
Born in Vienna, Ibbotson moved to England at the age of eight in 1934. She died at her home in Newcastle on October 20th at the age of 85. She will be truly missed, but leaves behind an amazing legacy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Triumph for 'The Sky Is Everywhere'

This just in from Jandy Nelson on her amazing first novel 'The Sky Is Everywhere'. I'm going to quote Jandy from her Facebook page....
"Yowza! Crazy news! The Sky Is Everywhere made Round One of Grammy nominees for best Spoken Word Album. If you happen to know anyone in the music industry with Grammy voting rights: It's in Field 17, Category 78, Best Spoken Word Album. The next round vote is December 1st. So wild!"
Wild, indeed!!! I'm so pleased for Jandy and have my fingers crossed. And while, as she says herself, it's only round one of the nominations and it's unclear as to how many rounds of nominations there actually are, it is still very exciting and a great honour!
Well done, Jandy! I'm cheering for you already!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Guardian Plans Site For Young Readers

This was brought to my attention via the wonderful Maeve Friel, and I totally agree with her, it could be very good, indeed. I just had to get it on the blog ASAP. It's probably best if I just copy and paste here.... so, from TheGuardian, Books, Thursday 14th October 2010 (link below).....
"Inspired by the enthusiasm of the young critics who last week helped critique and judge the Guardian children's fiction prize, we are in the early stages of creating a dedicated book site where younger readers can review and discuss the books and authors they enjoy reading.
We plan to have reviews from our young readers of the latest YA and children's books, author interviews, games and competitions. But as this is a brand new venture, we are looking for people interested in helping us to design our new Young Guardian Books website. If you, or someone you know, would like to be involved, just send us an email telling us about the books and authors you like, and what you'd like to see on the site (please include your name and age). From the entries, we'll pick a panel of editors who will be responsible for deciding which books to review and discuss.
Send your applications to" 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Get "Enchanted" with Baboro

Today's lunchtime treat was to visit the Galway City Museum for the wonderful "Enchanted" exhibition! Celebrating the children's book illustration, "Enchanted" displays the work of five incredible, popular Irish authors: Annie West, Bruce Ingman, Oisin McGann, Adrienne Geoghehan and Niamh Sharkey. The setting for this exhibition creates an atmosphere that is peaceful and personal and gives time for the illustrations to create their delightful impact. A must visit at Baboro!!!!
Here are a few of my favourites......
'The Ravenous Beast' by Niamh Sharkey
detail from 'Birdie Tree' by Adrienne Geoghehan
from 'Moxey' by Annie West
Wednesday events include: Gugalai Gug!-Beo, Walter Speazlebud (David Donohue) and the Gingerbread Man!!! The exhibitions are here all week!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baboro Is Here!!!!

Welcome to the first day of the Baboro International Arts Festival for Children! All week, there are wonderful, magical events taking place all over the city for the young and the young at heart.
Altough I was working today, at lunch time, I popped out to the Eyre Square Shopping Centre to have a quick view of the "Reminders of Then" exhibition by artist Morgan O'Brien. While it may be small in terms of quantity... and the size of the work itself.... this exhibition is BIG on quality. Absolutely beautiful, personal work that echoes "the wonderfully perfect and concentrated view of the world a young child manages to transfer to paper." The art of young children is a major inspiration for O'Brien and his work shows it's freshness and immediacy.
O'Brien is also welcomed back as the artist for the 2010 Baboro brochure. Absolutely delightful!

Week Two: Children's Book Festival 2010

As week two of the Children's Book Festival begins, I wanted to remind you all of the very special webcast tomorrow. our first Children's Laureate (Laureate na nOg) Siobhan Parkinson will be in conversation with Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Bisto award winning author/illustrator) broadcasting from the South Dublin Libraries. To take part, just visit  tomorrow at 11.30 am.! It's that easy and a brilliant way to bring a bit of the Bookfest to your classroom, library...or even to your own home!
For more information on other Bookfest events, visit the festiva blog via the CBI website.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Michelle Paver Wins Guardian Children's Fiction Prize

Like it says on the tin....Michelle Paver has won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2010 for "Ghost Hunter", the brilliant culmination of her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series that began six books ago with "Wolf Brother".
Julia Eccleshare, chairman of the judging panel said,
"It's relatively rare for a book late in a series to win a major prize, but the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness is such a towering achievement, as a whole as well as in terms of the individual books, that it was our unanimous choice."
From the beginning of this series, I began recommending it to just about everybody. Consistant in quality of writing, character development and inthe flow and intrique of the plotline, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, as a series is absolutely magnificent.
Congratulations to Michelle Paver!!!! Couldn't be more pleased.

Baboro : International Arts Festival for Children 2010

AND... as it's time for Bookfest, that must mean that it's also festival time here in Galway. Sure enough, next week, from the 11th to 17th of October, Baboro International Arts festival for Children will be entertaining and delighting us all for it's 14th year running. This year we have dance, music, theatre, puppetry.... generally speaking magic and fun everywhere. The Very Hungry Caterpillar will be gracing the stage of the Town Hall Theatre. The Gingerbread Man will be on at Druid Lane. The Secret Garden will be discovered at the Nun's Island Theatre. The fantastic authors sharing their work with us this year will be Patricia Forde (Frogs Do Not Like Dragons...yayyy!), David Donohue and Niamh Sharkey (On The Road With Mavis and Marge!) There will also be some incredible exhibitions on hand, including 'Enchanted' at the Galway City Museum, featuring the illustrations of Annie West, Adrienne Geoghegan, Bruce Ingman, Oisin McGann and Niamh Sharkey.
I also want to point out an event to the adults who work with children, parents and teachers, out there. On Friday the 15th, there will be a special panel discussion on in the Town Hall Studio at 5pm entitled "Talking about.... the Arts for the Early Years." As there is a growing interest worldwide in the arts for young children, I think this is a can't miss. Artists from three of the companies at Baboro will be discussing the creation of their work and the response to it. Great stuff!
You can find the Baboro brochure just about anywhere in Galway or here's the website.......


Just a quick reminder.....
This year's cover, featuring the art of Kevin Waldron
As most of you already know, the Children's Book Festival is well under way. Every year, throughout the month of October, Ireland turns it's attention to children's literature with events taking place all over the country. The festival is now in it's 20th year and, as always, offers young readers (and older readers who are fans of children's books) the opportunity to meet their favourite authors, attend talks and workshops, storytelling sessions abound and of course there are competitions. For example, O'Brien Press is running it's 'Design-A-Cover' competition. For the third year, the good people at O'Brien Press are giving young designers a chance to see their artwork featured on the cover of a published book. This year, they are looking to re-jacket October Moon, a classic horror novel by Michael Scott. (closing date November 1, 2010) For more details on this, and other competitions as well as hundreds of reviews and recommendations on children's books published late 2009 and throughout 2010, pick up a copy of 'BookFest', CBI's recommended reading guide for 2010. It's free and available in bookshops everywhere. To find out more about events taking place in your area, log on to the Children's Books Ireland website. They'll have all you need to know!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Niamh Sharkey's Favourite Things!

From today's Herald, there's a wonderful interview all about Niamh Sharkey's favourite things. Niamh's new picturebook 'On the Road With Mavis and Marge' is out now and, as I've said before, it's wonderful. This was my picturebook of the week when it first came out. During the Children's Bookfest, Niamh will be here there and everywhere reading to children and their families (and some schools, I hope). She'll be in Galway on Saturday, 16th October at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, Middle Street at 10.30 am and 1 pm as part of the Baboro International arts Festival for Children. (I'm soooo jealous, guys.) So be sure to catch her, if you can. In the meantime, follow this link for some great insight into Niamh and her brilliant work. (p.s. to Niamh...I love the Ravenous Beast in all his forms and I'm a huge Moomin fan, too.)
(You can find my recommendation of '...Mavis and Marge' on my Picture Books page.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Plethora of Children's Lit Prizes (shortlists)

There's been a lot of activity in the Children's Literature Prize area lately. With dates looming closer, the shortlists have been announced.
First for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize to be announced on 8th October; the shortlist is
1) Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver. This is the sixth and final book in the amazing Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Beginning with Wolf Brother, this series follows the life of Torak, orphaned and ostracised from his clan in a land 6000 years ago. It has been consistently brilliant throughout, and the last book was gripping and enthralling.
2) Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes is an extraordinary story tracing the journey of two orphans, 10 year old 'Rat' and her brother, Bob, as they hitch a lift from Winnipeg, Ontario to New York in search of their uncle, knowing only his name and that he is a 'drug-dealer'.
3)Now by Morris Gleitzman is the third book in his series centred around the Holocaust and conclues the story of childhood friends, Felix and Zelda. Felix is now a very old man and his granddaughter, Zelda (named for his old and treasured friend) shows unique bravery and stamina in standing up to school bullying and dealing with terrifying forest fires.
4) The Ogre of Oglefort by Eva Ibbotson offers some relief ffrom the highly serious subject matters of the others, while maintaining the highest standards of writing and story-telling. Four unusual companions set out to rescue a princess from an ogre, who is not at all what he seems. But then, the princess is something of a surprise, as well.
The Booktrust Teenage Prize 2010 has also just announced it's shortlist of six books, with the prize to be announced on 1 November 2010. The nominees are:
1)Halo by Zizou Corder
2)The Enemy by Charlie Higson
3)Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes
4)Nobody's Girl by Sarah Manning
5)Revolver by Marcus Sedgewick
6) Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
And one final mention for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. There are two shortlists involved here, so for the sake of blog space, I'll just give you a few of my favourites and the link to the site.
For the Funniest Book for ages 6 and under:  I really love the wonderful picture book Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. (My review for this one is one my Picturebooks page.) Also, One Smart Fish by the magnificent author/illustrator Chris Wormell.
In the Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen Years (quite an age range there): I really love the Clumies Make A Mess by  Sorrel Anderson (My review for this is on the What Ae You Reading page.) And here's the link.....