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.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/20/andy-mulligan-trash-blue-peter

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.
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2010/1220/1224285913823.html

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!!!
http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/read-all-about-it-yule-love-these-pageturners-2458445.html

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.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/dec/11/childrens-books-present-review-roundup

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!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/dec/08/season-s-readings-the-dark-is-rising

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:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/1211/1224285250264.html

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 CBSNews.com, 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:
http://www.richtercollective.com/kimharte/

Also, you can have a listen to the broadcast itself by going to :http://www.rte.ie/radio1/todaywithpatkenny/

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.
http://www.rte.ie/radio/

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: http://www.richtercollective.com/kimharte/

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!
http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/a-christmas-list-to-fill-stockings-and-dreams-2448738.html

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 now...how 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 : http://www.renmorepantomime.com/