Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Who's A Happy Hugglewug, Then?

Disney's London based production base has given the go-ahead for a new animated series 'The Happy Hugglemonsters' which will premiere in August 2012 on Disney Junior and will be airing in over 150 countries worldwide. This 52x11 minute series, aimed at preschool children, is based on the wonderful picture book 'I'm A Happy Hugglewug' by our wonderful, wonderful Niamh Sharkey.
And if all of that isn't enough to make you happy, the series will be produced by Brown Bag Films' Dublin-based studio.... making Happy Hugglewugs out of us all.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Some of My Christmas and Winter Favourites

We're at one week and counting until the big day! Every year, I always bring home one special book for the season, and my collection is growing exponentially. I'd like to take a moment to share with you a few of my favourites over the years. These books come out year after year for the whole family to enjoy. I hope you enjoy them as well.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This book needs no introduction, but I need to add that my very favourite edition of this is the one illustrated by PJ Lynch...beautiful and evocative!

Twas the Night Before Christmas illustrated by Matt Tavares
Again, a story that needs no introduction and there are numerous editions available, with new editions published nearly every year. For me, the edition that sums up the time and the spirit of this story is illustrated in black and white by Matt Tavares. Timeless!

North Child by Edith Pattou
North Child is not really a Christmas story, but it is a beautiful and eloquent winters' tale. Based on the old fairy tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Pattou tells the story of Rose, born the eighth child of a poor family, who is sent off with the White Bear to live in a castle in a mountain and break the enchantment that holds the Bear hostage. An exceptionally written novel for ages 10 years and up, this is one of my very favourite books.

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
What a wonderful book for the younger children and the young at heart! It's Christmas Eve and the Jolly Postman is making some very special deliveries to some very familiar friends. Each page contains a letter to open (who doesn't like opening other people's post?); each one with a small gift... puzzles, games, pop-up cards. Just wonderful.

The Christmas Bear by Henrietta Stickland
Beautifully illustrated, Little Bear lives at the top of the world. When he accidentally falls into Santa's workshop one night, it's the start of an amazing adventure. Watch out for that naughty penguin... where's he got to now?

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
It just isn't Christmas, or winter for that matter, without The Snowman. Being a traditionalist (about some things, anyway) I strongly suggest picking up a copy without words. This is a book that the children (and me!... and maybe you, too.) will spend hours and hours pouring over the pages. A real memory to treasure.

Tumtum and Nutmeg's Christmas Adventure by Emily Bearn
Our friendly and intrepid mice are at it again. This adventure sees them out to deliver Lucy and Arthurs' letters to father Christmas wit the assistance of the terrifying Baron Toymouse in Toyland... and then there's those clockwork cats to contend with. Will Father Christmas receive the childrens' letters in time? A brilliant novel for younger children.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

R.I.P. Russell Hoban

True legend and most beloved author Russell Hoban has passed away at the age of 86. While his work was prolific to say the least, and he wrote across many genres, Hoban found his biggest comercial success with his children's books: The Mouse and His Child, The Marzipan Pig, and (my personal favourites) the Frances the Badger series: Bedtime for Frances was read over and over in our home.
It is fair to say that Hoban could be described as a maverick writer with truly original, creative gifts and talents and a unique ability to turn a plotline. His vision was truly unique in all his writing.
Hoban died last evening, 13th December. His unique vision, which was easily expressed in all his writings, will be remembered with great love and joy, and he will be truly missed.
Russell Hoban - born 4 February, 1925 died 13 December, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Guardian Children's Advent Calendar

It may be the 14th of December (where does the time go?), but it's not too late to check out the Guardian's Advent Calendar... even if you  have to play a bit of catch up.... Harry Potter quiz, decorate the tree, listen to clips from some of your favourite children's/YA authors; there are 24 ways to count down the remaining days with all kinds of book-related fun. Have you learned how to draw a penguin yet?

Sarah Webb's Guide to Great Books for Christmas

If you're still in a quandary as to what books the kids will be looking for this Christmas, check out Sarah Webb's suggestions in today's Independent. It's a great place to start and will set you straight as to what's great out there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brand New and Brilliant!

Here's a few of the stunning brand new books out 9over the last couple of months) for various age groups. Each one is truly fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable:
The Windvale Sprites by Mackenzie Crook
The morning after a storm has swept across the country, Asa wakes up to two shocking discoveries. The first is that his sleepy little village, Windvale, is now completely unrecognisable due to all the damage. The second...among the debris that is now his back garden, Asa finds a tiny winged body; and it's not an insect. It appears to be a fairy. But fairies don't really exist... or do they? Fabulous story with marvellous illustrations throughout, all done by the author.

The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon
Freya is an ordinary, contemporary school girl, living in a contemporary world with one very big difference.... the people still worship the ancient Norse gods. One night, while stuck with her father as he works the night shift in the British Museum, Freya finds herself inexplicably drawn to an ancient Viking horn. When she blows the horn, Freya, along with 3 chess pieces come to life, is immediately transported to Asgard. There she is charged with a dangerous mission, but one she can't refuse... to save the gods, herself, and the rest of the world. Dramatic, funny, rollicking adventure from the author of the Horrid Henry books for ages 8 to 12 years.
The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck
An enchanting, thoroughly magical new fairy tale. Beck weaves the story of flame-haired Charity, who has grown up in her huge house (most of which she is forbidden to enter) with no friends other than her cat, due to a 'condition' she apparently suffers from. All of her young life, Charity has had a reoccurring dream of a corridor hidden somewhere in the house. When she discovers the corridor and enters it, she realises that everything is not exactly as she's always been lead to believe. Superb book for ages 8 to 12 years.

Ruby Redfort..Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child
Ruby Redfort, 13 year old schoolgirl, is also a genius codebreaker,a bit of a detective, and a serious handful for her parents and teachers. This character was first introduced in the Clarice Bean novels and is now featuring in her first book, along with some very bad bad guys, a housekeeper who has disappeared, secret agents and a very loyal, and long-suffering best friend, Clancy. Hilarious spy adventure, not unlike the Nancy Drew stories... just more contemporary and very funny.
Deep, Deep Down by Garrett Carr
Andrew, Ewan and May (from The Badness of Ballydog and Lost Dogs) are back! In the mountains, by a serene, beautiful lake, life couldn't be more ideal. People live long and happy lives... in fact, they live much too long. But our three intrepid friends are about to put an end to all of that. That is, of course, unless the secret, hidden monster living at the bottom of the lake puts an end to them first. This entire series is tension-filled and really gripping.. and this one, I think it may be my favourite of the lot. Truly frightening, and a great read. For ages 11 years +.

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner
For young adult readers, I'm not going to say too much about this book, because I've already talked endlessly about it. An exquisitely written historical/sci-fi-esque novel that consumes it's genres  and turns them into something really rare. Brilliant writing and a wholly unique concept make this a must read for ages 14+.

 Runelight by Joanne Harris
Those Norse gods (from her previous Runemarks) are back again, and, as usual, they are squabbling and fighting amongst themselves, while using us mere mortals as pawns in their game. The heroine this time is the feisty, fiery Maggie, a girl the same age as Maddy, but raised a world apart. A conflict between the two girls, a chilling, eerie prophecy from the oracle and twelve days until the end of the world! What more is there to say? Read this book and it's predecessor.... fabulous!

Monday, December 5, 2011

review: Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent

Just a quick link for you all. I've had another review published on The Bookbag. Here's the link for my review of the fabulous 'Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent' by Alan Early, published by The Mercier Press. This is the first book of the 'Father of Lies Chronicles', and frankly... after reading this one, I just can't wait for book two!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Books for Sharing.....

Nothing helps young readers develop more than being read to at home. It helps them in school, helps their literacy and their imagination grow, and it creates a lifetime of memories and a deep love of books. Here's a few suggestions from this years' books for the whole family to gift, own and enjoy (in no particular order.)

Sally Go Round The Stars by Sarah Webb & Claire Ranson, illustrated by Steve McCarthy
A real treasure trove of traditional Irish rhymes from everybodys' childhood. This beautifully illustrated book will bring another generation of young readers the rhymes we knew from our own youths'. Pure delight! This is a must have for your home collection! (Royalties from this book all go to the National Children's Hospital Tallaght).

Nursery Rhymes (with CD) by The Speks
Loads of old nursery rhymes set to traditional Irish music, this will have the whole family up and dancing and singing along. Just brilliant! (And if you haven't caught one of the Speks gigs, yet, look out for them next year.... they're currently stuck on Glasses Island due to the winter weather!)

Again! by Emily Gravett
It's time for little dragon to go to sleep, so of course the favourite bedtime story is a must. But once is never enough. When Mummy dragon falls asleep from sheer exhaustion, there are extraordinary consequences to not heeding the pleas of AGAIN! AGAIN! A tale to which every child and their parents can relate, this is destined to become a firm favourite.

The Magic Beans by Julia Donaldson, Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo... et al
The very best authors in childrens' fiction have given us a dazzling anthology of tales to delight, entertain and infuse the imaginations of readers young and old. Rather than original writings, the authors have re-crafted the traditional stories that inspired and enthused them as children.

Even My Ears Are Smiling by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Babette Cole
No one can write poems that speak to the hearts and minds of children like Michael Rosen. Here's his new collection of poems that are insightful, accessible and just plain fun! The contemporary, quirky illustrations by Babette Cole work in perfect complement to Rosen's trademark voice.

The Highway Rat by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler
The Highway Rat is a thief extraordinaire. He steals from all and shares with no one. None of the animals are safe from his greed and stealth. But will he finally meet his match in the form of a cunning duck? Rollicking, rhythmic... a classic from the team that gave us the Gruffalo.

The Cat and the Fiddle by Jackie Morris
This is a purely beautiful and elegant collection of nursery rhymes with exquisite illustrations, each one a perfect work of art. As you read through the book, watch each page closely where you find illustrated references of previous pages. This allows this book to become a journey through the land of rhyme... and a book that will be taken down and leisurely pondered through for hours on end.

Wanted: the Perfect Pet by Fiona Robertson
Henry wants a dog more than anything else in the world, so he takes out an ad in the newspaper to find 'the perfect pet'. Far away a lonely duck wants to be the perfect pet, but can't seem to find a home. Then the duck sees the ad and comes up with a (not so cunning) plan. This book is heart-warming and, frankly, hysterical!

Lost In The Toy Museum by David Lucas
Ever wondered what happens when at night in the toy museum when the visitors go home and the lights go out? Bunting, the old and very sensible cat does his best to keep an eye on everything, but all the other toys just want to have some fun! Wonderful storyline matched with great, colourful, contemporary illustrations make this one to read again and again.

Usborne Illustrated Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales
Twelve classic fairy tales from the pen of Hans Christian Andersen, retold for younger children and illustrated with pure enchantment, this is another in the Usborne Illustrated Story collection... all of which deserve a place on the family bookshelf to share with all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December!!!

It's December 1st and the holiday shopping season is now in full swing. We've got the Late, Late Toy Show tomorrow night, and there have been loads of recommendations in the press and online lately in regards to which books to gift this season. (It was also really interesting to learn that, this year, here in Ireland, the gifts we all most want to receive is....BOOKS!) I just thought I'd add to the mix with a few suggestions of my own.
These are not necessarily echoing the recommendations already made by many of my brilliant colleagues and friends in the book business. I thought I'd try to have some alternatives that haven't received as much recognition...though I think you'll find that's not necessarily true, either.
Anyway.. today, I'm going to recommend some series. I'm frequently asked about series at work. It makes sense. You're looking for something that will really excite your favourite young people about reading, and if there is more than one book, you can keep them reading and enthusiastic. So, while the obvious choices are receiving loads of recognition, and the kids are really enjoying Wimpy Kid (Kinney), the Inheritance series (Paolini), Skulduggery Pleasant (Landy), Artemis Fowl (Colfer), Inkheart (Funke), along with all the fabulous young adult series out there... and of course Harry Potter is still going strong, here's a few others to entertain and capture the imagination.

-The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
There are eleven books in this fantastic adventure/fantasy series for ages 10+.. and girls enjoy it as much as boys do... and adults who enjoy their fantasy reads really get into it as well. Gripping and highly addictive reads!

-The Adventure Island Mysteries by Helen Moss
For ages 8 to 11 years, this is a great series that has the tone and formula of Enid Blyton, but is very contemporary. Loads of suspense and mysteries to be solved in this six book (to date) series. Wonderful reads!

-Tumtum and Nutmeg series by Emily Bearn
Tumtum and Nutmeg are two mice who have made their rather elaborate home in a disused cupboard in a cottage. The cottage is inhabited by children Lucy and Arthur and their absent-minded father. So far sounds a bit twee, doesn't it? Not at all. This exciting series for ages 7 to 10 is packed with action, adventure, a battle or two and plenty of drama. Very, very well written and a pure joy! Six books in all, plus a Christmas adventure.
- The Sister's Grimm by Michael Buckley
You'll be totally captivated by this series of 8 books (the 9th and final installment is due out in May 2012) following the life of Sabrina and Daphne Grimm: descendants of the original Brothers Grimm who have, much to their dismay, discovered that the fairy tales aren't simply fairy tales at all. The tales are actually a casebook of magical crimes. Brilliant! Ages 8 to 12

- Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane
Lane has given us great insight into the development of the world's first forensic detective, as well as 4 cracking adventures that are a must, not just for young readers, but for Sherlock fans of any age. (ages 10 +)
- The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
I'm not going to go on about this series, because I could talk/type for hours about the sheer genius at work here. Brilliant writing that is clearly the result of insightful research; a real sense of time, place, texture... following the story of Torak, an orphaned young man coming of age in a hostile and deeply mysterious world six thousand years ago. Incredibly magnificent! ages 12 +