Saturday, November 30, 2013

Closing Michael Morpurgo Month & Picture Book Month

The end of November brings the close of what was both Michaael Morpurgo Month and Picture Book Month. I hope you have spent time reviewing and enjoying your favourites of both.

For the last day of Michael Morpurgo Month, today's book is Kaspar, Prince of Cats; the incredible story of Johnny Trott, bellboy at the Savoy Hotel who is entrusted with the care of Kaspar, Countess Kandinsky's cat and their worldwide journey together that ultimately leads the onboard the Titanic. Enthralling stuff! But then, all of Morpurgos' books are enthralling... he is truly one of the most gifted storytellers of our time.

As we come to the close of Picture Book Month, I want to mention the last two author/illustrators to share Why Picture Books Are Important.
Yesterday, the delightful Mercer Mayer (and his Little Critter) shared a few brief words on the importance of picture books. Mercer Mayer is an old personal favourite of mine. I loved his books as a child and when my children were children. Since 1966, he has  published over 300 titles of the most enthusiastic creatures and the daily, ordinary adventures (which, of course, are not so ordinary) to which everyone can relate. Just For You was read and reread so many times in my house that I can still remember, not the words so much, but the pictures page by page! I hope the Picture Book Month folks don't mind, but I've just copied his entry here.
As for the final thoughts on Why Picture Books Are Important,
these are offered today by Jerry Pinkney. Pinkney is one of the most lauded illustrators of our time. He has the unique distinction of having 5 Caldecott Award honours, including being the winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal Winner for The Lion & The Mouse; a stunning wordless picture book that children and their grown-ups spend hours over, pondering, dreaming and absorbing this story told only through the artwork.
Here's a brief quote from Pinkneys' thoughts on picture books:
"Children learn to read pictures before they learn to sound out words or read full sentences, and for the very young, the partnership between pictures and text helps them take in and find pleasure in a narrative. It also stimulates a child’s desire to read words, and in this way, deciphering and understanding art becomes a small victory on the path to becoming a reader."
That small victory is probably the most significant step on that path. The gift of visual literacy is something that stays with you throughout your life; enriching and enhancing any other skills you attain along the way. I have always felt that we remove picture books from our childrens' lives far too early. These books aren't just for pre-readers, they are for us all, enchanting and delighting us while gently encouraging a greater understanding of what we see around us; giving us the opportunity to develop an interpretive skill that serves us well.
I hope you have re-approached Michael Morpurgo's work with a greater enthusiasm and an increased number of picture books have entered your lives this month. And that you continue to do so!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Also.... Last Week of Picture Book Month

We have also been celebrating the wonder of picture books this November and are now in the last week of Picture Book Month (as you may have heard!)
Today's entry of Why Picture Books Are Important is written by April Pulley Sayre.

"Of course, how we read picture books—together with loving grandparents, parents, teachers, and librarians—makes picture books a beautiful kind of bonding."

What a lovely and urgently important message! In a world that is all too frequently hurried and hassled, picture books are the perfect opportunity for reconnection and deeper bonding, creating a memory of warmth and comfort that every child will carry with them throughout their lives... and every parent and grandparent will cherish as the years go by. You will never be alone again!

What is your favourite picture book memory?

Last Week... Michael Morpurgo Month

We have entered the last week of Michael Morpurgo Month: celebrating 70 years of this incredible storyteller. Morpurgo has written books for all ages; each one memorable. His body of work encompasses over 120 books since the early 1970's.
Each week, Michael Morpurgo Month has focused on a different theme in his books. This final week, the emphasis is on 'Voyages'; beginning with the beautiful Kensuke's Kingdom, a stunning classic that reads like a dream.
Also included this week will be Alone on a Wide, Wide Sea, Twist of Gold and Kaspar, Prince of Cats.
Take these last few days to bring more Morpurgo into your life.... magic of the most wonderful kind.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Picture Book Month continues... with Rebecca Emberly

Today's post on the Picture Book Month site is by Rebecca Emberly. Rebecca has been writing and illustrating picture books for a number of years now, and she's part of an amazing, creative family. He father, Ed Emberly is an absolute icon in the world of picture books. Her brother is Michael Emberly, another prolific children's illustrator and her sister-in-law is the one and only Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick. But Rebecca is a giant in her own right, having written and illustrated over 20 beautiful picture books for young children. Her illustration art is fantastic, using bright clear colours and patterns that amuse and intrigue. Here's a quote from what Rebecca has to say on Picture Book Month:
"The marriage of words and pictures is magical. Long before a child can read, they look at pictures and listen to the sounds you make when reading to them. It brings the world into perspective for a child in a way that nothing else can, while still allowing them to interpret what they see in their own unique way...." 

And do visit Rebecca Emberly's own website to find out more about her and her books. (p.s. My favourite is still The Lion and the Mice, written in conjunction with Ed Emberly; though I will definitely be looking for The Itsy Bitsy Spider!) 

Monday, November 11, 2013

And speaking of Picture Books....

And speaking of picture books, here's the link for the New York Times Best Illustrated Books 2013! What a wonderful list! It includes Fog Island by Tomi Ungerer, My Brother's Book by Maurice Sendak, The Dark by Lemony Snicket/illustrated by Jon Klassen and the completely sumptuous Journey by Aaron Becker (review on my Picture Book page.). Wow...just wow!

Picture Book Month Calendar

I know you know it's Picture Book Month by now. I did want to include, at this time, the Picture Book Month Calendar. This outlines which Picture Book Champions will be sharing their thoughts each day throughout November. And you can always go back in time on the site and read or reread any entry from your favourite champion. The first was by the wonderful Tomie DePaolo. Rosemary Wells was there on the 8th. Upcoming exciting author/illustrators include Rebecca Emberly on the 22nd! (She'll be writing on the topic of 'Bugs') And an old family favourite of ours, Mercer Mayer, whose books have delighted us for years is upcoming on the 29th November with his entry on 'Monsters'! Something for every single one of us... ENJOY!

Friday, November 8, 2013

CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medal 2014 Nominations Announced

All submissions are in and the (rather extensive) lists for both the CILIP Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal 2014 have been announced. I'm not going to recount the entire list(s) here, because of space considerations. But I will mention a few of my favourites included on the lists.
The criteria for these very prestigious and minutely considered awards are very specific. Even to be nominated is an amazing honour for an author or illustrator.

For the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2014, the list includes:
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Mouse Bird Snake Wolf by David Almond
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
Check out the link below for the complete longlist.

On the list for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2014, you'll find included
The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson/ illustrator Rebecca Cobb
When It Snows by Richard Collingridge
King of Space by Jonny Duddle
The Mysterious Traveller by Mal Peet & Elsbeth Graham/ illustrator PJ Lynch
Phoenix by S. F. Said/ illustrator: David McKean
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham/ illustrator: David Roberts
Oliver by Birgitte Sif
And for the complete longlist, here's the link:

Both lists are filled with amazing books for all ages. I've managed to make my way through most of them over the last year. I'm absolutely delighted that I'm not one of the judges whose responsibility it is to whittle this list down to the shortlist and ultimately the winners... the job would be too difficult.
Best of luck to all of the nominees!

Rosemary Wells on the Importance of Picture Books

Today's post on Picture Book Month is written by none other than long-time picture book champion, Rosemary Wells. Wells' warm and timeless books have always been a favourite in my house, and I'm sure so many of you reading this have been familiar with her books from your own childhood. In her lifetime, she has produced over 130 books for children of all ages.

My favourite? Noisy Nora! This is a wonderful picture book that chronicles the experience of being the young child in the middle... Jack the baby gets loads of attention; her older sister is soooo clever (and so bossy), so all Nora can do is make a lot of noise. But what happens when Nora decides to leave?
Here's a bit of what Wells has to say on the topic "Why Picture Books Are Important":
"Picture books teach the child to imagine a world which is not immediately present.
They create a huge opportunity for parents to share golden talk time with their kids. Nothing on a screen can do this."
For more, just follow the link:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Don't Forget: It's Picture Book Month

I really can't praise this initiative enough and I want everyone to get on board. Picture books are important in the lives of our children... and in our own lives. Picture books are a child's first exposure to literacy, art, to life experience.. to understanding the world. That simple act that we all take for granted (and in an IT world... sometimes distain) of turning the page does more for the development of a child than we realise. One of my own enduring memories is that of sitting on the floor in the front room with my books.... MY books... and turning the page; back and forth pondering for hours the intricacies of the pictures within, studying the faces and the scenes to glean every last detail and always finding something new! (Though, of course, at the time I would not have expressed it as such. I was just "reading".)
Each day the Picture Book Month website includes a post from a different Picture Book Champion. Though I'd include a few quotes here to get you up to speed....

"The main difference between book illustration and film, TV or electronic media is the frantic pace of the one and the stillness of the other. The importance of stillness versus frantic action is of the utmost in the intellectual and emotional welfare of our young children. We already face the problems of hyperactivity and lack of focus."    Tomie dePaolo  Nov 1, 2013

"I vividly remember not only turning each consecutive page, but I remember turning the pages back and forth and back again, checking for clues of what was to come. Even at that young age, I was absolutely fascinated that time and space could be manipulated – with a simple turn of the page, I could go back in time and when I did, I’d almost always discover something I’d missed before."
Laura Vaccoro Seeger  Nov 5, 2013

"Picture books give the reader a chance to be a part of the story, controlling the pace by deciding when to turn the page, when to linger over a special word or sentence, when to leap ahead or jump back in the story, and when a book is really good, to turn back to page one and start reading all over again. In real life, we can’t do these things. That’s why books are magic!"  Daniel Kirk Nov 6, 2013

Little Island Book Sale

Here's another quick entry, just to alert you all...there is so much going on in the world of children's books at the moment.
Those brave and wonderful people at Little Island are having a sale for teachers and schools. Check this out!
Fantastic books; all of them!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


This is just a quick shout out... wouldn't want you to miss it!
Today is the day! The day you've been waiting for...... OUT NOW...right now!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: HARD LUCK

You just can't keep a Wimpy Kid down... though, given all he's been through, I'm not so sure he's all THAT wimpy.....

(And now for my ever present plea: This will be available in every bookshop on the planet. Please support your local independent bookshop.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's Also Picture Book Month!

November is also designated as Picture Book Month! This is an international initiative that sets out to celebrate the picture book in print form. The world needs picture books.  In a digital age, we are being sold the idea that printed books are becoming a thing of the past...outmoded and unnecessary. Not true, I say! And especially not true of picture books.There is nothing more satisfying, no memory evoked so strongly throughout life as the turning of a physical page in a picture book. The instigation of visual literacy is what fires us on to be able to read at all, and reading a picture is where it all starts...and where it continues. It is in fact our first experience of art in our lives. So important in many ways, I was absolutely delighted to learn of this initiative and invite you all to celebrate November with your favourite picture books. (By the way...I shouldn't have to say this but you are never....NEVER...too old for picture books!)
Here's the link to the Picture Book Month website, where everyday you'll find a new post from a picture book champion, a Picture Book Month teacher's guide, a host of activities, a calender and so much more. Even the opportunity to become a Picture Book Ambassador yourself! Join, read, enjoy, share!

Welcome to Michael Morpurgo Month!

Here we are in November; nearly at the year's close. And this is quite a special November. This November is Michael Morpurgo Month! In honour of his 70th birthday (which occurred on the %th of October), this November has been designated to honour one of the most prolific and well-loved children's authors of all time. Each day throughout November, a different book will be highlighted. (As it's the 3rd, today's book is The Dancing Bear.) Also, there are online interviews and events with Mr. Morpurgo himself.
His books have truly charmed and fascinated us all for many, many years. Take time this month to read and reread your favourites. Some favourite old titles have been relaunched with new covers and a new bind-up collection; Of Lions and Unicorns: A Lifetime of Tales from the Master Storyteller, is available now containing the most comprehensive collection of Morpurgo writing to date.
The website will give you every bit of information you need to know about Michael Morpurgo Month and the books and the man himself. What will YOU read? (Personally, I'm going to start with The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.... or maybe his retelling of Beowulf... so much to chose from!)