Monday, December 22, 2014


Interesting bit of information for all you bibliophiles...and all of us in general. In Iceland, in the run-up to Christmas, the country absolutely revels in its' annual jólabókaflóð; which is Icelandic for "Christmas book flood". This refers to the fact that new books are generally only published during the Christmas season in Iceland.
All newly published books are listed in a catalog-type annual called the Book News (bókatíðindi) and
distributed free to every household. On Christmas Eve, Icelandic people open their gifts (books, of course) and then spend the rest of the evening reading, snuggle up in bed with books and, perhaps, some chocolate. This is a traditional mainstay of the culture. The Icelandic passion for books and literature dates back to the Middle Ages. The volume of books published, purchased and read per year out-strips other countries by a significant margin. And it doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
To the good book-loving people of Iceland, I wish you a very Happy Jólabókaflod.
And to the rest of us, perhaps this is a tradition we may want to least the reading all night Christmas Eve bit.....

Getting Ready for Santa

It's been so very, very busy this year! I can hardly believe we're at the 22nd of December. At home and at work, I've still so much to and I just know that, once again (like most of you) it will be right down to the wire.
I hope you've been enjoying the Advent Calendar of Books page. It's a joy for me each Christmas season. Todays' entry had to be How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We need a little reminder this time each year to remember why we enter into all this madness. Look  at all the little Whos surrounding you; enjoy the wonder and joy in their hearts and eyes and be a little bit more like that!
As Santa will be coming in just under 2 days (depending on where you are on the globe), once again it's time to prepare to track him on his voyage...fabulous fun. A big thank you to NORAD for setting this up all those years ago.
Here's the link so you can join in.... and work out when Santa will be arriving to your home! (I get soooo excited....)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tenth of December

Happy Book-mas!
I don't know what it is about this day. When we reach the tenth of December, everything seems much more's actually happening. Here, in Galway, the weather has hit, the winds are howling, showers of rain burst out of the sky and we are all grateful to be warm... but we are all really busy!!! Don't let the rush of the season take over so easily. It's not about the's about the time. Take the time to read with your children, have hot chocolate and biscuits in the evening before bed, wear warm socks...and ENJOY! This season comes but once a year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Books for winter!

I hope you are all enjoying the Advent Calendar of Books. It is one of my favourite ways to share a selection of wonderful books to make the winter and the holidays a wondrous time. Nothing beats snuggling up with a great book. This is a habit I encourage from childhood through to old age.
In the bookshop, I've devoted a shelf in the 8-12 section. A small but fantastic selection to warm the heart, mind and imagination in the dreary winter months. I thought I'd give you all a glimpse.....
From left to right, the books are:
The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell...a favourite from last year, now out in paperback. And what a gem it is!
The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck....a magical dream of a tale that transports you from Charitys' privileged isolated world into another realm.
Winterkill by Kate Boorman...The Councils' rules are strict and suffocating, but necessary for the good of the settlement. Grave danger awaits any who venture to the other side of the wall.  But when Emmeline hears the trees beyond the wall calling, she just may find a way to escape.
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper....this is a masterpiece of a magical tale. There is a strange atmosphere in the village as Christmas approaches. But on the eve of his 12th birthday, Will makes a shocking is up to him to vanquish the evil magic of the dark and bring back the light.
Moominvalley in November and Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson...quirky, exquisite, humourous and thoughtful; the Moomin books are wonderful! These two are the perfect winter reads.
The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr....In the midst of a freezing winter, Kalinka fights to save two rare horses from Nazi extermination.
The Black North by Nigel McDowell.....Twins Oona and Morris fight to save to save the Divided Isle from savage invaders from the Dark North. Eerie and consuming; based on Irish mythology and legend.
Waffle Hearts by Maria Parr... a tale of friendship, loyalty and adventure. There is something warming and reflective for this time of the year. A real gem.
North Child by Edith Pattou....based on the fairy tale 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon, an evocative telling of journey, self-discovery, love and sacrifice...enchanting!
Oh, yes....and Milo, our bookshop fairy wants to say hello and show off his seasonal decor. (He may have gone a bit over the top for some tastes, but I think it's great!)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Welcome December

Christmas Bookshelf Advent Calendar/ Bodleian Libraries Shop Oxford University
Here it is...the first of December! Where has the year gone?
I just wanted to let you all know I have begun my seasonal page....Mary's Advent Calendar of Books. I started this a few years ago, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to keep it as a feature every year. Each day (up until the 25tth of December), I'll post a daily suggestion for a wonderful book of the season. Some of them will have Christmas themes; others are more generally winter related.There will be picture books, novels for young readers, young adult books....some old favourites, some brand new! I hope to have a little something to suit everyone; but mostly, I hope you'll all enjoy them.
To start the page off right, my first entry is Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. I just love Moomins!
So, keep watching....there will be a new book each day.
p.s. The image I've used above is from the Bodleian Libraries Shop, Oxford University. I just thought it was perfect! If you're interested in more information on the Christmas Bookshelf Advent Calendar, here's the link:

Picture Book Month...the final day

I hope you have all been savouring Picture Book Month. But we've made it through November and the final entry has been posted. I think it really is the perfect post with which to bring this month long celebration of picture books to it's close.
The Picture Book Champion of the day is Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and the focus of the day is creativity. As we
grow up, we seriously do forget how much picture books meant to us as children, and how much they coloured our lives; the magic and wonder they bring; how very important they were to us. I could continue, and certainly will at a later date, but Debbie's entry says it all.
"Picture books are important because childhood is important. Picture books help inspire today’s young people into becoming tomorrow’s thought leaders. Picture books help create a lifelong love of reading.
Picture books enable even the busiest of us to enjoy a good story in just a few minutes. In a world where so much is rushed, picture books encourage us to slow down and savor."
She includes a recap on every Picture Book Champion that has graced this site this month, with  a statement on exactly what they've contributed to the celebration. Like Debbie, I really do hope you've enjoyed Picture Book Month as much as I have. There is so much there. If you've missed a day, or haven't had a good look around the Picture Book Month website, don't despair! It's all still there for you to wander through in your own time. And I encourage all of you out there to become Picture Book Ambassadors.... all year long.
p.s. Here's a secret I know will not shock you. I STILL read picture books every escape, to wonder, to remember and to savour...Picture books are important, and not just for children. You can never outgrow picture books. My very favourite is still Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak...everything you need to know about life is in that book. Well....that's what I think.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2014

Last night, the winners of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2014 were announced in a ceremony at Dublins' Double Tree Hilton hotel. Big congratulations to all the winners, but as this blog is concerned with childrens' books, an even big congratulations to the winners in the childrens categories.
The Specsavers Childrens Book of the Year in the Junior Category goes to the brilliant Chris Haughton for his new (and extremely beautiful and delightful) picture book:
SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN (published by Walker Books)

In the senior category, the Specsavers Childrens Book of the Year went to Chris O'Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy for the wonderful, funny and touching Moone Boy: The Blunder Years (published by Macmillan Publishing Based on Chris' popular tv series, this book is bound to be a favourite in every home!
So, it was a year for Chris-es, it seems! Congratulations to you both and thank you for the fantastic reads for children, young and older...
For more information on these books, the winners and the Bord Gáis Energy Book Awards 2014, here's the link:

Picture Book Month: René Colato Laínez

I hope you've all been enjoying Picture Book Month this year. As November draws to a close, there are only a few days left of this wonderful celebration of picture books world-wide. Todays' Picture Book Champion is René Colato Laínez, using the theme of holidays.

"A picture book is a window to the imagination. A window that is always opened to explore new worlds, meet new friends and live great adventures. A window that can be kept next to a pillow, in a bookshelf, on a dinner table, on a desk or on your favorite sofa. There is no need for a magic key or to say a secret code, all you need to do is to open it with your fingers and the real magic begins."
To read more of Renés' post...and to catch up on all the wonderful Champions' thoughts about "Why Picture Books Are Important" follow the link below to the site, where all the posts are waiting.So many good reasons.....

Monday, November 17, 2014

Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize 2014

Congratulations go out to Piers Torday for scooping the Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize 2014. His book The Dark Wild (sequel to The Last Wild) was chosen over a fantastic and competitive shortlist in the only prize for childrens books judged by fellow authors. A beautiful and compelling world was created by Torday in his first book, and followed through with here. Memorable, stirring 2wildly inventive" (as noted by judge Frank Cottrell Boyce), The Dark Wild takes us on a journey that is at once dynamic, chilling and heart-felt. This dystopian world where the wildlife has been all but annihilated acts as a stark warning, while never offering simplistic or didactic answers. Complex and wondrous, this is an amazing everyone should read.
Congratulations to Piers Torday, who receives £1500, along with the respect of his contemporaries. And further congratulations to all the shortlisted authors...glad I didn't have to judge this one!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas is coming, you know....

Yes, that season is well on its' way and before we get side-tracked by all the rush and hurry, let's stop to make a plan. Every year, we run around looking for gifts and goodies and spending mad amounts of money and thinking about how nice it would be to make something/ create something with our children and grandchildren. Enter Adventivity... This is a fantastic Advent Calender for the whole family. No, there are no chocolates (which is what a lot of people look for in an Advent Calender.) But what is there is a project a day from December 1st right through and including the 25th! It includes decorations and cards and gift pouches and...well, all sorts. Each door on the calender reveals an image directly related to the project of the it's a wonderful way to build excitement. The projects are easy to make, with press-out card components, and they are gorgeous! And, they only take a few moments of your time...wouldn't this be a great way to give the family a moment every night until Christmas? My recommendation....decide on a time when you'll all be together, like right after dinner, to reveal and make the project of the day. Remember, in this season, and all others, time is the most important gift you can give your children...

Picture Book Month: School and Food

These days are getting busier and busier...but I always take the time to check out the daily calender for Picture Book Month. So much there!
Yesterday's theme was school with a wonderful post from Picture Book Champion Alexis O'Neill (The Recess Queen, Loud Emily, The Kite That Bridged Two Nations.) I love of my favourite preoccupations is kite flying. It brings an interconnectedness that is not unlike reading a good picture book...takes us all to another place and time while keeping us right here.
"A picture book connects generations upon generations curled on couches, snuggled in beds, perched on chairs, swaying in rockers. And when a picture book hangs from its spine in threads, when it bears the smudge of jelly and mud, when the pages are dog-eared or torn, when the parent says to the child, Here’s a book I loved when I was your age, that’s how we know why picture books are important."

And what better food for the soul than a picture book that has been shared throughout the family, as one generation curls up with the little ones and provides them with that essential and wonder. As Johnette Downings' (Marooned on a Dessert Island) post tells us;
"It didn’t matter which book she read or which song she sang, it was those quiet moments of personal sharing of something of beauty and wonder that transported us from our living room to worlds of limitless potential, a springboard to a life I would create for myself beyond my wildest dreams."

Take a look on your own shelves, even if they are just the shelves of your memory...what books do you find there?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Picture Book Month: Why Picture Books Are Important

I am really loving Picture Book Month, and I hope you are, too. Each day brings us another Picture Book (Pecan Pie Baby, Big Red Lollipop, The Baby Tree) showed us a world to share....snow and volcanoes and everything!
Today, Anna Dewdney (Llama Llama Red Pajama, Nelly Gnu and Daddy, Too) gives us a love of language, feelings, empathy, and llamas (of course).
Month Champion and another reason why picture books are so very important. Yesterday, Sophie Blackall
" Reading with children makes an intimate, human connection that teaches that child what it means to be alive as one of many live beings on the planet. We are naming feelings, expressing experience, and demonstrating love and understanding… all in a safe environment." Anna Dewdney
What better way to learn about the world and all it has to offer than through sharing a picture book? (Psstt...they make great 'travel guides' before children go off on their adventures in life.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Picture Book Month: What Is A Picture Book?

As we celebrate Picture Book Month this November, here is a lovely video by author Katie Davis. Included are quotes from some of the most beloved author/illustrators seeking to answer the question, "What is a picture book?" Here are Mercer Meyer, Tomie de Paolo, Peter many of the best working today with their thoughts and insights.
Picture books are so very important, not just to the young, but to all of us. They open up new worlds and
new ways of seeing. They introduce us to art, language, stories and perception. Todays' picture book champion is Ann Whitford Paul. Ann talks about her experiences as a mother reading to her children and what picture books brought into their lives and relationships, all with the constant phrase 'Read it again'. How many of us hear those words (sometimes, we think, to the point of distraction!) But it it long after the children are grown.... because anything that can be said about children and their relationships with picture books is equally true when we are grown.
"Picture books share the universality of experience. They let children know they’re not alone and that humor can sometimes be the perfect medicine." Ann Whitford Paul

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Picture Book Month

Today's entry for Picture Book Month is by Stefan Jolet. Stefan is a full-time graphic designer and the illustrator of such wonderful, unique books as The Legend of Acornhead and Cinderellaphant. (And as you might guess from the last title, is focus on the daily post is around the theme of elephants.)
" Picture books unlock children’s imaginations and inspire them. They help children express themselves and encourage bonding time between family and friends. And best of all, they can be enjoyed at any age and passed on for future generations to enjoy over and over again."
To help you keep daily tabs on what's happening all month during Picture Book Month, here's the calendar noting each days' Picture Book Champion and their theme for the day...where they're coming from in regard to picture books and their work. Each day, the Picture Book Champion also discusses their inspiration and memories of picture books that have impact on them. You can find all this and more on the website. What a great resource!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November is....Picture Book Month!

November is, indeed, Picture Book Month. This is an international initiative that celebrates the beauty, wonder and importance of picture books in print. Please follow the link above....these wonderful people will tell you everything you need to know about Picture Book Month.
Every day in November, there is a new post by one of the selected picture book champions. Here, they explain why they feel picture books are so important. We live in a digital age. (Well, you are reading this on a blog.) Every day it seems someone is proclaiming the death of books in print. But we cannot deny the importance and the joy of books in print. Particularly, picture books. No other form of media has the broad ranging affects on the lives of children as the picture book. This is where we learn to read. We have our very first exposure to visual art through picture books. And the sense of awareness and observational skills that comes with sharing a picture book with small children (or even with adults!) continues to serve us well throughout our entire lifetime. But, in a digital age, picture books need love! And we all need picture books.

Today's entry is by Aaron Becker; the creator of the marvellous, incredible picture books Journey and Quest. These wordless picture books take you on journeys of wonder and beauty, while they relate stories that stay with you forever more. Here's a quote to start you off:
"The picture book is a physical object that demands our engagement and attention. It does this without beeps or whistles or touch screens or promises of something faster, better, and more efficient. It tells us we can take our time."

Follow the link for Aaron's post and join the journey.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Some seasonal reads....

Before we come into THAT season, we shouldn't neglect the end of autumn and the great books (for all ages) that are just perfect for Halloween... here's a few of my favourites:
The Wizardling
author: Binette Schroeder
Little Island
ISBN: 9781910411001
An absolutely perfect book for Halloween time! Wizzo, a wizard-in-training, ignores his grandfathers' cautions and goes flying off on a little adventure. Where does he end up? Dragon Rock, of course...but that's where all the fun begins. (ages 4+)

Pumpkin Soup
Helen Cooper
Corgi Childrens Books
Cat, Duck and Squirrel live in a little cottage within a big pumpkin patch. Everyday, Cat slices up some pumpkin, Squirrel stirs in some water and Duck adds some salt for a delicious pumpkin soup. Until the day Duck wants to stir in the water that is... a wonderful autumnal tale of friendship and sharing; not at all scary, but perfect for youngest children at this time of year. Classic!

Witches Do Not Like Bicycles
author: Patricia Forde  illustrator: Joelle Dreidemy
ISBN: 9781405270713
Lolas' big sister Natalie has broken her leg and she's stuck upstairs all on her own! But it's Lola to the rescue, via a walkie-talkie, her imaginary friend Mrs. Beasley, a new puppy, a witch and Natalies' brand new birthday bicycle that she only got to ride once.....oh, dear. (ages 4+)

The Elsewhere Funfair (Nightmare Club 9)
Annie Graves
Little Island
ISBN: 9781908195890
Another creepy, creepy CREEPY!  tale from the Nightmare Club series....this one will make you think twice about ever going to the Funfair again. (Really, if you're into creepy, spooky books, you should just read the entire Nightmare Club series...they are brilliant!) Perfect for ages 6 and reluctant readers...anybody, really.

The Worst Witch
author: Jill Murphy
ISBN: 9780141349596
Mildred Hubble is a trainee witch at Miss Cackles' Academy for Witches. But, she's not very good at it. Her spells are always wrong; she always crashes into things with her broomstick; and one day, she turns teachers' pet, Ethel, into her worst nightmare...pure chaos (and many other books in the series)
ages 7-10

Mountwood School for Ghosts
Toby Ibbotson
Macmillan Childrens Books
ISBN 9781447271031
The Great Hagges have made a horrific discovery...ghosts are decidedly lacking these days and something must be done! No one has been scared to death in decades! Things have to change and fast. So, they found the prestigious Mountwood School for Ghosts. Just in time, it seems. But can these misfit spooks save a small town from destruction by an evil developer and his cronies?
Brilliant book from the pen of Eva Ibbotsons' eldest son, Toby. This is my favourite of the season. Ages 9+

The Demon Notebook
Erika McGann
O'Brien Press
ISBN 9781847172952
Grace and her friends, Jenny, Una, Rachel and Addie are five 'failed' witches. But one night, the discover a notebook with strong magical powers of its' own. It's time to tap into their own powers and stem the tide of magic before disaster ensues. This is the first of a brilliant series for young girls. I can't recommend it highly fact, you've just got to read all three of them! (The Demon Notebook, The Broken Spell and newly published The Watching Wood.) Fabulous fare for ages 10 +.

Good Red Herring
Susan Maxwell
Little Island
ISBN 9781908195937
An intriguing, riveting murder mystery set in a well imagined world of vampires, ghouls, dimorphs and the very, very odd Salmon Farsade. Salmon, apprenticed to Muinbeo's most famous detective, Inspector McCabe, set off to find who murdered Fen Maguire...and why. It is rare that I come across a 'who-dunnit' that leaves me baffled to the end. Brilliant! Ages 12+

A Crack In Everything
Rith Long
O'Brien Press
Izzys' fascination with a mural of an angel leads her, inadvertently, into the real world of the Sidhe...a world existing alongside the human world and populated with the strange creatures of our myths and legends. The angels and demons who watch over the affairs of the human world have plans of their own. As Izzy becomes a link in these plans, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands, before they destroy everything she holds dear. Stunning! Ages 14+

 And let's not forget.....
The entire Harry Potter reissued for a new generation of readers (remember, these are kids who were far to young to read them when they first appeared.) The new covers by Jonny Duddle are just brilliant! And they are 'classics' at this point. And Halloween is the perfect time to start....

So...there's a few for you...Happy reading!

Halloween is coming!

I have to say that this is my favourite time of year. The darkness creeps in to the world, the weather becomes more dramatic and the harvest is (mostly) in...even though we tend not to pay too much attention to the natural world and it's doings. (Mistake, by the way.) While some mourn the passing of the summer and dread the oncoming winter, I prefer to look around at the worlds' most beautiful cloak. So turn your attention to the warmth of the fire; gaze upon the beauty of the leaves and the sky (yes, the sky) and prepare yourselves for the moment when 'the veil between the worlds' is at it most fragile...Halloween is coming and there will be ghosts and witches about....usually they are quite small and carrying bags demanding treats...
For my they schools are on a midterm break this week, I have a very special Halloween Storytime and Costume Party planned at work (Dubray Books Galway branch; 4 Shop Street) from 4 to 5pm on Friday..Halloween. So if any young witches, wizards, ghosts, pumpkins, etc. (ages 3 to 8) are out and about, please come in a brilliant storytime! p.s. There will be goodie bags!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Patricia Forde: Witches Do Not Like Bicycles!

A big, big thank you goes out to Patricia Forde. She visited the bookshop yesterday and entertained these wonderful school children by reading her new book, Witches Do Not Like Bicycles. (Very important information for this time of year.) Patricia also read her earlier book in the 'Lola' series, Frogs Do Not Like Dragons, and then got the kids to tell their own stories about being locked in the bathroom....which was very exciting, I have to say.
Anyway, the day was fabulous, Patricia was fabulous....the kids were fabulous; even 'Lawrence' (you can 'see' him seated invisibly next to Trish in the photos below)  was fabulous....although he did have trouble deciding on a new best friend. I hope he behaved himself, as he went off to school with the class for the rest of the day.
So....many thanks to you made my day!
See...Lawrence is seated just beside Patricia on the left!

Monday, October 13, 2014

And promised...Debbie Thomas

So, the plan was to invite a few authors in to help me celebrate the Childrens Book Festival, or as it's known this year, Stories Are For Everyone; Baboro and childrens' books in general (which I do try to celebrate every day.) The first to step up was the wonderful wonderful Debbie Thomas; author of Dead Hairy, Jungle Tangle and Monkie Business, that brilliant trilogy of books featuring best friends Abby and Perdita, the families and friends and the uber-evil Dr. Hubris Klench.
The local school classes came in and were totally engaged and in wonder at Debbie and her books. They talked about stories, where stories come from (everywhere and everything, as it turns out) and how Debbie came to write these wonderful books. Basically, it was a fantastic day for everyone!
Thank you so much, Debbie! You are always a joy!