Showing posts from 2015

Get Ready to Track Santa!

Each year at this time, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) runs a Christmas-themed programme on it's special website that will track Santa on his journey from the North Pole around the world as he delivers presents! This began in 1955 when a Sears department store ran an ad in the paper with a telephone number that children could ring to talk to Santa. However, the phone number was misprinted, and instead Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) was inundated with calls. The commander in charge on that Christmas Eve instructed his staff to give each child the current location for Santa Claus. And so, a modern tradition began. NORAD took over from CONAD in 1958, handling all the calls and with the advent of the World Wide Web, a special site was set up that allows you all to follow Santas' travels on Christmas Eve.
In the meantime, you can go on the site where you can explore the North Pole, find interesting facts and play games. The countdow…

Gift Giving...."one thing to wear, one thing to read"

As you might imagine, I am a HUGE believer in giving books as gifts. The  Four Gift Rule... has always been a mainstay in my life. But choosing those gifts takes time and thought, and frequently a little advice. While I love giving Christmas (or seasonal) themed books is always a delight, they do tend to have a limited application. January 1st rolls around and these books tend to get put away for the rest of the year. Nothing wrong with that, it's just that you probably want to give something that 'lasts' longer; lasts year-long.
Robert Dunbar gave a wonderful listing in yesterdays' Irish Times; the best of the best from the past year. Other reviewers, authors and childrens' literate enthusiasts have also been giving their thoughts on the matter (all excellent, I have to say), so I thought, why not Fallen Star Stories? Below is a glance at my favourite books throughout the year that you might wish to consider. ENJOY!

For the little ones (or all the family to share…

Jolabokaflod...the Icelandic Tradition

Each year at this time, Iceland celebrates the winter season with an unusual and most excellent literary tradition, Jolabokaflod (which translates as the "Christmas Book Flood".) In Iceland, the very best Christmas gift to give and receive is a book. This has been the most sought after present for decades.
Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association explains;
"The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday. Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it's the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland."
With a strong literary tradition that is centuries old, Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country worldwide, with 5 books published per 1000 people. A catalog of the book titles on offer is sent out to every household. The majority of books are sold from late September through early N…

'Tis The Season...

As we bid farewell to November, we enter well and truly the holiday season. It's a very busy time in the bookshop because, as we all know, regardless of the occasion, books make the perfect gift. Not only that, but they are the perfect tool for building anticipation and excitement. Starting tomorrow, I will start my tradition of the Advent Calendar of Books page, which includes 24 books; one a day right up until Christmas Day.
Recently, I heard of a tradition that I think should be adopted by everyone. (In fact, I have always maintained a version of this in my home for years.)

Why not wrap up 25 books and leave them in a prominent place?  Each day, unwrap one book to read and share with family and friends....or even just to give yourself a moment to relax, enjoy and smile. They don't have to be new books, but it is nice to include a few brand new books to add to the variety and surprise. Picture books, seasonal collections and novels of winter which can be shared by all. Also,…

End of November.....

So, it's the last day of November. The weather is wild here in Galway and the season is hopping as we move firmly into the busiest time of the year. I hope you have all been keeping up with international Picture Book Month. Each day has given us a new picture book champion with insightful thoughts on the importance of the picture book, and I would say, not just their importance in the lives of small children, but in all our lives. If you've missed any, you can always scroll back through the post entries. You  really wouldn't want to miss a thing.
There are so many reasons that picture books stand out, but for me, perhaps the most important is in the memories picture books create and sustain. Take a moment. Ask yourself what you're very very memory of a book is and why. What does that memory mean to you? What feelings does it evoke? Hold on to that memory and let it serve you well throughout your own life. Then, pass that memory on to a small person in your life. It is …

Irish Book Awards 2015

The Bord Gáis Energy Book Awards 2015 winners were announced in a ceremony last night, which took place in Dublin's Double Tree Hilton. The ceremony, celebrating it's 10th year, was attended by a host of Ireland's finest authors, publishers and booksellers.
This year, over 45,000 book lovers across the nation voted for their favourite reads in each category. There are two children's categories, both of which had very strong shortlisted candidates, but, sadly, there can be only one winner in each.
The Specsavers Children's Book of the Year went to the delightful, funny, warm and thought-provoking Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer (current Laureate na nÓg) and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers; published by HarperCollins Children's Books.
In the Specsavers Children's Book of the Year senior category, the winner
was the young adult title Asking For It by Louise O'Neill; publisher Quercus Books.
A hearty congratulations to both...that was a tough list and coming o…

David Almond Wins Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize

It was announced today that David Almond is the 2015 winner of the Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize for his "fearless" and stunning novel A Song For Ella Gray. This is an incredible contemporary retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth that chronicles the vignette in the lives of friends Ella and Claire, two sixth-form girls in the North East landscape of deserted, disused shipyards. Enter the vagrant Orpheus, re-emerged in this dreary landscape who so entrances Ella with a love so consuming that Claire loses her best friend to this mysterious stranger. As tragedy ensues, Claire creates a narrative elegy that is powerful, passionate and deeply felt. Almond places the reader firmly in the emotional landscape of the 17-year-old with eloquence, grace and a genuine voice; and beauty echoes this with the landscape which he chose to set his tale. Simply amazing.
Upon accepting the award, Almond explained;

" as a tale of youth and yearning, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice i…

Costa Childrens Awards Shortlist 2015

Here's a quick post...the Costa Book Awards shortlist have been revealed. Of course, I am mainly concerned with what's happening in the childrens category, but the best of luck to all shortlisted authors and their wonderful books.
In the childrens category, there is a very fine selection of four books and authors, so of which we are seeing rather a lot of lately.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Childrens Books)
Sophie Someone by Hayley Long (Hot Key Books)
An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls (Scholastic)
Jessica's Ghost by Andrew Norriss (David Fickling Books)

The winner of the Costa Childrens Award is also in with a chance to win the overall Costa, which hasn't happened in a while (2001, when Philip Pullman won for The Amber Spyglass), so maybe it's about time.
Good luck to all the authors!…

Irish Book Awards 2015

It's time again for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards. The shortlist have been posted and you have a few days left to vote for your favourite and best in Irish literature 2015. A fantastic selection of Irish books published this year are represented in the 13 different categories. But here, I am going to give a shout out for the childrens shortlists. There are but two categories, but what an incredible selection!
In the Specsavers Childrens Book of the Year Junior category:
I'm A Girl by Yasmeen Ismail
The Snow Beast by Chris Judge
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower by P.J. Lynch
A Dublin Fairytale by Nicola Colton
Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers

The Specsavers Childrens Book of the Year Senior category includes:
Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Darkmouth: Worlds Explode by Shane Hegarty
Demon Road by Derek Landy
One by Sarah Crossan
Once Upon A Place by Eoin Colfer (Editor)
The Boy At The…

Happy 70th Birthday, Moomins!

In 1945, at the end of the second World War, Finnish author Tove Jansson  published the first ever Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood. This book introduced the Moomins to the world; fanciful creatures that live in a realm just to the side of our own.
In Moomins and the Great Flood, Moominmamma and young Moomintroll set off on an adventure to find the wandering Moominpappa and a warm place to live for the winter. Along the way, they meet amazing and imaginative folk;  mermaids, sea-trolls, the Hattifattners, the ant-lion, blue-haired Tulippa, an 'old gentleman' (perhaps an inspiration for Roald Dahl!), a boy with red-hair and many more who would come to grace the pages of so many more Moomin adventures in the following years. The Moomins are magical, curious little creatures with concerns and problems very much the same as ours. They solve their dilemmas using wit and by sticking together.
This first book was (finally) translated into English in 2005, much later than…

November Is Picture Book Month!

It's that time of year again...a time for us to learn, remember and celebrate why picture books matter!
Picture books have such an impact on all our lives, as children and as adults. Some time ago, a very wise and wonderful initiative was started to celebrate November as Picture Book Month. Each day features a different Picture Book Month Champion will present a brief post on the subject "Why Picture Books Are Important." In these, they share their thoughts, experiences and, yes, even their picture books. Filled with information and enthusiasm, it's a 'can't miss' for parents, teachers...or anyone who loves picture books and wants to learn more about them.
No less than any other literary form (and perhaps even more than...), picture books make a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Children find information and imagination in picture books. They gain exposure to the lives of others; they learn about the world; they share in dreams and st…

Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize 2015 was announced yesterday. And what a shortlist it is! Sally Nicholls, David Almond, Kate Saunders and Frances Hardinge are all nominated for what is, in my opinion, one of the strongest lists ever.
Sally Nicholls latest book, An Island of Our Own tells a treasure-seeking story for the contemporary age in a story of what it takes to make a family.
David Almond is listed for his incredible retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in A Song For Ella Grey. An intense, moving, all-consuming love story, it is simply amazing.
Kate Saunders has created a wonderful, wonderful sequel to the favourite childrens' classic, Five Children and It with Five Children on the Western Front. Moving and fascinating, the children are a bit older now, but the adventure and magic still grip the reader.
Frances Hardinge's The Lie Tree takes us back to the Victorian era with a creepy, Gothic tale that begs the question, what if lies can you t…

Frances Hardinge Takes Top British Fantasy Award

Frances Hardinge  has become the first YA author to win the top prize for best fantasy novel for her incredibly surreal and creepily sinister Cuckoo Song. The award, known as the Robert Holdstock award was presented to Hardinge on Sunday at FantasyCon 2015. I am so extremely pleased for her. I've been a huge fan since her first novel, Fly By Night, which won the Branford Boase award in 2006.... and, clearly, the brilliant books have just kept coming.
Cuckoo Song tells the story of a girl, Triss, who nearly drowns in a local pond. When she awakens, she finds her world has become slightly out of sync. Pages have been ripped out of her diary, she is incredibly hungry all the time, her younger sister is terrified of her and her parents are whispering behind closed doors. She comes to believe that she is, quite literally, not herself. In order to discover the truth, she must travel to the dark and twisted side of town to find the Architect, a menacing villain with designs on her and he…

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2016

The long lists for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2016 have been published. These lists are always extensive and utterly brilliant. I never envy the judging panel their task. While I simply cannot (and wouldn't want to) place the entire lists on my blog, I'll give you some of my personal highlights and put the links below, so you can check it out yourself. I'd love to have your comments, so feel free...
2016 CILIP Carnegie Medal long list...just a selection:
David Almond for A Song for Ella Grey. This contemporary reworking of the Orpheus myth is simply magnificent. Raw, emotional, funny and very realistic...
Sita Brahmachari for Red Leaves. An exquisitely crafted story of Aisha, a 13 year old refugee caught up in the foster care system in London and 12 year old Zak, coping as best he can with his parents divorce. The two meet and join forces due to the intercession of Elder, a strange homeless woman.
Cathy Cassidy for Looking Glass Girl. Inspired by Cathy's…