Monday, June 22, 2015

The Cilip Carnegie & Kate Greenaway 2015 Awards

Earlier today (22nd June) the announcements were made for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway award medals at the British Library. It is quite unusual and interesting that both medals were awarded to an author and an illustrator who both have taken non-fiction, historical themes for their work.

Winner of the Carnegie Medal for 2015 is Tanya Landman for her book, Buffalo Soldier. This outstanding novel  was inspired by the story of Cathy Williams, a freed slave after the American Civil War who disguised herself as a man and joined the US Army during the Indian Wars as  William Cathay. Taking this one extraordinary move by a bold woman, Landman crafted the tale of Charlie O'Hara; a young woman who comes across the body of a dead soldier and in a bid for freedom and autonomy assumes his incredible story that sings with a true strong voice. A most deserving winner of this prestigious award.

The years Kate Greenaway Medal has been awarded to  Shackleton's Journey,
illustrated by William Grill. Grill gave a fresh, contemporary feel to an outstanding, at times unbelievable true story, that of Ernest Shackleton on his iconic expedition across Antarctica, while still managing to capture a sense of that historic time and the place. Haunting, atmospheric with an overwhelming feeling wonder.

Congratulations to both winners.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nicola Pierce Returns

The secondary schools are already out for the summer here. The exams are over for another year. And, in one week, the primary school children will be out for the summer. It's been a busy year.
As you know, I am a childrens bookseller. This is a job I absolutely love for a lot of reasons. I get to constantly update my knowledge and expertise of one of my most favourite things in the entire world; childrens literature. My personal library of kids books is constantly growing with new and exciting authors and books. And, I am afforded the opportunity to invite school classes in to the bookshop to share in the joy of reading. This is so extremely important; more important than I could ever actually express. It's all about getting the right book into the hands of the right child and watching magic happen. Sometimes, this is easy. I'll be told by the parent or teacher, "(S)He is a natural reader." (No such thing, incidentally, but more on that at a later date.) can be a challenge. But this week, I was very privileged to watch that moment of magic, again, and I have to tell never  gets old.

Nicola Pierce came back into the bookshop to fulfill a promise to two local school classes together. This group of 6th year boys had seen Nicola during World Book Day events, where she talked about her first book, Spirit of the Titanic. The boys had been reading this and also, her second book, City of Fate. But, there wasn't time to cover City of we rescheduled. After a bit of juggling, last Tuesday, everything was in place. At 10:45, in they came...looking a bit tired and a 'why are we here?'...well, some of them, anyway. But when Nicola started wasn't very long before every eye was on her. The boys were engaged with the story, wrapped up in the events. As I said...magic.
This is the kind of thing these boys, now off to secondary school in September will take with them. And I hope, they will also take with them a bit of the magic in that memory.... a bit of the knowledge of the pleasure of reading, the excitement...and the understanding that reading isn't just for school. At those times when they need to escape the pressures and the homework and the responsibilities...they can read; and a book will take you  on journeys you could never have in life.
Have a great summer, lads... and don't forget to call into the bookshop when you're passing....

And Nicola...thank you so much. As usual, you were brilliant. (By the way, you may not have noticed the crowd of grown-ups that just had to stop by to listen. A few of them stood in your eye-line, but there were quite a number of them hiding in the crime and fantasy section....)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New UK Childrens Laureate Announced

Very quickly, a big congratulations to Chris Riddell who, it was just announced, has been named the UK's new Childrens Laureate. Chris, who follows Malorie Blackman, will serve a two year term in the position. He will focus on creativity and visual literacy in childrens books; also extolling the pleasures of drawing everyday.
 “Do you have hands? Excellent. That’s a good start. Can you hold a pencil? Great. If you have a sketchbook, open it and start by making a line, a mark, wherever. Doodle. Take a line for a walk, as Paul Klee said. Lose your inhibitions about drawing and just do it.”

So, a hearty congratulations... I look forward to hearing more of Chris' exploits as Laureate over the next two years! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Favourites So Far

So it's the beginning of June and nearly half of the year is gone. With awards coming thick and fast and all of our hearts turning hopefully to summer, I thought it might be a good moment to share some of my favourite childrens books so far this year.
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
This wonderful novel has been sitting strong in my number slot of best-sellers since last year. And it is beautiful! An eloquent story of following your heart taaakes you on an unbelievable journey across the rooftops of Paris to find Sophie's lost mother. If you haven't read it yet, now is the time! 10+

The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde
Hands-down the BEST dystopian novel I have read in a long time, and generally speaking in my top 5 of 'best childrens novels'. This is dystopia with a difference; thoughtful, thought-provoking, eerie and dream-like with incredible characters...and suitable for ages 10+...yes, even adults will love it!

Abracazebra by Helen Docherty and Tom Docherty
From the authors of a big favourite of mine, The Snatchabook, comes this utterly delightful, brilliantly colourful, fun and lively story about acceptance, difference and magic! A picture book for everyone!

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
No one builds worlds; or stories; quite like Frances Hardinge. An eerie and evocative Gothic horror-type novel placed soundly in the Victorian era, Faith finds herself on a remote island while her natural scientist father assists with an archeological dig. But when her father dies suddenly and dramatically, Faith uncovers a series of lies that lead to the discovery of something quite impossible... stunning! ages 11+

Behind the Walls by Nicola Pierce
Historical fiction at its finest! Taking place during the seige of Derry in 1689, this is the story of the Sherrard family, caught in the standoff between the Jacobite troops and loyalty to William of Orange and his cause. Perfectly paced, impeccably researched, the population holed up inside the Derry walls are starving, injured, diseased and dying. But there will be 'No Surrender'. Incredible! 11+

Class Act by Debbie Thomas
Brian O'Bunion feels he is pointless. But he rises to become an unlikely hero when the best and brightest of his class begin to disappear.A fantastic story of friendship, success against the odds, mystery, honey bees and Curlie-Wurlies! This is a wonderful book for all of, funny and full of heart! 9+

Wild by Emily Hughes
A beautiful, beautiful picture book! Lush and lavish illustrations perfectly compliment this tale of trying to change something that doesn't need changing. Happiness and being who you really are shine throughout the text. Amazing!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
A warm and wondrous story told in Hoffmans' typical genre of magical realism. Twig lives on the out-skirts of a small town with her mother, baker of mysterious apple pies, and her brother, who no one ever sees. Having been friendless and alone her whole life, when new neighbours move in to the ramshackle cottage next down, Twig may finally have a friend; one who can help her break an ancient family curse and free her family from its bonds. 12+

Still Falling by Sheena Wilkinson
A heart-felt and intelligent love story. New boy, Luke falls the first day of sixth-form. He has epilepsy. Esther, who comes to his aid, is falling as love with Luke. But love is never easy, and Luke has many issues that he keeps well hidden. The issues are not a major focus of the novel, but rest steadily in the background of this tale of acceptance and loving someone who does not love themselves. Extremely realistic and expertly written...this story is just amazing. YA readers.

The Door That Led To Where by Sally Gardner
AJ Flynn has failed nearly all his GSCE exams, so his future holds no promise. When he miraculously lands a job at a prestigious law firm, he discovers a key with his initials and birth date inscribed on it... a key to a door that leads him into the past, a deeply hidden family secret, a murder mystery and hope for himself and his friends. No one does a time-flip story like Sally Gardner! Brilliant! 13+

An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls
Holly, Jonathan and younger brother Davy have been struggling to make ends meet since the death of their mother. Life has been really hard. But when Great-Aunt Irene suffers a stroke, she gives Holly some old photographs that could lead them to an inheritance that would solve all their problems. So off they go to find their fortune! But, they aren't the only ones looking for the hidden treasure. A gem of a book for ages 10+

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne Valente
The fourth in the Fairyland series introduces us to Hawthorn, a young troll abducted from his Fairyland home and placed in a family in Chicago; a no less confusing and magical place, where he becomes a changeling. Hawthorn struggles with his changeling nature, but when he turns twelve, he finds a way back home. Fairyland is much changed, and he soon finds himself in the middle of a changeling revolt.
We don't see much of our dear friend, September in this addition to the series, so it can be read without having read the others...but please do!

Natures Day by Kay Maguire
An extraordinary, beautifully illustrated book on nature for younger children. This book introduces them to the natural world on their doorstep by visiting nine places during each season, Informative, but more to the point, wondrous and exciting. One every family and every school should have.

Okay, so there you go....a 'Bakers' Dozen' of my favourite books so far this year. (You know me by now, I could go on and on. But I'll spare you that.) I hope I've included a little something for everyone. I'll be back with more, though....