Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favourite Books of 2016

It has been quite a year! So, the books published for young people have been in the position of having an enormous impact on their lives. They help make sense of things, and give voice to the issues that they are dealing with, while the world goes on turning and the adult world goes on doing whatever it does. This year, the books published have been outstanding at doing just that, and with providing the outlet for the imagination. Here are a few of my favourites of 2016.
I'll get stuck right in and shout loudly that my book of the year choice for young people has to be GOLD by Geraldine Mills.This is a classic adventure story set in a future landscape scarred by volcanic ash and tightly controlled by the official bodies governing it. Two young boys show great courage, imagination and integrity by building a glider styled after Leonardo DaVinci's instructions and sail away to a forbidden sector. It contains elements of nearly every issue we ponder in these times; governmental control and corruption, education, environmental calamity in a way that never beleaguers the core story. Written with beautiful use of language, story-telling, mythology, world-building, family relations and a boldness that all alludes to the great childrens classics, it is the full package. This is one everybody will enjoy and savour.

There have been a number of books published this year (and at the end of the last) that take the lives of foxes and their interaction/collision with the human world as their theme. This is not surprising when you look at the environmental concerns spreading out over our lives in general. Foxes stand out as the one animal that (seem to) most readily adapt to the urban world we have made. Also, they reflect the human condition, how we live, perhaps by their readiness to infiltrate human society. The most beautiful of these new 'fox' books is PAX by Sara Pennypacker. A simple story of a boy and the fox he has raised since it was a cub, and now has to abandon due to war, PAX speaks gently, yet with much impact, of loyalty, bravery and growing up. Physically, this is a beautiful book, with exquisite illustrations by Jon Klassen. Also holding the fox theme, it was a great pleasure to see the reissue of RUN WITH THE WIND by Tom McCaughren, before the release of the new title in this classic series, RUN FOR THE HILLS, in October. It is so gratifying  to see the Glensinna foxes and return to their lives once again.  MAYBE A FOX by Kathi Appelt and Allison McGhee tells an exquisite and poignant story of family, friendship, love, grief and acceptance that will stick with you. At the time her sister, Sylvie disappears, Jules encounters a young fox cub that seems extremely familiar. This is really beautiful, but do expect a few tears...totally worth it.Let me also not forget THE FOX AND THE STAR by Coralie Bickford-Smith, released in paper this October; a wonderful, artistically designed picture book that is moving and eloquent, both in its' illustrations and its' simple storyline. Magic of the most warm and wonderful kind.

Time-travel and science-fiction has been a recurring them in childrens literature this year. THE MANY WORLDS OF ALBIE BRIGHT by Christopher Edge sees young Albie concocting a time/dimensional traveling machine out of his mothers' computer, a cardboard box and a rotting banana to find a world where his mother may still be alive. But traveling through alternate dimensions is not quite as straight-forward as it may seem. Humourous, lively and filled with curiosity, this is a wonderful read. Likewise, TIME-TRAVELING WITH A HAMSTER by Ross Welford sees Al Chaudhury receiving a letter from his deceased father on his 12th birthday. His dad instructs him on how to build a time-machine in order to go back in time and save his life. Hilarious antics and a moving story open up the possibility that perhaps, if we are careful, we may just be able to change past events for the better. In PERIJEE AND ME by Ross Montgomery, a young and lonely girl finds a shrimp-like alien baby on the shore after a storm. Caitlin takes it home and begins to look after it as though it were her little brother. The problem is, Perijee eats a lot...of everything. And his rapid growth soon causes enormous fall-out and fear, with the only person who can save both him and, apparently the planet (quite by accident, mind) is Caitlin. A tale of friendship, loneliness and being where you belong.
How about some fantasy? We all need some fantasy. COGHEART by Peter Bunzl is a brilliant classic-style, steam-punk adventure! 13-year-old Lily has by sent to a finishing school, mostly for her own protection. But she dreams of a life as a sky-pirate. Her dreams become reality in a most unexpected way, as she is held prisoner by her governess, dodges clock-work bad guys, arson attempts on her life and sets sail in an airship to discover the truth about her father...with unexpected results. THE UNCOMMONERS: THE CROOKED SIXPENCE by Jennifer Bell takes us on an incredible adventure to a world just beneath our own, where common, everyday objects such as toilet brushes, belts,etc. have magical properties and unusual uses. Ivy and Seb Sparrow find themselves in Lundinor to solve an old family mystery and bring back Grandma Sylvies' memory. Exceptional! I am absolutely loving the KAPHEUS series by Marguerite Tonery, and this year saw the release of the third in the series; KAPHEUS WATER. Elisa and Jamie find themselves traveling, once again, to the fantastical world of light to fight off pirates, the Dark One and save the animals, Kapheus and even themselves. As Kapheus grows with even more substance, I can't wait for the series to continue.

THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a book of extraordinary depth and beauty. Isabella lives on the island of Joya, an island from which she can never escape. But she dreams of adventure in faraway lands once mapped by her her cartographer father, and of her brother and mother, now lost to her. When her friend, Lupe disappears and another is attacked by a strange, blood-thirsty beast, Isabella follows an old map drawn by her mother, her heart and an ancient myth to save her life and the island itself.

Historical fiction  holds a special place on my bookshelf. This year has seen KINGS OF THE BOYNE by Nicola Pierce gives a poignant and realistic account of the Battle of the Boyne, when we meet brothers Daniel and Robert Sherrard fresh from the siege of Derry. In the Boyne Valley, they soon learn that war is not only affecting the soldiers and their kings, but the lives and hearts of everyone. Brilliantly researched, this offers a stunning picture into the lives of the people, the planning, and the successes and failures of one of Irelands' most pivotal moments. THE MAKING OF MOLLIE by Anna Carey takes us back to the spring of 1912. Young Mollie lives with her family in Drumcondra and is thoroughly convinced that her life is boring. That is until she discovers her older sisters' secret... Phyllis is a suffragette! After attending a meeting, Mollie decides to join the cause as well. A dynamic, interesting and exciting look at the early days of the suffragette movement in Ireland. STRANGE STAR by Emma Carroll gives us a glimpse of the time when the story of Frankenstein was first conceived. In a weird, tense, troubled environment, 'scientific' experimentation is all the rage, without even dreaming of its' consequences in the lives of people. Out of a strange circumstance involving experimentation, kidnapping and coming face-to-face with mortality, Carroll creates a very realistic, eerie vignette in 1816 which leads to the inspiration of one of the most memorable and beloved novels of all time. THE SECRET HORSES
OF BRIAR HILL by Meghan Shepherd leads us to December 1941 and an evacuation hospital for young people with tuberculosis, or 'the still waters' as it is sometimes known. Emmaline is one of the evacuees, with few companions at Briar Hill, spending most of her days indoors and alone. But a surprise discovery, that there are winged horses in the mirrors and one of them escapes, takes Emmaline on a magical, imaginative adventure. Sweet, compelling and meticulously drawn, this book is exceedingly beautiful, with it's illustrations by Levi Pinfold. Amazing!

We all need friendship, loyalty and the day-to-day shown to us in ways that make these things extraordinary. So let's look first at RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate
DiCamillo. If Raymie can do a few good deeds, learn to twirl a baton and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, she knows that her Dad will see her in the newpapers and return to the family. In the process, Raymie makes two unlikely friends, both of whom have their own reasons for wanting to win. The three soon discovers that good deeds often go wrong, adventures easily turn into disasters, and what's lost doesn't always need to be found. Kate DiCamillo simply cannot write a bad book...this one is just wonderful! I loved A LIBRARY OF LEMONS by Jo Cotterill. Calypso' mother died 5 years ago, her father is always busy researching his book and she can mostly be found with her head buried in a book. When Calypso discovers a heart-breaking secret hidden in her Dads' library and understands that something is horribly wrong, it is her new friend, Mae and her busy, busy family that step in to give Calypso and her father exactly what they need. In MIRACULOUS MIRANDA, Siobhan Parkinson reveals the life and family of Miranda, her passion for the Word of the Day competition in school, her belief in miracles and how to make them happen. She also has a few problems with people misunderstanding what she is saying....maybe because they aren't listening. Funny, warm, wonderful and very, very real. A VERY GOOD CHANCE by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald glimpses what happens when Mintys' world falls apart and she befriends Ned Buckley, considered to be the wrong sort for her...nothing but trouble. Of course, preconceived notions are seldom right, and this new
friendship gives Minty hope and adventure as they embark on a journey that changes everything in both their lives and in the very small town in which they live.
You are probably thinking I could go on for ages...and you'd be right. But I'm going to stop there. Each and every one of these books will take you on a wonderful adventure of your own. And it has been a pleasure to share 2016 with them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

R.I.P Richard Adams 1920-2016

It was with great sadness today that the death of childrens' novelist, Richard Adams has passed away at the age of 96.
Adams is, of course, best known for the beloved story, Watership Down. This was the first of his  writings, published in 1972. It was originally a story told to his daughters, who insisted he write it down and publish it. It took two years to write, and was turned down by four publishers and three writers' agencies before Rex Collings agree to publish what became one of the most iconic books of all time. Almost immediately, Watership Down received international acclaim. Within a few years, it sold over a million copies worldwide and went on to win some of the most prestigious childrens literature awards, including the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize.

 "The statement announcing his death quoted a passage from the end of his best-known work. It read: “It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.
“‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be alright – and thousands like them.”’ 
He lived a long and happy life, and gave the world a marvelous gift.
R.I.P., Richard Adams....and thank you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tracking Santa

We have 3 days, 22 hours and 28 minutes (at the time of this posting) and then Santa will be on his way from the North Pole! One of my traditions (a new one, albeit) is to track Santa on his rounds on Christmas Eve and NORAD has been making this easy for the last 55 years.
You can follow the link to the NORAD Santa Tracker and receive updates throughout his journey as to where he is, how many presents have been delivered, etc. There's also some games and a library and the history of tracking Santa.
Just a bit of fun for the evening...and incentive to get those little ones off to bed before the Big Man appears.

So, here's the link:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Four Gifts for Christmas

We are in the thick of it, now. The Christmas shopping craziness....
So, I am posting this little reminder for all the Santas' helpers out there, rushing around and trying to grab the perfect gifts for everyone on their list. Remember, it's not about how much you spend. That's not how you show your love. It's about selecting the things you choose to give. Too much stress? Still need help? Now, take a deep breath. Clear the noise in your head and ignore the noise all around in the shops, the street, over the TV...wherever it's coming from.
Have a look at this. I know it's helped me enormously:
Better? I really hope so.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Joyous Jolabokaflod!!!!

For a book lover, Iceland has a very special tradition. Each year, in the few months before Christmas, Icelandic publishers release the majority of their books. This is "Jolabokaflod", or the Christmas Book Flood. Hundreds of books are published each year at this time, revealing just how strong a literary tradition exists in this small Northern island, dating back to medieval times.
During World War II, there were strict currency restrictions, which limited the amount of imported giftware Iceland could take in. But paper itself was less restricted than other items, so this really led to books being seen as an ideal gift. Add that to the traditionally strong literary sector in Iceland, and the annual Book Flood really began in earnest.
As Christmas nears, sometime around the end of October-beginning of November, a catalog is delivered to every house in Iceland, detailing the books available for that year.
Iceland now represents one of the strongest book publishing countries in the world....and one of the strongest book-giving.
Traditionally in Iceland, gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. With so many of the gifts being books, the rest of the evening is spent at home....reading. This is now a cherished staple of the Christmas celebrations; and an incredibly distinction celebration of literature and literacy. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the rest of us took it up? What a wonderful way to spend the holiday!
With that in mind, I wish you all a Joyous Jolabokaflod.....happy reading!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

'Tis The Season for the Bookelves!

Hi there!
Just a quick post to alert you all to the seasonal work of the Bookelves.
Everyday in the run-up to Christmas, our the busy, busy Bookelves will be posting the best book recommendations for all the young people out there, from the youngest children through to YA readers. If you want some help with a specific young person in your life, you can ask them and they will accommodate! Or, if you just want to have a look and see what they are up to, just look us up!
The Bookelves are on Facebook and Twitter (NOW!) and can be accessed by the hashtag #bookelves16.
Tonight, during the Late, Late Toy Show here in Ireland (on RTE), the Bookelves will be recommending non-stop on both Facebook and Twitter. The Late, Late Toy Show starts at 9:30pm here.
So, be sure to check the Bookelves out of Facebook and Twitter. We are here to help.

Happy December!

Happy December, everyone!
It's time for my annual Advent Calendar of Books. Every year at this time, I post a different book on the page (Mary's Advent Calendar of Books) for you to consider. These are all about winter, Christmas, the holiday season. It gives me a lot of joy to see all the wonderful books out there, old and new, ready to bring that special magic into a month that can become far too hurried and hectic. And it's my way of reminding you to take a a moment and relax. Enjoy the season. That's what it's there for.
Check the page each day for a new, wonderful seasonal read. They may be new, old, for small children, for teens...who knows? (I do have a difficult time choosing...there are so many wonderful books!)
Also, if you're on Facebook and/or Twitter, look out for the Bookelves! We'll all be bringing you great recommendations throughout the season. Look for #bookelves16. You'll love it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30: Farewell to International Picture Book Month...see you next year

We have reached the last day of November, and the last day of Picture Book Month. It has been an incredible celebration of illustration this year, and of the stories and the champions who shared their thoughts and stories.
I love Picture Book Month! It is so important to remind us all that this is where our reading journey begins...and if we are wise, where it continues throughout life. Not to say that 'word' books aren't important, but without picture books, we would have never developed the visual literacy that allows us to interpret the random symbols that make up our written language. And, we would not have developed the joy, enthusiasm and desire to open another book...and another and another.
Todays' champion (and the final champion for the year), Kevan Atteberry (author/illustrator of BUNNIES! (2015) and PUDDLES! (2016) spoke about his memories of childhood books; how he doesn't really remember being read to, or the individual titles of his childhood stories. What he remembers, what has stayed with him through the years, were the pictures.
I can second that. While I do have some clear memories of a few specific books, in my mind, the young child that lives there is still spending hours pouring over a vast number of illustrations time and again. I find it fascinating and extremely joyous when I come across an illustration from my childhood. I remember that!, I find myself thinking. Then suddenly, everything rushes to the fore; the title, author/illustrator and most of all, the feelings that book gave me. Each one made an indelible mark on me.
Let me give you an example: the first book I can clearly remember was a Little Golden Book, I Am A Bunny by Olé Risom, illustrated by a young Richard Scarry. It was the first book I ever bought for myself. From a shelf full of bright and wonderful cover illustrations, that one of the bunny dressed in dungarees standing under a toadstool in the pouring rain caught me. And each page held me as I journeyed through the seasons with Nicholas ("I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree...) A simple, quiet story with sparse text...and I remember it all. Because of the pictures. That book made me want to read more, to look at more books, to find out what happens in different lives, different places; and to find comfort and sense in the world of books. That one book, I believe, says something about who am I as a person and taught me....I don't know....something important that has nothing to do with bunnies or seasons or weather. The pictures did that. Silly? Maybe. But, I don't think so.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts from all the amazing Picture Book Champions as much as I have. And I hope it has helped you think more deeply about picture books and develop a greater understanding and appreciation for them. Go back over your childhood favourites. pick up new ones, and don't be embarrassed to read picture books again. Picture books feed the soul; the soul of the young and the soul of the not-so-young-anymore.
And I hope you will look forward to Picture Book Month next year. I know I do.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Considering The Children (and Their Books)

At this time of year, more childrens books are purchased than any other. And people want this best for their kids; books that really suit them; books that entertain them and encourage them; books that mean something to their lives. When choosing a book for that wonderful child(ren) in your life, what you pick matters. And it's a time for your local childrens' book specialist to think fast on their feet when helping you, because we have a lot of people to help. That's what we're there for and that's what I love about the job. Nothing means more to me than to help you put the right book in the hands of a child. I believe books really make a difference. Helping someone find that right book is no simple task. I don't want to just hand over something that's popular or new. I want to be sure it is right for the child; that it will address them and make that difference. Children do actually live in a different space, a different culture than the adult world and that needs to be addressed. When picking the right book, it is important to consider the children and match the book to the child.

As adults who love childrens books, whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, writer, illustrator, a bookseller, a childrens' book expert or scholar, you know these things. Every so often, a resource creeps into view that will help you address the needs of the children in your life, whether it is to locate that special book or help them with some issue or problem, or to help them in their questions about the world. Well, I have a couple of resources for you.
The first is a beautiful new book that offers "An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise". The Story Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, two expert bibliotherapists take us through a wide range of situations and the hundreds of books that could help your child cope. From tantrums, bedtime routines, toilet training , picky eaters, bullying, feeling different through to first love, teenage mood swings, coping with mental illness or world situations....or even the child of any age who simply doesn't know what to read next; The Story Cure offers many options. Hundreds of books, from picture books to YA novels are found within these pages. Recommendations exist as creative solutions for nearly any circumstance conceivable. Books can offer a different kind of healing, because they are personal to the reader. The Story Cure can help you find the right book at the right time. (Also written by Berthoud and Elderkin, The Novel Cure:An A-Z of Literary Cures...for grown-ups)
Another book that I have previously recommended for the grown-ups is still my favourite. Feeling
Like A Kid: Childhood and Childrens' Literature by Jerry Griswold is a remarkable book that fully expresses the unique qualities that thrive in childrens' lives and how these are reflected, time and again, in childrens' books. Feeling Like A Kid addresses the way children think and feel in an honest, forthright manner with no sentimentality or idealised view. It then demonstrates how these are reflected in both classic and popular childrens' literature. It asserts and demonstrates that the best, most treasured childrens' authors were/are so incredibly successful because they have not forgotten what it's like to genuinely feel like a kid, to see the world from a real childs' point of view and to completely engage with childrens' culture. It does so in a way that is easy to read, offering insight and research in a user-friendly manner. Additionally, it is physically a beautiful book. It's design, illustrations, endpapers, type face....there isn't a thing about this book that isn't joyful and lovely.If you love childrens' books, have children in your life and want to encourage a love of reading, I think this is one of the most important books you could ever read.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Picture Book Month - One Week To Go!

November is winding down into it's cold, quiet end, leaving us just one week left of International Picture Book Month. So far 23 picture book illustrators, authors, publishers and booksellers have shared their thoughts on 'Why Picture Books Are Important"; and each one has been very instructive. Frequently, we don't give much thought to picture books, apart from whether or not a child will enjoy it. But picture books are complex and fascinating beings, taking us on journeys we would never endeavour otherwise.And the beginning of all those journeys take place when we are children....just babies, really. Fired by the discovery of our own visual literacy, we travel from infancy through old age through books, which take us more places than we could go without them. They help us make sense of the world, where mere words fail us. Picture books are not something we should abandon just because we 'grow up'. We need to read pictures throughout our lives. The joy, the sanity and reason picture books bring is long lasting. Picture books are different from other literary forms. And the difference is simple to ascertain; it's the pictures.
Matthew Cordell, illustrator and today's Picture Book Champion, puts it extremely well when he said;
 "I slowly became aware of just how singular the picture book format really is. It is the one book that is read and appreciated by two vastly different audiences: the adult and the child. For it to work, the picture book has to work double time. It’s fascinating. And frustrating. And amazing. Simultaneously, they are bringing these two groups together in a shared space, with a shared story, and shared art, and shared page turns. Picture books are incomparable.
And, so, what else? What else can picture books do?
What more does one need?"
 You see, this is the thing I really love about Picture Book Month; it focuses on the illustrations that continue to colour our lives throughout. We begin to more deeply consider the gift of the illustrator and what it brings to us; children and adult. They allow us to understand different places, cultures, lives completely unlike our own and to appreciate those things, through pictures. Illustrated books, and their creators deserve far more recognition than they have been getting. But thanks to Picture Book Month, we are allowed further exploration, further appreciation and further joy.

More thoughts are circulating in Ireland (in particular) regarding the recognition, or rather lack there of, of illustrators and their work. Spurred on by the failure to recognise illustrator Margaret Anne Suggs during the Irish Book Awards for her work on award-winner Pigín of Howth by Katherine Watkins, a debate has been raging, demand more recognition for illustrators in general. Here's an excellent article that was in the Irish Times 2 days ago with numerous contributors. Exceptional points made her:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2016

The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards are a set of industry-recognised awards set up by a collective of Irish booksellers in 2007 to acknowledge the best and brightest of Irish authors in all fields. The shortlist for this years' awards were launched on 25 October, with voting open to members of the public. On 16 November, the winners were announced. As a childrens' bookseller, I'm, of course most concerned with the two children's categories and am delighted to tell you all that the winners are:

In the SpecSavers Childrens Book of the Year Senior category -
the winner is Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden. A classically-styled childrens fantasy, this is the first in a series that follows the world of young Denizen Hardwick. Denizen doesn't believe in magic, until he's attacked by a shadowy monster and then witnesses it's destruction by a word made of sunlight.From that point forward, he is thrown into a battle of good vs evil. Fantastic! Congratulations, Dave. Can't wait for the rest of the series!

In the SpecSavers Childrens Book of the Year Junior category -
the award went to Katherine Watkins for the lovely Pigín of Howth. A collection of stories that Katherine created for her 5 wonderful grandchildren, we meet Pigín, a very popular pig about town. Friendly, curious and with impeccable manners,, Pigín and his friends share three exciting adventures that are sure to entrance children. Congratulations, Katherine!
For more on these two award-winning books, the shortlists and all the other (grown-up) awards, just follow the link:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November is Picture Book Month!

I hope you have all been checking out the Picture Book Month site and enjoying the various 2016 Picture Book Champions posting daily. Each one has a different thought; a different perspective as to why picture books are so important in the lives of children...well, really in all our lives, young and old. Each day gives us even more reason to celebrate the artistry  and allows us to consider in new ways what the printed picture book has to offer in the world.

So far, the month was opened up by Carmen Oliver, author of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. (Wonderful book, by the way.)
"In a world where everything moves at such a fast place, picture books remind us to slow down and savor time reading with someone we love. To tuck into a favorite reading place or share a lap and be transported and transformed. And in doing so, picture books create memories we will have for eternity"
Then there was Ashley Wolff, expressing her thirst for adventure, exploration and thrills  in a safe and secure platform which she then transformed as an adult into In The Canyon. Adam Lehrhaupt talks about the development of our own story-telling abilities. Alyssa Satin Capucilli remembers the gifts of comfort, familiarity and developing a sense of belonging in the wider world. Jan Peck gives consideration to what makes a reader and book-lover. Marita Gentry speaks of the importance of the tactile quality of a physical book and how that allows a child to develop a sense of a personal creative journey. And todays' offering by Josh Funk, creator of Pirasaurs! lets us experience the world of fine art that lives vibrantly in the world of the printed picture book. Amazing!
But so far, I think my favourite has been from Pat Cummings. Pat discusses the importance of the picture book in how it allows the child to develop a sense of the world, of humanity and of how to understand others, behave with other. It is in how they offer a sense of stability that may not be present in the day to day world and to allow the child (or adult, let's face it) to seek solace and hope through that. I'm saying this badly. Here's Pats' own words:
"Why are picture books important? Because story is how we learn. And while we are still forming, an appreciation for good art and design should be woven into our consciousness at the cellular level. But mainly, picture books are important because I believe every child deserves to be indulged. Every child should have access to a world where loving parents are the rule, good intentions prevail and challenging problems lead to satisfying resolutions if only you’ll just turn the page"
I hope you will continue to follow along Picture Book Month 2016, or if you have joined yet, please do now. There is so much that you wouldn't have thought about, trust me. I have been working with childrens' books for quite some time now and am a life-long reader of childrens' books, and I find some new and exciting perspectives each year through Picture Book Month.
Read on, dear friends....and always look closely at the pictures!

Monday, October 31, 2016

November Is International Picture Book Month!

November 1st each year is the beginning of Picture Book Month, an international literacy initiative that celebrates the (print) picture book. Each day throughout the month,there is a post for a different picture champion explaining why he or she thinks picture books are so important. In this busy and all too digital world, picture books need love and attention. We sometimes forget the sheer wonder of physically turning the pages of a beautiful picture book, of being able to enter that world; to go back and forth within it and embark on a journey of discovery and joy, whether we are very young, or not so young any more. So, during the month of November, you are invited...all of you worldwide, to remember, to reconsider and to fall in love with picture books.

You can follow along on the calendar above to find the picture book champion and their theme for the day. Each post will encourage you to read, share and celebrate the magic of picture books, whether in a school, library or at home. (And it is perfect for all the homeschoolers out there!)
I am a huge picture book fan (as you probably know) and believe that actual, physical picture books are one of the most important art/literary forms we have. You are never too old for picture books! Or too young, for that matter.
Here's the link. Get involved! Celebrate! Remember the joy and keep it with you always!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal Nominees 2017

In more catch-up type news, the UK's oldest, most prestige childrens books award, the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, have announced their long list earlier this week. 114 books have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal for an outstanding book written in English for children and young people. A further 93 books have been nomiated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for excellence in illustration.
The CILIP Carnegie Medal list reads quite YA heavy, but this is understandable given the large number of YA fiction titles that show exceptional qualities in writing, storytelling and vibrancy. Nominees include:
Tanya Landman for Hell and High Water
Jackie Morris for The Wild Swans
Phillip Reeve for Railhead
Gavriel Savitt for Anna and the Swallow Man
Stewart Foster for The Bubble Boy
Timothee de Fombelle for The Book of Pearl
Malorie Blackman for Chasing the Stars
Lauren Wolk for Wolf Hollow
Kiran Millwood Hargrave for The Girl of Ink and Stars
....and many, many more incredible authors/titles

The Kate Greenaway Medal has an equally impressive list which includes:
Dieter Braun for Wild Animals of the North
Emily Gravett for Tidy
Petr Horachek for The Greedy Goat
Chris Riddell and Michael Rosen for A Great Big Cuddle
Jane Ray and Kevin Crossley-Holland for Heartsong
David Roberts and Michelle Robinson for A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting
Birgitta Sif for Where My Feet Go
Sam Usher for Rain
Fiona Woodcock for Hiding Heidi
...and, again, many, many more beautiful illustrated books.

Have a good look at the list. I'm sure you'll find something magnificent that will completely WOW you. And the best of luck to everyone on both list!

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2017

I'm playing a little catch-up here.
On  the 16th of October, the long list of candidates for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) 2017 was released. 226 candidates from 60 countries have been nominated. Of these 63 candidates have been nominated for the first time.This list is a veritable gold mine for anyone interested in childrens' literature and represents the vibrant and powerful world of childrens' books. Representatives from every continent on the planet epitomise the best of the best.
Established to honour the late Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking, Ronia the Robbers' Daughter and so many other truly magical and beloved childrens' books, The ALMA Award is presented yearly to indicate the importance that childrens' books have in the lives of young people and to inspire authors, illustrators, storytellers and promoters of reading everywhere.The award is chosen by a jury, the 12 members of which include authors, librarians, literary critics, illustrators and scholars. One member represents the family of Astrid Lindgren. It rewards artistic activity on the very highest level and continues to preserve and promote the ideals and spirit of Astrid Lindgren.
The 2016 ALMA laureate award went to the superb Meg Rosoff!
Of course, due to its' extensive nature, I won't recount the entire 2017 list here, but I will attached the link, not wanting to exclude any of the worthy candidates. And they are all worthy!. And here are a few that I have taken note of...
From Ireland, we are every excited to see two of our Childrens' Laureates, past and present make this list: Eoin Colfer and PJ Lynch!
The list from France includes several of my favourite authors and illustrators: Timothee de Fombelle, Tomi Ungerer, and Jean-Claude Mourlevat.
From the Italian segment, the work of Beatrice Alemagna has been included.
The Swedish list includes Eva Eriksson, Eva Lindstrom and Ulf Stark.
From South Africa, we have Beverly Naidoo, among other notables.
I love that Polands' nominee is the organisation All of Poland Reads to Kids!
The Uk has quite an extnsive selection, including Malorie Blackman, Neil Gaiman, David Almond, Patrick Ness, Shirley Hughes.....
As does the US, which includes Eric Carle, Ursula LeGuin, and Mildred Taylor.
Impressive, no? And that's just a taster. For the complete list worldwide, just follow the link:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize Shortlist

The shortlist for the Guardian Childrens Fiction Prize was announced today. The four authors listed have demonstrated incredible excellence in the field of childrens' literature.

Tanya Landman has a brilliant backlist of work and is no stranger to such nominations and awards,
having taken the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Buffalo Soldier. She is nominated for the Guardian for her latest book, Hell and High Water, set in 18th-century
England. It is one of two historical novels up for the prize; the other being Brian Selznicks' wonderful book, The Marvels. The Marvels interweaves a story told in illustration that begins in 1766 with a lone survivor of a shipwreck with a text story in 1990 about a boy who runs away from school to the house of his uncle.

Also shortlisted are two contemporary novels. Crongton Knights by Alex  Wheatle is set on a fictitious council estate and follows the adventures of McKay during the course of one night. And finally, Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon tells the poignant, eye-opening story of Subhi, a young boy who has spent his entire life in a refugee detention centre.
All are very powerful contenders for one of the most important awards in childrens' literature today.

The winner will be announced on 17 November.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Baboró Time!

In just a few days, the 2016 Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will kick off. From October 17 through the 23rd, venues all over Galway will host will play host to a wide array of events for anyone and everyone from 0-100 years, with theatre, puppetry, dance, film, animation, talks and workshops. Each year, Baboró brings a variety of artists from every field and all over the world. In addition to family events, Baboró hosts dedicated school everyone has a chance to attend something. And this year, they've even added "Something for the Grown-Ups" events.
A few of the incredible acts at this years' festival include: Cruthanna/The Shape of Things, a bililngual event for ages 0-4 yrs.; The Secret Life of Suitcases, puppetry filled with wit and humour for ages 4+; Dream City/Droomstad with De Dansers from Holland; A Feast of Bones for ages 9+; Cartoon Saloon bringing us both Song of the Sea and The Long Way North; Becoming: the Adventures of Growing Up,a beautiful exhibition of poignant and wondrous art; Patricia Forde and her must-read novel, The Wordsmith; for the Grown-Ups, PJ Lynch, our own childrens' laureate in conversation with Tarsila Kruse and Shona Shirley Macdonald....and so very much more.
So, keep an eye out as you're wandering around Galway. You'll be sure to find the Baboró brochure filled with's hard to tell who you'll meet!
For more information, and to book your tickets NOW, here's the link to the Baboró website:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

BA (Children's Studies) at NUI Galway

On Friday, 30th of September, I was invited to the official launch of an exciting new programme of study at NUI Galway. The new BA Children's Studies is a ground-breaking field of study. This 4 year programme is the only interdisciplnary programme of it's kind in Europe, encompassing every imaginable field of study to do with practical and theoretical approaches to childhood and adolescence. Whether the individuals' emphasis is on arts, literature, teaching, social services, legal and human rights, the programme is covering it. Community-based service-learning and enquiry-based learning are embedded within the degree and the third year placement combines with practical experience to prepare its' students with a wide range of specific career goals. I could go on, but suffice to say, I think this is one of the most exciting approaches to the field of childhood and youth study I have seen, and long over due.
The programme was launched by Minister for Children and Youths Affairs, Katherine Zappone.
Here's the link to find out more:

Thursday, September 29, 2016

CBI Conference - We Really Are Better Together

Having attended the CBI conference a couple of weeks ago, I can say with conviction, we truly are better together. This conference mages to bring the best of the best in childrens books together for one weekend. We all left feeling excited and inspired and with much to think about. Here are a few photos....
Incredible session with JonArno Lawson...
...and Sydney Smith

Manuela Salvi was incrdible
PJ Lynch, our childrens' laureate, in conversation with Ryan Tubridy...all about PJ's incredible work, the laureate's Big Picture and (drum roll, please) their new book, Patrick and the President. You have to be careful around could end up in a book.

These kids were absolutely brilliant! catch them if you can!

We heard from many voices, both old friends and new!

And in the end...there was Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston talking about the wonderful "A Child of Books!

In the was a very good weekend....