Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Summer of Lily and Esme by John Quinn....25 years

This year marks the anniversary of the publication of an extraordinary book. In 1991, Poolbeg published The Summer of Lily & Esme by John Quinn and in the 25 years since, it has never been out of print.
The Summer of Lily & Esme tells a quiet story, filled with compassion, friendship, memory and heart. It is the story of Alan, an 11-year-old boy who has moved from the city into a house in the countryside; in the middle of nowhere.The house is old and extremely large and immaculate; and there is a locked, boarded over attic room that is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young boy who died tragically. Alan is not too pleased with this move and becomes even less thrilled when he discovers his closest neighbours, in fact his only neighbours, are a pair of elderly sisters, Esme and Lily, who seem to be suffering from dementia.  When Alan falls down a hill of brambles and weeds, the sisters, who believe they themselves to be children, mistake Alan for their childhood friend, Albert. Albert sits at the centre of a mystery that occurred just a few short months after Lily and Esmes' 11th birthday, and now....according to them, he has arrived back. Alan and his new friend, Lisa who has arrived up from Wexford for the summer, set about discovering what happened to Albert, and, by extension, the sisters.
The summary I give hear seems too trite to do justice to how exceptional a story is told here. First of all, it is dealing with a concept that is difficult for children ages 9 to 12 to truly grasp with full understanding and impact. And yet, they will. In it's own reserved and thoughtful way, it is compelling; fascinating. The language is simple, clear and yet extremely eloquent. It casts a spell that allows the reader to see every bit of the journey. I didn't need to want to visit the house, meet the old ladies, see the countryside...I was there. It also expresses the deep interest, for lack of a better word, that the young and the old have with one another...a connection of sorts that is both curious and important. .
Upon finishing The Summer of Lily & Esme for the first time, I found myself sitting there with tears running down my face...and then I read it again.  I wish I had this book when I was young. Sadly, I only found it as an adult. But that hasn't lessened the impact it has. It is both memorable; the kind of book you will keep with you always.....the kind of book that will inspire you to think more, be more conscious of who and what is around you. It is unbelievably honest and forthright. It will make you think and feel more deeply. And it will move you.
Congratulations, John Quinn, for having written such a book. And thank you. It is certainly a gift. May it stay in print for at least another 25 years.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2016...Meg Rosoff

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial award is presented each year. This is the largest international award for children and young adult literature in the world, indicating the importance of reading by children and young people in their lives. The total (SEK 5 million) is set to inspire and encourage anyone involved in childrens writing to strive for purpose and quality. The award is given to authors, illustrators, storytellers and reading promoters. It may be presented to a single laureate, or to several and is given regardless of language or nationality. It is administered by the Swedish Arts Council and is named in honour of the amazing author, Astrid Lindgren, who gave the world such important childrens works as Ronia, the Robbers Daughter, Mio, My Son and, of course, Pippi Longstocking.

The Astrid Lindgren laureate for 2016 has been announced as Meg Rosoff.
Meg Rosoff made her debut in 2004 with the powerful dystopian novel, How I Live Now, the story of a young woman, Daisy from New York and her English cousin, Edmond, whose lives are torn apart as war rages in a not too distant future London. Each book since then has shown rare understanding, passion and compassion in expressing the lives of young people caught between childhood and adulthood, how they view their lives and the world situation and their thoughts on who they will be and how the world will form them into adulthood. With incredible dexterity and the utmost loyalty, Rosoff expresses issues of identity and being and becoming.
Congratulations to Meg, who will be presented with her award on May 30 in a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall. No better representative!

Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2016

IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) announced the winners of the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen awards on 4th April.
I look forward to this event every time. Their longlists are always extensive, covering childrens authors/illustrators worldwide. It gives us a reminder of the  rich and varied landscape in childrens literature, showing the concerns and similarities of the lives of children across the globe. When we view the shortlists, we are seeing the creme de la creme in childrens publishing, not simply in our own national or regional area, but everywhere....quite literally. It aids in a better communication and understanding of ourselves as human beings. The Hans Christian Andersen Award is consider the Nobel Prize for childrens writing and illustration. Always a truly fascinating experience.
The shortlists for this years' award came from such places as Iran, Denmark, Korea, and the USA. It's probably best just to show you,
Short List:

Germany:  Rotraut Susanne Berner
Iran: Pejman Rahimizadeh
Italy: Alessandro Sanna
Korea: Suzy Lee
Netherlands: Marit Törnqvist

China: Cao Wenxuan
Denmark: Louis Jensen
Germany: Mirjam Pressler
Netherlands: Ted van Lieshout
USA: Lois Lowry

From this still extensive list, the winners have been chosen and they are:

For illustration, the Hans Christian Andersen Award goes to Rotraut Susanne Bernard.
" Berner’s work is at all times recognizably hers, while simultaneously being intensely responsive to the demands of the text, or in the case of the Wimmel Books, to the specific world of a very specific town.  She is willing to take risks—"

For writing, the winner is Cao Wenxuan of China.
" The unanimous choice of the jury, Cao writes beautifully about the complex lives of children facing great challenges. He is a deeply committed writer, whose own difficult childhood has been deeply influential on his writing in which there are no easy answers..."

Each displaying an amazing and wonderful body of work that speaks directly to the lives and hearts of children everywhere, both are truly deserving winners. Congratulations!
For the full press release, follow the link below:

Monday, April 4, 2016

Another Review Round-Up!

So many books! As I said previously, there have been a lot of really wonderful books out lately. It's difficult to get them all in. But here are a few more you really should read. A little something for everyone here. In no particular order:
author/illustrator: Sam Usher
Templar (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781783705474
Sam and Grandpa are trapped indoors by the pouring rain. Sam drinks hot chocolate and reads his books while waiting for the rain to stop. But Grandpa has a very important letter to post and can't let the rain and flooding stop him! So, off they go! Once outside, with no end to the horrible weather in sight, marvelous adventure ensues. Very thoughtful and a great deal of fun, this is the follow-up to Snow and one of four picture books based on the weather. Beautiful illustrations and heart-felt observations on the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, Rain is utterly wonderful and very poignant! A great picture book for sharing.

Eliza Rose
author: Lucy Worsley
Bloomsbury Childrens (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781408869437
Elizabeth Rose Camperdown is the young headstrong daughter of a noble family. She may have hopes and dreams of her own, but at age 12, she learns she also has a duty to her family and their position in Tudor England. She must marry a wealthy man of position and power. But fate intervenes and Eliza is sent to the exciting, treacherous court of Henry VIII as a maid of honour to the Queen. She is alongside her cousin, the flighty, ambitious Katherine Howard. Is Katherine as ally or a rival? When the King's affections change, once again, Eliza Rose finds herself questioning all she has ever known. In a world dominated by men, can a girl really choose her own destiny? A wonderful work of historical fiction that is historically accurate, exciting and imaginative. (11+)

Polly and the Puffin: The Stormy Day
author: Jenny Colgan illustrator: Thomas Docherty
Little Brown Books for Young Readers (February 2016)
ISBN: 9780349131924
Black clouds gather, the wind begins to howl and rain begins to fall. Polly is waiting for something really important...but she is getting worried. And she can't even go outside; not in this weather! How will she keep busy? Things get even more worrisome when her puffin, Neil flies off into the storm! What will Polly do now? I am loving the Polly and the Puffin stories! Gentle, heart-felt and still filled with excitement, these books also include recipes, rhymes and fun activities. The illustrations are simple, clear and very expressive and charming. Perfect for newly confident readers, or to share aloud.

Freddie Mole: Lion Tamer
author: Alexander McCall Smith illustrator: Kate Hindley
Bloomsbury Childrens (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781408865859

Freddie Mole is an ordinary boy who joins the circus one day. He’s stuck with all the nasty clean-up jobs and works hard, but can’t believe his luck when he’s asked to understudy some of the acts. The acrobats performance is terrifying, but it would seem Freddie has “star” written all over him! The big question is, is Freddie brave enough to go into the lions cage when they really need a lion tamer to headline the show! Funny, well-written adventure for younger readers with quirky, lively illustrations that add much to the story!

The Genius Factor:How To Capture An Invisible Cat 
author: Paul Tobin
Bloomsbury Childrens (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781408869970
Brilliantly crafted and hilariously funny! Every Friday the 13th, boy genius does 3 not-so-smart things just to keep life interesting. This time, he's sent a love letter, taught a caterpillar to read and super-sized his cat, Proton before turning him invisible. Now Proton is running riot through the town and Nate and best-friend Delphine have to catch Proton and reverse the experiment before Proton crushes the entire town. But, the Red Death Tea Society (that dastardly criminal organisation...and fantastic tea-brewers, by the way) is plotting against Nate and Delphine. It's going to take a lot of luck, a lot of creative thinking and a strong friendship to get the out of this one. One of my young readers said, "This has got to be the best book ever!" If you like funny and intelligent books, you'll love this! (9-12)
No Heroes
author: Anna Seidl
Little Island Books (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781910411322
Miriam is a high school student living with her father, part of a close, carefree group of friends, embarking on her first serious relationship with her sweet, kind boyfriend Toby. Life is good, life is ordinary and happy. Until the day when one of her classmates goes berserk, gunning down several students and teachers, including Toby who is shot right before Miriam's eyes. In the days and weeks that follow, Miriam and her surviving friends are left with the full range of emotional backlash; grief, terror, shock, rage, and guilt. Guilt is the worst of all. Haunted by nightmares and the question, "Is it our fault?" Miriam tries to piece her life back together. But how can anything be normal or ordinary again. A powerful, soul-wrenching story of the aftermath, this is astounding. It is a convincing psychological study of an event, horrifically all too common in our times, that we all pray we never have to face. It also calls into question the media treatment of such events and how we handle our responsibilities to each other. powerful and important. (Young Adult, but adults should read this as well.) Do NOT shy away from this book!

The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth
author: Katherine Woodfine
Egmont (February 2016)
A welcome return for Katherine Woodfine's historical mysteries, we are once again led into the Edwardian world of Sinclair's Department store. This time, the debutantes are preparing for their first season and all must be done with according propriety. But when Miss Veronica Whiteley loses a gift from her soon-to-be fiancé, Lord Beaucastle, the extraordinary Jewelled Moth brooch; and suspects it has been stolen, our heroines, Sophie and Lil find themselves on another case. The discovery of the body of another young debutante, the criminal activities of the Baron and threats against a Chinese family in the East End all link together to make an intrepid, exciting plot filled with nuance, subtlety, danger and thrills. I liked this one even more than the wonderful debut The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Exceptional! (10+)

Rebel of the Sands
author: Alwyn Hamilton
Faber and Faber (February 2016)
ISBN: 9780571325252
Amani is bound by family loyalty to her lecherous uncle and his family after the death of her mother. Dustwalk is her home, the only one she has ever known and the sand is in her blood and bones. but she longs to have a life of her own choosing in the city of Izman where she will not be looked down on because she is a girl. After saving secretly for months, Amani enters a competition dressed as a boy. If she wins, she will have the money to finally be free. But a mysterious stranger appears at the last moment and a rebel uprising begins. Will Amanis' hopes and efforts come to nothing? Brilliant, stunning and so much more than meets the eye! Amani's character is wild, free and determined. The writing and plot is compelling. Amazing read! (12+)

author: Cecelia Ahern
HarperCollinsChildrensBooks (March 2016)
Society has fallen apart due to the decisions made by its' leaders who have acted immorally, making flawed decisions that have imperiled everyone. But a new social structure has formed. The way to build again is obvious; everything and everyone must be perfect. Celestine North was born in this new society and, of course she lives a perfect life. She is the perfect example of what everyone should be, beautiful, well-like by all, a model daughter and sister. She's even dating the perfect boy, Art Crevan. But one day,because Celestine helps a 'flawed' elderly man on a bus, she is judged as flawed and her entire life changes. Every aspect of her life must now be controlled, right down to the food she eats. She is ostracised ; her family is watched and monitored, she could be imprisoned, she could be branded, and the incredible inhumanity of it all dawns on her. Before she knows it, she becomes a symbol of resistance and takes a stand that could cost her everything. An amazing dystopian novel that gives us an unvarnished view of human nature and the cost of our unbounded search for perfection. (Young Adult)

And I'm sure there will be a few more later! Enjoy!