Monday, May 23, 2016

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2016

The winners of this years' CBI Awards were announced today at a ceremony held in Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin.

The 26th award for CBI Book of the Year 2016 went to Sarah Crossan for her amazing YA novel One, which chronicles a year in the life of conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi. Placed under constant medical and psychological evaluation and homeschooled until the age of 16, they now have to attend school for the first time in their lives. Written in verse, this is an insightful look at difference, acceptance, individuality and friendship. One was also given the Childrens Choice Award, presented to Crossan by students of Kings Hospital School Palmerstown and St Brigids National School Glasnevin. This makes Crossan the fourth author to win both.
(The Childrens Choice Award is by far my favourite as it voted for by young readers across Ireland!)
There are 4 other awards given at the Book of the Year ceremony. And the winners are:
Lauren O'Neill, receiving the Honour award for Illustration with her brilliant and beautiful work on the adaption , Gulliver; an intriguing and spell-binding adaptation, retold by the late Mary Webb and published by O'Brien Press. Great job and congratulations!
The Honour Award for Fiction went to Louise O'Neill for her second YA novel, Asking For It, which deals with the difficult but urgently important issues of consent, blame and victimisation.
Both the Judges Special Award and the Eilís Dillon Award (for a first childrens' book) went to the father/daughter team of John and Fatti Burke for Irelandopedia, an encyclopedia of facts and information about Ireland, suited for children of all ages!
From Jenny Murray, acting director of CBI;

"The Children’s Books Ireland Awards are the most unique children’s book awards in the country, allowing us not only to honour the very best in Irish writing, illustration and publishing, but to give young people a voice through the Children’s Choice Award. We were delighted to see a large increase in the number of young readers taking part in our shadowing scheme this year and enjoying the books on this year’s shortlist, across genre and age group."

....which is exactly why I am so proud to be associated with CBI.
Congratulations to all this years' winners.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Laureate na nÓg

This (literally) just in!
Irelands new Childrens' Laureate; Laureate na nÓg; has just been announced. I offer, along with the rest of the book world in Ireland, my sincerest congratulations to the one and only PJ Lynch.
PJ Lynch is the fourth Laureate na nÓg, having been handed his 'baton' by the outgoing Laureate, Eoin Colfer. He is the illustrator of over 20 incredibly beautiful books. He won the Kate Greenaway Medal twice, initially for The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, written by Susan Wojciechowski and also for When Jessie Came Across The Sea, written by Amy Hest. His most recent book The Boy Who Fell Off The Mayflower, was both illustrated and written by PJ.
As he was crowned Laureate na nÓg today, PJ told off his plans for the next 2 years;

“Being named the new Laureate is one of the proudest moments of my career. I want to explore the magic that happens when words and pictures come together. My theme as Laureate na nÓg will be “The Big Picture” – I plan to do a regular podcast involving live drawing or demonstrating techniques and I’ll invite guests to talk about their drawing passions. I would also love to create a landmark image in a prominent place or places in Ireland as a permanent reminder of the power of pictures to incite the imagination.”

I am extremely excited for the next two years, which will be amazing. Again, my heartfelt and sincere congratulations to PJ Lynch.

Another Round-Up!

So many books! Here's a few more published so far this year that I think are exceptional reads; delightful and funny or atmospheric and evocative...and sometimes, a bit of both:

Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret
author: Lyn Gardner
Nosy Crow (April 2016)
ISBN: 9780857634863
Mystery and mayhem in the setting of a Victorian London music hall. Rose was left as a baby on the steps of Campions' Palace of Varieties. It is the only home she has ever known and she loves it with all her heart. But, of course, she still wonders who she really is and what happened to her mother. Now, a sinister plot and murder threaten to destroy the Palace. Rose needs all her acquired skills as a performer and help from her friends and family as she delves into a very shady past in order to save her home. If you are a fan of Jacqueline Wilsons' Hetty Feather series, or if you love mysteries and detective dramas, this is the book for you. Intrigue, abduction,! (10+)

Little Bits of Sky
author: S.E. Durrant
Nosy Crow (May 2016)
ISBN: 9780857633996
Ira (real name Miracle) and Zac have been uprooted again. It's 1987 and they find themselves moved to Skilly House, a home for children in the social care system. Over the next few years, their lives are evocatively laid out in this book, a diary Ira keeps of their time there. Their longing for a home, the possibility of never having one, the daily dramas of Skilly House and the background of the poll tax riots give a gentle, yet exciting story. Memorable book of growing up, making and losing friends and what it takes to find a home. This one was just beautiful. It is filled with warmth, humour and love. Wonderful! (9+)

Captain Pug: The Dog Who Sailed The Sea
author: Laura James; illustrator: Églantine Ceulemans
Bloomsbury Childrens' (May 2016)
ISBN: 9781408866368
Pug is heading out to sea. He's had his jam tarts for breakfast. He's wearing his smart sailor suit. What could possibly go wrong? Well...just one thing. Captain Pug is afraid of water. And he is still rather hungry. And that picnic basket looks so inviting. After a trial run on the rowing team, will he be up for the real thing? So funny! Filled with adventure and peppered with wonderful expressive illustrations, this is a fantastic book for newly competent readers. You'll laugh! Can't wait for the second installment. (7+)

A Seven-Letter Word
author: Kim Slater
Macmillan Childrens' Books (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781509801121
Finlay McIntosh's mother disappeared two years ago. Since that time, his stutter has become unbearable. He's bullied at school and his father mostly ignores him, finding it hard not to lose patience with him due to his speech. The only way he can effectively communicate is by writing long letters to his absent mother which she will never see and by playing Scrabble online. One day, he makes friends with another Scrabble player called Alex. When Alex starts sharing bits of her story with him, Finlay starts to wonder. Is his mother secretly trying to get him a message? Or is there something more sinister going on? A very moving and gripping story of a young boy caught in a situation he has no way of understanding. With perfect pacing and empathy, this is a novel that pulls you through and makes you think about many current issues and how they affect the lives of children. Bullying, online communication, racism,  and triumph! Multi-layered and simply wondrous! (10+)

We Are Giants 
author: Amber Lee Dodd
Quercus Childrens' Books (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781784294212
Sydney thinks her Mum, Amy is the best in the world...even if she is a little different. Amy got to 4ft. tall and stopped growing. As far as Sydney (and big sister Jade) is concerned, this is the perfect height and there is no need to grow any taller. So she practices her shrinking exercises everyday, just like her Dad taught her. Her Dad died when she was just 5, but she has her memories, she has her Mum and she has her big sister to help her figure things out. Sydney has a very happy life. But when the family has to move, things get complicated. New friends, new school, dealing with bullies and having to cope with growing up in an unfamiliar town... life can seem like a bit much at times. Especially the growing up part. It seems Sydney is destined to be taller than her Mum....and she doesn't like it at all. Funny, heart-warming and very, very moving, this is one that everyone should read. Beautifully written with genuine characters and real-life situations, a must-read! (9+)

Anna and the Swallow Man
author: Gavriel Savitt
Bodley Head (January 2016)
ISBN: 9781782300526
It's Krakov, 1939; not a good time or place to be growing up. On the eve of WWII, the city is filled with soldiers and Anna is just 7 years old when they take her father. Alone with no one willing to help her, Anna embarks on a hopeless journey to find her father and instead meets the Swallow Man. Like her father, he has a gift for languages. While Anna is wary, he summons a brightly coloured swallow to dry her tears. Together they travel over a war-torn landscape, dodging bombs and soldiers and manage to make a new friend, in spite of their reservations. The world has become a dangerous place, making young Anna grow up before her time. Evocative, clever tale of loss, survival and trust. (12+)

author: Martin Stewart
Penguin (April 2016)
ISBN: 9780141362038
At 15, Wulliam is unwillingly preparing for his life as a Riverkeep, those who tend the river, dredging up corpses like his father before him. It is a treacherous  and chilling life; one that Wull would rather not live. But oone night, everything changes. His father is possessed by a dark spirit of the waters and Wull hears that the only cure lies in the belly of the mormorach, a deep sea dwelling creature that lives on those who venture the waters. Wull leaves on an epic river journey, down the familiar river and deeper to the places that have never been explored. This is an utterly absorbing fantasy that will haunt you long after reading. Gripping, enthralling and exceptional. Very strange and superb, written with textural descriptive qualities that lead to a poignant and masterful conclusion.

When We Collided
author: Emery Lord
Bloomsbury Childrens' (April 2016)
ISBN: 9781408870082
Vivi is a real spark of life; in love with everything and a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings. She is utterly different from anyone else in Verona Cove, the small town she finds herself living in. And, maybe it's too small for someone like Vivi. Jonah, on the other has lived there all his life. ince his father died, Jonah has been responsible for taking care of his entire family while they reeel from the shock and loss. When Vivi and Jonah meet, their worlds and concepts of life shift with new and exciting emotions, events and circumstances. Love at first sight is truly magically depicted, but...BUT...there are always consequences when worlds collide. And family life is challenging. As Jonah's mother spirals deeper into depression and things fall further apart, can Jonah and Vivi rise to keep it all together? Can Vivi deal with her own illness...or will she even recognise it?  A fabulous YA love story, with heart, honesty and a poignant look at mental illness. Utlimately, amazing and beautiful.

So....there's a few more....

Branford Boase Shortlist 2016

The Branford Boase Award shortlist for 2016 was announced recently, but before I show you the list, let me just recap as to what the award is all about.
The Branford Boase award is considered one of the pivotal awards in childrens literature. It is awarded annually to the author and editor of an outstanding debut novel for young people. and has a hugely impressive track record in identifying those with a special talent at the very start of their career. For example, Meg Rosoff, winner of this years' Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize (considered the worlds' most noted prize in childrens' books) one the Branford Boase Award for her first novel, How I Live Now in 2005. Frances Hardinge was named the Branford Boase winner exactly 10 years ago, and has gone on to win many accolades, including being named as the overall winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award this year for her incredible, The Lie Tree. I could go on and on, but basically, if you are even listed for the Branford Boase award, you are an author/editor who will attract a lot of attention.
This years' longlist of 23 authors and their editors has been whittled down to 6. From this, the judges will select "the most promising book for 7-year-olds and upwards by a first-time novelist."
And the shortlist is:

The Unlikely Adventures of Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, editor: Ben Horslen, Penguin Random House (9+)
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, illustrator: Jane Matthews; editor: Penny Thomas, Firefly Press (9+)
Time Travelling With A Hamster  by Ross Welford; editor:Nick Lake, HarperCollins Childrens Books (10+)
My Brother Is A Superhero by David Solomons, editor: Kirsty Stansfield, Nosy Crow 
Stonerider by David Hofmeyr; editors: Ben Horslen and Tig Wallace, Penguin Random House (12+)
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, editor: Bella Pearson, David Fickling Books (13+)

This is an incredibly strong shortlist. (Well, they do keep getting stronger and stronger with each passing year.) The best of wishes to you all!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

What To Tell Someone Who Hates Reading....again.

Once upon a time in 2010, I posted this small essay written by a friend of mine, Kevin Whelan. Kevin has great enthusiasm and support for childrens' reading. We are always discussing what is new out in childrens' books, what we think of it and, most importantly, what the readers are saying. This post is one of the top 3 'hits' on Fallen Star Stories, and it's one I go back to when I feel in need of support and energy as a childrens' book enthusiast. (We all need a boost every now and again, and sometimes it does feel like I'm talking to myself....but not after reading this.)
I thought I'd post it again here, as a reminder to me, to you, my dear readers and as a 'thank you' to Kevin. You have touched a lot of lives with this post. In fact, you have touched 14,490 lives, Kevin. Well done!


                          By Kevin Whelan

When I was a child (not a ‘kid’: as my nephew Ciaran Whelan always reminds me, “A kid is a goat”) a book was a fantastic thing to hold in one’s hands; turning the cover for the first time was like opening a secret door and stepping through into…what? And where? Somehow I knew that I could leave my life and its Sunday night school worries and other various minor troubles behind: for a few minutes or hours, I could engage in a form of nothing less than time travel.

     I mean how cool was that?

     It was always really exciting to turn the pages and see where the author took me.  It was as though they had gently taken my hand: I was going to have to trust them as much as they were going to trust me. I knew unpredictable and downright crazy things were going to happen. Better than that: I would meet real heroes and real villains and have adventures, real adventures, and feel happy and scared, and all sorts of other emotions.

       A good book was even a kind of food substitute; it fed my imagination and my heart. Good books still do. Which is a pretty incredible deal when you think about it. And they’re additive and calorie free. Organic too, I wouldn’t bet.

   Another thing: Reading should be a pleasurable, enjoyable experience. If you find a particular book ‘boring’ or too ‘difficult’ for you at the time, don’t feel that you have‘failed’. You will not have. Put it aside or, pass it on to a friend. After all there are other books to read, thousands and thousands of them—thank God. Sometimes you have to be ‘ready’ for a book, the way you need to be ‘ready’ when certain people come into your life—the good and the bad—and have the intelligence to recognise which is which: The ‘boring’ or ‘difficult’ book might one day turn out to be the ‘exciting’ and ‘easy’ book. The same of course applies to people.

   And if you don’t understand what I mean now then you might, one day—though I also accept that some books and some people are both ‘boring’ and ‘difficult’—and bad too. But you can’t have everything.

   But perhaps the simplest thing to tell someone who ‘hates’ reading is “I feel really sorry for you—you don’t know what you’re missing.”

   But we do.

Kevin Whelan