Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Childrens Book Ireland Reveal Book of the Year Winners 2017

Yesterday, in a ceremony at Dublins' Smock Alley Theatre, Childrens Books Ireland announced the incredible winners for this years Book of the Year Awards.
The overall winner for 2017 went to Chris Haughton for his picture book, Goodnight Everyone. This beautiful book combines Haughtons' cut-paper style illustration in a gradually darkening palette with simple text to journey through the forest as nighttime sets in and the animals go to sleep for the night. Subtle, quiet and calming, it is set to join such childrens' classic bedtime books as Goodnight Moon.
Goodnight Everyone also won the Honour Prize for illustration.

My favourite award in this annual event is the Childrens' Choice Award, as the book is selected by children all over Ireland involved in the CBI shadowing scheme. This year, the firm winner was Peadar  Ó Guilíns' The Call. An unnerving horror-fantasy,  this blend of Irish mythology and contemporary coming-of-age see the Sidhe returning to take their revenge. Not so much about the horrible things that happen, this book is more about the dread of knowing something is coming for you. Chilling and well done!
Deirdre Sullivan won this years Honour Award for Fiction for her incredible YA novel, Needlework. A powerful novel that will stay with you for a long time, Needlework is everything YA fiction should be, and more. Amazing! (This is previously reviewed on the YA page of this blog.)

Congratulations to all the winners.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

British Book Awards 2017 and Branford Boase Awards Shortlist

Yesterday, the British Book Awards 2017 announced their winners, with The Essex Serpent taking the top prize for fiction. However, I am concerned with childrens' books, as you all know. The prize in childrens' book of the year went to the amazing book, The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Hargraves' debut won out over JK Rowlings' script, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, as well as a host of other fine books and authors, such as David Walliams, Tom Fletcher and Nadiya Hussain, all of whom had high sales and many accolades. But The Girl of Ink and Stars truly shines. Not only has it won this award, but has already been honoured with the Waterstones childrens' book prize 2017 and is shortlisted for both the Branford Boase award and the Carnegie medal.
An extraordinarily beautiful book package coupled with an unusual, refreshing and innovative story made The Girl of Ink and Stars one of my personal favourites last year. From the "What Are You Reading?"page on this blog:
"Woven with all the magic of fairy tales and childhood memories...The presentation of the book is simply perfect, each page illustrated with cartographic references that gives the physical book the feel of the journey, of movement as you weave through the tale with Isabella. Truly beautiful writing, magical, mythological and positively spell-binding..."
Congratulations to Kiran, and to all at Chicken House who worked so diligently to create this magical tale. 
As mentioned above, The Girl of Ink and Stars is shortlisted for yet another prize, the Branford Boase Award, along with seven others of outstanding quality. The Branford Boase Award is given annually to reward new writers and their editors, and to celebrate excellence in writing and editing. This years' shortlist certainly indicates such excellence. The nominees for the 2017 award are: Cogheart by Peter Bunzl, editor:Rebecca Hill; We Are Giants by Amber Lee Dodd, editor: Niamh Mulvey; Little Bits of Sky by Sue Durrant, editor: Kirsty Stansfield; The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster, editor: Rachel Mann; The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, editor:Rachel Leyshon; Beetle Boy by M G Leonard, editors: Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon and Riverkeep by Martin Stewart, editors: Shannon Cullen and Sharyn November. This must be a particularly difficult decision for the judges, for each of these novels is utterly different, yet each one is exceptional in so many ways.
The very best of luck to all of you!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Farewell Cuirt 2017....

So, we bid farewell to the Cuirt International Literature Festival for another year...and it was fabulous. The childrens' authors/illustrators and storytellers that came for the Cuirt Labs were among the best and most interesting ever to share their knowledge, gifts and enthusiasm with so many of Galways' young people.
With the assistance of my new companion at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, Left Behind Koala (LB) here is a photo of what was on offer, and in fact still available for the young, and not-so-young, to read, enjoy and explore. (Obviously, LB had his favourites....but it was very hard for a koala to choose.)

I want to add my personal thanks to all the authors, especially those who stopped in to say 'hi' and sign books. It was a pleasure to meet you all...and I can't wait to hear more from you!

I had the distinct pleasure of introducing the YA authors panel on Saturday the 29th; Shirley-Anne McMillan (A Good Hiding), Claire Hennessy (Nothing Tastes As Good and many others) and Dave Rudden (Knights of the Borrowed Dark and its' sequel, The Forever Court). While I don't have a transcript of each of their presentations, perhaps the transcript of my introductions will give you a taste for their work. If you haven't experienced their books yet, you really should. You will not be disappointed.
I can't wait to see what next year brings....

Cuirt Introductions: Shirley-Anne McMillan, Claire Hennessy & Dave Rudden

Hello and welcome to this afternoons’ Cuirt readings with Shirley-Anne McMIllan, Claire Hennessy and Dave Rudden. Many of you will have attended the Labs this afternoon and have experienced firsthand the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge these three have to offer. I’m sure you came away feeling inspired, with a regenerated excitement for reading and, hopefully, writing. I will introduce our authors in turn and they will talk about and read from their work. They are very interested in hearing from you and there will be time at the end for questions and comments. So, if you wouldn’t mind, please hold them until that time.

We begin with Shirley-Anne McMillan. Shirley-Anne was born in Lisburn, co Antrim and has lived in Northern Ireland all her life. She studied at Queens’ University, Belfast and Manchester Metropolitan University. While studying, she wrote poetry, picture books and articles for free, local arts publications. Shirley-Anne has written and performed with the Belfast-based arts group, Ikon for several years. She has an interest in social activism, in particular Northern Ireland peace initiatives and LGBT equality. Shirley-Anne has a keen eye for the concerns and lives of young people and has worked with them to seek to enhance awareness and diversity among them.  It is this keen eye that lead her to pen her novel, A Good Hiding, published in August 2016. A Good Hiding tells the story of two friends, 15-year-old Nollaig and her best-friend, Stephen. Nollaig has a traumatic home life with her alcoholic father. She has always been Stephens’ champion, defending him against bullies who lash out at him because he is openly gay. When Nollaig falls pregnant a few months before her 16th birthday, she runs away, hiding herself in the crypt of a local church. Feeling she has nowhere else to turn, she prevails upon Stephen to keep her secret and help her. There, they come across the vicar of the church, Brian, who has a secret of his own and blackmail him into helping them. What follows is a dramatic and emotion tale of courage  and revelation told in a unique voice that shines a light into the lives of Shirley-Annes’ subjects and reveals something of the challenges and changes of Northern Irelands’ young people today. 
Claire Hennessy is a very busy woman. Born in 1986 in Dublin, Claire attended Trinity College, where she completed a BA in history and English Literature, and Masters Degrees in Popular Literature and Creative Writing. She is a co-founder and co-director of the Big Smoke Writing Factory creative writing school in Dublin, teaches regularly for CTYI, reviews YA and childrens books for the Irish Times and other publications; is the co-editor and co-founder of Banshee literary journal and the Puffin Ireland editor at Penguin…the list goes on and on. As the author of numerous books for Young Adults, Claire regularly does author visits and writing workshops for schools, libraries and festivals.. She wrote her first novel, Dear Diary…. which was published by Poolbeg Press in February 2000. She was 14 years old. Claire hasn’t stopped writing since, with nearly a book year…sometimes two. Her last outstanding book, Nothing Tastes As Good was published by HotKey in July 2016. Tackling the prevalent and timely issue of eating disorders and body image with clear and compassionate perception, Nothing Tastes As Good is told in the unique, fascinating voice of Annabel. When we meet her, Annabel has died as the result of anorexia, and now exists in a liminal space. She is given the assignment of helping Julia without any direction as to what she is meant to do. To Annabel, who spent her abbreviated lifetime seeking to be ‘lighter than air’, Julias’ problem is obvious. But as Annabel cannot communicate with her directly, she becomes the ‘voice in her head’, attempting to guide Julia along a strict regime of exercise and weight loss.Clearly,  Annabel still hasn’t come to terms with her own issue. With carefully crafted plot and character development, the story is woven, frayed and re-woven, coming to a resolution that, though not cut and dried, is filled with potential. Her latest book, Like Other Girls, will be published by HotKey in May and promises to be just as insightful and incisive as her last. 
And now we have Dave Rudden. What can I say about Dave Rudden? Dave received a Masters Degree in Creative writing from University College Dublin, earning him first-class honours. He has also been short-listed for the Bath Short-Story Prize in 2013, long-listed for the Fish Poetry Prize and won the Fantasy Review Short-Story Prize in 2011. After having international publishers battle it out over rights for his unique, exciting fantasy trilogy, the first in the series Knights of the Borrowed Dark was published by iconic Puffin last year in April. This brought a new unlikely hero, Denizen Hardwick into our lives. The orphaned Denizen finds himself flung into an ancient battle between the magic-wielding Knights and a race of monsters, the Tenebrous, composed purely of darkness. This year, Denizens' journey continues in The Forever Court, with more knights, more monsters and more menace. The world created is filled with texture and believeable quality, while the story is told with tension, drama and an enormous amount of humour. Not only is there a cracking fantasy story, but typical issues and concerns of coming-of-age process; friendship, loyalty, family relationships and issues of power and responsibility are handled with great dexterity. The effect is one that truly begs the question, if you're afraid of the dark, what is the dark afraid of?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cuirt International Festival of Literature 2017

In just a weeks' time, the Cuirt International Festival of Literature will land in Galway bringing a plethora of writers, illustrators and story-tellers to the city for one of the best festivals we see annually. The programme is diverse, insightful and entertaining.
Of course, my interest here is primarily in the programme for young people.
Cuirt offers the Cuirt Labs and brings authors, illustrators and other creative artists of all sorts into the lives of our students, giving them entertainment and inspiration. From primary through to young adults, the workshops give young people the opportunity to meet and work with some of the best and most popular in Ireland today. This year, we have Tatanya Feeney, Erika McGann, Caroline Busher, Gerard Siggins, Claire Hennesy, Shirley-Anne McMillan, Dave Rudden....and many others sharing their time and talents in what proves to be a fascinating and exciting time. While the schools have been busy booking places for their classes, there is always ample opportunity in  booking events for the kids and all the family. And there are some events for kids as Gaeilge, for the Irish language speakers. The Saturday/Sunday workshops will be of great interest to young people aged 12-18. Truly something for everybody! See what you can book now:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Today, it has been announced that the 2017 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award has gone to Wolf Erlbruch. Erlbruch was one of 226 candidates from over 60 countries worldwide.
Born in 1948, Erlbruch began working in childrens publishing in 1985, when he first illustrated James Aggreys' The Eagle Who Would Not Fly. Best known for his work in 1994 on Werner Holzwarths' The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business, Erlbruch has shown himself to be both a traditional and innovative illustrator at the same time. He is unafraid to tackle difficult subject matter in his illustrations, while displaying a sensitivity, delicacy and delightful humour.
Last years' winner, Meg Rosoff is quoted as saying, “Erlbruch gives the impression that he is an artist incapable of sentimentality, but his drawings have a delicacy and a sweet humour that helps us cope with the immensity of the subject.”
Congratulations go to Wolf Erlbruch for receipt of this prestigious award; and for his continued commitment to excellence and to enriching the lives of children everywhere.
The award is given each year and is worth 5 million Swedish Krona (£445,000). It is given to an author or illustrator of childrens' books who has demonstrated high artistic quality and integrity while representing a commitment to the rights and welfare of children and young people. In memory of the exceptional Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, Ronia the Robbers' Daughter and many, many other books, the Swedish government founded this award to encourage and inspire anyone involved in childrens' literature.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Waterstones Childrens Book Prize 2017...and the winner is....

A huge congratulations is going out to Kiran Millwood Hargrave (and publisher Chicken House) on winning the overall Waterstone's Childrens Book Prize 2017 with the truly magnificent The Girl of Ink and Stars. The award was announced just a few hours ago at Waterstones' flagship shop in London Piccadilly.
The Girl of Ink and Stars is the story of Isabella, daughter of a cartographer, who lives on the small island of Joya under the watchful eye of a strict and dictatorial governor. When a school friend, Lupa, disappears into a deep and strange forest under mysterious circumstances, Isabella volunteers to lead a rescue party, using old maps and the islands' dark, eerie legends to locate her. Having to conceal herself as her brother, she treks out on a dangerous journey into the unknown. They've called it mesmerising...and they are not wrong! A stunning debut novel and a well-deserved winner.
The Waterstones' prize for illustrated books went to the sumptuous and entertaining picture book, There's A Tiger in The Garden by Lizzie Stewart. Bright, beautiful and contemporary, the illustrations jump off the page in a story that is both exciting and reassuring, without losing an ounce of fun. In the older fiction category, Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence stood out as being bold, honest and filled with rounded, believable teen characters.
The quality and strength of all the winners stands as testimony to the type of contemporary childrens' literature being produced. Absolutely exceptional work! Well done and congratulations to you all!


Monday, March 13, 2017

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2017

The shortlist has just been announced for this years' Childrens Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards. And, once again, what an exciting shortlist it is! I won't ramble on about it. Here's the photo!
I do have to mention, however, that this is the moment for the Shadowing Groups to start getting busy! They've a lot to read before the awards date. The awards will be announced on 23rd of May at Smock Alley Theatre as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin...and by Rick O'Shea, no less!
Everything you need to know about the awards and Shadowing scheme is on the website. Just follow the link:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

More World Book Day Events 2017

Last week...for the second week....I had more wonderful World Book Day events with two of my favourite authors and more of my favourite schools came to visit at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop. A bit unusual perhaps, but if it were up to me, every day would be World Book Day. So to keep the message going, Patricia Forde came to say us and spoke to the girls from Mercy Primary about her writing life and all of her books, but especially about the incredible novel, The Wordsmith. If you haven't read The Wordsmith yet, I strongly recommend this incredible book. And, I'm told it is to be published in the US later this year as The List.

We were also treated to a visit by Marguerite Tonery, who graciously spoke to two class groups and took us all away to Kapheus, the fantastical world of light. The kids from St Nicholas Primary and Scoil Iognaid were mesmerised by the journey...as was I. Marguerite has three Kapheus books out now, each one as amazing as the each other.

Finally, I had a visit from the 1st/2nd class from St Nicholas Primary, during which I got to read to them! My favourite thing to do. We read A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston, The Knight Who Wouldn't Fight by Helen & Thomas Docherty and, of course, Where The Wild Things Are By Maurice Sendak. It wouldn't be a World Book Day celebration without it!
Big thank yous to everyone! I'm already looking forward to next year.

Monday, March 6, 2017

World Book Day Events 2017

Last week, I had some wonderful World Book Day events at my new home as Childrens' Books Specialist; Charlie Byrnes Bookshop. It's been a more low key than in years past, but the energy and enthusiasm for World Book Day remains just as high.
I started off last week with a visit to Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh in Galway, where I spoke with 4 wonderful class groups. We, of course talked about World Book Day...now in its' 20th year...and what the kids had been reading, their favourite books, etc. I also read to them from one of my favourite books published over the past year, Perijee and Me by Ross Montgomery. The enthusiastic response from the children and the teachers was very much appreciated. I should also mention that, while there, I ran into Geraldine Mills, who was there to speak to 4 slightly older class groups about her absolutely brilliant book, Gold. (Lucky kids!) A huge thanks to the school for inviting me out to meet such a great group of young people.
On Thursday, March 2nd...World Book Day itself, one of my
favourite authors, Nicola Pierce visited Charlie Byrnes Bookshop and spoke to two local school groups, the 6th year class from St Michaels Boys School and 5th/6th class from St Nicholas Primary. She spoke about her writing life, how a book comes into being and focusing on her new and fabulous historical fiction book for young people, Kings of the Boyne. The kids were fascinated and had many thoughts and questions...and a few customers even joined the session. It was fabulous! Thank you so much once again, Nicola! As usual, you were brilliant!

To round off the week, on Friday the 2nd year class from Scoil Iognaid arrived for a very special treat: Julian Gough was in to tell us all about the lives of Rabbit and Bear as portrayed in his books; Rabbits' Bad Habits and The Pest in the Nest.
After giving us Rabbit and Bears' back story, he even worked with the kids to create a story of their own involving a cat-gummy bear stuck inside a crocodiles' stomach and how he was going to get out. It was lively and amazing! Thank you very much, Julian! The kids and I had the best time ever!

This upcoming week, I have a few more WBD events happening...so I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

World Book Day 2017!

I know I've been rather quiet about World Book Day this year, but now is the time to shout out loud...
This Thursday, 2nd of March, is World Book Day 2017 and we are celebrating 20 years!
That's right. For 20 years, we have been celebrating the one day per year especially set aside to sing the praises of childrens' literature, reading and the pure joy and delight of books. That is really what it's all about. And I have absolutely loved every year; seeing the school kids, reading to them, watching them interact with authors, illustrators and story-tellers...it is utterly amazing.
As always, there is a special selection of books published for World Book Day.
We have Peppa, The Famous Five, Horrid Henry, those crazy Underpants-loving Aliens and much more, including a special offering from David Walliams....Blob!

And because we're in Ireland, we get one more....those great people at The O'Brien Press have produced a book from our own Judi Curtin; Fast Forward; another time-traveling adventure with Beth and Molly.
These World Book Day books cost only one World Book Day €1.50 voucher each, which are distributed to schools and given to each child. (The World Book Day vouchers are only valid from 27th February through the 26th of March...so don't forget.) This way, every child can get a book of their own. The books are displayed in bookshops throughout the country. All you have to do is take your child into a bookshop with their voucher and let them pick up a book.
Also, there are events, storytime activities, author visits...more than you can imagine happening in your area. And not just on World Book Day...they could be happening all month long. We all like to pull out all the stops to bring the joy of books to school children. Check with your local bookshop, library or ask your school what events are on offer. Or check the website below for events in your area.
Happy World Book Day, everybody!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Branford Boase award Long List 2017

On February 16, the long list for the 2017 Branford Boase Award was announced. Twenty-two books have been selected and by May 8th, they will be narrowed down to the short list with a view to the selection of the winner this summer.
The Branford Boase was set up to honour the most promising new writers and their editors, as well as to recognise excellence in writing and publishing. The award is given annually to the most promising book for 7-year-olds and upwards by a first time novelist. This years' list is very strong (and includes many of my favourite novels over the last year.)
Included are:

-Fenn Halflin and the Fear Zero by Francesca Armour-Chelu; editor: Sarah Handley; published by Walker Books
-Alone by DJ Brazier; editors: Charlie Shepperd & Chloe Sackur; published by Andersen Press
-The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull; editors: Sarah Leonard and Megan Larkin; published by Orchard Books
-Cogheart by Peter Bunzl; editor: Rebecca Hill; published by Usborne Books
-Why I Went Back by James Clammer; editor: Charlie Shepperd; published by Andersen Press
-Follow Me Back by Nicci Cloke; editor: Emma Matthewson; published by Hot Key Books
-We Are Giants by Amber Lee Dodd; editor:Niamh Mulvey; published by Quercus
-Little Bits of Sky by Sue Durrant; editor: Kirsty Stansfield; published by Nosy Crow
-Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan; editor: Bella Pearson; published by David Fickling Books
-The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster; editor: Rachel Mann; published by Simon and Schuster
-The Otherlife by Julia Gray; editor: Chloe Sackur; published by Andersen Press
-The Best Medicine by Christine Hamill; editor: Siobhan Parkinson; published by Little Island
-Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton; editors: Alice Swan and Kendra Levin; published by Faber and Faber
-The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; editor: Rachel Leyshon; published by Chicken House
-Defender of the Realm by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler; editor: David Stevens; published by Scholastic
-Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence; editor: Emma Goldhawk; published by Hodder Childrens Books
-Beetle Boy by M G Leonard; editors: Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon; published by hicken House
-Girl Out of Water by Nat Luurtsema; editor: Emma Lidbury; published by Walker Books
-The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol; editors: Kesia Lupo and Barry Cunningham; published by Chicken House
-Riverkeep by Martin Stewart; editor:Shannon Cullen; published by Penguin Random House
-Kook by Chris Vick; editor: Nicholas Lake; published by HarperCollins Childrens Books
-Spangles McNasty and the Fish of Gold by Steve Webb; editor: Charlie Shepperd; published by Andersen Press
So...that's the long list in full. If you are looking for a really great read for the young people in your life (or yourself for that matter), I can highly recommend any or all of these books. Quite frankly, I've got my fingers crossed for all of them.
I also want to mention that the Branford Boase awards does a marvelous job of recognising not only first-time authors, but their editors. The editors are frequently overlooked, but are the unsung heroes of the publishing world, working long and hard to make sure to bring the best books into existence. I'll keep you updated!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Alice and Pinocchio at the Crossroads


School of Languages, Literatures and Culture

Children’s Studies and Italian, NUI Galway
Invite you to join us for a Public Seminar
Professor Laura Tosi (Ca’ Foscari, Venice, Italy)
Alice and Pinocchio –
At the Crossroads of Genre, Nation and Identity
5.00- 6.00 pm, February 23, 2017
GO11, James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway
This Thursday there will be another outstanding Children's Studies Seminar at NUI Galway. Dr Laura Tosi will speak about genre, nation and identity in the context of comparison/contrast  of Alice (in Wonderland) and Pinocchio. 
So, if you're in Galway, at loose ends and as passionate as I am about childrens books, you should come along. This plans to be a particularly interesting and timely seminar.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Raymond Briggs Lifetime Achievement Award

A huge congratulations to Raymond Briggs, author of Fungus the Bogeyman and, of course, the beloved story, The Snowman. He was been honoured by the childrens' charity BookTrust with it's Lifetime Achievement Award. Diana Gerald, BookTrusts' CEO described the body of Briggs work as "captivating and inspiring" and having an enormous impact on both children and adults.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was first given in 2015. The recipient was Shirley Hughes, author/illustrator of such books as Dogger and the wonderful Alfie series. Following on from that, in 2016, Judith Kerr received the honour for her many works, including the Mog series and the pivotal childhood story, The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

Briggs is probably best known for his Christmas stories, The Snowman and Father Christmas, as well as Fungus the Bogeyman. But he has also taken on some very political subjects. His 1982 graphic novel, When The Wind Blows, tackles nuclear war from the perspective of an elderly couple.  In 1998, Briggs looked at the story of a life lived together in his beautiful and moving work, Ernest and Ethel, which told the story of his parents from their meeting in 1928 to their deaths in 1971.
Briggs himself, as late as last December pondered such honours by saying; "funny title, because come on, my lifetime hasn't ended yet."
Each book is drawn and told with sensitivity and adds a deeper level of critical thought to the simplest of stories. His body of work has touched the lives of everyone. His perspective is refreshing and gives rise to more considered and critical thinking. And, they all capture a sense of wonder and beauty. Philip Ardagh recently referred to Briggs as one of the "picture Book royalty." He has won numerous other awards for his lifetime in childrens' books, including the Kate Greenaway Medal and was one of two runners-up for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen award in 1984. The BooksTrust Life Achievement Award is a well-deserved honour, indeed.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Year! New Books!...part 3 The Picture Books

2017 looks like another great year for picture books. As you probably know, I believe that picture books are possibly the most important books in a childs' reading life. They not only enchant and entertain young children, but they help them in many ways; exposing them to art at a very early age, helping them to hone their observational skills, explain the world to them, help them to develop concepts of what they want the world to be, developing visual literacy and creative thinking, etc. Most of all, they bring about a feeling of safety, cosiness and that they are loved, cared for and they have someone who is truly interested in them. The memories you create when you read to a young child stay with them for the rest of their lives. Now, here's a few to share...
Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrations by Christian Robinson is out now in paperback. This lovely tale of a boy and his grandmother, who are taking their weekly bus journey across the city is filled with wonder and delight.With vibrant, enticing colours and images with a lively illustrative style, the feel of community and the warmth of relationship comes through in a genuine way, without being overly idealistic. There is much to see and it opens a world that, sadly, some will experience only on the pages of a book. How To Find Gold by Vivienne Schwarz has great dialogue and an exciting plot as Anna and Crocodile embark on a treasure hunt.This adventure requires much planning, strength and courage as they craft a map to take them to the treasure and take off across the seas. A charming book with great characters that shows us how to be brave and bold and teaches that things are much better when you have a good friend by your side.
I love The Glump and the Peeble by Wendy Meddour, illustrations by Rebecca Ashdown! Lively, bright, enthusiastic illustrations perfectly accent a story that is reassuring and just plain fun, while teaching that it is important to be more open and true to yourself. Quirky and colourful, this is one to read again and again.  
Mary Murphys' Picken offers a brilliant split page book to help the littlest ones learn about mix and match....and about the joy of creativity! Adorable, brightly coloured animals can be combined in numerous ways to create and wonderful array of farmyard animals and will keep young children (and older ones, too!) enthralled for hours!
As February nears be on the lookout for There's A Tiger in the Garden by Lizzy Stewart. Grandma likes to tell Nora some tall tales, and Nora is very aware of that. But there is NO WAY there could be a tiger in the garden...or is there? Bright, colourful,  and fresh, this book boasts stunning artwork and a clear influence from The Tiger Who Came To Tea...with an original twist that you are going to love. In The Everywhere Bear, Julia Donaldson and illustrator by Rebecca Cobb join forces again to give us the unexpected adventure of a classroom bear. When he gets washed down a drain and wooshed out to sea, who knows where he will end up? But can he make it back to Class One? These two work wonderfully together and their previous The Paper Dolls is still one of my favourite Julia Donaldson books. Expert story-telling and beautiful illustrations make this a winner.
Edie by Sophy Henn is absolutely gorgeous! Little Edie just loves to be 'helpful'. She helps her Mummy get up bright and early; she loves helping Daddy get everything they need at the shop; but, mostly, she really loves helping her little brother learn whats what and how to share. Beautiful, stylised illustrations and a bit of a nod to the Olivia books by Helen Falconer make this a book that everyone will absolutely adore. Will Mabbitts' I Can Only Draw Worms is a super-funny, incredibly silly story that encourages you to use your imagination and to understand that worms are not boring! They have loads of adventures....of course, the story-teller can't draw those. He can only draw worms.
The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright gives us all a positive message about facing up to change. Kevin the Koala wants everything to stay just the way he likes it. That's how he's happiest; that's how he feels secure. Of course, things do change and Kevin learns that it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just have to be brave. Beautifully illustrated with one of the most endearing, memorable characters I've seen in a long time.

In March, one of my favourites, Jonny Duddle returns with The Pirates of the Scurvy Sands. A sequel to the (completely brilliant!) The Pirates Next Door, this is a role-reversal of the original story, with the Pirates taking centre-stage as they tell their side of the tale. It's always good to get a different perspective and with Duddles' marvelous characterisation and intricate, lively illustrations and story-telling, this is a must-read....as are all the others! 
Are You Sitting Comfortably? by Leigh Hodgkinson is the story of one small book-lovers' search for the perfect reading nook. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The bright and contemporary illustrations and a rhythmic, expressive text make for a fun and sympathetic read for that age old problem. We're All Wonders by R J Palacio adapts one of the best books ever written (Wonder by the same author) to picture book format, making it accessible to a younger audience.  And it loses one of its' powerful, beautiful, uplifting message of tolerance and kindness.
And that's just a taster!