Friday, December 22, 2017

Fallen Stars' Best Books of the Year, part two

The teen and YA books can be difficult to chose. But here are some of my choices for these books from the enormous number of great books for older readers (and by 'older readers, I'm referring to 11years+) this year.
(Okay, there is a lot of discussion about what constitutes YA fiction and where you draw that line. Let's not discuss that at this time. I'm just going to say that, for our purposes here, YA books begin at age 14...depending on the reader.)
One of the best additions to this group came later this year with Sheena Wilkinsons' wonderful historical novel, Star By Star. Taking place in 1918, this book covers the end of World War 1, the flu pandemic sweeping the world and, most significantly the moment when women first had been given the right to vote. Though not lengthy, it has a great impact on the reader and is fascinating and inspirational.
Another high impact novel for 12+ is A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell. This is the extremely realistic and heart-rending story of one boys' flight from Syria. Mitchells' research into her subject was impeccable and it paid off in a story that shows great compassion and understanding of the lives and dangers young refugees face every day. The story-telling is amazing. This is a very important book that must be read!
Jess Butterworth burst on to the scene this year with an incredible tale of Tibet. Another story of fleeing oppression, Running On The Roof of the World tells the story of two children literally running for their lives across the Himalayas to India. Gripping and insightful, it is also very unusual in its' subject, with strong characters showing great courage and determination when facing (what seem to be) insurmountable odds. And what a journey!
Frances Hardinge is undeniably one of the best authors for young people working today. Her latest book, A Skinful of Shadows shows the extent of her skill at creating a unique world-view, keeping the reader glued to the page and, frankly, sending a chill up the spine that lasts for a long, long time. Taking place during the English Civil War, young Makepeace is fleeing a strange and unwanted inheritance while finding herself possessed of numerous spirits. Eerie, otherworldly and magnificent!
Dad's Red Dress by LJ Sedgewick is quirky, entertaining and funny. But it also takes the reader right to the heart of what it means to grow up. Filled with vivid characters and complex family drama, it is joyous, loving and unique among coming-of-age stories.It is simply wonderful.
Diving into those books that I would consider well-and-truly YA, I have nothing but praise for After the Fire by Will Hill. It grabs hold of the reader from page one and refuses to let go. With a vast number of themes running through the plot, This is an inquiry into faith, society, corruption, humanity and survival. The action is explosive. A sophisticated and tense read, this book is simply extraordinary. Speaking of simply extraordinary, I must insist you read Moonrise by Sarah Crossan. The beautiful lyrical verse novel is filled with genuine, tangible emotion, empathy and unanswered questions. Moonrise is powerful.
Release by Patrick Ness is an incredibly personal look at the uncertainties of coming-of-age. Beautifully and sometimes brutally honest, it examines family life and social constructs with N Exacting and often shocking eye without once dipping into sensationalism. There is a subtle background story that uses the supernatural/mythological to offer a possibility as to why things are they way they are and how life is played out; the things we feel, but cannot prove. And all the while, Release gives us a story that is genuine, emotional and all too familiar. (16+....but just, please read it.)
I want to finish with what is, ultimately, my book of the year 2017.
Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan/ illustrated by Karen Vaughn is a purely enchanting book retelling our most familiar fairy tales with a contemporary view, delving into the hearts and minds of the heroines. Beautiful to hold and to look at, it reminds the reader of what a collection of fairy tales is supposed be; of those volumes of old,calling to mind such books as those illustrated by Rackham or of Andrew Langs' collections. It promises much, and does not disappoint. Filled with intrigue, horror, strength and resilience, gentleness and love, it is not for the very young or the faint-hearted. It is for the bold, or those who want to be. Tangleweed and Brine takes us back to what fairy tales were always meant to do; to change with time and place and to lead us into deeper consideration of ourselves and the world around us. This book is a gift.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fallen Stars' Best Books of the Year; part one

A week ago, I had the pleasure of being on Galway Bay FM radios' The Arts Show with Vinny Brown. Vinny (from Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, as well as the shows' host), Des Kenny (from the world-famous Kenny's Bookshop) and I spent the hour talking our 'best books' of the season and year...and we could have gone on for another hour!
Now, I thought I'd share my kids highlights from the show, as well as a few others I didn't get to say much about. Books are frequently left to the last minute when buying seasonal gifts, so perhaps this will help.
The first book I talked about is a beautiful book for everyone, young or old. The Lost Words written by Robert MacFarlane with extraordinary illustrations by Jackie Morris was written as a response to the removal of a number of words from the Oxford Childrens' Dictionary. It was claimed these words from the natural world no longer had relevance in childrens' lives.MacFarlanes' response is a series of poems based on these words, placed within Morris' illustrations create an atmospheric and moving book that gives us all much to ponder, enjoy and learn from.This should be in every house.
In the same segment, I also presented the wonderful poetry collection for children, A Sailor Went To Sea Sea Sea by Sarah Webb, illustrated by Steve McCarthy. Loaded with more favourite rhymes (as a follow-up to Sally Go Round The Stars), it also includes selections from Yeats and Joyce for young ones. With McCarthys' illustrations filling each page, this book is simply joyous.
And Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls was praised all the way around. Each page holds a story about an amazing woman from history, from ancient to contemporary times. I didn't get to mention Dara O'Briains' book, Beyond the Sky; an informative and fascinating book on the Universe for young people...and for you, too. You'll learn a lot and be inspired to learn more.
I had to talk a bit about my favourite picture books, and first on the list was The Presidents' Glasses by Peter Donnelly. I have to use the word joyous again, because that's what this book is; a joyous tale of Irish President Michael D Higgins, a forgotten pair of glasses and a pigeon hero. There's also
Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett, a wonderful story of friendship, acceptance and books. And La La La by Kate DiCamillo, illustrations by Jaime Kim is a nearly wordless book about a lonely girl who simply wants to be heard.
Magically, it is the moon that responds. Exceptional fare from an author who simply cannot write a bad book...seriously, everything DiCamillo writes is absolute gold dust. But my picture book of the year has to be On A Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemanga. The story and the pictures are simply perfect.
 As we move into 'proper books', I want to give a couple of recommendations for younger, yet confident readers. King Coo by Adam Stower is wonderful, hilarious and filled with adventure...and a girl with a beard. It is a must-read! And it is with great happiness to let you all know that Laura James has brought back everyones' favourite canine for another adventure, Safari Pug. Just brilliant! A great surprise for me in this reading level was Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape by Dermot O'Leary...a rollicking adventure that will leave you laughing out loud.
Middle-Grade books occupy the largest share of book interest. Nine to 12 years has been called 'the Golden Age of Reading'..and rightly so. The quality keeps getting better and better. I've reviewed many of these on this blog, but now I'll mention the few I spoke about on the radio. I must recommend a beautiful and unique book, The Dollmaker of Krakow by R M Romero. A gripping story that combines historical fiction with old Polish folklore, this book is timeless and moving, with beautiful illustrations throughout that create something both very real and very surreal.
But, my MG book of the year has to be Letters From The Lighthouse by Emma Carroll. This is one that will stick you for a long time. A story of the World War 2 evacuations of children from London (to the Devon Coast, in this case) the kinder-transport, refugees and a cracking great mystery combine for a story that pushes the reader to further understanding while entertaining greatly. Just read won't be sorry.

I need to mention Nevermoor: The Chronicles of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend for incredible fantasy. And also can't forget The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnsley...a wonderful fairy-tale like story with great characters and setting, haunting writing. Winner of the Newbery Award, don't miss it!

Tomorrow night, I'll continue with the teen and YA books...some incredible reads for the young people in your life that can be the most difficult to chose for...their tastes change, their comprehension increases and more complex books take precedence.
Good night for now!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Phew! It's been a busy, busy season!And it's not quite over yet. Still 3 more days of helping people find exactly the right book(s) for their friends and family. I can hardly see straight!
I just want to pop in to give you my seasonal heads-up...yes, as the song says, Santa Claus is coming to town. And if you love the magic and excitement as much as I do, you really need to track him on his once-a-year global journey.
NORAD is all set up to keep an eye on St Nick with their annual 'Santa Tracker' and world-wide, we can watch him travel round the world in his sleigh, stopping off at every house. It's great fun! And it lets you know when all the little ones have to be in bed before he drops off the goodies.
Right now, you can explore the North Pole, play some games, learn about holiday traditions around the world and read the story of how NORAD started tracking Santa...lots to do. There's even a countdown clock so you know exactly how long until Santa starts his journey. Check it out!'s the link:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

And the recommendations keep coming!

The holiday season is rolling on rapidly. In a few short days, the shopping will stop, the presents will be wrapped and we will, hopefully, be cosy and warm at home enjoying the company of family and friends...and for us busy booksellers, getting a few days rest. But that doesn't mean it's time to stop consulting and recommending. Oh no! It's time to pick up the slack to help you create your own personal Jolabokaflod!

At my place of work, I'm busy in the childrens' section; stacking and re-stacking, arranging and rearranging...and replacing. Can't leave any gaps! And I am determined that you, my dear customers, find exactly the right book for the young people in your life.
Have a look at what's under the tree at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop for children and young adults...there is so very much there, chosen with care and attention to cater to your needs and wants.
Very soon, I will be blogging about my top picks of the fact of the year! But if you want a sneak preview of what I, and my esteemed colleagues among the Galway booksellers are recommending this season...and if you can get Galway Bay FM where you are (Ireland, I suspect); tune in to the Arts Show tomorrow night at 6pm. We will be having a nice long chat about the best books of this year...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Tis the Season...

Welcome December...welcome lights and trees, hot chocolate and pretty paper and bows. And as I sit here waiting to begin the Late Late Toy Show Bookelves Bonanza (see previous post...we start at 9:30pm....not long now), I also say WELCOME to Mary's Advent Calendar of Books 2017.
Each year, starting December 1st, I open a new page on this blog and begin my Christmas countdown (or is that countup?) Every new day, you will see a new book that I recommend for seasonal reading....some old, some brand new, all favourites of mine. This is something I really love doing every year. Nothing better than digging out the books and talking about them. Some of the books will be specifically Christmas themed, but some are simply 'winter' books. I try to cover all age ranges from 0 to 18. Read them by yourself or share them with friends and family over the season. Oh, and all you grown-ups out there who believe you're too old for childrens' books....don't believe that one second longer.
I also want to mention a tradition I have (and have had for quite some time). Each year, I always buy myself one special book for Christmas...usually (but not always) a beautiful, seasonal hardback picture book to keep and read over and over every holiday season. As you might imagine, the collection is getting rather extensive. Every year, the collection comes out at the beginning of December and goes 'to bed' at New Years. Something you might want to do....or maybe you have been doing this all along. It does make for a special bookish treat for Christmas.
So...look over to Mary's Advent Calendar of Books 2017 page and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2017

As I am here online while the information is coming in, that me offer my huge congratulations to the (kids) winners of the BGEIrish Book Awards 2017...seriously, just announced NOW, straight from the Clayton Hotel in Dublin.
I am so incredibly pleased to announce that the BGEIrish Book Award/Dept51@Eason Teen/Young Adult Book of the Year has gone to Tangleweed and Brine, written by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Karen Vaughan.

And fantastically warm congratulations go to Judi Curtin on winning the National Book Tokens Childrens Book of the Year (Senior Category) with her wonderful new middle grade novel, Stand By Me.

Congratulations to the extraordinary Sarah Webb and illustrator Steve McCarthy for winning the National Book Tokens Childrens Book of the Year (Junior Category) with A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea: Favourite Rhymes From An Irish Childhood.
Journey on over to the website to find out about all the other category winners...and congrats to all!

The Bookelves Are Back!

For the last few years, I have been absolutely delighted to be part of the Bookelves; a collective of
childrens booksellers who gather this time of year on Facebook and Twitter to recommend the very best childrens books for kids of all ages. There is a vast amount of expertise available to you when you are looking for help in finding exactly the right book.We all know you have questions, so we are all available to answer and to make personal recommendations. And the Bookelves are back!
The Snowbeast by Chris Judge
We will be kicking this Friday, 1st December from 9:30pm-11:30pm (yes, Ireland...during the Late Late Toy Show). This is our seasonal Late Late Toy Show Bookelves Bonanza! We will be online recommending and chatting away about books. And YOU, wherever you are in the world, are invited to jump in. (Just remember to check the time difference where you are so you don't miss us LIVE!)
If you are on Facebook, head over to our page Bookelves17 (, and/or look for #bookelves17 to see what's going on. On Twitter, just watch out for #bookelves17. We have so much to tell you about.
Of course, you can check us out at the above Twitter and Facebook locations any time...but the Bookelves Bonanza is so much fun and very exciting.
See you there! (virtually, of course)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Happy Jolabokaflod!

If you've been following this blog for a number of years, you will already be well aware of how excited I get over Jolabokaflod. This year, it has become ever more apparent that the publishing industry worldwide is embracing this marvelous Icelandic tradition. Worldwide, people are talking about Jolabokaflod.
You see, every year in mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair, every household in Iceland receives the 'Book Bulletin'. The catalogue is used to plan and to order books for friends and family as Christmas gifts. During the festive season, gifts (the books, of course!) are opened on December 24th. Everyone then snuggles down (for a long winters nap?) and reads the books they have been given, while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, or perhaps the (alcohol-free, as it turns out) ale called 'jólabland'. What a completely wonderful, warming idea! Peace, quiet and the joy of books....can't think of anything better.
How did this book-loving celebration begin? Well, during World War 2, once Iceland had gained its' independence from Denmark, paper was one of the few items NOT rationed and in plentiful supply. Already a culture deep in love with its' literary traditions, books became THE gift to give your friends and loved ones, as other things were in short supply. In 1944, the 'Book Bulletin' had its' first foray into the public, and it has grown and flourished ever since. Then in 2015, Hlynur Gudjonsonn, Consul General and Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General for Iceland in New York, gave his full endorsement to the Jolabokaflod Book Campaign, and this brilliant, joyous Icelandic tradition launched itself into the world as a whole.
So, here we are in mid-November. What are your book gift plans for the holidays? It is a gift that will warm the hearts and fire the imagination of the important people in your life for years to come. Give a book...give two. (p.s.: Don't forget to ask your local bookseller if you need help deciding on the perfect Jolabokaflod choice. That's why we're here)
Happy Jolabokaflod!
Need to know more? Just follow the links!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2018 Longlist

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals longlist are out now! While both are very extensive, if you are looking for a 'what should I read' list, you couldn't do any better. It is so pleasing to see so many of my author/illustrator friends on this list, and the Irish contingent is well represented.
On the CILIP Carnegie, we have such wonderful reads as Emma Carroll's 'Letters From The Lighthouse', Peter Bunzl with 'Cogheart', Maz Evans' Who Let The Gods Out', 'Goldenhand' and 'Frogkisser' by Garth Nix, Brian Conaghan and Sarah Crossan with 'We Come Apart'....the list is extensive, as I said. I do have one niggling concern about the CILIP Carnegie List. It has seemed, in recent years, rather YA heavy and I wonder if they should  distinguish the YA from the MG into a separate award? (Causing chaos everywhere I go!)
For the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration, it was fabulous to see Levi Pinfold nominated twice for both 'The Sercret Horses of Briar Hill' by Meghan Shepherd and ' Song From Somewhere Else' by A F Harrold. Also on the list are Petr Horacek for 'A First Book of Animals' by Nicola Davies, Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston with the stunning 'A Child of Books' (seriously...why don't you have this book?), Luke Pearson for Hilda and the Stone Forest and Birgitta Sif with 'Squish and Squeak's Noisy Day'.... and many other amazing illustrators!
For the complete listing, follow the links below; and a HUGE congratulations to everyone on the lists. (I am so glad I'm not on this judging panel...couldn't choose.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

Claddagh Festival of Childrens Books

A quick announcement and more fantastic news for childrens books in Galway!
From November 15 through 18, Claddagh National School, supported by Creative Ireland and in partnership with local libraries and bookshops are bringing the first ever festival solely devoted to childrens' books to Galway. There will be visiting authors, illustrators and storytellers at Claddagh National School and at various venues around the city. While there are a number of events taking place for the students of Claddagh National School, there are equally a lot of events for the public, so get your diary out and start planning NOW! You will want to be involved!
First, watch out Galway City! There will be a Poetry Flash Mob of children coming to the streets!
The schedule of events is available on line, but I am delighted and proud to announce that at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, on Friday the 17th at 4pm, Marguerite Tonery will be presenting  and answering questions about her books from the Kapheus series (Kapheus Earth, Kapheus Air, Kapheus Water...and maybe a glimpse into the upcoming 4th book in the series!) Drawing on Irish mythology and legend, these amazing books draw us into the fantastical world of light as otherworldly creatures and two special children children journey through a marvelous fantasy adventure. (suitable for ages 7+)
Then, on Saturday the 18th at 11am, our usual Storytime will be open to all in cooperation with the Book Festival. This one will focus on one of my favourite types of will be books about books (and bookshops and libraries and book-loving characters!)
But that isn't all at Charlie Byrnes! At 2pm on Saturday, join us for the kids poetry slam!
"Can you slam it? Compose a short poem with the title: “My Home, in a Poem”. Then, all you have to do is come along to Charlie Byrne’s and read it out – with energy, rhythm and all your guts! Bravest kids on the day will win Charlie Byrne’s book vouchers.
A fine, fun finale for a fantastic festival!"
So kids, get those poems together and get ready to slam it! (Contact the Claddagh Festival for more information about entering. Oh, and all you teachers out there...get your students involved...everyone!)
We will be ending the first year of this incredible festival at 3:30pm on Saturday with a brief finale from its' founders. Everyone! Join us!

Welcome November! It's Picture Book Month!

I can't believe it's November! This year is rolling by a rapid pace and here we our winter months. But there is no need to despair the weather change and the darkening days. Much is happening in the world of childrens books (and we all know what season is galloping up on us.)
If you have been following this blog for some time, you know that November is Picture Book Month...a celebration of picture books and their importance in the lives of children everywhere. If you go to the Picture Book Month site, you will find a new entry every day by a picture book champion! Authors, storytellers, librarians and teachers (to name a few) offer their words of wisdom on "Why Picture Books Are Important." Each one brings a different slant on the vital art form of picture books and how they are viewed; why children should have constant access to picture books; and some activities to bring their magic into every childs' life.
So why do I think picture books are important? So very many reasons. Picture books offer the very first glimpse into the world of literature and literacy. Becoming competent (in fact, expert!) in visual literacy allows our brains to put together the pathways necessary to read the printed word and understand what we are reading. (You must be able to interpret the random symbols that letters and words actually are in order to read.) Also, they are an introduction to art; sometimes the only access to art that children will get. They learn about beauty, the construction of things, the world and people around them and those they will never meet or see. Emotional literacy shines through in picture books in ways that allow them to understand empathy and difference, and to determine concepts such as right and wrong on the most basic levels. Picture books can touch on concepts that are difficult to discuss and bring understanding. But, primarily, it is for the sheer joy a young child gets from a picture book...the story, the patterns, the light and shade all open up a sense of aesthetic understanding. And children remember that throughout their lives. Through these things, we learn to understand the world and life, and develop coping mechanisms that will see us through tough times.
Personally, I still feel great comfort, joy and catharsis through a good picture book. My all time, lifelong favourites are still with me....Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, I Am A Bunny...

Finally, I want to pass on some sad news. The founder of Picture Book Month; A Celebration, Dianne de Las Casas, passed away suddenly this past August. But the co-founders (Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Marcie Colleen, Joyce Wan, Katie Davis and Wendy Martin), while feeling the huge gap Dianne left behind in the realm of childrens literacy programmes, are determined to keep her legacy alive and well. Each day on the calendar is filled with exciting and wonderful insights this year. Please, check it out....and bring more picture books into your world, regardless of your age. Let's all celebrate!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Baboró Is Coming!

Each year at this time here in Galway, we are excitedly preparing for Baboró International Arts Festival for Children. Baboró brings a world of art, theatre, music, dance and literature for young people to Galway through a fantastic line-up of school and public events that are well-worth attending, whether you are a child or a child-at-heart.
I want to focus on this year's expanded literature is filled with bigger and better and more events surrounding the world of childrens' books than ever before.
On Monday, 16th of October, Ryan Tubridy and PJ Lynch will be will be talking about their collaboration in creating their wonderful new book, Patrick and the President; the story from a young persons perspective of John F Kennedys' Presidential trip to Ireland. Our own Patricia Forde will be presenting a bi-lingual event in which younger school children will get to visit the school for tooth fairies and also meet Lísín the pirate!(Thursday, 19th October) On Saturday the 21st October, Jane Mitchell will visit the Blue Teapot Theatre to present her incredible new book, A Dangerous Crossing, based on the experiences of Syrian families trying to escape their war-torn country. (highly recommended for ages 9+) And Dave Rudden will be at the Mick Lally Theatre on Sunday, October 22 for a fun, fast-paced journey into the world of Denizen Hardwick and the Knights of the Borrowed Dark. It is a real can't miss event.
Also, don't forget to join us at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop on both Saturday and Sunday, from 11am to 12 for our ever bigger and better Storytime in The Cornstore outside of the shop. Who knows what we'll be reading?! (Great books, that's what!)
But wait! There's more!
In the O'Donoghue Centre, NUI Galway, a true feast for the eyes awaits one and all with the A World of Colour exhibition, featuring the work of Chris Haughton and Beatrice Alemanga. Presenting work from their stunning picture books, this is your chance to enter a vibrant and lively world of the imagination.
There is an exceptional information day for childrens' writers (and anyone interested in childrens' literature) called So You Want To Write A Proper Book?  Chaired by Sarah Webb, the dlr Writer in Residence for 2016/2017, this day for adults will answer all your questions about writing for children; how much do authors get paid, what are agents and publishers are looking for, the impact of social media and events... You won't want to miss this. Featured are the Baboró authors, Conor Hackett of Hackett Flynn Publishers Agency, Aoife Murray from CBI, Ivan O'Brien from O'Brien many fantastic people from the world of childrens' books in Ireland I couldn't possibly list them all. (But I will on a really interesting panel discussion on chapter books!) Takes place on Saturday 21st October from 10am-4:30pm.
And don't forget about all the other fabulous Baboró events throughout the week. If you haven't booked your tickets yet, here's the link to the programme (below). Be there!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Launch of Genesis by Eilis Barrett

A week ago, I played a small part of the launch of Genesis, the much-anticipated sequel to Oasis by Eilis Barrett; this time at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway.
Vinny Brown introduces Eilis
Eilis is a remarkable young woman, as you might imagine since she is 18 years old and this is her second book. (Oasis was published when she was 16.) Articulate and accomplished, it is a real privilege to know her, to hear her speak and to read her writing.
author: Eilis Barrett
publisher: Gill Books (8 September 2017
ISBN: 9780717174355 Genesis picks up the story of Quincy Emerson. She now finds herself a captive once again, in the maximum-security prison, the Colosseum as a security risk. Held in deplorable and brutal conditions in the prison, where anarchy rules and rival gangs wage a 'street war' of sorts, Quincy takes care to not make an enemy of either gang boss, while holding allegiance to no one but herself and her comrades on the outside. Food is scarce and delivered infrequently; sleep is a rare luxury and escape from the Colosseum is impossible. But outside, a fatal storm is brewing and Quincy has no choice but to try.
Fast-paced, edgy and head-and-shoulders above the vast majority of YA dystopian fiction, Genesis has the same relentless, intense pace found in Oasis. From page one, the reader is sucked into the story, to be spat out at the end (in the best way.) The world created here is consistent throughout and thoroughly believable. Her characters; no nonsense and forth-right. And the conclusion is one of those rare things in that it is both inevitable, but unpredictable. It is an incredible read.  But please do read Oasis first.(14 yrs +)

Congratulations, Eilis! I can't wait to see what you come up with next.
(p.s. You can find my review of Oasis on the Irish Books, Authors and Publishers page of this blog.)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Last Weekend at the CBI conference

(It has been a busy week, post CBI conference; so apologies for now catching you up before now.)
The Childrens Books Ireland conference is actually my favourite weekend of the year. CBI always puts on a great show, with amazing speakers and great comradery all the way around. It's a time to catch up with like-minded people working in childrens' literature, find out what's been happening in their lives and what's coming next in the world of childrens' it does take some time to absorb all the information. I always leave feeling inspired and happy. Here are some of the highlights...
Day one....
CBI is celebrating 20 years! With many new incentives and schemes to bring books to children of all ages, it is going to be a very exciting year for childrens' literature in Ireland. Happy 20th, CBI!

Lucy Cousins is the creator of Maisy (as you may know) and so many other beloved characters in childrens' books over the last twenty or so years. Created for young children, Lucy Cousins reaches into her childhood and 'draws by heart...going back to her own childhood instincts.' In an amazing conversation with Mags Walsh, we discovered how her brightly coloured and lively books play their part in making readers for life.
Rob Biddulph and Chris Judge talked together about their work; picture books which explore adventure, friendship and over coming loneliness.

We did some time-traveling with Anna Carey ( The Making of Mollie) and Lucy Adlington (The Red Ribbon), who spoke about the unexpected part the women play in history. With engaging female characters, the shifting social constructs through the Edwardian streets of Dublin and the atrocities of the Holocaust, both of these authors have fascinating and unexpected information teaming through their novels for young adults and teens. Both are on my 'must-read' authors list. Their historical fiction for young people is riveting, exciting and thought-provoking.

Shane Hegarty, Cecelia Ahern and John Boyne are all Irish authors who travel between writing for adults and writing for young people. In their conversation, they explored the paths and pitfalls that navigating these routes send them through.
We ended the afternoon with the most wonderful, amazing writer for children I could think of...Kate DiCamillo. Kate describes herself as "an enormously lucky person person who gets to tell stories for a living." She talked a bit about her life as an incredibly shy child and related one incident that ended with a phrase from a woman she encountered in a glass-bottom boat that has stuck with her ever since; "Oh my....this world." Through her books,we see the world and the world inside our world...we see each other. From Because of Winn-Dixie to Raymie Nightingale, Kate DiCamillo has enchanted us all with this wonder. She cannot write a bad book...I suggest you read them, if you haven't already.
Day two...
Joseph Coelho was a fantastic way to begin a new day. His lively performance poetry woke us all up and got our attention as he spoke about the childs' 'natural propensity for poetry'...that, frequently, they don't even realise they have. It's all in the approach and his approach is outstanding! His new picture book, Lulu Loves Library Day (illustrated by Fiona Lumbers) talks about the joy of a little girl as she spends library day with her Dad...they explore the shelves and find magic, and reassurance everywhere.
Of course, every year CBI  brings in 'New Voices'; those authors in Ireland who have emerged over the last 12 months. Each has just 5 minutes present their work! This year, we were treated to Amanda Bell, Sarah Carroll, Orlagh Collins, Sadhgh Devlin, Meg Grhan, John Kane, Jane Landy, Sinéad O'Hart and Mary Watson.

Dragon Loves Penguin...a wonderful story about love and belonging

Debi Gliori is the author and illustrator of over seventy picturebooks; and that doesn't include her novels for young people. She has five children of her own. Her writing/illustration make for incredibly heart-warming and reassuring reading for all ages, while exploring the side of life that can be troubling. Debi talked about how personal representations of big issues can bring a more active communication...and bring great joy.
Her books talk about love, hope, the environment, family life,
The Trouble With Dragons
remembering; dragons, owls, children....all with a wonderfully appropriate colour palette for whatever subject she is handling. Her latest offering is a book entitled Night Shift. It examines the dragon of depression and its' hold over all those who live with it. Stunningly moving fare. She is one of my favourite author/illustrators...and now I can view her work with a completely different perspective.

James Mayhews' talk was titled 'Flying Carpets' and whisked us away on a journey. He talked about stories, time-honoured and familiar stories and how migrate across other art forms - from storytelling to books and then to music, art, theatre; as well as across cultures and time.
I do still need to know more about a particular Finnish legend and why it didn't migrate...fascinating stuff.

Finally....what a way to wind-up a conference. Sally Gardner is an author I have wanted to hear from for at least 10 years now; and I was NOT disappointed. Sally Gardner has a canon over more than 30 books for young people as author, illustrator or both. As a young child, Sally was pronounced 'word-blind' and 'unteachable' (due to dyslexia) and has emerged as this incredible voice for those marginalised and excluded by social definitions of success and focus on what qualifies as a 'proper' education. Very impressive! Her writing mission is to challenge these notions, and to inspire. Her books and in person, she does exactly that. She had us all re-thinking our priorities. utterly amazing. Sallys' final plea, echoing something I have always felt very strongly about, particularly in lieu of todays' educational standards and measure, is a simple, but extremely important one. Leaving us with one phrase: Let Children Play! Thank you, Sally.

A pretty impressive conference. don't you think?