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!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New Year! New Books! ....part 2

The last post featured those books out for the teen/YA readers among us. In this post I am focusing on the intermediate reading years, sometimes referred to as confident readers or 8 to 12 (roughly). I don't like to put age limits on books because, frankly, a good book is a good book. No one should feel they have to apologise for reading something 'beneath their age level.' But that is a discussion for another day. So here are some fantastic books out now or coming out in the next few months that I recommend.
Newly published now, Jake Atlas and the Tomb of the Emerald Snake by Rob Lloyd Jones is an incredible adventure tale that takes us to Cairo. Plumped as "Indiana Jones meets Mission Impossible", add a little James Bond and they are not wrong. Packed full of  danger and excitement, this fast-paced, high-octane read is my recommendation for Dubray Books Childrens Book of the Month. Jake and his twin sister Pan find themselves suddenly thrust into a world of high-tech tomb-raiding in a bid to save their (up to now, boring history professor) parents from being turned into mummies, while a secret society are robbing tombs of ancient artifacts with a bid for world-domination. But everything is not at all what it seems. (Full review on the What Are You Reading page) The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson is a gentler sort of story about 12-year-old Matthew, who has an extreme OCD condition that keeps him housebound. From his window, he observes the comings and goings of the residents of Chestnut Close, including the old man who lives across the street, an old woman who may or may not be a witch, the local bully and the nosy neighbours next door. But when a toddler vanishes suddenly and the police can't locate him, Matthew uses all his observation to figure out exactly what happened. (For those of a sensitive nature, don't worry, it all turns out well.) Written with genuine compassion and understanding, this gives a fascinating world-view and is great for fans of Wonder by RJ Palacio.
Welcome To Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird is one of the first childrens' novels to deal with the Syrian crisis and the plight of refugees. Omar has a completely normal life in Bosra; school, friends, a couple of jobs and his family. But one day, the unrest escalates into violence and war, his family has to flee with only the possessions they can carry. As they move from place to place, they deal with real and present dangers; getting shot at, hunger, cold, as they move on to a refugee camp. But, a near tragedy just might bring them an escape from the horrific life they are now living. Realistic and powerful, this is a very important book for our times. Something for the younger reader,  Trouble Next Door by Chris Higgins is an absolute delight! The author of the My Funny Family series gives us Bellas' story. She has just moved into a new house; old, creaky and dark, and possibly with a ghost in the attic. But she has a new best friend in Magda, who is funny and filled with imagination. But Madga is also trouble! She wrecks Bellas' room, breaks her Mums' tea set and covers the entire living room in soot! But somehow, Bella always gets the blame. A charming story, with wonderful illustrations by Emily MacKenzie, about friendship, family and telling the truth.
Julian Gough and illustrator Jim Fields have returned with The Pest in the Nest (Rabbit and Bear book 2). All Rabbit wants is some peace and quiet! But what with Bears' continuous snoring and the BANG BANG BANG from up above, he can't even hear himself think. Something has to be done...but, spring has sprung, so peace may be the last thing Rabbit will ever see again. This is a laugh-out-loud, soon-to-be-your favourite story as we continue to travel through the seasons with those great (?) friends, Rabbit and Bear!

As February rolls in (and we hope it will be kind), the books come along with some fabulous things to offer. In Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans, Elliots' life is changed forever when a shooting star crashes to Earth and a young Zodiac goddess arrives with it on a mission. With his mum ill and his home under threat, you'd think Maz had enough on his plate. But when the pair accidentally release a powerful death daemon from his prison under Stonehenge, they have to turn to the old Olympian gods for help. Trouble is...they're all a little tired after thousands of years of retirement. It's just brilliant!  
The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis introduces us to Aventurine, the fiercest and bravest dragon who, while very young, is determined to prove herself to her family. She sneaks out of their cave in search of the most dangerous prey of all...a human. But when the human she captures tricks her into drinking hot chocolate, she turns into a little, weak human girl with no way back. Being brave and bold, Aventurine makes her way to the city to pursue her new passion....chocolate! While she brings mayhem to the human city with her, she never suspects she will actually find real friendship. A warm-hearted adventure that I absolutely loved. 
A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson is the story of Owl...yes, that's her name. And it's bad enough having a Mum weird enough to actually name you Owl, but when you add a Dad you've never met, a best friend in trouble and a new boy at school that keeps looking at you in a weird way; it's almost too much! So when strange frost patterns start appearing across Owls' skin, she just wants to hide away. But it isn't that simple. A wonderful book filled with great characters, friendship, responsibility and magic. 11-year-old Olly receives a very special delivery in The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. It's a 3-D printer! It's also stamped with "Property of M.O.D. AND BRITSH SPACE AGENCY" and "DO NOT TAMPER". It has a name, it speaks and, of course it has magical powers. And it seems very happy to print everything that Olly asks it to. But what Olly really wants is his Dad, who moved out of the family. Cue the DAD-BOT, who is almost exactly like his real Dad...but a bit more chaotic. The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone is the third, and possibly the best, in the Dreamsnatcher series. Moll ventures to the wild north; to a land of moors and mountains, goblins and witches with Gryff and their friends to overcome the last Shadowmask. There, Wormhook is spinning a quilt of darkness called the Veil. A masked figure carries it across the land, slipping it through the windows of children to poison their minds. Moll and Gryff are in the forest, awaiting a sign from the Old Magic that they may continue their search for the Amulet of Truth. Suspenseful and truly magical!
And, I am so excited about the release of  Polly and the Puffin: The New Friend by Jenny Colgan. (Again, this is for the younger reader.) The third in the series, it's time for Polly to go off to big school and she's not at all sure about it. She is determined to make it work, though. Along the way, she makes a new friend for herself, and possibly a new feathered friend for her puffin, Neil. As always, in the back of the story there are wonderful recipes and activities.
On to the March winds and let's see what they'll be blowing in.  The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop; illustrated by Ashley King is my kind of book. (Of course!) A magical and intriguing story about Property Jones, who was left in a bookshop at age 5 and taken in by the owners, Netty Jones and her son. Property has a huge secret. After 6 years of living in a bookshop, she can't read! So she can't make any sense of the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the most magnificent bookshop in the entire world, the Montgomery Book Emporium. And, as luck would have it, her book-mad family actually win! Soon, Property finds herself in the middle of a huge bookshop with rotating rooms and a bad-tempered cat. But, it doesn't take long before disaster strikes, for all is not well at the book Emporium and the Jones family find themselves in the middle of trouble and a book forgery racket. Plumped for ages 5 to 9, I loved it!  
The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge is another great book from the author that gave us The Many Worlds of Albie Bright. Jamies' Dad is an astronaut on the International Space Station.Jamie should be thinking this is really cool, but he just misses his Dad. When Jamie is hanging out at his local observatory, he begins to pick up some weird signals on his phone. Could it be that alien life is getting closer? When his Dads' mission goes awry, Jamie seeks to prove that his Dad isn't the only hero in the family. Another science-based story, this mixes family drama, alien intrigue and a space-time element in a cosmic adventure for anyone who's ever looked and the stars and wondered, is there anybody out there? Speaking of space, See You In The
Cosmos by Jack Cheng is a brilliant debut about 11-year-old Alex who dreams of launching his iPod into space with messages for any intelligent life, just like his hero, Carl Sagan. With a long-dead father, a sister he never knew about, an absent big brother and a troubled Mum, Alex ventures off to a rocket-launching convention in a impromptu road trip with his dog (Carl Sagan) that brings him many new answers and a whole lot of questions. Moving, hopeful and a lot of fun, this is amazing! Jane Kerrs' The Elephant Thief visits the past. A young street urchin and pickpocket, Danny accidentally bids on for Maharajah the elephant in an auction and begins the adventure of a lifetime. Danny's new employer transform him into an Indian Prince as he rides Maharajah from Scotland to his new home in England and even Queen Victoria is captivated by his story. But when a rival zoo-keeper gets hold of Dannys' dodgy past story, his new life threatens to unravel. Wonderful historical fiction!
 Thunderstruck by Ali Sparkes is an fantastic , fast-paced ghostly drama with lightening...literally. During a thunderstorm, Alisha and Theo are huddling under a tree when they get struck by lightening. Having survived the strike, they now see life differently.... including being able to see Doug and Lizzie, who were struck by lightening under the same tree in 1975. Sadly they didn't survive the strike and have now been hanging out under that tree ever since. But Doug and Lizzie are funny, brave and very clever. They come to the aid of Alisha and Theo, who have noticed something sinister going on at their school...something no one else seems to see. Ragged, faceless phantoms are staring out through the windows and not all ghosts are friendly. And the four friends have to battle through when all they want is to get on with their lives...or deaths, as it may be.
That's a lot of information, and I'm sure in the upcoming months, there will be more. So...take this as a taster of great things to come.