Monday, August 21, 2017

The List by Patricia Forde

The List by Patricia Forde...and a very happy LB Koala
Because I have always been so excited about this book, I am doubly excited about this.... The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde (you will find endless ravings about this book with my name attached to them; and a review on the Irish Authors.... page) has been published in its' US edition. It is extremely beautiful!
This beautiful hardback edition of The List by Patricia Forde was released into the wild on the 8th August, with an incredible cover that truly does justice to the dreamlike and thought-provoking story. Published in the States by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.
"Patricia Forde crafts a richly imagined future society, the development of which feels all too plausible in today's climate... This is a story with a message and a purpose, one full of relevance and originality. With this novel, Forde reminds us that words do hold power, both to heal and to destroy, and that because of this we should be mindful of how we employ them. This is a love letter to the ways love and art can lift our spirits and replenish our souls in a world that often seems dark." 
And I agree thoroughly with this comment. It is about the power and the magic of language in all it's glory. The List is both a dystopian novel that cautions us about our actions and words and it is a coming of age novel; for Letta, it's central character and for us all. Amazing, wonderful, spell-binding and dreamlike...and utterly important.
Trish & friend at Wordsmith launch
Trish reading from The Wordsmith
I am incredibly delighted for Trish; just as delighted as I was when those incredible people at Little Island published it in its' original title The Wordsmith back in 2015. (Of course, I had to buy a copy myself.)
Congratulations, Trish...and all of you out there, please read this book! It is wonderful (and completely suitable for ages 10+.) Oh, and it's on the National Spelling Bee book list, I'm told. Well done!

Monday, July 24, 2017

LAI Children's Book Awards

The Literacy Association of Ireland have announced their shortlist of books for the upcoming LAI Children's Book Awards.
There are 4 categories in this particular award; 0-4, 5-8, 9-11 and Young Adult. These books are currently being reread and considered. The winners in each category will be announced on  October 5th at the LAI annual conference.
In the 0-4 category, the nominees are:
A Dublin Fairytale by Nicola Colton; published by the O'Brien Press.
How To Get Rid of a Polar Bear by Rachael Darby; published by Choice Publishing.
Elifint Óg Agus an Folcadán by Tatyana Feeney; published by An Gúm,

In the 5-8 category, we have 3 title in Irish language for young readers:
An Pota Folamh, published by An Gúm
Óró na Círcíni by Gabriel Rosenstock, illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald; published by An Gúm (and also nominated for the CBI Book of the Year Awards this year).
Ná Gabh Ar Scoil by Maire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Kruse; published by Futa Fata

The 9-11 category offers the following shortlist:

A Cage of Roots by Matt Griffin, published by the O'Brien Press
The Book of Learning by ER Murray, published by the Mercier Press
Kings of the Boyne by Nicola Pierce, published by the O'Brien Press

And finally, in the Young Adult category;
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde, published by Little Island
A Lonely Note by Kevin Stevens, published by Little Island
The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White, published by the O'Brien Press

The LAI Book Award is given in alternate years, and chosen from an outstanding selection of books published in Ireland during the two years previous.This year, there will be separate awards given to books in the four age categories.

Best of luck to you all...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Incomparable Shirley Hughes

On the 16th of July, Shirley Hughes, one of the best known and most loved childrens' author/illustrators celebrated her 90th birthday.
Shirley Hughes has given us an exceptional and accurate into the childs' view of the world throughout her long and celebrated career. Her first book, Lucy and Tom's Day was published in 1960. Her Alfie and Annie Rose stories are not simply charming; they are an insightful look into the culture of children, as Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose navigate the world with their own particular view and Alfie proves himself to be quite a problem-solver and keen observer of life around him. And they are joyous! Dogger (1977) won the Kate Greenaway Medal and became her first book to be
published world wide, proving an international appeal. The awards she has been given for her work make for incredible reading, and include, in 2015, BookTrusts' inaugural lifetime achievement award.
A keen observer of childhood interaction herself, Hughes feels
“It’s my job with a picture book to slow children down, make them pore over the drawings and recognise their world. Even before they read, they are learning to be readers, to notice things and make connections.”(The Telegraph, Judith Woods, 17 July 2015)
And she does this incredibly well. There is much to look at, much to understand in all her many books, and all from a childs' perspective.
I could go on and on, but others have done that much better than I over the years. What I really wanted to say in this brief, rather meager attempt her is simply this:
Happy Birthday, Shirley Hughes...and many thanks for all the gifts you have given us. Your stories, your pictures and your insight have meant the world.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How To Catch A Star at the Galway Arts Festival

The Galway International Arts Festival will soon be upon us offering two weeks of music, art, theatre, street name it, it will be happening in Galway. There will be something for everyone!
But there is one production that I am particularly excited about. Branar Téatar do Pháistí will be presenting (a World Premier, thank you very much!) How To Catch A Star, based on the beloved picture book by Oliver Jeffers.
Branar is a locally based theatre production company for children. In their own words,
"We strive for a simple, elegant form of theatre for young people, that achieves intricacy through the creative use of few means. A style that stimulates the ability to imagine and challenge, while opening a dialogue with our audiences and providing a catalyst for education."
Their production of How To Catch A Star combines puppetry with an
original musical score to bring Oliver Jeffers first picture book (originally published in 2004) to life. Once there was a boy who loved the stars very much. One day, he decides to catch one and make friends with it. This is the story of his adventure and reminds us all to keep following our dreams, wherever they may lead. This is a non-verbal production and is recommended for audiences aged 4 +.
How To Catch A Star will be at the O'Donoghue Theatre NUI Galway from 18 through 28 July (no shows on 22-24 July). Check out the programme for times and booking information. And while you're at it, have a good look through the entire I said, something for everyone.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Farewell Michael Bond, Creator of Paddington Bear

It is with great sorrow that I heard the news of Michael Bonds' passing today.
Michael Bond was, of course, the creator of the beloved Paddington Bear. The first book, A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958. It introduced the world to Paddington Bear, so called because he was found at Paddington Station after having made his way from deepest, darkest Peru stowed away on a ship with a suitcase full of marmalade sandwiches. A Bear Called Paddington, along with the numerous sequels, chronicles the life Paddington is now adjusting to in contemporary London; adopted by the Browns', trying to understand how everything works and causing chaos, while frequently saving the day at the same time. Gentle, poignant, observant and all too human, Paddington stands among the great fictional characters of our time.
Bonds' books went on to introduce other characters; Olga da Polga, that marvelous, funny guinea pig who has left the pet shop to start her new life with her human owners;the tales of those classic crime-fighters, Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound, Pomme Frites and many, many others.
LB Koala dips into books about his hero, written by his other hero.
While Bond lived to the splendid age of 91; and a life well-lived, indeed; his presence in this world will be sorely missed. Kind, gentlemanly and utterly charming, there are few that could stand in his shoes. I am ever so grateful for his gift of Paddington Bear, which allows him to live on in our hearts.
RIP,  Michael Bond....dear afterlife, please look after this gentle, wonderful author.

Monday, June 26, 2017

20 Years of Harry Potter

On 26 June, 1997, the first copies of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by an unknown author called JK Rowling greeted the world as bookshops opened their doors....quietly, unobtrusively....almost without notice.
It seems strange to think that now. We are so used to having Harry Potter in our lives and no one could have predicted the effect the publication of that book exactly twenty years ago would have. It has changed the reading landscape of children and adults alike. As recent as last week, I found myself shocked as a customer came in to buy a copy for his young son (aged 9 and grinning like at mad thing at the thought of his own copy!) and admitted, "I haven't read it." It wasn't just me...a silence came over the quite full childrens section at that moment and all heads slowly turned to stare. I recovered this awkward moment by saying ('s how I really feel); "How exciting for you! You get to read it the first time together...I remember the first time I read it. Magic...just magic!"
And it still is. Every time I go back to read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone I am consumed by the story, entering that world again. It is so tangible; so filled will texture, so real.
This past weekend, there were a lot of celebrations around this twenty year anniversary. Some bookshops have had readings of the first book, chapter by chapter; some have had treasure hunts and parties. Me? I went the party route at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop. A Witches and Wizards Storytime for the little ones at 11am, shifting into party mode at 2. I read snatches from the Philosophers Stone... Uncle Vernons' growing sense of calamity about to strike in that first chapter is priceless, expressed with such a fantastic finesse that it lulls you into the story. Another favourite that has to be read on the day, of course; the 'escape' from the owls Uncle Vernon plans on Harry's unnoticed birthday to the rock in the middle of a stormy sea; plans that are only to be scuppered by Hagrid's appearance and those 4 words that change everything...."You're a wizard, Harry."
Then, not only did Harry get his acceptance letter to Hogwarts, but so did the kids in the audience...every one of them. Then it was back for more Philosophers Stone...the Sorting Hat song and, as the Sorting Hat was present, all were sorted into their proper houses! There were magical treats, as well; polyjuice potion, owls droppings, all-flavour beans, mini-dragon eggs, chocolate mice (the frogs had got away...) And there was magic...absolute magic of the best kind. At least, there was for me...and a crowd of children who made my day. Thank you for sharing that moment with me...all of you. And it wasn't just me; not just Charlie Byrnes was happening everywhere.  The excitement of this echoes the fun and excitement of midnight openings over the years for the sequels that took us along on a truly wondrous journey...different faces with the same expression, the same sense of joy. All because of a book.....
I've often wondered about the first person to buy Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I'm not talking about monetary issues here.) Of course, you would not have known what was going to happen in the upcoming time. As I said, it was quite unobtrusive in it's initial appearance. But, twenty years down the line and I think, wow! Can you imagine being the first person to buy that book?
Wow! Just wow!
Thank you to Barry Cunningham who was insightful enough to be the first publisher...and the wonderful crew at Bloomsbury. And thank you, thank you, thank you to JK Rowling; you changed everything.
Happy 20th Anniversary to Harry Potter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

More Summer Reads

The summer holidays are fast approaching, with most of the teens and young adults here already out of school. They'll need something to escape into, even though it seems at times their reading material is quite serious and issue-driven. Here's a few for that crowd, which will peak their interest and keep them reading.
Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman is an amazing, intriguing science-fiction re-telling of Othello. Twins Olivia and Aidan are heading back to Earth on their own after a virus has wiped out the entire crew of their vessel. Nathan is on board a ship heading in the other direction when it is brutally attacked, with few survivors. For Olivia and Nathan, it is love at first sight. But their love inspires jealousy, deception and hatred in the others. A gripping, consuming read from the incomparable Blackman.
I have already praised Released by Patrick Ness (see the Young Adult review page) and all I can say now is, please, please read this book. A personal, in fact intimate story that covers one day in the life of Adam Thorne. But it is the one day when everything changes; when it all falls apart. If I could put this into everyone hands (literally) I would do so. No one writes like Patrick Ness.
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt is Lexi's story. Lexi who has lived most of her life behind the scenes on the sci-fi/fantasy convention circuit with her Dad and has now become his right-hand. Clipboard in hand, she runs the show, while in her off hours is up to her eyes in course work. The last thing she needs to fall in love...with her favourite new author. Quirky, funny and touching.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein steps in as a prequel of sorts to her earlier (incredible) work, Code Name Verity. Set in the summer of 1938, this Scottish, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, Julie goes home to the beautiful Strathfearn estate for one last summer. An unlikely, oddly connected chain of events; a vicious riverside attack, the disappearance of a noted academic and the theft of her grandfathers' collection of river pearls; changes, not only the tone of the summer, but the lives of all in the small village...for all time. Exquisite historical fiction meets coming of age.
With so many 'popstar music' reality TVshows taking up so space on our channels, the interest is clearly already there. Sheena Wilkinsons' Street Song adds the actual reality and some definite food for thought. Ryans' short lived fame as a winner of Irelands' PopIcon show, left him with an addiction problem and all the wrong kind of tabloid press. Out of rehab, Ryan, now 18, is left struggling to rebuild his life. His overbearing, uber-controlling (ex-manager) stepfather presses Ryans' buttons in all the wrong ways.
One night, after a particularly bad and violent argument, Ryan finds himself on the run from Dublin to Belfast with a new name, in search of a new life. This is gritty, realistic stuff and it is brilliant.
Following the wonderful Nothing Tastes As Good last year (with its' intriguing dead narrator), Claire Hennesseys' Like Other Girls tackles another set of present, sensitive issues faced by many young women today without succumbing to sensationalism or moralising. In St Agnes' School, everyone is expected to be a perfect young lady in every respect. But Lauren isn't like other girls, and she knows it. She stands out; her heart is broken; her boyfriend thinks she's just nuts; her bestfriend has soooo many issues of her own. Lauren is angry, catty, confused and in pain. And now, Lauren is facing every girls worst nightmare. Written with compassion, understanding and a truly genuine voice, this book is real!
I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson defines the term 'compulsive read'. Jemma is 14 and has severe cerebral palsy; and she makes a truly unique narrator. Unable to communicate, Jemma finds herself in the unique position of being the one person that people feel they can confide in. She knows many of their secrets. They all assume Jemma is unable to understand. But one day, she learns a truly horrific secret. Jemma watches and a nightmare unfolds before her and is powerless to do anything. But maybe that's all about to change. A book that will intrigue, enlighten and, perhaps, change your perspective.
In Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle, Olive and her friend, Rose notice they are losing things...small things, really. A hair-clip here, a bit of jewellery there. But it soon becomes evident that Rose has lost something much more valuable. And she doesn't want to talk about it. A chance meeting with three other girls leads to the discovery of an ancient spellbook. As they seek to retrieve lost things and possibly make things right, it seems they may also unleash other secrets; secrets nobody ever wanted to know. This is stunning, suspenseful, edgy and atmospheric writing. Creepy in the best possible way.

So there's a few more for you. Keep watching this space. There are more to come!
Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lauren Child..New UK Childrens' Laureate

A couple of days ago, it was announced that the new UK Childrens Laureate is Lauren Child. Child brings with her a back catalog of some 40 odd books as writer, illustrator and writer/illustrator. She has received 13 awards and honours in her career. And she brings with her something very close to my heart...a knowledge and passion for the importance of reading for pleasure. Acknowledging the importance of this, Child is quoted as saying:
"There's talk of how children should be reading, but if you can get a child excited about it that's half the work done."
Indeed. A child who learns to approach reading, not as a chore, work or a lesson that must be learned, but rather as a joy, a window to the world, a map to  places and people and things...this child will suddenly open up a far easier route to education and to life in general.
But I am rambling now.
Lauren Child speaks of creativity; of inspiration. And she does not limit these notions to herself and the few others who venture into a career path that leads them down an artistic course. She doesn't like seeing any childs' ideas compartmentalised and limited; that creativity should be encouraged in everyone. And her own creative impulses, along with a lot of hard work, have brought the world some of the most exciting, free and imaginative books in childrens' fiction today...books that, may well be in the land of fiction, but they think like children think; they speak like children speak; and they go on the journeys that children would love to take.
The Charlie and Lola series for young readers is such fun and gives genuine voice to childrens' daily lives. Clarice Bean is a wonderful realistic character. And the Ruby Redfort book series provides daring, excitement and drama (along with that bit of humour). (Both of my kids book clubs are really into the Ruby Redfort books. And if you think its' just a 'girls' book series, it's the boys that ask about them most often. They love them!) Her illustration work is filled with a marvelous, and given the way she works with collage and textile work woven into the picture, sometimes quite literal world-building that is rich, bright and fun.
The next two years will be very busy for Lauren Child. And I am excited to see the kind of ideas and discussion her tenure as Childrens Laureate brings to the table. Congratulations to Lauren Child! An outstanding choice.
Now...I have to immerse myself in Ruby Redfort. There is going to be a lively discussion at the next meeting that will keep me on my toes!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Looking For Books For The Summer?

It's June and it's time to plan for the summer it's also time to plan some summer reading for the kids. Summer is perfect to help foster the idea of reading for pleasure...because you want to; and to find those all important books that inspire young people into a life of reading. So often I hear, "Oh, they're not into reading and I'd like to get them interested." My response is always "They haven't found their book, yet." And that's just it...there is always one book that inspires, that excites and that ignites a real joy of books in a child. Hopefully, one of these will do just that.
Or maybe you have a young reader that you can't keep in books...they plow through them at an incredible rate and you need to know about more. So here's a few:
THE CLUBHOUSE MYSTERY (Cass and the Bubble Street Gang) by Erica McGann: Those annoying twin babies keep destroying Cass' fort in her front room (and she gets told off for being annoyed.) Then, Cass has the best idea ever! She bands together the Bubble Street Gang and they build a proper fort outside when they can solve mysteries, investigates crimes and get involved in all kinds of adventures. But someone is using their fort when they aren't there. So, the Bubble Street Gang is on the case, solving their first mystery. (ages 6+)
THE BOOKSHOP GIRL by Sylvia Bishop: This is the story of Property Jones, so named because her adopted family found her in left behind in the lost property cupboard of their bookshop. It is a small, failing bookshop, but their fortune seems to change when they become the lucky sweepstakes winners of the Montgomery Book Emporium! But all is not as it seems. There's action, there's intrigue and really bad baddies. And Property has a deep secret of her own... (ages 7+)
TILLY AND THE TIME-MACHINE by Adrian Edmonson: When Tilly's Dad builds a time-machine in the shed out back, she is shocked to discover it actually works. But Dad is now stuck in the past, leaving clues behind for Tilly and she must rescue him! A great, exciting read for newly competent readers.
KEEPSAKE by Paula Leyden: Ella is spending some time with her grandmother in the country and a beautiful horse called Storm is making this time all the more wonderful. But Johnny doesn't want to share his horse with anyone. One night, Storm is taken from his field by the 'pound man'. Ella and Johnny must rescue Storm before he gets destroyed! They enlist the help of Ellas' grandmother to prove that Storm was taken illegally and free him before it's too late. A beautiful, classic-style horse story with a contemporary twist. (ages 9+)
BAD MERMAIDS by Sibéal Pounder: Sibéal Pounder is back this summer with another cracking adventure to follow her Witch War series! Young mermaids Beattie, Mimi and Zelda are enjoying the summer holidays on land with legs. They suddenly receive a telegram (well...a crabagram) telling them they are needed at home immediately. Some very bad mermaids are running riot and the girls are the only ones who can stop them. With fun newspaper articles and black and white illustrations peppered throughout, this is a great story that will appeal to 8-11 year olds or anyone who loves mermaids.
THE DRAGON WITH A CHOCOLATE HEART by Stephanie Burgess: Aventurine is a young dragon who is trying to prove to her family that she is strong, capable and able to provide, just like the rest of them. But a mission to catch the most dangerous prey of all, a human, goes horribly wrong when her discovery of chocolate lands her in big trouble. She is turned into a human girl and has to make her way in the world. Can her love of chocolate turn things around for her? A fabulous and fun fantasy for ages 9+
THE ISLAND AT THE END OF EVERYTHING by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: Ami was born on the leper colony island of Culion. She has lived there with her mother her entire life. A new government official arrives with a sinister fascination with butterflies and troubling news. The government has decided that all of those not affected by leprosy must be moved away. The children are taken to a neighbouring island orphanage. Ami is forced away from all she loves. But she is determined to make her way back home by any means. An incredible story of love, family and determination. (10+)
LETTERS FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE by Emma Carroll: In the middle of World War 2 (February 1941), and after multiple bombing raids on London, 12-year-old Olive is evacuated to the Devon coast with her younger brother, Cliff. She finds herself living in the lighthouse with reclusive Mr Ephraim. Desperate to help, Olive becomes his message carrier to the villagers involved in a refugee rescue operation. The messages are top secret, but Olive has a secret of her own...her sister Sukie disappeared during a bombing raid and she must find out what happened to her. Olive discovers a coded message to Sukie with links to Devon and a highly dangerous mission. Exceptional historical fiction and an incredible adventure. (10+)
RUNNING ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD by Jess Butterworth: Tash and her friend, Sam live with their parents in Chinese-occupied Tibet. They must follow many rules to survive. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and the soldiers seize her parents. Tash and Sam must break all the rules and run for their lives. They make the dangerous trek across the Himilayas in hope of getting to India and the Dalai Lama...the only one who can help them. Amazing adventure and filled with both tension and beauty, this is truly awe-inspiring. (10+)
THE CITY OF SECRET RIVERS by Jacob Sager Weinstein: Hyacinth Hayward has recently moved to London with her eccentric mother. One day, her mother disappears and Hyacinth accidentally unleashes the magic flowing through Londons' underground rivers, setting in motion a chaotic chain of events.  As she seeks her kidnapped mother, Hyacinth is pursued by the Saltpetre Men and a gang of Toshers and an Oaraboarus,a giant pig in a swimsuit. She races against the clock to free her mother and save the city. Raucous, hilarious and so much fun.This is the first in a middle-grade fantasy trilogy.
So, there's ten for you to consider. Of course there are many more, so watch this space!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Starting to Plan for September- CBI Annual Conference

The annual Childrens Books Ireland will take place on 23 and 24 September this year, at the Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin. Under the theme of Movement and Migration, we will gather for what must be one of the most exciting and adventurous events of the book world. And the visiting authors, illustrators and general childrens books people in the line-up promise to make the conference outstanding; Rob Biddulph, Kate DiCamillo, Sally Gardner, Lucy Cousins, Anna Carey, Cecelia Ahern....and so many more! It is going to be fantastic, so book your ticket now.
(If you want some genuine insight into the conference, there is a great article in the latest issue of Inis magazine by a wonderful and passionate childrens' bookseller and friend, MaryBrigid Turner. Check it out!)
All you need to know to book a place can be found at :

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.)

Winner of the Eilís Dillon Award for first childrens book went to Paul Gamble
for The Ministry of Strange Unusual and Impossible Things (S.U.I.T.s). THis off-the-wall adventure tells of a secret Ministry hidden away within the depths of the Ulster Museum in Belfast and it's dealings with all the in the world we don't want to think about.Packed full of adventure and hilarity, it's one of my favourites!

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: