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 programme...it 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 Books...so many fantastic people from the world of childrens' books in Ireland I couldn't possibly list them all. (But I will add...me...participating 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' books...so 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?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Friendship, Family and Time-Travel : Judi Curtin "Stand By Me" Blog Tour

 Hi! Welcome! I am so excited to be here! A little while ago, I was invited by O'Brien Press to participate in the"Stand By Me" Blog Tour celebrating Judi Curtins' latest(and 25th!) book; Stand By Me. Judi Curtin? Friendship? Time-travel? I'm there! So following Sarah Webb (https://www.sarahwebb.info/ ) and her wonderful chat with Judi about their longstanding friendship and writing life; and Jenny(https://thebookstheartandme.wordpress.com/ ) with her marvelous commentary on the book itself....(go ahead, take some time and play catch-up, if you haven't seen them already. They are fab!), it's my turn! ( I do want to say, they are hard acts to follow.) Here are some questions I had for Judi. I hope you find the answers as fun and interesting as I did.

- The time-honoured theme of friendship figures prominently in this book, as with all your others. I was wondering if you could give me a personal view on the importance of this kind of friendship in your writing.
Judi: Stand By Me is my 25th book, and I think it's fair to say that each one deals with the theme of friendship to some extent. For me, friendship is hugely important, no matter what age you are, so it seems natural to have it as the centre of my writing. I try to convey all kinds of friendships, from nurturing ones to the toxic kinds we all could do without. I like to think that some of my characters are people my readers would choose to be friends with.
- You've used time-travel as a device before in The Mystery Tour books. But Time After Time and Stand By Me seem to use it as a means of exploring personal history, as opposed to exploring historical events. What inspired you to take this route?
Judi: Well-spotted - there's a definite distinction between the two series. For me the new series came from a desire to know more about the lives of my parents and grandparents. (I've recently helped my father to write his life story.) No matter how many old stories I listen to, or how many photographs I look at, there's inevitably something missing. That's why I let my characters go back in time so they can truly relate with their relatives' younger selves. I'm letting my characters experience something that's impossible for me.
- The inter-generational relationship between older and younger family members has always fascinated me; how it seems to circumvent the parent-child relationship in some way. Could you say something about Beth and Mollys' relationship with their Uncle Graham...their view of each other and how easy or difficult it is to write that?
Judi: I love that Graham is unconventional and not like what the girls might expect of an older person. (They think 70 is ancient!) The relationship works because all parties are open-minded, and allow themselves to enjoy people for who they are, rather than the roles society expects them to adopt. I enjoyed writing about these characters, but it wasn't always easy, since I'm neither 12 nor 70!
- Rico, keeper of the time-travel doorway, seems to be an integral, yet very much background part in the story. How do you view his role? Is he 'teacher', 'gate-keeper', 'accidental participant? He is an interesting character!
Judi: I've deliberately kept Rico in the background, so there's an air of mystery about him. He's definitely not an accidental participant, but beyond that I'm not saying. I'm hoping to write another Beth and Molly book, and I might allow Rico a greater say in this one.
- It hasn't escaped me that the titles for these books; Time After Time and Stand By Me; take their titles from songs popular in the decades that Molly and Beth visit. How do you feel in regards to the importance of this in setting the scene or tone of the story?
Judi: Music is a great way of taking you back, and we all have songs that can take us to key moments in our past. For me, a great part of writing time-travel books is the fun I can have by immersing the young reader in the time periods they won't have experienced themselves. This involves music, fashion, food and more, and it's a huge part of what I'm trying to achieve.

I have so many more questions! But, I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out.
And, dear reader, please continue to follow the "Stand By Me" Blog Tour. There are two more stops coming up. I know you're going to love them!
Thanks to Judi and to O'Brien Press for including me....I have really enjoyed this. Also, there's a review of "Stand By Me" on the 'Irish Authors....' page of Fallen Star Stories for you. Check it out.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tangleweed and Brine...Re-enter the Fairytales

On the 7th of September, an extraordinary book was published by Little Island; Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan.
It is a completely enchanting book. Beautiful to hold with it's 'packaging' that reminds us of those wonderful volumes of old and lavishly illustrated by Karen Vaughan in a style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham or Harry Clarke, Tangleweed and Brine offers so much, and it does not disappoint. The tales retold; Cinderella becomes Slippershod, Rumplestiltskin is Meet the Nameless Thing and Call It Friend, Bluebeard - The Tender Weight etc; give the reader a deeper, powerful, more enticing reading that takes us deeper into the hearts and minds of the characters, revealing the intimate and deeply personal within the story. It twists and turns the stories back onto themselves and leads out again to destinies that are more felt than realised. It gives comfort and is unsettling at the same time. The language is poetic, dreamlike and flowing as each story offers us a journey that we know we must take. And this book is a most excellent companion as we travel. Filled with intrigue, horror, resilience, strength and gentleness, it is not for the very young or the faint-hearted. It is for the bold or for those that want to be.
In fact, to simply call this book a retelling does it a grave disservice. Tangleweed and Brine does what fairytales are supposed to do; to grow and change with time and place, to lead us into deeper thought of ourselves and those around us. At a time when we, the readers, are bombarded with the reclamation of histories and stories (not at all a bad thing and something that, well...it's about time) Tangleweed and Brine is an exquisite exploration of iconography and effects on life; of what makes us ourselves. It is dark, yet illuminating; bewitching, yet revealing. It is simply sumptuous.
I have placed this review here because Tangleweed and Brine denies categorisation. It is utterly contemporary and also classic.  It will bring you home, as well as entertain and delight in the best of story-telling traditions. This is a book to keep close at hand and read when you feel the need for sustenance and nourishment. Trust me...you will be nourished well.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Stand By Me Blog Tour!


Big news here! As I had mentioned in my previous entry, I am utterly pleased and over the moon to be part of the O'Brien Press 'Stand By Me' Blog Tour. Starting tomorrow, five Irish bloggers; Fallen Star Stories included; will be celebrating the publication of Stand By Me by Judi Curtin. This is book two in her Molly and Beth series (book one being 'Time After Time') AND her 25th book to be published.
No...I'm not going to give anything away, yet. I'm just inviting you all to jump on the blog tour bus. Starting tomorrow, there will be a blog a day, beginning with the one and only Sarah Webb and finishing up on Friday with vlogger Fred Weasley Died Laughing. All the information you need is one the graphic above, so please, join us! You'll have a great time, learn a lot about Judi, her books and her writing life and I know you'll want to read 'Stand By Me'!


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What's On (for me) In September

September is promising to be a fairly full-on month for me...lots of events and lots of new books. It's all very exciting! Here's a brief run-down of what's on in September....
The first thing is actually happening tomorrow! The 13th of September is always Roald Dahl Day (because it is Roald Dahl's actual birthday. And tomorrow is the 101st celebration of his birth!) Dahl gave us 22 completely wonderful books for children, plus his adult books, plays, screen plays...such a gift! But back to the childrens' books and the day...Tomorrow morning I will be celebrating Roald Dahl Day at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop with the invited classes from St Nicholas Parochial School. We'll work out our 'Roald Dahl names', have a look at Dahl's amazing invention of words,involve ourselves in a few other Dahl-esque activities and I'll be reading from some of the books, including the newly re-published Billy and the Minpins, illustrated by the one and only Quentin Blake. I love the Minpins! From that book we were given one of my favourite quotes of all time:
If you want to know more about Roald Dahl Day, or just more abour Roald Dahl and his wonderful books, check out the website: http://www.roalddahl.com/home/kids

Next week, on September 22nd, O'Brien Press is launching the 25th book by the wonderful Judi Curtin (and the 2nd in her new Molly and Beth series), Stand By Me. While the Launch is taking place in Dublin, in the upcoming week to the event, there will be ongoing celebrations. This includes a blog tour, starting Monday the 18th; which I am very thrilled to be taking part in. Watch this space for details!
Culture Night in Galway is on the 22nd. At Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, local authors who have published a new book in the last year are invited to read for 5 minutes each in what can only be described as an extravaganza of great talent. We'll have a few YA authors calling in; including Eilis Barrett and LJ Sedgewick. If you're in Galway, just be there!
Of course the 23rd/24th of the month is probably my favourite weekend of the year...the Childrens Books Ireland Conference! The theme this year is Movement and Migration and the line-up is fantastic! We will be treated to Lucy Cousins, Sally Gardner, Debi Gliori, Kate DiCamillo...oh, so many of my heroes. Here's the link for more information: http://childrensbooksireland.ie/cbi-annual-conference/

I mentioned Eilis Barrett previously. Her new book, Genesis, sequel
to the incredible and fast-paced dystopian novel, Oasis (see the Irish Authors...page for review) will be launched at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop on 28th September. This promises to me a wonderful event, featuring an extremely talented and exciting author and a truly memorable YA offering. I am super-excited for Eilis. And can you believe the power of this cover!? Wow! This is going to be great! https://eilisbarrett.com/
Add to these events Saturday storytimes, 9-11 book club meetings and generally more reading and reviewing.
So, as you can see, I am going to be a very busy lady!
You may be thinking you hope it gets quieter in October. Don't be so silly; of course it doesn't! Sneak preview? Okay...you will be hearing more about the CBI Childrens' Book Festival; Baboró, more storytimes, more book clubs and then in November; a brand new Childrens' Book Festival launching in Galway! Then there's the holiday season.
Don't worry. I'll get some sleep in January, I reckon.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Remember Summer?

Wow! Time flies...here we are, almost in the middle of September. So much has been happening inthe world of books, I hardly know myself.
I thought I'd start by giving you all a quick glimpse of some of my bestsellers of the summer.... so here they are!
My summer best-sellers
One of my great joys in working at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop is that, not only do I get to recommend wonderful brand new childrens' and YA books, but I have access to a steady supply of the not-so-new-but you-have-to-read-it-right now books. The twelve in the photograph on the left were my best-sellers of the summer. Letters From The Lighthouse and The Bookshop Girl ran a competitive race for the number one slot, but all the others were not far behind.
And, I also have to add the Kapheus series by Marguerite Tonery to the list. So many people, both young and old are really plugged into Elisa and Jamie's story as they navigate between their daily life in the west of Ireland and Kapheus, the fantastical world of light.
Kapheus Bear

Of course, the celebration of 20 years of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone brought another surge in interest in all things Hogwarts. So with the 4 new 'house editions' of the Philosophers Stone and a Harry Potter celebration brought a phenomenal number of new witches and wizards into the fold... I honestly still can't keep them in stock. (p.s. I;m sure I mentioned before; I had the best fun with the party; especially the Sorting Hat!)

Storytime is always very popular, with between 25 and 30 (or more!) young story lovers coming in every Saturday at 11. The picture books are enjoyed by young and old... the readers, listeners, parents, aunties and uncles, grandparents...and bears, of course.
Favourite picture books from the summer months
LB loves storytime..here he is planning

Pop in some Saturday, if you're passing. Everyone is more than welcome.

LB on the Kids table

In August, some of my colleagues went on a book-buying expedition. (A huge thank you to Ruth and Michaela!) This filled my tables and shelves with an exciting number of really great books for all ages of young people. And the book clubs started back up after a summer hiatus. All the 9-11's are raring to go. One of the group, Fiona, made this exceptional set design based on Captain Underpants, which is 20 years old now, I believe...and still entertaining us all.

And suddenly....it was September. And the new books are coming thick and fast. But more of that later...here's a photo of my 'Fantastic (New) Books and Where To Find Them shelves. (Hint: they're right here!)
Thanks for reading!