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!