Thursday, May 24, 2018

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2018

During the International Literature Festival Dublin, Childrens' Books Ireland held its' ceremony for Childrens Book of the Year Awards 2018. Each year, the shortlist for this awards presents us with stronger and stronger candidates.This year was no exception. Ten nominees with books for varied ages and genres made the final decision a challenge, I'm sure.

In the end, the 28th annual Childrens Book of the Year Award was given to
Deirdre Sullivan and illustrator Karen Vaughan for the sumptuous and utterly remarkable Tangleweed and Brine. Re-imagined for a contemporary audience gives a lyrical, enchanting and unsettling view of a collection of traditional fairytales, turning them back on themselves and into the hearts and minds of  familiar characters. We emerge renewed, with a powerful, more enticing view that leads us on to destinies that are more felt than realised. The text is offset with Vaughans stunning black & white illustrations, reminiscent of Rackham or Harry Clarke, giving the entire book the look and feel of a vintage volume. Not a book for young children, Tangleweed and Brine does what fairytales are supposed to do; intrigue, illuminate, bewitches and reveals. It is indeed a worthy winner, and an extraordinary book.

The judges also awarded The Honour Award for Fiction to Sheena Wilkinson for Star By Star. Historical fiction for young people, Star By Star is the tale of a young suffragette in 1918; the year women first had the vote in Ireland. It touches on the Great War and its' returning soldiers, the Spanish Flu pandemic and so many social issues of the time with style and insight, while maintaining a wonderful flow and pace. Filled with insight, humour and depth, Star By Star is both timely and time-honoured. (reviewed on this blog; Irish

The Honour Award for Illustration went to Kevin Waldron for Chocolate Cake, written by Michael Rosen. Waldrons' zany pictures and quirky use of space and design bring instant laughter to the story/poem of a midnight feast gone wrong and perfectly expresses a young boys' love of chocolate cake! (We've all been there...and wanted it illustrated.)

The Judges' Special Award was given to Eoin Colfer for Illegal, a timely and thought-provoking graphic novel charting a young boys' journey across the Sahara Desert in a dangerous bid to reach Italy, his sister and the possibility of a new life. This book combines naturalistic drawings with sparse text to give a book that is powerful and moving.

Meg Grehan received the Eilís Dillon award for First Childrens Book for her YA verse novel, The Space Between. A poignant look at mental health issues and the tender new love between two young women, this verse novel is graceful, refined and compassionate.

My favourite award in this ceremony is always the Childrens' Choice Award. Decided by the children/schools in the Shadowing Scheme, this years' winner is our new Laureate na nÓg, Sarah Crossan for the brilliant Moonrise. Filled with genuine emotion, empathy and unanswered questions, this verse novel delivers full impact from the very first page. The story of Joe, 17 years old, who travels to Texas to see his brother on death row and spend those last few precious weeks trying to discover the truth is not at all grim as you might expect, but incredibly compelling and rendered with finesse and dignity.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to those who made the shortlist of nominees.  These awards, year upon year demonstrate the high quality, enthusiasm, dedication and respect in Irish literature for children and young people. It is gratifying and honouring to see the seriousness, and yet still the joy in the approach to childrens' books in Ireland. And thank you to Childrens' Books Ireland for continuing its' dedicated work to bring this to the fore.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Laureate na nÓg

Word is in from Dublin! Childrens' Books Ireland have announced the new  and fifth) Laureate na n'Óg (Childrens Laureate) for 2018-2020... and it's the incredible Sarah Crossan!!!
I am so thrilled to hear this news. Sarah is stepping to take over from the outgoing Laureate, PJ Lynch and was presented with this honour by Irelands President, Michael D. Higgins.
Her project will be called #WeAreThePoets and I'm certain it will be absolutely brilliant.
If you aren't familiar with Sarahs' books, you are in for a real treat. She writes verse novels that are moving and stunningly beautiful. From her first book,  The Weight of Water, Sarah has demonstrated a powerful, yet gentle writing that captures and encourages her audience. Never one to deal with easy subject matter, in her writing she takes incredibly difficult circumstances and makes them accessible and compelling with real passion and genuine voices. The Weight of Water, Apple and Rain, One,  We Come Apart
(written with Brian Conaghan) and her latest, Moonrise...with each book she has inspired and awed her readers. Her dystopian YA novels, Breathe and Resist, though not written in verse, are still some of the most unique and spell-binding in a genre that is heavily populated.
I am very excited about following Sarah's project in her work with children and young people throughout Ireland over the next two years. This is going to be great!

If you follow the link below, you can listen to Sarah herself talking about her Laureate Project, #WeAreThePoets

"No Room on the Broom"...Axel Scheffler

The other day at the British Book Awards, Axel Scheffler won the inaugural Illustrator of the Year award. And where would we be without Axel Scheffler; no Room on the Broom, no Smartest Giant in Town, no Zog, no Pip and Gruffalo! It is fitting that this honour go to him.
Now, I really don't like to be overtly political here, and I hope this doesn't cause ructions, but I feel compelled to post his acceptance speech, copied from Nosy Crow blog, because it speaks of something so pervasive in our world today. Schefflers' concern centres around the Brexit issue, around the drawing of lines and the building of walls. The only thing I really want t o say about this is, have we really thought this through? We could be losing more than we know.
"Last night, Pip and Posy illustrator Axel Scheffler received the inaugural Illustrator of the Year Award at the British Book Awards (otherwise known as the Nibbies). Today, with Axel’s permission, we are publishing the speech that he gave upon accepting the award.

I am very grateful to receive this inaugural Nibbie for illustration. I’d like to thank my three main publishers: Macmillan, Scholastic and Nosy Crow; Kate Wilson, who has published me for thirty years; Julia Donaldson, with whom I have forged an extraordinary – and extraordinarily successful – partnership; and I’d like to thank readers – the parents and the children who have grown up with the books I have illustrated; and The Bookseller and the judges who chose me, an foreign EU citizen in Brexit times – that’s a nice gesture.
But I also accept it with a heavy heart and maybe even a slightly bitter feeling – it feels like a consolation prize. Or even a farewell gift. I know that this is not the place for long speeches, but as you are all gathered here, I can’t pretend it’s business as usual. I’ll take only a few minutes, and then the party can go on.
It’s just ten months until “Freedom Day” – next March – and I – and my fellow EU citizens, many working in the UK book industry – are still living in uncertainty. We have, so far, no guarantee that we can still live and work here in the future. In a worst-case scenario, I might not be allowed to stay here by the time my next book with Julia Donaldson is launched.
Michael Morpurgo wrote movingly, “My uncles fought for peace, not for Brexit”. He wrote that Britain doesn’t really like the rest of Europe. And he’s right. That hurts and it makes me angry every day.
The UK has been my home for 36 years. There would have been no Gruffalo without the EU facilitating my study here. And, even if I had, somehow, studied in the UK, I would have had to leave after my studies ended in 1985. So there would never have been the successful Anglo-German joint venture Donaldson-Scheffler.
I know that my contribution is acknowledged here tonight, and, once again, I am grateful.
But I would like to mention another person who came from Germany under completely different circumstances who is here tonight: my friend, Judith Kerr. Here, in this room, you have a refugee from the Nazis and a peace-time EU immigrant giving something for the families and the economy of the UK. But after the Brexit vote it feels, despite our contribution, as if this country is saying, “It was all a mistake! We don’t really want you after all.” A Brexiteer would, of course, say, “Of course we want them when they make money for us.” But how can you gauge the future contribution of a young girl, as Judith was when she came here, or a 25 year-old student, as I was.
It makes me sad, and I worry when I think of a post-Brexit future for the UK families, especially the children, who are growing up with our books. What went wrong? What did they miss, the parents and grandparents who were reading Room on the Broom with its message of the importance of solidarity, partnership, friendship and kindness? The book wasn’t called No Room on the Broom.
So beware, Brexit Britain – if you have no friends in a hostile environment – the dragons may come and get you."
From the Nosy Crow blog, 15 May 2018

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

British Book Awards 2018

A quick post about the British Book Awards 2018.....
The winners of the British Book Awards 2018 (known as the Nibbies) were announced yesterday and in the childrens' categories, it was very exciting!

First, let me say hats off to Bloomsbury Children's Books for being honoured with the Children's Publisher of the Year. Bloomsbury |(known for being the home of Harry Potter) has brought out some incredible kids books this year, as always. Congratulations!

Author of the year went to the incredible Philip Pullman! Not just a children's author, of course, but the release of the first in his prequel series (to His Dark Materials) La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust firmly tipped the hat in his favour. (And it is read it NOW if you haven't already.)

The Children's Book of the Year had joint winners this year...drumroll please.... and the winners are:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: a powerful, honest, empathetic look at race relations, violence and the nuances of human nature as experienced through the lives of young people. Written as a YA novel, this is a very thought-provoking and moving read for adults, as well.
And....The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris; a stunning picture book format based on words evoking the natural word that have been removed from the Oxford Children's Dictionary. Poetic ponderings of each individual word are beautifully set with Morris' incredible illustrations. (You'll want two to keep and one to frame.) Powerful and thought-provoking in a different way.
We also have Axel Scheffler honoured as illustrator of the year. Scheffler's illustrations are those that gave us the Gruffalo, Zog, The Smartest Giant in Town... not to mention his own Pip and Posey and many, many others. Imaginative and simply delightful. Congratulations!!!!

Because I am a children's bookseller and love nothing more than haunting childrens' bookshops and seeing them rise to the fore, I want to give a big cheer to The Book Nook in Hove for winning Children's Bookseller of the Year! Very well done, you wonderful people...I am delighted for you.

Just look at this place!!! Don't you want to go there?

And that is about that, at least for the kids categories at the British Book Awards.
Stay tuned next week when we visit the Childrens' Books Ireland excited!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Chat With Caroline Busher!

Last week, the Cuirt International Literature Festival was in town bringing a plethora of authors, illustrators and publishers in for one of the best literary events anywhere. With so many events and such a busy buzz about the place, it really can be difficult to catch up with all the people I wanted to see. So I was very, very lucky (and extremely happy) to meet up with the lovely and exceptional Caroline Busher.
Caroline is the author of two wonderful novels for young people; The Ghosts of Magnificent Children and the recently published The Girl Who Ate The Stars, both unique historical fiction with intriguing plot twists and featuring some haunting characters pulled through time. (For more on these books, you'll find reviews of both on the Irish Authors... page of this blog.) So while we were chatting and enjoying a lovely lunch, I couldn't resist asking a few related bookish questions.
I love historical fiction, and books that can take the past, make it come alive and bring it forward in time are the ones I find so incredibly beguiling. And it can be a difficult genre to promote, even though children and young people do find the past fascinating. So I had to ask....why historical fiction?
Caroline spoke of growing up as an only child and living in an old Victorian house, filled with echoes of the past. Spending much of her time with adults, she had plenty of opportunity for exploring. In the cellar, when she was eight years old, she found a pair of Victorian childs' spectacles in a beautiful 'coffin' case. She was filled with the wonder of this young persons' story; who were they, why did they need spectacles, why were they left behind...what was this persons' story? She still carries these spectacles with her today...a vibration of another time and someones' intimate vision. Caroline also has a love of vintage clothing and as she puts something on, believes that she is "wrapping myself in someone elses' story." She has a keen and deeply felt sense of the investment of anothers' life in the objects they leave behind and conjures their life, who they are, what they did through the creation of stories inspired by those objects.
Caroline also spoke of the cellar in her house and how people did actually hide there during World War II to protect themselves from the German bombs. This lead very neatly into The Girl Who Ate The Stars, which is centred around an actual event, when a German plane crashed near a small town in Ireland. It also heavily features wolves, or werewolves and the ancient fear and superstitions surrounding such creatures. Caroline is a fountain of knowledge about the history of wolves in Ireland, which was once called "Wolf Land". The last wolf in Ireland was said to be killed in 1786 near Mount Leinster. They lasted more than 300 years beyond those in England and Scotland and had truly thrived here, roaming everywhere in the vast forested land that Ireland once was. The chieftains in Ireland were known as "Wolf Men" due to their heavy beards and hairy appearance and valued the presence of the wolves. It is thought that this is one source for the legend of 'werewolves'. All of this was expertly woven into the The Girl Who Ate The Stars, giving what is essentially and World War II novel into an eerie and timeless legend.
Finally, I did have to ask about her use of ghosts and superstitions throughout these two books. Caroline spoke of how, even as a child, she was aware of the superstitions held by her family, and that now, living in rural Ireland, you can still find many of them still present, even if just as 'tradition' or carry-overs from a past (as a way of honouring it). Superstitions, she feels, were important as a way of bringing understanding in the world. This is changing, and, as Caroline says, needs to change, with reliance on such things disappearing as we gain understanding through other, more logical methods. While I thoroughly agree with her, I also am one who worries about losing the rich texture and colour superstition and the supernatural and its' influence over the past bring to the world. Thank goodness we have historical fiction to remind us.
Thank you very much, Caroline for meeting up and being so generous and lovely as always.
Caroline Busher is also the festival manager for the Towers and Tales Festival in the enchanted Lismore Castle this coming weekend. I cannot recommend a better festival to bring the magic and joy of books and stories into your life. She is also the Program Curator for Reader in Residence.