Monday, March 28, 2016

Review Round-Up

Hello! There have been soooo many fabulous books released in the last couple of months, and it is difficult to keep up....or to find space to review all of them. With that in mind, here are some of the new books that I am recommending, with a small review as to why. In no particular order....
The Secret Life of Daisy Fitzjohn
author: Tania Unsworth
Orion Childrens Books (March 2016)
ISBN: 9781444010268
Daisy Fitzjohn has spent her entire life in the rambling, crumbling Brightwood Hall alone with her mother. She has NEVER left the grounds of the mansion. Her mother spends some time each day carefully wrapping one item as a memory of the day, cataloging their entire life. One day, her mum goes shopping and doesn't return, leaving Daisy alone... and no one outside Brightwood Hall even knows she exists. A stranger arrives with a suitcase, and a plan that threatens Daisys' whole world.
A seemingly improbable story that is eloquent, gripping and suspenseful.Part family drama, part mysterious adventure, this is a beautifully crafted tale all the way through. (10+)
Perigee and Me
author: Ross Montgomery
Faber & Faber (March 2016)
ISBN: 9780571317950
Caitlin is 11-years-old and lives on an island with marine biologist and mother and a famous scientist father, who spends his time traveling the world on book tours, so life is pretty lonely for her. After a storm and meteor shower, Caitlin finds a tiny, shrimp-like alien, Perijee, on the beach. She takes him home to look after and soon becomes utterly attached to the creature, treating him like a brother. The only real problem is, Perijee eats a lot...of everything...and is continuously growing. Before long, the authorities are trying to track down this shape-shifting monster, whose emotions and fear have driven him out of control...but Caitlin is determined to save him. Told in a brilliantly, genuine narrative voice; warm, heart-felt story of  displacement, friendship and kindness in the face of adversity. There are shades of ET in this wonderful, stand-alone novel. A wonderful gift of a book!. (9+)
Time Travelling With A Hamster
author:Ross Welford
HaperCollinsChildren'sBooks (January 2016)
ISBN: 9780008156312
When Al Chaudhury turns 12, his grandfather gives him a letter from his late father that charges him with a daring mission; travel back in time to 1984 and save his fathers' life. With a hidden time machine and his fathers' explicit instructions, Al discovers that time travel is fraught with complications. It also requires a lot of nerve and daring, imagination and lies, theft, sneaking around at night....oh, and setting his school on fire. Ignoring the philosophical advice of his grandfather, Al journeys to and from his present life and his dads' childhood to right wrongs and change the future, and he does it all without losing his beloved pet hamster in the process. A quirky, fast-paced adventure that will have you laughing and shedding a few tears. Marvelous! Thoroughly loved it! (9+)
How To Look For A Lost Dog
author: Ann M Martin
Usborne (January 2016)
ISBN: 9781474906470
Rose is 11-years-old, autistic and struggles to make human connections  and understand her classmates. Day-to-day life is a challenge. But when her father gives her a stray dog, which Rise names Rain, the dog becomes her touch-stone in a confusing world, her best-friend...her everything. During a storm, Rain goes missing. Despite resistance from all around her, Rose will not give up looking for him, from town to town, through storm and floods. Engaging, beautifully expressed, poignant, both hopeful and heart-breaking, How to Look For a Lost Dog is a must-read that will change your perspective. (9+)
The Person Controller
author: David Baddiel
HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (February 2016)
Twins Fred and Ellie are twins who love to do all the same things. They are brilliant at video games; especially brilliant at them! But, they are so good at many other things, like school, sports and dealing with bullies. One day, they meet a Mystery Man, who promptly sends them a game controller, but it's unlike any other game controller they've ever seen. As it turns out, while it doesn't work on any of their games...what it does is control people. The answer to their problems has arrived! Or has it? Funny, moving and filled with magic, this is a laugh-out-loud, yet meaningful offering from David Baddiel, who is emerging as one of the best childrens' writers today! Perfect for fans of David Walliams (9+)
River of Ink (Genesis)
author:Helen Dennis
Hodder's Childrens Books (January 2016)
ISBN: 9781444920437
A teenage boy is washed up on the banks of the Thames near St Pauls Cathedral. He is drenched to the skin, in a state of shock and completely unable to remember anything...who he is, where he has come from, family friends. The only clue as to who he may be lies in a strange drawing he makes, which appears to be some sort of symbol. But even the boy has no idea what it means. Starting his life over with a new name, the search for his real identity begins. He is completely unaware, however, that people are searching for him, as well...but not for obvious reasons. Jed, as he is now known, begins a dangerous quest, which he has only one year to complete...with dire personal consequences if he doesn't. Gripping, thrilling mystery, this is the first in what promises to be a fantastic series. (13+)
Changers: Drew
authors: T Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper
Atom (January 2016)
ISBN: 978034902422
Ethan Miller is just a normal kid about to start high school in a new town. He finally has life going in a direction he likes; new haircut, 2 inches taller, looking forward to the football team this year. Okay, his parents are behaving a little oddly, but what parents don't? Life is good! Then, he wakes up the next morning to make a shocking discovery. Ethan is now a girl. Ethan is a changer...part of a little-known ancient race of humanity who live out each of their four years between the ages of 14 and 18 as a different person. Now called Drew, our main character has some serious readjusting to do. Charming and well-written narrative that gives an insight into gender and teen identity...entertaining, as well. (14+)
Not If I See You First
author: Eric Lindstrom
HarperCollins Children'sBooks (January 2016)
ISBN: 9780008146306
Parker Grant has been blind since a tragic accident at age 7. But that doesn't stop her from seeing right through people. So, she has created a set of 'Rules': don't treat her any differently because she's blind, don't take advantage, don't play games....there will be no second chances. But when the boy who broke her heart 2 years ago suddenly appears at her school, Parker discovers that avoiding her past just doesn't work. And it certainly doesn't make the pain go away. The more the truth emerges, the more Parker begins to question if things are really what they seem. A very insightful novel about human nature in general, particularly in the teen years. (14 +)

So, there's a few to keep you going. More will be posted in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Galway Launch of Needlework

If you are in Galway this Friday evening (and why wouldn't you be....), everyone come along to the Galway launch of wonderful Deirdre Sullivan's new YA novel, Needlework.
"Needlework is intricately woven with the rhythm and delicacy of a fine tapestry. It is a book that is both difficult to take and impossible to put down. Sullivan is dealing with an extremely sensitive topic here, and she does so with great subtlety and nuance. The writing is exquisite and poetic, the story, a compelling one that ebbs and flows as you follow. It handles its' subject matter without succumbing to sensationalism and without pushing the reader; a task that is very difficult to achieve. The voice and perception is eloquent, powerful and starkly genuine. The result is a story that needs to be told, needs to be read and considered and felt deeply. I think Tara Flynns' comment sums Needlework up to perfection; "A brutally beautiful book." Needlework is a rare work among the numbers of young adult fiction titles; honest, forthright, delicate and sincere." (My thoughts on Needlework taken from the Young Adult Reads page of this blog.)
It is an utterly amazing book written by an utterly amazing author. Deirdre has created a novel that I believe opitimizes what YA fiction should be. On top of that, there will be Deirdre reading from Needlework, Patricia Forde handling the introductions, the brave and wonderful people from Little Island, wine, mingling and, I've even heard a rumour of a (temporary) tattoo booth. This promises to be a great evening, so I hope you can make it!
Friday, 18 March at 6pm
Dubray Galway
4 Shop Street
See you  there! 

CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Short Lists 2016

This years' shortlists for the coveted CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway medals were released yesterday.
The CILIP Carnegie is is quite teen/YA heavy, with Patrick Ness aspiring to become the first author ever to win the CILIP Carnegie three times. Thematically, all are linked by issues surrounding secrets and lies, those things that are hidden and must be revealed. All the novels are eloquent and expertly written with a clear understanding of how it feels to be a young person coping in a world of very adult concerns. The list is as follows:
Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Frances Hardinge The Lie Tree
Nick Lake, There Will Be Lies
Sarah Crossan, One
Robin Talley, Lies We Tell Ourselves
Kate Saunders, Five Children On The Western Front
Jenny Valentine, Fire Colour One
Marcus Sedgwick, The Ghosts of Heaven

The Kate Greenaway Medal makes a return to traditional picture books, as opposed to lasts years' list. Three of the illustrators on he list, Anthony Browne, Helen Oxenbury and Chris Riddell, all have two Greenaway medals under their belts, so are also looking for a hat trick. And there is a magnificent addition of a wordless picture book in Footpath Flowers. Each book is powerful and delightful in its' own right. The list is:
Anthony Browne, Willy's Stories
Oliver Jeffers, Once Upon An Alphabet
Jon Klassen (illustrator) and Mac Barnett (author), Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
Jackie Morris, Something About a Bear
Ross Collins, There's a Bear On My Chair
Helen Oxenbury (illustrator) and Peter Bentley (author), Captain Jack and the Pirates
Sydney Smith (illustrator) and JonArno Lawson (author), Footpath Flowers
Chriss Riddell (illustrator) and Neil Gaiman (author), The Sleeper and the Spindle

The winners of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals for 2016 will be announced on Monday, 20th of June. Each winner receives the medal itself and £500 worth of books to donate to their local library! (And that is amazing!)
In addition, for the first time, one book will be selected from the shortlist to receive the Amnesty CILIP honour. This will be given to the book that most distinctively upholds, illuminates or celebrates freedoms. A very moving honour to receive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

CBI Book of the Year Awards 2016 Shortlist!

The Childrens Books Ireland shortlist for the Book of the Year Awards was announced yesterday, Tuesday the 8th of March at the Duncairn Arts Centre in Belfast. This is the 26th year of the most prestigious awards in childrens' literature in Ireland, and what an amazing shortlist! The list includes titles for every age group from picture books through Young Adult titles.
These awards include the wonderful Childrens Choice Award, voted for by children all over the country. This is my favourite award! I have always said if you want to find a really good childrens' book, ask the kids. They will not steer you wrong. So, as I look at the list, of course I have my favourites, but I am wondering what the kids will say.

Here's the list, in no particular order:
Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers
Gulliver retold by Mary Webb, illustrated by Lauren O'Neill
The Boy at the Top of the Moutain by John Boyne
The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt, ullustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Irelandopedia by John and Fatti Burke
Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Ná Gabh Ar Scoil by Máire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Kruse
One by Sarah Crossan
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde

Huge congratulations to all the nominees. Fingers crossed!
The winners will be announced at a ceremony held on 23rd of May in a ceremony at Dublins' Smock Alley Theatre. See you all there!
maginary Fred written by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Day the Crayons Came Home illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne
Gulliver illustrated by Lauren O’Neill
Asking for It written by Louise O’Neill
Ná Gabh ar Scoil written by Máire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
Irelandopedia written by John Burke, illustrated by Fatti Burke
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde
One by Sarah Crossan
- See more at:
maginary Fred written by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Day the Crayons Came Home illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne
Gulliver illustrated by Lauren O’Neill
Asking for It written by Louise O’Neill
Ná Gabh ar Scoil written by Máire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
Irelandopedia written by John Burke, illustrated by Fatti Burke
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde
One by Sarah Crossan
- See more at:
maginary Fred written by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Day the Crayons Came Home illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne
Gulliver illustrated by Lauren O’Neill
Asking for It written by Louise O’Neill
Ná Gabh ar Scoil written by Máire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
Irelandopedia written by John Burke, illustrated by Fatti Burke
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde
One by Sarah Crossan
- See more at:

World Book Day Extravaganza 2016

Before I move on with the rest of the month, I need to wrap up the goings on of the World Book Day Extravaganza 2016! Friday was the final day and a day which saw me take the reigns completely. I read to 3 wonderful classes, Junior Infants, 4th class and 1st and 2nd class. It was an "excited" day....really nice to see that kind of enthusiasm for books. There were 95 students in all, that day, listening to stories, telling me about their favourite books, asking questions and asking for recommendations...just wonderful! 
A fourth class popped in a bit later in the day to choose their World Book Day books and spend their vouchers (all very organised!) This reminds me to remind you all....though the extravaganza is over (at least here in Galway) for another year,  World Book Day events do continue. Check out their website and find out what's happening near you.
I thought it might be interesting to let you know which of the World Book Day Books was most popular among the young and voracious readers of Galway. While Star Wars was certainly a hit, and Welcome to the World of Norm and The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked made quite an impression, the WBD Book that gained the most interest this and most popular was (so far) One
Good Turn by Brian Gallagher, published by O'Brien Press! (This is most satisfying and as it should be, seeing as a) it is a GREAT read and b) it is a 1916 story and we are commemorating 1916.) Brilliant news!
And don't forget to use those vouchers! Use them to acquire one of the incredible 10 (11 in Ireland) specially published World Book Day Books or to get €1.50 off the book of your choice. And remember to use them before 27 March 2016. Your favourite booksellers can't accept them after that date! Don't miss out.
Now... are you ready? The total attendance for the World Book Day Extravaganza 2016 has been....(drum roll, please)... 589 school children!!!
My most heart-felt thanks to the wonderful, kind authors who donated their time and energy to help me carry on bringing this magic to Galway. I cannot thank you enough. You were all amazing!
Thanks to Nicola Pierce (Behind the Walls)

      Debbie Thomas (Class Act)

Patricia Forde (The Wordsmith)


and Andrew Lane, who gets an extra thank you for stepping in at the last minute and coming all the way from his home in England to solve a problem for me!

And my continued thanks to the staff of Dubray Books for putting up with me year after year, and the teachers and schools of Galway. YOU make this possible!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!!! (or the World Book Day Extravaganza - Day 4)

Yes....Thursday, 3rd of March....World Book Day, indeed!
I hope you all had a wonderful World Book Day. I know we did in the bookshop. Let me begin by letting you know the daily total. 149 local school children visited us today, filled with enthusiasm, questions, favourite books and stories and so much more!
While I began the festivities by reading to one of my best classes of little ones( Blue Penguin by Petr Horacek; The Beginners' Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson and Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak...well, it wouldn't be World Book Day if I didn't), the day picked up a whole new pace when Andrew Lane joined us to talk to 3 classes. There was the intrigue and  mystery of his Young Sherlock series (the 6th book of which takes place in Galway!); there was the specialist science of cryptids of the Lost World series; there was "How To Be A Writer In 5 Easy Lessons"....and much, much more! The above statements really do not cover it....there were so many levels to this presentation, it was amazing. In short, it was brilliant.
I want to express my deepest thanks to Andrew for making the trip from the UK to Galway to make this World Book Day event truly exciting and memorable. I know the kids will be talking about it for a long time!
And here's some photos:

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

World Book Day Extravaganza - Day 3

Today was another busy, excited day in the bookshop as the World Book Day Extravaganza continues! I read to 3 very lively classes...some lovely, boisterous little ones who really enjoyed the story-time and a bright, inquisitive older class that thoroughly enjoyed hearing a bit from David Baddiels' The Parent Agency.
But the best part of the day was a visit from Patricia Forde, who spoke to a class from Scoil Ide. Trish shared information about how she became an author, how and why we tell stories and her last book The Wordsmith. She even gave a glimpse into the book she's working on now...but I can't give anything away....apart from this; this is going to be great!
And here's some more photos!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

World Book Day Extravaganza 2016 - Day 2

The World Book Day Extravaganza is rolling right along! This was Day 2, and we opened the festivities with me(!) reading to two wonderful local class groups who were enthusiastic and excited about hearing from such stories as David Baddiels' The Parent Agency, The Beginner's Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson and David Roberts and, my old favourite, Where The Wild Things Are.
But the big event of the day was the amazing Debbie Thomas who made her way to Galway to talk to classes from Scoil Iognaid and Scoil an Linbh Iosa about creating stories (everywhere you go!), reading, how to be a writer and her last book, Class Act.
Today, we hosted a total of 101 area school children; making our new total 216! And there's more to come!
Here's a bit of photographic evidence: