Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30: Farewell to International Picture Book Month...see you next year

We have reached the last day of November, and the last day of Picture Book Month. It has been an incredible celebration of illustration this year, and of the stories and the champions who shared their thoughts and stories.
I love Picture Book Month! It is so important to remind us all that this is where our reading journey begins...and if we are wise, where it continues throughout life. Not to say that 'word' books aren't important, but without picture books, we would have never developed the visual literacy that allows us to interpret the random symbols that make up our written language. And, we would not have developed the joy, enthusiasm and desire to open another book...and another and another.
Todays' champion (and the final champion for the year), Kevan Atteberry (author/illustrator of BUNNIES! (2015) and PUDDLES! (2016) spoke about his memories of childhood books; how he doesn't really remember being read to, or the individual titles of his childhood stories. What he remembers, what has stayed with him through the years, were the pictures.
I can second that. While I do have some clear memories of a few specific books, in my mind, the young child that lives there is still spending hours pouring over a vast number of illustrations time and again. I find it fascinating and extremely joyous when I come across an illustration from my childhood. I remember that!, I find myself thinking. Then suddenly, everything rushes to the fore; the title, author/illustrator and most of all, the feelings that book gave me. Each one made an indelible mark on me.
Let me give you an example: the first book I can clearly remember was a Little Golden Book, I Am A Bunny by Olé Risom, illustrated by a young Richard Scarry. It was the first book I ever bought for myself. From a shelf full of bright and wonderful cover illustrations, that one of the bunny dressed in dungarees standing under a toadstool in the pouring rain caught me. And each page held me as I journeyed through the seasons with Nicholas ("I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree...) A simple, quiet story with sparse text...and I remember it all. Because of the pictures. That book made me want to read more, to look at more books, to find out what happens in different lives, different places; and to find comfort and sense in the world of books. That one book, I believe, says something about who am I as a person and taught me....I don't know....something important that has nothing to do with bunnies or seasons or weather. The pictures did that. Silly? Maybe. But, I don't think so.
I hope you have enjoyed reading the posts from all the amazing Picture Book Champions as much as I have. And I hope it has helped you think more deeply about picture books and develop a greater understanding and appreciation for them. Go back over your childhood favourites. pick up new ones, and don't be embarrassed to read picture books again. Picture books feed the soul; the soul of the young and the soul of the not-so-young-anymore.
And I hope you will look forward to Picture Book Month next year. I know I do.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Considering The Children (and Their Books)

At this time of year, more childrens books are purchased than any other. And people want this best for their kids; books that really suit them; books that entertain them and encourage them; books that mean something to their lives. When choosing a book for that wonderful child(ren) in your life, what you pick matters. And it's a time for your local childrens' book specialist to think fast on their feet when helping you, because we have a lot of people to help. That's what we're there for and that's what I love about the job. Nothing means more to me than to help you put the right book in the hands of a child. I believe books really make a difference. Helping someone find that right book is no simple task. I don't want to just hand over something that's popular or new. I want to be sure it is right for the child; that it will address them and make that difference. Children do actually live in a different space, a different culture than the adult world and that needs to be addressed. When picking the right book, it is important to consider the children and match the book to the child.

As adults who love childrens books, whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, writer, illustrator, a bookseller, a childrens' book expert or scholar, you know these things. Every so often, a resource creeps into view that will help you address the needs of the children in your life, whether it is to locate that special book or help them with some issue or problem, or to help them in their questions about the world. Well, I have a couple of resources for you.
The first is a beautiful new book that offers "An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise". The Story Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, two expert bibliotherapists take us through a wide range of situations and the hundreds of books that could help your child cope. From tantrums, bedtime routines, toilet training , picky eaters, bullying, feeling different through to first love, teenage mood swings, coping with mental illness or world situations....or even the child of any age who simply doesn't know what to read next; The Story Cure offers many options. Hundreds of books, from picture books to YA novels are found within these pages. Recommendations exist as creative solutions for nearly any circumstance conceivable. Books can offer a different kind of healing, because they are personal to the reader. The Story Cure can help you find the right book at the right time. (Also written by Berthoud and Elderkin, The Novel Cure:An A-Z of Literary Cures...for grown-ups)
Another book that I have previously recommended for the grown-ups is still my favourite. Feeling
Like A Kid: Childhood and Childrens' Literature by Jerry Griswold is a remarkable book that fully expresses the unique qualities that thrive in childrens' lives and how these are reflected, time and again, in childrens' books. Feeling Like A Kid addresses the way children think and feel in an honest, forthright manner with no sentimentality or idealised view. It then demonstrates how these are reflected in both classic and popular childrens' literature. It asserts and demonstrates that the best, most treasured childrens' authors were/are so incredibly successful because they have not forgotten what it's like to genuinely feel like a kid, to see the world from a real childs' point of view and to completely engage with childrens' culture. It does so in a way that is easy to read, offering insight and research in a user-friendly manner. Additionally, it is physically a beautiful book. It's design, illustrations, endpapers, type face....there isn't a thing about this book that isn't joyful and lovely.If you love childrens' books, have children in your life and want to encourage a love of reading, I think this is one of the most important books you could ever read.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Picture Book Month - One Week To Go!

November is winding down into it's cold, quiet end, leaving us just one week left of International Picture Book Month. So far 23 picture book illustrators, authors, publishers and booksellers have shared their thoughts on 'Why Picture Books Are Important"; and each one has been very instructive. Frequently, we don't give much thought to picture books, apart from whether or not a child will enjoy it. But picture books are complex and fascinating beings, taking us on journeys we would never endeavour otherwise.And the beginning of all those journeys take place when we are children....just babies, really. Fired by the discovery of our own visual literacy, we travel from infancy through old age through books, which take us more places than we could go without them. They help us make sense of the world, where mere words fail us. Picture books are not something we should abandon just because we 'grow up'. We need to read pictures throughout our lives. The joy, the sanity and reason picture books bring is long lasting. Picture books are different from other literary forms. And the difference is simple to ascertain; it's the pictures.
Matthew Cordell, illustrator and today's Picture Book Champion, puts it extremely well when he said;
 "I slowly became aware of just how singular the picture book format really is. It is the one book that is read and appreciated by two vastly different audiences: the adult and the child. For it to work, the picture book has to work double time. It’s fascinating. And frustrating. And amazing. Simultaneously, they are bringing these two groups together in a shared space, with a shared story, and shared art, and shared page turns. Picture books are incomparable.
And, so, what else? What else can picture books do?
What more does one need?"
 You see, this is the thing I really love about Picture Book Month; it focuses on the illustrations that continue to colour our lives throughout. We begin to more deeply consider the gift of the illustrator and what it brings to us; children and adult. They allow us to understand different places, cultures, lives completely unlike our own and to appreciate those things, through pictures. Illustrated books, and their creators deserve far more recognition than they have been getting. But thanks to Picture Book Month, we are allowed further exploration, further appreciation and further joy.

More thoughts are circulating in Ireland (in particular) regarding the recognition, or rather lack there of, of illustrators and their work. Spurred on by the failure to recognise illustrator Margaret Anne Suggs during the Irish Book Awards for her work on award-winner Pigín of Howth by Katherine Watkins, a debate has been raging, demand more recognition for illustrators in general. Here's an excellent article that was in the Irish Times 2 days ago with numerous contributors. Exceptional points made her:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2016

The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards are a set of industry-recognised awards set up by a collective of Irish booksellers in 2007 to acknowledge the best and brightest of Irish authors in all fields. The shortlist for this years' awards were launched on 25 October, with voting open to members of the public. On 16 November, the winners were announced. As a childrens' bookseller, I'm, of course most concerned with the two children's categories and am delighted to tell you all that the winners are:

In the SpecSavers Childrens Book of the Year Senior category -
the winner is Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden. A classically-styled childrens fantasy, this is the first in a series that follows the world of young Denizen Hardwick. Denizen doesn't believe in magic, until he's attacked by a shadowy monster and then witnesses it's destruction by a word made of sunlight.From that point forward, he is thrown into a battle of good vs evil. Fantastic! Congratulations, Dave. Can't wait for the rest of the series!

In the SpecSavers Childrens Book of the Year Junior category -
the award went to Katherine Watkins for the lovely Pigín of Howth. A collection of stories that Katherine created for her 5 wonderful grandchildren, we meet Pigín, a very popular pig about town. Friendly, curious and with impeccable manners,, Pigín and his friends share three exciting adventures that are sure to entrance children. Congratulations, Katherine!
For more on these two award-winning books, the shortlists and all the other (grown-up) awards, just follow the link:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November is Picture Book Month!

I hope you have all been checking out the Picture Book Month site and enjoying the various 2016 Picture Book Champions posting daily. Each one has a different thought; a different perspective as to why picture books are so important in the lives of children...well, really in all our lives, young and old. Each day gives us even more reason to celebrate the artistry  and allows us to consider in new ways what the printed picture book has to offer in the world.

So far, the month was opened up by Carmen Oliver, author of Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies. (Wonderful book, by the way.)
"In a world where everything moves at such a fast place, picture books remind us to slow down and savor time reading with someone we love. To tuck into a favorite reading place or share a lap and be transported and transformed. And in doing so, picture books create memories we will have for eternity"
Then there was Ashley Wolff, expressing her thirst for adventure, exploration and thrills  in a safe and secure platform which she then transformed as an adult into In The Canyon. Adam Lehrhaupt talks about the development of our own story-telling abilities. Alyssa Satin Capucilli remembers the gifts of comfort, familiarity and developing a sense of belonging in the wider world. Jan Peck gives consideration to what makes a reader and book-lover. Marita Gentry speaks of the importance of the tactile quality of a physical book and how that allows a child to develop a sense of a personal creative journey. And todays' offering by Josh Funk, creator of Pirasaurs! lets us experience the world of fine art that lives vibrantly in the world of the printed picture book. Amazing!
But so far, I think my favourite has been from Pat Cummings. Pat discusses the importance of the picture book in how it allows the child to develop a sense of the world, of humanity and of how to understand others, behave with other. It is in how they offer a sense of stability that may not be present in the day to day world and to allow the child (or adult, let's face it) to seek solace and hope through that. I'm saying this badly. Here's Pats' own words:
"Why are picture books important? Because story is how we learn. And while we are still forming, an appreciation for good art and design should be woven into our consciousness at the cellular level. But mainly, picture books are important because I believe every child deserves to be indulged. Every child should have access to a world where loving parents are the rule, good intentions prevail and challenging problems lead to satisfying resolutions if only you’ll just turn the page"
I hope you will continue to follow along Picture Book Month 2016, or if you have joined yet, please do now. There is so much that you wouldn't have thought about, trust me. I have been working with childrens' books for quite some time now and am a life-long reader of childrens' books, and I find some new and exciting perspectives each year through Picture Book Month.
Read on, dear friends....and always look closely at the pictures!