Thursday, April 18, 2019

Hedgehogs, Water Voles and Great Inventions - Happy Book Birthday

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY! to Helping Hedgehog Home; the ninth in the collection of Celestine and the Hare books by Karin Celestine.
I wanted to do a very special post for this book, because the whole series contains very special books, indeed.
In this series, we enter a world where weasels are ruled by King Norty, a tribe of Chokliteers run gentle riot alongside in a kingdom of tiny felt animals ( your Easter Eggs!), water voles build homes for stray beetles and small acts of kindness and consideration are part of the daily routine.
There is a strong sense of environmental awareness, as you might imagine, and an infusion of acceptance, compassion and empathy for even the smallest of creatures...and even when that particular creature may seem a bit irritating. Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of paying attention, understanding and time to create a more peaceful world and some new friends.
And into this world, we now welcome....

(A Celestine and the Hare book)
author/creator: Karin Celestine
Graffeg (18 April 2019)
ISBN: 9781912213634
One day, when Granny Dandelion is out looking for a tin can for her latest invention,  a hedgehog in a runaway hot air balloon suddenly drops in on Grandpa Burdock. (Quite literally!) It seems a new fence was built and the gap where Hedgehog used to get into her garden is gone. She was trying to think of a way to get back in so she can look for something tasty for dinner. But, her spines are so prickly, they popped the balloon and now...she's trapped. Hedgehog shouldn't worry, though. While Grandpa Burdocks' ideas may be a bit unnerving, Granny Dandelion is a great inventor and surely she can help Hedgehog home.
Adventurous, funny and clever, the clear and easy to read text make this book perfect for young readers and to share with the family or classroom. There is much room for both discussions about the natural world we share and for flights of the imagination. Each character has its' own unique personality, and as a community display a great gift for compassion and willingness to get along. They bring their own gifts to the situation and, because of that, the problem is easily solved. The illustrations are endlessly charming; made with felt creatures Celestine handcrafts herself, painstakingly places and photographs. The result is the creation of a marvelous, artistic, inventive and very real world. In the back of this book, you will find simple instructions to make your own papier-mache hot air balloon out of items you probably have sitting around the house. (But don't try to send a hedgehog off in can see what happens.) Delightful and heartwarming.

In fact, the entire series is well worth recommending.
The presentation of each book is simply beautiful with lively illustrations. With the whimsical story-telling in each, the reader will also get great insight, simply put without being didactic, heavy-handed or boring. Messages of inclusiveness, kindness, sensitivity and acceptance breeze through these tales, alongside a wonderful vision of the interesting lives lived just outside your back door. Each book has a 'make your own' page at the back, along with some eye-opening facts about various tiny creatures inhabiting our world. But....the real joy is in the stories. They will make you laugh, make you think and inspire your imagination. My advice: get them all!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Favourites of the Year...So Far

This year is moving along so quickly! Here it is the middle of books are being published thick and fast. I thought it was time to have a look at my favourite books that are out so far this year. They include picture books, middle-grade fiction and YA. we go:

Number one on this part of my list has to be  FOR ALL THE STARS ACROSS THE SKY; author: Karl Newson, illustrator: Chiaki Odaka. The perfect story for those quiet moments, it is comforting, calmly adventurous and exquisitely illustrated. Echoing the picture book classics of the past, this is one of the most perfect picture books I have seen in a long, long time.

I also have to give a big shout out for MAYA AND CAT, author/illustrator: Carloine Magerl. An affectionate, playful, cosy adventure, it also expresses a lovely sense of empathy and understanding. Illustrated with lots of detail in a whimsical, expressive style, I just love it!

GASPARD THE FOX, author: Zeb Soanes, illustrator: James Mayhew tells us the story of an urban fox and his adventures over the course of a day. With a great eye for detail and an insightful sense of character, this story is charming,  informative, entertaining and one that I think should be on everyones' shelf. One to read again and again.

And finally (in the picture book segment), I fell in love with MY GRANDMA AND ME, author: Mina Javaherbin, illustrator: Lindey Yankey. A gentle, eloquent story that is at once personal and universal, it is warmhearted, wise, joyful and expresses how the small moments of life become the biggest memories. Simply beautiful and I think one that children everywhere (and many adults as well) will treasure.

The top place of my MG reading list has to go to THE LITTLE GREY GIRL, author: Celine Kiernan (with an amazing cover and interior illustrations by Jessica Courtney-Tickle). This is the second in the Wild Magic series, picking up at the moment Begone the Raggedy Witches left off. It enthralled me from the very first line, wrapping me up in this incredible, magical, moving tale that is everything a story should be; dramatic, dangerous, heartwarming, descriptive and imaginative...I just can't wait for the third!

You just have to read THE STAR-SPUN WEB, author: Sinéad O'Hart! A well-crafted plot and exceptional story-telling take you on adventure that is fascinating, intriguing and completely spell-binding. Quirky humour set in the darkest moments of the tale lift the reader into the a strong sense of resilience. Compelling, curious and dripping with real courage.

THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, authors: Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder pulls together contemporary themes, family life and the world of myth and legend flawlessly. The characters and locations leap off the page in this exceptional fantasy/adventure which is highly original and simply wonderful!

If you prefer a bit of murder-mystery in your reading, do get your hands on HIGH RISE MYSTERY, author: Sharna Jackson. This outstanding debut takes on the classic murder-mystery format and brings it up to date with a fast-paced plot, true to life situations and refreshing, genuine characters. Engaging, clever and captivating...this is just brilliant!

And a fifth recommendation in the MG slot. Please, please read POG, author: Pádraig Kenny, cover and interior illustrations by Jane Newland. Pog reads like a fairytale; filled with beauty, hope, danger and resilience (with wonderful moments of humour sprinkled throughout) in a magical journey through grief and recovery. Never maudlin, always intriguing and uplifting, this is an adventure of rising and strength with incredible characters and is filled with life. I love Pog!


If you haven't got your hands on ON THE COME UP, author: Angie Thomas yet...what are you waiting for? This story of 16-year-old Bri; daughter of a murdered street rapper with big dreams of her own is incisive, raw and poignant. A gripping, true-to-life story, it is a raw, poignant reminder of the lives lived by so many people. Bri is a dynamic character; caught in a web, she is struggling to stay exactly as she is and, in the end, emerges from that battle triumphant. Inspirational and real.

THE QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORLD, author Lauren James is the perfect is the perfect read for science-fiction adventure fans, readers of dystopia and those who want a thought-provoking tale of a possible future scenario. It leaves a certain disquieting sense in its' wake which calls into question racism, environmental concerns, medical and technological research, evolution and what it means to be human. Nuanced, compelling, beautiful and completely believable.

In THE HAND, THE EYE AND THE HEART, author Zoe Marriott, we find a reworking of the old Chines fairytale Mulan. Yet in a world ripe with the flavours of old China, we have a very contemporary tale. In a marvelous feat of world-building, this is an examination of gender identity, societal expectations, power and corruption and manipulation. Never intending to lay claim to Chinas' actual history, it does what fairytales do best; it weaves a spell that tells the reader more about their own world; their own sense of being than any tale of the ancient past ever could. Exquisitely written and extremely timely.

So...there you have my favourites so far this year. What am I most looking forward to (also known as Coming Next....)?'ll just have to wait and see. But here are a few covers to act as hints....

Monday, March 25, 2019

Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2019

In the 15th year of the Waterstones Children's Book Prize,  Onjali Q. Raufs' The Boy At The Back Of The Class has been announced as the overall winner. Chosen by professional booksellers, this outstanding book simply shines as an exceptional new voice in Middle Grade fiction. It is the moving tale of refugee Ahmet; separated from his family, alone in a new school and a new country, to the other children in school he is simply the boy who sits at the back of the class. When a small group of his classmates take it upon themselves to make friends with Ahmet and learn his story. This sets them on an unexpected adventure. Told in a genuine  voice, this topical story reaches out in a way which children aged 9+ years will find easy to relate and understand. It covers many difficult issues (bullying, diversity, racism) with honesty, directness, empathy, compassion and a wonderful childlike vision and gentle humour. Warm, expressive, funny and thought-provoking, The Boy At The Back Of The Class is, indeed, a worthy winner.
The winners in this years' category awards are as follows:
In the Illustrated Books category; we have The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Lovlie; a wonderful story of a friendship that lasts a lifetime; celebrating difference and individuality.
Taking the crown for Older Fiction is an incredible, riveting fantasy debut by Tomi Adeyemi; Children of Blood and Bone. The first in a new series, this is a tale the combines West African mythology with fantastic world-building to give a story that is rich with texture, identity and courage.
The Waterstones Childrens' Book Prize is selected from a vast array of dynamic debut authors each year.
Congratulations to the winners!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shortlists 2019

Tuesday, 19th March saw the announcement of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal shortlists. The shortlists contain 8 books each, taken from the longlists of 137 and 117 respectively.
The Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards are the UK's most prestigious and longest standing book awards for children and young adults. The titles included represent the very best in children's writing and illustration published in the UK. They also recognise and honour a diverse range of perspectives and voices as part of their mission to bring the best childrens writing and illustration to light; bringing together authors and illustrators across the globe.
And now...on to the lists:

CILIP Carnegie Medal shortlist (alphabetical by author surname):

  1. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (Electric Monkey)
  2. Rebound by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile (Andersen Press)
  3. The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Usborne Books)
  4. Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling Books
  5. A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children's Books)
  6. Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (Andersen Press)
  7. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Chris Priestley (Faber & Faber)
  8. The Land of Neverendings by Kate Saunders (Faber & Faber)


    CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist (alphabetical by illustrator surname):

    1.  The Day War Came illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, written by Nicola Davies (Walker Books)
    2.  Ocean Meets Sky illustrated and written by Eric Fan and Terry Fan (Lincoln Children’s Books)
    3.  Beyond the Fence illustrated and written by Maria Gulemetova (Child's Play Library)
    4.  The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett (Walker Books)
    5.  Julian is a Mermaid illustrated and written by Jessica Love (Walker Books)
    6.  You're Safe With Me illustrated by Poonam Mistry, written by Chitra Soundar (Lantana Publishing)
    7.  The Lost Words illustrated by Jackie Morris, written by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)
    8.  Suffragette: The Battle for Equality illustrated and written by David Roberts (Two Hoots)

    The winners will be announced at a special event at The British Library on Tuesday, 18th of June. Alongside the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards, the Shadowers Choice Award will be announced. This is a new award, voted for by the children and young people who 'shadow' the Medals. (In my mind and my heart, the shadowing awards have always held the most significance...when it comes to childrens books, always ask a kid.).

    For more information, follow the link:

Use your World Book Day Tokens!

Just putting out a quick reminder to everyone in the Ireland and the UK.
With all the excitement of World Book Day winding down for another year, it's easy to forget about the wonderful WBD books available and the World Book Day tokens! All of the brilliant books above are still available for purchase costing ONLY one WBD token each (or, if you've used yours already, €1.50...£1.00 on the UK.) The WBD tokens can also be used to give you €1.50 (£1.00) off towards the purchase of any other book.
But...and this is very important; the World Book Day tokens are only valid until Sunday, 31st of March. After that, your bookseller can no longer accept them. That gives you a little over a week to visit your local bookstore and spend those tokens!

I had a lovely World Book Day, though not at all as busy as World Book Days past. I visited a local school and spent the day reading to each and every class from a selection of my favourite books, new and old; something I really love to do. Of course, there was much chat about where their other World Book Day visits and what books they'd been reading; what was good...what was not. If you want to know whic books are best for children of any age...ask a kid.
And, I popped down to Dubray Books Galway to meet the wonderful Pádraig Kenny who was there presenting his books, TIN (read this book now!) and the new one, POG. He graciously signed POG for me before the event...and informed me that it the first copy he had ever signed. I am over-the-moon with that! (Review of POG is on the Irish Authors page. It is a beautiful book...highly recommended!)

So...hope you all had a wonderful World Book Day! Go over to the website for more information, activities and goings on in general and don't forget to use those WBD tokens!

Monday, March 11, 2019

CBI Book of the Year 2019 Shortlist Announced

Children's Books Ireland (CBI) has announced the ten titles that will compete for the 29th CBI Book of the Year awards. The big reveal was held today (Monday, 11 March) at the Strand Theatre in Belfast as part of the Young at Art, Belfast Childrens Festival.
The ten books will vie for the most prestigious awards in childrens' literature in Ireland, including Honour Award for Fiction, Honour Award for Illustration, the Eílis Dillon Award for a first childrens' book, The Judges' Special Award, CBI Book of the Year and the Childrens' Choice Award which is selected in close cooperation with reading groups from schools, libraries and bookshops registered in the CBI Shadowing Scheme across the island.
The books selected have all displayed the highest level of literary excellence, appeal to their audience of children and young people, entertain and engage the audience and development and/or challenge the childs' growth as a reader and their sense of understanding of the world.
The shortlist for 2019:
Mucking About by John Chambers
Little Island Books, ISBN 9781912417056
The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan
Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 9781408871539
Beag Bídeach scríofa ag Sadhbh Devlin, maisithe ag Róisín Hahessy
Futa Fata, ISBN 9781910945407
The Great Irish Weather Book written by Joanna Donnelly, illustrated by Fuchsia MacAree
Gill Books, ISBN 9780717180936
Between Tick and Tock written by Louise Greig, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay
                                    Egmont Publishing, ISBN 9781405286596

Tin by Pádraig Kenny
Chicken House, ISBN 9781911077657
Tuesdays are Just as Bad by Cethan Leahy
Mercier Press, ISBN 9781781175644
The Pooka Party by Shona Shirley Macdonald
The O’Brien Press, ISBN 9781788490009
Dr Hibernica Finch’s Compelling Compendium of Irish Animals written by Rob Maguire, illustrated by Aga Grandowicz
Little Island Books, ISBN 9781910411940
                                                      Flying Tips for Flightless Birds by Kelly McCaughrain
Walker Books, ISBN 9781406375657

An incredible shortlist, indeed! Congratulations to all and the very best of luck.
The winners will be announced at the official awards ceremony in May.
 For more information on the CBI Book of the Year Awards, the shortlist and all upcoming announcements, you can follow the links below.
Also I've included a link for the Belfast Childrens' Festival.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

World Book Day Through The Years- part three

With exactly one week to go until the BEST Book Day of the year, I hope you're all ready and as excited as I am. There's always so much going on; so much to do and so many activities to get the schools involved with.
So, I guess it's also time for me to finish up my 'through-the-years' posts of the events, authors, illustrators, storytellers and fantastic school visits that make World Book Day so memorable for me...and for a lot of other people as well. Let the time-travel begin!

For the World Book Day Extravaganza 2015, I had to add a couple of days later in the month in order to accommodate everyone! With lots of familiar faces, we all had a fantastic time! March turned out to be a brilliant month.
We welcomed Sadie Cramer back, and this time she brought Juliette Saumande with her! There were readings from their book Chop Chop Mad Cap , talk of where ideas come from, the chractersand their relationships with each other and how pictures are made. Then the kids got to work, drawing their own cat creations!

Debbie Thomas came to town and spoke of many things; her life, her books (Dead Hairy, Jungle Tangle and Monkie Business), how she became an author, why she writes the stories she writes, bees, amber and honey. The last three subjects lead very nicely into her (then) upcoming book Class Act, of which Debbie gave us all a sneak preview. She also read some of the poetry she wrote when she was seven years old! Fabulous!

There was much excitement when Marguerite Tonery visited, sharing her wonderful fantasy book, Kapheus Earth. Surrounded by a sea of school children, there was talk of dragons, enchantment, Irish mythology and family life. In addition to Marguerite reading, Kapheus was passed around to the kids so they could show off their reading skills and really get submerged into the fantastical world of light, Kapheus. Magic!

We simply couldn't miss the chance to have Nicola Pierce come back to us for her first ever presentation of her new book of 2015, Behind The Walls; a brilliant and gripping historical fiction work set during the Siege of Derry. She did recap on her previous books, Spirit of the Titanic and City of Fate (by request from the classes, who wanted to know everything!), but we were all mesmerised by the story of two brothers in 1688-89 Derry, locked within its' walls.

Later that month, Rab Fulton was back to try out some brand new hilarious and scary stories...and they worked just fine. No one knew whether to laugh or hide. So we did both.
And to finish up what was in danger of becoming World Book Month, Patricia Forde returned once again. But this time, it was to give us all a little taste of her fabulous new book, The Wordsmith (which was released in May of that year.) What a way to wind-up a month!

World Book Day 2016 was a year that saw many old favourites return to share their favourite books, favourite stories, their lives and their writing journey with sooo many school students. Patricia Forde was back with The Wordsmith; Nicola Pierce was there with more of Behind the Walls and her other fabulous historical fiction novels for young people; Debbie Thomas was back with the insightful and hilarious Class Act.
But the memory I really want to share with you; the ones that made it a year I will never forget came about in the most wonderful way. One of my authors had to back out due to medical circumstances just a week before World Book Day 2016. There were three classes that would have no special guest. While I am never adverse to stepping in and talking about books and reading to the classes (I always saved space in the schedule so I could do that anyway...), I decided to put out an emergency call to my author/storyteller friends, on the off chance that someone else could step in. I knew it was unlikely and as I suspected, everyone was already booked.

Everybody but one. was an unexpected and completely overwhelming delight to welcome Andrew Lane to my World Book Day 2016 Extravaganza! Andrew made the trip from Bournemouth all the way to Galway to read and talk about his amazing Young Sherlock series; especially Knife Edge, in which a teenage Sherlock Holmes, on the way home from the Orient arrives in Galway, only to find his brother Mycroft waiting for him and a murder. Talk about fantastic! Once again, thank you so much, Andrew!!! You saved my voice, my bacon and gave the kids a memory they will treasure for the rest of their lives. You fired the imaginations and made a lot of fans that day.

World Book Day 2017 was a more 'low-key' affair than the previous years. I had moved bookshops and spent more time at schools, holding the events off site. But there were a few in the bookshop that brought a real lively spark to the place.

Nicola Pierce graciously followed me over to talk to two local school classes about her just out book, Kings of the Boyne; a follow-up (of sorts) to the previous Behind the Walls, as the two brothers now find themselves at the pivotal Battle of the Boyne.

Patricia Forde made another appearance and really got the classes excited about reading, writing, characters and her book, The Wordsmith.

Marguerite Tonery was back with more (at the time 3!) tales of Kapheus. That's Kapheus Earth, Kapheus Air and Kapheus Water. Surrounded by children as always, they were held in the palm of her hand!

There was a wonderful highlight to WBD2017...a new face; the face of Julian Gough who came along to introduce the kids to his hilarious, thoughtful and insightful books for younger children; Rabbit and Bear. He explained the lives of these two unusual friends, as portrayed in his books Rabbit's Bad Habits and The Pest in the Nest. Then, Julian worked with the kids to create their own story, involving a cat-gummy bear stuck inside a crocodiles tummy. Lively and amazing!

I wish I had some memories of World Book Day 2018 to share with you. But last year was a cold and wintry one and for perhaps the first time ever, we were snowed out! Best laid plans and all that. I had hosted a few classes the following week, but as I was the one to read to them and I am the photos!
That winds up World Book Day Through The Years. And it would seem, February as well.
Now, have one week until the big day rolls round. And starting next week, there are events, podcasts and all sorts of activities to help build the excitement about books and reading for pleasure. It really shouldn't just be a 'school' activity or something we do just to learn. Reading is a gift we give ourselves and it's important to start giving that gift early in life.
Happy World Book Day 2019, everyone. Tell me, what are you reading?