Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Few Wonderful Picture Books for Earth Day

It is Earth Day. And we definitely need Earth Day, that reminder us of the beauty and incredible wonder that we live on. Now, I won't talk to you about all the terrible things that are happening due to our neglect of this beautiful blue ball we all call home. But I do think we owe it to Mother Earth and to our children to teach them to live in appreciation of the natural world and understand how our continued existence here is dependent on how we behave toward it. In lieu of this....I have a few picture books that may help....
I would be very remiss if I didn't start this brief post with my old favourite, The Lorax by Dr Seuss. If you don't know, the story involves a man who arrives in a forest of the most amazing, magnificent Truffula trees and immediately decides upon a quick way to make a fortune. Shortly after his endeavour begins, up pops the Lorax, who speaks for the trees because they have no voices. The Lorax issues a timely warning...which comes true in the end...

My next recommendation has to be The Trouble With Dragons by Debi Gliori. In this cautionary tale, the Earth is populated by dragons who have absolutely no concerns about how much the pollute the seas or chop down trees or eat all the's their planet, after all. Why shouldn't they do whatever they want? A fantastic, simple rhyming text and beautifully detailed illustrations give a strong environmental message.

Now here is an old favourite from my childhood. More about the passage of time and the effect of urban sprawl on the life and happiness of a small, beautiful little house, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton still holds that message of care and stewardship we need to consider more. Built with love and care on the top of a hill, the little house will "never be sold for silver or gold", its' builder expects generations to live in her and love her as he has done. So the little house sits on the top of the hill, and wonders about the city which grows closer with each passing year.

So, there's three for you....

Hello! It's time for a bit of catch-up....again. Book Awards 2018

Hello! It's me again. Yes, I have been quiet as of late. There has been a lot going on in my life and I fear I have neglected Fallen Star Stories...apart from a few reviews, which rather a lot of you out there have been reading. Thank you for hanging in there with me.
I'm going to give a bit of catch-up for those of you who are interested in the world of childrens' literature and what is currently happening.
Let's start with a few awards and medals....

First big announcement; The 2018 Astrid Lindgren Award has gone to American author, Jacqueline Woodson. Jacqueline is 55 years old and lives in Brooklyn, New York. The author of more than thirty books, from novels to poetry to picture books, her writing frequently focuses on young people making the transition from childhood to adulthood. Covering such topical issues as racism, social and economic injustice, segregation, gender equality and exclusion, she shows a unique understanding of what young people
encounter, how they think and feel, what their true concerns centre around as they enter into the adult world. Possibly her most critically acclaimed book is Brown Girl Dreaming, an award-winning autobiographical novel, written in verse that tells her story, growing up in South Carolina and New York. In January of this year, Jacqueline Woodson was named as the National Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature in the US.
 “It’s important to hold up mirrors for kids to see their experience is legitimate. Too often those mirrors aren’t there for them.” Jacqueline Woodson.

On 26 March, 2018, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) announced the winners of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. Considered to be the "Nobel Prize" for chilrens literature, this award went to Eiko Kadono of Japan for writing and Igor Oleynikov of Russia for illustration. With a stunning range of charming, vibrant picture books, a great novel series featuring Kiki the witch or her wondrous novel set in World War II about a young girl who must travel through a strange and terrifying tunnel of trees on her way to school, Eiko Kadonos' books are always engaging; filled with life and humour and wonderful female characters with great self-determination and autonomy. Igor Oleynikovs' illustrations leap of the page to bring a magical world of both strange and familiar characters to life. They pull the reader
directly on to the page and into whatever tale he is illustrating. An amazing body of work!
Thursday, 15 March saw the announcement of the shortlists for the 2018 CILIP Carnegie  and Kate Greenaway Medals. Each medal had a longlist of 20 books each. These have been whittled down to a llist of eight books competing for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and seven books for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
The CILIP Carnegie is rather YA heavy, with the books included being Release by Patrick Ness (stunning...and I'd really love to see him pull the hat-trick), After the Fire by Will Hill (wow...very strong and unique story line with fantastic characters), The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (just powerful!), Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, Rook by Anthony McGowan, Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick, Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans and Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean.
The Kate Greenaway Medal includes the following titles; The Song From Somewhere Else by AJ Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold; Night Shift by Debi Gliori (I have to mention, this is more of an 'everybody' book rather than a childrens' picture book); King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Lauren Carlin; A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Petr Horacek; Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by the incredible Sydney Smith; Thronhill, wirtten and illustrated by Pam Sym and Under the Same Sky written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup.
The announcement of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals will take place on Monday 18th June at a special daytime event at the British Library. The winners received £500 worth of books to donate to their local library, a commissioned gold medal and a stipend of £5000 cash prize.

And I'm just going to mention again (see post previous to this one), the Childrens Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards will be announced on 23rd May at a ceremony at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Childrens Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards 2018

The Childrens Books Ireland Book of the Year Awards shortlist is out! And what an incredible shortlist it is! I am not going to go on and on about this, because the visual will always say it better. So here's the list!
This years' shortlist contains a strong showing by Irish publishers and all are truly outstanding choices. The shortlist contains:
A Dangerous Crossing by Jane Mitchell
A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea written by Sarah Webb and illustrated by Steve McCarthy
Chocolate Cake written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Kevin Waldron
 Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
Illegal written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest written by Julian Gough and illustrated by Jim Field
Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson
Tangleweed and Brine written by Deirdre Sullivan and illustrated by Karen Vaughan
The Space Between by Meg Grehan
And my heartfelt congratulations to ALL the nominees. Fantastic news for all of you and I wish you all the best.
To readers, I can absolutely recommend all of the nominated titles. You can't go wrong with any of them. They are fantastic!
The winners of the awards, which includes the landmark Childrens Choice Award chosen by a vote from young people across the country, will be announced in a ceremony at Dublins' Smock Alley Theatre on the 23rd of May, 2018. See you there!

World Book Day Excitement

The World Book Day 2018 is nearly over. But there is some great news for those of you who are still hanging on to the World Book Day Vouchers. Remember, these vouchers are given out by schools all across the UK and Ireland in an effort to make sure every child can have a book of their own choosing; one to read and enjoy and to help them develop a love of books and reading! The £1/€1.50 vouchers are redeemable in bookshops for one of the specially published World Book Day books (10 books in all/ 11 in Ireland thanks to the efforts of The O'Brien Press!)
Or, your child can use them against any book of their choice to receive £1/€1.50 off the price. Now, here's the good news. Due to the freezing temperatures and the snow (!), while many of you were not able to attend World Book Day events or get out to spend your vouchers, the good people at World Book Day have decided to extend the redemption period until the 31st of March! So, you have two full weeks to spend those vouchers. What a great addition to a family day out...pop into your local bookshop and chose your World Book Day voucher!
As I had mentioned before, this year, due to circumstances, I didn't go all out and throw my traditional World Book Day Extravaganza (for a week, as it usually turns out). But I did have some great events organised. And I managed to get them all in last week, to make up for the bad weather cancellations. On Tuesday, I spent a few hours at Dominican College talking to two large groups of 14-year-old girls about their reading habits and some of the fantastic reads out for them. This can be a bit of a challenge, as at that age, they have no problem telling you what they don't like about reading. So...we talked about it. And in the end, as I always say, if I can get one kid who "doesn't like to read" to start picking up books, I consider that a success. You see, if one of the non-readers finds a book they really love, they'll tell their friends. And the next thing you know, they are all readers. I was also delighted to hear they have instituted the "Drop Everything And Read" programme, where for 20 minutes three times a week, the entire school devotes itself to having the students reading. I believe every school should have this programme running as part of the curriculum. You'll be surprised at what a difference it makes in all aspects of education and life, in general.
Wednesday and Thursday found me in front of school children from the local area in the shop. I invited St Nicholas Parochial School in (yes, the whole school, but by class groups...I'm not crazy) to talk about books and read to them. For the little ones, I had a selection of some of my favourite picture books, new and old, to share with them and get them to participate in. It wouldn't be World Book Day if I didn't read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak while having the children act out the part of the Wild Things!With the older kids, we talked about how to be an author, what happens when you want to get published and some new and brilliant books by Irish authors and read from two of my favourites, Tin by Padraig Kenny and Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan. The trick is knowing where to stop so you leave them wanting more! And on Thursday, in came Galway Educate Together for more picture book readings and talking about what they love about books. Small children are very eloquent when they talk about their favourite books.I think we all need to listen to them more.
Friday was another day out. I went up to Scoil Ide for several hours, read picture books to little ones and talked about reading to an older group. One young lady was brilliant. She really didn't like reading, or so she said...then she enquired about books about the Plague (I'm thinking The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh here...brilliant!) And then there was how she really liked murder and death. Well, that's Robin Stevens 'A Murder Most Unladylike' series, isn't it. All the other girls chimed in with suggestions for her, and yes, she did come into the bookshop over the weekend to check out what was on offer.
We also talked a good bit about the Bold Girls incentive and the wonderful reading guide by Childrens Book Ireland.(Get it now!) Another great read for these girls...Mollie on the March by Anna Carey. And there was great excitement! All and all, a success!
 So, that's my World Book Day visits done and dusted for another year. All in all, I spoke to about 400 local school children. Not bad for what I called 'low key'.
Keep reading and sharing books! And don't forget to use those vouchers by the 31st of March!

Friday, March 2, 2018

What I've Been Reading

As I have been asked by a number of interested folks, this is just a quick post to share what I've been reading and what I'm reading now.
Photo number one here is a selection of some of the books I've read over the past 6 weeks...
We have Tin by Padraig Kenny, Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan, The Chosen Ones (Worldquake 2) by Scareltt Thomas - due out in April), Mollie on the March by Anna Carey, Rugby Heroes by Gerard Siggins, The Unpredictability of Being Human by Linni Ingemundsen, How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, Rocking the System by Siobhan Parkinson, A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens, Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone, The Claok of Feathers by by Nigek Quinlan, Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll and The Ice Garden by Guy Jones. (Rather a lot really....when I see it like this.)
Just now, I'm reading the new offering by Caroline Busher, The Girl Who Ate the Stars. And it is marvelous! Caroline is the author of The Ghosts of Magnificent Children. Her writing and story-telling skills are simply delicious with a strong sense of suspense and a true eerie quality...And I will recommend both whole-heartedly.
Stay tuned for reviews!

Snowy World Book Day 2018! (And some cosy reading suggestions for snowy days)

As I am sure you're aware, the 22nd World Book Day was yesterday, 1 March 2018. And I am also sure you are aware that throughout the UK and Ireland, many, many events were cancelled this week due to snow. Yes, snow. Very unusual.
Some events still went forward, but there are a lot of disappointed children (and booksellers!) who look forward to this day; planning their costumes, meeting authors and illustrators and sharing a love of books and stories that will last a lifetime. But never are being rescheduled and our bookish spirits are not dampened!
Those wonderful people at World Book Day have decided that,they want to make certain that as many children as possible have the opportunity to use the £1/€1.50 World Book Day tokens. Since the weather has been so cold and snowy (and frankly, weird for this part of the world) and so much has been at a standstill, World Book Day is going to extend the redemption period of the vouchers. You will now be able to use the vouchers beyond Sunday 25 March. Just keep checking the website for confirmation of the extension date!

Personally, I've used the last 2 snow days to catch up on some snowy reading. My favourite is the absolute classic (and completely joyous & ground-breaking) picture book, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. You simply cannot beat this wonderful story about Jack, a small boy who sets off on a delightful adventure through his local neighbourhood, magically transformed by snow. I am also really loving SnowBoy and the Last Tree Standing by Hiawyn Oram; a sensitive, contemporary story with a strong environmental message and incredible illustrations by Birgitta Sif. Raven Child and the Snow Witch by Linda Sunderland/illustrated by Daniel Egneus reads like a classic fairy tale set in a wondrous arctic landscape abounding with magic and drama. And The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by the amazing Elena Odriozola is the perfect warm, cosy, reassuring story about Babba Zarrah, who unravels her beautiful woolen story blanket in order to knit the clothes needed for the children who come to hear her stories.
Of course, I have many suggestions for those who want more than a picture book on snowy days. A few of my cold weather recommendations to capture the enchantment and evoke the texture and adventure of those magical wintry days: Twistrose Key by Tone Amhjell has a real Narnia feel to it and is perfect for those who want a stirring adventure in the land beyond this life. If you have (or can find) a copy of North Child by Edith Pattou, hang on to it and read it again and again. This is an incredibly beautiful retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. And you simply cannot have a snowy day without Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. must read this. If we have a look at some newer books out, these have quickly become 'must-reads' as far as I'm concerned and they all have that winter/snow theme in common: The Polar Bear Explorers' Club by Alex Bell for a plucky, determined female hero and a real adventure of exploration and discovery; Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr gives us discovery of a different kind and a character that will remind you of both Heidi and Pippi Longstocking; and Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone which takes us to Erkenwald, a glacial kingdom under the control of the (truly) evil Ice Queen and Eska and Flint, two children who may be able to change the fate of Erkenwald forever.
So much to chose from! And being snowed-in is the perfect excuse to curl up in a cosy corner and read. And rest assured that, while we may be fighting off the cold now, spring is just around the corner as all of these books will confirm.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

World Book Day 2018!

World Book Day 2018 is very near! This Thursday, 1st March marks the 22nd annual World Book Day.
I know you are all used to me going on about this for months ahead of time (well, it is my favourite day/week/month of the year) and may have noticed I have been noticeably quiet this year. Ordinarily I would have been pestering authors, illustrators and storytellers and packing the shop out with school classes to bring in as many local school children as I possibly could fit (my record is 690) to share the joy and excitement of books and reading and to try to make clear the difference that books can make in the lives of children of every age.
It is with sorrow that I tell you that due to circumstances, I will not be holding my World Book Day Extravaganza this year. I have a few events planned myself and will let you know what's happening. But I want to hear all about yours! What wonderful events do you have planned?
And let's not forget the fabulous World Book Day Books. Each year, the good World Book Day people contract with a variety of publishers to bring out a selection of 10 wonderful little books for children of all different ages that are available for FREE with a World Book Day book token (or...if your school didn't provide you with a token, £1 or €1.50 in Ireland.) In Ireland, we are especially lucky, because the O'Brien Press also produces a book especially for the we have 11! The drive behind this is to make books available to all children in every provide them with the opportunity to have their own book and THAT is a very powerful force in their lives. Just look at the selection to choose from:
The O'Brien Press has brought out an amazing read for World Book Day this year; Rugby Roar by Gerard Siggins. I've read it and it is fantastic.
As if that weren't enough, this year, World Book Day has made available a selection of books for young people (teen, YA). These are all full novels and only £2.50 (that's only £1.50 with your World Book Day token!) Amazing...and some of the best I've read!
Now, let's all remember how this works...your World Book Day tokens are ONLY valid from Monday 26 March (that's tomorrow) through  Sunday 25 March. You can use them for the World Book Day books (as above) or to receive £1 or €1.50 (depending on where you live) off of any other book you like...but only 1 token per book, please. (And a personal plea from me...please remember that the point here is to get kids reading and please use them for childrens'/teens'/YA books...please.)
For more terms, conditions, resources, information and just plain fun, the link for the World Book Day 2018 website is below. Now...get involved and get reading!