Monday, July 24, 2017

LAI Children's Book Awards

The Literacy Association of Ireland have announced their shortlist of books for the upcoming LAI Children's Book Awards.
There are 4 categories in this particular award; 0-4, 5-8, 9-11 and Young Adult. These books are currently being reread and considered. The winners in each category will be announced on  October 5th at the LAI annual conference.
In the 0-4 category, the nominees are:
A Dublin Fairytale by Nicola Colton; published by the O'Brien Press.
How To Get Rid of a Polar Bear by Rachael Darby; published by Choice Publishing.
Elifint Óg Agus an Folcadán by Tatyana Feeney; published by An Gúm,

In the 5-8 category, we have 3 title in Irish language for young readers:
An Pota Folamh, published by An Gúm
Óró na Círcíni by Gabriel Rosenstock, illustrated by Brian Fitzgerald; published by An Gúm (and also nominated for the CBI Book of the Year Awards this year).
Ná Gabh Ar Scoil by Maire Zepf, illustrated by Tarsila Kruse; published by Futa Fata

The 9-11 category offers the following shortlist:

A Cage of Roots by Matt Griffin, published by the O'Brien Press
The Book of Learning by ER Murray, published by the Mercier Press
Kings of the Boyne by Nicola Pierce, published by the O'Brien Press


And finally, in the Young Adult category;
The Wordsmith by Patricia Forde, published by Little Island
A Lonely Note by Kevin Stevens, published by Little Island
The Butterfly Shell by Maureen White, published by the O'Brien Press

The LAI Book Award is given in alternate years, and chosen from an outstanding selection of books published in Ireland during the two years previous.This year, there will be separate awards given to books in the four age categories.

Best of luck to you all...
https://www.literacyireland.com/

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Incomparable Shirley Hughes

On the 16th of July, Shirley Hughes, one of the best known and most loved childrens' author/illustrators celebrated her 90th birthday.
Shirley Hughes has given us an exceptional and accurate into the childs' view of the world throughout her long and celebrated career. Her first book, Lucy and Tom's Day was published in 1960. Her Alfie and Annie Rose stories are not simply charming; they are an insightful look into the culture of children, as Alfie and his little sister Annie Rose navigate the world with their own particular view and Alfie proves himself to be quite a problem-solver and keen observer of life around him. And they are joyous! Dogger (1977) won the Kate Greenaway Medal and became her first book to be
published world wide, proving an international appeal. The awards she has been given for her work make for incredible reading, and include, in 2015, BookTrusts' inaugural lifetime achievement award.
A keen observer of childhood interaction herself, Hughes feels
“It’s my job with a picture book to slow children down, make them pore over the drawings and recognise their world. Even before they read, they are learning to be readers, to notice things and make connections.”(The Telegraph, Judith Woods, 17 July 2015)
And she does this incredibly well. There is much to look at, much to understand in all her many books, and all from a childs' perspective.
I could go on and on, but others have done that much better than I over the years. What I really wanted to say in this brief, rather meager attempt her is simply this:
Happy Birthday, Shirley Hughes...and many thanks for all the gifts you have given us. Your stories, your pictures and your insight have meant the world.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/11721398/Shirley-Hughes-Its-my-job-with-a-picture-book-to-slow-children-down.html

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How To Catch A Star at the Galway Arts Festival

The Galway International Arts Festival will soon be upon us offering two weeks of music, art, theatre, street performances...you name it, it will be happening in Galway. There will be something for everyone!
But there is one production that I am particularly excited about. Branar Téatar do Pháistí will be presenting (a World Premier, thank you very much!) How To Catch A Star, based on the beloved picture book by Oliver Jeffers.
Branar is a locally based theatre production company for children. In their own words,
"We strive for a simple, elegant form of theatre for young people, that achieves intricacy through the creative use of few means. A style that stimulates the ability to imagine and challenge, while opening a dialogue with our audiences and providing a catalyst for education."
http://branar.ie/
Their production of How To Catch A Star combines puppetry with an
original musical score to bring Oliver Jeffers first picture book (originally published in 2004) to life. Once there was a boy who loved the stars very much. One day, he decides to catch one and make friends with it. This is the story of his adventure and reminds us all to keep following our dreams, wherever they may lead. This is a non-verbal production and is recommended for audiences aged 4 +.
How To Catch A Star will be at the O'Donoghue Theatre NUI Galway from 18 through 28 July (no shows on 22-24 July). Check out the programme for times and booking information. And while you're at it, have a good look through the entire programme....as I said, something for everyone.
http://www.giaf.ie/events/howtocatchastar

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Farewell Michael Bond, Creator of Paddington Bear

It is with great sorrow that I heard the news of Michael Bonds' passing today.
Michael Bond was, of course, the creator of the beloved Paddington Bear. The first book, A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958. It introduced the world to Paddington Bear, so called because he was found at Paddington Station after having made his way from deepest, darkest Peru stowed away on a ship with a suitcase full of marmalade sandwiches. A Bear Called Paddington, along with the numerous sequels, chronicles the life Paddington is now adjusting to in contemporary London; adopted by the Browns', trying to understand how everything works and causing chaos, while frequently saving the day at the same time. Gentle, poignant, observant and all too human, Paddington stands among the great fictional characters of our time.
Bonds' books went on to introduce other characters; Olga da Polga, that marvelous, funny guinea pig who has left the pet shop to start her new life with her human owners;the tales of those classic crime-fighters, Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound, Pomme Frites and many, many others.
LB Koala dips into books about his hero, written by his other hero.
While Bond lived to the splendid age of 91; and a life well-lived, indeed; his presence in this world will be sorely missed. Kind, gentlemanly and utterly charming, there are few that could stand in his shoes. I am ever so grateful for his gift of Paddington Bear, which allows him to live on in our hearts.
RIP,  Michael Bond....dear afterlife, please look after this gentle, wonderful author.


http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40432946

Monday, June 26, 2017

20 Years of Harry Potter

On 26 June, 1997, the first copies of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by an unknown author called JK Rowling greeted the world as bookshops opened their doors....quietly, unobtrusively....almost without notice.
It seems strange to think that now. We are so used to having Harry Potter in our lives and no one could have predicted the effect the publication of that book exactly twenty years ago would have. It has changed the reading landscape of children and adults alike. As recent as last week, I found myself shocked as a customer came in to buy a copy for his young son (aged 9 and grinning like at mad thing at the thought of his own copy!) and admitted, "I haven't read it." It wasn't just me...a silence came over the quite full childrens section at that moment and all heads slowly turned to stare. I recovered this awkward moment by saying (sincerely...it's how I really feel); "How exciting for you! You get to read it the first time together...I remember the first time I read it. Magic...just magic!"
And it was...it still is. Every time I go back to read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone I am consumed by the story, entering that world again. It is so tangible; so filled will texture, so real.
This past weekend, there were a lot of celebrations around this twenty year anniversary. Some bookshops have had readings of the first book, chapter by chapter; some have had treasure hunts and parties. Me? I went the party route at Charlie Byrnes Bookshop. A Witches and Wizards Storytime for the little ones at 11am, shifting into party mode at 2. I read snatches from the Philosophers Stone... Uncle Vernons' growing sense of calamity about to strike in that first chapter is priceless, expressed with such a fantastic finesse that it lulls you into the story. Another favourite that has to be read on the day, of course; the 'escape' from the owls Uncle Vernon plans on Harry's unnoticed birthday to the rock in the middle of a stormy sea; plans that are only to be scuppered by Hagrid's appearance and those 4 words that change everything...."You're a wizard, Harry."
Then, not only did Harry get his acceptance letter to Hogwarts, but so did the kids in the audience...every one of them. Then it was back for more Philosophers Stone...the Sorting Hat song and, as the Sorting Hat was present, all were sorted into their proper houses! There were magical treats, as well; polyjuice potion, owls droppings, all-flavour beans, mini-dragon eggs, chocolate mice (the frogs had got away...) And there was magic...absolute magic of the best kind. At least, there was for me...and a crowd of children who made my day. Thank you for sharing that moment with me...all of you. And it wasn't just me; not just Charlie Byrnes Bookshop...it was happening everywhere.  The excitement of this echoes the fun and excitement of midnight openings over the years for the sequels that took us along on a truly wondrous journey...different faces with the same expression, the same sense of joy. All because of a book.....
I've often wondered about the first person to buy Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I'm not talking about monetary issues here.) Of course, you would not have known what was going to happen in the upcoming time. As I said, it was quite unobtrusive in it's initial appearance. But, twenty years down the line and I think, wow! Can you imagine being the first person to buy that book?
Wow! Just wow!
Thank you to Barry Cunningham who was insightful enough to be the first publisher...and the wonderful crew at Bloomsbury. And thank you, thank you, thank you to JK Rowling; you changed everything.
Happy 20th Anniversary to Harry Potter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

More Summer Reads

The summer holidays are fast approaching, with most of the teens and young adults here already out of school. They'll need something to escape into, even though it seems at times their reading material is quite serious and issue-driven. Here's a few for that crowd, which will peak their interest and keep them reading.
Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman is an amazing, intriguing science-fiction re-telling of Othello. Twins Olivia and Aidan are heading back to Earth on their own after a virus has wiped out the entire crew of their vessel. Nathan is on board a ship heading in the other direction when it is brutally attacked, with few survivors. For Olivia and Nathan, it is love at first sight. But their love inspires jealousy, deception and hatred in the others. A gripping, consuming read from the incomparable Blackman.
I have already praised Released by Patrick Ness (see the Young Adult review page) and all I can say now is, please, please read this book. A personal, in fact intimate story that covers one day in the life of Adam Thorne. But it is the one day when everything changes; when it all falls apart. If I could put this into everyone hands (literally) I would do so. No one writes like Patrick Ness.
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt is Lexi's story. Lexi who has lived most of her life behind the scenes on the sci-fi/fantasy convention circuit with her Dad and has now become his right-hand. Clipboard in hand, she runs the show, while in her off hours is up to her eyes in course work. The last thing she needs to fall in love...with her favourite new author. Quirky, funny and touching.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein steps in as a prequel of sorts to her earlier (incredible) work, Code Name Verity. Set in the summer of 1938, this Scottish, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, Julie goes home to the beautiful Strathfearn estate for one last summer. An unlikely, oddly connected chain of events; a vicious riverside attack, the disappearance of a noted academic and the theft of her grandfathers' collection of river pearls; changes, not only the tone of the summer, but the lives of all in the small village...for all time. Exquisite historical fiction meets coming of age.
With so many 'popstar music' reality TVshows taking up so space on our channels, the interest is clearly already there. Sheena Wilkinsons' Street Song adds the actual reality and some definite food for thought. Ryans' short lived fame as a winner of Irelands' PopIcon show, left him with an addiction problem and all the wrong kind of tabloid press. Out of rehab, Ryan, now 18, is left struggling to rebuild his life. His overbearing, uber-controlling (ex-manager) stepfather presses Ryans' buttons in all the wrong ways.
One night, after a particularly bad and violent argument, Ryan finds himself on the run from Dublin to Belfast with a new name, in search of a new life. This is gritty, realistic stuff and it is brilliant.
Following the wonderful Nothing Tastes As Good last year (with its' intriguing dead narrator), Claire Hennesseys' Like Other Girls tackles another set of present, sensitive issues faced by many young women today without succumbing to sensationalism or moralising. In St Agnes' School, everyone is expected to be a perfect young lady in every respect. But Lauren isn't like other girls, and she knows it. She stands out; her heart is broken; her boyfriend thinks she's just nuts; her bestfriend has soooo many issues of her own. Lauren is angry, catty, confused and in pain. And now, Lauren is facing every girls worst nightmare. Written with compassion, understanding and a truly genuine voice, this book is real!
I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson defines the term 'compulsive read'. Jemma is 14 and has severe cerebral palsy; and she makes a truly unique narrator. Unable to communicate, Jemma finds herself in the unique position of being the one person that people feel they can confide in. She knows many of their secrets. They all assume Jemma is unable to understand. But one day, she learns a truly horrific secret. Jemma watches and a nightmare unfolds before her and is powerless to do anything. But maybe that's all about to change. A book that will intrigue, enlighten and, perhaps, change your perspective.
In Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle, Olive and her friend, Rose notice they are losing things...small things, really. A hair-clip here, a bit of jewellery there. But it soon becomes evident that Rose has lost something much more valuable. And she doesn't want to talk about it. A chance meeting with three other girls leads to the discovery of an ancient spellbook. As they seek to retrieve lost things and possibly make things right, it seems they may also unleash other secrets; secrets nobody ever wanted to know. This is stunning, suspenseful, edgy and atmospheric writing. Creepy in the best possible way.

So there's a few more for you. Keep watching this space. There are more to come!
Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lauren Child..New UK Childrens' Laureate

A couple of days ago, it was announced that the new UK Childrens Laureate is Lauren Child. Child brings with her a back catalog of some 40 odd books as writer, illustrator and writer/illustrator. She has received 13 awards and honours in her career. And she brings with her something very close to my heart...a knowledge and passion for the importance of reading for pleasure. Acknowledging the importance of this, Child is quoted as saying:
"There's talk of how children should be reading, but if you can get a child excited about it that's half the work done."
Indeed. A child who learns to approach reading, not as a chore, work or a lesson that must be learned, but rather as a joy, a window to the world, a map to  places and people and things...this child will suddenly open up a far easier route to education and to life in general.
But I am rambling now.
Lauren Child speaks of creativity; of inspiration. And she does not limit these notions to herself and the few others who venture into a career path that leads them down an artistic course. She doesn't like seeing any childs' ideas compartmentalised and limited; that creativity should be encouraged in everyone. And her own creative impulses, along with a lot of hard work, have brought the world some of the most exciting, free and imaginative books in childrens' fiction today...books that, may well be in the land of fiction, but they think like children think; they speak like children speak; and they go on the journeys that children would love to take.
The Charlie and Lola series for young readers is such fun and gives genuine voice to childrens' daily lives. Clarice Bean is a wonderful realistic character. And the Ruby Redfort book series provides daring, excitement and drama (along with that bit of humour). (Both of my kids book clubs are really into the Ruby Redfort books. And if you think its' just a 'girls' book series, it's the boys that ask about them most often. They love them!) Her illustration work is filled with a marvelous, and given the way she works with collage and textile work woven into the picture, sometimes quite literal world-building that is rich, bright and fun.
The next two years will be very busy for Lauren Child. And I am excited to see the kind of ideas and discussion her tenure as Childrens Laureate brings to the table. Congratulations to Lauren Child! An outstanding choice.
Now...I have to immerse myself in Ruby Redfort. There is going to be a lively discussion at the next meeting that will keep me on my toes!
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jun/09/lauren-child-childrens-laureate-interview-charlie-and-lola-clarice-bean