Brilliant Mid-term Reads from Book Festival Authors
Dark days, and even darker nights - autumn is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. You might already have a toppling pile of books beside the bed, or sitting on a bookshelf just waiting for you to pick them up and bring the story to life by opening that first page. But if you are finished everything interesting in your 'to read' pile and are looking for a good book to keep you company over this mid-term break, perhaps you will find inspiration in the work of some of the authors who have been visiting Dublin City Libraries during October for Children's Book Festival. Some, like Judi Curtin are very well-known and don't need any introduction from me, while others, like Michael Carroll, who writes science fiction / fantasy novels, are less well-known, but equally engaging writers.If you were lucky enough to be at Cabra Library or Drumcondra Library to meet popular author Judi Curtin, you will have heard all about how she started writing and how moving schools often as a child helped her become observant and made sure she always had good stories to tell. Judi's most recent book is 'Leave it to Eva' the third book in the 'Eva' series. There are seven books in Judi's earlier 'Alice and Megan' series, as well as a cookbook, so no need to run out of your favourite reads.Younger children will enjoy the 'Alfie Green' series by Joe O'Brien, who visited Rathmines and Kevin Street Libraries, and older fans of Joe's work might try 'Beyond the Cherry Tree' a novel of fantasy, adventure and magic. Another author who visited libraries in during October is Debbie Thomas, whose book 'Dead Hairy' is quite hilarious. Children who met Debbie in Donaghmede, Coolock and Ballyfermot Libraries were also let in on the secrets of Debbie's new book 'Jungle Tangle' which isn't even in shops or libraries yet - but keep an eye out!During week two of the festival we had a visit from Che Golden, who travelled from England to meet children in the Central Library, Rathmines Library and Terenure Library. There were plenty of questions for Che and we learned how her writing was inspired by her childhood visits to Blarney in Co. Cork to visit her grandparents - and we also learned exactly how little an author gets paid for each book sold (a lot less than you would think). Che's book, The Feral Child, is the first of a trilogy - and the first part is so exciting I can't wait for parts two and three.Week three of the festival was the busiest week, starting with visits from environmentalists Éanna Ní Lamhna and Don Conroy. Many of Don's books, such as 'The Anaconda from Drumcondra' and the 'Draw with Don' series are still available in libraries, and Éanna's book, 'Wild Dublin' has something to offer all ages - along with great photographs. You can also download a free copy of Éanna's brilliant resource for primary school teachers 'Wild Things at School' published by the Heritage Council.Eithne Massey writes for many age groups so she has something for everyone - for younger readers there's 'The Dreaming Tree' and 'Best Loved Irish Legends' while for older readers Eithne's fantasy novels (with an historical theme) include 'The Silver Stag of Bunratty' and, her latest, 'Where the Stones Sing'. You can also view a list of Eithne's own favourite children's fantasy books. During the same week, the fabulous Cressida Cowell entertained over 400 children from schools all over Dublin - with her tales of Vikings and Dragons. 'How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel' is the tenth in the hugely popular 'How to Train Your Dragon' series - if you haven't tried them, now's your chance! Perfect for boys and girls aged 8+.In week four we had visits from Nicola Pierce and Jean Flitcroft. Jean has written two books in her 'Cryptid Files' series; 'Loch Ness', which is set in Scotland and features the hunt for the famous Loch Ness Monster and 'Mexican Devil' which introduces us to El Chupacabra - a mythical monster from Mexico. Nicola Pierce writes historical fiction with a slight fantasy element in 'Spirit of the Titanic' a book that views the unfolding of the Titanic tragedy through the eyes of the ghost or spirit of Samuel Scott, an apprentice who was killed while helping to build the Titanic in Belfast docks.The last official Children's Book Festival visit will be from science fiction / fantasy author Michael Carroll to Ballymun Library on Hallowe'en, Wednesday 31st October - the very last day of the Festival. Michael has written many novels and short stories for children, teenagers and adults as well as stories for comics like Judge Dredd and Futurequake. During these visits he will be talking mostly about the 'New Heroes' series; 'The Quantum Prophecy', 'Sakkara' and 'Absolute Power', all available from your local library. The full list and their American as well as English titles is available here. If you are between 10 and 14 and enjoy fantasy and science fiction books, come along to Ballymun Library on Wednesday 31st at 3pm for a great opportunity to listen to and chat with a real writer about how he writes, what inspires him, and also what inspires you and tips for writing your own stories.So, loads of great ideas for new books to explore. Still not inspired? Drop in to your local library and browse along the shelves of great booksIf you find the perfect book for you - why not share by letting us know all about it? All replies to this post suggesting a good children's read for these Autumn days will be entered in a draw for a newly published book by an Irish author (I'm keeping the title a secret until I get those entries in - so start suggesting now).
Have you ever speculated which books you would bring with you to a desert island? (I've always thought that should be 'deserted' not 'desert' but perhaps it's an obscure grammar point I don't get?) As part of the Re Think + Re Act Exhibition, Pivot Dublin have set up a Reading Room in Filmbase in Temple Bar, Dublin. They invited readers in Dublin to submit their favourite book to be displayed in the Reading Room during the exhibition. My choice? The three girls in my family got together to raid our groaning bookshelves and share our favourite books with Dubliners at the Reading Room. Come along and see if you can find them.Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood and the Story of a Return, by Marjane Satrapi - all three of us love this book. It's a graphic novel that tells the story of one girls experience in pre and post revolution Iran. It's funny and sad and infuriating and brilliant. It was made into an excellent animated film by Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi.An Chanáil, by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick - one of the very few children's books that depicts an accurate, modern (relatively) urban Dublin. This is a very special book, unfortunately now out of print. If you live anywhere between the two canals, take a close look at this and inhabit the streets along the Grand Canal in a new, virtual way, while sharing the story of a child and a lost dog. The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, by Raymond Briggs - we show this book to everyone who comes into our house, and then sit back and watch their reaction. Have a look yourself and see the genius of the creator of the (much more famous) Snowman in a much darker mood in this savage political satire and heart-breaking anti-war picturebook that defies categorisation, but is definitely not for young children. The book was created in reaction to the Falklands War and the two main characters are thinly disguised versions of the Argentinian General Galtieri and Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A perfect example of 'Re Think, Re Act'. This is Ireland, by M. Sasek - This is part of a series, which includes 'This is London', 'This is Paris', 'This is Edinburgh' and 'This is New York' - published over fifty years ago but re-issued in the original format with some updates at the end. They are a kind of time-warp Pathé News style 'best bits' travelogue of each place. For some strange reason 'This is Ireland' highlights Kilbeggan and its distillery as one of the highlights of Ireland - maybe the writer had a granny from Westmeath! Mister Magnolia, by Quentin Blake - almost anything by Quentin Blake could have been included here, but Mister Magnolia has a special place in our hearts. When children are very young they often insist on the same story being read again, and again, and again, and ag...you get the drift. This is when a well written, brilliantly illustrated and consistently amusing story is worth anything you have to pay for it. This is one I never got bored with - even when daughter number one would ask for it just 'one last, last, last time'. Quentin Blake is probably best known as the illustrator of Roald Dahl's stories, but he has proved time and time again that he can write his own stories too.Horrible Histories: Ireland, by Terry Deary - this one was chosen by the younger members of the household, but who am I to argue with them? History with all the good bits left in! And, unlike one or two of my other choices, at least it's easily available.A Monster Calls, a novel by Patrick Ness, from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd - this book has been deservedly chosen by so many people as one of the best childrens books of recent years, in fact, one of the best books of recent years. It's about facing up to impending bereavement and making the best of flawed but emotionally 'good enough' relationships. I got my (adult) Book Club to read it last year and they were stunned by its integrity and emotional power. It may be written for children, but it doesn't talk down to anyone. Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue - Dublin born, Canada based writer Emma Donoghue had a small but loyal following until the Booker Prize-winning novel 'Room' catapulted her to international literary stardom. Emma wrote 'Kissing the Witch' in 1988, long before 'Room' - it's a collection of fairy tales, re-worked from a feminist perspective. Sound dull? I suppose it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really, really love this book. Actually, this is a perfect 'Re Act, Re Think' book too because each story completely re-imagines a well known fairy tale; Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella etc. Emma retells each story in her elegant, exact, poetic prose, but this time we go beyond the archetypes of the stories to the reality of their situations, for example, in this version the Little Mermaid ends up, not as foam on the waves, but as a 'ruined woman' when her prince rejects her love for a more suitable match. Each linked story has a 'pivotal moment', usually when the heroine rejects the advice of her older and wiser sister - now, if she'd only listened to that witch... We are all doomed to ignore the witch though - until we become her!That's all folks! Well, you didn't really expect me to choose just one book, did you?Now...what would you choose?
Part 3 of my three part comments on my own reading during 2011. Non-Fiction was the first in the series with Adult Fiction second. This is my Children's and Young Adult or Teen reads. Some great fantasy is being published in the Teen section and I do enjoy the reads.I read a lot of books over the last year, approximately 290 of which I noted from the library.Of all the books I read from the library some stood out, I couldn't pick a small number but I'm going to put them into themes and pick the best of that theme. Sometimes it's hard to pick just one, the first listed is my favourite, the rest are in no particular order. This isn't a definitive list, it's a list of books that are readable alone or are the start of a series, that I read during 2011, that stood out above the others and that I would recommend to others.ChildrensThere are no cats in this book - Viviane Schwarz - a charming picture book about cats trying to escape the book.Young Adult - a variation on Cinderella that surprised me and that I did really like. Ash is a well-rounded character and her choices aren't obvious.Ingo - Helen Dunmore - what if your family was descended from the merfolk and what if you got a chance to go visit the sea, which world would you stay with? Excellent readImpossible - Nancy Werlin - complicated re-telling of a fairy story that requires the heroes to research the stories to save themselvesBeing - Kevin Brooks - a boy discovers what he thinks he knows about himself isn't the truth, an interesting exploration about life and living.Foundling - D M Cornish - half of the book is taken up with an encyclopedia about the world, the rest is an interesting start to a series with an orphan boy trying to find out his role. The Real Rebecca - Anna Carey - a girl tries to define herself when faced with a badly drawn version in her mother's fiction.If I stay - Gayle Forman - a girl lies close to death and has to make the choice between life and death. Touching and very readable.Dragonfly Pool - Eva Ibbotson - a lovely story about an eccentric boarding school and war in Europe.Re-ReadsOrdinary Princess - M M Kaye - this was a childhood favourite and illustrated by the author. A look at what would happen if a princess was gifted with being ordinary. A lovely story.
Ireland nominates Conor Kostick for Astrid Lindgren Memorial Prize
Author Conor Kostick has just been nominated by Ireland for the prestigious international award The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. 'It's very flattering', Conor told me when I met up with him on one of his visits to Cabra Library to meet young readers. 'I'm really proud of the honour and very proud of the association with Astrid Lindgren herself. In Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren created one of the most delightfully irreverent and independent characters in children's literature; this creation was connected to the fact that Astrid Lindgren herself was a radical humanist and opponent of violence. There is a humanist philosophy at work in my books and maybe they (the nominating bodies) picked up on that. I'm extremely proud to be associated with her legacy.' Conor Kostick lives in Dublin and his 'day job' is teaching Medieval History in Trinity College. 'Epic' was his first novel, and this was followed by 'Saga' and 'Edda', making up the Avatar Chronicles trilogy. These novels are very popular with children from age ten to early teens. I've recommended the first book 'EPIC' to many young readers and they have gone on to recommend it to their own friends - you can't get a better endorsement than that!Conor also wrote a book for younger readers, 'The Book of Curses' in the Forbidden Files Series. This is soon to be joined by 'The Book of Wishes' which Conor describes as his 'good twin book' to the 'Book of Curses' - it's is a bit scary, but fun too. It's not in shops or libraries yet, but it will be soon, so keep your eyes open - or reserve a copy at your local library.The other Irish nominee for 2012 is storyteller Eddie Lenihan. Writers and artists from other countries who have been nominated this year include; Micael Rosen, Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes, Eric Carle, Allan Ahlberg, David Almond, Margaret Mahy and Meg Rosoff. As Conor says, 'To be awarded a place on the list of nominees is a real honour'.Conor's books are published in Ireland by O'Brien Press and are available (as they say) from all good bookshops and to borrow from branches of Dublin City Libraries.My recent interview with Conor will be published in the next issue of Classmate magazine - a Dublin City Council publication which is distributed free to all primary schools in Dublin City. I also hope to include that interview in a forthcoming article on this blog - so keep logging on.
October is the month for Children's Book Festival, and Christmas is the time most children's books are bought, but May is shaping up to be the busiest month in the calendar for people interested in books for children and young people - at least in Ireland - it's been a whirl of award ceremonies, book launches and 'talking heads' events and I've been lucky enough to attend many of them. I'm even getting used to seeing lollipops served alongside the wine - though I haven't tried that mixture yet!It started with the announcement of the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards in the National Library on 16th - which I've already blogged about - congratulations again to Chris Haughton for winning the overall award with 'A Bit Lost' and to Sheena Wilkinson for receiving the Children's Choice award for her novel 'Taking Flight'. Sheena also gets the prettiest coat award for her lovely floral affair - sorry I don't have a picture!Then there was the launch of Puffin Ireland - part of the Penguin Group. Puffin's editor Paddy O'Doherty through a great launch party in Eason's of O'Connell Street on Wednesday 25th last (that's were I first saw people wandering around sipping glasses of white wine while intermittently sucking on pink lollipops). Three new titles were launched with brilliant introductions by Robert Dunbar - who I've heard described as 'the face that launched a thousand books' (again, a photo would say much more than I ever could - but we'll have to make do) The new titles are; 'My Dad is Ten Years Old (and it's pure weird!)' by Mark O'Sullivan, 'Angel Kiss' by Laura Jane Cassidy and 'Friends Forever: the Time Spell' by Judi Curtin. Loads of good reads to keep you going there - all aimed at 10 - 14 year olds - though many adults would enjoy Mark O'Sullivan's book too.And finally - phew! - I was in Dublin's very fine cultural centre for children, The Ark, on Thursday May 26th, as part of the Dublin Writer's Festival, to hear Dr. Páraic Whyte, bookseller Kim Harte, first time author Anna Carey and Children's Laureate Siobháin Parkinson discuss What Makes a Great Children's Book? A wide ranging and fascinating discussion, with some great contributions from the audience (squeezed into the tiny Ark seats) - all perfectly conducted by Niall McMonagle. In the end, it seemed to come down to Humour and Truth - with a dash of Fantasy and some good dialogue. High on everyone's list were the books of Siobhan Dowd and chosen by three of the panel, 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness, from an idea by Siobhan Dowd. I've persuaded my book club to try it - I'll let you know how it goes...
With the release of the final Harry Potter movie this summer (on July 15 for those who are counting the days like me!!), and the release of the latest Harry Potter movie on DVD, it’s never too late to become a Harry Potter fan, (or like me read all the stories again in preparation for the film!)All seven Harry Potter novels and DVDs are available to borrow in Dublin City Public Libraries or you can reserve them online using your borrower number and pin number. Your borrower number is on your library card and if you do not have a pin number you can get it at your local Dublin City Public Library. Harry Potter novels and DVD's in order from first to last:Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone / Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone DVDHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets / Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets DVDHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban DVDHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire DVDHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix / Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix DVDHarry Potter and the Half Blood Prince / Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince DVDHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – PART 1 DVDSome of these titles are also available in large print copy and some are available in talking book format on CD.