We decided to kick off our new series of regular blog posts on individual authors by putting the spotlight on that most prolific and popular of children's authors, Michael Morpurgo. A decision heavily influenced I might add by Michael's presence in Ireland right now to attend a big family event in the Concert Hall in Cork this evening. Michael could be heard on RTE radio's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' show yesterday morning when he was interviewed by Claire Byrne. If you missed it, you can listen to the interview online (c.16 minutes in length).Right: Michael Morpurgo (Source) Michael is also in the news for another reason right now, his book 'Listen to the Moon' (Category: Older Fiction) having just been shortlisted The Children’s Book Award (UK) 2016. You can read here our post on the shortlist announcement. Michael has already won this award three times, the Award's uniqueness being that the winner (and shortlist) is selected by younger readers. This surely is testament, if it were needed, to the popularity of Michael Morpurgo amongst younger readers.Michael's latest book 'An Eagle in the Snow', (Category: Older Fiction) just published, is based on a supposedly true account of a young soldier's chance encounter with Adolf Hitler during World War One. Story has it that during a battle towards the end of the war, Henry Tandey, who went on to become the most decorated British soldier of WW1, told this young German soldier who wandered into his line of fire to go home, he having seen enough killing at that point. The young German soldier supposedly being none other than Adolf Hitler! Hitler apparently recounted in 1935 an episode where a British soldier during WW1 did not take the opportunity to shoot him but instead let him. Thus the story grew, as it did so the line between fact and fiction became rather blurred, to the point today where a degree of uncertainty exists as to its accuracy. In this novel Michael joins together some of the dots to deliver a great fictionalised account of the supposed event. As Michael says, his book is suitable for those aged '8 to 98'. Michael has authored over 100 books, many of which tackle social issues, one such being 'Out of the Ashes' (2001) (Category: Older Fiction), which is about the foot and mouth crisis. This book was adapted for television, as was 'My Friend Walter' (1988) (Category: Older Fiction), a book with a rather different, ghostly, theme. Some have also been turned into film, including 'Why the Whales Came' (1985) (Category: Older Fiction), which stars Helen Mirren; and 'King of the Cloud Forests' (1987) (Category: Older Fiction), a short (30 minute) film which won France's Cercle D'Or Prix Sorciere. And who of course hasn't heard of 'War Horse'?'War Horse' (1982) (Category: Older Fiction), like many of Michael's books has a war theme, and had huge success as both a book and a play before ever appearing as the 2011 box-office success directed by Steven Spielberg. Another with a war theme is 'King of the Cloud Forests', mentioned earlier, where Ashley and Uncle Sung embark on a perilous journey across the Himalayas as they flee the Japanese invasion of China in WW2.Award winning titles, there are many. To name but a few: 'The Wreck of the Zanzibar' (1995) (Category: Older Fiction), telling the story of 14-year-old Laura on one of the Scilly Isles, won the 1995 Whitbread Children's Book Award; 'The Butterfly Lion' (1996) (Category: Younger Fiction), telling the story of a young boy who rescues an orphaned lion club from the African bush, won the 1996 Nestlé Smarties Book Prize (Gold Award); and 'Private Peaceful' (Category: Older Fiction), the story of a soldier who is looking back on his life from the trenches of World War I, winning the 2005 Blue Peter Book of the Year Award amongst others. 'Listen to the Moon', mentioned earlier, was also shortlisted for the 2014 Costa Children's Book Award.Michael Morpurgo was born in Hertfordshire (UK) in 1943. He spent a brief period in the army, after which he took up teaching and writing. He gave up teaching after ten years in order to set up 'Farms for City Children' with his wife. He and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth in 1999 for this work with inner city children. In 2003 he became the third Children’s Laureate, and he was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to literature.Visit Michael Morpurgo's website.Spotlight by: Eddie Byrne
Lest we should forget our younger borrowers this Christmas (Joking! However could we!!), here are just some of the new books and DVDs we have in our branch libraries in readiness for Christmas. Or anytime in fact!Browse the list of DVD and book titles below, each of which links to its respective catalogue record where you can get further details and check on availability.BooksThe powers, the not-so-super superheroes, Kevin Stevens, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey. (9-12 year olds)Eva and the Hidden Diary, Curtin Judi (9-12 year olds)Russian roulette, Anthony Horowitz.The Boy on the Porch, Sharon Creech.When did you see her last?, Lemony Snicket, art by Seth.Demon Dentist, David Walliams, illustrated by Tony Ross.Diamond, Jacqueline Wilson, illustrated by Nick Sharratt.The River Singers, Tom Moorhouse, illustrated by Simon Mendez. DVDsArthur ChristmasBeethoven's Christmas Adventure.Christmas Night.Christmas with the Kranks.The Elf that Rescued Christmas.Father Christmas.Horrid Henry: Horrid Henry's Christmas Underpants.Mr Men: The Christmas Special - the Christmas Letter.Peppa Pig: A Christmas Compilation.Spongebob Squarepants Christmas.
Christmas Holidays - time to curl up with a book...
I love the long, warm, bright summer evenings - but the long, chilly, dark winter evenings have their charms too, as long as I have something good to read. The girls in my house have stored up some special reads for those lazy days between Christmas and New Year. We've had to banish the chosen books from sight so we're not tempted to start reading immediately - there lies grave danger of no present buying, pudding making, tree trimming or other essential ingredients of Christmas. Daughter Number One is hoarding Caitlin Moran's 'Moranthology' - she enjoyed 'How To Be A Woman' and no doubt we'll all dip into this anthology if we get a chance. Her second choice is another anthology, 'We Have a Good Time, Don't We?' by Maeve Higgins. Having loved Maeve's quirky comedy routines and television appearances (especially 'Fancy Vittles' with her sister Lily Higgins) she is looking forward with mounting pleasure to meeting Maeve again in print. If Maeve's recent columns in the Irish Times as stand-in for Róisín Ingle are any indication, the book should be a great read (I'll be waiting in line to grab it as soon as she puts it down).Daughter Number Two is a history addict and has ordered the O'Brien Press graphic novel 'At War With The Empire' by Gerry Hunt - it will be an historic moment in itself if I can keep it out of her hands until after Christmas. She will also probably re-read 'The Fault In Our Stars' a sad and funny coming of age novel by John Green. In fact, given enough time curled up in her new dinosaur 'onsie' she will probably read her way through John Green's entire back catalogue.Both of them will spend many competitive minutes scanning 'Where's Larry' - Ireland's answer to 'Where's Wally' - to find Larry the Leprechaun at the Cliffs of Moher, Newgrange, the St. Patrick's Day Parade and, my favourite, Puck Fair (who says you have to grow up?)And me? I've squirreled away 'Standing in Another Man's Grave', the new Rebus novel by Ian Rankin - fans don't need an explanation. I might also try 'Brother Grimm' by Craig Russell, as recommended by a fellow blogger on this site - who could resist the joint lure of crime and fairytales? Neither daughter is a crime fiction fan (yet) so I won't have to fight to keep the books to myself - though I reserve the right to steal glances at their choices. Roll on the holidays!All seven of our holiday reading choices are available in Dublin City Public Libraries - though you might have to join a waiting list for the more popular titles (or ask Santa). Ten seems to be the magic number for lists, so I'd love to hear your three suggestions to finish the holiday reading list - go on...tell us - who will you be curling up with this Christmas?
My daughter texted me yesterday...'Maurice Sendak died!'. If she had been at home we would probably have re-read Sendak's classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' and acted out a 'Wild Rumpus' for old times sake. She might even have donned a variation of a wolf suit (as a child she dressed for half a year as Robin Hood and another half a year as Batman, so she has form). Instead, we made do with watching YouTube clips and following #wildrumpus on Twitter.People often talk about music being a soundtrack to their lives - and I can certainly identify with that - but my daughter and I also share an imagetrack to our lives, composed of images from the brilliant picturebooks of Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Pat Hutchins, Shirley Hughes, Quentin Blake, Jon Burningham, Helen Oxenbury, Eric Carle, Brian Wildsmith, P. J. Lynch, Marie-Louise Fitzpartick and, of course, Maurice Sendak. These images formed the backdrop to our shared moments and are still major reference points in our conversations now, though my daughter is well grown up. These authors and artists were part of our lives - still are part of our lives.At the age when a child often demands a particular book to be read five, six or seven times in the one night, the wise parent (or at least the parent with a low tolerance level for badly written books) chooses the bedtime reading carefully. 'Where the Wild Things Are' never let either of us down. There are only 338 words in the entire book, but matched with Sendak's deceptively simple images and brilliant design, they tell an epic tale.If you do one thing this week, visit your local library and borrow a copy of 'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak* and read it to someone - it doesn't even have to be a child - stand in front of a mirror and read it to yourself if you like - but make sure to put in all the actions and intonations - and have yourself a Wild Rumpus!*Warning! Don't be sidetracked by 'novelisations' or 'retellings' based on the film - go for the real thing!
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.