Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Philip Reeve is coming to town (Dublin, that is) and to celebrate the event, CBI is giving away a complete set of the new edition of the Mortal Engines quartet, plus copies of the two prequels to the series Fever Crumb and A Web of Air. If like myself, you're a Reeve fanatic but haven't got all his books yet, or if you're new to his most excellent prose and deadly plots, why not enter the competition? Here's the simple question you have to answer:

Philip Reeve is most famous for his bestselling Mortal Engines series. But for which of his books was he awarded the Carnegie Medal?

Answers should be emailed to CBI before 12 noon on Friday 9th April, along with you name, age and contact details.

Then, you will be just in time to make your way to Trinity College, where Philip Reeve will be in conversation with Robert Dunbar, on Tuesday 13th April from 6.30pm. Don't worry, I'll remind you nearer the time. Meanwhile, all the details can be found here.

Monday, March 29, 2010


A bunch of books signed, plenty interesting people met and chatted with, a healthy dose of exciting talents discovered or rediscovered and a cool badge with my name on it beside the word "Pro*"... here's a fraction of what the experience of signing at the 2010 Paris Bookfair got me. You could add to the list: a few extra kilos of luggage to bring home, a comic book in Armenian, a better idea of which of my books catch the kids' eyes (and which their parents'), a realisation that tiny and/or regional publishers have a fantastic selection of picture-books on offer (so it seems size doesn't matter after all), and a love of proper chairs and proper tables. Can't wait to do it again!

* "pro" as in professional, meaning that I wasn't there for fun but for work (ahem). But the badge does make its wearer look like a pro, thus its coolness!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mr Nobody

After years of hiding, a new member has finally joined the family of Mr Men and Little Misses: Mr Nobody. You may well wonder what he looks like. After all, picturing a 'nobody' isn't half as easy as showing a 'messy' or a 'scary' or a 'wise'. The French publishers of the series (Hachette) launched a cool competition, asking children to come up with their own answer to this very question. You can see the top 18 here. The young artists found some really clever solutions: one of them only showed Mr Nobody from behind, while a few went for an invisible character (as did the actual book). My favourite (pictured above, by Yoni Simhon) has "Monsieur Personne" in the shape of a question mark. Brilliant or what?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ah, Bisto!

And so this is it! After months of reading, debating, rereading, weighing and waiting, it is now time to unveil the Bisto Book of the Year Shortlist 2010. Here are the 10 titles, in alphabetical order: An Greasaí Bróg agus na Síoga- Caitríona Hastings and Andrew Whitson

Chalkline - Jane Mitchell
Colm and The Lazarus Key - Kieran Mark Crowley
Gluaiseacht - Alan Titley
Lincoln and His Boys - P.J. Lynch
Solace of the Road- Siobhan Dowd
The Eyeball Collector- F.E. Higgins
The Gates- John Connolly
The Third Pig Detective Agency- Bob Burke
There - Marie Louise Fitzpatrick

For a taste of each title, have a look here. Congratulations to all the finalists!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Writer in Residence

What would you say to spending the summer in a fancy house with the deer for neighbours? The Farmleigh's writer in residence programme is open to applicants and this year, they're particularly looking for authors of children's literature. The residency runs for three months from July to September and takes place in the very lovely Farmleigh house in Dublin's Phoenix Park.
"As part of the residency, the author will be asked to programme and hold a series of talks, workshops or events at Farmleigh. The closing date for receipt of applications is Thursday 1 April 2010. For further information please contact Julia Cummins at 01 8155908." You can also get in touch with Children's Books Ireland for an application form.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Have you ever heard of Fred Vargas? She's French and she writes crime fiction 'for big people' (as Eoin Colfer would put it). She's been translated into a fair few languages, including English, so you have no excuse not to go and have a look at her stuff as soon as you're finished reading this post.
Her books are truly quite fab: they're sophisticated but extremely readable, they're fun and they're not afraid to, sometimes, border on the absurd. The plots are intricate and intriguing, and the resolutions usually clever and unexpected.
But, to me, the most important aspect of her writing is the immense fondness and respect I sense Vargas has for her characters. I'm thinking in particular of the trio who live in the Disgrace (a rotten dump of a house) and make regular appearances in the novels. These three young men are historians and they share the Disgrace (pun probably intended) with a fourth, older man. On seeing his younger housemates standing each in the arch of a Gothic window, he coins them 'The Three Evangelists' (which is the title of one of the books in English).
And here's where respect comes into it: the third-person narrative adopts this denomination, with a hint of humour, but never a drop of mockery. From this point on, the members of the trio are equally referred to as Lucien or Saint Luc, Matthias or Saint Matthieu, Marc or Saint Marc. Similarly, all three historians have their own way of speaking, which more often than not reflects their areas of expertise. Again, the narrative picks up on this, describing a meal in medieval terms or relating the friends' meetings as if they were war councils. And you can imagine what a shopping trip by a Prehistorian can sound like...
This trick gives the books a very special flavour and as a result they feel quite organic. And seeing the writer so fond of her characters and so proud of them too, the reader can't help but feel in a similar way.
In other words, I'm very impressed and possibly a tiny bit jealous!  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top ten

Anna Tims in The Guardian has a great Top 10 of her fave children's books heroes. 'From Pippi Longstocking to Huck Finn, a gallery of the naughtiest and most fun kids' heroes from children's books down the decades.' I myself would add:
1) the heroic trinity (Polly + Friday O'Leary + Alan Taylor the biscuit with electric muscles) in Andy Stanton's Mr Gum series;
2) Tom Sawyer and his notions about pirates and circuses (circi?);
3) Moe Willem's Pigeon;
4) Avalanche le Terrible (who ate his horse because the poor animal wasn't receptive enough);
5) Clarice Bean (because she's cool);
6) Joan Aiken's Dido Twite;
7) le Petit Nicolas and his pals (that's Nicholas to ye).
8) Pingu (ok, he's not a book bloke, but we do like him awfully).
What about you? Who are your favourite 'naughtiest and most fun' heroes? And what about a reverse Top 10: the most depressed/depressive heroes in kidlit? Now there's a challenge! Let me get back to you on that one... if I can!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bologna Ragazzi Awards

The Bologna Bookfair is nigh and the winners of the Bologna Ragazzi Awards have been announced. If you want a breath of fresh air and a visual feast, go have a look... If you can't wait, though, here's the list of winners, hailing respectively from the Netherlands, the US, India and the US again:
Fiction: DE BOOMHUT, etching by Ronald Tolman, illustrations by Marije Tolman
Non-Fiction: THE RIVERBANK, text by Charles Darwin, illustrations by Fabian Negrin
New Horizons: DO! text by Gita Wolf, illustrations by Ramesh Hengadi & Shantaram Dhadpe
Opera Prima (First Book): THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY, Book design and illustrations by Jeremy Holmes

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

iBbY Ireland's AGM

Spring is upon us and plenty of events are already cropping up on our calendars. Here's another unmissable one, the iBby Ireland AGM, which will be held on Wednesday 10 March at 6pm in The Ark, in Temple Bar. Why would you go to an AGM if you're not a member? you ask. Well, you could become one, for starters. Also, you could meet the Irish nominees for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2010. In case you forgot, that's Eoin Colfer and PJ Lynch, no less. If it's not enough to tempt you, iBby Ireland will also be welcoming the iBbY Honour Book Nominees 2010 (Mary Finn, Treasa Ní Bhrua, Áine Ní Ghlinn and Andrew Whitson) and launch the iBbY Perpetual Calendar (with deadly pictures inside) as well as their new website.
What more could you ask for? Even more details? They're here!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Busy CBI Bees

Everything seems to be happening while I'm roaming the kidlit sections of Parisian bookshops, eating interesting cheese and (re)reading the best of last year's Irish children's books. (If you don't know why, have a look here).
Children's Books Ireland has just released the yummy programme for its next conference: Nurturing the Seed: Prospects and Possibilities for Children’s Books - May 15th–16th 2010. On the menu (among others): Marcus Sedgwick (whose swordhand is singing, when it's not wielding a revolver), Elena Odriozola (who's sowing the seeds in the picture above), Sarah Rees Brennan (of Demon's Lexicon fame), Jane Mitchell, Michael Rosen, Siobhán Parkinson, Anthony Browne et al. who need no introduction. The conference will also introduce Ireland’s first Children’s Laureate.
Speaking of which, Mags Walsh (from CBI) will reveal all about this new initiative at the Dublin Book Festival at 10.30 am next Monday (8th of March).
Hope to see you here, there and everywhere!

Paris Bookfair 2010

Yours truly is beside herself with pride, excitement and a little terror, as she has been invited to sign her masterpieces at the Paris Bookfair this March. So, if you happen to be wandering in the vicinity of Stall J48 (Editions Auzou) between 3 and 4 pm on Friday 26th, or near Stall E59 (Editions Fleurus-Mango) between 11am and 1 on the 28th, if you're more of a Sunday-morning person, do come along! All the details of the fair can be found here. Extra-cool message with the signature if you say you read this blog! ;o)