Friday, March 30, 2012

Grounded (not me!)

Guess who's going on an adventure next week? Off into town with 2 munchkins in tow to attend the launch of Grounded by Sheena Wilkinson published by Little Island.
Grounded is the much awaited sequel to award-winning Taking Flight.
The party's on at Hodges Figgis on April 5 from 6pm. All are welcome. RSVP to Elaina O’Neill: 085 228 3060 /

Off we go!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tell me what you read| A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

With the CBI awards a bit out of the way, I now have more time to browse the shelves of my local library and actually read the books I borrow (as opposed to glancing at them guiltily while they gather dust on my bedside table or summarizing very roughly Thomas the Tank Engine's latest adventure) (in French).
And so, I've finally managed to read A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness from an idea by Siobhan Dowd.
In short: it's really good.
Conor's mum is sick. His grandma is a pain. His dad is on the wrong side of the ocean and school is essentially hell. To make matters worse (or better?) a monster keeps appearing a few minutes after midnight, in the shape of a nightmarish yew-tree man.
Life, death, love, resentment, terror, betrayal and a dose of naked violence... there's a lot going on in this intensely poignant tale. Conor's story and character are very engaging, making this a real page-turner. The sadness and peacefulness of the resolution are handled beautifully and Jim Kay's illustrations are fully part of the emotional impact of this book.
That said, I would argue that it's perhaps trying to do too much. Some of the themes (unfairness, punishment, invisibility...), while they are skillfully introduced and touched upon, are never (in my view) fully integrated to the main frame of the story. And the monster is a strange mixture of terror-inducing fury and powerlessness. His simple presence  is usually more effectively scary and impressive than his threats, which Conor never takes seriously and which never come to pass. As for the secret Conor is hiding from the world as well as himself, I suspect I won't be the only reader to guess what it is long before it is 'revealed'. But then again, it's not so much about knowing the secret, as it is about knowing what to do about it.
On the whole, though, a very good read, which will stay with you for a goodly while after you've closed the book and brought it back to its shelf.
(And no wonder it's shortlisted for both the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The CBI Book of the Year Awards

They're here! The BBook of the Year Awards' shortlist (ex-Bisto) has been announced.

Read on and marvel...

Publisher: Marion Lloyd Books (London)
ISBN: 978-1407129334 (HBK)
A book about twelve-year-old Mary, her mother Scarlett, her grandmother Emer and her great-grandmother Tansey. Emer is dying in hospital, and the ghost of her mother Tansey, who died when Emer was three, arrives on the scene to assure her that everything will be alright. She also has plenty to say to the two younger members of the family, and soon all four women find themselves on an unforgettable road trip. Funny, moving, thought-provoking and featuring one of the most likeable ghosts since Casper, the characters and events in this story will stay with you long after you have finished reading.
Judges’ Comments: Sharing thematic similarities with Her Mother’s Face also by Roddy Doyle, this skillfully crafted novel focuses on four generations of the one family in its mediation on motherhood, life, ageing and death.

BRUISED by Siobhán Parkinson
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books (London)
ISBN: 978-1444904567 (PBK)
‘How does bruising start; is it the booze, the neglect or the slap?
14 year old Jono loves his little sister Julie and would do anything to protect her. The problem is that his mum has some problems with alcohol, meaning that she can’t bring up Jono and Julie the way she should. Once the children’s Gramma passes away, Jono and Julie are left alone, and forced to run away in order to survive. Can Jono still keep his little sister safe?
 Judges’ Comments: This powerful first-person narrative is a detached, yet sympathetic, exploration of the complexities, and oftentimes-harsh realities, of both familial relationships and society’s abdication of responsibility to children at risk.

INTO THE GREY by Celine Kiernan
Publisher: The O’Brien Press (Dublin)
ISBN: 978-1847171641(PBK)
Set in the 1970’s, Into The Grey tells the story of identical teenage twins Patrick and Dominic who are forced to move after a fire destroys their family home. Along with their little sister Dee, their parents and their senile grandmother they struggle to adjust to life in a temporary house. Soon after the move a series of frightening nighttime events begin to worry Patrick and he watches as his beloved twin brother struggles to retain control of his body. Previous inhabitants of their temporary home are struggling to come to terms with their own history and the boy’s fragility allows ghosts and spirits to take hold of them.
Judges’ Comments: Following the lives of two fifteen-year-old twins, this imaginative and empathetic supernatural thriller coalesces past and present to explore the complexities of fraternal love and the pain of loss.

MAITRÍÓISCE by Siobhán Parkinson
Publisher: Cois Life (Dublin)
ISBN: 978-1907494161 (PBK)
Nuair a shroicheann Mara trí bliana déag d’aois tá sí ag súil go mór lena bronntanas ach nuair a osclaíonn sí é, athraíonn an scéal. Ní iPod nó seodra atá ann ar chor ar bith ach sraith bábóg maitríóisce ón Rúis. Séad fíne óna sheanmháthair atá ann agus ar dtús níl suim dá laghad aici sa bhronntanas páistiúil seo. Ní hamháin sin ach tá ceann de na bábógíní ar strae!
De réir a chéile, tuigeann Mara go bhfuil stair taobh thiar den bhábóg caillte agus téann sí sa tóir ar an fhírinne faoi bhrí agus scéal na bábóige seo. Lena cara Dorota lena taobh, glacann Mara ról an bleachtaire agus í ag iarraidh níos mó a fhoghlaim faoina gcúlra agus faoi stair na bábóige.
When Mara reaches her thirteenth birthday she looks forward to her present but when she finally opens it, it’s a different story. It is not an iPod or jewellery but a series of Russian dolls. They turn out to be an heirloom from her grandmother and at first Mara has no interest whatsoever in this seemingly childish present. If that weren’t bad enough, one of the dolls turns out to be missing.
As time progresses, Mara begins to understand the history surrounding the missing doll and she intuitively goes in pursuit of the truth behind the Russian dolls. With her friend Dorota by her side, Mara assumes the role of detective in an attempt to track down the missing doll and to uncover more about her own interesting heritage.
Judges’ Comments: San úrscéal seo atá inmholta ó thaobh simplíocht a phlota, léirítear turas an bpríomhphearsa dhéagóra agus í sa tóir ar ghinealas a theaghlaigh ag dul siar trí chúig ghlúin máthartha.
 Admirably simple in terms of plot, this engaging work charts its thirteen-year-old protagonist’s journey into her past, as she maps her genealogy back five generations through maternal lineage.
Publisher: Puffin (London)
ISBN: 978-0141332468 (PBK)
‘His name is Jimmy. They told us not to call him Dad any more. It might freak him out. More than he’s already freaked out, if that’s possible.’
 Eala’s dad has had an accident. My Dad is Ten Years Old is the story of how she and her family tackle the aftermath. After a brain injury leaves him with the mental age of a ten year old, it is up to Eala and her brother to discover their dad’s past to begin rebuilding their future. Filled with honesty and heartbreak,My Dad is Ten Years Old takes you to the darker reality of personal tragedy.
Judges’ Comments: Moving and poignant, this engaging novel tells of a family’s struggle to come to term with an accident that not only leaves its father with intellectual disabilities but also raises questions about his past.

Ó CHRANN GO CRANN le Caitríona Hastings agus Andrew Whitson (illus.)
Publisher: An tSnáthaid Mhór (Belfast)
ISBN: 978-0955227158 (HBK)
Tá cailín óg d’arbh ainm Nia chun bogadh óna teach álainn faoin tuath chuig teach nua sa chathair mar go bhfuair a Dhaid post nua ansin. Níl sí róshásta faoi seo mar go mbeidh uirthi a chairde sa phobal agus sa scoil go léir a fhágáil. Faighimid amach gurb iad na préacháin ag bun an ghairdín an dream a mbeidh níos brónaí fúthu agus í ag fágáil. Léirítear dúinn go mbíodh na préacháin agus súgradh le Nia i gcónaí agus go raibh sí in ann bráth orthu nuair a bhíodh sí faoi ghruaim.
A young girl named Nia is about to move from her idyllic home in the countryside to a new house in her city, where her father has just been offered a new job. She is rather upset about this as she will be forced to leave her friends, her community and in particular her precious crows who congregate in the oak tree at the bottom of her garden to play with her every day.
Judges’ Comments: Léirithe go gleoite agus draíochtach le léamh, ba é sárshaothar bunúil cumhach Ó Chrann Go Crann a dhíríonn ar an dúil a bhíonn againn go léir don dúchas, don chosaint agus don bhaile.
 Illustratively striking and linguistically enchanting, this original work of art is a nostalgic tale of longing for the places where we belong, the places we call home. 

STUCK by Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: HarperCollins (London)
ISBN: 978-0007263868 (HBK)
 “A tale of trying to solve a problem by throwing things at it.”
Stuck tells the tale of Floyd, who has managed to get his kite stuck up a tree. To try and get it down he throws his shoe at it and…that gets stuck too! Oh dear, what will he do next? The answer might surprise you as Floyd’s unusual response to the problem gets way out of hand!
Judges’ Comments: With its distinctive pencil-line characterization and typography this well-crafted picturebook leaves plenty of gaps in both its verbal and visual text as it encourages readers to journey imaginatively into the absurd.

Publisher: Walker Books (London)
ISBN: 978-1406327922 (PBK)
 This is a lyrical story from the butterfly heart of Africa. Sisters Bul-Boo and Madillo are worried about their friend Winifred, who has lost her gentle smile and no longer puts up her hand in class. Then the twins discover her secret: she is to be married off to her uncle’s friend, who drinks heavily and is old enough to be her grandfather. While Winifred has become resigned to her fate, her friends are determined to put a stop to the marriage. But what can they do? They ask the advice of Ifwafwa, the snake man, who promises to think about the problem. Ifwafwa is wise and has a gift with snakes, but he does not like to hurry and Bul-Boo becomes impatient. Will he be too late to save their friend?
 Judges’ Comments: Told from the perspective of an adult and a child, this work of magical-realism sensitively incorporates folktales and legends from Zambia into its treatment of dark and difficult issues from Africa’s past and present.

Publisher: Andersen Press (London)
ISBN: 978-1849392365 (PBK)
Will Gallows is a young elfing sky cowboy who is riding out on an dangerous quest. His mission? To bring Noose Wormworx the evil snake-bellied troll, to justice. Noose is wanted for the murder of Will’s pa, and Will won’t stop until he’s got revenge!
Judges’ Comments: Characterized by the seamless blending of the generic conventions of fantasy and Western, this action-packed adventure follows the exploits of its eponymous hero as he seeks justice for the murder of his father.  

And now, go off to your local bookshop or library and READ THEM!