Monday, 29 November 2010

The 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books?

Last week, we had the 25 Best Children's Books from the Telegraph. This weekend, The Observer got in on the act with it's 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books, as chosen by Kate Kellaway. Again, I think it's a bit of an eccentric selection. I've never heard of The lonely doll by Dare Wright (1957) for example. I cetainly agree with Shirley Hughes' Dogger and Quentin Blake's All join in, but not with Babar. The newest title is a Lauren Child but, as one commenter says, where is Emily Gravett? A bright, new Greenaway award-winning illustrator who should be on the list. Again, see what you think.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Eleanor Farjeon Award goes to Seven Stories

Seven Stories - the Centre for Children's Books based in Newcastle - was last night awarded the Eleanor Farjeon Award 2010. The Award is made for distinguished service to the world of children's books and will be given to a person or an organisation whose commitment and contribution is deemed to be outstanding. Here's a picture of staff receiving the (very well deserved) Award. I've blogged about Seven Stories before, most recently in October about their acquisition of papers on Enid Blyton. If you are ever in the North East of England, it is well worth a visit, whether or not you have small children in tow (nice cafe too!)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The 25 best children's books?

At least according to the Daily Telegraph which says "From classics to modern day tales of magic, here are 25 stories that have delighted young readers for more than a century". The list starts in 1883 with Treasure Island and ends in 1999 with The Gruffalo (though the 2000s are represented by Harry Potter which is included as a series from 1997-2007). Some are unarguable - The very hungry caterpillar has to be a landmark in innovative picture books - but The Mr Men? Really? It also seems a little predictable and anyone who knows anything about children's books will have come across all of these before.

What do you think?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Open Book on young adult fiction

Mariella Frostrup presented a special edition of Open Book on Radio 4 yesterday exploring the recent boom in fiction for young adults. She spoke to young adult authors Marcus Sedgwick, Malorie Blackman and Gemma Malley, to help find out what distinguishes teen novels today and what challenges and possibilities they present for the writer. The programme is currently available on Listen Again and will be repeated on Thursday at 16.00.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Roald Dahl Funny Prize

The winners were announced today:

Funniest Book for Children Aged 6 and Under
Dog loves books by Louise Yates

Funniest Book for Children Aged 7 to 14
Withering tights by Louise Rennison

Read more about them via Booktrust. We have both books in stock.

PS - currently on BBC iPlayer, Blue Peter visits Roald Dahl's house.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Manfred the Baddie

This month every Primary 1 pupil in Scotland is receiving a free copy of John Fardell's Royal Mail Award-winning picture book Manfred the Baddie. Scottish Book Trust has put together a collection of teaching resources including two great Manfred-inspired videos to celebrate! The slideshow below shows Manfred and other books by John Fardell that we have in stock.

I'm a character in a teenage novel ... get me out of here!

I toyed with this title back in 2002/3 when I first compiled our Survivor booklist. I'm a celebrity was newly on-screen, but I decided it might be a flash in the pan and no-one would get the title after a few weeks or months. How wrong could I be? The programme is still going, but so is my list with its much more prosaic title. Mostly set in apocalyptic versions of the future, the books on it share a common theme: the battle for survival. Their central characters, usually teenagers, have to overcome fire, floods, demons or some other horror as they struggle to build new lives or new societies. As well as being good stories, the books will also make their readers think about the way we treat our world today.

I've just updated the list to include two recently completed trilogies. I've already written about Patrick Ness's Chaos walking books here and here. (For a sneak preview of the cover of his next book, see his blog.) The other trilogy is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which I've just finished reading. (Catalogue details here.) In the first book, we are introduced to a dystopian society based on what is left of the USA after a global disaster. The wealthy Capitol is surrounded by 12 poorer Districts which, 75 years ago, had tried to break away. As punishment for the failed rebellion, every year each District must supply one girl and one boy between the ages of 12 and 18 to take part in the Hunger Games. These sound like I''m a celebrity with the added excitement of being a fight to the death - the last participant alive wins. The very first time Prim Everdeen, from District 12, is eligible her name comes out of the hat but her older sister Katniss volunteers to take her place and it is her adventures we follow through the three books. It's not pretty - by their very nature, the games have to involve violence and Collins doesn't shirk from describing it. The politics are presented in a thought provoking way too, without being heavy handed. There are also gentler themes though - love, for instance, as Katniss explores her feelings for both Gale, her childhood friend, and Peeta who accompanies her into the Arena.

I was first recommended these books by my 14-year old neice who really enjoyed them and I have to say I agree with her taste. It took me a while to get into the first few chapters, but after that I was hooked and tore through all three. As with Chaos walking I found the quality tailed off a little towards the end - I didn't find the final battles terribly convincing - but on the whole they were a great read.

Suzanne Collins has her own website and there's also a special Hunger Games one. You can find information in various other places - for example on Wikipedia, on the publisher's website (Scholastic) on My Hunger Games or on Youtube (trailers). Play the game Find your Hunger Games name, keep track of the movie, expected to come out in 2013, and Google it for much more!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Inspiring young readers with film

The Guardian recently ran a piece Films in schools are inspiring children with the joy of learning about the charity Filmclub which supplies schools with free films from a 1,800-strong cinematic library and claims that movies help disengaged pupils to connect with their lessons. One example is The boy in the striped pyjamas of which one young reviewer says "You actually feel like you witness the horror of the Holocaust and you connect with the characters in the movie." Of course, you can do this with our stock - we have both the book and film of Striped pyjamas and many other titles. One section of our Books for Boys list is devoted to film and TV tie-ins.

More and more children's books are being filmed - recent announcments include Judy Blume's Tiger Eyes , Michael Morpurgo's War Horse and Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry.

Finally in film news, Scotland on Screen is an exciting educational resource that puts hundreds of important historical film texts online, providing students with a rear-view mirror on our society over the past century.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Booktrust Teenage Prize

"A bit like Rain Man but much better, and without Tom Cruise." So said Chair of Judges, Tony Bradman, of Unhooking the moon which today won Gregory Hughes the Booktrust Teenage Prize. It's the story of two siblings, 10 year old Rat and her big brother Bob, who set off from Winnipeg after their father dies to search for their only known relative in New York. I can't tell you much more than that since the book hasn't arrived in the Library yet, but I can't wait to get my hands on it after reading about it today. Here's the Booktrust announcement, the Books for Keeps review, the Bookbag and two articles from the Guardian, one mainly on the book and the other on the author. The subject matter, a road trip with unforgettable charcters, also reminds me of the Dicey Tillerman books by Cynthia Voigt, starting with The homecoming, which we do have and which I heartily recommend.

PS Booktrust interview with Gregory Hughes added 4/11/10