Language barriers?

The US book critics blog has a look at some bilingual picture books, namely in Spanish. The only thing I could think of off the top of my head in Irish was Anne Donovan’s Where’s Murphy? and a separate Cá bhfuil Murchú? edition.

I’m not too sure about the quality of the stories mentioned on Critical Mass - but my Spanish isn’t what it should be.


Reviewing the situation.

With less than a month to go before Christmas the reviewers have started the round-up ‘Best of 2008′ lists - and I’m sure there are plenty more of them to come.

The Times (UK) start the ball rolling with Amanda Craig’s list of Children’s 2-10 - her book of the year is Franck Cotrell Boyce’s Cosmic (though PJ Lynch’s Gift of the Magi gets a mention too). Christina Hardyment runs through her favourite children’s audio-books including Phillip Pullman, JK Rowling and Vivianne French’s Robe of Skulls.

>More of The Times UK Christmas lists.

The Guardian has taken a different approach and asked as many people as they could think of for their books of 2008. The list is impressive and has some great recommendations - though it could take all of 2009 to read through it.

> Season’s readings, the Guardian’s pick the best of 2008

Frank Cotrell Boyce appears in the Guardian’s review pages after reading Philippa Pearce’s A Finders Magic.

All Pearce’s books have this strange, unobtrusive power. They seem like simple fantasy or adventure stories, but somehow they never leave you. Her secret was that she put so much of herself into them.

And Keith Stuart looks at what games are out for younger gamers - including Peppa Pig on the Wii…

And I thought this was funny:

Doing it for the books | Supporting CBI


Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Longlists

The longlists for the 2009 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway awards have been announced - the lists are pretty long, thus the name, but plenty of deserving books up for awards. There have been so many great books out this year - the longlists are certainly proof of that!

The shortlist won’t be announced until 24 April 2009 - loads of time to get reading! No excuse.


Some TV should not to be missed

Tonight on BBC Four (one for all you digital heads) When we were very young - a series exploring childhood reading - the first episode focuses on picture books with interviews, readings and demonstrations from Michael Rosen, Shirley Hughes, Alan Ahlberg and Lauren Child.

The second episode, Now We are Six, will look at classic books, from Alice in Wonderland to The Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and feature Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Quentin Blake and Raymond Briggs.

So go watch the clip from tonight’s show and then tune in at 9pm tonight on BBC 4 (repeats until Sunday) See, some TV just shouldn’t be missed.


Reader beware, you’re in for a scare

The VHC mentioned one of my old favourites the other night. He has written more than 130 books, worked on TV series, and is no stranger to controversy. He was one of the authors that I read voraciously when he was at his peak. And he’s back - along with his Goosebumps series - this time in graphic novels. He is RL Stine.

The Graphic Classroom has the whole story:

The stories are typical for the Goosebumps series, with plenty of age-appropriate spook and creep to satisfy the young soul searching for fun horror.

Written by david. in: Reading, picture books | Tags: ,


Something nice and light for a post Culture Night morning. And I couldn’t think of anything better than a day spent with Babar - who features in the current New Yorker. There is an exhibition of Laurent de Brunhoff in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York with original artwork and sketches.

The New Yorker piece, here, comes complete with a slideshow of de Brunhoff’s work. Enjoy.


Picture books

A few quick links from last weeks newspapers to brighten up a Sunday morning -

Derek Draper takes a look at Meghan McCain’s picture book My Dad - about her Dad, US presidential candidate John McCain. (Aged 5-10) Read more in the Guardian.

Nicolette Jones reviews David Macaulay’s Angelo, likening it to a new retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince  - without the living statues… (Aged 5+) Read more in the Sunday Times.

Nicola Smyth tests out a heap of picture books on her four year old daughter - with the outright favourite being William Bee’s Beware of the Frog. Read more in the UK Independent.

Written by david. in: picture books | Tags:

Tasha Tudor

News broke this morning that the legendary and brilliant Tasha Tudor died on Wednesday. Reknowned across the US for her book illustrations and artwork, I am (and others might too) be most familiar with her illustrated edition of The Night Before Christmas (it was the first time I came across her as a kid).

More about Tasha on her family website and this mornings note in the New York Times.


breading a new generation

Are new book technology users just growing up?

A few weeks ago I put a computer illiterate five-year-old in front of a keyboard, mouse and monitor. She grasped how to use the operating system (Windows XP) the browser (Firefox) and the Internet (Google, Sesame Street, Nick Jr. and Dora The Explorer) in less than half an hour.

The experience got me thinking.

One of the largest reasons that e-books haven’t become a reality is due to our reluctance to let go of the book. Would gadget savvy young readers be more comfortable using an e-reader than the rest of us?

This isn’t as far fetched as it might sound. Disney, Fisher Price and Hasbro have all released mp3 players for children in the last year. The Fisher Price Kid-Tough FP3 Player is aimed at the youngest audience (3 – 6 year olds) and their online store sells audio books as well as music. While the Disney player is aimed at a 5 - 12 year olds but without the option to download music.

Is it such a leap to imagine a similar device with a large, colour screen* that reproduces picture books? [It could play the author reading the book at the same time through its mp3 player.]

If public libraries and schools supported ebooks then young readers would be encouraged to use them, and be more likely to using them as adults. Some, such as the New York Public Library has already begun to lend copies of ebooks – with certain copyright conditions.

Looking at the conclusions from the research in Bell State (dated 2004) Richard Bellaver concludes:

The children thoroughly enjoy playing and interacting with the eBooks. However, many of the children used the eBook for non-reading purposes because the content was not to their reading level. This was remedied by adding more content geared towards the younger reading level, but at the time of the interviews, that was not the case. The children did grasp the technology, and were able to learn the basic features of the eBook. Only one eBook of fifteen was damaged during the test.

Do you ever wish you see the future??

> Richard Bellaver - Bell State University

> New York Public Library

*One of the most ideal distribution outlets for ebooks is the iPod Touch and the iPhone through Apple’s iTunes.
Click for a better look >>>


competitioning | childrens books ireland

I won a competition! (I never win competitions! Except that one with the Wii - thank again Science Week)

Many thanks to Tom in Children’s Books Ireland who just sent me on a copy of Mark Barratt’s Joe Rat. CBI already have a new competition to win family tickets to Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and The Whale stage adaptation. (It’s playing in the Helix throughout May). The book is a classic picturebook (198-) and lives in my top 20 reading list. Top 20 picture books list anyway…

Go enter. G’wan.


factoid | childrens publishing

An article from the Economist on the difficulties in publishing picture books:

Not all are quite so gloomy. Booktrust, a charity, has launched the Big Picture campaign to raise the profile of picture books. At the Illustration Cupboard, a London gallery, John Huddy reckons the market is correcting itself, rooting out inadequate contenders. Panicky book folk may be talking their business down—but new ways to sell cheaper products across borders must certainly loom.

Time for a new kind of picture book? More on picture books here.


linkage | things I like

A few quick links that I keep fogetting to post:

George Fournier, formerly of this address, has gotten himself a website.

Two from the Scamp blog: An interesting book of art drawn by Writers and the step-by-step guide on drawing Twenty Major’s bestselling book cover.

Just One More Book has an interview with writer and illustrator Lita Judge.

An ‘entrepeneur’ in Washington is locked in solitary confinement cell and left to drink her own urine for four days. Euwww.

Pub Rants has a rant about work clauses from MacMillan - seems a bit drastic:

the Author will complete the Work and submit it to the Publisher prior to beginning work on any other book for INSERT GENRE (excluding only other books that may already be under separate contract to the Publisher).

The Northern Ireland 2D Festival is back this year - details on the FPI blog. In the Verbal Arts Centre (Derry) from June 5 - 7.

The guardian has the full list of winners from the 2008 British Animation Awards.

The excellent Dreadful Thoughts series is continuing on Fú - next up is Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows.


Whats new | coming soon to a shelf near you

Last year saw some heavy hitters reach the shelves (Artemis Fowl - The Graphic Novel, The Alchemist, Skullduggery Pleasant, My Dad’s a Birdman and loads more)

So what’s in store for 2008? (I couldn’t help but have a sneak peak!!)

First - there are a few movies to look out for including the big budget Iron Man, Batman and the next Narnia installment. John Boyne’s Boy In the Striped Pyjamas is due for release in Autumn and Dr SuessHorton Hears a Who is hitting the silver-screen next week.

There is a lot more to come by way of books this year too - a new Skullduggery Pleasant (Playing With Fire) and a new Artemis Fowl (The Time Paradox) as well as a new installment to Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. The book factory that is Darren Shan has a new title coming - Death’s Shadow and of course there is his new adult fiction novel, Procession of the Dead.

Lauren Child has a new book in the Charlie and Lola story, as does Michelle Paver in her Chronicles series. Zizou Corder has a new book out now - Lee Raven, Boy Thief - as does Deirdre Madden, Thanks for Telling Me Emily. And I’m nearly certain that Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams have their second book (following on from Tunnels) coming this summer.

So - whatever about the rest of ye, I’ll be spending the summer on the beach* with the glasses on and my nose in a book or two.

*beach scenario is weather permitting.


turning japanese | animation week

Not only is this week Library Ireland Week or this Thursday World Book Day - it is also Japanese Animation week. To mark the week that’s in it the Japanese embassy is running a series of movies throughout Dublin.

Disappointingly, I missed tonight’s showing of Voices of a Distant Star and Princess Mononoke in St Pat’s. (The dubbed version of Princess Mononoke stars Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson and Minnie Driver.) On Thursday, Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days (both from Makoto Shinkai) will be showing in Trinity College and there will be three more movies shown in the Chester Beatty Library on Saturday, including The Castle of Cagliostro.

For more visit the Embassy’s website. Might even see you there.

Also: Gary Gygax has died. The man behind Dungeons and Dragons.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
If that’s not your kind of thing - why not try one of these:
> Jim Carroll’s post on Mongrel and Foggy Notions passing. 100+ comments - including some from the mongrel team.

> Will a self-published book ever win a major book award?
> The Kenyon Review - On writing Badly
> Slinky Pics (wowsie website) is nominated for a British Animation Award.
> Alan Moore and Todd Klien’s Alphabet of Desire is back for a second limited print-run.

> Mr Linehan has a suggested reading list. Go buy.
> The University of Minnesota has bought $100,000 worth of comics. Here.
> Strange children’s picture book nature scene.
> Steven Spielberg is launching a paranormal/UFO social network site. (Suggested names anyone?)


steve simpson | on illustration

The talented Steve Simpson has kindly given an illustrators view on working in children’s books. Steve has worked with Irish language publisher An Gúm and recently finished a book with Scholastics in the US - as well as working with An Post and countless others. Who better to ask!?

On Irish and UK publishing:
It’s possible that picture books are becoming inviable in the UK but I can’t imagine there has ever been much profit in Irish picture books for a long time. The market is very small and many of the books that do make it into the bookshops are obviously published in Ireland, lots of Irish names, Irish references, Irish towns and green postboxes. This mostly makes them unappealing for export.

As the potential market is tiny, the fees paid to illustrators are, to say the least, unappealing (others might use stronger language). Some of the fees I’ve heard are far below the national minimum hourly rate and with that they expect to retain all copyright (and even the artwork in some cases). If you want to make a living as a children’s book illustrator you need to look further a field.

On working in the US:
I’m only just entering the market but my dealings so far have been very good. I’ve been able to keep my copyright and the contracts seems quite generous by Irish comparisons. I haven’t heard of any pessimistic forecasts.

A little encouragement for the newbies:
Children’s book illustration is a fantastic area to be involved in, I can’t think of a more idyllic career path. Getting started is always a struggle though. The current Irish scene may appear unattractive to established illustrators, however it can be a great opportunity for upcoming illustrators. You might not make too much cash but you will be published. Just remember to hold on tight to your copyright.

(Thanks again to Steve for answering my rant-like questions. You can gawk at his work, here, or read more from him over at Scamp)


On picture books | more

Sorry to go on about picture books but it is something that has gotten my goat of late. **I recently started sending out a picture book manuscript to publishers. That’s probably what has my goat’s knickers in a bunch.**

I crept into a launch last night (more on that here) and had a chat with a heavy weight publisher or two. They dropped me a few statistics that didn’t sound too optimistic and perhaps more importantly, one let me know that he was no longer taking on picture books from new writers.

(Naturally alarms bells went a-ringing - I’m a new writer and I’ve written a picture book and I have no definite publisher yet. What do I do now??)

As a different take on the issue, this publisher doesn’t see the decline as a result of the readers’ embarrassment but more to do with the parents’ unwillingness to buy the books. As a business indication this is even more hair raising - children reluctant to read picture books at a certain age is one thing, but parents unwilling to shell out for the books initially is worse. As this particular publisher put it:

All the talk from parents on how they love their children reading is just that, talk.


Comic Lark | Artemis Fowl and picture books…

Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series has really become a massive success - I holed up over Christmas and reread the whole series, including the new graphic novel. It was a nice way to unwind over the holidays, honest.

The graphic novel raised a few questions with me though - especially with how some of the characters looked (Butler didn’t look too Eurasian - or even realistic for that matter). All the same, the book is as gripping and fast as the original - only this time it comes complete with an artist’s impression.

At a talk over the weekend, Barry Cunningham and Mary Byrne mentioned Colfer’s new venture as a possible reintroduction for readers to picture books. I can’t see it becoming too much of a reality - my guess would be that the general reader of Artemis Fowl would go from there to comics. The overall outlook seems to be that there is a damaging stereotype amongst parents surrounding picture books preventing sales increases - and readers over reaching themselves by trying to read Philip Pullman aged 8 and Wilkie Collins at 12 because they’re too embarrassed to be seen reading illustrated books.

I fell into the same category - luckily I’ve out grown it…

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Some links that might make you weak at the knees. Probably not, but maybe:

Steve Gerber | Fans paying tribute through downloads
David Fickling has a new comic | DFC
Indy is given a facelift | Potato Head
Why cant writers master the art of drawing
Susan Bradley and Typography at Pixar


three quick reviews | David Almond


What do you get when you cross a frog with a rabbit? A bunny ribbit. So, what do you get when you bring ten children’s writers together and ask them to write a book for Amnesty International? Click. Brought together by an opening chapter from Linda Sue Park and her characters (Maggie and Jason, the grandchildren of photo-journalist George ‘Gee’ Keane) nine writers were asked to bring the story forward. David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Deborah Ellis, Roddy Doyle, Nick Hornby, Tim Wynne Jones, Ruth Ozeki, Margo Lanagan and Gregory Maguire all follow suit with a chapter that each follows a different character related to Gee. A jump novel has got to be a great challenge for a group of writers - to move the story along enough to keep the reader interested without making things too difficlut for the next writer. One worth reading - especially for Roddy Doyle’s Dublin snap shot.

My Dad’s a Birdman

How does the saying go: If you want something done, ask a busy person? There can’t be anyone busier than David Almond. Last year he published three books (I think), including Clay, which is sitting by the bed waiting to be read, Kate, The Cat and The Moon and My Dad’s A Birdman. - I wonder if he’d do my homework too…

My Dad’s A Birdman is illustrated by Polly Dunbar, who delivers amazing pictures of birds (of all kinds), interfereing aunts, dumplings and flying machines. The marriage between the images and text is great - even before you read the first word of the story Dunbar’s illustrations and the circus text let you know that something spectacular is coming. Go on, have a read.


There is something very special about going back to a book nearly ten years after you read it first - the emotion behind the words is given a deeper nostalgic meaning. Skellig, David Almond’s first novel, doesn’t need my extra emotional weight on top of the already laden pages. Even in the first reading there is something familiar about this book, finding an old friend, that makes it worthy of so much praise. There isn’t much I can say about Skellig that hasn’t already been said - it is an intense read that pulls you in quietly. There are friends, threats and one or two other surprises but it’s not my place to reveal any of them…

The book was listed as one of the ten most important children’s novels of the past 70 years in 2007 and the film adaptation is due out later this year according to IMDB. Read this one before the movie.

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