February 2004 Archives

The Next Big Thing, Possibly

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thisisDevon : Western Morning News : News : BOOK BY FARMER'S WIFE IS A LITERARY

"Demand for a novel written by a farmer's wife from Cornwall has reached as far afield as Australia, with copies of the book fetching up to ?1,000. Lucy Cockcroft reports A FARMER'S wife turned author has fast become a literary phenomenon with her first novel changing hands at more than ?1,000 a copy, prompting major publishers to bid for her work."

see also this Sunday Times news report

Desert Island Discs

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BBC Radio 4 - Factual - Desert Island Discs -Judith Kerr

Sunday 29 February
Friday 5 March

This week Sue?s castaway is Judith Kerr - a writer and illustrator known to generations of children both for her charming Mog picture-books and for her careful rendering of the life of a Jewish child fleeing Nazi Germany.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

ST Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

The Sprog Owner's Manual by Babette Cole

"Illustrated with Cole's typically energetic caricatures and full of cheekiness, invention and hilarity, not to mention poo, worms and smelly feet, this book is an exhilarating romp in which children can identify their own characteristics, both naughty and nice." NICOLETTE JONES

FT Reviews

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Unfortunately, Jill Slotover's reviews in the Financial Times can no longer be read online, except by the FT website's paying subscribers, so I can do no more than alert people to them.

In today's FTmagazine, Slotover commends the following:

Stripes Of The Sidestep Wolf by Sonya Hartnett
"Hartnett is an elelgant, eloquent writer and her laser-sharp observations of internal personal battles and the claustrophobic life of a small town are astute, atmospheric and deeply moving."

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
"Boyce has a rare gift for sophisticated comedy..."

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman
"Compelling, shocking and utterly chilling..."

Unique by Alison Allen-Gray
"Allen-Gray writes in an easy, readable style, raises stimulating questions, and offers a plot that keeps you hooked throughout."

Desire Lines by Jack Gantos
"A short, deceptively simple novel that gets into the heart of a vulnerable teenager and highlights the evils of withc-hunts."


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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Letters: Feb 28

Oo-er, seventeen authors, no less, line up to defend The Guardian against what they see as my unfounded criticism of peer reviewing.

When I got wind, a little over ten days ago, that this mini petition was being prepared, I could scarcely believe it. It does reveal, I think, the inherent insecurity of children's authors. It is very hard to imagine, for example, that had my letter referred to adult book reviews it would have generated the formation of a cabal.

It is perplexing to me that novelists whose craft involves the daily analysis of human sensibilities should apparently dismiss my reservations about peer reviewing so straightforwardly. I was not implying that critical peer reviews are necessarily motivated by envy or grudge (though it is naive in the extreme to suggest that children's authors are above such things); I did mean to imply - more articulately in my ACHUKACHAT clarification than in the letter, to be fair - that the subjects of critical reviews, or even of harsh critical comments within broadly positive reviews, may well impute such motives and therefore complicate the professional relationship between themselves and the reviewer.

I've just read Darren Shan's contribution to the Peer Reviews discussion thread on ACHUKACHAT and recommend it.

Make Way, Tripod!

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Paperback writer: Eoin Colfer

In a highly amusing article, Eoin Colfer describes why his World Book Day title does not feature a three-legged horse named Tripod:

...The man thumped the table, causing my Lord of the Rings figurines to hop off the Formica.
"The farting, Colfer! The farting, OK? We want the farting dwarf."...

Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf ?1

East And West

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | A galloping romp

Diane Samules reviews Blood Red Horse by K. M. Grant:
"a soundly researched, well-structured story with a western liberal outlook, which serves in a rather prosaic fashion to remind the reader that the current tensions between west and near east go back a very long way indeed" DIANE SAMUELS

Producing It

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Lit Idol 2004

A production manager for Hodder Children's Books has made the longlist (from over 1,500 entries) for Lit Idol, a competition for unpublished authors.

"Tom Easton (London), Jennifer's Friend
I am 32, living in Blackheath, London. I work for Hodder Children's books as a Production Manager. I love books and enjoy my current work, but I'd love to be able to make a living as a writer."

Remembering Tom

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Remembering Tom Feelings

An appreciation of South African children's book illustrator Tom Feelings, who died last year:

Remembering Tom Feelings
"Feelings believed black children needed to see affirming images of themselves and their African heritage....'

Jambo Means Hello: Swahili Alphabet Book

Banned Relationships

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Off the shelf

Babar's Gift by Beverley and May Naidoo, ill. Karin Littlewood

"This is a story about how, when the racism is right inside your family, compassion and keeping the blinkers on can defeat the prejudice far more effectively than aggression. And it all ends up with a picture book newly published by Puffin with no white faces at all..." DINA RABINOVITCH

Inkheart Film Option

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Coming Soon! - Latest News

"New Line Cinema has acquired rights to develop the best-selling German children's author Cornelia Funke's hotly pursued novel Inkheart as a potential kids fantasy franchise..."

Boox Search

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The best section of the recently-revamped BOOX website is the search page. The sixteen search criteria - from Bereavement to Stress - can be further refined with a supplementary criterion.

BOOX 9 (the print magazine) is now available. Features and quizzes include: Cover Story - should you ever judge a book by its cover?, I'm a book character, let me out!, Soul Mates - work out who, Double Vision - books you loved so much you read them twice, interview with Kate Thompson, Mystic Numbers - what your numbers say about you plus celebrities talk books.

To see the full range of Reading Agency resources go to: www.readingagency.org.uk

Tanuja Track

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A third track sample ('Dancing By Myself') from 'When We Were Twins' by Tanuja Desai Hidier and her three supporting bands, has been added to the main page, and 'Born Two' has been extended.

Lindsey Likes

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | The lessons of war

"Pupils with a growing appreciation of literature's vast horizons will fall on these anthologies, and they'll be equally valuable in developing approaches to creative writing." LINDSEY FRASER

Fear And Trembling ed. Kate Agnew intro. Kevin Crossley-Holland

Love And Longing ed. Kate Agnew intro. Jacqueline Wilson
[previous ACHUKA Choice title]

Whoopi Multi Deal

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"Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children dedicated to the mission of creating high quality children's books that celebrate diversity, has entered into a multi-book publishing program with Whoopi Goldberg."

Teen Writer

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New York Post Online Edition: entertainment

Please Don't Kill The Freshman by Zoe Trope

"...a 17-year-old girl whose book "Please Don't Kill the Freshman," written under the pen name Zoe Trope, has won raves from writers like Dave Eggers and Jonathan Safran Foer..."

Missing Kipling Chapter

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Telegraph | News | Kipling's 'missing Stalky and Co chapter' found in school library

"Kipling intended it to be the first chapter of Stalky and Co, one of his most popular children's books, published in 1899..."

ST Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

Last Train From Kummersdorf by Leslie Wilson

"...a tale about Germany%u2019s resistance to Hitler, of kindness amid horrors, of a fantasy coming miraculously true, and of growing tenderness between the two teenagers.... NICOLETTE JONES

Stephen Cartwright Obit.

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Stephen Cartwright

Stephen Cartwright, illustrator 1947-2004

"Cartwright will probably be best remembered for his illustrations in Farmyard Tales, written by Heather Amery, and for his tiny trademark duck, which can be found lurking somewhere in virtually all the pictures."

Female Fantasist

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The Times - Mad magician in search of rain

The toughness and realism underlying all Fisher's fantasies is what makes them believable as well as wholly absorbing and aesthetically pleasing, says Amanda Craig

The Archon by Catherine Fisher

I can remember once saying something rather unflattering about a piece of Amanda Craig's journalism, but as The Times reviewer of children's literature she is becoming increasingly worth reading. This is an excellent 4-column, single-title review with a read-on panel clearly researched by Craig herself.

Hating Alison

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Herald Sun: Delta to star in her first film [21feb04]

19-year-old Delta Goodrem - actress, popstar and tennis player Mark Philippoussis' girlfriend - has said she is excited to be making her actressing comeback in the lead role of a movie based on the hugely successful young adult novel by Robin Klein...

Hating Alison Ashley by Robin Klein

Reader reviews of the book
Puffin Australia Author Profile

Testing Reading

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The Best Answer (washingtonpost.com)

The Giver by Lois Lowry

"Yo, Mr. R -- we gonna read today?" A battered copy of a young-adult novel called The Giver materialized from the depths of his baggy jeans pocket as the 11th-grader sauntered into English class at Mount Vernon High School...

So begins a long and well-written article in the Washington Post about a US teacher's disillusionment with the climate of testing. Altohugh it's American, the piece will ring many a chord with those who teach or study in UK schools.

"...I should have known what was coming as soon as I saw the chicken wings. We had to raise our scores, she told us.

One way to do that, she said, was "bell-to-bell teaching": Every child's fanny in a seat from the moment the bell rings until the end of class 90 minutes later....

As I drove home from school after that faculty meeting, the trees along the George Washington Parkway cast straight shadows like a bar code. I imagined myself being scanned at some giant checkout counter, an unseen hand ringing up the "product" it was now my duty to "deliver." I pulled over at my favorite spot overlooking the Potomac, where there was a view about which I had composed a line of poetry every morning on my commute for the past decade...

I've discovered that, even though I'm working with more privileged kids, some things are just the same. Like the warm fuzzy teacher feeling I got last week when one of my eighth-graders walked into class clutching a young-adult mystery called Ghost Canoe and asked, "Mr. R, can we read today?"

Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

Julia's Threesome

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Children's fiction: Feb 21

Julia Eccleshare reviews Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby | Sideways Stories from Wayside School | Agent Z Meets the Masked Crusader

Lily Quench and the Dragon of Ashby by Natlie Jane Prior

"...knockabout and unstartling, but it offers countless opportunities for being bold and taking on new challenges. There is much charm in the stories, which are effortlessly readable."

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

"...Each story is refreshingly different, some more moralising than others, but all predicated on a benign view of pupils, teachers and their foibles...."

Agent Z Meets The Masked Crusader by Mark Haddon

"...a welcome reissue of an earlier series for young readers."

Guardian Angel

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Someone to watch over me

Philip Ardagh reviews Graham Marks's How It Works in Guardian Review.

Tucker Talks To Blackman

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"Children's novelist Malorie Blackman was the highest-placed living black writer in the BBC's Big Read poll. Nicholas Tucker talks to her about love, hate and race..."

Highly recommended

Drama Queen Review NYT

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The New York Times: Movies: Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

NYT Film Review
"Tweeners - that audience of adolescent girls caught between Nickelodeon and MTV - are the demographic target of this Walt Disney production starring the apple-cheeked Lindsay Lohan."

Drama Queen Review

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FilmJerk.com - Film Review: "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen"

Film Review: "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen"
Written 02-19-2004 by BrianOrndorf at FilmJerk.com

"I am continually impressed by young actress Lindsay Lohan's ability to charm. But her latest effort, 'Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen' is strictly for the 16-year-old-girl demographic. Anybody outside of that audience will have a tough time swallowing the film's liberal and careless chopping of its source material. and complete absence of logic... ..."

Jan Brett Feature

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Boston.com / Your Life / House & Home / For this children's author, pet hedgehog says it all

At home with author Jan Brett and musician Joseph Hearne
By Karen Campbell, Boston Globe Correspondent, 2/19/2004

"When author and illustrator Jan Brett needs inspiration for one of the delightful animal characters populating her award-winning children's books, she need look no further than her own backyard. Four ducks, two roosters, and 11 hens (including six exotic Chinese Silkies) share a split-level henhouse, complete with heated pool and classical music. Brett's menagerie also includes an adorable African pygmy hedgehog, her totem animal. It appears in every book the 54-year-old New York Times best-selling author writes, often tucked discreetly on a border as a little visual game for her most discerning young readers... ..."


Malorie Blackman's Knife Edge is featured in a 2 x half-page spread in the current edition (Feb 23) of TIME Magazine.
The article is headlined "Sharper Image - with Knife Edge, writer Malorie Blackman tests the outer limits of kid lit".

The piece is predominantly a journalistic feature, giving readers a bit of background on the UK young adult fiction scene and then talking about Blackman's role as a black author. The writer, Michael Brunton, does finish with a paragraph of criticism:

"As literature, Knife Edge is a bit of a let-down, sagging with serial indignities where Noughts & Crosses was taut with sheer indignation. For example, Sephy's attempt to cut it as a singer in the noughts' underground music scene feels peripheral (and lyrically, she's no Eminem)."

This is legitimate critical comment because it's related to a specific aspect of the book, and shows that you do not require huge chunks of direct quotation to justify a point.
It's not a point Blackman will relish reading, but she'll be delighted with the global exposure.

How many UK children's authors, besides J. K. Rowling, have made an appearance in TIME Magazine? Does anyone know?

Canadian Bestseller

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CBC News:Children's author racks up impressive numbers

"[J. Fitzgerald] McCurdy's trilogy about a group of Ottawa kids' adventures in the tunnels under the Parliament buildings have sold over 80,000 copies in the last three years."

McCurdy books are not currently available in the UK.

Martin Booth - Times Obit.

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Neil Gaiman Interview

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MPR Books - "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman

'Kids' edition of Talking Volumes from Minnesota Public Radio.
This link features a 53 minute radio interview with the author of Coraline.
Not to be missed.
Best sequence is just towards the end when Neil answers questions from two girls in the audience, one about 'winging it' when writing a story, the other about having nightmares.
Look for this link in the left-hand panel:

Talking Volumes,
February 15, 2004
The author discusses Coraline with Katherine Lanpher and the Talking Volumes audience at the Fitzgerald Theater. Featuring the music of Folk Underground.

NZ - Andrew Crowe

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STUFF : ENTERTAINMENT : BOOKS - STORY : New Zealand's leading news and information website

Brief report about Mercury Bay non-fiction author Andrew Crowe, who is a finalist in this year's New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.


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One of the things that seems to have touched a nerve in my letter to the Guardian is my use of the word 'hierarchy'. Am I, I thought to myself, completely barmy in thinking that a notion of hierarchy can be applied to children's literature in the same way that it can be applied to general literature? And even if it can, am I, I thought further, completely out-of-order using the term in 2004?
So I was somewhat gratified to find this recent review, by Brian Morton in the Sunday Herald, of Iain Finlayson's biography of Browning, in which Morton writes:

"Feminist revisionism has attempted to put Barrett above Browning in the literary hierarchy. She was the more natural and in some respects the more polished talent, but she is also unmistakably a slighter poet. Browning?s other unexpected resemblance to a writer like Norman Mailer is that he is first, last and always that very thing: a man who writes and who works out his meaning as he writes. Browning recognised one of the differences between his and his future wife?s work. ?You speak out, you ? I only make men and women speak.? He was right, but that was his strength and her weakness."


An argument could be made for thinking that the notion of hierarchy is only useful when applied to literataure of the past. Certainly, hierarchies are fluid things, open to periodic revision. But children in a classroom are acutely aware of their comparative talents and abilities in the here-and-now, however much a teacher may avoid overt reference to them. That's not something people grow out of.

Lindsey Likes...

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | On your marks...

Dyslexia by Althea Braithwaite

"In Dyslexia, six children explain the different implications of the condition, including the dismissive and thoughtless labelling that has preceded their diagnosis. " LINDSEY FRASER

Ghost Story Winners

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | The results of our ghost story competition

"In the fourth Guardian/Piccadilly Press short story competition, teenagers were invited to create the perfect ghost story. Over 1,000 were submitted, a list of 20 strong contenders was drawn up, and then I joined the other judges - writers Helen Dunmore and Cathy Hopkins, and Brenda Gardner, publisher of Piccadilly Press - to decide on the 10 best stories, which will be published later this year by Piccadilly Press."

Martin Booth Guardian Obit.

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Martin Booth

by the poet Alan Brownjohn, containing the perplexing "Altogether Booth published 13 novels (including two he disowned, but excluding five works of fiction for children)."

One Of The Best...

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A curious bestseller - Books - www.theage.com.au

There have, of course, been many features about Mark Haddon, but this one, by Mike Shuttleworth and published in Australia's The Age, is undoubtedly one of the best.

Highly recommended

ST Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman

"...although there is much that is brutal here, it is really a cautionary tale about choice and the danger of nursing anger. This makes it a humane story that will help the cause of tolerance." NICOLETTE JONES

ACHUKA's Malorie Blackman interview update, in which she speaks about the writing of Knife Edge, will be online tomorrow, Monday Feb 16th.

Peer Reviewing

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In the wake of my letter to The Guardian and additional blog comments, I have opened a new discussion topic - Peer Reviewing - on ACHUKACHAT, to debate the following:
Does the encouraging of a critical fray amongst authors in a community as intimate as that of children's books in the UK, whilst being diverting for mediawatchers such as ACHUKA, risk damaging the geniality of children's publishing?

The pied piper of Kingston

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | The pied piper of Kingston

Massive Guardian Profile of Jacqueline Wilson by Claire Armitstead:

"The most borrowed author in UK libraries, Jacqueline Wilson has written almost 70 books for children. She began writing for teenage magazines and her success as a novelist has been built on often harrowing tales of girls surviving family breakdown and bullying, written with humour and telling detail..."

Highly Recommended - includes anecdotes from her (girl)friend since schooldays, Chris Wiltshire.

Martin Booth Obit.

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Telegraph | News | Martin Booth

"Martin Booth, the writer who died on Thursday aged 59, cast his net wide as a novelist, biographer, children's author and social historian..."

Luminous Primitive

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Review: The Cup of the World by John Dickinson

In Guardian Review Jan Mark reviews
The Cup of the World by John Dickinson

"The whole book is a luminous animation of those misleadingly termed Flemish Primitives: detailed, glowing rich and unforgettable." JAN MARK

The Review also publishes a letter from me [scroll down ot 'It's not child's play'] concerning the recent spate of negative reviews by peer group authors. It's an unsatisfactory letter, foolishly submitted late at night, and fails completely to make the point that prompted me to write - namely a concern that encouraging a critical fray amongst authors in a community as intimate as that of children's books in the UK, whilst being diverting for mediawatchers such as ACHUKA, might not be such a good idea for the general health of children's publishing.

Running Rings Round

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The woman who runs rings round Harry Potter

By Penny Wark
"Jacqueline Wilson's books for children sell at a rate of 100,000 a month and today she is Britain's most borrowed author, beating J. K. Rowling into a distant 42nd place. What is her secret? This author finds children and how they cope with problems more interesting than adults..."

Queen Of PLR

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Granny Spice becomes queen of the libraries

"Jacqueline Wilson yesterday stepped into the limelight by being crowned the queen of library borrowing.
Wilson - author of some 70 children's books- ended the romantic novelist Catherine Cookson's 17-year reign at the top of the Public Lending Right figures..."

Libraries Change Lives Award

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CILIP and the Library & information Show have announced that Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, will present the 12th Libraries Change Lives Award at this year's Library & Information Show on 21st April 2004 at ExCeL, London. Andrew Motion will talk about his work and give a short reading of his poetry.

This is the 12th year of the national award that recognises innovative and exciting work in libraries and their communities.

The winning project receives a trophy and ?4,000 prize money. The two runners-up both receive a cheque for ?1,000.

Calderdale Shortlists

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The shortlists for this year?s Calderdale Children's Book of the Year Awards are currently being read by a total of 200 children and their teachers, and all of the child judges will attend Literary Lunches at the Central Library, Halifax in June and July.

Older children will be entertained by poet Ian Macmillan, and the teenagers will meet and work with all the shortlisted authors.

The shortlists are:

Children?s Novels:
Fine, Anne The More the Merrier
Gross, Philip Marginaliens
Kennemore, Tim Sabine
McKay, Hilary Indigo?s Star
Spinelli, Jerry Loser

Teenage Novels:
Augarde, Steve The Various
Gray, Keith Malarkey
Gross, Philip The Lastling
Laird, Elizabeth A Little Piece of Ground
Rai, Bali The Crew

My Home Library Bookplate Sale

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"From 2001-2003 leading children's author Anne Fine was Children's Laureate. During that period she persuaded many of Britain's top illustrators and cartoonists to help her set up a website with scores of freely downloadable modern bookplates in both colour and black and white. The original copies of over 150 of these superb bookplates have now been donated to the Dyslexia Institute..."

They are On Sale, with prices ranging from ?50 - ?500.

Go to the Bookplate Gallery pages, and click an image to get the price.

Ultimate Guide

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I am warming to The Ultimate Book Guide [see Feb 3rd entry]. I have just read Michael Lawrence's recommendation for Five Children And It. It's so good it makes you wish that the alphabetical list of contributors at the back of the book also included page references for their contributions. I hope Michael Lawrence has written about other books, but I shall have to flip through the book to find out.
There are even times when I find the rampant shriek marks welcome, as in Hilary McKay's introduction to The Sword In The Stone. "How I envy the people who have not read this book! They have a present still to unwrap! An unexpected piece of luck! An extra holiday!" This is better than the trailing wow lines - "leaves you breathless!" "three great sequels!" "Don't miss out!" "lots of fun!" - but I now find there are fewer of these than I thought.
Oh, I've just spotted another entry by Michael Lawrence. Excuse me a moment.


Mm, OK, but not as good as his Nesbit entry. This short entry for Jill Paton Walsh's Gaffer Samson's Luck is rather more subdued. On the opposite page I see Daniel Hahn (he of the ghastly Tom Sawyer entry) writing about Frindle by Andrew Clements. Hahn has several entries in the book and I am getting a feel for his style now - familiar, informal, conversational. "I laughed loads as I read this, and really, really wanted Nick to make it. And I readily confess to a big old lump in my throat at the end..." That's good.
It makes me read the Tom Sawyer entry in a different light. That doesn't make it any better an entry, but I can hear Hahn's voice now, and it comes across as sincere and genuine - the voice of a warm-hearted advocate of children's books. I hope I haven't made an enemy of him.

Drama Queen B/F

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The film of Dyan Sheldon's Confessions of a
Teenage Drama Queen
, starring Lindsay Lohan (star of FREAKY FRIDAY) was scheduled for UK release on 13th August 2004. Its UK release will now be MAY 2004.
Walker Books will publish their tie-in edition on 3rd May and at the same time a new edition of MY PERFECT LIFE, the sequel to Confessions, in similar livery.

Lindsey Likes...

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | Critics' choice

Lindsey Fraser's selection in Guardian Education (scroll down the webpage) is Avenger by Pete Johnson:

"Gareth's narrative voice lends a credibility where the plot might have felt weakened. He is a most convincing character, his struggles plain to see. Ignore the misleading jacket image - this is a much more subtle thriller than it suggests."

Ender's Movie

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Coming Soon! - Latest News

"Variety reports that Warner Bros. and director Wolfgang Petersen have set scribes Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty to adapt the Orson Scott Card books Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow into a film Petersen will direct..."

Thai Books

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Bangkok Post Tuesday 10 February 2004 - Children's books lead retail sales market

"Children's books were the most active category in Thailand's book industry, according to data released by Se-Education Plc, the country's largest bookstore chain operator. There were 1,500 new children's books released last year..."


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JuneauEmpire.com: Books: In the Stacks: 8 books for young minds 02/08/04

"Young Adult novels and stories generally have plots aimed at mature teens and readers in their 20s, though other age groups enjoy them, too!"

Reviews of 8 YA novels.

Drama Queen

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Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen Listing at Box Office Prophets

Confessions of a
Teenage Drama Queen
US Release Date: February 20, 2004

The film is based on the popular young adult novel of the same name by Dylan Sheldon.

Observer Children's Special

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The Observer | Review | Teenage fiction: Feb 8

Kit Spring's excellent roundup of recent teenage fiction is accompanied in the Observer Children's Special by:

Stephanie Merritt on books for toddlers
Kate Kellaway on junior fiction
Kim Bunce on audiobooks

ST Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

Another thumbs-up for Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce [see, also, below]

"Written with charm and humour, this is a touching, absorbing oddity of a book about love, grief, avarice and generosity." NICOLETTE JONES


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Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

"Millions is fresh, funny, touching and wise in its portrayal of hope and human frailty. " AMANDA CRAIG The Times

see also the Times feature about the author

Under The Knife

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Skin deep

The Guardian evidently considers the best people to review children's fiction are fellow authors. As has been seen recently in reviews by Eleanor Updale and Keith Gray, authors can be surprisingly gleeeful in sticking the knife into their peers. Nicola Morgan, reviewing Knife Edge by Malorie Blackman, whilst applauding Blackman's narrative drive, jibes at her style. What I object to in a review are offhand complaints about 'trite sentences' and 'naive rhetoric' with no supporting examples.

"The power is not in the use of language, which sometimes lacks grace and Blackman too often relies on trite sentences or naive rhetoric to make a point...

... as for the ending, all I can say is that Malorie Blackman is a cruel woman. It is devastatingly powerful and I have not yet recovered."

NYT Reviews

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%u2019The Animal Hedge%u2019 and Other Children%u2019s Books

New York Times book reviews, including one of The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud...

"Potteresque plot elements are spun into surprisingly colorful cloth in this tale of an 11-year-old magician's apprentice..."

Shorter reviews on this page include one of Pirates! by Celia Rees ("well researched").

Launch Event

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The mood was exuberant at last night's launch of Malorie Blackman's Knife Edge, with the book already in the Top 10 bestsellers and reportedly the 4th fastest-selling children's book.

And all this without any of the hype and mass coverage associated with one or two other bestsellers (although this new title does have the Magnificent Mary [Byrne], seen below reading from the double-page-spread Times feature) handling its promotion This is simply a stunning sequel selling well on the basis of the quality of the first book. The new one is every bit as dramatic as Noughts And Crosses and the ending already has readers clamouring for book #3. Before that, Blackman will become one of the first UK authors to have a verse novel published (due in the autumn). We'll be talking to her about that in the forthcoming ACHUKA interview update.

Welcome to News-Journal!

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP)--Fiep Westendorp, a beloved Dutch illustrator of children's books, has died at 87, her estate said Thursday.


Song Book

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"[Lee Ann] Rimes has recently made her first foray into children's books, publishing the tale Jag with Sheremet's [her husband's] help. The couple got married in February 2002.

Jag by Lee Ann Rimes

Blood Red Horse

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Scotsman.com News - Features - Confessions of a children's author

J. M. Grant describes the process of writing and selling (to Puffin via agent Giles Gordon) her first novel, Blood Red Horse.

"I had been doing some reading up for the access course in medieval history that I take at the local Department of Adult and Continuing Education - a singularly dreary and unwieldy title for something full of vim and vigour - and I was struck by a small section in the Estoire de la Guerre Sainte, a long work by the Norman poet Ambroise about Richard the Lionheart's crusade..."

NZ Book Award Finalists

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Scoop: NZ Post Book Awards Winners Announced

Finalists Announced - New Zealand Post Book Awards For Children & Young Adults 2004

Black History Month [US]

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New children's books celebrate Black History Month

Recommendations for Black History Month [US]

"Finding children's books to celebrate Black History Month has never been easier..."

BBC - Radio 4 - Woman's Hour - Malorie Blackman

Woman's Hour talked to Malorie Blackman about her uncompromising treatment of difficult issues, and how far her writing is based on her own experiences.

There's a Listen Again link to the 8-minute interview on the BBC webpage.

Barefoot Losses & Gains

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Times Online - Newspaper Edition

I missed this feature about Barefoot Books at the wekend, in The Sunday Times:

"Barefoot Books fell into loss after a badly timed expansion into America. Now it needs to boost sales to secure a happy ending

WHEN Tessa Strickland and Nancy Traversy first met they had nothing but a vague plan to publish children's books. Just over 10 years later their company, Barefoot Books, is a ?2.9m business operating in Britain and America..."

Lindsey Likes...

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EducationGuardian.co.uk | eG weekly | Passport to the world

Lindsey Fraser's Guardian Education selection is The Ultimate Book Guide edited by Daniel Hahn and Leonie Flynn

"This is an ambitious project - annotated recommendations of over 600 books for readers aged eight to 12. Each book is recommended by a named individual, many of them well-known writers in their own right. And each recommendation is accompanied by a series of related recommendations." LINDSEY FRASER

I haven't looked carefully enough at this book to give a considered view yet, but first impressions are that the huge number of contributors (mostly well-known authors and leading names in the children's books world) produce entries that vary enormously in their usefulness.
The entry (by one of the chief editors) for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain is particularly vacuous: "... is a famous story... Oh, I didn't mention that besides being a very famous, classic story, it's also a pretty old story, written (and set) in the nineteenth century... this old, famous, classic book is also really, really good! Tom is a great hero... and Mark Twain is a very funny, lively writer..."
The tone of this suggests that the editors seriously imagine their primary audience is aged about 8 years old, whereas if there is any audience at all for a book of this kind it will be found amongst parents, teachers, librarians - all of whom are likely to find its exclamatory tone (about half the entries end with a shriek mark) annoyingly ingratiating.

I'm going to show it to my Book Group (7-11 yr olds) and will see what they think.

Paulsen's Shelf Life

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The Sagamore Online

a review of Shelf Life - a collection of short stories edited by Gary Paulsen

"In the introduction, Paulsen discusses his love for books, and how he will never forget the influential people in his life who first introduced him to reading for pleasure. The essay is emotional and describes his own experiences with literature, and how it changed his life..."

Reader Response

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Boy writes author who captured imagination

"Twelve-year-old Wesley Speer, a sixth-grader at Waldorf School of Louisville, was so moved by "The Pit Dragon Trilogy" books that he wrote author Jane Yolen, asking her to write another book in the series...."

Haddon Q & A

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Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | 'I'm flattered, amazed, deeply moved and sometimes a little dizzy'

This is an edited transcript of Mark Haddon's online Q&A with Guardian Unlimited readers, in which he answered questions about research, perseverance, painting, crisps, and what comes next...

Malorie Blackman

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Malorie Blackman is featured on Woman's Hour tomorrow (Tuesday) and there will be an interview with her in TIME Magazine, as well as further UK press coverage. The new book has a launch party this Thursday, at Strictly Hush.
ACHUKA's new interview with Malorie is due around mid-month.

Not Children's Lit., But...

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In the absence of any children's books stories this morning:

The Observer | Review | Art: Edouard the confessor

"Edouard Vuillard deserves a revival like no other French painter. He is the post-impressionist who slipped through the slats. A mild and modest bachelor whose tiny paintings, so subtle, and so beautifully mute, have an impact out of all proportion to their size," says Laura Cumming in this superb, critical review of an exhibition showing at the Royal Academy until April 18th. Cumming balances her praise of Vuillard's best work with a withering dismissal ["There are paintings I wish I'd never even seen"] of his later paintings. "The real decline is in the late portraits of plutocrats, wizened hostesses, society dentists with their drills... Aside from their repellently nubbled surfaces, these are hack works of the emptiest banality."

And in
Blowers is happy to blow the lot
cricket comentator Henry Blofeld reveals a joyfully cavalier approach to finance in The Sunday Times' normally achingly sensible Fame and Fortune slot.
What about Peps and Isas?
I don't have any and I don't understand anything about them.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt about money?
Spend it, then you don't lose it. I have never saved a penny in my life.

Lost Girls

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Contra Costa Times | 02/01/2004 | Fox allows her imagination to soar

"In December, Universal released the feature film "Peter Pan"; coming in October, Johnny Depp will be starring as the Scottish writer Barrie, with Kate Winslet as Wendy, in the biographical film "Neverland."
And then there's Laurie Fox's new novel, The Lost Girls released in January. The playful and dark take on the Pan fable captures four generations of "Wendys" who must contend with the repercussions of their short-lived adventures in Neverland."

ST Book of the Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

The Conquerors - David McKee

"As an alternative to aggressive computer games that entail killing at the simple push of a button, this succinct and warm-hearted parable could not be bettered." NICOLETTE JONES

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