August 2004 Archives

Life With The Boys

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This fall, it'll be raining men

Feature about ABC's US TV adaptation of Melvin Burgess's Doing It:

ABC, however, is hoping that girls and young women will want to look very closely indeed at these men and their musings - "vile" or not. The network has adapted the controversial novel for American TV, and it will deploy it this fall on Thursdays opposite "CSI" and "The Apprentice." Now going by the less carnal title "life as we know it," it is a candid journey into the lust, the loves, and the fears of the teen male animal. It's a TV expedition into the heart of the men's locker room.


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Le Guin's 'Gifts' unwraps questions about the control or misuse of power

"To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well," says the young narrator of "Gifts," Ursula K. Le Guin's newest novel for young adults. And underlying the book's themes, including the use and misuse of power, xenophobia, and sight and blindness, are the power and necessity of storytelling.

A review of Gifts by Ursula Le Guin

A Life In Children's Books

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A Life in Children's Books includes the story of how Walter came to publish John Marsden's first book, So Much to Tell You.

It also includes anecdotes about figures such as Maurice Sendak, Alan Garner and Colin Thiele, as well as McVitty's own story, from childhood to establishing his publishing company.

Sounds like an interesting title. Can any of ACHUKA Australian readers tell us more about this book, which isn't listed on Amazon?

Predictably enough I suppose, and in keeping with the 'you-don't-know-what-you've-got-till-it's-gone' truism, it's only with the passing of the ACHUKA Events Calendar (due to security issues as previously explained) that people have begun to mail in asking about it and enquiring how they can submit information about forthcoming happenings. So, the Events Calendar is in the process of being reborn.

ST Book Of The Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

Frozen Billy by Anne Fine

Unsettling and atmospheric, this story of a young brother and sister boldly making their own fates is told in the voice of the girl with lightness and simplicity, but covers dark and complex territory before reaching its happy ending... NICOLETTE JONES

Julia Donaldson Feature

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Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Interview: Julia Donaldson

Robert McCrum writes about Julia Donaldson in The Observer:

it is part of her down-to-earth appeal that this utterly sensible fiftysomething wife and mother of three remains apparently untouched by her astonishing international success. Her contemporary verse fable about a clever little mouse who goes for 'a stroll in a deep, dark wood' and meets that fearsome fantasy creature, the Gruffalo, is one of the word-of-mouth sensations of recent years.


Mr Christie Winners

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The winners in the youngest, intermediate and oldest categories of Canada's Mr Christie Awards are, respectively (with comments by Andrea Deakin):

Jean Little (Author), Werner Zimmerman(Illustrator) ~ Pippin the Christmas Pig [North Winds Press/Scholastic]

It is Christmas. The little pig, Pippin, listens to the other animals brag about how their ancestors cared for the baby Jesus. She wants to know what the pigs did. Alas, she is firmly informed that there were no pigs there.
"The curl went out of Pippin's tail".
She creeps sadly out of the stable, seeking a place where pigs do matter.Fighting her way through a winter storm, she reaches the road where she finds a woman carrying a little girl and staggering through the snow. Pippin leads her back to the safety of the barn.
The icy blue cold, the welcoming barn in warm browns and golds, the wonderfully haughty and self-satisfied sheep, and the curl going out of Pippin's tail, are all perfectly caught with humour and sympathy in Werner Zimmerman's illustrations.

Sarah Ellis(Author) and Bruno St-Aubin(Illustrator) ~ The Several Lives of Orphan Jack [Groundwood Books]

Orphan Jack has lived for twelve years at the Opportunities School for Orphans and Foundlings. His one treasure is a battered dictionary which feeds his love of words. When the headmaster calls him into his study and tells him he is to be apprenticed to a bookkeeper he is thrilled, believing that it is a chance to work with books."Scholars and scoundrels. Volumes and villains. That will be my life," said Otherjack to himself. However he is quickly disillusioned. He cannot and will not go back to the school, so he wraps his dictionary in his second-best shirt and takes off. How is he to earn his way then? He will peddle ideas. "Toffee and tyrants," says Jack." That's the life of an ideas peddlar."
Sarah Ellis's own love of words enlivens and enriches this slyly humorous story of Orphan Jack, his beloved dictionary and his fascination with words. Bruno St-Aubin complements the light-hearted text with a witty cast of nineteenth century figures.

Martine Leavitt ~ Tom Finder [Red Deer Press]

"Tom had forgotten who he was." Tom is in Calgary, that he discovers, but he knows nothing else about himself or even how he got there. The contents of his backpack are even a mystery; but amongst them is a notebook in which he has written notes about Mozart and "The Magic Flute. He cannot remember why he has them. Firstly there is survival and it is growing late. He finds a spot in a
riverside park where he can spend the night, but morning brings a
confrontation and a rescue by Samuel Wolflegs. Wolflegs has been
praying for a "finder", someone to discover his lost son, Daniel. In Tom he feels his prayer answered and he informs Tom that he is now a Finder who must help in the quest to find Daniel.
Tom has to learn how to exist on the streets, how to use his wits. He is kept going by hope: hope that he will find Daniel, hope that he will find his parents, hope that he will find himself. As he struggles, flashes of memory return and Mozart's Magic Flute becomes more and more significant. This he learns: that he is a young man deserting his past and having to reach for his future.

Alan Garner At Home

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The History Man - Alan Garner knows every brick, tile and timber of his ancient home - The Times

It is in this medieval hall, in a room known as The Buttery, where liquor and expensive food were once stored, that Alan has written all his books. They include The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Owl Service, which won two literary prizes and was made into a television series by Granada, and his latest work, Thursbitch. Today there is no desk, computer or even typewriter, as Alan , who was appointed OBE in 2001 for services to literature, writes by hand, sitting in a low upholstered chair, his pad resting on a board on his knee.

Highly Recommended fature about Alan Garner, whose latest book Thursbitch is just out in paperback:

Dare Wright's Secret Life

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A feature about Dare Wright, subject of a new biography, The Secret Life Of The Lonely Doll: The Search For Dare Wright by Jean Nathan:


Libby Hathorn Radio Feature

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Queen of the kids - Libby Hathorn ? ABC Central West NSW

Libby Hathorn is the author of the iconic picture storybook ?The tram to Bondi Beach? and the haunting young adult novel ?Thunderwith?, set in the heart of a New South Wales semi-tropical forest, the Wallingat. Those two are only a few of her many wonderful works.

When speaking to her, the ABC?s Ellie McNamara discovered a career spanning many many years!

Links to a 7-minute radio interview...

Highly recommended

Madonna's Hospital Launch

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Madonna: Madonna launch's new children's book

Madonna has launched her new children's book by getting daughter Lourdes to read it to a group of sick youngsters.

The 46-year-old singer, who is currently on the British leg of her 're-Invention' tour, visited the children at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital and treated them to extracts from her latest novel, 'Yakov and the Seven Thieves'.

Two Drivers

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There was no entry yesterday, mainly because I was on the road most of the day, collecting son's gear from Norwich. It was only after return, slumped on the settee watching the Olympics, that I realised I hadn't bought any papers. We'd heard the news about Mark Thatcher's arrest and the two Russian plane crashes umpteen times on the car radio, so felt fairly up-to-speed with current affairs. The Times sometimes has a children's books review on a Wednesday but a quick check online suggests I didn't miss one. Perhaps someone can alert me if there was anything in the UK broadsheets yesterday that could be usefully blogged here.

My approximately less-than 400 mile return drive yesterday pales into insigificance besides the drive Neil Gaiman is taking today and tomorrow:

from Neil Gaiman's Journal:

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Driving Miss Holly
posted by Neil Gaiman 8/25/2004 10:36:54 PM

I set off very early tomorrow to drive Holly to school.

Her school is about 1300 miles away, so I don't expect we'll get there until Friday afternoon; then I'll leave her the car and fly home, in time for Maddy's tenth birthday on Saturday.

I may post our exciting adventures from the road tomorrow night. Or I may just go to sleep in whichever motel we find ourselves on the way.

Deletion Tool

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Interesting entry from Jane Yolen's Blog/Journal:

I believe that chapters have a character to them. The last two were adventure story-lets. They were about plot and movement and fighting. But this chapter hasn?t revealed itself yet so I may get no further than those two paragraphs for some while. This may turn out to be what I call a "travel chapter" in which we may learn more about hero or villain, but really I am just moving them all from one place to another. Sometimes one writes a travel chapter and then, once it is revealed to the author where everything is going, the chapter is deleted except for a paragraph or two.

The best writers know that deletion is an important tool in the Author Kit. Do not mourn words or chapters that must go. Let them go. Wave. Smile. Move on.

New Novel From SE Hinton

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MSNBC - S.E. Hinton to publish novel for adults

S.E. Hinton, best-selling author of young-adult books such as ?The Outsiders? and ?Rumblefish,? will publish her first novel in 16 years next month.

Hawkes Harbor, Hinton's first new book in sixteen years, is being marketed for adults.

Snicket Film Set

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New York Daily News - Entertainment - Fall Movie Preview: Gothic gone mad

News from the Lemony Snicket film set...

"The sets had to have their own reality and sense of place," [designer, Rick Heinrichs] adds, "so we mixed turn-of-the-century architecture and Edwardian-style costumes and parked a 1950s fin-tail limousine next to a 1980s Czech minicar. We wanted to make sure the audience didn't know where they were, or when they were."

Daily Mirror Poll

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THE Famous Five tales of happy adventure beat epics such as Treasure Island and Lord of the Rings in a poll to find the top children's book... ...

Mr Christe Awards Shortlists

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2003 Mr. Christie's Book Awards (announced 2004)

7years and under

Aubrey Davis(author), Du?an Petričić (Illustrator) ~ Bagels from Benny [Kids Can Press]
Susin Nielsen-Fernlund(Author), Louise-Andr?e Lalibert? (Illustrator) ~ Hank and Fergus [Orca Book Publishers]
Jean Little (Author), Werner Zimmerman(Illustrator) ~ Pippin the Christmas Pig [North Winds Press/Scholastic]
Chieri Uegaki(Author), St?phane Jorisch(Illustrator) ~ Suki's Kimono [Kids Can Press]

8-11 years

Tim Wynne Jones (Author), Du?an Petričić (Illustrator) ~ Ned Mouse Breaks Away [Groundwood Books]
Val Ross (Author), Terri Nimmo(Illustrator) ~ The Road to There [Tundra Books]
Sarah Ellis ( Author), Bruno St-Aubin (Illustrator) ~ The Several Lives of Orphan Jack [Groundwood Books]

12 years and up

Janet McNaughton ~ An Earthly Knight [Harper Trophy]
Kevin Major(Author), David Blackwood(Illustrator) ~ Ann and Seamus [Groundwood Books]
Martine Leavitt ~ Tom Finder [Red Deer Press]

ST Book Of The Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

Nicolette Jones commends Michelle Paver's Wolf Brother, especially for its compactness:

The relationships and setting are persuasively described and the fantastical spirits and demons are woven into a plausible belief system based on natural forces. And, unlike many recent fantasies, at 215 pages it isn?t dauntingly long. NICOLETTE JONES

Horowitz Adult Book Review

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Times Online - Sunday Times

A review of Anthony Horowitz'a adult novel, The Killing Joke, described on Amazon as "A darkly comic thriller in the tradition of Jasper Fforde and Ben Elton".

Animal Tales

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Who's telling tails?

A one-page piece from Guardian Weekend Magazine.

The Fanous Four alliterates just as well, but few young readers question Timmy the dog's right to be counted as a fully-fledged member of the Famous Five.

Billboard Campaign

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Scholastic are to spend ?40,000 (Publishing News reports) on promoting Philip Reeve in the UK's ten most popular shopping malls by means of one hundred billboard panels. Gavin Lang is quoted (PN) as saying, 'This is part of an ongoing campaign to build Philip Reeve's profile in time for the launch of the third book, Infernal Devices." However, Reeeve's fans have to wait until next spring for that title.

StoryQuest 2004

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Official website of Storyquest 2004, a programme of festival events in the autumn launched by children's laureate Michael Morpurgo earlier this week. The events, aimed at parties of schoolchildren, have apparently sold out already. The website will in due course hald an 'audio archive' as well as other resources, so it's worth bookmarking.

The Wolf Within

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Times Online - Books

Amanda Craig reviews Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver and The Pack by Tom Pow...

Inside every child lives a wild thing, which parents fear and society tames. Wolves haunt the footsteps of fairytales as the incarnation of all we both fear and yearn, like Angela Carter?s Tiger Bride, to return to. To Michelle Paver and Tom Pow, however, the wolf or feral dog is the ideal friend: brave, honest, fearless and a mortal enemy to your foes.

Amanda Craig also had a lead two-page feature published in the Telegraph's Saturday Books Supplement. Called 'Monster Love' it was about Julia Donaldson's and Axel Scheffler's bestselling picture-book, The Gruffalo, and its sequel, The Gruffalo's Child.

Australian Awards

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The Australian: Looking for new brand of success [August 21, 2004]

Released last year, [Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta] has already sold 60,000 copies, and yesterday in Hobart was named Book of The Year for older readers by the Children's Book Council of Australia.

See also Jane Sullivan on this and the other Children's Book Council of Australia Award winners....

Peter Pan Sequel Sought

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Enjoyment - The Independent

The trustees at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, which was given the copyright to Peter Pan by J M Barrie in 1929, is offering authors the opportunity to write a sequel. Using the same characters, they will be asked to update and develop the story for a new book, which promises to generate substantial cash for the hospital's work.

Donnelly Back In the UK

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ic Huddersfield - Prize-winning writer visits village library

"Ms Donnelly will be flying in from New York for events in London and Edinburgh, stopping overnight in Huddersfield..."


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Puffin Books have announced the official title of the first Young Bond novel by Charlie Higson. The title, which until today had been kept a closely guarded secret, will be SILVERFIN.

Puffin acquired the rights from Ian Fleming Publications Ltd, owners of the James Bond literary copyright, last Spring and will be publishing SILVERFIN in March 2005.

10 Yr-Old's Boogers Book

| No Comments | No TrackBacks | Life | Born to be the author known as booger boy

Michael McDermott, 10, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., is on his way to fame as the author of "Boogers are Blessings."

Planning The Journey

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How can our children learn reading is magic? - Opinion -

Setting children off on the wonderful journey of reading requires careful planning, writes Anna Ciddor, in this Australian article...

Michael Rosen's Missing Mail

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Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Michael Rosen: The mystery of the vanishing parcels

I noticed that on the torn envelope there was a ParcelForce sticker, so I rang ParcelForce and told them. Can you read me the number, the person asked. I read the number. They said that it wasn't a ParcelForce number. But it was the number on the ParcelForce label. Yes, they said, but that's a Royal Mail number, you need to ring Royal Mail. So I rang someone else at Royal Mail and explained that the envelope had a ParcelForce sticker on it but the number on the sticker wasn't a ParcelForce number. I read them the number. No, said the man, that's a ParcelForce number. I threw the envelope away.

JK At Edinburgh

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CBBC Newsround | SCI TECH | JK reveals Potter titbits at show

CBBC report of J K Rowling's appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival...

Full transcript of the Q&A session, introduced by Lindsey Fraser

David Robinson's report in The Scotsman

There're Adults In The House

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An article that takes a positive look at adult authors' adventures in the children's market:

"...plenty of good children's literature is being produced by these scions of adult best-seller lists.

With that in mind, here's a list of some recent "Children's Lit" titles by big-name writers that stand out from the crowd..."

ST Book Of The Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

Thora by Gillian Johnson

This is a book full of fun, with particular appeal for children who relish language and verbal jokes and are interested in precise meanings. NICOLETTE JONES

Shadow Of The Wind

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Capturing the winds of change - Books -

Feature about Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon, previously author of YA novels, and his latest novel, The Shadow Of The Wind, translated by Lucia Graves (Robert Graves' daughter):

Arlo's Mooses

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NPR : Arlo Guthrie Writes a Children's Book

Daniel Pinkwater on US public radio, discussing Arlo Guthrie's children's book Mooses Come Walking...

Bookseller's Bloomsbury Book

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BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Bookseller's debut novel hailed

"A bookshop worker is being tipped for success with her debut novel after signing a deal with a major publisher..."

Whispering To Witches by Anna Dale

Telegraph | News | Sir Robert Jennings

"Robbie Jennings, who died on August 4, married, in 1955, Christine Bennett, with whom he had a son and two daughters, one of whom is Pippa Goodhart, the children's author."

Anthony Horowitz Feature

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"Anthony Horowitz put his unhappy childhood behind him to create the junior spy Alex Rider. Now, he tells Barry Forshaw, he's turned his attention to adult fiction..."

Highly Recommended feature from The Independent

Growing Reputation

| No Comments | No TrackBacks - Press Release "Award-winning children's author takes OSU post": News and information from Bend, Oregon

Feature about US author Deborah Hopkinson

Hopkinson is enjoying a growing reputation in the children's literature field. Last month, her book, "Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York," was named an honor book for the 2004 James Madison Book Award. This portrait of immigrant life was also honored by the National Council of Teachers of English, and was a notable book by at least two other education groups.

Neil Gaiman Feature

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Comic Book Resources - CBR News - The Comic Wire


Judith Kerr On Love

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What does life tell us about love? This week: Judith Kerr

'JUDITH KERR, 80, is the creator of the children?s character Mog the cat and author of the children?s classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. Next month she and her husband, the scriptwriter Nigel Kneale (known to his family as Tom), celebrate their golden wedding... ...

I started drawing and writing the books when the children were learning to read. Mog was our cat then ? we have had eight, and all of them are buried in the garden. When Matthew was 8 he saw The Sound of Music and said ?now we know what it was like when Mummy was a little girl?. I wanted him to know what it was really like, so I wrote When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit...

Speedboat By The Sea

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The Observer | Magazine | Raffaella Barker, Stiffkey Beach, Norfolk coast

Today I have been mainly reading...
Phosphorescence by Raffaella Barker

and enjoying it immensely, as a book that captures both the external and the internal life of its main character with equal success. So I did a quick websearch and found this Observer Magazine profile from back at the end of June...

Raffaella Barker's most recent Country Life column...

Early Years Awards Shortlists

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Booktrust have announced the shortlists for the 2004 Early Years Awards:

Baby Book Award - shortlist
Ten Little Fingers by Annie Kubler (Child's Play)
Go Wild With?Opposites by Neal Layton (Chrysalis Children?s Books)
Rainbow Colours by DK Team (Dorling Kindersley)
Hush Little Ones by John Butler (Little Orchard)
I love you! by Beth Harwood & Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing)
Things That Go by Fiona Watt & Rachel Wells (Usborne Publishing)

Pre School Award ? shortlist
No More Teasing! by Emma Chichester Clark (Andersen Press) Halibut Jackson by David Lucas (Andersen Press) My Flower, Your Flower by Melanie Walsh (Eden Project)
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children?s Books)
Wriggle and Roar! by Julia Donaldson & Nick Sharratt (Macmillan Children?s Books)
Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough (Walker Books)

Best New Illustrator ? shortlist
Hamish the Highland Cow by Natalie Russell (Bloomsbury Children?s Books)
The Lady Who Lived in a Car by Suzanna Hubbard (Chrysalis Children?s Books)
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers (Collins Children?s Books)
Polly and the North Star by Polly Horner (Orion Children?s Books)
Captain's Purr by Madeleine Floyd (Orion Children?s Books)
A Lovely Day for Amelia Goose by Yu Rong (Walker Books)

The judges are: Wendy Cooling, Children?s Book Consultant; Sarah Brown, consultant at Brunswick Arts, and married to Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Annette Faamausili, a Nursery Nurse; Giles Harrison, a Children's Librarian; Catherine Anholt, who has produced more than 90 bestselling children's books; and Ken Wilson-Max, creator of several award-winning picture books.

The winner for each category will be announced in an Awards Ceremony in London on the evening of 29 September 2004.

Top News Article |

"The Village," the latest thriller by Shyamalan, took in $50.8 million at the box office in its first weekend, the best opening this year for Disney, which has failed to produce any other major hits.

The film, which slipped to second place last weekend, has grossed $85.6 million. Last week reports circulated that its plot and surprise ending parallel Margaret Peterson Haddix's first book "Running Out of Time," published in 1995.

Both Haddix and her US publishers, Simon & Schuster, are reported to be considering their legal options.

NZ Book Awards

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Entertainment News - Shortlist for Library Assoc children's book awards announced

"The [New Zealand] Library Association celebrated the launch of its Library Week today with the release of a shortlist for its annual children's book awards..."

Edinburgh Book Festival

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Edinburgh International Book Festival What's On

Browse the programme and book tickets online:

Click on the link and you'll be able to
Find Events
All events by:- Adult events by:- Children events by:-
Changed / Sold out

although when I tried searching the events by 'Children's author' I was given a combined adults/children's author listing which was not all that helpful - so it would appear the site needs to do some work on their search filtering code.

Front Row Alert

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Meg Rosoff, author of How I Live Now, is featured on this coming Thursday's edition of BBC Radio's arts programme, Front Row:

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff
Front Row Thursday, 12 August@7.15pm / BBC RAdio 4


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Guardian Unlimited Books | By genre | Calm down, dear...

think there is room for development in this area. Children are really interested in the bigger questions of life and how they fit into the world around them. Maybe that goes with coping with things like peer pressure and branding from a much earlier age. Maybe now they do need active support below the age of 10

Caroline Horn of The Bookseller, quoted in this Observer article about children's books that use the language of self-help, such as Nightlights: Stories for You to Read to Your Child - To Encourage Calm, Confidence and Creativity

ST Book Of The Week

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

A Coyote's In The House by Elmore Leonard

The story amounts to a smart, funny satire on Hollywood and a study of the nature of freedom, making fine use of the comic potential of balancing animal and human characteristics. NICOLETTE JONES

More Praise For Meg Rosoff

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Times Online - Books - After The Apocalypse

Amanda Craig's summation:

How I Live Now is outstanding ? as a commentary on contemporary problems, as a superb story of love and war, and as a way of introducing those on the threshold of adulthood to the perils and passions of moral responsibility.

Immediate Classic

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Guardian Unlimited Books | Review | Life, love and a glimpse of death

"Even in the competitive field of children's literature, Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now is an immediate classic. Julie Myerson tumbles into its thrall... ..." [the phrase 'tumbles into its thrall' is not, as you may suppose, mine, but The Guardian's]

Julie Myerson's review of How I Live Now is a good example of the rapture with which Meg Rosoff's novel is being greeted, and a measure of how out on a limb I am in my own very different critical assessment [see entry for August 1st]. Myerson is an adult novelist, reviewer and columnist, and regular contributor to Newsnight Review, the BBC's weekly review roundtable, so her enthusiasm for the book will help sell copies with the book's potential adult readership.

"If E Nesbit were alive and well and had teamed up with Philip Roth to write for children, there's a chance they might have come up with How I Live Now," Myerson suggests. There's something strange and wonderful about the reading process (as we all know) if it can produce such different responses as Myerson's and mine, but quite how Meyerson makes the connection between the sharply intelligent and often offensively satirical work of Philip Roth and a book as mushily romantic as How I Live Now is beyond me.

NYT Reviews

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The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > 'The Ugly Truckling' and Other Children's Books

The second page of these Ne York Times children's books reviews includes a review of The Tales Of Tales by Tony Mitton and Peter Bailey...

Eight Afternoons

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Julie Burchill, interviewed by Graham Marks in the current edition of Publishing News, calims to have written her teenage novel, Sugar Rush, "in about eight afternoons".

Anniversary Editions

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Townsville Bulletin: BBC to bring Aussie classic alive [ 05aug04 ]

"FIVE years after the deal-making began, the producers of a 26-part television version of the Australian children's book classic Animalia have reached the final stages of negotiations with the BBC... ..."

The UK produces wonderful children's literature. But too often our Young Adult or Teenage fiction disappoints in comparison with American and Australian fiction. For that reason, it's always especially pleasing to welcome a fresh, authentically YA voice, as it was a year or so ago when Kevin Brooks arrived with Martyn Pig. I greeted that book, in a phrase understandably seized on by Brooks' publicists, as 'the most exciting new voice since David Almond'. Catherine Forde's first book for Egmont, Fat Boy Swim, was good, but not sufficiently distinctive to be welcomed in those terms. But with her new book, SKARRS, she stakes her claim to be considered the most exciting new UK YA voice since Kevin Brooks.

The book bursts open with a brief vignette in a barber's shop then quickly segues into the first of many substantial scenes in the novel - the funeral of the main character's grandfather. The male voice is immediately compelling, brimming with surly adolescent obnoxiousness but also filled with a compensating energy and sense of being his own (young) man:

It cracks me up knowing my Old Dear is fizzing with me, but has to play things genteel, ladling out her disapproval in semaphore and hisses because we're in church.
'Danny! You're late. Ssssstraighten that tie!'
My Old Dear's jabby index finger stilettos my arm while she fires daggers with her eyes. It's some feat: blowing an invisible gasket while you're smiling piously for the sake of mourners you hardly know. Up folk troop, tapping the Old Dear on the shoulder, whispering sympathetic claptrap in her lug.

The grandfather, though buried at the start of the book, remains a main character throughout, courtesy of interviews he has given to Danny's best (ex) friend, Richard, in the last fortnight of his life. I felt uneasy about these extracts early on. The device of inveigling the experience of older characters into a novel by means of (oh, yes) a history project has been used rather too often by children's novelists and I feared that something similar was happening here. To begin with, the wartime prisoncamp memories of the grandfather seem somewhat divorced from the main action, and this was another worry, but Forde modulates the development of the grandfather's story very cleverly and smoothly so that during the second half of the book the extracts are beginning to drive the novel's momentum.

Young Danny's love of The Skarrs - a rock band intent on provoking outrage via their racist lysrics - is a studied affront to his father, who loves the great and good music of the 1960s and 1970s and has a vintage vinyl collection, which becomes the focus of Danny's decline, as he allows a so-called mate to ransack it, flog some prize items, and buy drugs with the proceeds.

This is a family drama and so, outside of the grandfather's remembered prisoncamp experience, the events are lowkey. Being expelled from school is as bad as it gets. But what makes the book so powerful is the quality of the dialogue. At the book's launch, Forde, in staged conversation with Graham Marks, revealed that she hones the dialogue very carefully and reads it aloud over and over to test it out. The care and attention she pays to this aspect of her craft pays off, because the characters - the loathsome Jakey, the principled and highly-together Richard, the Old Dear, all of them - jump off the page with the immediacy of a really good, gritty TV drama. Indeed, the book cries out for tele-treatment: great cast opportunities for young and old, wonderful sountrack potential.

One of the tests of a gifted writer is the degree to which they write just as well about the incidental aspects of their plot as they do about the main narrative. Danny's attraction towards Ali Patel, Richard's girlfiend, an area in which (without wishing to give too much away) he makes less progress than in other aspects of his life, is excellently observed.

SKARRS is a first-rate novel. Read it. Then recommend it.

Eye Off

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Sex Comes To Storytime

My eye was off-the-ball, so to speak, at the weekend and I didn't spot this Sunday Times reprint of an article by Rachel Johnson originally published in The Spectator.

Our thanks for pointing it out go to Malachy Doyle, one of whose novels provides Johnson with a suitable scatalogical opening quote...

Lilian Moore Obit.

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The New York Times > Books > Lilian Moore, 95, Who Wrote Books for Children, Is Dead

Lilian Moore, a writer of books for children, a poet and an editor who helped make children's books more affordable and worked to combat racial stereotypes in children's literature, died July 20 at her home in Seattle, said her son, Jonathan. She was 95.

Killing Fields

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Times Online - Sunday Times

Sunday Times Children's Book of the Week

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Rossoff achieves a remarkable feat. Without wavering from the lightness and irony of Daisy?s narrative tone, she recounts a story of intense, underage first love, and of a war that turns England?s country lanes into killing fields. NICOLETTE JONE

The more I reflect on my own reading of this novel, the more I am amazed by the critical euphoria generated by its publication. "Daisy has a sassy and cynical voice, and is determined to be cool," observes Jones. This is true of the start of the book, but the voice changes as the book proceeds, and it shouldn't, because it purports to be a story told in retrospect. The inclusion of the first chapter is an error because its closing 'And so here's what happened' means that the rest of the book should be narrated in a consistent voice. But there's no way a reader can square "The air was suffocating, charged, the hungry plants sucking at the earth with their ferocious appetites" from p173, with the voice at the start of the novel. In her review, Jones describes Edmond's family as 'unconventional', 'eccentric'. Edmond is unconvincing as a character, a bizarrely anachronistic Brideshead type who could only exist in dreamy romantic reveries of the female mind. Indeed, the 'love' affair reads like the sort of erotic female fantasy that might go on behind closed eyes on a summer's afternoon while sunbathing on the beach. Worse still, the violence - the "war that turns England?s country lanes into killing fields" as Jones's review sees it - is a queasy-inducing continuation of this romantic fantasy, in which death and injury become merely decorative. "And so, after all this time, we're together, Edmond and I." This sentence, on p185, the book's penultimate page, says it all really, with its doleful 4-beat cadence. How I Live Now is mawkish romantic fiction that commandeers the contemporary fear of terrorism and war to make itself appear something zeitgeisty and fresh.

As Strong As Ever

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North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Enthusiastic US review of The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer

Colfer's characters and setting are as strong as ever. So is the story, with plenty of black humor and reverse twists. Colfer's rapid-response combat lawyers and paralegals ---- airborne attack attorneys ---- alone make it worth the read.

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