September 2007 Archives

DIY Delays ACHUKA Gameplan

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Those expecting swift changes following my end of summer announcement here (blog entry September 2nd) can be forgiven for wondering when said changes will become apparent.
Bear with me. All is topsy turvy here, with bookshelves unscrewed from wall and lying forlornly on top of one another like a strange wooden wreck, with piles of new autumn releases well-nigh unreachable behind stacks of older books taken from the same shelves.
There is, I'm afraid to say, major redecoration going on here, and not before time. It's all of a piece really. Changing the home/office decor, at the same time as changing the look and direction of the website.
I have received some heartening and understanding responses via email to the New Gameplan screed, which I am going to copy into the next eLetter, as I'm aware not all subscribers routinely read the blog. The best message though came this week in the post: handwritten words of encouragement on a postcard in support of change from a major and much-admired author. It was sitting on the post table in the hall (an old church organist's bench) on top of various packages when I arrived home from a particularly trying day at school.
So much better that than a a series of nagging and forthright emails the following day from a librarian complaining about vandalism on the wiki. A wiki is a community enterprise, and it's everyone's responsibility, not just mine, to wipe the graffiti clean when they find it. Anyway, editing and changing the wiki entries is not open any more to anonymous users.

Guardian Prize Awarded This Week

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The shortlist | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

The winner of the Guardian children's fiction prize will be announced this Thursday evening.

In announcing the shortlist of four some three weeks ago, Julia Eccleshare wrote:

The judges of this year's Guardian children's fiction prize have bucked the trend for "crossover" fiction by shortlisting four books that are specifically and unequivocally written for children....

The shortlisted titles are:

Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman

The Truth Sayer by Sally Prue

The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

ST Book Of The Week

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George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking review | Children's Books - Times Online

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

George's Secret Key To The Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking

... Interspersed with colour pages of photographs and fact sheets about the planets, the story occasionally teeters on the edge of being a lecture, but mostly it is like a Dr Who adventure, inspiring curiosity and amazement.... NICOLETTE JONES

Sam Slam

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Heading for a fall | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

Nick Hornby's first novel for teenagers, Slam, is touching and convincing, says Philip Ardagh

Korky Paul Profile

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Amanda Craig meets Winnie the Witch's creator and illustrator Korky Paul

Amanda Craig profiles Winnie The Witch creator, Korky Paul

Laureate Poem

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A poem by Michael Rosen review | Children's Books - Times Online

A poem by Michael Rosen, Children's Laureate, specially commissioned for the Cheltenham Festival.

YouTube Picture Book

| No Comments | Bouncing Soul Greg Attonito's book "I Went for a Walk" video online

Greg Attonito, frontman of New Jersey punk rock act Bouncing Souls has put a complete narrated version of his new children's book called I Went for a Walk. on YouTube.

View From Dumbwaiter

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Memoir draws a picture of life behind a fairy-tale success story - The Boston Globe

Review of House Of Happy Endings, a memoir by Leslie Garis, the granddaughter of Howard and Lilian Garis, who wrote the Uncle Wiggily and Bobbsey Twins stories.

Shanville Monthly

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CBI Festival

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Children's Books Ireland

Children's Books Ireland Festival (3 - 26 Oct) events listing

Canadian Award Shortlists

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TD Canadian Children's Literature Award ($20,000)

Jan Thornhill: I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death : Maple Tree Press

Hadley Dyer: Johnny Kellock Died Today: HarperCollins Canada

Sarah Ellis: Odd Man Out : Groundwood Books

Linda Bailey: illustrated Bill Slavin: Stanley's Wild Ride : Kids Can Press

Tim Wynne-Jones : Rex Zero and the End of the World: Groundwood Books

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction ($10,000)

Barbara Greenwood: Factory Girl: Kids Can Press

Celia Godkin : Fire! The Renewal of a Forest : Fitzhenry and Whiteside

Jane Springer : Genocide: Groundwood Books

Jan Thornhill: I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death : Maple Tree Press

Herb Shoveller :Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together: Kids Can Press

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ( $10,000)

Ellen Scwartz : Illustrated Sima Elizabeth Shefrin : Abby's Birds : Tradewind Books

Melanie Watt : Augustine : Kids Can Press

Barbara Reid: Fox Walked Alone: North Winds Press/Scholastic

Melanie Watt: Scaredy Squirrel : Kids Can Press

Sara O'Leary : Illustrated Julie Morstad : When You Were Small: Simply Read Books

Catherine Jameson :Illustrated Julie Flett Zoe and the Fawn : Theytus Books

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ( $1,000)

Eva Wiseman : Kanada : Tundra Books

Connie Brummel Crook : Meyer's Rebellion : Fitzhenry and Whiteside

Janet Lunn : A Rebel's Daughter: the 1837 Rebellion Diary of Arabella Stevenson : Scholastic Canada

Penny Draper: Terror at Turtle Mountain : Coteau Books

John Wilson : Where Soldiers Lie : Key Porter Books

Snowman Hijacked

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Allan Ahlberg Feature

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Allan Ahlberg on how to get children to read - Times Online


If you want your children to love books, start them early
Allan Ahlberg, whose Funnybones will be given to all reception-class children in England gives his views on getting children to read

ST Book Of The Week

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Tamburlaine's Elephants by Geraldine McCaughrean review | Children's Books - Times Online

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

Tamburlaine's Elephants by Geraldine McCaughrean

Everything Geraldine McCaughrean touches turns to gold. After her triumphant sequel to Peter Pan, she has returned to writing in her own voice, on top form, with one of three novels about warriors by different authors published by Usborne. ...NICOLETTE JONES

Guardian Review

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Carpe diem | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

Review of Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Crying In The Dark

| No Comments Living - Film - Be very afraid of The Dark

Writing in The Scotsman, Craig Naples is depressed by the trailer for The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising:

...Susan Cooper's sequence of children's books is a subtle and slow-burning story of the struggle between the Light and the Dark which goes on just below the surface of everyday life, and weaves Arthurian, Welsh and other myths around the story of a young lad named Will from a happy, loving family in middle England. As a child, I loved these quietly terrifying pagan masterpieces, and intend to revisit them again soon.

The Seeker, on the other hand, appears to be nothing more than a swords-and-sorcery beat-'em-up about a teenage American boy who has to defeat the forces of the Dark and get a girlfriend: shoddy, violent Christian allegory. I almost cried when I saw the trailer. ..

Bags Of Books For Sale

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Popular book shop for sale - Lewes Today

Bags of Books in South Street, Lewes, has been around since 1992.

As well as being a popular choice for parents and children, it is also used by schools from all over the county.

The current owners are retiring and have put the business on the market for �89,950....


Story telling events are also held at the shop and on Wednesday (September 19), Julia Donaldson, author of the bestselling children's book the Gruffalo, is expected to take part in a booksigning session.

ST Book Of The Week

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Outcast review | Children's Books - Times Online

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

Outcast by Michelle Paver

Often dark and hallucinatory in its imagery, the book combines a crispness of style and a powerful understanding of loneliness, love, fear and friendship with a vivid landscape, while the author�s grasp of practical survival skills, born of her research and experiences in some of the world�s wildest places, make the novel both credible and gripping. NICOLETTE JONES


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Review: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

Sean French reveals the strange story behind the creation of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi L?ngstrump, one of children's literature's most enduring heroines ...

Newly Illustrated

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The Secret Garden by by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Inga Moore, and Pipp Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and Lauren Child review - Times Online

Amanda Craig reviews two classics, published with new illustrations:

It�s no surprise to learn that Child was inspired by Pippi Longstocking as a child. I still prefer The Secret Garden � it should be on the national curriculum for 8-year-olds instead of the tripe currently recommended; it should certainly be on every child�s bookshelf. Truly difficult children will, I suspect, clamour for Pippi...

We�re busy screwing up

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�Children need freedom and chaos, not tests, ticks, and smiley faces� review | Children's Books - Times Online

The Children�s Laureate tells Alice Miles and Helen Rumbelow why our schools are about management rather than learning, and why we should rip up the curriculum and start again...

A Must Read

Deakin Newsletter

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Deakin Newsletter September 2007

Andrea Deakin's online newsletter for September.

Highly Recommended

Dahl Still Top Dog

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Dahl beats Rowling as young adults' favourite author | News | Guardian Unlimited Books

The results of a survey of 16- to 34-year-olds was commissioned by ITV3 to mark its Roald Dahl weekend on September 22:

The top 10

1. Roald Dahl
2. CS Lewis
3. JM Barrie
4. JK Rowling
5. Anthony Horowitz
6. Jacqueline Wilson
7. Dr Seuss
8. Philip Pullman
9. Francesca Simon
10. Enid Blyton

The top 10
1. Roald Dahl
2. CS Lewis
3. JM Barrie
4. JK Rowling
5. Anthony Horowitz
6. Jacqueline Wilson
7. Dr Seuss
8. Philip Pullman
9. Francesca Simon
10. Enid Blyton

Rosalind Price Retires from A&U

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News Articles - BOOKSELLER PUBLISHER Online - your gateway to the Australian book industry

Rosalind Price Retires from A&U after more than 20 years as children's book publisher.

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Over-protective parents robbing children of their childhood, experts warn | the Daily Mail

Over-protective parents are warned today that they are denying youngsters a proper childhood by keeping them indoors playing video games instead of letting them outside to play. A group of almost 300 teachers, psychologists, authors and childcare experts claim the loss of unstructured play is threatening the health and well-being of a generation. They say that loosely supervised fun is crucial for keeping children active, teaching them to deal with risk and learn to get on with others... ...

The warning comes in an open letter signed by, among others, children's author Philip Pullman, childcare expert Dr Penelope Leach and Baroness Susan Greenfield, director of the Royal Institution...

ST Book Of The Week

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The Declaration review | Children's Books - Times Online

Sunday Times Children's Book Of The Week

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Malley�s unusual debut is a haunting and suspenseful page-turner about a world in which resources are running out, longevity drugs have been found so that nobody needs to die, and having a child is permitted only to those who have opted out of immortality... NICOLETTE JONES

Adele Geras Likes High Jinx

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Review: High Jinx by Sara Lawrence | Review | Guardian Unlimited Books

Adele Geras on High Jinx by Sara Lawrence

The first sentence is: "Jinx Slater lay in bed listening to Chastity Maxwell shagging the handyman," which alerts you to the sort of book it is going to be... I am sure the present staff of Roedean will read High Jinx in the way it is intended: as an affectionate, if naughty, tribute. The girls will think it's a blast.

Vivid, Pared-down Prose

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Outcast by Michelle Paver and Cottonwool Colin by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross reviews - Times Online

Amanda Craig on Outcast by Michelle Paver

Michelle Paver�s hero Torak does not so much illustrate The Dangerous Book for Boys as live it. His adventures in The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series have been thrilling from the first page, and he has become a great hero for the new generation. Orphaned in Wolf Brother when a gigantic bear killed his father, Torak befriended a wolf cub and was adopted by his friend Renn�s clan. Outcast is the fourth novel in the series, and by now Torak and Renn are teenagers.

Madeleine L'Engle - NYT Obit

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Wrinkle In Time Author Dies

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Royal Mail Scottish Award Shortlist

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The shortlist for the 2007 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books has now been unveiled.

Bath Festival

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The Bath Festival of Children's Literature

Exactly 2 weeks to go till the start of the first ever Bath Festival Of Children's Literature. The website has full details of how to book for events.

Kelpies Winner

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The 2007 Kelpies Prize winner was Hox by Annemarie Allan. The book will be published in October.

The deadline for submissions for the 2008 Prize (for books set wholly, or mainy, in contmporary Scotland for a 9 - 12 readership) is February 29th 2008.

Fuse #8 Podcast

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A Fuse #8 Production: Podcast Edition

Fuse #8 Podcast - Show #1


New Interview

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ACHUKA Interviews

ACHUKA's first interview for a while...
Jake Hope interviews Joseph Delaney....

September Shanville

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Shanville Monthly 86

Darren Shan will be revealing the title and cover of Book 6 of "The Demonata" for the first time ever at his event at the BATH FESTIVAL on Saturday, September 29th at 10.00a.m..

Julia Donaldson Webcast

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New Gameplan

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Hi, I�m back, but not quite as before.

It�s been a good break. The longest interruption since ACHUKA began, and the rest has been very enjoyable. When I posted the Summer Recess message on the Blog, Peni correctly identified a sense of fatigue. But it�s proved much more than that. I�ve known for some time that much of the work connected with the site was becoming a chore and there were fewer and fewer excitements (in the shape of new authors with genuinely individual voices and fantastic books) to compensate. Some will say that it�s just the result of being jaded, but it doesn�t seem to me that we have any author who has emerged in the past few years (I would say four or five) who can compare with the likes of David Almond, Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Kevin Brooks, Sonya Hartnett � well, the list could go on and on. Of course there are newer authors who have their followings and who are perfectly good storytellers and entertainers � Philip Reeve would be a prime example � but I get no sense of that frisson of individual genius from their work. And then there are the one or two who have been absurdly overpraised. There are always those.

I am jaded, yes. And I sense others in the children�s books world are as well.

So it is time to take stock of ACHUKA�s future.

The immediate reason for a summer recess was a short holiday to Marseille, and then a visit from family and grandchildren. It was interesting that in the brief times I had available during the grandchildren�s visit (apart from the daily grind of weeding out spam subscriptions to the forum, deleting spam entries to the wiki and clearing the achukastore cache) I remained active on Flickr - - rather than posting to ACHOCKABLOG.

I needed that longer break. I heard, just before going away, that Geraldine Brennan had left the TES. In fact, I had been on the point of telling her that I felt I needed a break from reviewing. [I stopped doing picture book reviews for Carousel six months ago. I�m undecided about continuing to do teenage fiction for The Scotsman.] For the first time, the last pieces I had done for her had felt like heavy-going. Geraldine�s role at the TES and her contribution to children�s books both in terms of commissioning reviews and attending launches and other events has been hugely significant.

I have explained before that fees paid to me for reviewing have always been counted as ACHUKA income and have played a significant part in funding the website. In the last tax year ACHUKA�s business expenses ate up all but �200 of my earning from reviewing. Without the reviewing the ACHUKA budget would therefore be a few thousand pounds in the red. To that extent, Geraldine and the TES have been bankrolling ACHUKA�s existence for the past several years.

There was a brief time a few years ago when publishers began advertising on the site, but it is ages since anyone placed a banner ad there. Everything related to the site is expense and time. Income from Amazon commissions has nosedived, as it has done mysteriously for many other Amazon affiliates.

So, just from the purely financial point of view, I need a new gameplan. That bears repetition. So, just from the purely financial point of view, I need a new gameplan.

ACHUKA has never had a business plan. There hasn�t been any time for that. [Just in case any of you don�t know, I am a fulltime deputy head of a large primary school. Back at work tomorrow.] Although, as the site grew in popularity in the early days I suppose I did envisage a time when it might slowly become profitable. I definitely daydreamed of a time when it might become profitable enough to be able to retire early from teaching and dedicate myself fulltime to the site.

Every time I attended a function in London I was secretly hoping I would bump into someone who would say, �Great little site you have there, now what you really need� �� and then proceed to give me the business plan we�ve never had.

To some extent the purpose for which ACHUKA was established no longer prevails. When I started the site 10 years ago this month there was no other UK website dedicated to children�s books. The profile of children�s books was generally low. My motivation was simple � to �big up� children�s books and their authors, with an ephasis on the teenage and young adult readership.

In the first half of that decade ACHUKA was received with open arms by publishers, authors and illustrators alike.

Now, although ACHUKA remains unique in its coverage, it is not the only site that promotes UK children�s books. So authors can be forgiven for thinking that they get plenty of coverage thank you very much and for being less than excited when their publicist suggests an ACHUKA interview. My appetite for doing author interviews on the site waned when the length of answers authors gave began to be exceeded by the length of the questions. I think if you go into the archive and read some of the early interviews and then compare them with later ones you will see the difference I�m talking about.

Increasingly, my own direct contributions to the site have been confined to the blog. I haven�t been conducting interviews. I have had to reserve my review judgements for the TES and The Scotsman. My ACHUKA time has been spent doing predominantly geeky stuff like page design and database scripting.

I want to rediscover, if possible, the early spirit of the site. There is no way this is going to be the end of ACHUKA. I have invested too much of my time in it and it has too big a dedicated audience for that.

Having had this rest I can see clearly that as the site has developed so have I attempted to do far too much, without any office staff assistance. I have, for example, tried to maintain a unique ACHUKA catalogue, comprehensive in the sense that it has included every book submitted for review. At times of spring and autumn deluge 90% of my time has been spent doing routine database entry. Free reading time, aside from commissioned review reading time, has been almost non-existent.

That is going to stop. ACHUKA will from now on only list a small selection of titles � basically, recommendations only.

I shall be writing to publishers separately to explain the new policy, so that they can make appropriate decisions about what to submit.

I produced a podcast and established a site. Both these enterprises foundered at birth through lack of response from publishers, but I�m keen to revisit and rethink both of these options.

With a new direction will come a new look. ACHUKA will be streamlined to fit its newly defined purpose.

That purpose is no longer to �big up� children�s books, but to review and comment on them as the big things and big people they already are.

For that reason the scope of ACHOCKABLOG will broaden to bring in more of my own interests alongside children�s books. Specifically, expect more coverage of poetry, photography and music.

None of which addresses the financial imperative of keeping the site functioning. No more free publicity on the eLetter I�m afraid. All event postings will have to be paid for. And contributions towards establishing a new financial gameplan for ACHUKA will be very gratefully received.

Apologies to all those whose communications with ACHUKA at the tail end of the summer were ignored. I really was in need of that rest. Do resend messages if they were important and didn�t receive a response.

Thanks for listening.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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