August 2010 Archives

Guardian First Book Award - the longlist


Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt (Fig Tree)

Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)

Things We Didn't See Coming by Steven Amsterdam (Harvill)

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman (Cape)

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed (HarperCollins)


Bomber County: The Lost Airmen of World War Two by Daniel Swift (Hamish Hamilton)

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz (Portobello)

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper by Alexandra Harris (Thames & Hudson)

Curfewed Night: A Frontline Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir by Basharat Peer (HarperCollins)


The Floating Man by Katharine Towers (Picador)

Claire Armitstead (chair) will be joined on the judging panel by the artistic director of the ICA, Ekow Eshun, the author Adam Foulds, the biographer Richard Holmes, the actor Diana Quick, the Guardian's deputy editor, Kath Viner, and Stuart Broom from Waterstone's, who will represent the views of five reading groups hosted in Waterstone's bookshops around the country.

The shortlist for this year's prize will be announced in late October, with the winner revealed at the beginning of December.

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New Sections

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There are going to be two significant new sections on ACHUKA.

A selection of the most interesting new adult titles, focusing on Art, Photography and Poetry.

And a section in which we will be helping small independents and self-publishing authors and artists to promote their work.

I shall welcome suggestions and recommendations for both the new sections.

For a preview of the redesigned entrypage go to:

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Guardian Review

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Guardian Review

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 
reviewed by Patrick Ness

Almost fatally, Zafón never properly defines The Prince of Mist's powers - an omnipotent and all-powerful villain is paradoxically less threatening than one who has to operate within rules - and the book's climax, in particular, doesn't bear a lot of scrutiny.

There's also a startlingly old-fashioned approach to the prose. The opening line - "Max would never forget that faraway summer when, almost by chance, he discovered magic" - is so musty, you want to wipe it with a damp cloth, and the nostalgia is always just on the wrong side of stodgy to ever feel quite timeless. Besides, who would this nostalgia be for? Children aren't necessarily going to care for pastiches of wartime children's literature. They're more likely to wonder if there really were home movie cameras back then portable enough for a seven-year-old to use (I'm guessing probably not).

Once The Prince of Mist gets moving, though, Zafón's real strength shines through: chills. There are some genuinely, deliciously scary sequences that will thrill young readers, particularly if they, like me, have a thing about clowns. And by "thing about", I mean "terrified hatred of". The unevenness here is probably that of a first-time novelist finding his feet, but there are treats enough for an enjoyable read. PATRICK NESS

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Nosy Crow Sales & Distribution

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Nosy Cropw announced earlier this week that they have appointed Bounce! Sales and Marketing as their UK and export sales agency. Bounce! will start selling Nosy Crow books immediately, in time for the publication of the first batch of titles in January 2011.

Bounce! is a specialist children's agency who sell books for several children's book publishers, including Templar and Piccadilly Press.

Grantham Book Services (GBS) has been selected as Nosy Crow's distributor.

Laure Atkins writes:

Children's literature has always courted controversy, from eighteenth-century debates concerning the dangers of fairy tales to publications of the last fifty years­­--such as Falling (1995) by Anne Provoost or Doing It (2003) by Melvin Burgess--that further challenge notions of what is suitable reading material for young readers. Nor can children's authors stand aside from the conflicts and political debates of their age, since these will resonate at some level in all writing for the next generation.  This conference will address controversial subject matter in children's fiction; the fictional coverage of national and international conflicts, and question any lingering assumptions that children's literature is, or should be, apolitical.

The conference will include keynote presentations by well-known writers, publishers and academics. Proposals are welcomed for workshop sessions (lasting about 20 minutes) on the following or other relevant issues/areas from any period in the history of international children's literature:

  • representations of war - from a historical perspective, or thinking about the way in which children's book engage with contemporary/ongoing conflicts;
  • generational conflict - an area of conflict that has been explored throughout the history of children's literature and that crosses literary form and genre;
  • sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll:  counterculture in children's literature;
  • the engagement with gender/sexuality in books for young people;
  • depictions of violence - in prose fiction, picture books or graphic novels;
  • the way in which  books challenge or subvert prevailing constructions of childhood;
  • dystopian children's literature;
  • controversies ensuing from perceived tensions between authors' lives/biographies and their child audience;
  • breaking formal boundaries - considering alternative narrative forms such as experimental novels or picture books; electronic narratives; fan fiction etc.;
  • historical perspective and its impact on the subversive/controversial nature of children's literature - the way in which ideological shifts can generate new readings or/ reactions to children's books;
  • controversies thrown up at different points in the history of children's literature;
  • the multifarious ways in which children's literature has engaged with religious or political issues;
  • the ways in which children's literature has broken/challenged boundaries, traditions and taboos.

We welcome contributions from interested academics and others researchers in any of these areas. Brief accounts of the papers that are presented at the conference will be published in the Spring 2011 issue of IBBYLink, the journal of British IBBY.

The deadline for proposals is 31st August  2010. Please email a 200-word abstract (for a 20-minute paper), along with a short biography and affiliation to Laura Atkins:

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Beijing International Book Fair - Digitization

Sales of ebooks and digital products flew dramatically last year, hitting some 80 billion RMB ($11.8 billion) in 2009 - up from 50 billion RMB ($7.35 billion USD) in 2008. It still represents less than 10% of the overall book market, which is valued at just over a trillion RMB ($150 billion USD).

E-readers in particular have become a hot product. As reported here last month, Shanda Literature Group -- the country's largest digital publisher -- released heir first dedicated e-reader, the Bambook.

In May, China Mobile -- the world's largest cell phone carrier -- announced that it was building China's largest online digital bookstore. The company plans to offer its subscribers 3G wireless access to online publications including digital books, comics, newspapers and magazines -- some 60,000 titles in all -- and hopes to attract some 200 million users over the next five years.

Earlier, in April, China Publishing Group -- the country's largest traditional publisher -- and Shanghai Century Publishing Group also released their own e-readers.

To get a sense of the pace of growth, consider just one ereader manufacturer: Hanwang. In 2009, Hanwang reported total sales of 270,000 e-readers; this year, the company nearly matched the number in sales in the first quarter alone and expects total units to surpass a million by the end of the year.

Digitization is pushing publishing into "a new historical period" and offering "unprecedented opportunities, according to Sun Shoushan, deputy director of China's General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), who made the remarks earlier this year

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It's A Book - Booktrailer

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Kelpies Prize 2010 - The Winner

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Floris Books press release....

Scottish publisher Floris Books yesterday revealed that Aberdeenshire author Caroline Clough is the
winner of their annual Scottish children's fiction prize, the Kelpies Prize. The announcement was
made at a packed ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival attended by representatives
from all aspects of Scotland's lively literary scene.
The Edinburgh-based publisher re-launched the Kelpies Prize in 2004 with support from the Scottish
Arts Council, now part of Creative Scotland, to encourage and reward Scottish writing for children.
Caroline received a cheque for £2,000 on the night (see attached photograph). Her book will become
the latest release in the Kelpies range published on 21st October 2010.
Scottish children's author Gill Arbuthnott, whose debut novel was published by Floris Books,
presented the award. In her speech Gill gave her advice to would-be authors, whose greatest
challenge, she has found, is not having ideas but actually writing. She advised that sometimes the
only option is to "feed the kids pot noodles, lock them in a cupboard and never do any housework."
A shocked Caroline said that she was "thrilled to bits" about winning the prize. She also revealed
that she had almost missed out on submitting an entry to the prize as she only became aware of
the award's existence shortly before the deadline. The judges were very impressed to hear that
Caroline was so determined to submit an entry that she wrote her novel in just ten days.
Originally from Yorkshire, Caroline has lived in Aberdeenshire for nearly 30 years. As well as writing,
she also directs and produces short films. Red Fever will be her first published novel.
"We had several excellent entries this year", commented Sally Martin, Commissioning Editor for
Floris Books. "But Red Fever stood out for its originality, atmospheric writing, and its vivid depiction
of life on the Aberdeenshire coast in a post-apocalyptic world. We are thrilled to be publishing Red
Fever and to welcome Caroline Clough as a new author to the Kelpies list."
The other shortlisted authors were Elizabeth Spalton, author of Operation Bonobo which is set in
Dumfries and Galloway, and Ritske Rensma, author of The Angel Ashariel, who flew in from his
home in the Netherlands to attend the ceremony.

Kelpies Prize 2011
Manuscripts are now invited for submission to the Kelpies Prize 2011. They must be set wholly, or
mainly, in Scotland and be suitable for children aged 8 to 12. They may not have been previously
commercially published, although the author may have been. The judges are looking primarily for
a cracking story with strong characters, believable dialogue and a compelling atmosphere. The
deadline is 28 February 2011. For full rules and guidelines, see

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Guardian Review

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Guardian Review

Ronnie's War by Bernard Ashley
reviewed by Marcus Sedgwick

Reading for life: Comp

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Reading for Life Comp

The National Literacy Trust's Reading for Life website is currently running a Win 8 Books competition - entry deadline is the end of August.

Lucy Christopher talking about her "lighter, younger" second novel, Flyaway

Recommended interview with author of Stolen

Observer Review - Teenage Fiction

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Observer Review - Teenage Fiction

Summer reading for teenagers, reviewed by Geraldine Brennan

The Radleys by Matt Haig

This joint crossover publishing venture by Walker and Canongate (£10) is a witty introduction to present-day vampire lore, set in a North Yorkshire village. Mr and Mrs Radley are abstinent vampires bringing up their children to deny their heritage and avoid their uncle Will, an unreformed bloodsucker who stocks up on his preferred nutrient at a Manchester nightclub. For the young Radleys, vampirism is a blessed relief from the travails of adolescence. Highly recommended. GERALDINE BRENNAN

Observer Review - Fiction

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Observer Review - Fiction

Summer books for older children, reviewed by Olivia Laing

It was inevitable that Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist who also breeds racehorses, would at some point turn her hand to a pony book. After all, she's experimented with pretty much every other genre going, from satire to romance to full-blooded tragedy, and the sound of hooves resounds through almost all of them. Nobody's Horse (Faber £6.99) tells the story of Abby Lovitt, the 12-year-old daughter of a fundamental Christian horse dealer. She's not supposed to get attached to the animals that come and go in their Californian yard, any more than she's supposed to learn about evolution or cheek her parents, but that's not an easy rule to follow when you spend every day in the saddle.

Abby's a brilliant heroine; self-possessed, moral and permanently on the verge of major trouble. Serious riders will appreciate the training tips - including a thorough debunking of a famous scene from The Horse Whisperer - but even those immune to the lure of the stable will empathise with the trials and tribulations of being a seventh grader. It's not always easy to switch from adult to children's fiction, but Smiley makes it look effortless. OLIVIA LAING

Observer Review - Picture Books

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Observer Review

Picture books for young children, reviewed by Kate Kellaway

The Fly by Petr Horáček (Walker £10.99) is an irresistible, eye-catching book with a curving loop-the-loop signature, a fly path. The fly launches himself jubilantly, spoiling this only with a rueful postscript: "People don't like me being in the house." He is immaculately drawn, with recognisably repellent diaphanous wings and scarlet proboscis. A convincing day-in-the-life develops: confrontations with a fly swat, a dizzying encircling of a lightbulb, a close encounter with an iced cake. This story may have the unwelcome effect of making children housefly-friendly, but enjoy: it has the wittiest ending - begging the reader not to slam the book shut and make its hero history. KATE KELLAWAY

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Booktrrst Early Years Awards Shortlists

Best Book for babies under one-year-old

Goodnight Buster by Rod Campbell
Happy Snappy (Mr Croc) by Jo Lodge
Hop a Little, Jump a Little by Annie Kubler
I Love My Mummy by Giles Andreae, illus. Emma Dodd
That's Not My Tiger by Fiona Watt, illus. Rachel Wells
Who's in the Garden? by Phillis Gershator, illus. Jill McDonald

Best Picture Book for pre-school children up to five years of age

Ernest by Catherine Rayner
The Fox in the Dark by Alison Green, illus. Deborah Allwright
Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High by John Fardell
The Night Iceberg by Helen Stephens
One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell
Sing a Song of Bottoms by Jeanne Willis, illus. Adam Stower

Best Emerging Illustrator of a book

Birdsong by Ellie Sandall
The Django by Levi Pinfold
Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp, illus. by Sara Ogilvie
Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara
Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High by John Fardell
The Talent Show by Jo Hodgkinson

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New Sci-Fi Series

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Orchard Books has announced the acquisition of INTERFACE, described as "a high-octane, high-concept series that pulls readers into a virtual world with its own rules." The concept has been created by former Chorion Senior Vice President, Jeff Norton and will be written under the pseudonym Ryan Hunter.

Sarah Levison, Senior Commissioning Editor for Orchard Books, has brokered a four-book deal for World English Language rights with Nancy Miles at the Miles Stott Children's Literary Agency.

Book one in the series will be launched in spring 2012.

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What A Wonderful Piece This Is!

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The parent trap: art after children

Is the pram in the hallway the enemy of good art? Frank Cottrell Boyce, novelist, screenwriter and father of seven, makes the case for chaos...

Real creativity should feel like a game, not a career. Having to hang out the washing or get up and make breakfast helps you remember that your "work" is actually fun. And for it to stay fun, you have to be unafraid of failure. It's very powerful to be surrounded by people who love you for something other than your work, who are unaware of the daily, painful fluctations of your reputation. I discovered recently that my youngest child thought I spent my days typing out more and more copies of my book Millions, so that everyone could have one.

Isn't that priceless?

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