Thursday, 25 June 2009

Carnegie & Greenaway Medal Winners Announced

What a fabulously sunny day for taking a trip up to London, heading to BAFTA on Piccadilly and enjoying the reception and announcement for the CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Children's Book Awards 2009.

With a strong shortlist this year for both awards it was always going to be difficult to choose the winners. This award however is unique, there are no commercial aspects to it, books are selected entirely by librarians and judged by them too. Children shadow the award, reading the books and posting their comments on the specially designed website and with over 3,800 reading groups shadowing this year there are plenty of reviews to read!

Kirsty Wark introduced proceedings reminding the assembled audience of the importance not only of libraries, as a haven and inspiration for children but also of some of the classic books that had given her, and many of us pleasure. The phrases 'You are never alone with a book' and 'Read to Live as quoted by Joy Court chair of the 2009 judging panel summed up the feelings of all those gathered. We were there to celebrate the very best books that have been published in the last year and whilst there can only ever be one winner all those on the shortlist are in fact winners.
However without further preamble I should tell you that the winners were - for the Kate Greenaway medal Catherine Rayner with the beautiful, funny and heartwarming 'Harris Finds His Feet'. For the Carnegie Medal the first ever posthumous award was presented to Siobhan Dowd for the wonderful and evocative Bog Child.

Catherine Rayner was stunned by her win, honoured and flattered. She explained how hard it had been to complete this book and had lots of thanks for all those who had supported her.

The sisters of Siobhan Dowd accepted her prize and were followed by a moved David Fickling who made a passionate speech on her behalf.

On behalf of Armadillo and the team, congratulations to the two winners and to all those authors and illustrators who made it onto the long and shortlists. Let us all continue to inspire children and create more generations of readers.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Five Fabulous Years!

Five years of Fabulous Fiction were celebrated in style at the Foundling Museum in London last night by Peter Usborne and Usborne books. It was a balmy summer evening and as the invited guests mingled and wandered around the amazing Foundling Museum with glasses of champagne there was a lively hum.

Short speeches from Peter Usborne, Megan Larkin, the commissioning editor who set up the list and Emily Maitlis the news reader thanked everyone for their support over the last five years, celebrated the joy of reading that brought us all together. Peter and Megan commented that they may not yet have discovered a Rowling or a Pullman but it is early days and Emily recounted how she had been kidnapped the night before by a four year old demanding more stories! They went on to announce the Usborne Young Writers Award 2009. This award will encourage children to have a go at writing for themselves, we encourage them to read, now is the time to encourage them to write too! They have been given a starting point by five of Usborne's fabulous fiction authors and will have to submit a story of no more than 1,00 words letting their imagination's run wild with a choice from murder mystery to fairytale adventure.

With around 125 books published over the last five years and translated into many languages Usborne are now taking time to encourage new storytellers to find their own voice. Thsi is a wonderful opportunity for young people, young readers and the potential authors of the future. For more information see

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Summer Celebration!

Having been so busy with events last week I took a few days break from the blog but now, having been to the Orion Summer party last night I feel it is time to report back to you all!
Celebrating the summer and another year of great books Orion invited their authors - among them Marcus Sedgwick, Francesca Simon, Michelle Paver and Caroline Lawrence - to mix with booksellers, agents, librarians and other invited guests in the lovely October Gallery, London. Whilst the current exhibition did not quite fit with the event we were able to mingle and chat, sip sparkling wine and enjoy strawberries to our heart's content.

The evening was a vibrant buzz of relaxed chat, a lovely chance for Orion to say thank you to all those who work for them and all those who support them.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Anthony Browne - Children's Laureate 2009-2011

"Completely chuffed" was Anthony Browne’s first reaction on being offered the position of Children’s Laureate for 2009-2011. The questions of whether his head had grown too large for the medal or if size seven feet were going to be big enough to fill the gap left by Michael Rosen and his converse trainers typify the modest and self-effacing nature of Anthony Browne.

Having begun the morning by forgetting his speech Anthony did not have the best start to the day however he was entertaining and insightful. The pleasure he clearly feels at being appointed laureate was clear. The assembled press, librarians, booksellers among others were thrilled with the news and toasted Anthony’s success as well as the continuing importance and relevance of the role.

Over the last ten years we have had writers, an illustrator and a poet, the circle now returns to the illustrator and one who is determined to ensure that picture books and the ‘shape game’ become an integral part of the psyche of the nation. I for one will be supporting Anthony’s efforts 110%. I hope that everyone with any interest in children’s reading, development and future will do the same.

Congratulations to Anthony, thank you to all the sponsors of the Children’s Laureate for a wonderful celebration and let us hope that this ever-important role continues for a very long time.

Thanks to Mary Hoffman for donating the pictures after my camera died on me!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Pongwiffy is 21!

Pongwiffy is 21! The Witch of dirty habits has made it sucessfully through to such a grand age that a party in her honour, and of course for her creator Kaye Umansky was the least that could be done to celebrate. What a party it was to. In a charmingly quiet street tucked away behind Notting Hill Station Kaye's long time agent and friend gathered together a small group of friends, family, editors and publishers to wish Pongwiffy a very happy 21st birthday. There was a stunning cake, pictured here (with thanks to Mary Hoffman for suplying the photos) with Kaye, which momentarily rendered her speechless on its presentation. Along with the flowing pink champagne and homemade canapes who could ask for more?
An evening of laughter, chat and fun was had by all who attended, thanks were offered to all those who had supported Kaye over the years and had managed to make it to the party. Pongwiffy is now Back on Track in her latest story, trying very hard to get the witches fit and taking part in a special 'Olumpick Games'. The backlist is being published with new covers providing adults and children alike with the opportunity to rediscover and discover the joys of this wonderful witch!

Thank you for creating a wonderful character Kaye, and thank you Caroline for a wonderful evening.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Joy of Languge

Yet another night out brings more thoughts to share!
The offices of Walker Books were last night transformed into the inside of an oak tree, complete with leaves galore, a selection of books, a sprinkling of guest and not forgetting some yummy canapes and wine! The reason? The author Timothee de Fombelle and translator Sarah Ardizzone were in conversation with Nick Tucker about their collaboration on the wonderful Toby Alone and the forthcoming Toby and the Secrets of the Tree. Revealing the secrets behind their successful partnership and sharing their thoughts and feelings about working with books in translation they provided fascinating insight into a fabulous story. With anecdotes from their whirlwind tour of workshops, Timothee's own childhood and writing journey they were a delight to listen to. Some fascinating insights were gained into the way they work, the story so far and the treats yet to come.

Thank you Timothee, Sarah, Nick, Walker Books and the team at Outside In for a thought provoking and enjoyable evening.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Publication Celebration

Back again because I just have to tell you about the wonderful evening I had on Tuesday 2nd June. At the Illustration Cupboard in London Bloomsbury publishing celebrated the launch of Sarah Dyer's picture book The Girl with the Birds-Nest Hair. The charming and very self-effacing Sarah was an inspiration and somewhat overwhelmed by the attention, she gave a suitable short thank you speech, to say just that, after her editor welcomed the invited guests. Examples of Sarah's amazing art work graced the walls of the gallery, copies of her books were happily signed and a wonderful buzz permeated the air.

Sarah's work is amazing, her book very funny and hugely appealing, thanks to Sarah and to Bloomsbury for a wonderful evening. Have a look at Sarah's book, pick up a copy to read, admire the artwork - a combination of collage and sketch with pieces individually cut out and put together in a jigsaw-like style and encourage your children to remember that having their hair brushed may not be such a bad decision after all!

Monday, 1 June 2009

A day late this week, I was enjoying the sun and painting plant pots in the garden which I hope is a good excuse. Whilst doing this I was listening to Radio 4 from the Hay Festival and marvelling at the wonder that is book festivals - next year I really will go!
As well as festivals to celebrate books there are also parties and book launches, this week I have three events to head off to with more booked in for the remainder of the month. It is great to see so many things happening in the world of books, it is very exciting that so many great new books are being published and I am wondering how am going to keep up with them all. It is with a great team and a continued enthusiasm for all children's books I think... if anyone would like to come on board and contribute, helping me to move Armadillo into the hearts and minds of a very wide readership then do get in touch. I firmly believe that more children and adults need to discover the sheer pleasure of a good, unputdownable book - mine for last week was Trudi Canavan's The Apprentice - I will let you know what this week's will be ...