Monday, 24 May 2010

Red House Book Award Winners

At the weekend yet another award for books was announced and there are now even more award winning books to be read. This award, the Red House Book Award is different however, for the books are voted for solely by the children who read them.

From a shortlist that covered books for Younger Children (i.e. picture books), Books for Younger Readers and Books for Older Readers a winner was chosen from each category and then one of these went on to become the overall winner. The selection this year was very strong and I imagine that competition was fierce as each of the books shortlisted is excellent, children in my school have been desperate to read them having seen them all on the bookmarks and website!

For Younger Children the winning title was Bottoms Up by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Adam Stower, an illustrator the children in Year 2 have had the opportunity to meet during Book Week, helping him to create some wonderful alien monsters! This book finds a toddler demanding to know why he should wear pants when animals don't have to! After all do piglets wear panties? Or puppies or bears? Do fox cubs wear boxers? No, nobody cares! Full of fantastically funny pictures of animals in pants this is a book full of laughter and fun with some great rhymes too. A wonderful story book for very young readers.

Younger Children voted for Tanya Landman's Monday's are Murder - perhaps they were thinking of the hardship of going into school bright and early on a Monday morning after a later than usual bedtime at the weekend?? This story however is about a young girl, Poppy Fields on an activity holiday with her friend Graham on a remote Scottish island. When their instructor has a fatal accident, the first of many Poppy finds herself investigating. A thrilling action, adventure story that will have readers hooked.

Older readers chose The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as their winning title. This story, set in the very near future centres around a reality television show. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to take part in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. Sixteen-year-old Katniss has promised to take her sister’s place in the games but sees it as a death sentence. She has been close to death before and for her, survival is second nature, but will she manage to stay alive? This story may be unsettling but it is totally gripping and a great read for older readers warning them of the extremes that reality television could one day reach!

The Hunger Games was also the overall winner. So to start the week here are some great books to look out for and stack up ready for a half term read...

The team Armadillo magazine offer our congratulations to Red House and the Federation of Children's Book Groups for another fantastic book award and to all the authors, those longlisted, shortlisted and the winners!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Illustrators, Illustrators and Illustrators

Last night librarians, booksellers and reviewers from every corner of the UK joined a panel of illustrators from around the world at Andersen Press to celebrate new talent in picture book illustration.

A panel, chaired by Michael Foreman and made up of John Fardell, Sarah Garson, Jo Hodgkinson and Mei Matusoka discussed the influences on their work prompting some thought provoking insights, lots of laughter, fascinating insights and some interesting questions from the floor!

The relative newcomers who made up the panel were probed by Michael about their influences, their background and their techniques among other things.

Jo recalled hiding behind her grandfather's sofa and staring at plates in old books Sarah fondly remembered her grandmother allowing her to play with precious watercolour paints, Mei recalled growing up in Japan with Manga and John recalled how sincerely he loved wet play times because it meant sitting inside and drawing.

Whilst not all of the panel had been given lessons in drawing they were all influenced by the work of some great artists and driven by a desire to be visual. It has not been an easy journey - John began by drawing signs for pubs, but it is one they are each pleased to have been on, one that has presented challenges but that at the same time has given them opportunities.

Their styles are very different but their aims are the same, to make sure that the story they want to tell can be found in the pictures and that they are able to draw children in. They all love to doodle and were quite content to sit discussing techniques as well as the best type of paper to use, whether illustration should be pen and ink or watercolour and more. A discussion of the size in which each author works was fantastic as we learnt that Mei starts off with thumbnails whilst John perfers to see the work as it will appear in the book.

The audience were enthralled and fascinated, a chance to chat to the illustrators and take home signed copies of their books was also a chance to have a good look at their excellent work.

An enjoyable, insightful and interesting evening was had by all. Thanks to Andersen Press and their illustrators and look out for reviews of the books to follow soon...

The books under discussion were Mei Matusoka's The Great Dog Bottom Swap, Jo Hodgkinson's The Talent Show, Sarah Garson's One, Two Cockatoo and John Fardell's Jeremiah Jellyfish Flies High!
More information on the evening, these authors and Andersen press can be found at

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Books and Babies

I have babies on the brain at the moment becoming an Auntie once again. Firstly, three weeks ago came my first gorgeous little niece, Myla and just four days ago an as yet unnamed but very cute little nephew. With this in mind I have been planning which bocks to give them to start them off on their lifetime of reading and I am quite honestly spoilt for choice. This has been compounded (in a wonderful way) after having spent a lovely evening at Walker books in the company of John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury talking about their collaboration on There's Going to be a Baby and also feasting my eyes on some brilliant new books coming later this year (plus let us not forget the wonderful spread of nibbles provided by Walker's fantastic in-house chef!)

So to the books...

There's Going to be a Baby has been at least ten years in the planning not least because both John and Helen are very busy people but also because they could not quite decide on the respective story and pictures either. The result of such a long term collaboration is a book that has huge appeal to readers of all ages, is incredibly important for its contribution to both picture books and graphic novels with its traditional story and picture pages as well as pages concentrating solely on pictures of the baby and its possible antics! It is subtle in presentation yet captures the imagination with its life and vibrancy, a funny, warm and moving story, with a subtle edge to it. Certainly one to share with the whole family and one that has been well worth the wait.

Other books that were mentioned during the course of the evening will find their way into Armadillo very soon but just to whet your appetites there is an exciting collaboration with Cannogate bringing some of the best young adult fiction to a new audience with Yann Martel, Matt Haig and Niccolo Ammanti for starters. Fun family romps in The Great Space Race by Joshua Mowll, games to play with the Laureate in Play the Shape Game and even family tress to investigate with Be A Genealogy Detective. This and much more are to come from Walker Books in 2010 so be sure to watch this space for more news...

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Great British Weather!

This weekend I was not expecting much from the weather having looked at the forecast but it is hard to imagine that we are now in May - perhaps we were spoilt during April with all the sun. I have to say though the rain was quite pleasing, my vegetable beds and flowers were needing some... trouble is now everything is growing and going a bit mad - the raspberries are certainly beginning to take over and following the advice of author Julia Green I now have a redcurrant bush which looks as though it is going to provide us with plenty of fruit this summer - thanks for that Julia!

The weather however has, in some ways been fortunate for it has given me an excuse to stay indoors and keep warm whilst reading some great new books. It seems a long time ago now but the FCBG conference in early April left me with a large selection of excellent books to read and enjoy, one of which I picked up just yesterday not really sure what to expect. I have to admit that my own cute little rabbit - Socs -was a draw for this book had little bunnies on the front but then there was the title too - The Terrible Plop! - written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Was this going to be funny, rude or just a strangely named book? It turns out not to be rude - sorry to disappoint - but very funny, cute and with a great message.

It is the story of a group of bunnies, who, frightened by a loud 'PLOP' whilst picnicing by the river run off in fear and are joined by a variety of other animals. When they meet a big brown bear who, along with the smallest of bunnies returns to the source of the fear a rather surprising turn of events will bring smiles to the faces of children and knowing nods from all those adults sharing the story. This is a brilliant book with a title to draw in every reader and a story with great appeal not forgetting bright and simple illustration.

Along with this I found a very appropriate title in my post - The Day the Rains Fell. This title by Anne Faundex and illustrated by a friend of mine Karin Littlewood, (published by Tamarind Press) in her free and generous style is an African creation story explaining how Linidwe visits Earth with her daughter to show her all the wonderful plants and animals she has made. The visit show them how a lack of water has made their beautiful world dusty and lifeless, its animals tired and thirsty, as they set out to change this they work together with nature to restore life to a wonderful world and make it well again. Not only is this a beautiful creation story, it was appropriate for this weekends rain and its effect on my garden and also an important message about caring for the world around us.

The remainder of the weekend is not looking like bringing any sun so I shall continue with some great reading and perhaps even my latest project - a dinosaur height chart for my nephews!

The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, Egmont, 9781405251372
The Day the Rains Fell by Anne Faundex, illustrated by Karin Littlewood. Tamarind, 9781848530157

Thursday, 6 May 2010

And my vote goes to... THE BOOK!

Election day in the UK means many things to different people. the children in my school the children may be too young to cast a vote but they are very aware of what is going on, some of them are studying the idea of elections for their PSHE lessons but how can young children be helped to understand what elections mean? Elections are about making a choice and they are not limited to politics. Whilst I am not usually a fan of 'celebrity' books the recently published English roses, Ready, Set Vote seems to be the perfect book for today. The girls in this story are voting for their class presidents and there are lots of important lessons they can learn about how to make a good leader.

I sometimes consider myself to be a leader but in a very open way - I lead children to books and stories, making myself available and trying to ensure that I have lots of good ideas to hand and just yesterday my day was made when a young boy came to find me and tell me how much he was enjoying the book I had recommended - it was a very simple action but one that meant a lot to me. He had been reading Alex Rider and didn't know where to turn so he was quite doubtful when I suggested Young Bond, but is now hooked! I don't believe I have very good persuasive powers but I do feel that I am very skilled at matching children's interests to a book and I am yet to be defeated!

Leading children to books and acting as a leader does of course require a considerable amount of reading on my part, some books will hook me more than others and whilst I have a bias towards a scertain style of story and don't we all have our favourite authors, I find it hugely rewarding to open myself up to as many possibilities as possible which is why I am currently reading Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody. I am often not sure about books when they are lauded as being bestsellers from other countries but the skill with which the prose in this story flows with a poinancy and pointedness has me gripped - this is a great story, well told, incredibly well imagined and just the right length for juniors progressing to seniors and wishing to excpand their reading horizons.

However your horizons change after today make sure that reading remains a firm part of your everyday life and perhaps follow up one of these suggestions...