A New YA Book Prize for the UK and Ireland.

YABookPrize

Last week a brand new prize for Young Adult books in the UK and Ireland has been announced. The YA Book Prize has been launched by The Bookseller in association with story publishing site Movellas. The official press release states:

The prize is the first in the UK and Ireland to specifically focus on fiction for young adults and addresses an important unmet need for a prize in the growing YA and teen market. Open to any young adult novel published in the UK or Ireland between 1st January and 31st December 2014, the prize will celebrate great books for teenagers and young adults and aims to get more teens reading and buying books.

The judging panel, led by Eyre, comprises leading industry figures such as World Book Day director Kirsten Grant, Waterstones children’s buyer Melissa Cox, vlogger Rosianna Halse Rojas and freelance journalist Imogen Russell Williams.

Teen readers themselves will be involved in the judging process and five from across the UK and Ireland will be asked to vote for their top titles.

The adult judges will also pick their top three titles. Votes will be added up and the winner will be chosen out of the top three most popular books.

Submissions are now open and close on 31st October 2014. An internal panel will then choose the shortlist, which will be announced 1st December.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on 19th March 2015.

This sounds like a really great development, there has been much discussion about the lack of a prize focused on young adult literature written by authors from the UK and Ireland so it’s great that The Bookseller has stepped up and launched this prize in response. More information can be found at the award website.

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September Reads.

This has been a bit of weird month, one of those that seems to have gone on forever but at the same time flown by. I had absolutely no idea how many books I’d read until I looked at my Goodreads account, it turned out to be more than I expected – 21 books! 8 picture books and 13 novel length books including only my second non-fiction book of the year.

In order of reading, September’s books are:

  • The Girl Who Walked on Air by Emma Carroll.
  • Chu’s Dayby Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex.
  • Mr Super Poopy Pants by Rebecca Elliot.
  • Conquest by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard.
  • The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop.
  • Fantasy League by Mike Lupica.
  • Half My Facebook Friends are Ferrets by J.A. Buckle.
  • A Little In Love by Susan Fletcher.
  • The Dinosaur Games by David Bedford and Dankerloux.
  • A Day With the Animal Doctors by Sharon Rentta.
  • Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan.
  • Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret by D.D. Everest.
  • Revenge of the Zeds by Stewart Ross.
  • Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats and Chris Mould.
  • Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes.
  • Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall.
  • This Book Is Gay by James Dawson.
  • Penny Dreadful is a Magnet for Disaster by Joanna Nadin.
  • What If…? by Anthony Browne.
  • Doodleday by Ross Collins.
  • Iron Sky: Dread Eagle by Alex Woolf.

Whew! Looking back over the list like that makes me think it’s been a busier month than I’d thought. I think there’s a pretty good mixture both of genres and age groups again this month. Three books in particular stick out as favourites this month, Shadowboxer, Shadow of the Wolf and This Book is Gay.

What did you enjoy reading most of all in September?

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PoPB: What If…? by Anthony Browne and Doodleday by Ross Collins.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

What If…? by Anthony Browne. Picture Corgi.
WhatIfJoe is nervous about his first big party, and as Mum walks him along the darkening street to his friend’s house, his imagination starts to run wild. They search for the right place, looking through the windows, wondering “What if…?” while making surprising discoveries along the way.

This book explores the anxieties children may have about going to a party – something many children will experience to some degree. Joe, the main character in the book, has lost the party invite so doesn’t know which house the party is. He and his mother move along the street from house to house, trying to find the right one – each wrong house allowing Joe to air another concern about the upcoming party and allowing his mother to reassure him. The things Joe’s worried about are pretty universal, I think many adults will identify with them let alone young readers.

The illustrations generally alternate between a page where Joe and his mother are pictured alongside the next house, and a double spread looking through the window of that house. The pages which focus just on Joe and his mother are done beautifully in blue tones, their simplicity really allows the text to get the focus it deserves. The double spreads are stunning, though I didn’t personally like all of them. Whilst I understand this is a book about anxieties and fears there were a couple I found really disturbing. I love Anthony Browne’s style though – both the shaping of his people and the gorgeously rich colours used in particular.

I liked a lot of this book, but the couple of illustrations I didn’t like were enough to alter my overall feeling about it. I don’t think this is a book I’ll be rushing back to, but I’m glad I know it exists and I like the way the story handles its purpose very much.

Doodleday by Ross Collins. Gullane Children’s Books.
DoodledayMom has just one thing to tell Harvey on Doodleday-no drawing allowed! But surely drawing one little fly can’t hurt. Not until Harvey’s fly comes to life and starts to wreck the kitchen, that is! What can Harvey draw that will catch it? A spider! But the spider proves to be even more trouble. Only one thing is capable of stopping Harvey’s rampaging doodles… Mom!

One of my all time favourite picture books is Ross Collins’ Dear Vampa, whilst I didn’t love this book as much as I loved that one I thoroughly enjoyed it. The action starts pretty much as soon as the book does, despite Harvey’s mum telling him not to draw on Doodleday he can’t resist the temptation and it all goes wrong from there. Harvey’s first drawing is of a fly, which comes to life – this is what happens to drawings drawn on Doodleday and so he solves the problem the best way he can think of and draws a spider to eat the fly. The story as a result is reminiscent of the old woman swallowing the fly, and also Oliver Jeffer’s Stuck which also features a young boy trying to solve a problem and then the problem that his solution has caused.

The story is very amusing, and is kept on the brief side – a proper solution is found before things can get out of hand and silly. I must say though, if Harvey’s mum had actually explained why he shouldn’t draw on Doodleday none of what happens would have happened, she has to shoulder a little responsibility for the chaos he causes! I think this in itself could make for an interesting discussion point.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They’re filled with so much detail, particularly once the drawn creatures come to life and start causing chaos. I loved the childish creatures, their simplicity works well against the busy backdrops spread across the pages.

A really great read that will be enjoyed by readers both young and old.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

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MG Monday: Penny Dreadful is a Disaster Magnet by Joanna Nadin.

middlegrademonday

Middle Grade Mondays on Juniper’s Jungle feature books aimed at 8 – 12 year olds, or younger. This week, Penny Dreadful is a Disaster Magnet by Joanna Nadin earns her turn in the spotlight.

PennyDreadfulMy name is not actually Penny Dreadful. It is Penelope Jones. The ‘Dreadful’ bit is my dad’s JOKE. But I do not see the funny side. Plus it is not even true that I am dreadful. It’s just that sometimes my BRILLIANT IDEAS don’t work out completely brilliantly. Like, I didn’t mean for my cousin to end up bald and covered in superglue, and I also didn’t mean to steal our neighbour’s dog and make him speak Russian… It is not my fault. I can’t help it – I’m just a Magnet for Disaster.

This book is, without a doubt, the funniest book I’ve read in quite some time. It is the sort of book that if I had been reading it in public I know I would have ended up getting lots of slightly odd looks from strangers – I laughed out loud so many times as I read. Split into three stories this book is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Following a double page spread introducing the three stories, the book begins with an illustrated page introducing the main characters of the book. I must praise Jess Mikhail’s illustrations, they’re brilliant and add so much to the reading experience. Whilst the stories are themselves funny the illustrations are also funny, I laughed as often at the drawings as I did at the text.

Penelope Jones is the sort of character I find myself instantly drawn to. She’s a little chaotic, a little too easily excited and the sort of character that trouble comes looking for. She never intends to do things that are even the slightest bit wrong, her plans are always foolproof… apart from the way they all inevitably lead to disaster. She’s so well intentioned, she just doesn’t see the potential for things to go wrong. She’s incredibly endearing, I can’t understand how any of the long suffering adults in her life could remain cross with her for more than a few seconds.

Penny herself is a well created character and so too are the characters she shares the pages of the book with. I loved her friend, Cosmo, and posh cousin Georgia May, they made a brilliantly balanced trio. From the adults my favourite character had to be Mrs Butterworth who runs the Post Office – I think any grown up reading this book will have come across a Mrs Butterworth in the past.

This book would work really well both for newly independent readers and as a book to share. I can certainly imagine reading it with a young reader, though the way it’s structured into three short (30-40 pages long) stories may mean that the only solution for bedtime reading is to stop halfway through a story.

This is the first book featuring Penny Dreadful, there are currently seven books featuring her. I plan to read the rest of them – I can’t wait to find out what she gets up to next!

Penny Dreadful is a Disaster Magnet is published by Usborne Books in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

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Book Review: Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall.

ShadowOfTheWolfA world of gods and monsters. An elemental power, rising. This is Robin Hood, reborn, as he has never been seen before…

Robin Loxley is seven years old when his parents disappear without trace. Years later the great love of his life, Marian, is also taken from him. Driven by these mysteries, and this anguish, Robin follows a darkening path into the ancient heart of Sherwood Forest. What he encounters there will leave him transformed, and will alter forever the legend of Robin Hood.

Robin Hood. I think we all have our personal connections to the legend of Robin Hood, to one of the many versions of it whether it involves talking foxes or men wearing tights. That this book promised to “alter forever the legend of Robin Hood” was enough to grab my attention, when it started getting excellent reviews from bloggers I really trust I knew I absolutely had to read it.

The opening sections of the book introduce Robin and Marian to us, and allow us to spend time with them in order to really get to know them. Twists and turns then pull the characters in different directions with only some overlap, it is here that the action begins to pick up, and then build and build. There’s no shortage of action within the book, it’s well paced and gripping. I think that the slightly slower, quieter, opening to the book works brilliantly well – I felt so connected to the characters as a result and cared so much about how each twist and turn affected them.

Whilst I enjoyed the opening sections of the book I did find myself wondering about the fantasy elements I’d been expecting. These don’t actually kick in until partway through the book, but when they do they’re utterly captivating. Seeing the way these elements grow and evolve throughout the book, and how they affect Robin in particular is fascinating. I think that however much I loved the characters (and believe me I did) it’s seeing how this continues to progress that has me most excited about the fact there are two more books to come.

I really enjoyed these versions of both Robin and Marian, both of them are really strong characters yet they have their flaws ensuring they feel very real. Robin is beset by challenges throughout the book, from being alone at such a young age to much more physical challenges later in the book. Despite all of these he remains focused and driven, he has his goal and keeps pushing at it when I think many would have given up. Marian is present through much of the book, though for large chunks this is through Robin’s drive to find her. When she is present on the page she’s a fascinating character, her presence of mind and planning skills in particular are admirable.

Along with Robin and Marian, various other familiar characters from the Robin Hood legend make appearances in this story. Most notable of these are Will Scarlet and of course the Sheriff of Nottingham. This Sheriff is every bit as cruel and evil as we expect him to be and then some. This book does not shy away from the blood thirsty nature of this cruelty, there are some scenes that made my fairly cast iron stomach turn. That said, they fit the book perfectly and absolutely form a key part of the narrative.

Reading this book completely took over my day. I sat down with my copy first thing in the morning, planning to read a couple of chapters with my morning tea before getting on with all the things I’d planned. Next thing I knew my tea was cold, I’d read 100 pages and was mentally moving things off the day’s to do list to make sure I could finish reading that same day! I took a couple of shortish breaks when I wanted to let some of the book’s action sink in a little but each time was itching to pick the book up and get on with it!

This is a brave, bold re-telling of the Robin Hood story. I absolutely loved it, I’m going to spend the time waiting for the second book trying to persuade as many people as I can to read this one. Strongly recommended!

Shadow of the Wolf is published by David Fickling Books in the UK. My copy of the book is one that was passed on to me by another blogger, thank you Caroline!

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Book Review: Revenge of the Zeds by Stewart Ross.

RevengeOfTheZedsThe Soterion has been opened, but does it mean salvation or devastation?

A horrific mutation in human DNA has resulted in a world where no one lives beyond nineteen. Cyrus and the noble Constants have opened the Soterion vault containing the Long Dead’s secrets of science, art and possibly even the cure to the mutation.

First, Cyrus must teach the Constants to read. But those he calls friends are falling prey to the greed and power knowledge can bring. Meanwhile, the barbaric Zeds are massing against them, determined to take the Soterion for themselves and destroy everything the Constants have built.

I read The Soterion Mission when it was being published, chapter by chapter, by Fiction Express. I really enjoyed the world the book was set in, and became entirely invested in the characters and what was to happen to them. I was thrilled therefore when I heard that following The Soterion Mission being published in book format by Curious Fox there was to be a sequel, The Revenge of the Zeds. The title sounded ominous, the blurb backed this up – I couldn’t wait to get reading!

Revenge of the Zeds picks up from where The Soterion Mission left off, both in terms of plot and fierceness. By the end of the first chapter there’s been the conclusion of a trial, sentence passed and carried out, funerals and the discovery of Malik Timur’s fate by the Zeds. The book continues like this – it’s a pacy read with lots of action, most of it gory and bloodthirsty. Whilst it has all of the action going on it still has the quieter, more thoughtful moments – I really enjoyed seeing how the characters developed and related to one another.

I really liked the mix of familiar characters and new characters within the book. It was particularly nice to revisit favourites such as Cyrus and Sammy, and also Giv and Jamshid from the Zeds. I loved the addition of Malika Xsani – the head of a different tribe of Zeds with a very focused view of what success is and how to achieve it. The one thing I did find a little hard at times was remembering that all of these characters are under 19, they’re all young people. They don’t think like young people and they certainly don’t act like young people, this dystopian future has turned the young into the adults.

One of the things that really struck me when I was reading this book was what it had to say about knowledge. Knowledge is valuable, it is powerful, and it can be perceived differently by so many. Some want knowledge in order to be able to share it with others, to make things better. Others see knowledge either as something to be feared or as something to be kept to oneself in order to maintain a position of power and importance. The blurb references the idea that knowledge has a role to play in this book, it really does and in a really thought provoking manner.

This is a really good continuation of the story of the Constants and Zeds. Its conclusion is strong but cries out for another instalment. I am already wondering what’s going to happen next, there are so many things still unresolved!

Revenge of the Zeds is published by Curious Fox in the UK from 25th September 2014. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

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PoPB: Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats & Chris Mould and Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes.

pairofpicturebooks
Pair of Picture Books Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Captain Beastlie’s Pirate Party by Lucy Coats & Chris Mould (illustrator). Nosy Crow.
CBPPWho’s the grubbiest pirate on the high seas? Why, it’s Captain Beastlie, me hearties! He is a horror and embarrassment to his ship-shape crew. Captain Beastlie is eagerly counting down the days till his birthday – but what he doesn’t know is his crew has got a special secret lined up for the Big Event. His days of being the smelliest, dirtiest pirate ever are numbered, and when Captain Beastlie’s birthday finally comes, he’s in for a big surprise…

This book is gross! Captain Beastlie has no concept of personal hygiene, has the worst habits going and is just generally unpleasant. So of course this book is brilliant!!

The book follow’s Captain Beastlie’s countdown to his birthday – each day brings a new discovery of how disgusting he is. This is so well written, the language used is full of description to really get across how yucky Captain Beastlie is. This brings with it a natural humour, I spent much of the book cringing and laughing at the same bits! I did get a little concerned as the book drew towards its close and I realised that the ship’s crew might be about to pull of some sort of transformation – the conclusion to this was entirely satisfying.

I really liked Chris Mould’s illustrations for this book. Every little bit of detail mentioned in the text is clearly transferred into the illustrations. When I took my second read through the book I spotted lots of little things in the pictures that I knew were going to come into play in the last few pages of the book – sharing this with a young reader would be a lot of fun.

This is a book crying out to be read aloud to a group. It’s fun and appealing in its own special, revolting way.

Emmy’s Eczema by Jack Hughes. Wayland.
EmmysEczemaEmmy has eczema, which makes her skin really itchy. She knows she shouldn’t scratch, but sometimes she just can’t help it.

One day, she scratches so much she makes her skin really sore. Can her friends help her?

I read and reviewed Steggie’s Stammer, another book in this series back in July so I was pleased to spot this in the library. Of the whole series (the other two books are Dachy’s Deaf and Rex’s Specs) this was the one I was most curious about – surely having eczema would be a little tricky to convey through a picture book?

The author does manage to convey having eczema well, it’s clear in the illustrations and Emmy’s desire to scratch her eczema even though she knows it’ll only make it worse feels very genuine (and familiar). So too do Emmy’s friends attempts to stop her scratching – if you’re suffering with itchy eczema no amount of people telling you not to scratch is going to stop you! The plot itself is very simple, but it works for the book.

I talked before about loving the Jack Hughes’ illustration style. This book is no different, the pages where the dinosaurs reach the Jurassic meadow to collect the flowers used in Emmy’s eczema treatment are particularly colourful and attractive.

Reading this book has reinforced my feeling that this set would be an excellent inclusion in any childcare setting’s collection. They deal with issues that may make children feel different in a calm, careful and reassuring manner.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

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